Thursday, March 25, 2010

And now for something completely different: Cheerleading (update)

In January 2008, just a few weeks after I started this blog, I posted a brief entry about my daughter’s upcoming cheerleading competition. With that post, I included the following photo of her. I think the photo was from a competition late in 2007 (when she was 8), but as I look at it now, I wonder if it might not have been from the previous spring (when she was 7):image001-706942[1]

Well, this past weekend, she finished her most recent season of cheerleading (she’s at a new gym this year). At the last competition, we purchased some photos taken by the professional photographer hired by the competition organizer. When I looked at those photos, I recalled the photo above and had to go back and look again. So now compare my daughter age 8 (or 7) to my daughter age 10:


If that’s the difference between 8 and 10, I’m now officially scared of the teenage years…

Just for fun, here are the other photos from the competition:

scan0002scan0003 scan0004 scan0005

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farrah Fawcett (1947-2009)

In 1976, Charlie's Angels premiered on TV. I was 10 years old. I'm not sure if Farrah Fawcett was my first crush, but she was certainly the first celebrity that caught my attention (well apart from Kim Richards [of Escape to Witch Mountain], but she was my age, not a grown up). While many of my friends acquired the famous poster of Farrah, my mother went a step further and bought me a pillow with the poster emblazoned upon it. I loved that pillow and it made me a hero to my friends. Those were happy days.

Following the death of Ed McMahon a few days ago, I heard someone say that life can often be measured with the passage of stars from our adolescence. For me, Farrah Fawcett was one of those stars.


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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

My children were very creative with their Mother's Day gifts for my wife, so I thought that I'd share them. First, here is the picture that our son drew (you may not be able to tell, but it is actually six sheets of paper taped together to make a very large picture).
Ian's Mother's Day picture
My  daughter bought my wife a journal and wrote the following note (I’ve left her spelling intact; it adds character):
This book is for mom.
I love my mom because she is really nice and sweet. She douse every thing for me and only a little for herself. She also always buys me whatever I want. Since she runs a tootering bussieness she makes sure I get the best edgecution. We do lots of things together. Like we go shopping and take walks and go to movies and even sometimes too partys. My mom almost never ever yells at me. She also plays outside whenever she could. She treats every one in the family the same. When I say that I mean she loves every one of us equaly (including Ranger). I could never ever ever imagine hving someone else as my mom. If i did who knows what I would do. So all of those things I said well that is why I wrote this book.
I love you mommy!!
My wife cried.


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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Take Pride in Literary Accomplishments

Sometimes people can -- and should -- be proud of small things. My wife's aunt has, for years, enjoyed writing for local publications (garden club and the social register, for example). She takes great joy and amusement from this endeavor and who can blame her. Well, now she has something of which she can be justifiably proud. One of her poems has been printed in the June 2009 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

Just in case the text is too small in the scan, here is her poem:

And We Call Them Weeds

Don't be down on dandelions;
I'm not.
They have something to say,
And they mean a lot.
One morning you
look out,
And guess what appears?
All you can see are the little dears.
They pop up their colors
In bright yellow and green.
They're so
Never intending to be mean.
Dandelions were imported,
versatile gems,
By colonists who cooked
And fermented even their stems.
How graceful bobbing their heads
In tune with the wind,
Knowing not
how soon
Their flock to be thinned.
Enjoy their short company,
sleep from dusk to light.
And before you cut them all down,
Bid them all
a "Good night!"

--Pearl Joffe

How many of us can say that we've had our creative writing published in a magazine whose origins predate the birth of America?

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Break from Hell!

So I'm back in my office, several days earlier than expected after what I can only describe as the Spring Break from Hell.

The original plan had been to spend spring break with some dear friends in Charlotte, North Carolina. Unfortunately, we learned that their kids weren't on break the same time our kids were, so we had to figure out what to do while their kids went back to school. We hit upon the idea of staying with them for a long weekend (and they would take their kids out of school for a day) and then our family would drive up to Washington D.C. to play tourists for a few days. A lot of driving, but the plan sounded pretty good...

