Friday, January 28, 2005

#12 - Woody Does Family History

Mrs. Woody is scrapping again. It is, for her, a tremendous outlet for her considerable talents, and gives her an equally tremendous spiritual and emotional boost. I strongly encourage it.

Tonight, she's working on a family vacation we took nearly two years ago. We had gone up to visit our friends in Vancouver, Washington, and planned a few day-trips from there. One such trip (actually an overnighter) would take us up to Sequim (pronounced "skwim" by the locals) to visit an uncle of mine, and thence across the Puget Sound to Seattle. I love the area just as a matter of course, but this time I had a purpose in mind.

You know by now of my own interest in family history and, particularly, genealogy. I've had the bug since a month or two after Dad passed away. My personal belief is that he's worried about my becoming lazy (too late!) and is having old dead relatives visit me in my sleep. Gee, thanks, Dad. So, I spend copious amounts of time digging (sometimes literally!) up information about my ancestors. I never knew, for example, any of my great-grandparents. In fact, I grew up with only three grandparents. My Dad's dad, Harry, had been a dentist in Idaho Falls in the 20's and 30's. Unfortunately, he developed a drinking problem (Dad used to say he drank too much of his own anesthetic), and Grandma divorced him when Dad was young. Grandpa remarried, but apparently was never happy and finally took an overdose of sleeping powder on a train to Colorado some fourteen years before I was born.

Since developing Family History Syndrome I have developed a desire to get to know my ancestors better. I never knew much about Grandpa Harry. The stories Dad told of him were sketchy, at best. After all, Dad was taken to Los Angeles at about age 9, so he could only recall just so much. Plus, Dad was not one to discuss his own past very much. This puts me at a distinct disadvantage where research is concerned because I'm shooting blind most of the time.

This particular year I was determined to follow up on a valuable piece of information about my great-grandfather Elam. Elam had died about four years before his son. I had tried once to get information on where Harry might be buried, but was completely unsuccessful on that score. (I did, however, find out that my Dad had truly been adopted at birth... something we had chalked up to the rantings of our Alzheimer's suffering grandmother!)

I have in my possession a copy of a certificate showing Elam's last known address and the name of the cemetery where he had been interred. Some quick Googling verified that both the house and the cemetery were still standing. It was our intention to visit the house, photograph it, then visit the cemetery and find Elam's grave.

Mrs. Woody just had me "journal" the experience in the scrapbook she's making. I still recall the visit very clearly. The house was a quaint brick affair, a few miles from the Puget Sound. I felt no desire to bother the current inhabitants. I was just thrilled to see the house and snap a couple of photos of it. We left before neighbors could sic the gendarmes after us, and drove a few miles up the road to the cemetery. A quick visit to the cemetery office, and I was on my way to the mausoleum where Elam was interred.

Mrs. Woody was feeling achy, and opted to stay in the car. I took the Woodyettes with me, along with our camera, and wended our way through the maze of corridors in the huge mausoleum. Along the way, I tried to explain to the girls what I was doing and why. They asked a lot of questions, but they were probably more excited just to have an adventure with Daddy.

It was one of those moments you sort of feel should be in a movie. There's the swelling music as the protagonist reaches his goal. A sweeping camera angle from behind to reveal the crypt. There it is! Elam's resting place! His second wife, Cora, is interred with him, and... I don't believe it! Camera closes in on Woody's face, which registers surprise and shock. Camera returns to the crypt plate to reveal a third person interred with Elam and Cora. Grandpa Harry! There he is, that sonofagun! No wonder Idaho has no record of his burial! He was cremated and interred with his own father. If that doesn't beat all...

I love family history. I love being a part of it. I love discovering it...

...I love making it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

#11 - Adventures in Family Medicine

Family life is one big adventure. I mean that in the best sense, of course. Being a dad in today's world combines all the best parts of private investigation, psychoanalysis, archaeology, and medicine. For instance, nothing requires the use of a private investigator like trying to hunt down someone's shoes on Sunday morning. Similar to the 48 hour rule in homicide, if you let the trail get cold, it's that much harder to close the case. Archaeology comes into play because you never know how many layers you may have to excavate before finding your quarry. Dads like to think they use psychoanalysis on their kids, but everyone knows it's really the other way around.

