Friday, July 29, 2011


This post has sat in line, waiting for the right time, since May 29th of this year.  Since the news was new at that time, I didn't know how Hoo would take it if he saw this on my computer.  Now that we are almost two months out, I think this is a good, sweet memory for him;  hence, the publication today.  MommaJ
One of the rites-of-passage that we parents get to deal with is the ins-and-outs of "love" that our kids inevitably will encounter.  I'm talking about the kind of love that all the sudden seems to attack our kids when we least expect it. Cupid, if you will, for the much-too-young set.

The Nowell boys certainly aren't immune to this.  Nickels has admired young ladies since he was in Preschool. Every year, in every class, there was a new love interest. Most of them could have cared less about him, but he seemed to be perpetually smitten. He is going to be a wonderful husband because he will be used to hanging with girls who aren't hanging on his every word. And, let's face it, women of the world: we have our moments when we don't exactly treat our men the way they deserve. Let's just say that Nickels will have the experience to be able to handle that.

At the tender age of four, The Babe encountered the new paradigm between girls/boys on the playground during his last year in Preschool. Seems a sweet young thing with three much older siblings wanted him to notice her something fierce. She was darling* but his posse of friends was still solidly in the "girls have cooties" zone and they formed a human barrier around him on the playground to keep The Babe from being infected. Apparently, during one of these chasing sessions, one of the boys attempted to kick little miss and, like an out-of-control zombie, it didn't faze her a bit. Can we collectively say "aggressive"? Thankfully, the end of Preschool meant the end of her.

Hooman, on the other hand, has been blissfully ignorant of everything girl-related. Not once has he mentioned that a girl was "cute" or "sweet". In fact, he has acted like a horse with blinders when it comes to girls.

So, imagine my surprise when he entered the car after school this week and had a "secret". He could hardly contain himself. I thought he'd pee his pants waiting to move out of the carpool lane to be able to tell me.

Her name is Katherine. And she told him she likes him. And he said he likes her, too.


Today, on the playground, Hooman asked her if she liked him "as a friend or as a boyfriend". "As a boyfriend", she said. The same question, asked from her perspective was answered "As a girlfriend".

I fully expect, any moment now, the letters between them will start flying. You know the ones: folded in a tight square shape, with DO NOT SHOW ANYONE printed on the front with the following inside: Circle one YES NO Would you like to sit with me at lunch?

Oh, the memories.

I'm not going to break anybody's heart and tell them that, by the time you have your first underarm hair, she will be a distant memory.

I'm not going to jump in and buy my Mother's dress for their wedding.

I'm simply going to bask in the glory that is young "love". And be available should things to South before school lets out next week.

One thing is for sure: the boys are growing up. They are learning about feelings that can't be contained. They are getting their first tastes of attraction and the overwhelming desire to spend time with people of the opposite sex.

I'd be lying if I said there isn't a bit of anxiety about all this. I wonder if we've done the best job we can preparing the boys for rejection and how to treat a young lady and what love really means.

For all our children, I say a prayer: that they will remain true to their Christ, His values, His way, and His love. That, when they fall and get hurt or hurt someone else, they will find a way to forgiveness, either as the grantor or the receiver. That, even when the right person comes along, their allegiance to him/her would be subordinate to their fidelity to Christ. And that they would have the kind of 1 Corinthians 13 love that never fails.

Who knows where this crush will go. Certainly not I. But, I do know it takes a few crushes to get to the right person.

I just pray, in between the first crush and the last breath they take on this earth, that my boys find a woman who takes their breath away because of who she is in Christ.  And that, ultimately, they are as blessed in their marriage as I have been in mine.

*Let's just say they would have made beautiful children together once they were married and in a solid financial position.....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Cautionary Tale about Aging

One of the weirdest things about looking in a mirror after about thirty is that I still see that fresh-faced kid of my High School photographs.  Maybe it's the Pollyanna in me coming out, but the wrinkles and the decidedly deeper smile indentions and the zit scar from days of yore just don't really register.

But when I'm faced with an actual picture of my forty-five year old self?  I see all the imperfections and age come flying off the glossy 5x7.

My body, unlike my face, is easier to see age on.  No picture required. 

It's been through a lot in the last twenty-five or so years:  three pregnancies/births, numerous pounds come and gone, gravity, breastfeeding, too much drinking.  It is, honestly, surprising that everything on my body isn't just flat to the floor and unable to get up.

So, when I lost the entire month of May to a crazy schedule and summer with the kids started and I sacrificed the gym for three months in a row?  My body looked a little more like gravity loved it and less like it had been to the gym.  Surprise, surprise.

A couple of weeks ago, my workout partner, whose had the same "school's over" predicament, suggested we try a little class in the evening.  Nothing daunting like Core Kickboxing or Intermediate Boot Camp.  The simplistic sounding Body Flow.

This class was billed as a "yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi workout (that) builds flexibility and strength and leaves you feeling centered and calm."  I have to admit, after leaving class for the first time last week, both of us couldn't stop yawning.  Thinking it might be a fluke, I paid close attention to my reaction this past Monday;  same thing--tons of yawning and a real desire to teleport directly to bed.

Then came Tuesday morning.  And a perfect storm of masochistic torture that I'm still getting over on Thursday.

See, on Monday morning I decided to give up my daily coffee habit.  My four-cup habit.  My "when I run out of coffee in the house, I'll finally quit" habit.*

So, by mid-day, I was a little draggy.  But, I managed to make it to class and worked extra hard through all the moves that I was learning the previous Monday.  I even got into frog pose, hands on floor, knees on bent elbows, for about .000005 seconds.  But, I did it!!!

When I woke up Tuesday morning, my head felt like an anvil to someones iron working hammer.  My stomach was bloated and I was belching and tooting like a little kid who just tried broccoli for the first time.  Then my throat got a little sore and my eyes felt like they were being attacked by sand monsters.  Since I hadn't had a drink in too long to remember, I thought "Shoot.  I'm coming down with something." 

Then, I remembered the less than stellar week I had had with my eating, which culminated in my downing about a quarter of a bag of dark chocolate chips on Sunday night.

Let's just say that the thing that makes me move was absent when the thing that stops me dead in my tracks was added.  Translation?  No coffee + too much chocolate = constipation.  That explained the stomach.  And, quite possibly, the headache.

I made dinner for the family and went to bed at 5pm.

Wednesday wasn't much better.  I spent the day drinking copious amounts of water and downed an entire box of dates, hoping for movement.  By nightfall, I could have eaten an ox, including the horns and tail.  So, I ventured into "real food" territory for the first time and had a little frittata and salad.

Again, I went to bed at 5pm.  And that is when the muscles in my neck, upper shoulders, and lower back all decided to tell me a little bit about themselves.  They were cranky, pissed, and overused, they seemed to communicate.

And that's when I understood that almost the entire state of my body was due to a Body Flow class that collided with better health habits and created the worst two days of my life.

The hypochondriac in me really thought I might have some dread disease.  The realist in me, looking backward with perfect vision now sees the truth:

1.  Too much chocolate is just too much for any body over a certain age.  Obviously, I've passed that mark.

2.  Giving up coffee cold turkey is as close to suicide as you can get without actually dying.  You just wish you did.

3.  Trying one of the hardest yoga moves I've ever tried or seen tried or wished I tried is just plain stupid.  My body wasn't designed to go into some positions and that is, obviously, one of them.

4.  The best remedy for over sore muscles, besides a nice massage by Mike, is the TENS machine my chiropractor hooked my up with.  And to never, ever, ever again try the frog pose or anything that resembles it.

Thursday mid-day has arrived.  My abs look a little more toned thanks to the crunches from the class and the water/date diet.  My headache and sore throat have disappeared and my eyes are themselves again.  My lower back has made a truce with the rest of my body.

But my shoulders and neck?  They are on a tear.  They won't give up.  I fear that, come Monday, they'll finally feel better.  And, delusionally, I'll enter that class and think "Shoot.  That was a fluke."

So I beg you, dear readers, and will reward you handsomely, to please follow me on Monday and knock my silly butt over if I even attempt frog pose.  Or get too low on the airplane pose.  Or try to do the crunches with my hands to my sides.

