Canine Coincidences

Last week, I wrote about our family vacation to Great Wolf Lodge. Since then, we’ve been offered three or four dogs. I also volunteered at my daughter’s school as a WatchDOG.

Strange.

I already talked about our vacation, so I’ll skip to the second coincidence. I have no idea why people suddenly felt like we are the perfect place for their furry friends. We’ve had several animals, but none of them have worked for us. They’re either too destructive or have health issues that cost more than my kids.

I’m personally a cat person, preferring the calm, gentle demeanor that most cats bring. I don’t mind dogs, but I’m much more picky. My wife says it’s probably because cats and I have similar traits in our personalities. I can’t entirely disagree with her. I like my personal time, regular feedings, and sleep. Oh, how I love my sleep.

But I digress. We have even dabbled into the exotic pets category with our chinchilla. He ended up destroying our walls and carpet with his constant urination. He was very cute and fun to watch, but we had to give him up for sanitary reasons since we had a toddler at the time.

In total, we’ve had one chinchilla, four cats and two dogs. None of them lived with us more than a year. My wife and I agreed that we want to wait to have any more pets until far into the future, like after the kids are grown and moved out.

Speaking of kids, let’s switch over to the bright side of my week, or month, for that matter. I took off work on Monday to volunteer at my daughter’s school as a WatchDOG. It was so much fun! Due to parent/teacher conferences, though, it was only a half day. I didn’t get to have the “full” experience, but I enjoyed every minute nonetheless.

WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) is a wonderful program that invites fathers, grandfathers, uncles and father-figures to volunteer a day or two during the year at their child’s school. It’s intended to bring a male presence into the schools (every volunteer goes through a background check) because two dads noticed that the one thing missing in their kids’ school was them.

This year was my second time volunteering. Last year, my daughter went to a different school, so I got the benefit of getting to experience two different schools. I enjoyed both schools’ programs and will continue to volunteer as long as I can!

My day started with an early arrival at the school, where we went to the office, signed in, got my schedule and took a photo with my daughter. Then, we walked to my first assignment: Stand at the gate and welcome all the kids with high-fives and smiles. After about fifteen minutes of hand-slapping, I gave my daughter a hug and moved on to my next stop: Turn on the computers in the computer lab.

Once that inglorious task was complete, I went to my daughter’s class and helped out with spelling tests and reading. Unfortunately, it was quiet time, so I didn’t get to spend any time with my daughter. She didn’t seem to mind, because she knew I would see her later at lunch and recess.

After leaving her class, I got to play security guard and walk the perimeter. I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently I freaked out a couple kids when they saw me walking from the far side of the field. Their teacher knew who I was, so she let them know. She thought it was pretty funny.

Just as I was finishing my lap around the school grounds, the bell rang for recess. I spent the entire recess playing hide-and-seek with about twenty kids. It’s amazing how many kids will argue over who gets to count. I grew up with a group of kids who would do almost anything to not count.

The bell rang. The kids lined up and went to class while I took a break before I helped set up the cafeteria for lunch. I set up the tables with the custodian, who, as I discovered, was the custodian at my daughter’s previous school the year before. We talked about various subjects while the tables were rolled out and lined up.

Again, the bell rang and kids filed into the lunch room, class by class. My daughter’s class entered and I got my food while she socialized at her table. I didn’t realize how small those tables really were until I had to squeeze my legs under them like a Tetris game. The food was alright, but I could have eaten about three more.

The lunch monitor dismissed our table, and we exited the room to frolic on the playground once more. The rest of my day, actually, was nothing but recess. Needless to say, I was tired, but it was worth it.

Kids remember the days their parents go the extra mile to make their life special. That’s why I volunteer. I want my daughter to look back, over all my shortcomings, and see multiple bright moments in her childhood.

Moments that say, “I may not have been perfect, but I loved you as much as I could.”

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GREAT Wolf Vacation

Talon, Atlas and me about to enjoy a breakfast buffet.