Medicine, though, can get pretty tricky. Certainly, by law we are not allowed to dispense medicine or medical advice beyond the obvious home remedies with which the government currently trusts us. Or, perhaps, they don't. It's hard to tell with the government because they change their minds more frequently than my daughters change clothes in the course of a single afternoon.

In my youthful days, Dad was akin to Dracula. If he was about to draw blood, you just knew it would be painful. Consequently, whenever he would yell, "Get me the tweezers, Willy!" a crowd would form around the unfortunate child to witness their demise. "Willy" was Dad's nickname for Mom, and it usually meant that Dad was up to something. If Dad called for a needle and a match, screams would shortly follow. It was a little like having one of those film noir hacks attempt plastic surgery on you in a dimly-lit back-alley chop shop.

Being a modern, somewhat more sensitive dad, I am happy to say that I have only had to resort to the needle and match surgery a couple of times in my career. Screams followed.

There are some maladies, however, that can make even hardened veterans like myself cringe. The other day was a fine example.

The older Woodyette had complained of a sore ear and a tummy ache the evening before we were supposed to go on a field trip to a museum in the L.A. area. Mommy had me do a warm rice sock (wonderful thing, modern medicine!) to alleviate the soreness, and she was finally able to drift off to sleep. Next morning we had another episode, but she seemed to recover quickly, and we determined to go on our trip.

We had a wonderful time at the museum. There was a brief school group tour, followed by lunch. Then we had a chance to roam on our own. After a couple of exhibits, the Woodyette began to complain of serious pain in both the tummy and the ear. After two or three quick trips to the restroom, we knew our field trip was over. We bundled everyone in the WoodyMobile and made all haste for home.

"Haste," of course, is relative on L.A. freeways, particularly downtown. We crawled at a snail's pace down Interstate 5 while our daughter kept up a running hysteria in the back seat. She was clearly in pain. I knew, immediately, that this could only mean one very nasty ear infection, possibly in both ears. I'd been there before myself. Mrs. Woody really wanted to be back there with her to hold her and comfort her, but this, of course, is both illegal and unsafe. So, we both gritted our teeth all the way down to Orange County and our local Urgent Care office.

It's bad enough having a child suffer for any amount of time when the pain is urgent. Having that child endure over an hour of it is nearly as unbearable for the parents as it is for the sufferer.

Finally, though, we made it to the doctor. A brief examination to verify my own hack diagnosis, a couple of prescriptions later and we were safely home.

The next morning, the Woodyette bounced around the house as if nothing had happened the previous day. "Daddy? When can we go back to the museum?" she's already asking me.

The baby is fine. Mommy and Daddy feel much better now.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

#10 - I Demand a Recount!

I suspect my bathroom scale was built in King County, Washington, and has suddenly added dead pounds to the list of registered pounds. It's a full-blown scandal, and I intend to hound the so-called mainstream media until they admit that poundage fraud still exists in this country, even if Dubya did win a second term handily.

Last year, Mrs. Woody and I began an odyssey to reign in our eating habits and begin some serious weight droppage. We implemented a modified Dr. Phil plan, which means we're low carbs, but not carb-intolerant. For the most part, it's worked well. Holidays, of course, are tough, but we were proud of ourselves to learn that neither of us experienced any real gain during the Christmas/New Year rush.

Then I got sick and gained over three pounds.


Now, normally when I get the flu, I can count on at least some weight loss because my body refuses to deal with all the time and expense of properly processing whatever cretin foods I'm eating. Basically, the body just pulls the giant "Flush Everything" lever and - voila! - instant weight loss!

This time, however, I appear to have some sort of virus brought to us by the same people who registered voters in King County. The dead ones. (Voters, I mean.) Consequently, no matter how many times I visited the Porcelain Reading Room, I added pounds that appeared to be defying the laws of physics.

Sundays are our weigh-in day for our official record, and I had felt that being sick would actually give me an edge in the loss column. Imagine my chagrin to find that not only did I not lose, but I'd actually regenerated three and a half pounds previously declared dead by several elected officials to whose campaigns I've been contributing for years now.

This morning I began to feel somewhat better. The fevers are still there but not as frequent. I decided a shower and fresh set of clothes would make a new man out of me. I often check the scale just prior to my shower just to see how I'm doing, even if it's not official. So, as you've already guessed, I found myself looking at a weight lower than my pre-illness weight! That's the weight Mrs. Woody should have recorded in her log, not that artificially inflated one I had to report on Sunday. I feel disenfranchised.

