The Applebee’s Knees

October 1, 2007

     Almost every Friday, I go to lunch with some guys from work.  On occasion, the family gets to join us.  One such Friday we all met at Applebee’s.  It was the day after Owen’s second birthday.  As we walked up to the door, it swung open and there stood the manager to greet us.

     “Welcome to Applebee’s,” he said as we entered.  “Hey little man, how are you?”  I looked at Owen and asked him again, trying to make him feel it was ok to respond I guess.  “How old is he?” the manager asked.  We said “he’s two, as of yesterday anyway.”  “Oh that’s great. I have a two year old at home myself.”

     Eventually we get sat and on the way to the table Mr. S. from work asks me if we spell Owen, O W E N, which I assure him we do.  I immediately interpret this to mean there is cake or pie in Owen’s near future.  We sit and have our usual lunchtime conversations.  There was a bit more talk about gaming since Halo 3 had been released like 3 days earlier, but I digress.  Near the end of the meal we see the manager approaching with a few other waitresses, or so it seems, and he’s not carrying a cake, or pie, or any other confectionary product.  No, he has a giant blue gift bag with lighter colored blue paper sprouting from the top.  “This is different,” I think to myself.  He hands a card to Jess with Owen’s name written on it in big yellow letters and states he was going to go the cake and song route, but knows sometimes the kids don’t react well to that.  “So we got him this instead.”

     I put the bag on the floor next to Owen and help him pull out the surprise gift.  It’s a fire truck that’s almost as long as he is tall.  “Every two year old boy should have a fire truck,” the manager says.  I show Owen the buttons on the truck and he starts pushing all of them at once.  The lights start flashing, the sirens start screaming.  He loved it.  Still does actually.  He’ll just sit on the floor and push the buttons and play with the ladder, all the while saying “Daddy’s.”  I guess he thinks all trucks are Daddy’s, or maybe he’s saying “like Daddy’s”.  I’m ok with that for now.  Eventually, Jack chimes in with some loud howling that makes Owen upset.  Owen doesn’t understand why Jack acts that way even though we try to explain.

So this has certainly never happened to us before.  It was very nice and it sure made my day.  I’ll be saying nice things about Applebee’s for awhile anyway.

     Oh I forgot to mention, and I guess it’s not obvious, but there was a gift receipt in the bag for the truck with that day’s date on it.  So he must’ve run down to Target and bought all that stuff while we were eating.  Something must’ve really clicked with that guy when he saw Owen.  Maybe he reminded him of his two year old, who knows what made him do it.  It was just really cool.  What a surprise for all of us.

Fire Surfer

August 13, 2007

fireworks.jpgForever Free this weekend at Myers Park, McKinney, TX.  The postponed Independence Day celebration was a lot of fun for all of us.  Owen enjoyed the big bouncy slide and the helicopters and the guns, and the trucks.  He really liked the helicopter that took off every 15 minutes.  Jess took some great pics of him and I in the big OshKosh truck and the Apache helicopter.  There’s even one of Rachel watching the fireworks.  Check out her flickr site here.

I took a few pictures of the fireworks, but only one came out worth anything.  It’s actually not a very good picture of the firework because I was moving when it was taken.  But that did create a cool effect.  Click the image to enlarge.  Does anyone else see the surfer in the middle of the blast?  I think it’s kinda crazy actually.  I put another animated gif up here to sort of outline the surfer.

The Bubbas and the Breezes

July 29, 2007

You’ll have to read this with your best Roy D. voice to get the right effect.  Click here if ya don’t know who I’m talking about.

I’m at Wal-Mart for the second time Saturday, returning some ground beef with some questionable additives.  While searching for a replacement pack, I decide to show what I’m returning to the meat manager.  If ya didn’t know, now ya do, Wal-Mart doesn’t have a meat manager.  All the employees around were more interested in what was in the meat than finding me the best person to talk to about it.  As I tried to exit the scene, I was stopped by Jim Bob who was calling Leroy over to “Come ov’r ‘n see-iss.”  I select my new 2.25 lbs of beef and head to the Customer Service counter.

Again, there are many employees very interested in what’s in the beef, not getting me out the door.  As I’m waiting, Cletus and Sara Ann Jean are returning their Ionic Breeze.

