Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Living Out West? Would it be fun in the cold winter?

The thought has crossed my mind to move. Again... Naturally I get this urge every winter to some extent, and when living in a place for more than 5 years, the urge calls even more powerfully with each ensuing winter.

Winter in the south, while only moderately cold, is basically useless. Too nasty and gray to really entice one out of the house regularly, but alternately, not cold enough to provide interesting things to do that are winter related. You end up doing the same summer sports in junky conditions for 3 months a year. There must be something to fix this.

1. Move back to Florida and get rid of winter altogether. (Not a bad thought but "been there done that".
2. Live in a new place with new experiences. Life is short and I know I'm smart/marketable enough to get a job anywhere I set my sights. The job is the same anywhere, so the real deciding factor is life experience and good schools/environments for the kids.

In all this inner turmoil of dealing with winter and knowing that all finance P&A jobs are the same no matter where one lives, I also wonder how the kids would deal with the change? What would a southern boy do if he ended up out west in Denver or Salt Lake?

Well, I now have a good feel for what winter weekends would entail based on this video courtesy of "dug". He took his recently-turned-15-year-old and some friends out to goof off for a weekend, and took this 4 minute video. This is exactly what a useful winter looks like in my mind. Mountain biking may not be open for another month or two out there, but hey, when you can do stuff like this? So what?

I'm sure I would only be watching the kids if my family was doing stuff like this on weekends...riiiiight....

Ian's Birthday Bash in American Fork Canyon from Doug Anderson on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Honda - The opposite of a Toyota

It seems, when watching the news these days, that the world is filled with thousands of poor souls in Toyotas being flung along roadways at life threatening speeds, but in the case of our Honda, we have something of the opposite problem.

The old and ragged-out Honda Odyssey that we have had since the beginning of time (or the beginning of our parenting lives) seemed to develop a case of unintended and uncontrolled stopping rather than the alleged acceleration issues that Toyotas are dealing with. And while stopping would seem to be a better issue to have than having one's vehicle race off of it's own volition, it does cost some serious money to fix; a point that I will explain in more detail later. In this particular case, it wasn't a stuck brake pedal that produced the unintended stoppage. The unintended stoppage was caused by the other vehicle, MY VEHICLE, that I left parked further down the driveway.

Now hold on there... Before you jump to conclusions and start saying that there may be some issues with a certain driver not looking while driving, DON'T. I'm not pointing fingers. Nay! I will now attempt to re-construct the events of that evening using my vast experience in forensic accident analysis and disaster reconstruction, and don't doubt my qualifications, I am quite versed in accident reconstruction. I have accidentally destroyed loads of things in my life, and sometimes I have even been able to put them back together! Never mind that none of these things were cars...pfft...

1. The lead up.

The kids were out playing in the driveway when I got home, so I left the truck, that would soon make it's debut as a large tool used to stop minivans while simultaneously re-shaping the van's rear doors, at the end of the driveway. The Minivan that experienced the "unintended stoppage" was parked 30 feet away at the other end of the driveway near the house.

2. The conditions.

It was dark, and raining. The Honda, has a set of Miami-tinted windows that are practically opaque when its anything other than broad daylight. They were great when living in FL would produce seat belt buckles that could permanently sear marks on your hands, but they're not so useful now.

Here is an example of looking out the rear window of the van at night.
This simulated view is actually quite accurate

3. There were distractions.

I'm going to guess with my quite enviable set of guessing skills as to what these distractions may have been. You may vote in the comments section on your favorite if you wish. I'm sure that thousands of you will...

  • The driver was suddenly made violently ill by driving the van for the billionth trip to the store, which for some reason made her shut her eyes tightly and stomp on the accelerator.

  • Acid Rain got in the drivers eyes and made her squeeze them tight while stomping on the accelerator.

  • A meteor or UFO flashed through the night and startled the driver causing her to squeeze her eyes tightly while stomping on the accelerator.

  • Ninjas, obviously mistaking the driver for someone else, jumped from the hedge and in very poorly dubbed English threatened her -- "You kill my master! Now you die!" To which the driver squeezed her eyes shut and stomped on the accelerator.

  • Kids toys were strewn all around the driveway like a pink and purple plastic laden minefield, and the driver was looking for these items that retail for $19.99 while backing up with her foot stomping on the accelerator.
In my mind, all these are perfectly plausible candidates for what actually happened that fateful night. You decide...

4. The aftermath

To lend even more credence to my forensic accident analysis you needed any. I used high-tech satellite image technology to come up with these very technical accident scenes for you. They unequivocally show where the incident occurred and what happened.

In this first image you can see that the minivan accelerated from the tree shrouded garage area. It achieved a speed of precisely 327mph (27,000 kph) prior to the impact with my car which is conveniently noted with the orange spiky looking thing...

I wish it had been as sunny as these images. I wouldn't be writing all this absurd stuff now had it been...