I could be trite about it, I suppose. I could petulantly refuse to certify our weight loss log until I've had at least five independent recounts. Or, I could just live with the fact that I'm closer today to my original goal than I was a couple of days ago.

Nah. That's too easy.

#9 - Mary Poppins Redux?

I don't like getting into the TV-show-recommendation game. For one thing, I long ago learned that my tastes do not tend to mirror most of America. Also, the stuff that passes for entertainment these days is the same sort of stuff that passes into my ceramic waste processing unit. *cough*

Every once in awhile, however, we stumble across a show that piques our interest. Shortly after the Woodyettes stunned us with their Recording Diva performances, we watched an episode of "Supernanny" (ABC, Monday, 10:00 PM).

We found it refreshing on several fronts. First of all, I'm not a fan of most home-invasion type shows. I find it terribly embarrassing to watch other real people suffering through mostly real problems so that some network can scrape some real ratings. It just hurts. I've never been a fan of "reality" television because I'm struggling to determine exactly how the producers define their actors as "real."

The premise of Supernanny is simple enough. Jo Frost is a professional nanny, direct from England. Families with challenging children invite her to come, observe, and help. She watches the family's daily routine (or, usually, lack thereof) and begins showing the parents practical ways of dealing with each negative behavior. She deals not only with proper reactions, but helps the parents take a proactive approach as well.

While I find it uncomfortable to watch these situations, I found the nanny's approach to be spot on, as the Brits would say. She helps parents understand how they become enablers of the kids' various tantrums, and how to keep their own tempers in check while disciplining their offspring.

I can understand why ABC would want such a program on their roster. For those reality show addicts, it still can be a somewhat sensationalistic show about someone else's problems. On the other hand, this show takes a practical approach to age-old problems and actually attempts to build family relationships, rather than tear them apart.

That kind of TV I can get behind.

Monday, January 17, 2005

#8 - Something Old...

It's easy to see how jaded we've become in these days of technological advances and convenience. Dad used to tell me about making an honest-to-gosh crystal radio set using copper wire and a do-it-yourself cat's whisker arrangement. It always amazed me that such a thing would actually work. Then I had a chance to make one, and I was still amazed. As a boy, Dad would have thought using two tin cans and a string was quite a thrill.

The older I got, the more sophisticated my toys became. Toys that lit up or made weird electro-mechanical noises were much coveted, and relatively rare. Then, when I turned 14, Dad gave me a Heathkit Electronics Lab with something like 15 or 20 experiments. I was hooked. I did every experiment in the book and then branched out. I became Poindexter in his lab creating such things as an alarm system for my room. That one scared Cameron half out of his wits, which was my intention. He'd been known to invade my Sanctum Sanctorum once too often and I couldn't wait to trap him with it. Didn't take long, as I recall.

Dad bought our first computer, the venerable Trash-80, in late 1979. My inner geek quickly came to the fore, and I've never looked back. I got on the roller coaster early, and I still enjoy the ride. I've watched the growth of the information age from the original 300 Bd acoustic coupler to my already nearly obsolete wireless home network. Likewise, entertainment toys have improved from our family's very first color (sort of) television, through VCR's and finally (or, rather, so far) DVD's.

One of the things from my childhood that continually fascinated me was any type of recording equipment. At various times in our home you might have found one or more reel-to-reel tape recorders, both large and small. We graduated, of course, to cassette recorders later on, but the fascination with them never diminished. It didn't take me long to master their workings. 8-track bored me to tears because you could never record with it. They may very well have made 8-track recorders, but we could never have afforded one. Thank goodness.

Tonight, the Woodyettes continue the cycle. For years we have had an old Fischer-Price tape recorder. This is the type with the microphone that can also serve as a mini-PA system if need be. The PA part they figured out many moons ago. They especially love to use it when Mrs. Woody and I are intensely interested in some program or movie. Tonight, they decided to record stories.

They got this idea from Mrs. Woody. Several vacations ago, Mrs. Woody decided to read several of the girls' favorite story books on tape so they could listen and (sneaky homeschooler that she is!) read along while we travelled. They loved it.