All of the guidebooks to D.C. advise contacting your Congressman or Senator in advance to try to secure tickets for certain tours. We did so and ... nothing. Even though it was still several weeks in advance, we were told that our Congressman's office could not get us tickets, even for the tour of Capitol Hill. We understood that White House tickets were tough to come by (and I elicited a hearty chuckle from the Congressional staffer when I told him my kids wanted a play date with the Obama girls), but were surprised that we couldn't get a Capitol Hill tour. So we tried our Senator. And got no response. (Actually, that's not entirely true. When I walked into the office today, there was an envelope from our Senator with a tour book to Washington.) Thus, we should have known that this vacation was not going to be all that we'd hoped for.

So, on Thursday afternoon, we started our drive to North Carolina. We'd planned to drive as far as Knoxville, Tennessee, before stopping for the night. We didn't want to drive through the "mountains" (sorry, I go to Colorado and Wyoming; the Great Smokies are really big hills...) at night and figured that we'd only have a few hours of driving on Friday so that we'd have most of the day to spend with our friends. Alas, as we left Indianapolis, we kept hearing weather reports of extremely severe storms that were going to be racing across our intended route (hail, tornadoes, the works). So, we decided to spend the night in Lexington, Kentucky, thereby nearly doubling the time that we'd spend in the car on Friday. Oh, well.

Thankfully, Friday morning dawned sunny and with only moderate winds, so we set off. The drive was just fine and we made good time to Charlotte. We arrived just as our friends' kids were getting home from school and we all had a lovely afternoon just relaxing around the house. Everything was going very nicely. That is until...the door.

Later that evening, the women went out to rent some movies, the girls (our 9-year-old and their 11-year-old) were playing in one room, and all us boys were playing video games across the hall in another room. At about 8:00, the 11-year-old walked into the game room to tell us that there was an emergency and that my daughter needed to go to the hospital. She delivered this information in such a casual, calm manner, that we thought she was joking. She reiterated her point and finished by saying that my daughter had sliced her finger off. That got my attention and we raced downstairs to find my wife (who had just returned from the store) holding my daughter's bleeding hand over the sink. Long story short, my daughter's middle finger was accidentally slammed in the hinge of a door, nearly severing the tip of her finger.

After a trip to the ER and several stitches (my daughter was very brave and never cried about her injury; she was just very, very anxious about stitches and shots and she had over a hour to sit and bleed and worry while we waited to see the doctor) we started trying to figure out what to do. We were told that she needed to see a hand surgeon on Monday. We talked to several doctors about the issues and risks before deciding to return home so that she could be seen by a hand surgeon here in Indianapolis (home to a renowned hand center and hand surgeons, one of whom just happens to be a good friend of my father). We enjoyed a nice Saturday afternoon with our friends (a drive through petting zoo, if you can believe it) before jumping back into the car early Sunday morning for the drive back to Indy. While there weren't many tears about the injury itself, there were lots and lots of tears about leaving their friends a few days early and being forced to cancel the planned outing to D.C. Oh, and just in case all of that wasn't quite enough, I woke up on Sunday morning with a bad cold and cough that was enough to rattle my brain inside my skull; nothing like coughing so hard you have to throw up...

20 hours of driving in 4 days. Wow, how much fun is that?

Thus, bright and early on Monday (the first "real" day of spring break) we found ourselves in the office of the hand surgeon. All of Monday afternoon was spent trying to calm my daughter down that Tuesday's surgery wouldn't be so bad, all of Tuesday afternoon was spent in a surgery waiting room, and Wednesday was spent trying to cater to the needs of a mostly good-natured little patient and her somewhat cranky twin brother (given all the attention being paid to his sister and the fact that it was his best friend that we were visiting, he's been pretty good about all this).

It turns out that her finger should be fine. The doctor said that she did a good job trying to amputate the tip, but that there is a good chance that it will heal fine now. As the doctor put it, the finger has a good chance know; without surgery, it would have had zero chance.

