Monday, December 14, 2009

When I grow up, I want to be a...

As Clark grows older, it's strange to think that some day this little nugget of a dude will grow up and have a job in some sort of field. As he grows older, he has even started to show signs of strengths and interests in things around the house. He loves watching lights, has tons of energy, and has even started bouncing to the beat when he listens to music. So I think to myself, maybe he'll be a musician, play sports or even become an electrician.

Then one day I noticed another habit that he had. He loves to play with the tags on toys. That's fine with me, except the fact that all of the tags happen to be on the rear ends of all of his stuffed animals. So the other day I was sitting with him, and as usual he began playing with the tag on one of his favorite stuffed animals. I couldn't help but think, as Clark looked up at me to take this picture, either he wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up...or a proctologist.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Dumpster Diving

Now that it's legally Christmas time (December) and I can now listen to Christmas music and pull out the old decorations and decorate the tree, I have been thinking a lot about the things we all do for Christmas. It always seems every year is different. Last year was the first year Alli and I cut a live tree. This year, I portrayed Joseph in the children's Christmas play at our church. The list could go on and on, but the more I think of it, the more one memory always comes to mind. That memory is of the year my father and I dumpster dove on a cold Christmas Eve night.

We had already pulled all of the decorations out of the boxes that we hid every year in the garage and did as much as we could to turn our home in Visalia, California, into a winter wonderland. We put the wreath on the door, hung the countdown calendar on the fridge, and set up the nativity scene in the front room. It was all perfect all except for one thing. We didn't have a tree.

It was no secret that year. We didn't have a lot of money. Dad had told us money was a little tight and that we would get a tree....eventually. We just didn't know when "eventually" was. Did that mean in a few days, or did he mean in a couple of weeks? We waited all month for the moment dad would tell us that we were going to hop in the car and go to the Christmas tree lot to get a tree, but the days passed and we continued to wait. We waited all month. It wasn't until Christmas Eve night that dad told me that we were going to go and get a tree.

"You got some extra money?" I asked.

"Not quite," my father replied. "But we'll be able to get a tree."
How in the world were we going to get a tree without money? I wanted to ask my dad, but I knew he had a plan. He had never let me down before, so why should I think any less of him now? We were going to get a tree. I just didn't have a clue how we were going to do it.
After dinner, we jumped into the car, just he and I, and we started driving. The city was a ghost town. Everyone was inside, snuggling up under the covers, waiting for Christmas day to arrive.
"There's got to be one around here somewhere," my father said as he drove. "We just have to find one." He was a man on a mission, searching the parking lots we passed by like an eagle searches for it's prey. We kept on driving until he finally saw what he was looking for.
We pulled into the parking lot to one of our favorite places to eat. Mearl's Drive-In. The place was ancient. It had been around when my father was in high school and was still up an running, still making their artery clogging burgers, fries, and gigantic ice cream sundays. Although the diner was closed, the huge neon light still buzzed on through the night. "Eat at Mearl's," the sign flashed to me as I looked out the car window.
"This will work," my dad said as he stopped the car. "We can get our tree here."
"Here?" I asked. "There's nothing here. The Christmas tree lot that was here already closed down. How are we supposed to get a tree now?"
We walked all the way to the back of the parking lot and stopped next to the dumpster. He turned and motioned for me to come over to where he was.
My father finally stopped to clue me in on the plan.
"Every year, Christmas tree lots everywhere end up having extra trees that they can't sell. It's usually the scrawny ones or the ones with problems that they can't get rid of. So, they just throw them away on Christmas Eve when they close the lot for the season." He pointed to the dumpster. "Somewhere in this dumpster has got to be a tree that's good enough to put in our house...and you're going to find it."
I pointed to myself. "Me?"
"Yep."
"So you mean I'm going to jump out that dumpster and pick a Christmas tree?"
"Yep."
A smile spread across my face. It was like a game. Find the best Christmas tree in the dumpster.
Seconds later, I was in the dumpster. My dad climbed right in after me. The dumpster was full to the brim with all different sizes of trees. Tiny ones. Scrawny ones. Dead ones. And tons more. We began moving trees to see what we could find. We kept digging. It seemed like all the bad ones were on the top, but we were determined to find something special in that heap of unfortunate trees. Finally, as we neared the bottom of the dumpster, we found it.
We picked it up and threw it out of the dumpster. It was huge. And tall. It would have been a perfect specimen of a tree, had it not had a huge hole towards the base of it's body.
I stared at the hole in the side of the tree. "What are we going to do about that?" I asked, pointing to the hole.
"We'll hide it in the back. That way no one will see it." My dad smiled at me. "When we're done with it, you won't even know it's there.
And with that, we picked up the tree, tied it to our car, and took it home. A couple of hours later, the tree was decorated. We all stood and stared at the tree in satisfaction. It was big, beautiful, and best of all, it was free. You couldn't even tell that it had been pulled out of a dumpster.
To this day, I still sit and think about past Christmas trees. I try to remember some of the other trees that we decorated as a family. Which was the biggest? The best? I try to picture them in my head, but I can't remember any of them. The only tree that I can remember, and the best tree I ever had, was the tree my father and I rescued on Christmas Eve...the dumpster tree.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Not to brag, but...

When November came to an end, NaNoWriMo wrapped up last week as well. At the beginning of the month I had set a goal of writing 7,500 words over the entire month. That meant having to write at least 419 words a day for 18 days. It was difficult to push myself to write during class time with the students because you always have something that needs to be graded or done, but I buckled down and actually did it every day. Now that it's over, I'm actually amazed at how much I have written...which is over 8,000 words! Not only did the kids enjoy listening to my story as it grew day by day (which motivated them, too), but I also really had fun. Just taking 30 minutes a day to express myself creatively through writing was actually very therapeutic and rejuvenating. I highly recommend it. Who knows, maybe I'll write 10,000 words next year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Alligator Wrestler: Part 6 - The End

Mrs. Anderson quickly disappeared into the house and then appeared with my towel in her hands. She motioned for me to meet her in the shallow end.