Talon, Atlas and me about to enjoy a breakfast buffet.

Last weekend, my family and I went on a vacation to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA. We had wanted to go for a few years, but weren’t financially able to until now. For anyone who doesn’t know, it costs a small fortune to stay for three nights. We ended up spending nearly $2,000 (including the room) after it was all said an done. Granted we did splurge because it was my daughter’s birthday, and we added a night to our stay, it could have been much cheaper.

BUT! It was worth every penny. I had a ton of fun and bonded with my daughter more than ever before!

I took off early on Friday and picked up our daughter from school to get ready and leave as soon as we possibly could, but, like most of our scheduled departures, we didn’t leave until a few hours after we intended. Most of that was due to our son who decided to have a fussy morning. Unfortunately, we left just in time to hit all the major rush hour hot-spots.

Talon still smiling after a long day of traveling.

Talon still smiling after a long day of traveling.

We arrived about five hours later, tired and exhausted, but relieved. My wife wanted to hang out in the room and recuperate, but my daughter and I were way too excited to stay. We immediately started exploring and checking out all the different activities.

We stopped by the kid’s store to buy my daughter a “thanks for traveling five hours with a fussy infant next to you and not complaining once” present. I talked to the clerk and ended up buying a Paw Pass (one of three kids packages), which I highly recommend. It includes a wand/topper for MagiQuest, a stuffed animal, and a few other little goodies.

We left the shop after redeeming her stuffed animal and immediately made our way to the MagiQuest shop, or what I call the “fitness supply center”. I’d heard about this live-action adventure game and was almost as excited as my daughter.

Now, before we go on, I feel like I must issue a disclaimer. The guy in the MagiQuest shop described the adventure as a ten-mile scavenger hunt. Right. Sounds like a lot of work, but I saw plenty of parents running around with their kids on this “journey”.  The few things I failed to notice were: A) the amount of children without parents far outweighed the rest, B) the parents that were present looked like zombies, and C) the shop clerk had mentioned stairs.

That’s right. Stairs. To a non-marathoner such as myself, ten miles is daunting enough; however, add on the fact that roughly 4-5 miles of it is stair-climbing, it instantly becomes an Iron Man Triathlon to me. Of course, I didn’t figure this out until we were already into our third quest. So get your running shoes on and stretch, because you won’t need a gym when you’re done.

Unless you’re one of those people.

With that said, I must say that all the exercise I was shocking my body with had very little affect on the amount of fun I was having. My daughter and I were feeding our inner nerds until we couldn’t take any more. We knew we had about three days to complete all the quests, so we took our time and enjoyed it.

Talon getting a new quest at one of the trees.

Talon getting a new quest at one of the trees.

We finished the entire list of quests and adventures by the end of day two. We couldn’t get enough, so, like two kids with change at a candy shop, we bought the second set of quests (ShadowQuest). Exhausted, but motivated, we once again found ourselves pointing our wands and lighting up quest items. Talon and I had mutually agreed to use only elevators by this point.

We did the entire MagiQuest and ShadowQuest by the time we checked out, plus a couple miles for general confusion and misdirection. Next time we go, we’re going to attempt Compass Quest, the next add-on.

A tip for any first-time Magis: if you get a wand, the toppers are an extra $14-$18. They can help you immensely on your quests, and they look pretty cool too. The “special” ones at our GWL were only a few dollars more, but digitally added 4 random toppers to the account. We got the GWL wolf, which gave us a topper that allowed us to instantly defeat the Silver Dragon (which is surprisingly difficult, considering it’s a game aimed at younger children).

We didn’t just go on quests the whole time, though.

Me holding Atlas before we took him to his first swimming pool.

Me holding Atlas before we took him to his first swimming pool.

My wife’s favorite place to hang out with our daughter was the water park. I went with them on the first day of our stay to check it out and see my son experience his first time in a swimming pool. My wife put him in the water up to his waist (it was only a foot deep). It surprised him at first, but he quickly adjusted to it. I think it was like a bath to him.

