Month: August 2009 (Page 1 of 2)

Loserville

I’m not what you would call a gamer. Sure, I owned an Atari 2600 and spent countless hours playing Pole Position, Q*Bert, Pitfall, etc. I wasted most of my freshman year of college playing Nintendo until all hours. Madden and NHL 93-95 were staples on the Sega my roommates and I shared in the mid-90s. And I did own a Playstation for a few years, although when I put it in my sister-in-law’s yard sale last year, I didn’t remember playing about half the games I had purchased.

(20 years ago this week!)

Still, that’s a fairly limited history compared to some people. I have friends who have been sucked into the various on-line role playing games and spend hours on one quest or another. I like to laugh at them and tell them they should get a life.

I do have a dirty secret, though. I was once addicted to a computer game. And I’ve recently discovered an iPhone version that has me on a nasty gaming bender.

Back in the summer of ‘96 I picked up Sid Meier’s Civilization II, a turn-based game in which you attempt to build a civilization and defeat other developing nations through force, economic power, or by building a spaceship and getting to Alpha Centauri first. I didn’t have a lot going on in my life at the time – I had just, finally finished college and was using my poli sci degree working the second shift at a distribution warehouse – so I was a prime candidate to get sucked in.

I normally got home between 10:30 PM and 12:30 AM, depending on if we worked overtime or not. I would wash up, grab a snack, and sit down in front of the computer, telling myself I would only play for 30-40 minutes or so. There were far too many times that I finally turned the computer off and collapsed into bed as the sun was coming up. One especially bad night I got home, played all night, then went back into work for a four-hour morning shift. Given that I operated some large power equipment at work, it probably wasn’t the safest thing in the world for me to stay awake for 30 straight hours and then start driving forklifts around.

My sickness reached the point where I owned multiple books on how to “beat” Civ II, an expansion disk that added all kinds of cool* options, and would read various forums looking for ways to improve my play.

(Cool being a subjective term.)

Fortunately, after about two months of this, I burned out and packed the books and disks away. Periodically I’ll consider picking up the latest version of Civ, but I’ve always resisted temptation, knowing I can’t stay awake all night playing computer games anymore and would rather read a book anyway.

Then I found the iPhone version a couple weeks back, Civilization Revolution. I’m totally hooked. When the girls are driving me crazy, I fire it up for “15 minutes or so,” which quickly becomes a 30-minute session. The game is true to the original version (and current, I imagine), although it is a bit simplified to make game play faster and easier. I never, ever won a game in Civ II. I’ve won with four different civilizations in four different ways over the past week.* It’s kind of like crack; I can’t stop playing. I even completely drained the battery on my phone one day.

(You select one of several civilizations when you begin a game, and take on the persona of that civ’s leader. For example, if you select the Americans, you’re Abe Lincoln; the Russians, Catherine the Great; the British, Winston Churchill; etc. I’ll admit it felt a little extra good when, while playing as the Indians, I developed atomic weapons and dropped a bomb on an opponent’s capital. That’s right, I had Gandhi drop a nuke!)

I’m sure this will all pass. But I’ve already played Civ Rev more than all the other games I’ve bought from the App Store combined. It’s worth every one of the 499 pennies I spent on it.

Review: Pearl Jam – Ten, The Legacy Edition

In advance of Pearl Jam’s new album, due next month, I offer a review of their recent remastered and remixed release of their debut album,

Sometimes I wish that we could access all the information in our brains as computers would, so we could track the metadata of our lives. Am I the only one who wants to know what song I’ve heard the most (I’m betting “Happy Birthday” or some Christmas standard), what movie I’ve seen the most (Something starring Chevy), etc.?

If you set aside birthday and holiday music, I imagine that Pearl Jam’s Ten would pop up as the album I’ve listened to the most. Between hearing the singles on the radio for 17 years, seeing the videos for the first three singles for a year or so, listening to the album constantly for 18 months, and then hearing the songs on the dozen or so live CDs and DVDs I own, the first 11 songs that Pearl Jam released almost certainly qualify as the collective work I’ve spun most often.

