Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Yesterday was a sad day in the Minor house.  One of our beloved pets died.  We have had him for a little over a year, but this morning Kirsten got up and immediately noticed that his usual spot was empty which reminded her of the previous day’s events.  No more snuggling up to watch a movie together.  No more playing fetch.  No more protection for the house.  He is gone and will be missed. 

Actually, none of those things were ever done.  He rarely even got out of his cage.  Guests to our house begged us not to get him out and only a few were ever brave enough to even touch him.  Our pet’s name was Hitler and he was a tarantula.

R.I.P Hitler
Tarantulas are fairly large spiders to begin with and Hitler was no exception.  He was the same size as my hand.  When he would rear up on his back legs to try to be threatening (it was so cute), he was about 4 inches tall.  He could be quite intimidating when he wanted to be.

Hitler ruled his cage.  Anything that went in there (crickets, frogs, other spiders, hands changing his bedding) didn’t last long, but something changed when we moved here.  We arrived here last November and he hasn’t really eaten since then.  Crickets would be taken down within a matter of minutes before, but these last eight weeks he hasn’t cared that they were in his cage.  He seemed more active at first, but it didn’t last long.  He was a fun and interesting pet and will be missed.

Now we only have one animal.  His name is Dr. Finklerstein (both pets were named by my daughter).  Within 48 hours of getting Dr. Finklerstein home, he bit my son’s wrist and my daughter’s neck.  This pet is much more aggressive than Hitler was, much larger and faster, but more fun to play with.  Dr. Finklerstein is a python.

Dr. Finklerstein & Kirsten
We had a different python years ago named Monty.  Yep, Monty Python.  He was a very docile creature.  He would run loose in the house and liked to hang out in the closet.  Kirsten was about a year old and would drag Monty around the house by his tail and kiss him on the head.  He didn’t seem to care.  Dr. Finklerstein, however, would never tolerate such behavior.  He could be sitting in your lap, enjoying the warmth of the sun and suddenly bite you under the arm because you reached for a soda.  He would then coil back and glare as if to say, “How dare you?  You didn’t ask if you could move.  Try it again.  I dare you.”

As terrifying as that may sound to some people, it is not as bad as you would think.  Pythons are not poisonous and do not have fangs.  They do have teeth at the backs of their jaws for gripping.  They have very small teeth-like things surrounding the rest of their mouth for the same reason.  When he bites, it feels like getting flicked with a finger.  You feel it, but it doesn’t hurt.  My daughter was bitten behind the ear the day after we got him.  If it had been painful, that would have been the last time she would have wanted to play with him.  Painful or not, very few guests want to handle him.

He is not a problem as long as he stays off the keyboard
We have always had unusual animals to play with.  When I was a kid, we would rush to the basement when it flooded to see Harry.  Harry was a large, mud-gray salamander that would appear when the basement got wet enough.  We would play with him for a few hours and then put him back.  We had about a half dozen raccoons over the years and a fox.  We even had a few pet skunks.  When I was in high school, my brother Trevor found a newborn deer in the middle of the road and brought it home.  We named it Bird and raised it in the barn.  When he got old enough to venture out he stuck around for several months.  He would play in the yard with the dogs and came running to the house to eat just like they did.  However, the dogs didn’t care to play with him because when Bird played he would butt them in the head.  When I was much younger we had a Rhode Island Red rooster named Rodney that thought it was a dog.  It would follow us around the yard and sit in our laps.  We also had a beer-guzzling horse for a while and we have had our share of run-of-the-mill dogs and cats.  Our last two dogs were golden labs named SPOON and LLAMA.  We had a cat in my childhood named Sir Jonathon Edwards Vincent von Richenstein III.  We called him THREE for short.

I don’t know why we have had so many unusual pets.  A large part of it was just opportunity.  We lived out in the country, so often we just came across these animals.  The last raccoon I had was one that just wandered up onto my porch and wouldn’t go away,  so we kept it.  Sometimes my dad brought them home.  That was how we got the skunks.  Other times it was to take them off of someone else’s hands.  That was how we got the overly-pampered rooster and our first python.  The beer-guzzling horse was just a horse until someone set their beer down within her grasp and she grabbed it up, threw her head back and sucked it down.  She would actually do that with any drink, but it is more interesting to tell the story with beer.

Now we are trying to decide what type of animal to replace Hitler with.  Kirsten thinks she may want some smaller spiders that she won’t be as scared to let crawl on her.  I am leaning towards a hedgehog.  We haven’t decided yet and will have to do some reading and research, but Kirsten already has it named.  Our new pet will be named PROF CREPES ALMIGHTY or DR. JEWISH.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Red Paint and Vomit: The Joys of Parenting

My daughter, Kirsten, had her 15th birthday this past week and it occurs to me how soon it will be before she is a grown woman and my years of child-rearing will be behind me.  Christian turned 18 almost a year ago and has already moved out so I am just a few years away from being all on my own.  I have been asked by several people what I will do when I am living by myself.  Will I miss having kids in the house?  Will I be lonely?  Is that any kind of life?  It has caused me to reflect on my years of being a parent.