I had fun, but not nearly as much fun as they did. When I was there, my daughter and I checked out a couple of the smaller water slides. They were both essentially the same, but we still enjoyed them quite a bit.

After we tried the two slides, it was my turn to hang out with our son, so I switched with my wife and didn’t see them for about an hour. Atlas fell asleep in my arms after about fifteen minutes, so I walked around and watched people enjoy the water and get splashed with the massive bucket of water.

Maybe it was the pool water, or maybe it was Atlas asleep in my arms, but I soon found myself getting tired. I walked over to our table and took a little nap until Eva and Talon were done.

The rest of the trip involved little things like glow-in-the-dark golf, trick-or-treating, story time and arcade games. We all agreed that four days was a lot of fun, but we were ready to be home again. Now I’m going to work every weekend I can, so we can go back as soon as possible.

Compass Quest is calling.

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ConTroll Yourself

I recently watched a video about internet trolls that was made by Shane Koyczan. He does a really good job of calling them out and expressing his years of being bullied.

I know it’s impossible to ignore them, because posting anything on the internet is like stepping on an anthill. No matter what you post, someone is going to bash it for whatever reason their twisted minds believe is justifiable.

I’ve been fortunate with my blog so far. Probably because I average about 3 viewers a day. I’m not exactly topping the results on search engines. lol

I know my day is coming, but I also know that it won’t bother me. I grew up with the internet. As is matured, so did I. I remember having to wait ten minutes for pages to load. Kids these days would go crazy if they had to wait that long just to see one picture of a giraffe. Online videos were only dreams.

But I digress.

As I was saying, I grew up with the internet. I learned how to survive the world wide web via chat rooms and forums. I know what to expect and who to pay attention to. Trolls are on my list of “Nice try, but I’ll continue on.” They are simply words on a screen.

With that said, however, I also know that the younger generation is finding more and more of its identity online. I heard of a rehabilitation center in China for teens who are addicted to the internet. One kid said he spent three days at an internet cafe! I know that’s an extreme case, but it goes to show how kids are depending on the internet more and more to give them their emotional fulfillment.

Add all that together, and you get a perfect storm for trolls. They know their words mean something to this generation. They know their words are desired as much as they are hated. They are wanted, yet feared. Most of all, they are hidden, separated from those they hurt. Nothing ties them to their victims except a keyboard and pixels.

The part of that video that struck me most was when Shane mentioned that trolls have been responsible for people’s deaths. I didn’t even know how to react to that. The most prominent feeling I had in reaction to that was worry.

I worried because I have two kids. The oldest is 7.  She’s going to be using the internet and social media in just a few short years, and I worry that she will be overwhelmed and broken down.

I know that building her self-esteem and confidence will help, but I also know how easy it is to succumb to the pressures and mysteries of the internet. She doesn’t have the experience to know that the people trying to hurt her are only doing it for their own sick entertainment. She doesn’t know that investing her emotions into their words is a trap that not only hurts, but can kill.

Luckily, she doesn’t have much desire to use the computer yet. She has a couple educational games on it, but it doesn’t hold her attention. I just hope it continues until she’s old enough to make wise online decisions.

When all that is said and done, we have a son six years younger than her. That means we get to run the whole gambit one more time.

If you are reading this and you are a troll, please stop. It’s not funny and it ruins lives.

If you are reading this and you are NOT a troll, thank you. Feel free to leave thoughtful comments. :-)

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Adderall, Perhaps

Lately, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to stay on task and focus. Perhaps it’s due to my new job, which is mostly desk work. I have a lot to do, but I get distracted by the littlest things. I think I do alright, but I know I could be a much better worker if I wasn’t so easily distracted. I know there are mental exercises that can help, but I can’t stay focused long enough to do them. And physical exercise is out of the question with my schedule. Eating right would be good for me. I have no excuse for that one.