That said, I would imagine I am like most dedicated Pearl Jam fans: while I consider the album to be their classic work, I don’t consider it to be their best.* And, to be honest, after 17 years I’m kind of sick of most of the songs. Thus, when the band released a remastered version of the album last March, I didn’t rush out to get it. I’m always leery of remastered versions of classic albums. Even if the band is trying to make it “sound the way we meant it to sound,”** the differences are often too subtle to notice or distracting. When you’ve listened to something for nearly 20 years, it’s hard to hear it in a new way.

** I think most hard-core Pearl Jam fans would list either Vs. or Vitalogy as their favorite. I bounce back-and-forth between those two.

*** Isn’t that what every band says?

However, a couple friends who are also big fans picked up the new version and suggested that I would probably like it more than I expected, especially if I focused on the second disk, dubbed Ten Redux. Unlike the first disk, which is a straight remaster of the 1991 album, Ten Redux is a remix of the original songs. It’s not just cleaned up, but deconstructed and then reconstructed.

I noticed that the two-disk Legacy version of the updated Ten was available at Target for $10, so I picked it up a couple weeks ago. I’ve been listening to Ten Redux a lot since then. My friends did not lie: it’s pretty good.

The changes are indeed subtle, but certainly noticeable. The elements of each song that blended together in the past are now isolated, giving the album a live-in-the-studio feel. There is an energy, a shimmer that wasn’t on the original disk, but the fundamental sound remains the same. Take a song like “Porch,” for example. It was a rocker to begin with. With the remix, though, it’s cranked up to 11.

This new sense of separation affects the vocals, as well. There is an edge to Eddie Vedder’s voice that was missing on the ‘91 disk. For a collection of songs that is already full of anger and emotion, that edge adds a new sense of drama. This is most noticeable in “Alive,” where you can almost see Vedder spitting the lyrics out between gritted teeth.

The process doesn’t always work, however. “Jeremy”* is the one song where the changes are almost too distracting. In the final third of the song, the vocal that was most prominent on the original mix has been reduced, the backing vocal brought forward, and the result takes away from what had been a brilliant moment of musical chaos.

** Can we talk about “Jeremy” for a minute? It is famously the song that caused Pearl Jam to stop making videos. Legend has it that another musician told Vedder that the video ruined the song for him. “It’s too artsy,” Eddie was told. Added to the band’s desire to pull back from the media onslaught, they cited the video’s massive success as a reason to cease making further videos. They wanted people to remember their songs, not the images associated with them.

Fair enough. But that’s a shame. “Jeremy” is a stunning video. One of the greatest ever. Artsy? Sure. But freaking great art. It remains one of the iconic moments in 90s music.

I do understand the band’s view, though, about wanting to be remembered for their music. If you take away the video, the meaning of “Jeremy” can be ambiguous. How exactly did Jeremy speak in class? Is that a metaphor? Or is he a kid who never said anything and literally opened his mouth and let words come out for the first time? While some forced editing by MTV kept some ambiguity in the video (They wouldn’t show Jeremy with the gun in his mouth. Without that image, the next scene, in which his classmates are frozen, covered in blood, it isn’t obvious whether he shot them or himself.) the meaning has been narrowed down significantly. I suppose that’s one good thing about MTV turning into reality show hell and rarely showing videos anymore: we can assign our own meanings to songs rather than having one forced upon us.*

Another downer is the bonus material. Pearl Jam has always been a big B-side band. Their Lost Dogs collection, released in 2003, brought together most of their best B-sides and unreleased tracks. Between the single B-sides and Lost Dogs, most obsessive fans own just about everything that was recorded in 1991-92. In an effort to offer something new, there are some early mixes of “Breath” and “State Of Love And Trust,” which both appeared on the Singles soundtrack. Neither version compares to what ended up in the movie. Other bonus tracks are those that never made it past the embryonic phase. But only a minor quibble since most people who care already own most of the non-album material.

Casual listeners may not notice much of a difference between Ten and Ten Redux. But those of us who have memorized every growl and guitar flourish and drum fill will find lots of new sounds to commit to memory. Most of those sounds are good. And for $10, it’s worth it if you are or were once a fan. It’s helped me to remember that fabulous summer of 1992, when the music world was changing, and fall back in love with one of my favorite albums ever.