“They don’t work, you cain’t hear nothin’ when you plug ’em in.  Sara Ann Jean’s been up ‘ere, this’l be the fifth time today cuz they don’t work.”

I, unable to keep my mouth shut (didn’t learn my lesson from the beef), inform the gentleman that “You’re not gonna hear anything when these are on.  That’s one of their claims, silent operation because there are no moving parts.”  Well that flew about as high over his head as a Low Earth Orbit Satellite.

“You gotta hear somethin’ when the motor starts up.”  This is when you know it’s time to leave.  I signed my return receipt and headed out.  Between five employees and two customers, none of them could read “Operates in complete silence” on the side of the box. 

Who doesn’t love a good trip or five to Wally World anyway.  What else are you gonna do on a Saturday in McKinney.


June 22, 2007

confused_owen.jpgInspired by by buddy, The most professional amateur photographer M, I have attempted a clone.  Whadda ya think? Oh yeah, and click to enlarge.

Katrina in the Kitchen

January 27, 2007

Saturday, the family sat in Owen’s room playing on the floor and in the closet.  It’s good to bring out toys that have been stored for a while, it’s like they’re new.  At some point, I got up to go to the kitchen.  The linoleum seemed much shinier than normal and the carpet made a weird squishing sound as I stepped on it.  “Jess!” I called to the other room.  “I think there’s something wrong in here.  Something’s leaking.”  She came running to see for herself.  Clearly, tiny black helicopters had infiltrated my home and blown the main lines to our washing machine.  The fury of the City of McKinney Utility Co. had been unleashed in my own kitchen.

Jess immediately grabbed towels already in the utility room as I asked where more were while turning off the water to the washer.  Shouldn’t I have known where we keep towels?  Anyway, I get two more and bring them back when it is clear these aren’t going to be enough.  I feel like a super hero as the thought enters my mind, “The shop vac,” I say.  “It can suck up all this water really quick.”  Only I would be thinking this at this time, I’ve never used it to pick up water before, this’ll be cool!  I dash to the garage and retrieve the  six gallon RIDGID wet/dry vac and immediately start to suck some water.  Five seconds later the sound of the motor indicates it’s full and I’ve got to dump out the water.  “That was fast.  It can’t be full already.”  It was.  It sucks up water that fast.  It’s clear at this point that I’ll be needing a bigger shop vac in the near future.  Perhaps FEMA can help me out.  Does water from an appliance count as a natural disaster?  Can’t get much more natural than water.  And no one could argue this wasn’t a disaster.  I think we’ve got something here.  This will all have to wait though, I’ve got water to move.

After filling and dumping the vacuum six times and completely soaking every towel we own [except two, we’ll need those for showering, Jess is so smart, even in times of high stress], the kitchen floor is mostly dry.  The carpets were still a bit wet, but what a coincidence, we had borrowed a carpet shampooer earlier that week.  What better to get a bunch of water out of your carpet.  The only thing that would make you really frustrated about all this [as if you wouldn’t be] is that Jess had just shampooed and vacuumed that entire house within the last two days.  Did I mention she’s having a baby in less than two weeks?  She was pretty chipper about this, I mean, it did give us the opportunity to clean all that fuzz from behind the washer and dryer.

I would suggest not telling Granny this story, lest they wish to hear the tale of her toilet backing up.  Just a thought.  Our next home will totally have a drain in the utility room.

Be Careful What You Wish For Part II

January 11, 2007

     Midday on a Tuesday, the whole family sat in a waiting room. We were to see the doctor who would tell us nothing we didn’t already know about our baby Rachel. During this time, my son got the urge. Anyone who’s ever been around a one year old long enough knows what a red faced, breathe holding, tense bodied child is doing. At this occurrence, I suggested to my wife we start picking him up or walking him to the bathroom when we see this activity. The idea being he learns where to do that. Eventually he’ll start going in there before he goes and we can really get the potty training thing going. We’ll see.