Unfortunately, the mind is willing, but the body is    

*Since I had about five pounds of coffee in the house, I wasn't the least bit worried about quitting before Christmas.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The boys are participating in a Bible study this summer with a few other gentleman-in-waiting on our street.  I'd love to say that the draw is the fascinating conversation about what they've learned from the likes of Paul and Luke and John, but I have to be honest:  it's the weekly desserts and opportunity to boy-bond (and possibly end up in the pool) that are the real drivers.

This study has been challenging for both the boys.  The version of the Bible they are referencing, the NASB, isn't exactly King James, but, at times, it still requires understanding what you've read/been read and turning that into your own commentary.  I struggled with this when I first started doing Bible studies somewhere in my early 30's, so I feel their pain.

Today we were finishing up the last part of the week's study and Hooman was wrestling with how his actions demonstrate he is a REAL Christian.  Basically, the author was trying to help the young readers understand the point that when Christians sin, it isn't a place God wants them to dwell for long.

It took some batting around and some extrapolation from the (theologically baseless) statement that "I'm a Christian because I'm a good person", but he finally came to the following conclusion:

"You have to eccept (spelling error left intact) Christ and live a life of confession."

This struck me as poetic and dead on and so simple that it almost hurt my core.

I've never thought of living a life of confession.  But, that's what it takes, moment-by-moment, sin-by-sin, to bring me back to a point of righteousness.

If I were to turn each and every instance of disobedience or impatience or unforgiveness back to God as a matter of confession in the moment those errors occurred, I would be living a beautiful life.  I'd be giving the devil zero foothold on my life.  I would find that mysterious peace that passeth understanding, I'm pretty sure.

I find it so simple to forget confession.  Is that because we relate it to some mystic Catholic rite that is somehow on the fringes of "true" Christianity?  Is it because we know we were born in sin and we tend to sin so much that it would just be too hard to confess everything?  Do we, unknowingly, let the cross be our atonement and forget that confession is the bridge that we build between ourselves and Christ that reconciles us to Him?

We have so many opportunities to worship and pray and read the Bible.  We can attach a monetary donation to a local mission's project via our paycheck or send our tithe via auto-debiting.  Opportunities to hand food over to the poor exist on almost every street corner in south Dallas.  And, hopefully, we do some or all of these things.

And while these things are obedient and kind and wonderful, they aren't all that is necessary for us to walk in complete obedience.  We MUST confess our sins to come back into right relationship with Christ.  As 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

I don't have some secret formula for making confession part of my life yet.  I'm just barely starting to understand what true forgiveness looks like and I certainly know that being able to completely forgive has components of confession grafted into it.

But, like forgiveness, I want to make confession a regular part of my life.  I don't want to remember it only on Sunday when we confess our sins in the pew.  I want confession to help block the devil from my life 24/7/365.

How about you?  Is this whole concept a surprise?  Does the thought of living a life of confession sound intriguing?

Join me and let's find out together! 

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Math Worksheet Site

Some of you are coming up from fainting after reading the word "math" in the title.  To you, I truly apologize.  But, if this wasn't of national importance, I wouldn't have taken the chance.

You see, Americans have a reputation as sucking at math.  Right or wrong, we just don't rank among the world's elite when it comes to the most basic of our human thinking skills.  And I think we should put a stop to that.

If you had asked me when I was a tween if I held this view, I would have scratched your eyes out.  I HATED math.  It was the bane of my existence.  And I had every form of the phrase "When am I ever going to USE this?" at the ready whenever I had to learn a new, stupid concept, like fractions or decimals or metric conversions.*

I had a hard time learning my multiplication tables, especially.  I was still working like a banshee in 6th grade to really get them down, when most of my classmates were moving on to uncharted math territory and looking at me like "What the heck?"

I remember Mr. Stefan making this HUGE cork board display with an umbrella at the top of the board, large numbers across the top, and Dixie cups with numbers on them.   The object was to find the right Dixie cup to drop the number "raindrops" into.  In my world, it rained every single day, sometimes more than once, before I truly GOT it.

You may think that this got old.  And, I'm sure, at times, it did.  But, I loved Mr. Stefan and there just wasn't anything I wouldn't do for him.  God love his aspirin chewing soul.**

So, when I realized that my struggles with math were shared by Hoo, especially in the multiplication/division realm, I started looking for mixed review math sheets, to help get him over the hump.  And I found the coolest site in history, if you ask me. allows the user to create all kinds of worksheets on addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, time telling, fractions, and more.  And, even better, it is customizable.  So, if your little buddy is having trouble with his nines?  Tell the site to only print nines worksheets.

And, the best possible functionality?  An answer key!!  No more figuring out the answers or using the calculator or falling on your sword when you have to admit you just can't quite come up with the solution.  I LOVE IT.

For the rest of the summer we're doing one mixed, timed review, with addition/subtraction/multiplication and one non-timed worksheet with the bear called division.  I think this little exercise will help Hooman get over the hump and ready for that big return to school in late August.

Check out the site.  It has been billed as the fourth ranked site on Goggle if you search "math worksheets" (and that was back in 2006...), so I'm not the only one coocoo over it.  If you are so inclined, you can also get a membership and discover more stuff I am mentioning here.  If you do, and love it, please comment below and share your knowledge.

For us, though, at this point in our school years?  And for cheap me?  This site is the bomb.

*I think I may still have a point on the metric conversion thing.

**Pretty routinely, he'd pull out this gigantic, economy-sized bottle of aspirin and chew three pills with NO WATER.  I think he must have been pretty desperate.  And had ulcers the size of pancakes.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

When a Treat is NOT a Treat

This is Doug.*

Yes, he's cute.  But, he's also a rescue dog who thinks that the Nowell house needs a moat.  And since we haven't installed a moat and dumped large alligators in it, he believes he is the sole form of protection for the entire family.

He's a barker.  And not the cool kind you'll find at the state fair.  The kind that barks incessantly at the doorbell ringing, a squirrel who dares to walk onto the lawn, or a car that parks in front of our house beyond a millisecond.  He's even been known to bark at me, if I'm sitting at the far end of the pool in the backyard.  I am about convinced he is half-blind and in need of Lasix.  Or, a cool pair of bifocals.

This is Tex, with Doug in front of him.

Tex is a purebred Whippet which means he cost too much money and runs faster than the wind, especially when presented with an open door to the big, wide world.  And, given that he isn't the typical dog on the street, he is sometimes mistaken for a small deer by people on the jogging trail near our house.**

In this picture, both Doug and Tex look totally normal.  Like they'd get along fine.  The are, in the picture, sitting in the same cage, after all.

But, looks can be deceiving.  Because you know, just like I do, that there are tons of family pictures in your past where you and your siblings look like you didn't just frog each other.  But you did.

Same with these two.  I've had this ongoing issue with them for the past year, since Costco started carrying a huge bag of rawhide bones and I had the crazy notion that this would be a nice treat.  And would keep both of them from developing a habit of chewing on the furniture.

Well, furniture fix.  Check.  Nice treat.  Check.  Screaming hissy fit when "HE HAS MY RAWHIDE?"  Check.

I swear to you, on a daily basis, Doug comes into the kitchen when I am sitting at the table, puts himself in the nicest "sit" position he can muster and stares at me until I acknowledge him. 

If I am in the middle of something and he feels he's sat too long?  He starts to make this half-whining/half-crying sound.  When I acknowledge him?  He gets on all fours and starts wagging his tail so violently that I think he might crack his backbone in two.

This is the beginning of a very long, very tedious, very annoying little dance.

You see, Doug is coming to me as the referee of the house.  Each time we go through this routine, it is because Tex has stolen his rawhide.

Case in point, this morning.  Tex was nowhere to be found and Doug was standing in the laundry room with me when I opened the cabinet to find the last rawhide.  I looked down at him, up at the rawhide, and took pity.  He left with the holy grail of treats.

Within two minutes, it had been hijacked by Tex.  So I got into the stuffed animal/playtoy/leftover, half-chewed rawhide basket and pulled out a nasty, 1/3 sized piece of hide.  And offered it to Tex. 

He looked at me like "SERIOUSLY?  You've just given that other dog, who came into this family well after me, a NEW one?  How do you consider this even remotely fair?  Have you lost your ever-lovin' mind, woman?"