"Just act cool," I told myself and began to swim towards the shallow end.

One by one, the girls started glancing at me as I waded towards the steps. I had crossed the line into enemy territory and the enemy knew I was there. I quickly worked my way to the steps and sat down.

"I just need to rest for a little while," I said out loud for anyone who was in ear shot. The girls looked over at me for a second, but then went back to their chattering and giggling.

"Alright. Quickly. Let's go," Mrs. Anderson said, just loud enough for me to hear.

It was the moment of truth. Now or never. I quickly jumped up, one hand covering my front, the other covering my rear, and ran into the outstretched towel. Mrs. Anderson quickly wrapped me up tight, like a burrito.

I slowly turned to see if anyone had seen. To my surprise and great relief, no one had noticed. They all just continued to play, unaware that I had just experienced the most embarrassing moment in my life.

Mrs. Anderson led me to the hall bathroom. "I already put a pair of Billy's old swim trunks in there for you to change into," she said. "Just holler if you need anything else.

I walked into the bathroom, locked the door behind me and began to look for the pair of trunks. There, on the counter next to the sink, was the swimsuit.

"What are the chances?" I thought to myself.

There in front of me was Billy's old swimsuit. It was like a mirrored copy of the torn suit that was barely hanging onto my waist, only it was the color blue. They even had the same red stripe that went down the legs and around the bottom of the leg holes. I removed the tattered suit from my body and put on Billy's old suit. They were just as tight as my old pair.

"Here we go again," I said as I looked at myself in the mirror. I grabbed my towel and headed back outside to the pool. Maybe there was still time for me to get back into the game. But as I made my way outside, the scene I saw was completely different than when I left it.

There, in the middle of the pool, floating by himself on the alligator, was Billy. All the other boys were strewn about the pool. Some hung onto the side of the pool, while others lay on the walkway exhausted. It was like a battle field and only one final soldier was left floating atop the alligator.

Billy yelled triumphantly. "I'm the best Alligator Wrestler in the world!"

I stood there, now in Billy's old swim suit, debating whether I should go and challenge the now reigning king of the alligator.

Billy spotted me standing by the side of the pool. "You wanna take on the champ?" he yelled.

I still had the energy to do it. While I had been changing, he had been wasting all his energy becoming the top wrestler. I knew I could do it, but I also knew how flimsy old swim trunks held up against the most physical pool game I had ever played in my life.

"Nah," I replied. "I think I'll just swim instead of playing Alligator Wrestler."

Billy smiled. He was the champ…the king…the top Alligator Wrestler. "Woo hoo!" he cried. "I win!"

Even though I knew I could have probably beat him, I was still satisfied with the way things turned out. Billy, the birthday boy, had won. We were all having a great time. And no one, except Mrs. Anderson and myself, knew about my swimsuit being torn in two. Sure, I wasn't the winner of the game today, but that was the beauty of Alligator Wrestler. It never ended. It would continue to go on, and the next time the game continued, I would be right there in the middle of it all. And most importantly, I would be there, wrestling with all the other boys, playing in my new swimsuit.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Alligator Wrestler: Part 5

I looked to the steps in the shallow end, but there THEY were. The girls. What moments ago had looked like a small pack of minnows now looked like a teaming pack of piranhas, ready to gobble up anything they came in contact with.

There had to be a way out without completely embarrassing myself. If I went out of the shallow end, all the girls would see and then I wouldn't hear the end of it. I could here it now. The laughing. The ridicule. The nicknames. I wasn't going to get out of the shallow end and risk getting pegged for life with a nick-name like Bare Butt Ben.

The more I thought, the more I realized that someone was going to end up finding out because someone was going to have to help me cover up as I got out of the pool. I looked back to the boys. No. Then to the girls. No way! That left me with only one option…a parent. If my mother had been there, she would have helped out, but that was the problem. She wasn't here. She was off running errands.

My eyes scanned through the parents sitting poolside. They all seemed to be in deep conversations with each other. I continued to scan the crowd until I came across what I thought to be my one and only hope. Mrs. Anderson. She was watching all the kids play in the pool as she sat in her chair near the shallow end.

"Mrs. Anderson!"

She looked over to me as I waved for her to come over to the side of the pool where I was hanging onto the edge.

"Yes, Ben? Do you need something?" she said as she squatted down by the edge of the pool.

"I kind of have a problem," I replied.

"A problem? What problem? You look just fine to me," she said.

"It's my pants."

"Your pants?" she asked.

"My swim trunks." I took a deep breath. It was now or never if I was going to ask for help. "They, uh, kind of, uh, ripped."

"What, like, a small tear?" She put out her index finger and thumb and put them about an inch apart.

"No. Like a tear!" I put out both my hands about three feet apart to get my point across.

"Oh dear. That is a big tear," she said.

"It goes all the way from the front to the back! Please, you gotta help me," I pleaded.

She stopped talking and thought for a moment until she perked up. I could see the light bulb turn on in her head. "Alright, here's the plan. I'll go get your towel and meet you at the steps in the shallow end. You'll get out super fast and I'll wrap the towel around you so that no one will see. Then you can go inside, change into one of Billy's old swimsuits, and it will all be fine. OK?"

"OK…but," I began to say, but it was too late. She had already turned to go inside to get my towel. "But…but…The shallow end?

Not the shallow end! Anywhere but the shallow end. I'd almost risk getting out on the side of the pool and all the boys seeing my bare buns than go to the shallow end!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Alligator Wrestler: Part 4

The girls made their way back to the shallow end, where they once again began to chatter, giggle and point. The rest of the boys lined up behind me. The game was about to begin again and I was at the front of the line. The alligator floated in the center of the deep end.

"Alright, Ben," said Travis, who was standing behind me in line. "Let round two begin!"

"Yeah, go already!" yelled Billy, who was waiting at the end of the line.

