Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Break.

In 17 years of marriage and 5 years of dating preceding that, we have worked out a rigorous schedule to get time with both our families. It takes planning, determination and full tank of gas.

Since Christmas Eve is Mrs F's Mother's Birthday we head to my sister-in-laws for Christmas Eve. We usually do a big spread up in God-knows-where PA and stay until after midnight but this year sister-in-law and her husband were singing at Midnight Mass at Our Lady of the Sticks church so we pushed Christmas ahead by three hours. I some how convinced the crowd that it was in everyone's best interest to watch the Cincinnati-Denver game since I had two players in Fantasy Football in the playoffs in that game. We usually watch "A Christmas Story" five hundred or so times until we can repeat lines from it. (I think, with a little effort, we as a nation, can make "A Christmas Story" like "Rocky Horror Picture Show" with audience participation and an annual family event. )

Every year at my sister-in-laws at about 8 pm or so we have the same conversation: "What time are we getting to Mom's?" This conversation revolves around what time everyone will be arriving to my Mother-in-laws to exchange presents on Christmas even though we just saw each other hours before at my sister in laws. Same people - different geography.

We have this conversation knowing two things perfect well:
  • We always say 2 PM.
  • We always lie.
We could have the conversation in July with similar results but we do our best to make it by the prescribed time.

The actual arrival time of each party follows the "inverse of the distance" rule. The further away you live, the closer to the prescribed time you arrive. We live in another state but some how get there before her brother and sister that live in the next township.

This year my mother in law generously gave us each checks for Christmas and my wife whispered to me "how much?" looking at her check. Thinking quickly, told her I got twice as much as she did.

We exchange gifts there and then head to my mother and fathers for dinner.

This year was a little different at my Mom's since the Eagles-Dallas game came right in the middle of our visit and took precedence. We exchanged gifts at commercials and sat to eat home made raviolli just after half time. The filet wasn't quite ready after the pasta so we all headed back to the game to watch the Eagles crush the hated Cowboys and the receiver who's name we dare not speak.

We got to work up more of an appetite for the filet.

As is customary, I've taken the week between Christmas and New Years as vacation but this year Mrs F has to work so it is a little different. I have made a list of things that I wanted to get done and she made me a new list of things she wanted to get done and guess what - blogging wasn't on either list so you can imagine how that is going.

So I better get back to my list and get to work.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


A few weeks ago Youngest Son and I were flipping through channels and landed on one of the three hundred HBO channels my cable company seems to carry. We ended up watching a World War II series that somehow we had missed when it first came out in 2001 called "A Band of Brothers".

This is the story of "Easy Company" of the 516 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st airborne division and at first we thought it was just another fictional account of WWII. Later we noticed that the real people whose stories were being told were interviewed at the beginning of each episode.

We were hooked. The only problem was that we had really only seen the end of the story and not the 9 episodes before. We picked up the whole set at the local library and have been watching them for weeks now on and off.

The men interviewed really down play their heroism but some of the things these men did where unbelievable, heroic events. One example: In December 19th of 1944 they marched into Bastogne, Belgium as the German Army was sweeping through the area in the last great German offensive of the war in the Battle of the Bulge. The soldiers that had been in the area were leaving as they marched in. Within 24 hours of settling in they were completely cut off and surrounded and spent the next few days being shelled in their foxholes in the snow. Many were killed and maimed but they stood their ground in one of the famous battles of WWII.

I have been fascinated with the "Battle of the Ardennes" as it officially called since seeing that episode, especially since it happened at exactly this time of year. It's been haunting me for days as I have spent a lot of my free time reading stories and checking maps.

I also wonder what the next large scale war like this will be like. The technology has changed so much now and I think Americans have as well. Are we willing to fight like that again? I'd like to think we would but I don't know.

Either way I have a new respect for the men that fought in WWII after seeing just some of what they went through.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I think I pulled something......

I think I pulled something getting back up on the Philadelphia Eagles bandwagon. A few weeks ago after the Monday Night debacle in Indianapolis I was ready to leave them for dead but now that they have won two in a row and remain in the wildcard hunt for the NFC, I believe again.

Yes, they can't stop the run, sacks are way down, they have two huge injuries (McNabb and Kearse). I actually think they think they can do it.

Yesterdays game was coyote ugly and they were lucky to walk away with the W but a win is a win and they are back above 500 again thanks to Brian Dawkins game saving sack of Jason Campbell.

Match the Bengals player with the charge.
CB Deltha O'Neal
spousal abuse;
DE Frostee Rucker
DT Matthias Askew
G Eric Steinbach
resisting arrest;
LB A.J. Nicholson
operating a boat under the influence;
LB Odell Thurman
WR Chris Henry
resisting arrest and drug possession
WR Reggie McNeal

Fantasy Update
I am also tired after staying up too late to watch the The Dallas - New Orleans game. It was doubly sweet since I have Brees and McAllister in the playoffs of my Fantasy league and my opponent had the Cowboys defense. My team, The Fragile Porcelain Mice, move on to the next round of the playoffs having knocked off the team with LT. Every time Brees threw a pass, the Dallas Defense dropped in points. It was beautiful.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A hook, a hat and a coat.