There was also a google street view image that shows some evidence of what happened. How lucky the google van was driving by!
I think the skid marks were from my truck being pushed along the driveway while slowing down the van. The reddish spot may help prove my theory on the presence of Ninjas on the night in question...

And Presto! A new door that resembles modern art done by a drunken punk band!

She looks waaaaaay too happy in this picture. Whatever could cause that?

Fortunately, there were no injuries other than to pride in this accident, and my truck looked like it weathered the beating pretty well. We looked at the option of insurance...briefly...briefly like for .28 milliseconds. The total value of the car (prior to the attractively re-shaped door) was 1,800 bucks. The 1,000 dollar deductible pretty much totalled it. Then something really weird happened.

We went right out and bought a new car for her! See I told you it was weird.

It's not every day that you crash a car and then get rewarded with a new one with all the goodies you ever wanted on it.

Honestly, my wife has driven that old van forever. We put 181,000 miles on it and carried our family everywhere in the 8 years we have had it. Yeah, we drive a lot. She has put up with it for a lot longer than most people would have kept a car, and we got our money's worth out of it. It was time, and I had saved up for a car, so this wasn't totally out of the blue. Especially when the former van's transmission failed at the state line and she was stranded there until someone could come get her and the kids. A really funny thing, and a testament to how good these vans are, no matter how un-cool and un-desirable they may be, is that she picked the same car again! It's a charcoal gray Honda Odyssey, but with a whole lot of good stuff in it. If I didn't know better, I might surmise that this may have been a pre-meditated plan? If it were, couldn't she have at least hit the tree instead of my truck? sheesh...

Brenna with her new wheels!

Behind the wheel and enjoying it!

And the kids doing what they do best. Not posing for the picture. I think that Aiden's face says it all...

Thanks Brenna and I really hope you enjoy the van. You deserve it.

Also, Please forgive my snarky/silly commentary on how you arrived at getting this new car. It makes for a fun story.

Oh, and watch out for Ninjas when backing up, you might hit something...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kids, Cosby, and a Whole Lotta Soap

I was seriously tired after my ride around Oak Mountain yesterday. So tired in fact, that I got home after the 30 miles of bouncing off trees, rocks, and getting covered in sweat and mud, that I showered, made a PB&J, and hung up the hammock in the back yard. That, my friends is when this story commenced to unfold.

It was a great day, and we in the south are seriously desperate for a weather change. A change for the warmer and drier that is. Now, the temperature was only about 65, which is what my Mom would refer to as "You still need a jacket weather." Instead, we were all out in the yard in shorts and tee shirts. I guess not much changes...

But my kids, being kids, and apparently unable to perceive cold temperatures decided to go a step further. Now, I mentioned I was tired. That said, I was still in the hammock, and as a result, have no pictures of what transpired, but as Bill Cosby mentioned in his famous "Himself" performance, kids have no clue that sound travels due to some universal childhood brain damage.

I would venture to say they can feel cold even less than they realize that sound travels. As I listened and lazily swung in the hammock, I let this whole thing happen without lifting a finger. This says absolutely squat about my parenting skills. I figured, that if it got really bad, they would have learned a lesson, but I doubt it.

Turn the hose off!

First I heard them talking excitedly from around the corner of the house. Next I heard a vague mention of the hose in the front yard. To which I yelled, "Don't get the hose out! It's cold!" Giggles ensued and shortly I heard the spray of the hose. Now, I have to mention a strange paradox here, we all recognize that kids don't realize that sound travels when it actually does, BUT a sound emanating from a parent actually DOESN'T travel AT ALL, unless it is repeated exactly 27 times at a progressively louder volume. Strange...

For about 10 minutes, intermittent, spraying and giggling, were interrupted only briefly by my "Turn the hose off!" requests from the hammock . Then I heard the word, swimsuits, and the driveway went silent for a time.


The kids laughing returned to the front yard, and I guessed that they had gone inside for the aforementioned swimsuits even though the sun was only warm when you were sitting directly in it. Then there was a loud rustling of plastic or something that distinctly sounded like my older son dragging one of those blue tarps out of the garage and into the front yard. I wondered what was up, but I didn't have to wonder long. I heard, "We need to make this slippery." With that tiny clue, a gigantic slip n' slide came to mind. "Cool idea", I thought...if I were young and impervious to cold temperatures....brrr.

I heard the hose spraying on the tarp, and at this point, I was just listening to hear what would happen next. Yeah, I'm a lousy parent, but I was tired...honestly. Then there was the sound of a child sliding. The slide wasn't followed by excitement, and I figured that the idea was going to be put to bed because it was finally plain to the wet little people that it was too cold to continue. Instead, I heard, "It's not slick enough...mumble mumble...giggle...SOAP! WE NEED SOAP!"

Silence again.