Now, you have to understand that Tex is stealth when it comes to rawhide.  He could teach Tom Cruise a thing or two about being in the next Mission Impossible movie.  He can simultaneously steal Doug's treat and put it in a great hiding place while chewing on his own.

Come to think of it, he is just like a squirrel, putting nuts away for the winter.  Except, he's the squirrel the other ones hate, because he takes all the nuts for himself.  Greedy little toot.

Within a minute of re-offering the 1/3 size rawhide,  Tex AGAIN had Doug's in his mouth.  And Doug was sitting at my side, whining, waiting for me to remedy the situation.

The minute I said "TEX!", he dropped the treat and went running for the hills.  See, we've gone through this same scenario, day after day, for what seems like an eternity.  And it is made all the more worse by the fact that Tex KNOWS he's been disobedient.

The longer I have dogs, the more I realize they are furry children.  They fight like kids, using growling in place of screaming "idiot!"***, require regular feedings, need time outs, have to have conflicts resolved, and be taught when and where to poo. 

But, even on the worst of days when Doug decides the rug is actually grass and unloads on it or when Tex decides to bolt out the door on an adventure just when I'm leaving for an appointment or when I have to break up one of these ridiculous rawhide wars, I don't think I'd give them back.

But, something tells me, if I'm smart, I'll have one less thing to buy at Costco next time....

*Picture taken by my next door neighbor, who is a great photographer.

**Yeah.  I know.  A little on the bizarre side.  But, nonetheless, a true, albeit creepy, story from the Mike files.

***I just think humans can't hear the cussing implicit in a growl.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Coupon Queen

I am a firm believer that every good coupon should be redeemed.  If I am already going to use the product, it is within the realm of the budget and it is a reasonable offer, I chunk said certificate in a special drawer in the house or in a manila folder that I keep in one of the cars.

If the offer is for something I would be adding to my list of things to buy or maintain (in other words I wouldn't buy this unless this coupon came into my life) then I generally don't keep it unless it is really cool or I think I might be able to give the product as a gift to someone who would really like it/use it.

My theory?  If I'm not tempted to save money, I won't spend the money to begin with.

Well, let's just say that my car couponing manila folder has seen better days.  When I pulled its crumbling exterior out from between the seats this morning, I found notes I made to create a gift for a friend who was turning 40.  He is now 43.

Yeah, time to rethink my method of keeping track of things.

So, I brought the entire folder into the house and merged all the coupons with those that are in the closest thing we have to a junk drawer.  In it, you'll find all sizes of batteries, a couple of handheld games that need funky batteries*, and my coupons.

As I was sorting through things, I became impressed with the number of Bed, Bath and Beyond certificates that I've collected over the years.  Yes, YEARS.  Not this year, not just 2010, but all the way back to 2008.

Seriously, I had FORTY-ONE coupons. 

Which begs a couple of questions:

1.  Is this how hoarding starts?  With an innocent little pile of coupons that then leads to a small collection of rubber bands (which I already have) from Whole Foods** which leads to recycling aluminum foil and then, BOOM, you can't open the back door?

Honestly, I'm already looked at cock-eyed by folks who notice my recycling compulsion.  Do I really need to tempt the idea of hoarding?

2.  If I had actually cashed in each and every one of those coupons, what seriously warped collection of George Foreman grills/Snuggies/"J" initial koozies would I be sorting through come spring cleaning time?
3.  If Bed, Bath and Beyond can afford to send so much marketing, why don't they just skip the cost of composing and printing 20% off mailings, reduce everything in the store by 10%, and pocket the difference?

Clearly, I kept EVERY OFFER they sent from the beginning of time.  Truly, from the mailbox, to the drawer.  So, if I have this many offers from January 2008 through July 2011, they are sending, on average, one mailing per month.  Time someone figured out the financial sense of their marketing.***

But here is the funny thing:  I couldn't bear to part with all my coupons.  I threw anything that had clearly expired or wasn't valid, but I am still looking at a stack of paper pretty thick.

So, if you have need to go to BB&B in the near future?  I'm your coupon dealer.  Give me a shout.  Honestly, you'll be doing ME the favor by taking away one more opportunity to camp out at the store and drool over the latest bedding that nobody in this house needs.

Next up?  Tackling the marketing machine that's Kohl's.  And ridding myself of percent off cards and $10 "thank you" certificates.  The one consolation?  Currently, I can't get ahold of a pillow pet at THAT store.

Ay caramba.

*That I put in the drawer, hoping it would remind me, every time I opened said drawer, to replace the batteries.  Hasn't worked so far....

**Who graciously band the eggs so they won't fall out.

***Wanna offer me a job opportunity, Mr. BB&B?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


You know how God works in mysterious ways?

Well, I decided to ask Mike what he wanted to do tonight after the kids go to bed.  I fully expected he'd want to watch the Rangers game because they've been on one heckuva streak lately.  Now understand, for me, that would be as much fun as water boarding or pulling out my fingernails or putting toothpicks in my eyes to keep my lids open.

Yeah.  Not a big baseball fan, especially televised.  In the park?  Where I can sample all kinds of normally off-limit foods and beverages?  A little more interested.  But, still not so much that I wish any of the boys to go pro.

So, asking this question, with an apparent (in my mind) answer, was a sacrifice.  Times twenty.

To my great surprise, Mike said "HEY.  Didn't Limitless come out yesterday?"

I could have fainted dead on the ground right then and there.

"Yes.  Yes it did."* I said.

And I steadied myself against the wall, just waiting for the inevitable THUD when I hit the hardwoods.  Because, we were, after all, talking about a movie with Bradley Cooper.  That my husband wanted to see.  With me in the room, watching with him.


Wait.  You don't know who Bradley Cooper is?  Check THIS out.

Sorry didn't mean to make you almost faint, too.

Now, granted, Mr. Cooper has not made the most high quality films up to this point.  Think 20-something-metrosexual-wannabes-flock-to-the-movies type films.  Or, women who are old enough to be his Mother or hire him as the pool boy or develop drooling habits when he gets near.

But, I had high hopes for Limitless.  Or, at least, high expectations of how fun it would be to watch Mr. C., with my husband's explicit permission, for 105 minutes.

Let's just say, the first 30 minutes of the movie Bradley looked less than stellar.  I've dated guys that had as much drive as he did, too.  Sad, sad commentary on boys who never grow into real men.

Then, enter the piece d' resistance that changes Eddie's trajectory.  It's an innocuous looking pill that comes from a very unlikely source.  Frankly, if the author of the original short story from which this movie is based made the connection that the pill opens Eddie's eyes to the world around him and, thus, made the pill look exactly like a thick contact lens, then I deserve a prize for catching on to his logic.

Let's just say the battle of good and evil is all over this movie.  There's free sex, drugs, alcohol, God complexes, murder.  Pretty much a kitchen sink of scum.

I'd like to commit to this movie in either a love or hate way, but I'm very on the fence about it.  I thought it was well-acted, had a nice plot twist toward the end, portrayed drugs in a way that would make you never want to take them, and showed the temporal nature of wealth.

But, pretty much, the movie followed the typical stereotypes:  scum bag lawyers and drug dealers, company CEOs out for nothing but their own skin, ne'r-do-well writers, women with power who just can't help but fall for the good-looking, wrong guy who really just loves the thought of being in love but has no idea what real commitment is.  I think I would have loved to see this movie punch through those stereotypes and show me that there is something underneath the hood of a real jerkwad to give me a reason to feel like he should be redeemed.

And, the ending?  Still shaking my head in wonder about that.

I'm giving Limitless two pinkies up.  If you are head-over for Bradley Cooper, you'll enjoy most of the film.  If you could give a rats-rear about him, you still might like the nice turn by DeNiro and the, often, beautiful scenery in the movie. 

I'd say, just as a retrospective Eddie might:  take at your own risk.

*Little nod to "Phineas and Ferb" for you parents of Disney Channel children.  Momma love for that cartoon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Super 8

I told you it was coming.  Like the train wreck in the movie.  It just took a LONG time to get down the track.

But, glorious days!  My big wish, to see Super 8 on my birthday, came true.  And I lived through it to tell you it is Super.  But it has nothing in it for an eight-year-old.