Oh, I was going to go alright. I was going to leap…no…fly on top of that alligator and with one mighty squeeze of my legs, I was going to crush it to pieces in front of all the girls who stared at me from the shallow end.

"Go, Ben, Go!" their eyes screamed to me as I stepped out to the edge of the diving board, took a deep breath and jumped.

But this was no ordinary jump. This was a super jump. The jump of all jumps. The uber-jump. It was one of those jumps that takes you so high, when you hit the apex, time seems to slow to a crawl and stop. And in that frozen moment, I could do no wrong. Nothing mattered. Not my year old swim trunks, my ultra white thighs, or the fact that I was a puny ten year old boy. All that mattered was that I was about to make Alligator Wrestler history.

I landed with a thud. My eyes and ears became filled with all the sights and sounds of the moment. The girls squealed with delight. The boys yelled their manly battle cries. The parents cheered from the side of the pool. But in the mix of all these sights and sounds, I also heard another sound.

Rrrrrrriiiiiiiiiippppppppp!

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "No big deal. Threads pop and tear, but it couldn't be that bad, right?"

Wrong.

I quickly slipped off the alligator as Travis jumped on behind me and swam to the edge of the pool to assess the damage. My hand shot to my backside to feel the area and see if the tear was bad. I felt nothing. In some cases, feeling nothing would be wonderful, but in this case it meant I felt exactly that…nothing! Where I should have been feeling swimsuit, I felt nothing but the skin on my now exposed and bare butt! It was the mother of all tears.

I continued to feel about, but the more I felt, the more shocked I became. The hole, if you could even call it that, was not just in the back. The sheer force of my super, spectacular, uber-jump had torn my swimsuit in two. The only thing holding the two pieces together was the elastic waist band, which looked as if it too was about to pop.

"Great," I thought to myself. Not only was my butt hanging out the back, but mini-Ben and the boys were dangling out the front as well.

"You still playing?" Billy yelled from the alligator.

"Yeah," I quickly replied. "I'll be back in a second. I'm just taking a breather."

"But we just started back up! Just admit it," he said, "you're not man enough to continue."

Oh, I was man enough all right. If I got out of the pool right there he'd have been able to see how manly I was whether he wanted to or not.

"What am I going to do?" I thought as I continued to tread water by the side of the pool.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Alligator Wrestler: Part 3

We landed with a thud.

"Woo hoo!" I yelled as I wrestled my way up the alligator.

"Isn't this awesome?" Billy yelled, who was vying for a better position on the alligator. He made it up to the top and we wrestled to see who the master of the alligator would be, but were torn from our place by all the other boys. Travis, who I could now see in the middle of the group, slid up onto the alligator and took over our spot. I began to swim around the alligator, looking for a place that I could grab hold when something else caught my attention.

It was the girls…the minnows in the shallow end. They were still talking like they were before, but they were doing something else I didn't notice before. They were watching the boys. Some stared. Others pointed and giggled with delight.

"They're watching us," I thought to myself. But then a light blinked on in my head. They weren't watching us. They were checking us out!

Suddenly a new thought occurred to me. This wasn't a game anymore. The addition of the admirers of the opposite sex had changed this from a game into a way for young boys to display their strength and power. This was the true alpha-male extravaganza and all the girls had front row seats to the competition. I needed to get back in there! I couldn't let the girls just see Billy and the others in their macho display of strength. They needed to see ME! It now no longer mattered if I had white legs, wore an old swimsuit or was one of the smallest boys at the party. I needed to show the girls that I was the man. The one. The only. Alligator Wrestler!

I quickly grabbed hold of someone's leg and got back up onto the alligator. But as soon as you would get back up on to it, someone would pull you down and the cycle would begin all over again. The war waged on for what seemed like an hour until it was suddenly interrupted.

"Cake and presents time!" yelled Billy's mom.

Everyone got out of the pool and walked over to the patio where Mrs. Anderson stood.

"Can't we keep playing?" I asked.

"After cake and presents," she replied.

Cake was served and we all gathered around Billy, who began unwrapping his gifts that sat next to him in a huge pile. First a transformer. A shirt. Some Legos. Some shorts. And tons more. I couldn't help but sit there, waiting anxiously to get back to the game. Even though the game had no end, I knew the party would, thus creating an end to this round of the game. In my mind, there was only going to be one alligator wrestler left standing (or floating, in our case), and that was going to be me.

As soon as Billy finished unwrapping his final gift, a Voltron robot that he had asked his mother for, we all tried to make our way back to the pool..."tried" being the key word here.

Billy's mom yelled after us. "You guys have to wait 15 minutes before you get back in. If you don't you'll cramp up from all that cake you guys ate."

15 minutes? We wanted to play NOW, but the one thing that you couldn't do was say no to Mrs. Anderson. Even if she may have said everything with a big smile plastered on her face, we all knew she meant business.

We sat back down and proceeded to stare at the clock. 15. 10. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

"Finally!" I yelled as I made my way quickly over to the diving board.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Alligator Wrestler: Part 2

The car slowed to a stop in front of my friend Jimmy's house. My mother leaned over and kissed me on the cheek as I got out of the car.

"Mom! Don't do that. I'm not a baby anymore," I said.

"You'll always be my baby," she said back with a smile. "Have fun. And call me if you need anything."

"Alright," I said. I grabbed the gift for my friend and closed the door. "Love you."

"Love you, too," she yelled out the window as she pulled away.

I watched as she left, gift in one hand and towel and swimsuit in the other. The party had finally arrived and I was ready.

I ran to the door and rang the doorbell. My friend Jimmy's mother answered the door and greeted me with a smile. She was a tall, happy, red haired woman who loved to throw parties and make everyone feel at home.

I handed her the gift. "Here's my gift for Jimmy. I hope he likes it."

"I'm sure he will, Ben," she said. "Jimmy is in the pool with the rest of the boys. You can change in the bathroom down the hall. We'll do gifts and cake after you guys swim for a while."