Then a door slammed and the squeals of, "Yeah, pour it all on there!" Then the sound of the hose was heard again. And finally the sliding swish of a kid on the tarp. Followed by "AWESOME!" Then there were more hose sounds and kids repeatedly sliding were heard. They had worked so hard at getting this thing set up, that I wasn't about to stop them. Why buck the trend of swinging in the hammock anyway? I was still tired...really...

This whole process had taken about a hour or so, and with that, my strong parenting skills really kicked in and I seem to have fallen asleep in the last sunny minutes of the day. When I woke, the kids were inside showering to warm up and I found the enormous tarp in the neighbors yard along with a large empty jug of bubble bath. After seeing this set up, I'm sure not going to buy one of the slip'n'slides this year, we are going with the industrial (and cheaper) tarp version.

I really wish I had taken pictures though. It would have made this post perfect.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Best Day Ever

I knew that this day would eventually come around, but my question was WHEN?
Bryce had shown more than a little resistance to the idea of riding a bike without training wheels. I'm not sure why since there is more than enough exposure to the fun stuff related to riding bikes with me constantly on them in one form or another.

Of course, me being on bikes all the time may be the reason? Perhaps this was the potential equation in Bryce's head?

Dad is inherently a little goofy and un-cool + Dad Rides bikes + I don't want to be goofy and un-cool = Avoid clutzy Dad proves that you can get hurt on them...

Nah, that couldn't be it. He's waaaay too young to have recognized that I may not be the best thing on the planet yet.

Bryce had been on training wheels up until last year when he had become brave enough and competent enough to start trying to rip around high(ish) speed turns. Making turns at speed is never a good idea on training wheels because as he leaned into the turns the real rear wheel would come off the ground and the bike would be careening along with only one training wheel and the front tire touching the ground. That scenario wasn't a good way to get anything done and also was a quick way to end up with a big crash, so I took the training wheels off. We tried a few attempts at riding without the training wheels as I would run while holding his seat so he wouldn't fall through a grassy area of the neighbors yard. That was a year, ago and when he stopped riding that day, he never got back on the bike. He really didn't want to ride for whatever reason. I was more than a little disappointed, but I didn't say anything to him about it. I decided to be patient and assumed that the day would finally come when he would decide to learn to ride.
This past weekend, I was watching the kids while the ladies were out shopping, and to try to make the afternoon more fun, I pulled the bikes out and all the kids were rolling around the driveway on a chalk drawn race course. Bryce was happily on his scooter.

I asked Bryce if he would like to try out riding his bike with me running with him to keep him from crashing. I had asked this question a million times and he always said no, but this time, much to my delight, he said "Ok, if you won't let me fall."

The process of teaching him was rather anticlimactic. There was no great swelling of a John Williams soundtrack. I knew he was much more coordinated and much stronger than even six months ago. Brenna and I had discussed that we both knew he could already ride most likely. He just needed to try it. And that's just how it went.

I ran behind him with a hand on the bike seat. I told him I would let the bike wiggle and lean, but I wouldn't let him crash. He accepted this with a nervous look on his face.

I started him off in the driveway and across the neighbors yard. I really appreciate the neighbor being kind enough for us to run through his yard. I didn't really have control over where Bryce pointed the bike, and I wasn't going to stop him in his attempts at riding to simply avoid making tracks in his dormant grass anyway.

From the moment we started going, Bryce had it. I was barely touching the seat and he had very few problems steering and braking the bike. I looked for cars and told him to keep going. I moved from keeping a hand on the seat to running beside him. Bryce realized that he was doing all of the work and he hadn't crashed. His confidence was apparent, because he gave me "The Look", leaned over the bike bars, and took off sprinting. I was running as fast as I possibly could just to keep up.
An example of "The Look"

Perhaps, a more famous example of "The Look"...Yep, the end result was similar. Bryce dropped me like Lance dropped Ullrich back in '01. Except, for us, we both won. Bryce could finally ride a bike, and I finally had a chance to go ride with him. Actually, I needed to get on a bike, because I certainly couldn't run wind sprints behind him for another loop around the neighborhood...whew...

In case you wanted to waste your time with a movie loosely (very loosely) representing how quickly Bryce dropped me...
As a side note, If you don't like Fat Boy Slim, turn down the volume...

I took Bryce over to Heardmont park and we rode around the trails for more than an hour. It was one of those perfect days. In fact for February 21st, that description isn't an embellishment. It was 70 degrees outside and there were people everywhere. I can't wait for spring, and this morning is cold and gray again. Winter is still here and it still stinks. Bleh...
Bryce's $9 youth helmet doesn't really fit, and it kept falling down over his eyes, which honestly doesn't help one's riding abilities. Instead, I let him wear the only other option in the garage that came close to fitting him, my really expensive road helmet. Go figure, you get what you pay for.

That water was still cold even if the air was warm!

I'm not sure really which one of us liked this day more. I know I had one of the best times ever on a bicycle, but Bryce also was so excited that he rode for hours. The next morning, after he had gone down to ride his bike again before breakfast, he came back up saying, "My bum hurts from riding."