At first I didn't pay much attention to what they were doing. I was aware that they wanted to record, and I helped them understand which button to push to make it work. Mrs. Woody helped them understand why, exactly, you don't want to rewind after a recording if you're planning to record something new right away. Little things like that. After that, they were off and running.

Our attention was grabbed when we heard the older one say, in a significant voice, "Turn the page, Sweetie!" This was Mrs. Woody's device to compensate for our lack of bell noises when making our own story tapes. After that we kept at least half an ear on the proceedings.

Best of all, though, was the playback. The Woodyettes, in turn, would get excited and say things like, "That's me!" or, "That's you talking!" They were absolutely fascinated. I have no idea how long this fascination will last, but it's another walk down memory lane for ol' Woody. Best of all, assuming we can rescue the tape before it becomes a casualty of war, we'll have a wonderful family history nugget that we can use to embarrass the girls with future boyfriends, etc.

The old toys are still best, it seems. Using nearly fifty year old technology, the girls have embarked on another self-discovery journey. Of course, I may very well drop the whole thing into the computer, scan in the books that they were reading, and make a Flash movie out of it, but, hey!

Dad can have fun, too.

#7 - Woodyettes - The Board Game

Woody is sick at home for at least one more day. Woody is heartily sick of being sick, and tired of being tired. Still, it's been a long winter, and I'm sure I'm just taking my place in line. Hopefully, in this family, I'm the end of the line.

One of my favorite things to do when I'm feeling miserable is watch the Woodyettes. Or, more precisely, listen to the Woodyettes, each of whom has become a literal blur of activity. They zip into my field of vision for about a microsecond, then zip away to their next adventure. On days like this, if I don't hold my head completely still, the Woodyettes will make Daddy even sicker.

As I listened to their adventures this morning, it occurred to me that their daily antics would make a terrific board game. The simple kind of game where you move so many spaces based on a roll of dice, or a spinner. Every once in awhile you might land on a "penalty square" that hands you some totally unfair consequence.

For instance, the incident that prompted this train of thought was one where the girls, who had been playing very cutely together just moments before, suddenly were snarling at each other (whining, actually) because the younger one had bumped into the older one while she was twirling in the middle of traffic. It was literally the only way the small one could reach her destination, and I'm sure she tried her best to skirt around the dervish as delicately as possible, but contact was made and her sister exploded in indignation.

"Bump twirling sister in hall. Lose one turn."

Other penalties might include:

"Yell about not wanting to have a sister. Move back three spaces."

"Insist that other sister did it. Stand in corner for two turns."

"Room is a disaster. Again. After just having cleaned it two days ago. Forfeit right to play, ever."

Ok, that last one might be a little extreme, but their room never stays clean for very long. On the other hand, any good game would also have "reward squares" that propel the player forward. For example:

"Help Daddy with dishes. Move ahead three spaces."

"Give sister a hug for no reason. Move ahead 15 spaces."

"Tell Mommy she's the best. Game. Set. Match."

Of course, with this board game, there really isn't a way to actually finish playing. The game continues, day after day, year after year, until the participants leave this life. I'm sure the game continues in the hereafter, but the rules are probably modified to some degree. For one thing, it's probably harder to get penalized once you've, you know, been judged and everything.

Actually, Mom once made up a board game one year while were travelling on a family vacation. We had borrowed the grandparents' Winnebago and were wending our way through Arizona and north through the Glen Canyon Dam and southern Utah. After about a week, that many people in a relatively confined space can start to get on each other's nerves. Mostly for her own sanity, Mom created a board game based on our adventures. I don't remember much about the game itself except that one memorable penalty was "Left pajamas in Kanab. Lose one turn." We had stopped in Kanab one night, and I believe the campground had showers. One of my sisters had gone to shower and change clothes. She must have left her pajamas there because we never saw them again. Another piece of family history! I think Mom even drew a picture of an outhouse to illustrate the event.

For whatever reasons, I really hope I never tire of this game. It really can be fun. Except, of course, for those times when Daddy lands on a penalty.

"Forget anniversary. Sleep on couch for six months."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

#6 - A Family's Worst Nightmare

Michelle Malkin petitions prayers on behalf of little Evan Parker Scott. I would add that the adoptive parents in this story need those prayers as well.

I am an adoptive father. I have also been a foster father, and it is an experience that I never again wish to have.