"Thanks, Mrs. Anderson," I said as I walked to the hall bathroom. I quickly changed into my swimsuit. It was tight…and short! It made me look completely ridiculous. I had already gotten a tan from playing outside, but the tan line only came to the top of my knees. After the tan stopped, there were only my white lets. The too short shorts couldn't cover them up at all. I tried pulling them down to cover up my stark white thighs. That only pulled the top of my suit lower and I wasn't going to go out there with my butt hanging out for everyone to see. There was only one solution. I just had to hike up the suit and go out there…just me, my shorts and my ultra white legs.

"Here we go," I told myself in the mirror.

* * * * *

The party was in full swing when I walked out the screen door to the backyard. Many parents sat on lawn chairs while all the kids were in the pool. It was exciting, but quickly noticed there was something strange was going on in the pool. All of the boys were boisterously playing in the deep end while all of the girls were huddled together in the shallow end of the pool like a school of minnows. I had thought that all of the boys and girls would have been playing together, but instead it was starting to look like an old-fashioned Mennonite gathering.

Billy got out of the pool and excitedly walked (because his mother was watching like a hawk) over to where I stood.

"You got to come play this new game we just made up!" He was obviously excited about the game because he couldn't stop bouncing up and down with excitement.

"What game?" I asked.

"Alligator Wrestler!" He quickly explained the rules to me. The players, which at this point were only boys, jumped one-by-one onto the back of the giant floaty alligator that was in the center of the pool. The goal was to be the one who could stay on the longest.

I nodded my head to let Billy know I understood, but there was only one thing missing. "How do you win?" I asked. Someone had to win, right?

"That's the best part," said Billy. "You can win, but you can't." I was confused. He continued. "When you are on top, you're the winner, but as soon as someone else is on top, they become the winner. That way, the game just keeps going and going and going."

A game that never ended? Every kid, no matter who he or she is, is always on the lookout for that one game that could continually go on forever and never get old. By the look on Billy's face, he and the others had just discovered it.

He grabbed my hand and started pulling me to where the action was taking place. His mother's voice rang out. "No running, Billy!"

Billy slowed to a walk. "Sorry, mom." She smiled back at us.

We quickly walked over to the deep end where all the boys were playing. The girls were still in the shallow end…talking. The deep end, on the other hand, was a war zone. In the center of the pool was the alligator, covered from head to toe with my friends, and they all seemed to be wrestling, flailing and jockeying for position. One boy would fall off, another would jump on. It was an unending cycle of chaos. I already loved it. It was like King of the Hill, only it took place on top of some poor unsuspecting pool toy that, at the moment, looked as if it's plastic googly eyes were about to pop out of it's head.

"Hey, Ben! You got to try this," yelled my friend, Travis. "It's awesome!" I couldn't even see him. He was somewhere in the midst of all those flailing body parts.

Billy looked over at me. "You ready?"

"You know it," I said back with a mischievous grin. "Let's go!"

And with that, we both jumped, flying through the air, and landed on top of the giant mass of boys and blown-up alligator.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alligator Wrestler: Part 1

The story below is taken from the memory of my most embarrassing moment in my life thus far. Although some things have been changed for the sake of telling a good story, the majority of it is true. I've also broken it up into sections, so that I don't have to post it in one gigantic post. Hope you enjoy it.

ALLIGATOR WRESTLER

"Mom, where's my swimsuit?" I yelled as I rummaged through the bottom of my dresser. It was the beginning of springtime and I had just been invited to the first swim party of the season. My friend Jimmy was turning 10 and had invited everyone in our 4th grade class to his party. To say that I was excited would have been an understatement. I was ecstatic!

"It couldn't have gone far," my mom yelled back from the kitchen. "We just bought it last week. Check and see if it's in the beach bag in the hall closet."

I ran to the hall closet and began rifling through the bag. Towels. Lotions. Toys. But no swimsuit. The only thing close to a usable pair of swim trunks were the old pair I wore last year, and they were a size too small.

"They're not here," I yelled back in frustration. "All I found were my old ones."

My mother, who hated having conversations by yelling at each other across the house, came to the hall closet. "I don't know where they could have gone," she said. Why don't you just use your trunks from last year?"

"The old ones?" I replied. "No way! They're too small!"

My mother shrugged her shoulders. "Then I guess you'll just have to go naked."

Naked? No way! I knew she was being sarcastic, but I couldn't go naked! Not only was this the first birthday swim party of the year, but this would also be the first boy/girl party I had ever been to and I was dead set on showing up wearing the proper attire.

"Can't I just wear a pair of shorts and underwear? I asked. I was beginning to get desperate. I would rather have to deal with wearing heavy, droopy drawers than swim in my old swimsuit that was too small.

"No," she replied. I could tell that she was beginning to get frustrated.

"Please?"

"No."

"Come on."

"No."

"Just this once. Pleease."

My mother had had enough. "No! Either wear the old trunks or don't swim at all!"

There it was. The ultimatum. When mom threw down the gauntlet I knew that the conversation was over. I either had to sit on the sidelines at the party and watch everyone have a good time or suck it up and wear my old swim trunks.

"Alright. I'll wear the old trunks."

"Good," my mother said with a satisfied grin on her face. "Don't forget to get a towel and sunscreen as well." She walked back down the hall to the kitchen to continue whatever it was she was doing.

I reached back into the beach bag and pulled out my old swimsuit. They were yellow with a thin red stripe that went down the sides of the suit and around the bottom of the leg holes. They looked like a pair of running shorts. You know, the kind you see someone wearing and think to yourself, "Boy are those some short shorts." Worst of all was the fact that they were beginning to get a little thin and see-through. But it was either wear this pair of trunks or miss out on all the fun, and I wasn't going to miss this party…my first boy/girl party.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo

I used to hate writing growing up. I would have much rather been drawing pictures of cartoon characters or fantastical landscapes than express myself through written words. But when I became a teacher and began to teach writing to students, something in me began to change. I began to get excited about things like sentence structure, grammar (which I call G.U.M. time in my class - Grammar Usage and Mechanics), and narrative writing. Since teaching is all about modeling to your students, it became hard for me to not take part in the writing assignments that I was giving out to my students.