 

Educate Yourself – The Five Minute Health Care Primer

I mentioned, in my State of the Blog post, that I was working on a draft about a controversial subject. It’s not a draft anymore. It’s a post bitches!

I have to admit: I’m part of the problem. Despite being a voter and someone who tries to keep up on what’s going on in the world, I don’t understand the current healthcare reform proposal at all. It’s not a lack of intelligence (I hope) or interest in the subject. It’s more a matter of devoting the time to understanding it. I don’t even understand my current insurance, so it’s hard to tackle a complex proposal of reforms.

I’m part of the problem because I think most people are like me. The evidence is overwhelming that people in this country are hungry for a complete overhaul of our healthcare system, from how we’re insured to how much care and meds cost, to how we balance providing care for all with maintaining a system that can still research the biggest, baddest health problems. I believe this is true of people of all political perspectives. We may disagree on how to overall the system, but there is agreement that a new system is needed. However, it’s hard work trying to figure out what’s going on in Washington, and people find it easier to spend time with their families and friends, watch entertainment and sports on TV, or just tune the Washington rancor out.

In general, I support the idea of overhauling our system. I’m very fortunate to have excellent health insurance that gives me access to the best care available. But I have relatives and friends who, because of bad luck or bad health, have no coverage. It’s hard not to be scared about what could happen to those people if a health emergency presents itself. I imagine most of my readers have family, friends, neighbors who are in the same situation.

Yet I still haven’t gotten into the details of what’s being proposed and counter-proposed. I can’t have a meaningful discussion about what’s going on because I don’t know what’s going on. And I think it’s people like me who are turning this into a circus, not the handful of nutjobs at the extremes who are getting all the attention. If the majority of people of all political views who want our system to be radically changed would speak up, those nutjobs wouldn’t be controlling the debate. The politicians wouldn’t be able to distort, demagogue, and rely on fear to motivate voters. Rather, they’d have to actually address the issues at hand.

That is where President Obama has done a poor job. I think he looked at the numbers, how they crossed political lines, and recalled from the campaign how important health care reform was to most voters, and expected those people to carry the debate. Thus, he stepped back and allowed the opponents of his plan to dominate the discussion. That quickly morphed from simple Washington partisan politics to the circus that has been taking place at townhalls across the country in recent weeks. Had he been more forceful sooner, I don’t know if the radical opponents would have seized control.

I don’t necessarily believe that his plan is correct. Remember, I don’t know all the details. But it’s been maddening listening to the debate be over things that don’t exist or matter – death panels and “keeping government out of Medicare” are two examples – rather than an actual effort to make our health care system better.

With that lengthy lead-in, I thought I would link to this rather basic overview of what is being discussed in Washington. I have a feeling most of my readers, whether conservative, liberal, or politically agnostic will benefit from reading it. I know I did. It may not change your view of what should or should not be done, but perhaps it will inform your opinion a bit.

<a href=”http://squashed.tumblr.com/post/166890864/pros-and-cons-of-the-healthcare-reform-proposal-s”>Pros and Cons of the Healthcare Reform Proposal(s)</a> –
<blockquote>Can someone explain to me, or point me in the direction of a website that can explain to me, in a clear, 10-yr. could understand, nonpartisan matter the elements, pros and cons of the proposed HealthCare reform?</blockquote>

 

Kid Stuff

Some kid updates.

Have I mentioned lately that L. is the most delightful child in the history of children? She’s reached the stage where just about everything makes her happy and/or laugh. The other night I said that if she could disjoint her jaw, like a snake, so she could laugh harder, she would. If she’s awake, fed, and not tired, chances are she’s clapping her hands about something, smiling at someone, or trying to get someone’s attention so they play with her.

Her mobility gets a little better each day. Still not walking, but getting more comfortable standing without hanging onto something. She can go up the stairs incredibly fast for someone who couldn’t do it just a couple weeks ago. She’s developed the dangerous quickness that allows her to get across the room and into something dangerous in half the time it used to take her. No more setting her on one side of the room while I try to do something on the other side.