I can get a witness, in the form of the couple who arrived 25 minutes before the movie, well ahead of us, and sat center and center to the screen.*  They were also annoyed, no doubt, by the family behind Mike and I.  Who brought kids who couldn't have been ten if their lives depended on it and proceeded to talk through the first half of the movie.

It was after almost an hour that I turned around, pointed out that we had hired a sitter to attend the movie, and asked them to refrain from talking.

Yeah.  I've got girl balls.  And singed ears.  Because Daddy cursed at me.  In front of his family.

But, they all shut up for the rest of the movie.  Then, when it was over, exited stage left faster than I could turn around.  I wanted to explain what I couldn't say without interrupting the movie:  it's my birthday, we hired a sitter, and this is a rare occasion.  And could you, please, just ask your kids to quit asking you questions every two seconds?

Anyway, I'll personally disown you if you take your kids to see this in the theater if they aren't at least 13, observant of details in movies and already have a blush-inducing, vulgar vocabulary.

And, that, would be my first point of the movie:  cussing.  There was LOTS of it.  It ran the gamut from soft to hard.  The kid-actors were probably the worst of the lot.  But, if you were even slightly observant in the build-up to this movie and watched even one trailer, you know that from the "What the Hell?" commentary by the biggest kid in the show.

Second, unless you are a HUGE fan of 70's music, skip this movie.  It is the backdrop against which the entire plot plays out.

I find myself, this morning, with "Don't Bring Me Down", courtesy of Electric Light Orchestra, as my mantra.  I, personally, never liked that song, because of the "grroosss" at the end of the refrain.  Sure, it's catchy.  But, so are venereal diseases. 

But, honestly, for people MY AGE, the rest of the soundtrack pretty much transports you back to your pre-teen/teen days.  Kinda fun.  And so much better than Lady Gaga.

The story itself is really tight.  I couldn't find a "oh puleeeze" in the entire thing.  Even the scene where a long-standing feud is resolved didn't seem forced or trite or out-of-place. 

An interesting side note on the time I spent waiting to see this movie:  when people heard I was going, there was one set of questions they asked.  "Did you see E.T.?",  "Did you like it?"  And that is when I would launch into "Not only did I see the movie, but I read the book before I went to see it.  And, in the end, E.T. dies.  So, the ending at the theater was kind of a letdown."

But, regardless of my dorky response, every one who talked to me at Super 8 said "If you liked E.T., you'll like Super 8."

It took me a while to catch why they felt this comparison was apt.  The question zoomed through my head a couple of times while I was watching the movie and made me, again, quizzical.  But, eventually, I understood.

The comparisons to E.T. are relevant but not dead-on.  The movie follows a very similar story line yet the creatures are nothing alike.  I never felt I bonded with that freakish, spider like, mass of alien in Super 8, even though J.J. Abram CLEARLY wanted me to when the creature showed its green, human eyes.

Woven nicely into the script, but by no means forced into it, was an explanation of WHY this thing was acting like Godzilla and destroying everything in sight, another deviation from the E.T. storyline. 

The downbeat of the story was that this alien just wanted to get out of dodge.  But, we cruel humans were researching it and were blocking it from leaving planet Earth. 

If I had been the powers that be, I would have been all "PPPHHHOOONNNEEE HHHOOOMMMEEE already, dude."  Truly, this alien could have claimed to be the second coming and I still would have wanted it to go home.  Get out of here.  Leave us the heck alone.  It was just that disturbing looking to me.  But E.T.?  I wanted to adopt him and feed him as much soda pop and dog food as he'd stuff into that plump little body.

Enough about comparisons.  Let's talk endings.  Since most Hollywood blockbusters these days contain a hook for the "If this thing makes a butt load of money, let's make a follow-up movie", as we watched freak-boy-alien take off, back to planet-who-knows-what, I turned to Mike and whispered "So what's the follow-up to THIS?"  I mean, clearly, we had incensed this thing.  Was he going to fly away, go get his home boys, and come back and open up a can of whoop-ass the size of New York?

According to Mike, we've already seen the second Super 8.  And it was titled War of the Worlds.

Yup.  That about covers it.

I would say power walk to see Super 8.  Pay to see it in the theaters because of the special effects, the ear-popping volume, and the joy of watching a film that will release you from worrying about your own life for a couple of hours.  Trust me:  the first half of the movie you'll be wondering what the alien looks like and the second you'll be brain-willing everyone to move out of its way.

One and a half thumbs up from MommaJ.

*This is my fav place in a theater.  Sure, if a fire broke out, I'd likely be toast.  But, that's a small price to pay for middle of the screen, middle of the theater seats.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Birthday. Funkytown Edition

So, this is what 45 feels like. I've been trying it on for size for about ten hours now and it ain't all bad.  Of course, I've only been awake about three of those ten hours, so things could get dicey from here on out.

But, as I've sat in bed this morning?  Every phone call in has been sweet birthday wishes from family.  Every email has been the same from friends.  I'd call that a super great, over-the-top, fantastic start to the day.

Yet, here is where I admit that I was a little skeptical about my 45th.

Not because I was turning 45.  Not because I went to a pilates/yoga/happy-clappy class late last night with my home girl and thought I'd torn every muscle in my legs and abdomen and wouldn't be able to walk or sit up this morning.

No.  It's because I haven't handled birthdays well since having kids.

I have been known to be the one who is disappointed by remembering the day I was born.  I've been the one pouting in the corner because my day didn't turn out the way it "should" have.

In other words, I've been a brat when it comes to celebrating me.  And, I have realized this for a long time and just couldn't shake my annual reaction.   But, I desperately wanted to because, truly, it sucks to feel like you are ruining your own birthday and bumming out your family year after year.

When I was little, I would get out the Sears catalog early and be assured of the perfect gift time after time.  Mom would always plan a party and friends would come out of the woodwork and try to sit as close to me as possible so they could get the mojo of the birthday wish when I blew out the candle.  And the cake was always the flavor I wanted, with decorations to match my stage of development.  Think Muppets or Barbie or Donny Osmond.  And the complete self-absorption of youth.

When I was single and surrounded by single girlfriends on July 19th, someone always made the strawberry cake with strawberry frosting.  There was always time to relax because I could take the day off or go to lunch with the crew at work and sneak a drink on company time or enjoy a late night at a dance club.  It was, truly, all about me.   And drinking.

What I now understand is that not all birthdays are created the same.  They ebb and flow.  They aren't consistently awesome.   Even though I have been conditioned to believe that they SHOULD be.
I think, when your kids are little, it is almost impossible to have the "perfect" birthday.  Little kids just don't know how to turn off.  They don't understand that all you really want is a day of peace and quiet with no bickering or hitting or celebration of farting.

And, if you have little kids, you likely have a young marriage.  And young marriages are still in that learning curve.  Since your spouse didn't grow up with the birthday celebrations you did, they don't understand the importance (or lack thereof) placed on these times.*

For some families, saying "Happy Birthday" within spitting distance on the calendar is the celebration.   Having the right kind of cake and the perfect present and a relaxing day just isn't even on the radar.

For some families, mine by marriage included, early morning phone calls with a singing Aunt and niece and nephew and a late day call from the in-laws are the treat.  There's also the way my Mother-in-law can consistently find the one Hallmark card that says it all and then add just the right amount of her own writing to create a picture of how much she loves me.

The only way for the birthday celebrations of your youth to follow you into adulthood is to recreate them for those you love.  They, in turn, are going to celebrate you in the way your spouse was celebrated growing up, splashed with a little pizazz from the parties you've thrown for them.  The new, blended celebrations will be unique to the family you've created.

And, I've come to realize, that is a good thing.

I've now had kids long enough that they get what I'd like on my birthday.  And Mike and I have been together long enough that he gets it, too**.  They understand, because I've lavished them with the birthdays of my youth, that I place uber-importance on the celebration.  And, even though the celebrations thrown for me aren't exact replicas of birthdays gone by, they are wonderful.

Over the years my family has begun to understand that I would like to sleep in.  If they are going to eat breakfast, Mike is making it.  And it will likely be out of a box.

They all get that I would like to write a blog post in my pajamas, in bed, at 10:30 a.m.

The kids understand that celebrating alone, after work hours, with my sweetheart doesn't mean I don't want them around.  It's just one more way they know Mommy and Daddy are still crazy enough about each other that we want to spend couple time together on Momma's birthday.