For the month of November, my students and I, and thousands of other students around the nation, are taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For the entire month, we choose to use 30 minutes of our day to write in our NaNoWriMo journals. Now to some, this may seem like an easy feat, but you would be surprised at how difficult this can truly be. This year, being my third time taking part in the activity, I decided to truly take advantage of the 30 minutes of writing and push myself to create something. And I did.

Yesterday, I finished my first story in my journal. I never would have thought of writing a short story in my spare time, but now that I have done it I actually really enjoyed it. But being the creative person that I am, I am left wanting something a little more. I feel the need to share. Stories are meaningless if they are not shared, so for the following days on the Three Bell Chime, I am going to share my story with you. I know it may be a bit long, but I hope all of you will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Want to learn more about NaNoWriMo and join the thousands of kids writing this month in the USA, click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Rant

I try not to be a negative person. I really do, but there are some things in the world that just make me see red. What might make me so agitated that I have to write about it on my blog? you wonder. This. How people are conditioned to skip past Thanksgiving and move right on to Christmas.

For those of you that know me well, Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year. Not only does it happen in the fall (my favorite season), but it also is a holiday that can't be tainted by the commercial garbage that comes along with holidays like the 4th of July, Halloween, and Christmas. It's about giving thanks for the things you have, appreciating everything and everyone, and celebrating that fact with the ones we love. It's an "unselfish" holiday, and I think this is the reason people want to skip past it. They want to get to the "getting" holiday in stead of focus on Thanksgiving, which leads me to my rant.

This year Halloween came and went, and the following day I needed to stop by Target to pick up a few odds and ends. But as I walked into the door, I couldn't help but groan. There in front of me, were gigantic Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling. Red, green and silver were everywhere. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus...but only when it's CHRISTMAS TIME! Then, two weeks ago, which was the first week of November, Alli and I are driving back home to our apartment when all of the sudden we see three homes, lit up and fully decorated for Christmas. One even already had a tree up and decorated!

Think of this as a little food for thought.

Starting Christmas too early not only takes the focus off of Thanksgiving, but it also takes the fun and excitement out of Christmas. In my opinion, having to wait to decorate and open up all those Christmas boxes we have stored away for the year makes me appreciate them more because I only see them for one month out of the year. By doing so, it helps me really focus on giving thanks for my family, friends, and everything God has provided for us. So this year, keep the Christmas decorations in their boxes until after Thanksgiving. That way we can completely focus on what we are supposed to really be doing...GIVING THANKS.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Flame

A little while ago, I was approached by Dania at our church if I would be interested in helping her write a short play for church.  I didn't know that this would really help me open my eyes to the fact that I am really beginning to enjoy writing.  Below is the video of the performance.  We really wanted to show that people need to take advantage of the gifts that God has given them, no matter where they are in their life.  I also had the pleasure of acting in it as well.  Enjoy.


The Crazies Come Out During the Holidays

Alli and I follow a few blogs and sites that are pretty funny, and with Halloween right around the corner it seems as if everyone is out to have some fun. This includes cats, cake makers, and an ewok that really loves Al Roker. Just see for yourself.

For cake madness, click here.

For zombie cats, click here.

And for frisky Ewoks, just check out the video below.


Friday, September 18, 2009

School, Sickness and Stones

What a beginning of the year.  It has definitely started with a bang.  My class is wonderful this year.  A little chatty, but I have yet to see any signs of defiance or any mean students.  But just like every year before, the beginning of the year came crashing down on me.  There's nothing like going from only interacting with a few people a day to having a school full of 600 plus kids that are all sniffling and sneezing.  So it didn't take long before I was feeling ill.  And then on top of that, the first Sunday of the year where I had to play was accompanied with severe back pain.  I honestly thought it was a kidney stone.  I was wondering if I had done something to deserve all of these misfortunes all at the same time.  Luckily, there was no kidney stone, I'm feeling better thanks to the doc, and the year is now sliding into it's groove.  Sheesh! What a beginning of the year.

But every bad thing always has a silver lining.  That silver lining came to me in the form of a song from one of my good friends, Jay McKenney.  It's entitled "Kidney Stone".  You can click here to listen to it.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Favorite

Through the summer, there has been a ton of pic of Clark...so many that I have to refrain from putting them all on the blog. But as the summer comes to a close, I have found my favorite. There's nothing like a boy and his dad both looking handsome for the camera at the Oregon Zoo.

Monday, August 10, 2009

An Unexpected Surprise

The zoo is usually the place where you go to see animals. But not this time. As my family and I were taking a break at one of the many benches in the Portland Zoo, I was busy watching people. But as I scanned the crowd, I came across a familiar face. But I had to be sure it was him before I walked up to him. So I waited to hear his accent. As soon as he opened his mouth and his Irish accent became apparent, I was already up and making a move to introduce myself. But as I got closer, I totally blanked on his name. I knew he was Badger on Firefly, Romo Lampkin on Battlestar, Tanaka on Dollhouse, and I even just recently saw him on an old season one X-Files episode as a pyrokinetic assassin named Bob the caretaker. But what do you say to an actor that you remember his characters and not his name? The answer is anything but "Hey, are you that guy from Battlestar?". But before I could stop myself, that was exactly what I said, to which his answer was yes. My inner fanboy was giggling with glee. He politely introduced himself as Mark Sheppard, introduced his family, and we began talking. He said he was in town shooting "Leverage" and that he was taking a break with his family. I explained that I loved his work on BSG and loved all of his characters. He was so friendly and humble. We talked about BSG, how he missed it, his work as a villain on Burn Notice, and his family. He was even kind enough to take a picture with me. What an awesome guy! I just hope he was the kind of actor that is flattered by people knowing his characters instead of his real name. Oops. Oh well.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Clark's New Obsessions

These last few weeks have really begun to show me that Clark is definitely my son.

