Sleeping tigers and butt-sniffing monkeys

30 07 2007

Shouldn’t every weekend be a 4-day weekend? Thanks to Karen’s two consecutive weeks off we got to have a real visit with my family this past weekend for the first time since forever.  So we actually had a nice visit that was relaxing.  Oh, and I got to kick my brother-in-law’s butt on Wii Sports’ Boxing.

Monday morning came and before we drove home we decided to go to the zoo. We got there around 9:30, and remember all that talk you’ve heard about the animals being active in the morning? They lied.

Snow leopard? sleeping
Amur tiger? sleeping
African lion? sleeping
Amur leopard? sl- LOOK! He’s looking up! no, wait, sleeping

So I learned in this trip to the zoo that wild cats are no different than domesticated cats. Except that these can eat you.

The elephants, however, were impressive. At least to me they were. We saw them right at feeding time and they were enjoying their food. Isaac and Jonathan, upon seeing the largest land mammal in the world, were engrossed with the ducks swimming in the pond at the front of the habitat.

Hello!  Look at me, I’m an elephant!  Hello? Anyone?

Jonathan’s other favorite was the colobus monkeys. They were excellent climbers and seemed to do all of their climbing in one sweeping motion. One of them wiped the butt of another with his index finger, then sniffed the finger.

My personal favorite was the Kodiak bear they had. He was sleeping too, but every so often would lift up his head, scratch, and go back to sleep. This tiny movement allowed us to make out his shape for certain, and gape at the sheer size of him. My God, he was huge. Isaac has been afraid of bears for a while, so he wouldn’t even look at them for too long.

Ben had more outside time this weekend than he’s had all year.  He loved it.  We even stuffed him into a high chair on my sister’s patio:


Thank you to Dawn and Dan for a great weekend.  You’re the best sister I’ve ever had.

I never miss an opportunity to do something wrong

26 07 2007

Timing is everything. Take the previous owners of our house, for instance. They split (and left town) shortly before just about everything in this house self-destructed. Here’s the range that came with the house:

stupid oven

We’ve been having intermittent problems with this range since we moved in three years ago, but with the cost involved we’ve been putting it off. Recently it we’ve had to re-categorize our oven from “temperamental” to “broken” since it will preheat then shut off.

Now I’m not sure when this range was built, but the manual was printed in 1991. It started giving us problems in 2004. That’s thirteen years, folks. We’ve had ranges in our first two apartments that were older than me and they still worked fine. I’m not sure what you’re paying for when you buy Jenn-Air, but it’s certainly not durability.

Pop quiz:  Given the picture above, which of these two replacements would you purchase?

drop-in range slide in range

Me too. Guess what. I was wrong.  What I ordered was a drop-in range that is apparently built into the cabinets, and you have to build a box to put it on.  What I needed was a slide-in range that stands up on its own.  That’s pretty evident from the pictures, right?  Yeah well Jenn-Air has to go make things difficult for me.  Apparently I had a slide-in range with no drawer because of the downdraft fan.  So after 3 weeks of backorder the delivery guys rip open the box and I say “That doesn’t have legs.”  Oops.  Here’s my new range:

i wonder what I can ruin with this…

Oh yeah, and apparently my kitchen floor is not level.  It was very interesting to level my oven on that floor.

Goodbye, cruel world!

19 07 2007

I’m disappearing for a few days, going offline.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s spoilers. Spoilers are evil.  A radio station morning show spoiled The Sixth Sense for me years ago and I’ve never forgiven them.

So I will talk to you all after I have finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Did I say I’m going offline? No computer, no television, no radio, no newspaper, no NOTHING until I’m done reading that book. I won’t even be answering my phone. Don’t call and leave a message, the machine is turned off.  In fact I’m not even going to the store to get it. Amazon is delivering it tomorrow. Crazy, you say? You bet. The only place I’m guaranteed to be safe is at church on Sunday.

But I won’t be able to just sit and read after it arrives. You see, today is Isaac’s birthday. He turns lucky 7 and tomorrow is his pirate birthday party, AAAARRRRRGGG! We’ll be having a whopping 5 friends over so there should be at least 1 pound of candy for each of them in the pinata. Do they sell pirate toothbrushes?