     Fast forward to 7:30 pm, this time in the bathroom. Daddy is giving Owen his bath and all is well. After scrubbing every nook and cranny, it’s time to pull the plug from the mini baby tub and watch Owen watch the water drain. It was at this exact moment that the red faced monster appeared and I knew it was already too late. He had done the deed. I yelled to Jess, “What the heck?” To which she replied, “Well you said you wanted him to start going in the bathroom.” Great. Now I’m keeping his hands out of it and trying to figure out what to do next while thinking, “We’ve got to stop feeding him so many raisins.” I get him standing up in the tub while the water is getting warm so I can rinse him off, and now he’s standing in it. Great. Finally I set him down in the big tub and rinse him off. Every time I try to check his bum, he clinches up so my view is obscured. Great. I chance it and lay him down on the towel to put on a clean diaper. I got lucky.

     After all of this, my wife explains, “He’s only ever done that when you’re bathing him.” She is of course referring to the first time I bathed him when he was less that two months old. “I don’t know why, but you must cause is somehow. You wanted him to go in the bathroom,” she said again, “Be careful what you wish for.” That did it. I knew I had to post this story after hearing that. “Be careful what you wish for Part II” sounded just right.

Sharp Tradition

January 8, 2007

Being part of a new family, I get to experience new traditions.  One of my favorite so far is having fondue on Christmas Eve.  Jess and her family have been doing this for years, but it’s new to me, and it’s a lot of fun.  What’s great about all this is I get to bring my family traditions and she gets to bring hers and every now-and-again we make new ones.

One tradition started two years ago has been sharpening our knives on Christmas.  [I know I started talking about Jess here and “us”, but her Dad’s in the story so it counts.]  We started this on a Christmas when both sides of the family were present for dinner at my in-laws’ house.  My Dad suggested his knife needed sharpening and he had no stone to do this.  My father-in-law of course had one and we retired to the garage while the women continued preparing in the kitchen.  [Woman of the world, this technique of sending men to the garage is extremely effective in removing them from the kitchen for prolonged periods of time.]  Now at this time, the three of us were carrying the same kind of Kershaw knife called the Chive.  My father-in-law had the first one, and after I commented on it, he purchased one for me.  He also bought one for my Dad after he commented on mine.  [And I think both of them have purchased it for at least one other person, it’s that good.]  I can honestly say it’s the first knife I ever carried on a regular basis.  The one I had before this one lost its handle after about a week’s worth of use.

While no man really needs an excuse to visit the garage, this activity provides us with a good one.  My father-in-law placed the stone on the workbench and we took turns sharpening our knives, testing the edge on our thumbs while another sharpened theirs.  This past Christmas, my father once again recommended sharpening and thus the tradition lived on.  This time we were at my house and I had no stone.  My Dad planned ahead and purchased one for me a couple days earlier, anticipating the new Christmas tradition.

After we were all done, my father-in-law recommend I build a sharpening stone block to hold my new stone.  We all agreedsharpstone-002.jpg this was a good idea so I began a couple of days later.  It’s just a piece of scrap plywood with a frame made of a pine strip I had leftover from the Radio Flyer rails project [update coming soon.]  A few miter cuts on the table saw and some glue is all this took.  After the glue dried, I finished with some light sanding to remove the excess.  The open area at one end allows me to clamp the block down so it won’t slide around while in use.

sharpstone-004.jpgThis post let’s me print one of my favorite quotes.  This was my Uncle Peanut’s response to the question posed by my Grandmother at the cabin.  Jess and I were visiting Aunt Tessie for the weekend I believe and Granny had come for the day with Peanut.  At some point Granny needed a knife to open a present or something.  She asked across the room, “Peanut, you got your knife on ya?”  He looked up from the chair and with a satisfaction in his voice he answered with a question, “I got my pants on don’t I?”  This has become a “stupid question” answer for me and my wife ever since.  If a stupid question is asked, and the response is a resounding “of course,” then you might hear us say, “I got my pants on, don’t I?”

P.S.  It’s half time of the Ohio State/Florida game. 
Ohio is down by 20 points and their band is playing “My Heart Will Go On.”    They deserve to lose.

Changing the Oil

December 5, 2006


This is a simple procedure, especially since I’ve done it before on this vehicle [Kia Sedona].  The location of the oil drain plug and filter make it clear they were catering to small left handed people.  I loosen the plug and the oil begins to drain flawlessly, no oil on the garage floor.  Now while that’s draining, I figure I’ll check the air filter.  This multitasking idea really gets me in trouble. 