I should qualify the following remarks by stating that both of my adoptions were relatively trouble free. We had heard all of the horror stories but felt strongly that we needed to adopt. In both cases we were successful, although we had to wait until our daughter was 18 before we could legally make her ours. She agreed, of course, but the State of California had a policy that it's cheaper to emancipate any child over 15 than it is to grant an adoption to a loving family.

The wisdom of bureaucrats.

My experiences as a foster parent were closer to the horror stories that one often associates with both foster care and adoption. To be (for me, anyway) succinct, we accepted a 2-1/2 year old boy whose mother had no mothering skills whatsoever. He had been badly neglected while his mother went on drug binges with various boyfriends. She was herself profoundly deaf and could never, therefore, hear the child's cries. Also, she was severely learning disabled. It simply never occurred to her that she should check on her baby every few minutes to make sure he was alright. Social Services intervened when the toddler was discovered wallowing in soiled diapers eating snack food he had pulled out of the cupboard. The boy had serious behavior problems, but I felt it was something my family needed to do.

The mother had visitation rights, but the visits were never pleasant. They were civil enough, because she was always on her best behavior when she visited, but the boy lapsed into his worst behaviors after every visit. After a couple of years, my family had to admit defeat and petition Social Services to place him in a different environment. Last we heard, that family wished to adopt him. I've never been clear as to whether they did.

After we had the one boy for about a year, this mother had another baby. This time, Social Services didn't even want her to take the baby home from the hospital. I had to go to the hospital with Social Services and collect the baby. I felt a little like a thief in the night, but this boy was the sweetest, most even-tempered child I'd ever met. The whole family instantly fell in love with him. So you can guess what happened.

The mother wanted her children back. I suspect her own mother was partially responsible for this desire, or, perhaps, deep down one of her instincts finally kicked in. Subsequently, the courts and the State had decided that if she would hold a job, get an apartment, and take "parenting classes" of which they approved, she would be given the chance to have her child back. It was probably too late for the older child, but the younger one was still in a foster home. My foster home.

I won't get into the details of the court sessions, the conversations with Social Services, or the trauma I put the family through by agreeing to become the boys' foster family in the first place. Suffice it to say that I have chiselled the following list in stone in a place that will forever color my view of foster parenting:

1. Foster care is only for those who are emotionally tough enough to deal with heartbreaking disappointment on a regular basis. If you become attached to the children, your heart will break. Frequently.

2. Do not expect the State or the courts to weigh the interests of the child over the "rights" of the natural parents. Ever. Unless the parents have proven themselves to be abusers or murderers, the courts will almost always come down on the side of the biological parents. Prepare for this the moment you agree to foster the child.

3. Adoption is considered by the State to be a last option, to be attempted only when all other legal options are exhausted. You will become exhausted going through all of those legal options. Your chances for success, based on my own unscientific data, are less than 1%.

To this day, I admire those who choose to be foster parents for the right reasons. I will also continue to believe firmly in adoption. In reading some of the background information in Michelle's post, let me point out a couple of things:

1. If you are a single parent and initially give up custody of the child, make that your final decision. Changing your mind later will only harm the child and destroy what very well may have been that child's best chance for a normal life.

2. It is far easier for you as an adult to deal with gut-and-heart-wrenching grief than it is for a baby or toddler.

I've seen far too much of the inner workings of this state's social care programs to ever trust them again. I have to speak in blanket generalizations here because they need to be judged as a whole. I recognize that there are good people trying to work the system, but the system itself is fundamentally flawed. The children become bargaining chips, while loving parents are forced to sit and watch the machine ruin the lives of everyone involved.

I can offer no fixes because I'm not that smart. I can only say that I sympathize completely with the Scott family, and wish them a happier life to come. If they have the energy and strength to pursue the appeals, bless them. If not, help them heal.

There but for grace...

Thursday, January 13, 2005

#5 - Home, Home on the Range

Home with a mild (so far!) flu bug this morning. I'm sore and tired, but functional. Headache, fevers, you know the drill.

Still, I've been having fun listening to my Woodyettes this morning.

Part of the magic of homeschool, even a relatively regimented one like Mrs. Woody has put together, is that you can be very flexible about your school day. Days like this, where other issues need to be addressed, lend themselves to "unschooling." Or, in this case, "child-directed schooling."