For those of you suffering from birthday letdown, let me assure you that there will be a point where your kids serenade you to the strains of a recorder, played by one of your children, while you luxuriate in your bed. 

There will come a day where your husband realizes, because you've told him seven years in a row, what you want is an extra hour of sleep and no breakfast-making duties, so he'll handle it.

Someday your kids will find something to occupy their time so you can stay in bed, playing on the Internet, until you HAVE to shower for lunch with your friend from high school.

And, like me, you'll realize that the perfect birthday DOES exist.  It may not be the birthday of your youth, but it will be better.

And being around long enough to gain that knowledge is, in my estimation, a wonderful reason to turn 45.

*Early on, being a woman, I assumed that Mike would "read my mind" or see the signals* and figure out that, growing up, Mom placed HUGE emphasis on birthdays.  But, when that didn't happen, I got all blame-y.  

**I finally just TOLD HIM what I wanted on my birthdays, which is a helluva lot more effective than osmosis through stink-eye.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Customer Service, No Smile

In my former, pre-multiple-children life, I trained business people.  I worked with everything from reading remediation to management training.  But, probably my favorite was working with New Hires.

New Hires are green as can be.  They know absolutely nothing about the company they've just hired into and, generally, are eager to learn.  And, frankly, they aren't yet jaded by the corporate bureacracy inherent with working for a large corporation.  

The New Hires I trained as a representative for a big bank were simultaneously on the computer and phone, answering questions for the company.  As a result of my background, I am naturally interested in how well trained other companies' reps are.  

When the following conversation occurred today and I was able to make a screen shot of the whole, sordid mess, I had to share some of the worst customer service in the universe.  

Hey, big S**** company?  Time to revamp your training!

Chat Information Please wait for a S**** Agent to respond.
Chat Information You are now chatting with 'Stewart B'. There will be a brief survey at the end of our chat to share feedback on my performance today.
Chat Information Your Issue ID for this chat is LTK5380100081X

Stewart B: Hi, thanks for reaching out to S**** tech support. How can I help you today?

Jill: Hi. Our ice maker just went out in the fridge part of our appliance...I understand we might be able to get some financial assistance for the repair, which was quite costly.
MY BRAIN:  Buried in that poorly worded sentence is the past tense "was", meaning this happened in the past.

Stewart B: May I know the model number of the unit?

Jill: RFG298AARS

Stewart B: Thank you for the model number.
MY BRAIN:  AH.  Someone reminded him often and well, during training of course, to thank the customer, even if the conversation is a "live" chat.
Stewart B: Could you please be more specific on the ice maker issue? 

Jill: It quit making ice completely. The technician said the unit had quit functioning and that he had seen this issue before.  
MY BRAIN:  Yeah, the service guy gave me some technical jargon, which I can't remember.  His office closed at 4pm today, or I'd have the phonetic interpretation of the problem written down, just waiting.

Stewart B: Could you please let me know the service ticket number? 

Jill: 1164

Stewart B: I am sorry, it is not the service ticket number. 

MY BRAIN:  Rookie error, Momma J.  It's not a S***** ticket.

Stewart B: Could you please let me know the temperature set on the unit? 

MY BRAIN:  What in SAM HILL does this have to do with reimbursing me for a defective ice maker?  Remember those posts on Anger and Frustration?  BE NICE.
Retrospective comment:   Strike one.  Rep has no clue what the problem is.

Jill: the service ticket number i have is for a local appliance company...
Jill: currently 8 and 34 degrees, freezer and fridge

Stewart B: You need to set the temperature on the freezer to -4, for the unit to make ice. 

MY BRAIN:  Oh my gosh.  I'm going to lose it.  Why are we talking about my current, replaced, WORKING, NON-DEFECTIVE ice maker?  STAY THE COURSE.  BE NICE.
Retrospective comment:  Strike two.  Why did I take the bait about temperature?  I should have reiterated that I have a service ticket and want someone to reimburse me for the lousy ice maker repair.
Jill: the ice maker is currently working at 4 degrees--the problem is that the ice maker unit quit working on June 20th. It was completely broken, regardless of temperature. I'm asking for help with reimbursement. 

Stewart B: I am sorry, S***** does not provide any reimbusment.
Stewart B: *reimbursement.

MY BRAIN:  Good catch on the spelling error, dude.  But, you are not helping in the slightest.  In fact, I am teetering on frustration, which will clearly lead to anger, which I can't do right now because it would completely hypocritical, considering I wrote posts on these two things in the last 36 hours.  ARGH.
Retrospective comment:  Strike three.  DUDE.  You are SO OUT!

Jill: for faulty parts, even?

Stewart B: Could you pleas let me know when the unit was purchased? 

Now Hooman needs help with his long division and Nickels wants to swim.  The Babe is trying to cobble together dinner.  WHY did I pick 5pm to tackle this issue?

Jill: I think I would prefer to talk to someone at an 800# tomorrow morning--I'm dealing with kids on my end and this is becoming too difficult. Can you please provide an appropriate number?
MY BRAIN:  You are becoming more of an idiot by the moment.  I am bailing on you.  There will be no second chat.  And no goodbye hug.

Stewart B: I am sorry, I can help you with the issue.

Jill: I can't get to the purchase date right now--
Stewart B: Have you tried resetting the ice maker?

MY BRAIN:  I thought I declared you OUT.  Why am I still talking to you when, clearly, you are still not getting it?  Thank goodness homicide by computer isn't possible.  This is worse than potty-training a monkey.
Jill: The ice maker has already been replaced. It is working fine at the moment. I am looking to speak with someone who can help explain the policy for reimbursing us for the broken, DEFECTIVE unit.

MY BRAIN:  If he replies there is no reimbursement from S**** available, I'm going to through my head into a wall.

Jill: 800 number, please

Stewart B: I am sorry, there is no reimbursement option available from S*****.

BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG (the sound of my head hitting the wall.)

Jill: I would like you to provide an 800 number. Even if there is no reimbursement available, I'd like to talk with a person. Please.

MY BRAIN:  Because, obviously, a conversation with a live idiot will trump this fake conversation with a moron.

Jill: Again, I can not continue this conversation with my children in the background. I need to continue pursuing this in the morning, on a telephone line.

Stewart B: Okay.
Stewart B: You can contact the phone support at 1.800.726.7864.
Stewart B: Please allow me to go through the inquiry.

MY BRAIN (dripping sarcasm):  I sure hope he's not crying because I'm cutting him off....

Stewart B: Could you please let me know the email address with which you registered the unit?

MY BRAIN:  Now I feel bad.  He's trying to help and I'm being bitchy through my keyboard.
Jill: This is absolutely no reflection on you. I am swamped on this end. You can try the email j***

Stewart B: Thank you.
Stewart B: I will provide you a ticket for the conversation of the chat so that you can contact the phone support and start the conversation from where you left. 

MY BRAIN:  Oh, HELL NO.  I'm burning that number and acting like we never.ever.ever.talked.  This has been way painful.

In the meantime, I'm helping with step 13 of a long division problem.  The only thing that makes the lengthy wait bearable is the fact that there is no elevator music with a live chat.

Approximately five minutes lapse, then....
Stewart B: I don't mean to rush you, but are we still connected on the chat? 

MY BRAIN:  Rush me?  Through what?  Long division?  I'm sorry, your last contact was I'm getting YOU a number.   BE NICE.

Jill: Yes.
Jill: Waiting on the ticket number

Stewart B: Okay.

ANOTHER five minutes go by, during which the last math problem is accomplished and the kids are all suited up for the pool.  I've unplugged the computer to move to the back porch.

Jill: Is the ticket number ready yet?

Stewart B: I apologize for the delay.

I am able to get a beer from the fridge, which is the least I deserved after these shananagins, and walk Mike through the entire chat waiting for that number.

Stewart B: The ticket id is 1011637838.*

MY BRAIN:  I hope he doesn't feel like a complete failure.  Even though, truthfully, he WAS.  But, I should still be nice.
Jill: Thank you for your help.