She’s taking after big sister C., it seems. She’s already climbing things, and problem solving along the way. She’s figured out if you tip something over next to the object you want to climb on, you can probably use it as a step to get where you want to go. This morning we were all in the basement. I was sitting at the bar reading and the girls were playing. I heard L. clapping and looked over to see her sitting on top of our large ottoman, grinning at me. As I ran over to get her off, she started laughing and rocking wildly, nearly throwing herself over the edge. I grabbed her and asked how she got up there by herself and saw an overturned plastic box that we use to store toys pushed next to the ottoman. Smart kid. The best part was the cheering for herself to get my attention so she could show off. She knows exactly what she’s doing. Stinker.

I’ve mentioned many times that this is my favorite stage. I’m in the midst of a project that has reinforced that. S. asked if I had ever collected all my blog posts about the kids into one file for archiving/printing. I’ve thought of doing that, but never actually got around to it. So I’ve been working through the various archives over recent days to pull all of the kid posts together. It’s interesting how much more I shared about M.’s development than about C.’s or L.’s. That’s natural. With the first kid, everything is amazing and new and you have to share all the details with the world. With the kids that come after #1, the developments are no less amazing, but they’re no longer new, and you’re also balancing what the other children are doing, making it difficult to track every little development.

It’s funny to read back through the ‘04-06 posts, until C. was born, and see how often I posted about pregnancy and M.’s every move. I don’t think I wrote about the last pregnancy all that much, and now the kid posts come much less frequently.

I’m starting to get excited about M. starting school for more than just getting her out of the house. I’m seeing some subtle shifts in her personality, the gradual change from preschooler into kid. Her questions are becoming more concrete, more logical. Her stories more complex. Her understanding of what’s going on around her greater. I have this sense that she’s going to blossom once school starts and make another huge transition, hopefully improving her behavior along the way. As good of a summer as this has been, in some ways I feel like a failure because I’ve not pushed her harder to learn new things, instead just letting her follow her own path each day. I don’t say that because I think we’ve missed an opportunity to learn things she won’t end up learning in kindergarten anyway. But rather because I wonder if carving out time to do school preparations each day might have improved her behavior and made life easier for everyone.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how the kids after the first kind of get the shaft. For example, M. knew all of her letters, both saying the alphabet and being able to identify them, around 18 months. C. can sing her ABCs, but can only identify a few letters. It’s not because she’s not smart, but because mom and dad couldn’t sit there with her, day-after-day, doing the alphabet over-and-over with her. Bath time with M. meant getting out the tub letters and going through them each night. Once M. and C. started taking baths together, the focus was more on getting everyone clean without any meltdowns, without anyone breathing in water, and without any fighting over bath toys.

C. brought me a lace bow this morning and asked me to put it in her hair so that she looked “extra pretty.” Modest much?

Blog Status, August 2009

Seems like a good time for one of my occasional State Of The Blog posts. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to have to learn a new address or anything like that.

Overall, I think the move to WordPress and server space I own has been a good one. There haven’t been any downtimes, at least that I’ve noticed. While you haven’t seen major changes, I do like having the freedom to do whatever I want to the blog, free from the limits imposed by hosted services. There have been some minor hiccups, like the e-mail notifications of new comments not working at times. There was a week when there were 4-5 new comments but I had no idea because I rely on the e-mail function to let me know they’re out there.

As you may recall, one of my reasons for moving the blog was so I could eventually completely control the look of it. With that in mind, I was working through a coding for the web book so I could put my own WordPress theme together. Well, that kind of stalled out. It’s been months since I cracked the book open, so whenever I do decide to tackle it again, I’m going to have to start from the beginning. I have a big reading project lined up for the fall, so I would imagine I won’t make another attempt until early 2010.

Fortunately, I really like the theme I’m using now and am comfortable using it for the foreseeable future.