During last summer's Olympic games, the girls learned about Greece through a website devoted to a little girl named Amarandi. Amarandi became their new heroine of play, and dolls have been named after her.

This morning, Woodyette Number One decided she wanted to peruse our globe. I bought it before term started last summer, and it's been gathering dust up our bookcase ever since. So, I got it down, had the girls help me dust it off, and showed them a few key places. They've been playing with it ever since.

Mrs. Woody and I both love listening to this kind of play. We're both drudging away on our computers while the girls are in another room saying things like, "Hey! That's where Canada is!" They know where Santa lives and where the penquins live. We showed them where Mommy and Daddy served their missions lo these many years ago. They know where they live, older siblings, and good friends.

Their teacher was experiencing that warm glow that comes from young minds soaking stuff up like the little sponges they are. The school administrator was impressed, as he always is when he stays home sick, at just how much the kids are learning.

Now the girls are perched on either side of their teacher being read to. The house is tranquil, and even Daddy is feeling nominally better. Not good, but better.

Home is a wonderful place.

UPDATE: It's now Friday morning. Roaring fevers overnight, up by 5:30 AM, fire up the work laptop and launch a process on my day off. What a hero. So, I feel worse. Much worse. But I'd still rather be home than anywhere else. That alone makes me feel as good as my body will allow today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

#4 - How to Enjoy Movies Everyone Else Hates

and vice versa

I readily admit that I don't get out much. At this stage of my life, I have very little motivation to hit the social scene. I get all of my socialization at home, work, or church. My wife and I love our date nights, but babysitting is a problem (cost and availability) so most of our dates are "in house."

Occasionally we get to sneak off and go see a movie together. Here again it's a question of cost and availability. Tight budgets generally demand a matinee if we wish to see a first-run film, but then there's the question of selection. I guess I need to explain where I'm coming from.

If I had my way, the current movie rating system would be thrown out in favor of three ratings:

G - Completely family friendly. No sex, no real violence, no questionable language. Take the kids and enjoy. Or, send the kids and stand waiting at the theater entrance packing a sidearm (strictly for security).

PG - G-rated as long as Mom and Dad are there to explain the few questionable elements that may appear. Still no sex, although romance is acceptable. Still no real violence, but it can be implied. Still no questionable language, although an occasional "damn" can sneak in to show human weakness, and if the story really, really needs it. The Harry Potter films cross the line every time Ron mutters "bloody 'ell," which he appears to have to do under contract at least two or three times in every film. I stretch my own standards for Harry Potter.

E - Everything else. Don't even bother advertising it. I don't wanna see it.

You may have guessed that I have never been consulted as to how movies should be rated.

Some of the movies I've seen recently came perilously close to my "E" rating, but would be (and are) considered quite tame by most standards. For example, I've been reading with some amusement the general consensus of Shyamalan's "Village." I actually enjoyed the movie because I allowed myself to be entertained by the story. Predictable or not, I allowed myself to be held in suspense to the end, and was even surprised at the end. Not in hindsight, of course. No, in hindsight I really should have seen it coming. But I didn't, and I'll probably add the film to my library. Ditto "Signs," which is already in my possession.

Mrs. Woody and I had the opportunity over Christmas (cost AND availability!) to go to a movie sans Woodyettes. We really wanted to see "National Treasure," because Mrs. Woody and I both happen to be suckers for intrigue, or, in my case especially, historical intrigue. I'm sure most of my blog friends (and perhaps even family) thought the film too pedestrian, completely predictable, or just plain boring.

We didn't, though. We thought it was great fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed Cage's characterization. I also enjoyed the plot line which tied the history of the U. S. to the Knights Templar and the Masons. No inappropriate language that I recall. No sex. Implied violence. PG on the Woody Scale. Another addition to our library in a few months.

This brings me to my point. My esteemed brother at Way Off Bass opines that academia produces English Lit grads who want to transform well told stories into political agendas or social metaphors. He wishes they would instead produce scholars who appreciate a well-constructed yarn for its ability to both entertain as well as teach. This is how I feel about movies.