Example 1: We've been trying to make him laugh by making odd noises and the only thing that will make him laugh is a fart sound. Typical boy.

Example 2: He loves to play. He also loves variety. Whether it be on his play mat, bouncer, swing, or sitting in his Bumbo, he loves to wiggle and giggle his way through the day.

Example 3: The boys already likes watching TV. But not just any TV. He loves cartoons. So this morning the two of us sat in front of the tele and watched Superman. As you can see, he couldn't keep his eyes off it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Random Road Trip Moments

Lots of things can happen on a road trip. Some good, some bad. Now that we are done with the first half of our trip, I would like to give out a few awards to places and individuals we encountered on the way to California.

The Cheesiest Road Sign Award: This award goes out to the city of Weed, CA. As you enter the city there is a sign that says, "WEED like to welcome you!" This made both Alli and I groan. Clark, on the other hand, was speechless.

The Super Origami-Man Award: While stopping at a BK in Redding, CA, for lunch, we met a man who had the knack for folding paper. When we sat down he was in the process of making a little girl at the table next to us a T-rex. Then, as he was leaving, he gave Clark the gift of a dollar that had been folded into a tiny little collared shirt. It was so cool! I was totally inspired by this man who used his gift of paper folding to bring a little joy to others around him.

The Coolest Invention Award: Everyone has seen those vending machines that you come across in the bathrooms at truck stops. They dispense everything from aspirin to condoms to fake tattoos. But Alli and I saw a new one. Cologne. This machine had five different spray nozzles that will squirt your choice of imitation scents on you for only a few measly coins. The silliest thing was that in order to get your neck up to the nozzles, most people of average height would have to stand on their tippy toes. Sheer genius!

The Most Thoughtful Train Conductor Award: On the final stretch of road on the way to Fresno, we came across a train crossing our path. Not a problem...usually. With only one and a half train cars left to go, the conductor stopped the train. Just when we thought we were almost there, we had to turn around after waiting 15 minutes. Thanks a bunch, inconsiderate train conductor man!

The Ding-dong-McGee Award: This one goes out to yours truly. We made our first stop of the road trip at the Woodburn outlets, which was only about 45 minutes from our home. Alli pulled out a brand new container of formula for Clark. The tab to open the container broke off as she tried to open it. Without even thinking, I said, "Just hand it to me. I can open it." I pulled out my keys. The sharp edge of a key would be more than enough to pop the top of the container. So I took the key and pushed. Good news, the can was open. Bad news, in my rush to open the container, I opened it a little too hard. With a nice firm push, I pushed the key, and my fist, to the bottom of the can. Formula shot everywhere, coating Clark and the entire backseat of the car with a hefty dose of white powder. Clark stared at me in shock. Alli laughed out loud. And I, not wanting to curse in front of my child, began to spurt out the closest thing possible to what I truly wanted to say. "Ef! Ef, ef, ef, ef, ef, ef, ef!" One hour later, after a good vacuuming and a much needed cool-down period, we made our way to California.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's Over

Finally, the school year is over. It was good to see the kids go, but as always a little tough to let go of all the kiddies as they go to the next grade. As you can see for yourself, they all turned out great by the end of the year. Don't they all look so smart?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Countdown

The end of the year is usually quite hectic.  The kids get wilder with each passing day.  They also keep track of the days that are left in the year.  Today makes it 3 days left of school.  I can remember making the paper chains and tearing a ring every day until I was down to the last day.  Students still do this today.  But the one thing that the students don't know is that teachers count down the days more than they do.  Man, I can't wait for Friday to be over!  Summertime here we come!  

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The End of the Season

So many things have or are about to end. Being married with out kids. Over. School. 10 days till it's over (and yes, I'm counting). Premiere League. Manchester United were champs yet again! Our old couches. Passed on to another while new ones are on the way. Cold days. Over. Summer is peaking it's pretty head finally in our neck of the woods. And so many TV shows. The seasons are over while we wait to see what will happen. And since I won't be teaching summer school, I've made a list of things to do to carry me through the summer. Hope I didn't leave anything out.

Books to Read: The Book of Lies - Brad Meltzer, Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind, and finish as many Harry Potter books as I can before the next movie comes out.

Games to Play with people who I want to hang out with: Carcassonne with Alli, WOW Minis with Chris, Zombies with Clint, and Fifa 09 with Sean and Tyler.

Places I want to go to: Visalia for Chris and Mimi's wedding, Forest Park for some hiking, more Timber's games, and the church basement to record music for the church.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Eating Crow

It's quite funny to look back on those times when you spewed out some silly phrase in the past about something in particular and have to eat your own words.  For example, I used to complain to my wife about how I always wanted to see more posts from my friends (who all happen to have kids).  We'll now it's my turn to eat a little crow.  It's been three weeks since my last post.  3 weeks and about 300 diapers later.  Oh, how kids can take up your time.  And it's not that I don't want to share information or posts about things going on with my friends.  It's just that now there is another person that I want to spend more time with than sitting on the computer typing.  Funny how things change.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To My Wife and Mother of My Son

Has it already been almost 9 years since the two of us met at Sugar Pine? It's amazing to think about our journey that we have already had over the last (almost) decade. Dating for 2 and a half years. Engaged for 6 months. And married for almost 6 years. It's also fun to think back about what we said about having kids. Three years was the first agreement. Then three years passed and we both thought that we were having too much fun. But two years later we thought it was time and now look at us. God must have had things all planned out. Not only did he come at a great time, but now you and I will get to spend the summer together with Clark. What a ride! But the one constant thing I have continued to see over the last (almost) 9 years is that I love you just as much as I did when I realized I wanted to marry you. It's probably even more. You continue to help me become a good man and a better husband. And with this day being your first Mother's Day, I have to say that I can't wait to see you help our son become a good man as well. I know you'll love, care, encourage, and nurture him just as much as you do for me. I love you, Alli! And you are, even thought it's only been for 20 days, a great mom. Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kung-Fu Midnight Madness

Remember in the old days when you could only go see kung-fu movies at the midnight showings? Well Clark and I have started a new tradition. With mommy needing more rest, we're able to catch up on some Hong Kong cinema classics. So even though it's 3 A.M. as I type, it's nice to know that I now have someone to watch kung-fu movies with.