You’ve probably noticed I’ve been linking to a lot more articles lately than in the past. That’s for a couple reasons. First, I’ve revamped my RSS reading habits and sucked in a lot of new feeds that are providing some fun stuff to share. Second, I recently read an article about Peter Merholz, one of the men who is credited with coining the term blog. He said that he is a little disappointed by what the blogosphere has become. He wasn’t looking to create an environment where everyone and their mother dropped 3000 words about the latest American Idol or the kinds of people that piss them off. Rather, he was looking to build a system where people would repost interesting links they found during their web explorations, adding their own brief commentary. A lot of my favorite blogs feature not only top-notch writing, but excellent links to other articles of interest.

So I’ve been trying to share more of the interesting stuff I run across each day. However, one thing does kind of bug me: there’s no quick way for my readers to differentiate the posts that are all (or mostly) my writing from those that are just links. Maybe no one other than me cares, but there should be an easy identifier that separates the original material from the linked items. Again, many of my favorite blogs use some kind of icon to ID either links or original work. For example, the fantastic <a href=”http://daringfireball.net/”>Daring Fireball</a> uses a circled white star, ✪, to flag the author’s work. The symbol is also used at the end of each post.

The easy thing would be to bite DF’s style and go with the same symbol. I think it’s kind of awesome; I bought a DF shirt I like it so much. But, on the off chance one of my dozens of readers actually reads DF, I’d hate to be seen as a thief. After much consideration of the various symbols available that appear to be unicode – and thus platform/browser agnostic – I’ve decided that all my original material will include a ❖ , also known as a black diamond minus white x,* in the subject line. In addition, all posts will end with the symbol. Unless I forget.

(Duh.)

There’s no great meaning behind the symbol, at least that I’m aware of. It’s just easily identifiable and fairly classy. I like classy things. If I had more design experience, I suppose I create my own little logo. But who am I kidding? If I can’t get through an HTML book, I’m not going to dig out my InDesign notes from grad school.

Of course there’s also the dilemma about exactly what makes a post a link post vs. something that is my own. For example, I have a draft that I’m debating whether to post or not that is built around a link to an interesting web site. But, because it relates to a controversial issue, I have a 500 work intro stating my views on the subject. I don’t know that there’s a definitive threshold, but a paragraph or two feels right. Since I’m pretty sure very few of you care about such distinctions, I trust none of you will call me on it if I don’t rigidly adhere to that standard.

Just for fun, here are some of the other symbols I considered:

⚈☉☄❖☯☸♨☕

This is also a fine time to thank my dozens of loyal readers for sticking with me and indulging all my silly obsessions for the occasional post that actually resonates with you. Your readership means a lot to me.

 

Benefits Of Not Fouling Up Three

Imagine if Memphis had managed to foul Sherron Collins before he shoveled the ball to Mario. Talk about a mess.

It makes me even more glad that the NCAA was responsible for approving Darrell Arthur’s eligibility, thus their lack of interest in taking a second look at his high school transcript. If Mario misses, is KU vacating wins now and the NCAA ignoring what went down in Memphis?

<a href=”http://rushthecourt.net/2009/08/20/memphis-vacate-ions-all-i-ever-wanted/”>Memphis: Vacate-ion’s All I Ever Wanted…</a> –
<blockquote>Maybe there was a little more magic to the Mario Miracle dagger than we understood at the time?</blockquote>

 

R’s – Looking Ahead

No Royals posts for a few weeks. I can’t imagine why that would be the case.

July was the month when my interest finally waned. I listened to bits and pieces of a few games, but rarely tuned in for more than an inning or two. I never fired up MLB.TV.* I even quit paying attention to when Greinke was pitching because chances are I would just get pissed that he could go out and throw 7+ innings of two-run ball and still either lose or pick up an ND at best. I do know Billy Butler is breaking out in a big MFing way. Sadly no one else has joined him this summer.

(Is Split back yet?)

Then Tuesday came perhaps the ultimate insult. Alex Gordon was sent to Omaha. That alone wasn’t so bad. I think it’s time to push the reset button on both this season and Alex’s career. Send him down, take the pressure off, maybe finish up the season strong and be ready for next spring and what should be a make-or-break season for him.

No, the insult was that taking his place on the roster was Kyle Farnsworth.

The next George Brett was sent to AAA to make room for Kyle Mutherfreaking, Homerungivingup, gameblowing, Farnsworth.

If this isn’t the worst, most disappointing season ever, I don’t know what it.