I go to the movies to be entertained. I am not generally looking for films that are "cutting edge" in any given discipline, simply because any film that happens to be done well can be entertaining. If I want it to be. You can see by my rating system that not many films today qualify as entertaining for my family. Stories should be interesting, production quality should be evident, characters should make me care. Foul language does absolutely nothing for me. Violence is typically over-emphasized these days. Sex needs to be taboo. In-your-face attitudes make me want to throw the film in the nearest receptacle.

I would never qualify as a film critic by any measurable standard. But neither do I need to be.

UPDATE: Sheesh. Even Maltin panned "The Village." Just heard it on his radio commentary this afternoon. "I really wanted to like this movie," he said. Then, later, "I must confess I'm getting discouraged." *sigh* Lone-voice-in-the-wilderness time.

Monday, January 10, 2005

#3 - Must Be a Boy Thing

Burrhouse worries about yet another Monday following all too closely on the heels of a weekend, but more interesting to me was his description of church with the boys yesterday.

It's gotta be a boy thing.

I have two girls at home right now. I will have them at home for a while as they are currently only 7 and 5. They are the primary reason why early retirement is not an option. I'm not complaining, really. Given the choice, I'm glad to have girls for the second half of my parenting career.

My girls have never "encouraged" me to leave church early. Oh, they could get pretty fussy when they were smaller, but we were generally able to contain the fuss without getting too disruptive. Mrs. Woody has had to spend inordinate amounts of time sitting in class with the girls when they were too shy to be on their own. But, even that only lasted a matter of months when we moved to a new ward. As the girls get older and braver, we have time to enjoy our second and third hours without fear of interruption. I'm sure my sister's boys will get there, too.

Still, they are boys.

Fact is, I, too, have been where they are, and I only had one (count 'em, one) boy to deal with. My son was quite a hand full when he was smaller. He's quite a hand full now, too, but in different ways. More on that some other day.

From the time he was old enough to be out of his infant carrier, he was old enough to give me gray hairs during church on Sunday. I could feel my hair turning gray during Sunday School, for instance, where I spent most of my time walking him up and down the halls because he was making just too much noise for whichever class I was attempting to attend. I could also feel my muscles siezing up because I refused to let his feet hit the ground when he was being squirrely.

Then there was that magical moment when we were able to put him in Nursery. They were actually quite sneaky about that one: They called me to be the Nursery Leader, probably because the current Leader knew The Kid was coming and probably had A Little Chat with the Bishop about "burn out" and "apostasy," and the next thing I knew, I was taking charge of approximately 200 small children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. Or maybe it just seemed like 200. The real number was probably closer to 50. I hate exaggeration.

By the time he "graduated" from the Nursery into regular Primary, I was a free man. No more trips to the restroom to change diapers. No more excuses to leave church early so I could put my migraine to bed. I was able to actually attend classes and feel like I was learning something. Ah, freedom. For a few years, anyway.

Now, as I say, I've returned to relative freedom after getting the girls past the critical early years. They've even reached the point where they can trot off merrily by themselves to Primary after Sacrament without any assistance from Daddy. Of course, Mrs. Woody usually asks me to check just to make sure they've actually reached Primary, but they're batting .1000 so far.

Perhaps that's one reason why Mondays don't bother me anymore. They couldn't possibly have been worse than some Sundays I've had... the past.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

#2 - True Confessions

There's never a good trench coat around when you need one.

I was in Costco earlier today. That, by itself, can either be a heroic act, or incredible stupidity. Since I'm the one describing this incident, we'll call it heroism.

We actually don't frequent Costco all that often. Terrific price breaks don't help much when you're on a tight budget and even a "small" trip can cost more than $50 for, like, two items. So this was what you might call my quarterly visit to the warehouse. We had a short list, but going on a Saturday is nearly always hazardous just because of Critical Shopping Cart Mass (CSCM). CSCM means never being able to turn around in an aisle because doing so will bring the curses and hexes of literally hundreds of shoppers on your head. So, you point yourself in the direction you intend to go, and hope you get to stop long enough to grab one of the items you need before CSCM forces you into the next aisle.

I had been tasked with looking for American Girl® books for my girls. We've been slowly collecting the series, and each time I visit Costco I am asked to look for any that we may have missed. This is always dicey because the book and DVD tables are the worst places to encounter CSCM on a Saturday. For one thing, kids line up two deep in front of the tables reading whatever books they know Mom will never throw for. I have never seen dirtier looks than the ones I get from those kids when I dare to lean over and scan for my quarry. Plus, their moms are shooting me looks that clearly mean they will have the Feds on me faster than I can blink if I so much as say "excuse me" to the nearest kid.