Tonight's Kung-Fu Double Feature:
Rumble in the Bronx and Righting Wrongs (Also known as Above the Law)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Clark Alden Porter is Here!

Check out Clark! He's awesome and we love him! And I'm a dad! Wow!


You can see more of Clark and the family by clicking here. Check it out!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

13 to Go

I can't believe that there is only 13 days left  until our due date.  I'm really starting to get to the point where I am really ready to meet my son.  So is Alli...and so are Alli's feet.  It's been cool to watch the changes happen as baby got bigger, and I'm sure that there will be plenty of changes to come that will blow my mind.  But it's good to know that for some reason today, I feel completely ready.  Now it's just a matter of being patient.  Can't wait to finally meet you, C.A.P.!

Monday, April 13, 2009

31 and Counting: #19 - Themed Boxers/Pajamas

There is something very amusing to me about funny boxers.  I can only imagine the thoughts that go through the people's heads as they sit and choose the fabric and prints that they use to make these undergarments.  I think I even enjoy it a little more now that I have a wife that thinks that they are just as funny as I do.  The list of witty types of boxer prints out there is endless, so here is a list I have compiled of my favorites.  

Boxers covered with...
  1. Acorns (or any type of nut)
  2. Super Heroes (They never get old... probably started with Underoos)
  3. Wooden Soldier Nutcrackers
  4. Christmas Packages
  5. Fruit (Haven't seen them with the fruit basket yet, but I'm sure someone will come up with it sooner or later)
The only one I'm surprised I haven't seen yet are treasure chests or some sort of jewels.  I know... I have a slightly perverse mind, but I think it's pretty darn funny.

Any boxer prints you've seen lately that have made you laugh?  

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

31 and Counting: #20 - Pubs

There is something about a good pub. Especially English or Irish pubs. I think it all boils down to this. Good atmosphere + Good Food + Good Beer = Good Pub. Some people think that just because the pub is an English pub that the food doesn't have to be good. But I have to disagree. It has to be good if you are truly going to enjoy yourself. Soccer on the tele is also a wonderful addition as well. Over the years, my friends and I used to (or at least Alli and I still) frequent the pubs we love. Here's the list of pubs you should check out if you ever have the chance.
  • There was The Old Ship in Fullerton, CA. We love that place because of the late 40s English waitresses that would call you "love". It's known for it's red phone booth outside.
  • There was The Old Ship's sister pub, The Crown and Anchor in Monterey, CA, which was like Cheers, where you have to walk downstairs to get to the pub. It was dark and musty, but was all English.
  • BC's Pizza and Beer is as close as you can get to a pub in Clovis, CA. You can take a 50 beer tour around the world and get a plaque on the wall. I made it 1 1/2 times around the world. My plaque reads "If only my mama could see me now." I know. I was a total turd when I wrote this. Sorry, mom.
  • Kell's Irish Pub in downtown Portland, OR, has to be one of the best. It's nice and classy, but still has the pub feel. They even have a way to stick a dollar and 2 quarters to the ceiling. They say it's "Irish Magic". I have to find out how they do it. But the best thing of all about this pub is their Guiness Shepherd's Pie. Yum!
  • Last, is a new find. My friend Sean found a pub that plays the Premier games on Saturdays and Sundays. It's called the Horse Brass Pub in Portland, OR. Soccer. Great beer. (They actually have the Old Speckled Hen.) And a totally traditional English Breakfast that comes on a huge plate. Everything was awesome, but I still don't know if I'm a fan of Fried Bread (Yep, it's bread that has been deep fried...that's it.) Here's a pic of Sean and I at the Horse Brass as well.
You would never see this in England. A Man U fan crushing a pint with an Arsenal fan. Sheesh!

Monday, April 6, 2009

OK Hike


There is nothing like stepping out your door, driving to the forest and hiking on a dreary day. The only thing I usually struggle with is what to listen to as I hike. But since today was drizzling and especially dark, I thought a little Radiohead OK Computer would do well. It did. It was perfect! And it made it even better to hike to the Stone House in Forest Park. It was an old Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in the 1930s but later was abandoned and ruined in the 1962 Columbus Day Storm. It all looked very spooky and ancient. All in all, music + hiking + sweet old houses = a jolly good time.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mustache March Finale

All good things must come to an end. But for our wives, this particular "good thing" came to an end way too late. By the end of the month, only Clint and I were left with facial hair that could be mistaken for a black comb being taped to our top lip. And with it being the end, you have to sport the solo mustache. But before I go on to show you our pictures, let's take a walk through memory lane and thank all of the great men of media who helped inspire us through the month of March.

Like Kevin Kline, who rocked a huge comb-like mustache in French Kiss.

Or who can forget Ron Burgundy and his mustache bringing San Diego the nightly news.

And last but not least, Tom Selleck, his mustache, and his baby blue eyes.

All of this manliness you see before you led to this great month, and all we could do was stand tall and proud of our mustaches. At least we can look back in time and say, "Although this may not have been the coolest thing at the time, mustaches were once cool...just not according to our wives."