In honor of this auspicious occasion I’m posting a slide show of some of the sillier pictures we’ve taken of Isaac. He can’t have thought I’d keep them to myself. Happy birthday dude, you totally rock!

And yes, I tagged this post “Harry Potter” as a cheap way to increase my hit count. I’m a shameless sellout.  Syndication here I come!

Some toys just aren’t made for kids

15 07 2007

Under “categories” I’ve listed Jonathan takes his toys apart. It should read Jonathan takes Isaac’s toys apart. I’m sorry for the confusion.

Well, Isaac is Link, and Link is Isaac. It’s his secret identity. And it’s why Karen is such a fan of Zelda. It’s not Link running around on our TV fighting evil, it’s Isaac. And wow, he does exactly what Karen tells him to do, the first time (mostly)! If only kids came with a little controller or Wiimote so that they’d do exactly what you told them to.

So Santa brought Isaac a Link action figure for Christmas last year. Let’s just say it’s not as much action as we’d hoped. It breaks as easy as a Jenn-Air range. We found out quickly that Link’s arms fall off, and this is what happens after ten minutes with Jonathan:

Lego Link

I’m surprised he lasted through June.

To save Santa’s reputation I’ve told Isaac about product licensing and the fact that Santa didn’t in fact make this toy in his workshop. The bad news is that Santa bought a dud. The good news is that we can get him something a little more durable.

A couple months ago Isaac told me “When I grow up I’m going to make a Lego Zelda video game.” I wonder where he got his inspiration?

It does say on the box that it’s not meant to be played with. Here’s your first warning:

Warning! May not be as much fun as you’d hoped!

Is there such a thing as a mature five-year-old collector? Anyway, now my old GI Joe bad guy will have someone to go to rehab with:

Jonathan is Sid from Toy Story

My greatest enemy

12 07 2007

Karen’s been after me for weeks to post this.

You’ve heard me rant against my oven. It preheats and then shuts off. It’s sabotaged my creme brulee, cinnamon rolls, and pizza. But it’s never beaten me. All three of those projects came out great. So what could be worse than an oven that shuts off?

It even looks evil, doesn’t it?

A gas grill.

Not just any gas grill, though, an EVIL gas grill. Okay, so perhaps all gas grills are evil.

I just don’t get it. I was great with charcoal. Those were the best burgers I’ve ever had. Come to think of it, I still make pretty good burgers on the grill. I make pretty good steaks on the grill too. I’ve even cooked veggies on the grill. But there’s one thing I’ve never gotten right since I started with this stupid thing.

Well it is called Mark Ruins Dinner


In the picture above you see my latest batch of Jerk Chicken, from July 4th. It was actually pretty funny. We had a guest, and he very graciously said nothing while politely avoiding the chicken altogether. I’ve made chicken at least half a dozen times this year, and every time they end up looking like this. Perhaps I get impatient and that’s why I close the lid, but as soon as I do I turn BBQ into something that’s becoming legendary in our house.

Chernobyl Chicken.

Last week Karen made an unwelcome comment to me, “Why doesn’t Bobby Flay burn his chicken like this?” Because Bobby Flay never cooks chicken on a gas grill. And it’s dead easy with charcoal. You put the coals in the middle and put the chicken around the outside of the grill. He doesn’t even close the lid, ever. The Jerk gets this great blackened skin (not burned) that’s delicious. Cooking on a gas grill with indirect heat is like washing my minivan with a toothbrush. That’s why I’m good with burgers and steaks. When God made cows he said “Thou shalt be cooked over an open flame.”

I used to be a proud non-owner of a gas grill. Now I’m a shamed owner of a gas grill that has truly beaten me. And since my Weber kettle grill died a grisly death last year I’m doomed for at least two summers to tinker, fiddle, and experiment, ultimately burning the chicken anyway.

Like my dad always said “They’re brown when they’re cookin’, and they’re black when they’re done.”