I back out the four screws holding the air box cover on and the last one slips out of my hand and down into the abyss that is the engine block.  “Great!  Where the hell did that go, I’ll never find it.  It’s probably down under a belt just waiting to rip it to shreds,” I said.  Now the only flashlight I have in the garage is one of these free ones that come when you sign up for a magazine subscription.  So naturally, it goes out after about 30 seconds of use.  I creep back into the house where Owen is sleeping, trying not to wake him while I hunt for the other flashlight.


Back outside, having successfully not woken up the child, I have devised a way to pick up the missing screw with a magnetized screwdriver.  Only problem is, it’s not long enough.  Solution?  Tie a string around the handle and lower into position.  Well this works about as well as fishing from atop a pine tree down through a hole cut in ice and trying to miss every branch on the way there.  As I realize this futility, the knot I’ve tied, as well as a non-boyscout can do, has come undone leaving the driver right next to the screw and no way for me to retrieve it.  Now I have to do something I was trying to avoid with this fishing expedition and remove the entire air box itself to get to the screw and now the driver too.


It comes off with much less trouble than I imagined, which only means I should have done it the first time.  The screw and driver and now easily accessible by hand and come right out.  Everything goes back together and I’ve given the oil more than enough time to drain.


Drain plug goes back in.  Now on to the pesky filter.  Now I said that Kia must think only small left handed people would be changing the oil in this vehicle, but I didn’t say they also assume one of your talents is reaching up a vending machine and grabbing just about anything you want, blindfolded.  The two options here are to contort your arm around rods and walls to get to the filter or remove a large panel.  You’d think I’d have learned to remove something to make the next step much easier, but I haven’t.  So around I go finding the filter and twisting it off.  But now that it’s off, there’s no way to get it clear.  Now I’m stuck in a maze, BLIND, and trying to get the damn thing out some other way than I got my hand in.  Oh, and don’t spill any oil still in the filter on the van.  It’s like a real world game of OPERATION on your back, and did I mention, with my left hand.  This goes on for five minutes until I pull back part of the panel mentioned earlier and pull it out.  Whishoo.  This time I don’t get away without leaving oil on the floor.  But this was destined to happen.


Don’t ask me why, but putting the new filter in went much smoother.  Perhaps it had something to do with the path being nice and lubed up from taking the old one out.  Who can say?  On to filling her up, which I’m sorry to say is uneventful, and I’m done.


McKinney, oil changes run somewhere between $30 and $40.  I can do this for less than half that and even with all the time spent farting around, it probably takes just as long to drive down there, wait, and drive back.  Plus, if I went that route, you might not be laughing right now.


Little Red Wagon

November 19, 2006

Owen’s Aunt Erin and Uncle Patrick bought him a little red wagon for his first birthday.  A Radio Flyer to be more specific, an American classic toy since the 1950’s.  He’s been enjoying it a lot, putting his other toys in it and pulling or pushing it around the living room.  The other day his friend L climbed in and Owen pushed him around in it.  Too cute.  The only issue with it is that when Owen sits in it and you begin to pull him around he sometimes falls over.  Now don’t worry, he doesn’t fall out or anything, he just tips a bit and you have to keep reaching back to catch him or accelerate very slowly.  We’ll have to keep doing this until he can grab hold of the sides and keep himself upright.  Or, I can build higher side rails that are easier for him to grab and maybe even a back rail.  Some other models of Radio Flyers come with these, but that’s not the one Owen got.  This works out great as I love doing this kind of thing and this was just the excuse I needed to make some more dust in the garage, I mean shop.

(Click on pics to enlarge.)trucknwagon001.jpg

If you’ve read any of my previous posts on wood working, you know I didn’t buy anything for this project.  The builders left plenty of material in my garage to keep me busy for awhile.  There were about four or five boards for framing windows left that were 1”x4”x16’.  I used one of these previously to make some knock down saw horses.

