Dear Harrison

Dear Harrison,

I wanted to say how proud I am of you for getting past that great hurdle in life known as Kindergarten. You're teaching said you were such a wonderful student this year, which doesn't surprise me a bit. You are a good boy. I laughed when told me that you were nervous about the graduation ceremony, but I knew would do fine once you got on stage for your diploma. I can see you standing up there with that tight-lipped smile of yours as I write this. 

Hope you liked the pictures of you I sent for the school to use in your class's slide show - one baby pic and a recent one just like they asked. It took me several hours to decide on which ones. But I finally picked one that showed what a happy baby you were even when you had all that reflux junk that kept you up at night, and then I would rock you back to sleep in that glider next to the bed. The other photo was from this summer after swimming at Grandma and Grandpa's - I think it really captures your charm and mischievousness.

I'm sorry I couldn't be there to see the ceremony for myself. You're teacher told me she would try finding someone who tape it for me, but I haven't heard if she was able to or not. But hey, at least we got to talk right before. And yes, I really did call solely to tell you good luck - no strategy conversations with your older brother Noah or taking new toy requests from you little brother Sawyer. I just wanted to talk to you, buddy.

Yes, I miss you too, and it was very generous of you to offer me all your money (five dollars and seventy-eight cents if I recall correctly) so I could use it to move near you. It was also kind to offer for me to live with you again. I know it's confusing when you ask me why I don't stay with you anymore. I know my answer about how your mommy and I get along better this way doesn't make any sense at all. It's a cliche' for me to tell you that you'll understand more when you're older, but you'll figure it all out along with a whole bunch of other stuff I can't tell ever you about. But you're a smart boy, like you're old man - smarter even (I only went half days in Kindergarten so you're already twice as smart as me when I was your age.). 

For now, keep praying like you said you have been - that God will help me find a way back to you and your brothers. Don't worry; it will happen when it's supposed to. Sometimes we can't have what we want because it's just not the right time - like trying to ride your bike before it's all put together. The whole thing falls apart before you can enjoy it.

Well, I'm going to let you get back to playing with your brothers. Stay away from all them girls you keep telling me about. Girls are trouble. And don't let your mom figure out that you've been pretending to sleep during mass so you won't have to listen to the homily - I mean it's a good plan and all, but don't get caught (I used to do the same thing). 

One more thing. I love you. 

- Dad

PS. I know you're too young to read my blog Harrison, and your mom probably wouldn't let you anyway, but maybe one day you'll come across this while doing research for a paper or checking sports scores. Maybe it will be just what you need to hear from you're dad. And maybe these guys will still be cool, and this song will make sense. It's good advice. 


The Muppets Can Eat It

Nothing against the Muppest, but these puppets are waaaaaay cooler.

Life In Technicolor ii lyrics

There's a wild wind blowing
Down the corner of my street
Every night there the headlights are glowing

There's a cold war coming
On the radio I heard
Baby it's a violent world

Oh love don't let me go
Won't you take me where the streetlights glow
I could hear it coming
I could hear the sirens sound
Now my feet won't touch the ground

Time came a-creepin'
Oh and time's a loaded gun
Every road is a ray of light
It goes o-o-on
Time only can lead you on
Still it's such a beautiful night

Oh love don't let me go
Won't you take me where the streetlights glow
I could hear it coming
Like a serenade of sound
Now my feet won't touch the ground

Gravity release me
And dont ever hold me down
Now my feet won't touch the ground


What's Not Fair

At 37, I've long since figured out how unfair life is. And of course, it's never an excuse, just something you live with - an obstacle that makes you stronger. Kids, however, are still in that learning process. With mine, anytime I say that we can't go to the park because of the rain, or they can't have a toy from the store, it usually illicit the predictable response, "That's not fair!" Then I go into the big parental spiel on how because our choices or even by no fault of our own, life might not always go the way we want it to and nothing we can do will change it. Sometimes I say this with great paternal stoicism, while at others I find my own advice hard to swallow like choking on a fat, dry pill without the aid of water. Certain aspects in being a stepfather qualify as one of those moments.