Every day, for about two weeks now, I’ve been contemplating whether or not to talk to my doctor about starting Adderall again. Last time I tried it, I didn’t notice any major benefits, and it made me feel funny. At that time, though, my job didn’t demand so much focus. The jobs were straightforward and easy to finish.

Now that the demand has increased, I’m wondering if I would be able to see a bigger difference. I’m not sure if I want to, but I also don’t want to risk my position. I enjoy what I do here, and I don’t want to go back to my old duties. They weren’t bad, but they also weren’t my ideal conditions (cold, wet and windy). Inside the building is much better for me.

So what do I do? I don’t know yet. I’ll talk to my wife and see if it’s viable. She might have some valuable insight for me. She usually does.

What do you think?

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Short and Steep

Apparently today is National Coffee Day…and I forgot to bring coffee. But, I have backup! Thanks to my foresight, and laziness, I decided to stock my desk with different kinds of tea, so I wouldn’t have to decide between tea or coffee at 4am. I figured I could postpone my second major decision of the day (after deciding whether or not to get up) until I get to work.

So I raise my mug to you, National Coffee Day…even though it’s full of tea.

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My Son Knows [Almost] Nothing

It’s been a week since my last post and so far I’ve written a total of…zero stories. I haven’t even started a post until now (12:30pm). I can’t seem to accomplish anything without there being a deadline, so I’m going to self-impose a deadline: I want to have at least one post by midnight (Pacific) every Friday.

What should I talk about today? I’m not sure I could finish a story. They usually take about 1-2 hours to write, and I don’t have that much free time left in the day. I’ll talk about something that’s been on my mind the past couple of weeks. It’s something that’s fascinated me about my son.

He knows nothing…almost.

I can’t remember exactly when it hit me, but I remember looking at him and thinking that his whole world right now is sleep, food, and a little interaction. He can’t talk, walk, or even gesture. The most he can do at this point is smile and coo.

But what really got me, was the fact that he doesn’t know anything about air. His life depends on it, but he has no concept of what it is or how it keeps him alive. Think about it: the keys I’m using to type this very post mean absolutely nothing to him. Basic movements like kicking or opening his hands are beyond his conscious control.

The only emotions he’s been able to portray so far are pain, frustration, and happiness. He feels pain when he has gas or acid reflux, frustration when he’s hungry, and happiness when certain people or activities are in his presence.

I know this is a short post, and I don’t even have a profound life lesson. It’s really more of a rant of my befuddlement. I just can’t get over the fact that ideas and objects we pass off as common–if we even give them that much thought—aren’t even within his scope of comprehension.

Wow.

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Personal Challenge #1: Short Stories (Final Day)

It’s the final day of my Personal Challenge, and I’m as excited as I am sad. I’ve had a lot of fun writing these stories for you to enjoy, and I truly hope you have. For that reason, I will continue to write these short stories, but on more of a weekly basis. I might write more or less, but I’ll try to publish one per week.

My wife made a good point, yesterday, when I was talking to her about how much fun this challenge is. She said it’s perfect for my ADHD because they’re short stories, which require minimal commitment (other than consistently writing them), and the topics are always different.

So, with a mix of emotions, I will write you my final story…this week:

Screenshot_2014-09-18-20-09-45[1]Screenshot_2014-09-18-20-09-54[1]

Mr. White bound down the street, dodging people and traffic alike. He always hated big cities. They reminded him of the impossible maze back home. Today, though, he could not hate the big cities. His watch was broke, and he only knew of one place that could fix it.

He found the door he was looking for and nearly knocked it off its hinges when he burst through. When he entered the shop, he was less than surprised to find the shopkeeper attempting to build a fountain out of sugar cubes.

“While I understand that you have a need to build a completely pointless contraption that will never work, I am in dire need of your help.”

“It no longer works, does it, Mr. White?” the shopkeeper said without turning.

“Indeed, but how did you know?”

“I fixed it last time, yes?”