So I started by looking at many pictures online of the wagons with rails to get an idea of size and shape of the supports.  They were simple enough, looking mostly like a “J”.  Originally I was going to have three rails on each side, but this got narrowed down to two rails of equal size on each side.  I was also originally going to have three “J” supports but this was taken down to two as I didn’t want to put one right in the middle of the Radio Flyer logo.  With this I now made sketches of the “J” supports and side rails.  I decided on two rails 2.25” tall and 34” long matching the length of the wagon.  On the first rip cut of the rails, I was left with a piece 34”x1.125”.  After looking at this and comparing it to the other rail of 2.25” I decided the contrast of the tall and short rails looked rather good together.  I can’t describe it, but it just looked more appealing.  Plus if I used this thinner piece instead of cutting another 2.25” tall rail I would be utilizing lots of otherwise scrap material.  The mission creep on this one is off to roaring start, I have however saved myself a lot of time.

trucknwagon-003.jpgWith everything cut to size on the table saw, it was time to round all the inside edges so Owen and friends don’t get snagged on any sharp corners.  This was easy enough since I’d made a crude router table months ago.  After that some sanding was in order.  I married into a great Porter-Cable palm sander.  This works well if the objects sanded is stationary and dust collection is not an issue.  It was hard to keep the sander in one hand, the hose from vacuum in the other, and hold the rail being sanded in my third hand.  So I reversed everything.  I flipped the sander over and clamped it in the wood vise along with the hose.  This freed up both hands and I could easily swap from piece to piece to get this all sanded fairly quickly.

With everything cut, routed, and sanded, all that was left was to drill a few holes, insert a couple dowels and glue everything up.  After the glue dried, I had some small areas to clean up and then I could mount the rails on the wagon.  I really needed 1.75” bolts, but the only hardware HD had was 2”.  Now I have 0.25” sticking out and may need to cut off or cover with a rubber nut or something.

Jess told me when Owen first saw the new rails he got really excited and liked them a lot.  Wish I was home to see him.  I hope he enjoys them and they don’t break off.  I’ve really got to get some Oak or start dealing with harder woods as Owen gets older and can break things more easily.

Does anybody have a memory of their little red wagon growing up?  We’ all love to hear it.

What the heck is Fried Coke please?

October 28, 2006

Have you ever heard of this?  We came across this at the Texas State Fair in Dallas last weekend.  This place was great and we all had lots of fun.  Owen was able to see and pet just about every animal known to man. 

I had been told when I purchased tickets the day before that I must try the fried Coke.  I said, “What are you talking about?  Fried Coke.  Who ever heard of that?”  Well, apparently they mix Coke in with the dough [like fried dough] and then fry it.  Then they drop a bunch of doughnut hole sized balls into a cup and pour some very syrupy Coke in the bottom.  Then top it all off with some whipped cream and cinnamon.  Luckily, we stumbled onto the stand with the fried Coke early in the day.  Later, I saw the line wrapping around the stand and blocking some other vendors’ entrances.  You could see they were upset as they only had regular Coke to sell.  People were talking about it all day all over the fair.  “Have you had the fried Coke yet?  Hey, where did you get that fried Coke from?  I think that’s line is for the fried Coke.”  Madness.

Some more pictures of the fair.

fair-009.jpgThis is Big Tex.  He’s sort of in the middle of everything.  Every so often he starts talking and waving his arms and turning his head as he directs people to various things going on right now and later in the day at the fair.  Kinda creepy looking I must say.

fair-011.jpgThis truck was too sweet not to photo.  Ford F150 that somebody spent some time on.  The cover lifts and the sidewalls fold out yielding lots of leisure room and even a grill.  Near the cab is a frig and stereo speakers.  Trick my truck, I love it.

fair-021.jpgI think this was Owen’s favorite ride.  He seemed to enjoy it the most.  I’m sure he liked petting the goats a lot, but this was definitely more exciting for him.  You know, he wasn’t even fazed by being up high in the Ferris wheel.

fair-030.jpgI bet you didn’t know Owen had his own trailer company.  Neither did I.

fair-033.jpgThis is Boris, or Boris’s cousin, or something.  Boris weights over 1500 pounds.  And from the picture, you can see that 95% of that weight is carried between his legs.  He did not move the entire time we were watching him except to breathe.

Josh’s funny though for the week:  I was listening to the radio and the Ba Donk a Donk song came on and there’s a line in there about gettin’ her britches on or something.  Anyway, I immediately thought of a T-shirt with a picture of about 6 or 7 people from the waist down wearing jeans or long underwear and text at the bottom that reads “The Britches of Madison County.”  Any body think that’d sell?