This weekend was Allie's birthday party. She's seven, but because of her height she looks twelve. It's a trait inherited from her six-foot, four-inch father. The same father who slapped on a big goofy sticker from Chucky Cheese, the word "dad" prominently showing on his chest like he were some sort of superhero. The same dad who squeezed into every photo op, putting his arm around Allie and pressing in cheek to cheek for everyone to get a snapshot before the candles were blown out.

The same dad who never visits until three months latter and only after Allie's in melt-down mode from craving the attention she never gets from him. The same dad who never sent her (or her sister) anything for Valentines' Day, who doesn't attend their school functions, who hasn't made a child support payment in over a year. The same father who, because of his many broken promises, I have to take Allie out of school, and drive to weekly therapy for her anxiety disorder. Then I have to sit there and listen as the therapist shakes her head, "It's so sad that her own dad's causing this. He's doing it and doesn't even get it." I can only sit there simmering.

After the party, Allie and her sister spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday with their dad. Watching them walk off to his car, I had to suppress the worry that they will be okay. Will he get them fed and in bed on time? Allie's getting over strep; will he remember to give her the meds packed in her overnight bag? This is my job to do day in and day out. It felt like handing over the keys to a priceless sports car to a virtual stranger so he can drive it around for a few days.

The rest of the two days I thought about the spite I always have to hold back when he returns them. He will literally just stroll into our apartment like he and I are old college buddies, shaking my hand and grinning as he checks the place out. The will girls throw themselves at his feet dragging him to show off the pictures that I hung in their room this last week. To them he's a celebrity who they're eagerly seeking an emotional autograph from. I'm just the meanie who makes them clean that same room. "It's not fair," Allie says every time she's told to do her chores. You don't know the half of it sister. I would kill to be able to have this sort of access to my own children who have been carted off hundreds of miles away by their over-controlling mother. It makes me sick then, to see this guy squander something so precious.

So here I sit ranting on like a whiny brat. Tomorrow I'll have to act interested as they tell me how great their time with dad was. "Oh wow. What fun!" I'll have to fake as I pack their lunches and make sure their shoes are on the right feet and give them their medicine and entertain them all summer. And one day I'll have to tell these girls how beautiful they look on their wedding day - not right before walking them down the aisle, but five minutes before their dad steps in to do the honors himself. Watching the girls walk away, my hope will be that the men they have chosen to spend their lives with are closer to the father and husband I've tried to be rather than the one smiling for another father-daughter photo op. Fuck it. It's not fair.


Superman's Not Whistling & What's That Horse Doing Underground?

I'm admitting to taking shortcuts on the blogging of late. I've also been a no-show on reading everyone else's, but it's a temporary thing I assure you. Right now there's a few priorities dominating my time. Ol' Clarkie needs to put some food on the table. Until things settle down I'll catch up with your blogs as soon as I can while continuing to cheat on posts through the use of videos and pictures. Pictures like these for you to ponder during your day. Would love to get your captions for them.

Makes you wonder what's going on down in the R&D department at a certain Japanese toy manufacturer?

The Beningtons were pleasantly surprised to learn that midget folk singing was included with room service. (Or, Odd Jobs of Celebrities Before They Were Famous: Brett Michael's controversial first gig that brought into question Texas' Child Labor Laws)

I thought you were supposed to take cold showers to keep from getting pregnant?

The Wolcowskis were saddened to see that Grandma's intervention over her drinking was going nowhere.

No one realized that today's economy was so bad even Superman has been forced to find additional sources of income (Don't say it people. I know what you're thinking).

Several disability advocacy groups were delighted to learn of Disney's plans to release their latest movie, Handicap Musical, but there were questions over who would be playing the lead role of the horse (key in on the red circle). 


Happy Mother's Day... With Barn Animals

As many already have, I'd like to wish all the moms out there, including my own, a wonderful day. You deserve it. To the rest of you who are not moms well, please, say hello to your mutha for me. Thank you moms.