I remember Kirsten’s first smile while playing with her on the floor.  She was 2 months old and she smiled.  I don’t care that it is said they cannot smile at that young of an age.  It was not gas.  She smiled.  I also remember her speaking her first word, “CHOCOLATE!”  It wasn’t pronounced correctly, but it was her first word.  I also remember her giving me the biggest scare in my life when she was 2 years old.

When we were attending Lincoln Christian College, we had a small apartment in Married Student Housing.  I was studying in the back bedroom and Kirsten was napping in the living room.  Because she was napping, we had the shades drawn and it was rather dark in the room.  I came out of the bedroom to refill my drink and witnessed the bloodiest site I had ever seen.  Kirsten was sitting up in the center of the couch with her head hanging forward.  Her dress was dripping red.  There was blood all over her face and the couch and many smear marks on the wall.  I screamed and rushed for Kirsten.  As I reached for her, she looked up and smiled at me.  I was instantly dumbfounded, but realized she was still alive and I had not just walked into my own personal slasher flick.  I flipped on the light and then the reality of the situation was visible.  Kirsten had found a bottle of red tempura paint and had been honing her artistic ability all over herself, the wall and the couch.  When my heart rate dropped the following Tuesday, we found a better place to keep the paint.

A year later, when we discovered her exercising her artistic ability on the dining room wall with a Sharpie she adamantly denied it.  We knew she had done it.  She still had ink on her hands and the marker was found in her room.  When asked who did it, she said, “Bubby did.  Spank him.”  I then took Christian in another room and pretended to spank him so she would feel bad and confess the truth.  Christian, then 6 years old, yelled like he was being beaten.  Kirsten just laughed in the next room.  She could be a bit difficult at times.

As difficult as she could be, I had been previously groomed to handle her by her older brother.  Christian had tried his best to break me for years.  Christian had his third birthday about 2 months after I started dating his mother and we have been a part of each other’s lives ever since.  One of his earliest acts of terror was to carve a picture into the vinyl screen of my big screen TV.  I got over it, but did not realize at the time that I would have a new challenge face me each day when I came home from work for the next few months.

One day I came home and found Christian playing in the living room with his castle set.  This castle was fairly large and was the perfect size for playing with all his action figures.  Since it was close to supper time I asked him to help me move it all to the bedroom.  He grabbed some of the men and headed to his room with them.  I tossed the remaining men into the castle and grabbed it to move it.  I felt my leg and chest get wet as water went all over the wall.  He had filled the castle with water to pretend he had a moat.  This was not a bad thing, just unexpected.  I even laughed, but it was going to get more intense.

Later that week, he kept the castle in his room.  I went in when I got off work to see him and he had covered a four foot area all around the castle with whipped cream.  It was all over the carpet.  He knew he couldn’t pour water on the carpet to make a moat, so he used whipped cream and “just pretended.”  The next day, he cracked an egg in his bed, but I don’t remember why.

With Christian there was always a fight with him and his bodily fluids.  He would puke 4 or 5 times a day.  He would come out of the bathroom at McDonald’s to inform me that he was going to throw up, then would do it on the table.  He would wake up in the middle of the night, walk past his bathroom, through the kitchen, into my bedroom, past the master bathroom and wake me up just in time to let me know he was going to puke on my bed.  I tried to train him to just go straight to the bathroom and yell for me.  I WILL come, but it never worked.

When he wasn’t puking on me, he was peeing on everything.  He would get up in the middle of the night to pee, but would not entirely wake up.  He would make it to the toilet, but would pee all over the wall, the back of the toilet, the rug, everything.  If we were staying at another person's house, he would not attempt to find the bathroom.  He might pee in their closet or on their dog bed.  He once peed in my mother’s laundry detergent.  Once, while riding in the car, he woke up and said he had to go, so Christina pulled into a McDonald’s.  Kirsten was asleep and so Christina asked him to go quickly and she would wait in the car.  After a couple of minutes, she looked inside and saw a group of people standing near the entrance.  Fearing the worst she ran in to discover her fears were true.  Christian had only stepped inside the front doors of the restaurant and was peeing on the trashcan in the lobby.

Some of these practices continued when he got a little older.  Although, they took a different shape.  When Christian was in the fifth grade, he and I were playing Mortal Kombat on the Playstation.  He paused the game to say he had to pee.  The fighting rounds in this game only last 90 seconds and there was 2 seconds left when he paused it.  I mentioned that there were only 2 seconds left in the game and asked if we could finish.  He started the game again and peed right there.  His explanation was, “I told you I had to go.”  Also, once while backroading in a Jeep he said to pull over so he could pee.  I immediately pulled to the side and he was already going as he stood up.  He insists he doesn’t know he has to go until it is too late.