I came up blank on my American Girl search this time. I did find, however, another cookbook in the series that we love about crockpot cooking. This one has "light" recipes, which fits in with our quasi-Atkins-Dr.Phil kind of diet. Also, the latest offering by Lilian Jackson Braun in her wonderful "Cat Who..." series of mysteries. Mrs. Woody and I are big fans, and I didn't think she'd mind diverting a little budget in that direction (I was right!).

Then it happened. I wandered (or was pushed, really) by the DVD table. "Princess Diaries 2" has been released, and I knew the ladies in my family would love it. Come to that, I remembered being pleasantly entertained myself when we went to the theater to see it a few months ago. I have become an Anne Hathaway fan because she tends to do films that I can take the whole family to see without too much fear. I thoroughly enjoy "Princess Diaries." Although, come to think of it, I really could have done without the cheesy retro music in "Ella Enchanted." Oh, well. Off to the registers I go.

For a Saturday, the lines were moving fairly well. There was one family in front of me, and they got through checkout in a matter of minutes. I had my small stuff on the stand, and gave the efficient checker my membership card. He was a young man, and moved right along until he scanned the DVD.

"This isn't for you," he stated. He was giving me a suspicious look.

"Well, actually, I enjoyed it myself," I replied.

The suspicious look continued. He clearly wasn't going to accept that. I resorted to my rationalization:

"Also, I have a house full of girls," I reassured him.

"Oh, so that's it! That's the real reason! I have a girl at home myself, but she's too young for that stuff yet."

I decided against the lecture warning him that "that stuff" will be under his roof all too soon. New dads are hard to convince.

The experience, though, left me wishing that I could have been wearing a trench coat with the collar turned up, a fedora pulled low over my brow, and a fake-glasses-with-mustache disguise.

Now, I have been married for a grand total of twenty years, counting my training marriage. I have purchased a variety of items in that amount of time that would make bikers blush. I have knowledgeably procured everything from feminine protection, to pantyhose, to hair color. I have purchased lingerie and purses. I have never, in all that time, been embarrassed beyond the occasional thought that if a co-worker or church member ever saw me, I might be in for a good ribbing. But this one flummoxed me.

Why would this young man assume that I wasn't looking forward to watching a good, family-friendly movie with my wife and kids? Am I really only supposed to watch this stuff under duress? Should I have been ashamed of myself?

No, I shouldn't. Whether or not the movie itself is lame, or predictable, or even cheesy, it is a good family film. I am not worried one little bit about my young, impressionable girls having a chance to watch it. Mrs. Woody has already announced her intention to snuggle with me on the couch tonight while we watch. What better endorsement could I have?

Mrs. Woody is excited. The Woodyettes are excited. Daddy is excited. Sounds like quality family time to me!

I guess I don't need the trench coat, after all.

#1 - Welcome to The Inner Dad!

A new year, and a new blog. My name is Woody, and some few of you may have run into me at my old address.

As my writings have evolved since beginning my blog-journey (June of 2004), Woody's Woundup began to shy away from its political commentary toward more family-oriented essays. Some few people, however, had linked to the Woundup precisely because I was known on occasion to rant about the political faux pas of the day. Since my primary interest is really in discussing Dadhood, I've decided to concentrate those essays here.

The Inner Dad is also the erstwhile title of a book I've written but have yet to publish. Or even attempted to publish. That book may well show up here until I can find an interested party that may want to give it a look-see.

The Inner Dad is that force that defines the modern Dad. It offers us opportunities to view the world not only through the eyes of an average father figure, but also through his offspring. We will chronicle the fun, the interesting, the challenging, and the trying times that all dads experience.

If this thing interests a few folks, I may invite other Dads to post their thoughts and observations here as well.

I do not wish to become a "serious" Dad resource. For heaven's sake, I'm no expert. I just want other dads to know that other guys "out there" know what they're going through and sympathize.

Laugh with me, or laugh at me. Makes no difference to me. Just one little caveat: I am not a baggage handler. If you have problems with a dad in your life, please see a counselor. You're not likely to find answers here.

Happy reading!