An Imaginative Story-Making Exercise For Readers

Today I'd like to conduct an "interactive" post for readers. I'm going to list some details from an actual recent event which you will use to recreate a story, photo essay, epic poem or whatever, in your head. Sound good? Okay. Here are the elements in no particular order or sequence. 

1. 5 year old stepdaughter with suspected bladder infection and ADHD

2. 6 year old stepdaughter with a proclivity for pretentiousness (think Sharpe from High School Musical or general all-around diva).

3. Monsoon-like rains and wide scale flooding.

4. Doctor's office with massive roof leaks and wet carpet.

5. Waiting room full of ornery sick kids.

6. Request for a sterile urine sample from said 5 year old (with ADHD).

7. Women's public restroom.

8. Adult male with a phobia about perception of being a creepy stepfather.

9. Stage fright slash performance anxiety.

10. Argument with Doctor's diagnosis ruling out both bladder infection and ADHD

11. 5 year old rolling all over the floor while furiously itching her 'bagina' and chanting "Boring! Borrrrrrring!"

12. Notification of positive results in urine 24 hours after visit. 

Remember, you have to use all the elements when imagining this in your head. What did you come up with? Ya. It was just like that.


LOST, Stephen Hawking And Biblical Plagues: How Swine Flu Shut Down My Kids' School

Black Holes and Hand Sanitizer

Yesterday I emailed an article to my wife reporting how the city of Fort Worth planned to shut down their schools for the next ten days as a measure to reduce the spread of Swine Flu. "They're going to make a pig's ear out of this whole thing!" she wrote back along with calling everyone, including me, "a bunch of sniveling whiners." I'm not sure where this new, hard-ass version of my Sweet Fluffy Bunny came from, but my guess was it had something to do with the kegs of hand sanitizer she strapped onto the kids' backs before they hopped on the bus earlier.

"I got you one too, Honey," she told me pushing a hand-cart full of drum-shaped containers through the front door of our apartment.

"Oh, thanks. Where is it?"

She looked over her cargo. "Musta left it in the van." Then I watched as she instructed the girls on how to slather all of their exposed skin with gobs of rose pedal-scented goo.

To say that something has been, "left in the van," is really to mean said object is gone. Library books, homework, five pairs of my sunglasses and a Chia Pet are just a few of the items vanishing into thin air after witnesses last saw them somewhere in the vicinity of the minivan. So it really wasn't much of stretch to believe that the hand sanitizer was gone, especially when taking into account that Stephen Hawking conducted most of his early black hole research inside of our vehicle. I imagined the cast of Lost hovering around my vat of anti-bacterial cleanser and making pig noises as they wrung their hands together. That it fell from the sky onto their island in 1977 wouldn't seem weird at all to them.

During the email exchange with my wife I predicted that it would be less than a week before the schools here would close too. "When a pig flies!" she wrote back. But there was already a growing hysteria taking hold in the area after the first Swine Flu fatality in the U.S. occurred here in Houston. Sadly it was a small child who died after traveling here from southern Texas. Reports are also claiming that the baby's family spent some time lugging him around the very up-scale Galleria mall where all this city's biggest celebrities shop. Now Beyonce Knowles is rumored to have a fever, and black helicopters are buzzing back and forth across the skyline in an attempt to keep Yao Ming from succumbing to the virus. Or so I've heard.

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for taking precautions. What I think people are failing to recognize, however, is that this is Houston. Houston, Texas. So, what are the odds of Swine Flu manifesting itself here? Let me put it this way. The chamber of commerce distributes a brochure entitled Fun Things To Do In Houston; number twenty-three on their list of fun activities is to close your eyes, stick your arms straight out and spin three times trying not to hit someone who recently came from Mexico. You do the math.

Ham and Hysteria on Rye

Chalk it up to the laws of probability or my tingling spider-pig senses, but as I prophesied, the girls' school canceled classes today after a student there was diagnosed with Swine Flu. "Oh, Hogwash!" my wife said when I told her. She doubted the news until reading it for herself. At this point, as a parent, I probably have justifiable cause to join in the hysteria. It is a world-wide pandemic for heaven's sake. Still, blame it on my pragmatic nature, but you won't find me at any Olivia book burnings. I refuse to sign any petitions being circulated in an effort to have "The Three Little Pigs" removed from the cannon of fairy tales, and I won't be party to blackballing Porky Pig and Miss. Piggy from further television appearances.