I have tried to keep my baseball interest going, though. I’ve been searching for a team to adopt for the rest of the season. Not to bandwagon, necessarily, but more to pay attention to a team that is playing meaningful games. A team to listen to and/or watch in the evenings and then look to their box score first in the mornings. Something, anything, to help me forget the Yankees are running away with the AL East.

Back in late June I toyed with doing a different team each week in an effort to broaden my MLB knowledge. I must admit aside from the Royals and the big market teams, my understanding of big league rosters isn’t nearly as comprehensive as it was 20 years ago. But each Sunday I would forget to pick a team and Monday morning I would tell myself, “I’ll start next week.” That never happened.

Then I thought about just picking a team to follow through the pennant races. I’ve been listening to Bill Simmons’ podcasts and he keeps raving about going to Dodger Stadium and hinting that if he ever needed to pick a second team, the Dodgers would be a tempting target. So I thought about the Dodgers for a couple weeks. They have Manny. Some good young players, solid pitching. But in the end they seemed too convenient and bandwagony.

So I’ve just been following the races and looking for a team that might have some sex appeal. The Cardinals could be that team, with Pujols, Holliday, and the rejuvenated Carpenter. They shouldn’t be in first but they’re stretching their lead out. Still, I’ve had a long and difficult relationship with the Cards. On the one hand, I admire their history and have enjoyed all my trips to St. Louis to watch a game over the years. But, as a Kansas City native, I have some built-in distrust of the ‘Lou. Much like St. Louis is always trying to measure up to and feels looked down upon by Chicago, there’s a similar vibe between Missouri’s two biggest cities. We Kansas Citians tend to believe that St. Louisians either don’t care about us or are simply patronizing us. Thus the Cardinals are out, although I hope they hang on. Pujols is a KC guy, after all.

A weird candidate has presented itself in recent weeks. The Florida Marlins. They’re in the running for odd reasons. They’re young, talented, and building towards another title run in a couple years. They’re hanging around in the wild card race. And it seems like the MLB Network is always breaking into their games and something interesting happens. But what I like most about the Marlins is that they have to have the smallest fan base in the majors. Here they are, eight games over .500, 4.5 games back in the division, 2.5 back in the wild card, and no one is ever at their games. If I lived in Miami I could always get a great seat to watch one of the youngest, most exciting teams in the league. And there would be something special about being there, knowing the other 13,000 people who made it to the park that night were real fans.* We would be the diehards who could name the third man out of the bullpen and the bats at the end of the bench. It would be like being in an exclusive social club where we all had one thing in common and came together 162 or so times a year to share it.

(Actually less than that. Any crowd shot during a Marlins game will show a healthy number of Yankees and Red Sox hats. You aren’t a real fan until you take off the cap of the team you’re bandwagoning.)

But August is halfway gone and I still haven’t started listening to any Marlins games. Maybe I’ll just get ready for football and wait for the playoffs to roll around so I can root for ABY.*

(Anyone But the Yankees)

 

Slightly Ahead Of Schedule

The girls again took part in our local library’s summer reading program. From June until the first week of August, we tracked the books that we read each day and got a series of prizes for their work. One prize was getting to pick out a book to take home and keep. We picked a baby book for L., C. selected a <em>Fancy Nancy</em> book, and M. picked a book about losing teeth. Ever since then, M. has been obsessed with losing her teeth. We keep telling her that she’ll have to wait awhile, because that doesn’t usually happen until kids are closer to seven.

Funny thing, this afternoon two of her front teeth were loose.

I racked my brain trying to remember if she had fallen and bumped them at any point today, but as far as both I and she can recall, it was an injury-free day. So it looks like she really has two loose teeth and we’re going to have to figure out our Tooth Fairy routine sooner than expected.

In other brief kid news, L. is working on tooth #7. She is all about playing with dad these days and Monday she crawled on top of me, growled, and literally tried to take a bite out of my chest. She thought it was terrifically funny. I screamed a little. It hurt! She’s standing on her own a bit, and I’ve been trying to coax her into taking steps. She’s taken one here-and-there, but mostly falls down. It’s coming, though. She continues to be thoroughly delightful 90% of the time and I’m trying to savor every moment of it.