Future White House press correspondent

10 07 2007

Recently Jonathan has discovered the art of conversation. The give and take, question and answer, point and counterpoint. And he’s getting very comfortable with it, so much so that there really isn’t a topic that intimidates him. He’ll interject into any conversation two people may be having. Herein lies the problem though. We’ll be talking at dinner and Jonathan will try to put in his two cents, but of course we’re not listening. That’s when he politely lets us know that he can’t get a word in edgewise. Except he usually puts it like this:


Jonny Smile

We’ve been trying to teach him to politely say “excuse me,” but he shouts that too. Then we tried telling him to just wait his turn. Guess how that went?

I was taking the boys to Karen’s office for lunch, and Isaac and I were talking. Jonathan wanted to speak, so he asked Isaac politely if he could step in.


see? I even look like a pundit!

I got Jonathan to calm down a bit, and Isaac finished what he was saying. So then I asked Jonathan what was so important, what was this question that was weighing on his mind so much?

“Is it summer?”

That’s my kid, asking the tough questions.

Are we doing enough?

8 07 2007

This past weekend there was this concert series called Live Earth, where nine stadiums around the world were open all day for concerts in an effort to fight global warming. This isn’t a political blog so I won’t get into how silly that idea is. But I will mention that there is a much more serious problem headed our way further out into the future, and it’s got Isaac worried.

In one of Isaac’s space books we read that the sun will burn itself out in about 5 billion years.  As it nears the end of its life it will increase in temperature and size, and life on Earth will cease long before it is engulfed by the sun as it expands.

will we be next?

When we read this in his book Isaac started getting scared. He was afraid about the earth being destroyed by the sun in its death throes 5 billion years into the future. I told him “Don’t worry Isaac. That’s so far into the future, you’ll be dead long before that happens.”

Isaac and his space book

Somehow he wasn’t comforted by that thought.  Bad Daddy.

Next time I’ll just wave

5 07 2007

Some of us have more trouble adjusting to the Monday morning routine than others. I’m especially bad. Having two parents in the house all weekend long is like a vacation to me, so when I’m left on my own it takes me at least two cups of coffee to get up for it.

Karen was getting ready for work, as usual, and she was running late. I heard “Bye everybody!” and the door close. I’m kind of insecure so I felt a slight tinge of offense “Not even so much as a peck on the cheek.” Hmph. So I go to the window and wave goodbye. At least I get a wave back. Then something catches my eye as Karen’s driving away. Jonathan’s car seat is in her car. So I call Karen on her cell phone, and while she’s still in sight she answers. I go out and get the car seat, collect my morning kiss, and start walking back to our minivan.

Have you ever pressed down on the gas, thinking the car was in drive, but really it was in reverse? Have you ever bumped into something when that happened? Did you ever hit your husband with the car when that happened? I suppose that was a critique of my kiss, but I’d have preferred her to simply say “Mark, seriously, go brush your teeth.”

Strike two against Burger King

1 07 2007

I grew up in the 80’s. That’s to say I wasn’t a teenager in the early 80’s, so most of those brat pack movies went over my head. I couldn’t really relate to The Breakfast Club (I loved Ferris Bueller though) but I watched it since my older sister watched it. But there was one fad for which I was the perfect age, the “target audience.” Hence my state of depression this week.

Karen and I have long held the belief that PG-13 movies should NEVER under any circumstances be seen by children under 13, and in some cases 17. (Remember Titanic?) And when Spider-Man movies started coming out a few years ago it was an easy decision. Isaac was WAY too young. But he turns seven this month, and the coolest thing that ever existed in my childhood is making its way to the big screen.

You’re thinking “Another Star Wars movie?” No, cooler. Star Wars was incredible, amazing, and awe inspiring, but the Transformers were cool.

This, however, is not cool:

Isn’t this supposed to transform?

I understand that happy meal toys cost about twelve cents, so we can’t expect much. But even my four-year-old wasn’t fooled with this one. Um, Burger King? Transformers toys are supposed to, well, transform, ya know? Not this one.  No, here’s the new version of Starscream, and what you see is what you get. It’s some stupid plastic, well let’s call it what it is, it’s a statue. It’s not a transformer, it’s just a robot. Isaac picked up on it immediately.

So here’s an idea. How about these fast food places stop giving toys with happy meals. Maybe little books instead, or activity pages or something. To the chain that comes up with an idea to actually engage children I will offer my patronage. Until then I may just start asking them to take the toys out before we even see them.