By the same token, I cannot condone the position held by pig advocates, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Swine (PETS) as they prefer to be called. The slaughter of hogs as a fear-based reaction to the virus is an senseless act of ignorance, but to chain one's self to a large sow seems a bit extreme. Even more ludicrous are the members of certain Jewish organizations protesting the use of "swine" as a moniker for the virus. I can only guess at what they would propose as a suitable alternative: Shoat Syndrome, Cob Roller's Disease, a case of The Piggies? But one thing is for sure, these same organizations would be mortified to learn my sister traditionally serves ham every Easter for dinner. Such news would have to be a proverbial slap in their faces followed by a high-powered punch to the nuts.

Fear is really the evil twin brother of fact, and in all this confusion, the media cannot tell the two apart.

As someone who spent many summers working on an honest to goodness pig farm, I feel compelled to interject my expertise on the issue. I have assisted in the birth of countless piglets; I have slung hundreds of pounds worth of slop into their troughs, and once watched as a sow removed the genitalia of an overly-horny boar who mistook her for being "in season." Besides attesting to the fact that even the female of this species has her "time of the month," I can assure you that pigs, as a whole, could give a shit about the whole thing, not as an expression of their opinion, but as evidence to their healthy digestive systems. It, as they say, happens.

Getting back to my children's school being a breeding ground for Swine Flu, I am happy with the actions taken by the district's administration. Oddly enough this is the second day in a week classes have been called off, the first being on account of monsoon-like rains that escalated into wide-scale flooding. Given their randomness, there's an outside chance these events are actually the first in a series of Biblical plagues, retribution for the Astros I suppose. By the melodramatic tone permeating the local news coverage one would certainly would believe this to be the case. Fear is really the evil twin brother of fact, and in all this confusion, the media cannot tell the two apart.

Somebody Think of the Children!

It's for this very reason I've refrained from telling the girls Swine Flu has shut down their school. At the moment they're convinced the bus is just really late. Maybe at dinner I'll let them in on the secret, but even then I'm still hesitant. For being only five and six years old it's disturbing to see what attention-starved, drama queens they've grown to become. The street name for this I'm told is, attention whore. That would be an apt description. Both are a couple of overbearing divas wielding cartoon mallets against the other in a gladiator fight on an under-sized stage. As such I've already forbid them from watching The View. So to explain that a potentially deadly virus is swirling around in the very halls they stroll through daily would only incur Golden Globe worthy performances.

I suspect, however, that they already know something is a afoot. Last evening I heard the youngest coughing loudly, and went to investigate, stepping in a large wet pool next to her bed in the process.

"What the hell is this!?"

She looked up at me. "I had this yucky stuff in my mouth, and I had to get it out like this." Cuxxxxswit! Right on my big toe. "See! It's the dreaded Swine Flu." Then she gasped and fainted.

Not wanting to be forgotten, her sister then burst into a sobbing fit. "Oh dear God! My sister is dead and now your foot has The Piggies. Why is this happening to me!?"

It may be better to tell them they are repairing the school's faulty AC system. In the meantime, they are home with me feigning worry over the whereabouts of their beloved bus. "Oh bus! Where art thou?"

Should the situation get out of hand, I'm considering the idea of outfitting them with face masks and parading them around the mall merely to see perfectly sane adults flee for their lives. Or possibly we'll head to the place where all parents take their children when they don't know what to do with them: a McDonalds playground. I'm sure the chain's conscientious staff are astute enough to maintain a flu-free environment. Either way, I'm just thrilled to be a part in the international frenzy.

(Finally! I'm involved in something in this town as interesting as those written by famed Houston blogger, The Bloggess. Pssst! Stay away from the black helicopters, sister.)

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