He also did not learn how to use a zipper until middle school.  Up until about the 5th grade, he never zipped his backpack.  He would get off the bus at the end of the day and run to the house with his bag flinging papers, books, and pencils in all directions.  We never knew how many things had fallen out before he got off the bus, but he had a semi-valid reason for not having homework every night.

The motto for GOLD’s GYM is: That which does not kill you, makes you stronger.  If this is true, then my children have made me into a very strong man.  If it is not true, then I am just broken and tired.  It has been a long, difficult road, but it has also been a road filled with wonderful joy and triumphant moments.  I love my kids dearly and, of course, will miss them when they are both out of the house.  However, I am also looking forward to not having to worry about anyone else and just taking care of myself.  It was hard for me when Christian moved out and it will be hard when that day comes for Kirsten, but it must come one day.

I once heard a parent’s feelings toward his children put this way: I wouldn’t take a million dollars for either of my kids, but I wouldn’t give you a nickel for another one just like them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Everything is Bigger in Texas (and Your Thirties)

Christmas is over and all that wonderfully fattening food that everyone stuffs down their throats for six weeks has been hidden away and now it is time to get that weight back off.  People are more than aware of the extra weight that gets put on during the holidays and only a very few are disciplined enough to not succumb to the crazed, borderline diabetes-flirting tendencies that go hand in hand with celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world.  I have overheard scores of conversations at work about the weight that now has to be worked off.  This is definitely the busiest time of year for the entire weight-loss industry.  There is no shortage of ways you can lose weight and there are plenty of supposedly “fun” ways to do it.  Past and current video examples include: Sweatin’ to the Oldies, Hip-Hop Cardio, Stripper Aerobics, Belly Dance Fitness, Cardio Salsa, Official Dirty Dancing Workout and many others.

Myself, like many others, have gained a few (dozen?) pounds over these festive holidays.  However, I may have started a bit earlier.  I noticed a few months ago how tight my jeans were starting to get.  I just haven’t taken any action yet.  However, that changed last night when Facebook informed me I had been tagged in a photo.

Waltonville High School Prom - 1988

This photo was taken in May of 1988 before the four of us went to the Waltonville Prom.  The couple on the right is Jeff Caudle and Stephanie (Allison) Maines.  Jeff was my best friend and dated Stephanie for a couple of years in high school.  Susan Wagner is the girl in pink who agreed to accompany me to the prom.  I still don’t know why she agreed, but was happy she did.  The dork on the left is me, still in shock that a pretty girl would agree to be seen with me.  Jennifer Ann Kabat is not in this picture.  There is no reason to expect that she would be, but she wanted to be mentioned in my next blog.

I have Stephanie to thank for this photo.  Apparently, it was uploaded about 18 months ago, but I never saw it until she tagged me in it last night prompting Facebook to inform me of its presence.  After the fleeting moment of nostalgia these old pictures often create, I began to be increasingly aware of my present physical state.  The Brett in that picture was so thin and his hair was so big.  I really don’t miss the big hair, but I do miss the smaller waistline.

When I graduated high school I weighed 155 pounds.  Ten years later, I was very proud of the fact that I still weighed the same.  However, I had no reason to be proud.  I had not really accomplished anything.  I was just lucky to have good genes and a high metabolism.  I had always been thin.  I ate anything and everything that came in front of me.  My mother tells the story of me eating a dead grasshopper out of a windowsill as a small child.  That may be disgusting but it just shows that I have always loved to eat.  My great-grandmother used to marvel at how much of her homemade gravy I could eat.  After every Sunday meal, once we ran out of food, I would just spoon the gravy over bread and keep eating until it was gone.  Needless to say, I have never had healthy eating habits, but it didn’t seem to matter since it had no effect on me.  But one day, it changed.

About the time I turned 30 I was buying some new jeans.  I didn’t buy jeans very often because I always had to go out of town to find my size.  I had very long legs and a small waist size.  That combination is not usually found in Wal-Mart.  Because different brands of jeans have different cuts, it is necessary to try on all pairs before buying.  In the dressing room I was quite frustrated to find that I could not button any of the jeans in my size. The store clerk had the nerve to suggest that maybe I should try a different size.  Why would I do that?  Who wants to wear clothes that aren’t in their size?   I do not know how long this new expansion had been going on, but that was the first time I noticed it.  My weight has fluctuated up and down a bit since then, but I have never gotten back down to that size again.

My past experiences with intentional weight control have been fairly painless.  A few small adjustments to my diet and a little extra physical activity causes the pounds to just fall off.  However, I have to intentionally pursue this.  I lose the weight, but then stop paying attention and find myself back to gasping for breath every time I climb the stairs to my apartment.  Generally, by the time I notice I need to diet I am bigger than I was the last time I needed to.

So, I am at that point again and need to do something.  Unfortunately, it is the middle of winter and too cold to venture outside for extended periods of time without losing body parts, although, that would take off pounds rather quickly.  Whether I wait until spring or tackle this now remains to be seen, but I will get to it.  Lately, I have been too distracted by these new patches of hair I didn’t used to have.