And here I am, with what should be a few more days of spring break to look forward to, back in my office. We've told the kids that we'll put together another trip to D.C., but of course the when and how are complete unknowns.

And after all the driving, the stress and worry, the coughing, and everything else, I'm completely exhausted and in desperate need of a vacation.


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Monday, November 3, 2008

My Daughter Has a Message

When my daughter came home from school today, she decided to send a message:

Lily's Message

Just because she's out of cheerleading (with an injury) doesn't mean that she can't still lead cheers.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

My Cousin in a Public Service Announcement

My cousin (whom I unfortunately don't get to see very often) just did a public service announcement regarding underage drinking. She's the one on the left.

Very nice.


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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm Not Dead; I Went on Vacation!

Sorry for the lack of updates. Our family had a sudden chance to go on vacation (Hilton Head Island) and we jumped at the opportunity. I managed to get myself a nasty sunburn (hmm, 5 hours in the ocean without sunscreen on my back...oops), but I did read a bunch of books while the kids played in the pool. And I got the required Salty Dog t-shirt.


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Friday, June 20, 2008

Family Fun: Guitar Hero & Rock Band

I'll admit it: I like video games. I always have. Over the last few years, my preference has run to racing games like Gran Turismo, Project Gotham Racing, and Need for Speed. My 8-year-old son also loves video games. He prefers Star Wars Battlefront and Lego Star Wars (and, lately, Lego Indiana Jones). My daughter will occasionally join him in these games, but they're not her favorite pastime. My wife will only play video games occasionally (and then, usually, kicking and screaming). But, other than watching movies or going on a walk, there really aren't that many activities that the four of us like to do together. And then we found Guitar Hero.

For those not familiar with it, Guitar Hero (available for the Xbox 360, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, and Wii) is a video game in which the player uses a special controller (shaped like a guitar) to "play" a song. On the screen, a series of colored "notes" descend from the top of the screen toward the bottom. When the note reaches a line toward the bottom of the screen, the player has to press a button on the guitar of the appropriate color and "strum" another button on the guitar. At the easiest level, there are just three colors of notes (thus, only requiring three fingers). At harder levels a fourth and then a fifth note is added, the notes come more quickly, and many two- or three-note chords are introduced. In short, the game is great fun. And, for the first time, we've found a game that the entire family enjoys playing (but losing to an 8-year old sucks...).

Guitar Hero III (the version that we started with) even allows two players (yes, I bought a second guitar) to play at the same time, either cooperating with each other or competing to see who can do a better job on the song. Watching my 8-year-old kids rock to Paint it Black is a sight worth seeing. Even if I don't love all of the music in the game (a bit too much metal for my taste), it does provide a great counter to the constant barrage of Radio Disney and Hannah Montana...

The Guitar Hero series has been around for a while; I tried it with the kids 9 months or a year ago and it was simply too hard (plus, I'm not sure that we knew what we were doing). Now that they are a bit older and we know what to do, we've all found the game to be fun and enjoyable. And unlike the Dance Dance Revolution series that we've tried and put aside because it is just too hard (even at the easiest levels) the easy level on Guitar Hero are actually playable, thereby allowing new players (and younger players) to get into the game and slowly build their abilities and, more importantly, their confidence.

But the fun doesn't end there. The newest game in the genre is Rock Band and it was my Father's Day present. What is Rock Band, you ask? Simple: It is Guitar Hero times four! Rock Band comes with a guitar (very similar to the Guitar Hero guitar, but with a few more buttons and features), a microphone, and a drum set (four drum pads and a foot pedal with real, wooden drumsticks). With the use of a second guitar (our Guitar Hero guitar works just fine), Rock Band allows our family to be our own little Partridge Family: I play lead guitar, my daughter plays bass, my wife sings (or at least utters sounds approximating the lyrics), and my son plays drums (he's the only one in the family who seems to be able to rub his tummy and pat his head at the same time...). Voila: Instant family fun in the form of a game that engages all of us at the same time (although, I'll admit that watching my kids rock out to Nirvana seemed a bit odd).