C. has entered a new, emotional phase. Everything sets the girl off. I’m really not sure if something caused this or it’s just a proverbial phase that we’re going to have to deal with. I hope it ends soon, though, because I shudder to think of her being the kid in her class who bursts into tears over the smallest things. But when she’s happy, she still runs around like crazy.

The big sisters got postcards from their teachers today. M. will have a new teacher as she enters kindergarten, and C. will have the same teacher M. had when she was three. M. will be five days a week, 9-2; C. will be Tuesday-Thursday, 9-1. I’ll share more about our school plans down the line, but we’ve made a few controversial decisions.

M. and C. also completed their first gymnastics session last week. They both got a lot better and loved it. So, we’re starting a new class this Saturday that runs through October. We may keep it up until the spring, and then try to get M. into a soccer league.

Tiger – A Quick Observation

I’ll not post anything long about the PGA so the M’s birthday party post gets most of your attention, but I did have this observation yesterday. Forgive me for putting this in the crudest terms, but I think it’s safe to say every sportswriter in the country had a gigantic hardon all afternoon. They were either going to write about the great Tiger finally blowing a major, or about how he staged a dramatic comeback and finally added the one piece that was missing to his legacy. Somewhere Mike Lupica was hyperventilating at the possibilities.

 

Celebrating Five Year Old Style

After a two-week wait, we finally had our friend party for M.’s birthday on Saturday. I think it’s accurate to describe her as being a little wound up Saturday morning.

We went to a place called Monkey Joe’s, which is another in the apparent endless stream of bounce places that are opening all over. We had a special party room reserved, a little helper who took care of everything once we got there, and then a plethora of inflatable slides and climbing walls and bounce apparatuses. The kids went crazy for the first hour, racing all over the place, discovering all the toys, and even invading the area for little ones when they saw L. and me in it. To add to the excitement (and danger) there were a bunch of other parties going on at the same time. So there were hyper kids all over the place, some quite a bit bigger than our girls. C. got wiped out by some kid when she walked in front of him as he was coming down a slide. She popped straight up into the air, just like in cartoons! Some other boys were “mean to her,” and there were some other bumps, but our afternoon was largely incident-free. Which was a bonus.

At cake time we retired to our party room where M. was placed in a special birthday chair. While our helper cut the cake, M. got a very special visit from Monkey Joe himself! So a girl who’s already a little full of herself gets a birthday hug from a person in a monkey suit. There’s going to be no containing her ego now.

Seriously, it was very cute and all of M.’s guests got two chances to give Monkey Joe hugs as well. I was holding L. during all of this. Her eyes were glued to M.J. and she kept chirping and leaning away to try to get at him. I finally took her over and let her get a hug, but I think she just wanted to chew on him for awhile.

We had cake,* opened presents, and after long enough for their blood sugars to spike, the kids got to go play for another 30 minutes or so. They all seemed to love the place, and several parents said they were going to go back again. I guess that serves as a full endorsement for all your toddler and grade schooler birthday party needs. M. said, about ten minutes after we got home, that she wanted to go back on Sunday. We explained she would have to wait a little longer than that.

(Can we all agree Costco is kind of incredible? We grabbed a cake at Costco on our way over, letting M. pick the one she liked the most based on the icing and design. She chose a chocolate-iced cake with balloons and flowers on top. Looked good enough. When we started eating it, there was a discussion on what the filling layer was made of, icing or ice cream. I honestly didn’t know. When we got home I looked at the box and saw it was a white chocolate cheesecake filling. That’s right, two layers of chocolate cake, cheesecake filling, off-the-charts icing. It might have been the best cake I’ve ever had. And all for $16.)

As far as gifts, M. got her first Polly Pockets. In fact she got three different kinds. They’re already scattered all over the house and we’re constantly picking up the shoes and other tiny parts that L. could choke on. She also got some great books, a couple games, and a dress.

So that was our first ever kid birthday party. A pretty big hit overall, and our house was just as clean after as before, which made it worth every penny. Now we can rest two years until C. turns five and we do it again.

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