“You did. Not very well, obviously.”

“Well, you see, I may have been using information from a book that I ‘borrowed’ to fix your watch. I now realize that the information was incorrect, which is very sad for you,” the shopkeeper let out a chuckle.

“I don’t find this humorous in any way. Fix it, or I’ll go to your brother,” White threatened.

The shopkeeper set down his box of sugar cubes and hurried over to Mr. White, balancing on the countertop the whole way, “I’ll fix it! You don’t need to go to him. His work is garbage! Come on, give it here!”

White pulled out an ornate pocket watch and handed it over, “How long will it take you?”

“It shouldn’t take me more than seventy rotations of the Globe,” he replied as he nodded toward a motorized globe spinning in the corner.

Mr. White started to grow impatient, “I don’t need your ambiguous comments. I need a precise amount of time given in the standard measure of hours, minutes and seconds.”

“Your standard time is far less accurate than my globe, but I’ll give you my best approximation,” he set down the watch and pulled out a piece of paper. He found a key in his pocket, but quickly discarded it after discovering that it was a terrible writing instrument. He reached in the other pocket and pulled out a flower pen. Then he began scribbling numbers on the counter top.

“What are you doing?” asked White.

“You wanted an approximation, so I’m doing some conversion calculations. I can’t give you an inaccurate number if I don’t do the math wrong!”

“Just fix it please,” Mr. White sighed, “Quickly if you can.”

“Did you want it fixed or done quickly? I cannot do both.”

“Do the best you can in as little time as possible.”

“Again, I can only do one of those options proficiently.”

“Okay, fix it, so I never have to come back here,” White said impatiently.

“You don’t have to be so rude about it!” replied the shopkeeper. He dramatically picked up the watch and stomped to the back room to further emphasize his frustration.

~~~~~~~~~~

After what seemed like an hour, the shopkeeper finally emerged. He set the watch down on the counter and smiled, “Here you go, Mr. White.”

“Thank y—” White looked down and saw a rusty, dented watch on the counter, “This isn’t my watch! Where’s my watch?”

“Indeed, you are very observant!” he playfully replied, “This is, in fact, my watch. But it works! And since yours does not, I figured you would want this one instead.”

“Have you lost your mind?” Mr. White yelled, “You’ve been back there for nearly an hour, and this is all you have to show for it?”

“If you are that good at gauging time without a watch, why do you need one?”

“Just fix my watch!”

“Fine, fine,” the shopkeeper retreated to the back room for a few minutes before returning with Mr. White’s watch, “Here you go. Good as new.”

He picked up the watch and turned it over in his hand, making sure everything looked proper. Satisfied, he opened it to check its functions. The hands were moving as they should, so he closed it, placed it in his pocket and forced a smile, “Thank you. For fixing my watch and making this one of the worst shopping experiences ever.”

“My pleasure!” the shopkeeper grinned, “I aim to please. Now that will be one hundred gold pieces.”

“What!” White exclaimed, “You’re a crook! You should be paying me!” He turned and stormed toward the door.

“Very well,” the shopkeeper said, “but don’t expect me to fix anything else of yours!”

Mr. White slammed the door behind him.

~~~~~~~~~~

After setting his watch to the clock on the street corner, Mr. White immediately rushed to the train station. He only had a few minutes to catch the next train.

He arrived at the station just in time to hop on board. He found a seat and, for the first time that afternoon, he allowed himself to relax.

The train ride was only about half an hour—his destination was just outside the city, among the estates in the outlying countryside. By the time the train doors were fully open, he was already across the platform racing down the path.

He rushed down a dirt road until he found the large white mansion with the hedges under the windows and a clover patch on the side. His path took him around the side, to the back where he found a large party of people. No one saw him, as they were all engaged in conversations.

A little blonde girl seemed to notice him, but he didn’t have time to find out. He checked his watch as he ran toward the big tree.

He gasped, “I’m late!” and disappeared into the rabbit hole.

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