If you haven't tried Guitar Hero or Rock Band they might be worth checking out.

(This blog post was not sponsored or paid for by the makers of Guitar Hero or Rock Band. However, I will gladly consider any sponsorship deals that anyone wants to throw my way...)


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Monday, June 9, 2008

Tracking Ingredients in Restaurant Foods

As some readers may already know, my wife suffers from a rare illness (idiopathic anaphylaxis). Without going into a detailed discussion of her illness, the best way to describe it is to say that it often behaves as a severe allergy (even though it is not actually an allergy) that can cause her to go into anaphylactic shock. Many of her triggers (but not all) are food related. Thus, one of the places that my wife encounters a fair amount of difficulty dealing with her illness is in restaurants.

It is not uncommon for her to read the menu at a restaurant to find which dishes she thinks she can safely eat. She usually quizzes the server about certain ingredients that frequently find their way into dishes, even if not listed on the menu (garlic and black pepper being the best examples). When she explains that she has an "allergy" the servers usually ask what she is allergic to; her usual response is to say that she is allergic to way too many things to list, and ask, instead, to be told what is in the dish.

Nevertheless, way too often, a dish will be served that includes ingredients that weren't listed on the menu or were supposed to be omitted from her dish (parsley being the worst example of the latter problem; it seems as if many chefs cannot possibly fathom serving their dishes without parsley even if the order ticket says "no parsley"). So, many times my wife will only discover a problematic ingredient in a dish after eating several bites or, when she is lucky, when the dish is served, but before she's eaten any. In either case, she has to stop eating. Sometimes she sends the dish back (but by then, it is often too late to get a new dish as she doesn't want to make the rest of the dinner party wait on her); other times, she just puts her fork down and claims not to be hungry any more (mostly, I think, so as not to go through the trouble or to avoid making a scene when we're out with acquaintances). For my part, I'm tired of watching my wife have to quiz clueless servers, send back ill-prepared dishes or dishes with "hidden" ingredients, and watch me eat while she has a dinner of bread.

I understand that not ever server in every restaurant can be an expert on every ingredient in every dish. And, I understand that it may be difficult for many restaurants to accommodate certain types of food allergies. But there are some accommodations that simply shouldn't be that hard.

Thus, I've been thinking about drafting a bill that I will ask a member of the Indiana General Assembly to propose next year. The bill would simply require restaurants to maintain a list of ingredients in each dish. The list would not need to indicate how much of any particular ingredient was included or how the ingredient was prepared (in order to avoid concerns about giving away recipes). But, if a diner were to ask about the ingredients in a dish, the restaurant would be required to have the information available. And this could be done very simply, perhaps just a printed index card with the list of ingredients. I'm still thinking about some of the details of what I would like to see in a bill like this. For example, perhaps "daily specials" could be omitted from the bill so that a chef could "play around" each day without having to list ingredients in new dishes. Or, perhaps, the bill should exclude certain types of restaurants (fast food? mall kiosk?). And how much detail is reasonable to expect (e.g., too many packaged foods simply list "spices" as an ingredient; well which spices would those be?).

My purpose is to make life easier for diners with allergies (especially parents of children with severe food allergies, even more so than people like my wife), not to make life difficult for restaurants. But if packaged food sold in a store can list ingredients, I don't see why restaurants cannot do so as well.

I'm curious to know if any other jurisdictions have a requirement like that which I'm suggesting. And I'm soliciting ideas for this kind of legislation. Do you have thoughts on what should or should not be included in a bill of this sort? I'd really like to be able to think through the potential objections that the restaurant industry may raise (beyond the obvious "we just don't want to take the time or incur the expense" argument) so that I can try to craft a proposed bill that addresses any legitimate concerns in advance.