Stewart B: Thank you for chatting with us. If you have a minute, please click on the blue “X close” button to receive a transcript of your chat and fill out a brief survey to help us serve you better. Have a wonderful day!
Follow S**** Service on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Stewart B: You're welcome. Is there anything else I can assist you with?
Stewart B: Sorry for the typo.
Stewart B: .Please ignore the above statements.

That last statement is the gem.  Am I supposed to ignore the survey, the typo, or the entire chat?

I think you know which of these things I am going to do....

*Interesting factoid:  it is now almost 20 hours later and I STILL don't have the ticket number in my email inbox. What do you think the chances are I'm going to get anywhere with this company?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

Patience: The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

Virtue: A quality considered morally good or desirable in a person.

When I look at these two definitions, I think "Lack of patience has been a cornerstone of my life" and "Who WOULDN'T want to be considered virtuous?"  And then I think "I'm a walking contradiction!"

For way too many years, I've bought into the concept that delay, trouble, and suffering were all meant for someone else. Therefore, my anger and temper-tantrums were perfectly natural, normal, and acceptable.

UM. Not so much.

Last time I checked, morally good or desirable behavior doesn't constitute acting like the world owes me a debt of gratitude or that everything should go my way or that life is all about me.

I think it all starts with taming the frustration that leads to anger.  When I don't mind standing in the "20 Item or Less" lane with the white-haired lady, who isn't that aware of her surroundings or her basket-full of groceries, without grinding my teeth or checking the clock or letting out a big sigh, I will have made progress.

When I truly internalize that adding five minutes to my five minute drive because it means I'm less irritated with Sunday drivers, on-time to the place I'm going, and less of an accident waiting to happen, I will have made progress.  

When I get that not every day is going to be picture perfect with my kids, that there will be spills and "SHUT UPs"*, and boy-on-boy hitting, and refuse to react with anything but kindness and gentleness and graciousness, I will have made progress.

None of these changes, in and of itself, are impossible to accomplish.  They don't cost me a dime, just a little thought.  They are small changes to small attitudes and behaviors that add up to a more patient lifestyle.

And did you notice the constant?  It starts with changing ME, not the other guy.

I have no control over other people, as much as the world would like me to believe that is true.  Sure, I have a small sphere of influence.  But, the only real, true way that I make change happen is to start with myself.

But patience, like anger, is an area over which I DO have control.  It is an area of my life that I am working toward on a daily basis because, like training for a race, it takes one step at a time.  And some of those steps are going to be missteps, no matter how much I wish they weren't.

And, when I need to course correct?  I'm reminded that God's mercies are a new every day.  Therefore, I can work toward patience and make errors and ask for God's forgiveness when I fall short, instead of feeling like a complete and utter failure every time I get impatient.

Truthfully, I hunger for complete patience, in all times and in all things.  More truthfully, I'm not sure it exists in the earthly realm, because life includes bills and children and traffic and sleepless nights.

But, even if perfection and a state of uber patience can never be reached, I'm convinced that the goal is one worth pursuing.

One day, one step at a time.

*Not coming from me, of course, but from the kids.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Are You Angry?

I recently heard a pastor speaking on the topic of anger.  He stated that there are four reasons we generally feel annoyed.  And, sadly, I could relate to all four.

If you've spent much time reading the Bible, anger pops right to the top of the list of no-no's.  Love, we're told, is not easily angered.  The Lord, in fact, is slow to anger.  The anger of our enemy is kept from us by the hand of the Lord.  From Exodus all the way to Revelation we are counseled on the subject. 

Yet, it seems that we humans have a really hard time keeping our tempers in check.  In fact, we are, as a whole, a nation that is quick to anger and slow to forgive.

So, what drives human anger?  Hurt is one thing.  Whether it is physical pain or emotional, when we hurt, we tend to take it out on others.  Our enmity flares and we do unreasonable things.

This week, we saw perceived injustice causing anger around the country.  It was impossible to escape the news headlines about Casey Anthony's acquittal.  I don't think there has been this much public outrage about a verdict since the OJ Simpson trial ended in "not guilty" many years ago.

Fear also drives anger.  When our backs are against the wall or we are afraid for someone we love, we tend to act like badgers and attack whatever has us cornered.

But, for me, by far, frustration is the most difficult of all these feelings not to allow to bloom into anger.

There are moments, as a parent, that are infuriating.  When my kids ignore instructions, back-talk, or whine until I need a glass of wine, I am not always the most composed parent.

As a woman, when other women decide to use their sexuality to sell products to my kids or my husband or expect me to look like them if I use the goods they are hawking, I have a hard time keeping my cool.

As a wife, when I don't see eye-to-eye with Mike, I run the risk of saying what I actually think, and unleashing a good tongue-lashing against my unsuspecting husband.

If you really stop and think about all the ways anger can get started, it isn't hard to see why it happens so frequently.

But, if we turn that around, and think about all the ways that joy can manifest itself, it is equally difficult to understand why humanity isn't just brimming with happiness.

How can you resist a baby's smile?
Have you watched a colorful sunset lately?
Did you listen to the birds singing a song for you this morning?
When was your last piece of chocolate?
Have you received a hug so powerful that you KNEW you were loved?
We choose our responses on a minute-by-minute basis.  We can either be angered by that driver who cut us off or feel blessed that we weren't hit.  We can choose to butt heads with our spouse or back down and let him/her be right.  We can let a glass of spilled milk cause us to scream at our child or calmly help him/her clean it up.

We have that power.  We can choose our responses.  But, we have to be conscious about how we normally respond so we can avoid the pitfall of anger and change our perspective to joy.

Today's is a fresh, new day.  What will you choose?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Two Twoes

Part of the joy of going on vacation, being away from routine and/or in different circumstances is that we Nowells take the time to go to the movies.  And, in the last two weeks, we've seen two recent movies that deserve comment.

Cars 2 was the first.  We went to the trailblazing Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, home of the "If you talk, text or otherwise disturb your neighbors during the movie, we'll kick you out without a refund or an apology."  Personally, I like the don't let the doorknob hit you attitude inherent in that policy.  Some people, however, don't.  So, the Drafthouse made a PSA out of her rant.*  And, it is HYSTERICAL.

After securing the kids in their seats and explaining that if they said a WORD they would have us ejected from the theater and might have to pay us back from their allowance, everyone was ready to watch.  And, all was quiet.

The opening of Cars 2 is reminiscent of any good James Bond movie except, unlike the golden boy, this one is so visually stunning that words like "amazing, beautiful, and awesome" kept rolling around in my mind.  Pixar's technology just keeps getting better;  it has hit a level that rolling waves look completely indistinguishable from actual ocean movement.  Truly, CGI has risen so high that suspension of reality in a movie about talking cars makes complete sense.

I've heard that critics were disappointed that there was no Toy Story 2 "Jesse's song" or UP "through the decades" scene to illicit emotion from the audience.  While I'll agree that reducing grown adults to a puddle of tears at least once during a children's movie has become a signature of Pixar, I didn't miss crying in the theater during this one at all.  In fact, it was just a FUN show.  There were a couple of moments designed to make me think about the true meaning of friendship;  that was enough emotion for me.  The rest was just good, old-fashioned story telling.

My one beef with this movie was the premise behind the plot:  big oil vs. alternative fuels.  Though it didn't rise to the blatant, preachy level of Happy Feet* for me, it skimmed around the issue just enough that I was annoyed.  I like my kid's movies for KIDS.  Please leave the politics for the parents.  OK, Hollywood?

For those of you with younger kids (pre-K), note that there is quite a bit of action in this one--racing car crashes and explosions and spy-type stuff.  Might not sit well with little ones who are attached to the CARS characters, who are in peril quite often.

All told, Cars 2 and the Alamo Drafthouse get a solid Nowell thumbs-up.

Next on the agenda was Kung Fu Panda 2.  Loved the first one.  In my mind, it was the perfect blend of sarcasm and misplaced, hysterical, wide-eyed enthusiasm.  Po and I also share a love for eating.  Especially cookies taken from high shelves, out of reach of other members of the household.  Not that I actually employ that technique at home or anything....