Although we may have looked like THIS to everyone else around us...

we really felt like THIS. Tough. Manly. And proud of the fact that we can grow hair on our upper lip!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Song - Mistaken

This song has been sitting in my mind for some time now. It was one of those songs that never got recorded or even played live. All I had was a tape recording of the song from a past band practice, so I had to make a good recording of it. The song is about how every summer I would go off to camp, away from the norm, and would end up having some sort of summer crush. These usually were very short yet very emotional relationships. You spend the whole week pining for this girl and then by the time you have the courage to make a move, your time is practically over. But along with those relationships came confusion. You can misread physical cues, actions, and words yet still fall head over heals for some girl you don't even know, but for some reason...it's worth it and you'd do it again the following year. If you haven't guessed yet, I loved camp and have fond memories. I mean, that's how I found my wife. :)

To hear the song, just click here or visit http://drop.io/portermusic.

My New Story

Wild Horse Canyon from the top of the hill.

Two weekends ago, I got to go back to Wild Horse Canyon for this year's Sunset Men's Retreat. I had enjoyed myself so much last year, that I knew I had to go again the following year. Then we found out Donald Miller was going to be the speaker (author of Blue Like Jazz). My excitement level began to rise. He's from Portland and I already had a few of his books. Jay, our worship leader, then asked if I could play for the weekend. Cha-Ching! So now, not only would I be able to hear a great speaker, I would also be able to serve during the event. The icing on the cake was that we got to go up to the camp a day early, hang out, and practice. It couldn't get any better than that.

The whole worship team, Pastor Ron and Donald Miller.

But it did. Don talked about how individuals like ourselves are in the middle of our own personal/faith stories and asked us, "What is the story that you are telling?" and that it all boiled down to asking ourselves who do we want to be/do and going for it. I was moved. Not to say that my story is all that bad, but there are definitely some areas that are rough around the edges. So I began to make a list... a list of all of the things I wanted to do. One thing stuck out. Song writing. For some reason, I felt it was time I stop writing for myself and start writing for God.

God must have been ready for me to give him the reigns. Other members in the team started saying they wanted to be a part of writing worship and making music to share with the church and possibly record. I don't know if I was ready for that but it's in full swing now. I'm just eager to see what happens. As Don said, there may be some conflict, fear, and doubt involved, but if you hang on to your story, God can do awesome things. Personally, I can't wait to see what happens.

Don and me with my mustache - part 2.
(All the kids at school called me Luigi. LOL!)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Birthday Weekend

It was great to go out and catch up with everyone on my birthday. We did pretty much everything I wanted to do. First we went to Kell's Irish Pub for some grub and brews. They even had on a few soccer matches so that I could watch some footie as well. The best part of all was that most of my friends were there to celebrate with me. Clint and Marla, Sean and Susan and Jake, Mark, Travis and Beth, and Craig and Nicki were all there with Alli and I.

Alli and I love Kell's!

Clint and Marla had a REALLY fun time.

Jake, Sean, and Susan

Mark, Craig, and Travis

Beth and Nicki

After that, we all went back to our place to hang out, have some cake and chill. The only problem is that we didn't have candles and I had to blow out imaginary candles. At least the cake was awesome! Funfetti cake with rainbow chip frosting! This is my favorite cake of all time! It's been the standard since I was really young and Alli makes it for me every year even though she always asks me, "Are you sure you just want rainbow chip cake?" My answer never changes. It's always, "Yes." We also watched one of my favorite shows called MXC...Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. There is nothing like laughing at cheesy overdubbed voices, jokes and other people's pain when they wipe out while trying to perform an obscure challenge. Chris and Nicole Langton also joined up with us at our place. Their gift...beer. And what type of beer did they bring? See for yourself.

Makin' a wish.

The Porter.

Thanks to everyone who was able to make it out and party. It was a blast.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mustache March: Week 1 - The Tough Guy Look


That's right... It's Mustache March.  Out of the eight of us, only three remain.  Ken, our janitor, already had a mustache so he didn't do Full Beard February, but man does his stache look good.  As for Clint and I, we are sticking to the plan (unlike Sean, in the background, who is sticking with his trimmed beard).  First up in the way of special shaves is the the Tough Guy Look. This is the full chops attached to the mustache. It's the staple for bikers and wrestlers.  Sure, most of the ladies we work with think we are crazy, but we don't think anything of it because they thought we were crazy even before we had crazy facial hair.  So here it is!  Week 1!  Up next, the Frenchman!


31 and Counting: #21 - Blogs

The other day my wife told me about a comment that was left on one of our friends blog.  The comment on the blog was something like this... "This blog makes no sense."  The more I thought about this comment the more I thought about the true purpose of a blog.  The best definition I have ever heard for blogs comes from the title of my friend Phil's blog.  In his blog title it says, "A blog for you... and by you I mean me."  Sure, blogs can be written for many reasons, but that is the best part about a blog.  You can write about whatever you want.  It doesn't have to make sense.  As long as the writer is content with what he or she is writing about, who cares if it doesn't make sense.  Blogs can be used to share stories, pictures, ideas, songs, random thoughts, sheer stupidity and any other reason you can think of.  That's why I love them.  They reflect the author's creativity and thoughts, as well as their passions and ideas.  So keep blogging for others... and by others I mean you.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

31 and Counting: #22 - Trade Paperbacks

A couple of years ago, I made the transition of buyer of comic books to buyer of trade paperbacks.  What is a trade paperback?  A trade paperback is a collection of comic books that collect a complete story arc.  Although trade paperbacks don't grow in value over time like comic books, they tend to be cheaper and don't take up as much room.  

At first, I was really against the idea of buying trade paperbacks.  The only reason you would buy one is if you couldn't get your hands on rare issues and wanted to read the (usually important) story arc.  But after I got married and the number of boxes of comics began to grow in my closet (10 boxes!), I decided enough was enough.  It was no surprise that my wife wholeheartedly agreed.  But as time passed by, I realized that a few things were changing for the better.  First, I wasn't spending as much money.  Second, if the trade paperback wasn't good, I could sell it back to a used book store to get money to buy a new one. You can even filter out the bad stuff by reading reviews of the comics to see if you even want or need to read it.  Lastly, no longer do I need to wait to read a complete story.  It's all there.  Sure I have to wait a long time for the next trade paperback to come out, but that waiting time is filled with reading other trades.