Is this a good idea? Am I on the right track? Would you ask your legislator to vote for a bill like this? Let me know what you think.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mast Cell Disorders on CaringBridge

As some of you may know, my wife suffers from a rare illness (Idiopathic Anaphylaxis). For some time, she has made herself available to people newly diagnosed with IA (a lot easier than the mouthful of the full name) or other mast cell related disorders (including mastocytosis). Anyway, she just went live with her own site to provide information and share ideas. Here's her welcome message:
Well, I have joined the world in creating a webpage/blog, although mine is designed as an info page for people with my disease. You probably aren’t interested in the info on it (pretty boring for you healthy people!), but if you ever wanted to know what I had, well, here’s your chance! I actually get contacted a lot by people across the nation who are looking for info on mast cell diseases. I am listed somewhere as an information contact person, so they find me and email or call me frequently. I decided to create this page so that I didn’t have to keep emailing out the same stuff over and over to various people.
To access her page directly, please visit


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Friday, April 25, 2008

Political Terrorism Alive and Well in Carmel

This evening my wife and I had the misfortune to learn that terror on the basis of political viewpoint is apparently alive and well in Carmel, Indiana. A suburban community known as an idyllic place for families, a community where misguided parents want the city to adopt "decency" ordinances, a neighborhood where families gather around bonfires on Halloween and Friday nights in the summer, is also a city where those with a "different" political viewpoint may be subject to vandalism and acts intended to terrorize.

At around 10:30 tonight, I was in the basement reading and my wife was in the bedroom watching TV when we were both startled by a very, very loud crashing or banging noise. From the basement, it sounded as if something very large had fallen to the floor. I ran upstairs to find my wife very distraught saying that something had banged into the front door several times. At first, I thought it might have been an animal or a bird. We looked out the front windows, but didn't see anything or anyone. Then I noticed on the floor in front of the door was the magnet that we keep on the door to keep notes or family photos. The magnet is very, very strong and is actually hard to pull off of the door. Thus, whatever hit the door causing the magnet to fall must have done so with significant force.

My suspicion then fell on neighborhood kids out for a simple prank. The only problem with this solution is that there are very few older kids in our neighborhood and, based on the sound my wife heard (not to mention the force to knock down the magnet), I don't think that it could have been a younger child.

My wife called the police to see if they'd had any other reports of this kind of activity. They hadn't, but said that they would send a patrol car to drive around the neighborhood. In the meantime, I decided to go outside (with my 95 pound German Shepherd for company).

I didn't find anything on or around our door, so whatever (or whoever) hit the door, must have left quickly. Then, I realized what had happened.

A few days ago, we put up a "Hoosiers for Hillary" sign in our front yard (Note: I'm actually still undecided, but I have no problem showing that I want a Democrat to be the next President). So far, ours has been the only Clinton or Obama yard sign that I've seen in Carmel (and I've seen way too many signs for Dan Burton). Anyway, as the dog and I walked out toward the street, I discovered that our sign was gone. It was there when we got home from the movie earlier this evening. I looked around the yard and in the bushes nearby, but the sign was gone. So now I knew.

Yes, it may have been a simple prank. "Gee, let's scare the Democrats." But, in actuality, this childish prank is really far more sinister than that. It appears to have been politically motivated (why else choose our house; why else steal that particular yard sign?) and the loud banging on the door, fairly late at night, could serve no purpose other than to frighten those inside. There is a word for using the tactic of inducing fear to make a political point: terrorism. Sure, there was no bomb or gunfire or even violence; but that isn't what terrorism is about. Terrorism is about scaring -- terrorizing -- the "enemy". Is the act of trying to frighten us really that much different (though admittedly far less severe in scope and tone) than burning a cross in a front yard or painting a swastika on the side of a building?