Anyway, I had zero expectations going into KFP2.  If it was horrible, I was paying afternoon prices, got a discount on my concessions, and was having a fun time with The Babe, miles away from the drudgery of reading therapy.***

Big warning on this film:  younger and/or sensitive kids MIGHT pick up on the concept that the evil peacock prince tries to murder all the forest pandas at the beginning of the film.  I don't know how to explain that it is handled well;  you'll just have to see the "historical footage" the movie makers created to explain the prince's evil ways.  Basically, throughout the movie, this first scene is unraveled and we learn Po is the only panda left standing.****

Side note on this:  At six, The Babe had no clue about the depth of these scenes.  He thought that Po was the object of the peacock prince's hatred (which was true) and didn't even realize what had happened to Po's parents. 

Other warning:  there is a LOT of kung fu and many fiery-fireworks-type explosions.  Now, the kung fu thing is obvious, if you are into reading movie titles, but the fireworks thing is not.  Again, be careful watching with any of your kids that doesn't do well with tons of loud action.

This movie does venture into adoption, interestingly enough.  Being adopted myself, I was interested to see how this would pan out.  Overall, I'd say that they handled it fairly well, but with typical Hollywood "I've found out where I came from so now I know who I am" sap.  I won't go into why I think this is a bunch of bunk, just that it did make for a sweet scene between Po and Mr. Ping at the end of the movie.

I'd give this a tentative thumbs-up.  It is much darker than the original Kung Fu Panda, but it is also visually stunning (a la Cars 2) and action-packed.  I only hesitate because all the action and cartoon violence may be too much for some little ones.

Next up?  Super 8.  As soon as Mike and I can garner a babysitter.*****

*This is the censored version, but I still wouldn't let little ears near it....
**The most despised, politically charged kid's movie I've ever seen.  HATED it with a passion.  Almost left the theater.  And, joy of all joys!  Previews during KFP2 showed a trailer for Happy Feet 2.  I fully expect it will tackle some other hot-button topic, like gay marriage.  Needless to say, we're skipping it.

***Thank you, AMC Theaters, for the STUBS card.  I heart it and search out your theater as a result of the free stuff you've thrown my way over the years.  Yes, I realize I'm your puppet.  But, I'll gladly keep let you pull the strings if you keep the free stuff flowing!

****Or, maybe he isn't....dum, dum, dum, dum......

*****In other words, this may end up a DVD review.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Death of Dr. Kevorkian

In early June, Dr. Jack Kevorkian died at age 83. Appears it was a blood clot that finally took his life.

In reading a bit more about him, I discovered "Kevorkian's ultimate goal was to establish "obitoriums" where people would go to die. Doctors there could harvest organs and perform medical experiments during the suicide process. Such experiments would be "entirely ethical spinoffs" of suicide", he wrote in his 1991 book "Prescription: Medicide — The Goodness of Planned Death.""


I won't irritate you with details, but let's just say that "medical experiments" and "Heil Hitler!" work together in the same, revolting sentence. Just like "Dr. Kevorkian" and "assisted suicide" go hand-in-hand.

During lengthy trials regarding the most famous of his medical acts, which was videotaped and shared with the news program "60 Minutes", one of Kevorkian's arguments against his prosecution for murder was that he had not violated The Hippocratic Oath.

I had heard of the Oath before, seen the "snake" rod of Asclepius, but I never had taken the time to actually look at the text. There are actually two versions--one ancient and one modern--and I have to assume Kevorkian was referring to the updated version when he stated he had never violated the Oath.

The reason I believe this is that the older version uses the phrase I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan.  If Dr. Kevorkian considered his actions to be in harmony with the Oath, there is no way possible he could have been referencing the original. 

Sadly, I clump this in with so many other things we've updated to "match the times".  Often, when we modernize an old concept, it means that some segment of society doesn't like the way things have always been and need to see society change moral direction to define their (often) bad behavior as acceptable. 

Because "a spade is a spade", it rarely matters that we change the rules so behavior and action match, thus conferring societal acceptance on our beliefs.  Bad behavior in 1934 is still bad behavior in 2011, no matter what changes have been made to our Earthly laws or ideas.

I think Dr. Kevorkian was pitifully misled by this modernization of the Hippocratic Oath.*  I fear his interpretation of the laws governing medicine have led to a fate that has been irrefutably sealed.  He may be  finding out the hard way that what he did on Earth has eternal consequences.

Quite honestly, I hope I'm very, very wrong.  I hope he saw the error of his ways before that blood clot took his life.  Either way, an era of assisted-death on Earth is over. 

I, for one, hope that others will look at Dr. Kevorkian's life and look at it from the PROPER perspective: 

There is but One who breathes life into humanity and but One who knows when each life will end.

He will NEVER condone the taking of a life.  That, no matter the circumstances, is called murder.

May this, and not all the death surrounding him, be the lasting legacy of Jack Kevorkian.

*Interestingly, in the older version of the Oath, the clause that follows "I will give no lethal drug...advise such a plan" is about using a pessary to cause an abortion, another issue that has gained societal acceptance after its omission from the "contemporary" Oath.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Power of the Media

Yesterday, Aaron and I were in that great bulls eye store that manages to blow my budget every time I get within smelling distance of it.  The odor is distinctly "Eau De Greenback", probably because so much money circulates through those automatic doors.

Anyway, when we got to the register, I did my usual inquiry of the cashier's day.*  She was a fairly young woman and didn't hesitate to answer my question with a very peculiar response.  I quote:  "The justice system has failed me."

Now THAT is a bold response.  Talk about diving head-first into a conversation with some one.  I hardly knew how to respond to her:  offer sympathy?  ask what case she lost?  see if the case is on appeal?

I simply said "Really?"

"Yes."  she said, "That baby killer is going free."

AHHH--we were suddenly on the same path.  The Casey Anthony verdict was making headlines on every talk show on radio and TV, as well as all three national news stations, plus the minor ones.

I found it quite peculiar that a person in Houston, Texas, with no real obvious ties to the case, was taking this issue so personally that she felt the justice system had failed HER.  So I said "You know, I don't think we are getting all the facts."

"Really?"  she said.

"If you remember, the jury has been sequestered for six weeks.  They've had no access to TV, radio, newspapers, magazines.  There's been LOTS of conversation during that time that they haven't heard.  All they've gotten are the facts presented in the courtroom."

This really seemed to surprise this young woman.  "I hadn't thought of it like that.  You're right."**

I asked if she had heard about the sentencing for the crimes Casey HAD been convicted of.  She was unsure, but felt that, for time served, there wouldn't be much jail time left for her.  And she thought that was a real shame.

But here is the real shame:  Someone decided that Caylee Anthony had lived a long enough life, at barely three years of age, and took steps to kill her.  She won't have the chance to go to kindergarten or her prom or have her own baby someday.

And that someone is still living with the guilt of the sin of murder and is separated from God as a result.

I don't know, nor will I ever, if the Anthony family had anything to do with Caylee's murder.  The media dang-sure wants me to believe that, but they don't know either.  If I were privy to the evidence shown in the courtroom, I have to believe, if it weren't filtered through a media-lens, that I would have come back with the same verdict.

But regardless of what the media wants us to believe regarding whether Casey got away with murder or not, the hard, cold facts usually win out.  Cold cases sometimes need time to completely thaw out before God takes action.

And, time and time again, I've seen God bring to justice that which is not right, even years or decades after the event.  I don't think this case is going to be any different.

Bottom line?  Stay tuned.  I don't think we've seen the last of this one.

And, if you think the justice system failed you?  Pray for justice to be done, according to God's will, in His time.

*I routinely do this in stores, at banks, and at restaurants.  I think it is important to acknowledge people who are working hard and, often, not getting much respect. 

**By the way, I'm adopting her and bringing her home so I can hear this statement more often.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kaboomtown Failure

Dear Kaboomtown--
In case you hadn't noticed, we've been super faithful to attend your awesome fireworks display every year.  We've arrived at least an hour and a half before showtime to pick an appropriate spot in the Gold's Gym parking lot.  We've left our glass bottles at home and picked up all our trash before leaving the parking lot.

In short, we've held up our end of the bargain. 

This year?  You failed us miserably.  Almost every one of the cardinal rules was horribly maimed.  And we are stumped at this unexpected occurrence.

We arrived over an hour and a half before the big show and enjoyed watching the amazing WWII-vintage planes.  We brought our little cooler with water and each enjoyed a little ice cream sandwich.  We even thought ahead and brought two decks of cards and the games of Farkle and Memory.  We had a wonderful, clear view of the fireworks area.