When youngest son was about four we took him to Santa at Macy's downtown. It was a special employees only visit and my Mom joined us for the day. There was a long line and when it finally was Youngest Son's turn, he got in the big man's lap and said:

"I want a-hook-a-hat-and-a-coat".

We had no idea what this meant. We heard coat.

We thought he wanted a new coat because as the youngest of four cousins Youngest Son was always getting every one else's hand me downs. I felt terrible. The boy had asked Santa for a coat.

We completely misunderstood.

Both boys has spent the better part of the previous year watching Peter Pan and were fascinated with Cap't Hook. He wanted a pirate hook for a hand, a pirate hat and a pirate coat.


My Mother made the boy a red pirate coat complete with ruffled sleeves and wide lapels and we found a hook and hat.

That Christmas morning the first thing he opened was hook. He then used the hook to open the gift wrap on all the other presents.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Waste of a day

Yesterday was not exactly what I would call a productive day.

I still needed to cut the ornamental grass before it spent the winter blowing all over the yard, under the pool cover and into the water and to do this task I needed twine. It's string. I needed string.

A house full of crap and I can't find string.

I know I had some in the house and spend an hour searching through junk draws, shed and garage before I gave up and decided to run to the store. I ran over to the local Stop and Shop that used to be a Super G because I knew they had what I was after.

After searching the store-I-am-learning-to-hate for 30 minutes I gave up. Apparently one of the differences between Super G and Stop and Shop is twine. Some genius at Stop and Shop thought "If we only get rid of the twine, people will flock to our store". No twine.

So hustle off to the drug store and then a larger drug store. I became an expert at searching through those pseudo hardware sections that the supermarkets and drug stores have, you know, the one with the tiny hammers and tools that no one ever buys because it isn't really a hardware store - it's a food store.

Anyway after an hour and half of that frustration, I gave up and went home. I had wanted to give the boys a task before heading out to food shop but it wasn't going to be to bundle up the grass.

I food shopped at my Shoprite and stumbled upon, of all things, twine. I was never so excited to see twine. It was like finding the Ark of the Covenant in aisle 34.

I finished shopping (did you ever notice that the people enter the food store with you with seem to be like your shopping buddies? You see them in every aisle. Some times going the same direction up the aisle, sometimes the opposite. This is really awkward if you know them and you finish the small talk in "produce" and end up seeing in every aisle "frozen foods". It's like you have nothing to say so you nod awkwardly every time you see them.)

So I sent the boys out to wrap grass with twine while I unpacked.

After putting all the food away I went out to cut the grasses with the hedge trimmers.

For years I have been giving my Dad a hard time because whenever he uses the hedge trimmers he ends up cutting the extension cord. I usually end up repairing it and shortening it so that a 50 foot cord ends up being 13.2 feet long.


It was getting dark because I had frittered the day away looking for twine. I had one last grass to cut down and was hustling to get it done.

I reached the trimmer around the back of the last stand of grass and started whacking away and when the last stand of grass was done I noticed that I had cut a wire leading into the house that came out of the ground and into the garage.

I cut the phone line into the house with the hedge trimmer.

It could have been worse. The Cable TV was right next to it.

So now we have no phone. So I call the phone company except I have no idea who "the phone company" is anymore. I search through bills for a phone bill that may have a clue as to who "the phone company" is.

It's MCI. I call MCI.

I am convinced that there is only one actual person that works at MCI. We'll get to him later. All of the other people have been overtaken by machines like in those Terminator movies. On July 27th 2004 MCI became self aware.

MCI is now only voice response units via telephone.

Not only are they voice response units, they want you to talk your response. None of this "press one of English" stuff, they want you to say "English".

Great plan - unless you have two barking schnauzers in the background. Then it's a series of "I'm sorry I didn't get that, could you repeat it" responses from the robots that have overtaken MCI.

You didn't get that because you don't understand schnauzer!

We have a plan with MCI called the neighborhood. I found out that the neighborhood has the only human at MCI, the repairman. The repairman is busy because we had storms on Friday.

I spend the next 20 minutes with a pleasant woman with a thick Hispanic accent explaining I have no phone.

She is going through her script "I want you to unplug all the phones in the house and have them change rooms - put the bedroom phone in the kitchen" etc etc.

I fess up to cut to the chase to keep from playing silly games with my phones like "OK plug in all the red ones". I explain that I cut the wire coming into the house and need a repairman (OK, the repairman) to fix it.

We spend the next 10 minutes explaining where the cut is. I find myself saying "the wire comes out of the ground and into the house and before it goes into the house it was cut". This seems simple enough to me but she is not understanding she wants to if the wire was cut "coming off the pole". All of our cabling is underground and there is no pole!

She is not getting it and I am convinced I am talking to a machine. A machine ingenuously designed with a thick Hispanic accent.

"The wire comes out of the ground and into the house and it was cut before coming into the house" I keep repeating this, over and over with schnauzers yapping in the background.

She/it finally understands and we decide the best time for the repairman to come is Sunday afternoon. Maybe. Since things are busy, they may not be able to come until Tuesday.

Until then, please call me in my cell phone.