Perhaps I'm overreacting; maybe it's because my wife was scared. Maybe it's because she has a rare illness that, when triggered, can send her into anaphylactic shock, and one of her most severe triggers is stress. Maybe it's because I have young children who could have been frightened (but thankfully, both seem to sleep through just about anything, even last week's earthquake). Maybe it was just kids, with no real malice and no real forethought. But maybe not. I'd hate to think that I live in a community where people really believe Ann Coulter and think that I'm a traitor because I'm a Democrat. I'd hate to think that I live in a city where people think that it's funny to try to frighten those with opposing political viewpoints. And I'd hate to think that one of my neighbors might be responsible for this conduct. But I suspect, knowing some of the people who live around me, that this wasn't just kids acting on their own.

For a long time I've suggested that our political culture of demonizing the political opposition and of referring to a political opponent or someone with a different political viewpoint as the "enemy" was a dangerous road and a slippery slope. I've often argued that it was a short jump from this sort of behavior to political violence, especially when talk radio tells people that, because of my political beliefs, I am the enemy and a traitor to America. I'm afraid that perhaps my fears have been justified. Politically motivated vandalism or "pranks" are simply one step down that dangerous road from name-calling toward violence.

If that is the current state of affairs in Carmel -- in America -- then we should all be scared.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Padawan Lily vs Darth Vader

I'm back from vacation (well, at least in body, if not in spirit, quit yet), hence the lack of updates over the last 10 days or so. Anyway, one quick item from vacation as my 8-year-old daughter became a Padawan (a Jedi apprentice for those of you not "in the know" on these things) and faced down Darth Vader. That's her in the "pink helmet" being encouraged by her Jedi Master.


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Sunday, February 10, 2008


A few weeks ago, I mentioned that my daughter was going to be competing in a cheerleading competition. Today, she had another cheerleading competition and I finally decided to join the YouTube generation and upload a video of her competition. I know that lots of friends and family have heard my wife and I (well, mostly my wife...) talk endlessly about these cheerleading competitions and I thought that people who haven't had the "opportunity" (and I meant to put that word in quotes) to attend a competition would enjoy the chance to at least see what they are ... um ... missing.

In all seriousness, while I may not be the world's biggest fan of cheerleading competitions, I will say that the sport (and yes, it is a sport) has been wonderful for my daughter. She has learned some very valuable lessons, including the importance of commitment, hard work, and teamwork. When she started cheerleading (in kindergarten), she wasn't able to do much of anything; cartwheels were the extent of her tumbling skills. When she moved to her current team before 1st grade, she was working on her back handspring, but she was adamant that she was not going to be a flyer. By the end of her 1st grade season, she was not only a flyer, but, in my humble opinion, she had become a star. Now, midway through 2nd grade, she has mastered her back handspring (and, in fact, can now string four of them together...) and is probably just a few weeks away from adding a tuck to her tumbling repertoire. And, as I think you'll see when you watch the video, she really is a star. And, as her Papa (grandfather, that is), told her after the competition today, not only is she a star, she is also quite a ham.

When the video begins, you will see a group of girls. My daughter is on the far right of this group and will be the "flyer" in the first stunt. After that, the camera (mostly) stays on her ('s my daughter, so that's where the camera went; if you want a video of the whole squad, I'm sure it's available for purchase...). In the big stunt in the middle, she is the flyer on the far right, and in the ending sequence, she is the girl who does the tumbling pass across the front of the stage and then finishes on the ground right in the middle of the stage.

Post a comment to let her know what you thought of her routine. I'm sure that she would be thrilled to hear from family and friends across the world.

Oh, and if you're wondering, her twin brother really enjoys these competitions, because they provide him with several hours of uninterrupted opportunity to play his PSP and/or GameBoy. Life is good.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

And now for something completely different: Cheerleading

Enough of all of this serious stuff. This afternoon (and tomorrow), my 8-year old daughter will be competing in the Jamfest Cheer Super Nationals cheerleading competition at the Indiana Convention Center. Her team (Cheer World of Indiana, Large Youth Level 2) competes today at 3:50 and tomorrow at 3:30 (admission is free if anyone wants to join us in cheering [pun intended] her on). Her competition comes from all across the US; it is the largest cheer competition in the country!

Go Cats!

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