As in years past, we were surrounded by other thoughtful families who, clearly, knew the drill.  They arrived early, staked out their place on the concrete, parked engine first, knowing the line out would take about 10 minutes to navigate before they could be on their merry way.

Then something totally unforeseen happened.  A crowd, who can only be described by multiple adjectives including tattooed, pierced, un-family-friendly*, rude, drunk, and uncouth, showed up.

I can't describe the lengths they went to trying to stay together as a group.  They wedged, like a cork in a bottle, one of their car on one side of us.  Another one of the crew tried to park on the other side of us, straight in front of another family who was almost hit by the legally-tipsy driver.  When the driver, his female companion and children exited said car, they were given a kind, but stern, lecture from the father of the family that was almost a casualty.

Basically, they broke the first rule of Kaboomtownshow up early. And, if you show up late?  Don't disturb other people.  Or try to hit them.

When everyone from Aintry bailed out of their cars**, all hell broke loose.  All told, I'd say there were 25 people.  The kids started throwing Pop-Its all over the place, including at our feet, stopped the local blinky light peddler and bought cheap plastic swords and started reenacting Braveheart right in front of us.  Then  began copious watermelon eating and binge beer drinking.

Then, and only then, did they look around and realize "HEY!  There are OTHER PEOPLE HERE!  I'll be a monkey's uncle;  I thought we were alone!"  That's when they got all nice-like, offering glowing bracelets and hunks of watermelon and beer.  We politely declined. 

Finally, our reason for loving Kaboomtown began popping in the sky.  Magically, your fireworks caused half of Aintry to disappear.  And then the music began.

Now, Kaboomtown?  You've spoiled me in years past when the music would, inevitably, include Neil Diamond's "Coming to America".  This is a song that makes me want to simultaneously throw-up and sing.  It's a song that won't fit into any particular genre but "cheesy".  And, I look forward to it every year.  But, only this one time per year.  Then, like a bad rash, it just disappears, much to every one's pleasure.

I noticed on your website that the sponsoring station this year had changed.  Apparently Jack FM wanted in on some of the publicity action.  For those of you not Dallasites, this is the local "Playing What We Want", 70's, 80's, and 90's spot on the dial.

And, apparently, Neil wasn't 70's enough to score a spot.  But, Katy Perry's "Firework" was.  And how her song fits into the 70'-90's genre is up for debate.  Among imbeciles, of course.

Busting the rules at number twoleaving out the greatest, cheez-whiz song of all times.  And replacing it with a song that compares people to plastic bags floating in the sky.  And has the nerve to ask if we relate to that most odd of comparisons.*** 

Once the fireworks were shot and we realized we had survived all the drama of the evening, we decided to vacate the premises as quickly as humanly possible.  After all, tipsy-guy was now full-on drunk and, literally, giving a lecture to his son on how to "Whoop some one's ass" properly.  My favorite quote of the talk?  "It's all about size and longevity".****

One of the reasons we've grown to love you, Kaboomtown, is that you are between five and ten minutes from our house.  How do I know this?  Because, during the school year, I meet a friend at this very shopping center.  Trust me, I've timed it. 

In years past, it has taken us a smooth ten minutes to get out of the parking lot.  And, generally, people were extraordinarily gracious.  Sure, every once in a blue moon, we'd get the frat guy from SMU who thought his BMW tailpipe exhaust didn't stink and wouldn't let anyone ahead of him in line, but that was rare.

This year?  Failure numero tres:  We arrived home 80 minutes after turning the car on to leave.

At first we thought the police officers hadn't arrived to direct traffic.  Then we theorized that budget shortages caused fewer officers.  Finally, we concluded there was an accident.  Then we noticed that everyone around us was acting like the pavement they were on and everything beside, in front, and behind them was ALSO theirs.

It wasn't until we actually got out of the parking lot that we realized the brilliant logistics department at the DPD had cut traffic down from four to one lane*****.  And that lane was only going right.  Onto a two lane street.

No exit to the tollway.  No left onto Montfort.  No moving on into Addison proper.  Right and only right. 

Even the police officer, who directed us into the MIDDLE of an intersection and then got peeved because we were there, had an attitude.  I asked if we could swing a right (as an alternative to blocking traffic) and she said, snarkily "Well, you COULD HAVE", implying "If you boneheads hadn't gotten in the lane going straight."  Problem with that theory, little Missy?  We didn't know, a mile back, that we'd need to try to move over.

Truly, if I had been a guest of the town of Addison this year, coming to the nation's third best fireworks presentation?  I would have felt totally ripped off.  Thank goodness Kaboomtown is practically our hometown show and we can give you another chance.
So, next year, Big K?  The Nowells are doing things differently******.  And we are giving you one more chance. 

We'll promise to structure our end a little differently to avoid this year's pitfalls.  In return, we are looking forward to a better organized event. 

And, somewhere between today and next July 3rd?  Please find Neil.  And make sure his song is on the play list.

Most sincerely,
The Dallas Nowells

*Even though they were together in family groups

**Where WAS that clown car?

***UM.  No.

****At first I thought this was the birds and bees talk.  Because, as you know, it's always a great idea to educate your son on his impending sex life while drunk and in public.  

*****I probably deserve the ticket I'll get if I'm ever pulled over and the officer runs a check and sees the link to this blog comment.

******I've already checked into renting a room at a local hotel.  For less than $125, we can stay overnight, walk to Addison Circle, or even choose to watch from the pool deck, well above the crowds and craziness.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth, Revised

This week we spent seven hours at a water park.  Never once did anyone get cranky.  Never once did anyone in our party cry.  Never once did anyone have a frown on their face.

It was simply amazing.

We started out just the Nowell five.  Quickly, we added numbers to our party when we ran into another family we knew from the martial arts school.  The boys had become fast friends during their training time together so they wanted to spend the day with their friend.  He came with two older sisters and a Mom who, like the son, we only knew in passing.

At first, I was concerned that we'd have the inevitable problems that come with a large group of people:  everyone has an opinion, everyone wants their way, everyone is tired from traveling, blah, blah, blah.

But, no.  Literally, we'd look at the map, head in a direction, find a ride, and go.  And we did that about twenty times. Without a single complaint from anyone.

I wish I had known at the time that we were writing the playbook on How to take a group of three adults and six children, ranging in age from six to fourteen, through a 65-acre park with 40 attractions without a single problem because I would have taken copious notes.  On waterproof paper, of course.

Thanks to running into this other family, we had seven unencumbered hours of time to get to know them.  We talked a lot about home schooling and raising children in a difficult world and making extracurricular schedules work with multiple children.  We talked ballet costs and A.D.D. and karate.  We found out we are birds of a feather.

We just THOUGHT Schlitterbahn would be good.  We had no idea it would be made better by our new family friends.

Next year we plan on spending several days at the water park.  It quickly became our new summer destination trip.  And, I think I'll be counting down the days starting at Christmas.

Big thumbs-up to Schlitterbahn, New Braunfels.  Parking fees?  Zero.  Coolers?  Bring 'em!*  Sunburn?  Nada, thanks to SPF 50, applied twice.

If I were into grading trips, that one would get a big, fat A+. 

*No glass bottles, though.  Leave your IZZE at home.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Looney Tunes Forever!

Sometimes, the finest dialogue doesn't have to come from classic books or great movies.

During our vacation we've had some time to watch cartoons.  Not the new-fangled kind, but vintage, 1950's-1960's Looney Tunes stuff.  You don't have to know the characters intimately to figure out, really quickly, who they are.  That's how good the writing on these shows is.

Half the fun of these little gems is listening to the characters bantering back and forth.  And now that Hooman and Nickels are old enough to really GET the dialogue subtleties, we've had a ball coming up with our favorite lines from a recent afternoon of chilling out.

Yosemite Sam:  "You're making me look like a fool!"
Bugs Bunny:  "You don't need ME to make you look like a fool."
Yosemite Sam:  "You're DURN RIGHT!"

Daffy Duck:  "FINE.  I don't want to belong to a club that would have ME as a member!"

Convict:  "Are you saying I'm stupid?!"
Daffy Duck:  "Oh, no!  I'm not saying you are stupid.  I'm saying you LOOK stupid."