Candy-Fueled Madness

I knew it was time to cut off the Easter candy today when I caught little C. drawing whiskers on her face with an ink pen.

She also penned some round spots on her legs.

“I’m a cat!” the sugar-addled 3-year-old said.

She had sort of nutty look in her eye, like a kid who had just wrapped up a serious sweets bender. I blame the sleeve of mini Reese’s cups she managed to scarf from her Easter basket, despite my attempts to keep consumption to a moderate level. She’s a sneaky one, and it’s hard to keep her away from candy at a time like this.

The whole weekend has been filled with Easter, with two egg hunts (both with lots of candy), a neighborhood party (carne aside and sangria should be part of every holiday get-together) and church this morning (both kids were actually pretty well-behaved this year).

Amid all the food and treats, the kids had a blast with their little buddies.

A. had an epic Nerf battle with his amigos yesterday. At one point, he said, the sky was filled with Nerf bullets. Nothing says Easter like a Nerf war among the neighborhood kids.

And C. worked the church dining hall this morning like the little social butterfly that she is. She loves a party, and the Easter breakfast at Trinity Cathedral was just her thing.

Now it’s time to get things back to normal. Lent is over, and I can finally start eating Cheetos again. (Giving them up was much harder than I originally anticipated.)

School starts again tomorrow for A., and I think he’s ready to go back.

We’re getting organized, rested and cleaned up. In C.’s case, that involved a good soaking in the tub. Luckily, the ink came off with a little scrubbing. At least she didn’t use a Sharpie.


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Second Time Around

Our metallic green Pinewood Derby racer didn’t win any races –- in fact, it came in last place in all four heats –- but it really doesn’t matter.

One of the great joys of being a dad is that you get to do kid stuff all over again, and A. and I sure had fun transforming a plain block of wood into a tricked-out sprint car.

As we built our ride together over the course of a few weeks –- planning, picking a style, using dangerous-looking woodworking tools, picking a paint color and then changing our minds –- I couldn’t help but remember a similar experience I had making a car with my stepdad decades ago.

I was in Cub Scouts somewhere around the fourth grade, and he took the lead in making a beautiful metallic purple car. I remember he did most of the building, but I did a lot of sanding. A lot of sanding. He added a motor from a plastic car model kit, and it was full of great details.

On race day, the other scouts marveled at the car and I was very proud. The only problem was that a little bit of the lead we used to weight the car properly was hanging off the bottom, which caused it to drag on the track. While we didn’t win for speed, I remember winning an award for design, and I couldn’t have been happier. It’s one of the best memories I have of my stepdad, spending time with him crafting something important.

I kept that car in mind as A. and I teamed up to build our own entry. We’re new to Cub Scouts this year, and the derby is one of the biggest events of the year.

We gathered with other scouts at a leader’s house weeks before the race, and he bravely let us loose with his tools to shape our cars. A. picked out the design, and I cut out the rough shape. We then used a belt sander to smooth the edges, and A., like me years before, started sanding.

We talked about our plans again and again, and dropped by the scout store to buy a plastic driver (complete with steering wheel), a plastic motor and some cool decals. We also went across town to the hobby shop to get more decals.

The original plan was to paint it metallic blue. But when that paint failed to look good on the primered wood body, we changed our mind and went for green.

The anticipation built up until last Saturday, when we had to turn in our car during the weigh-in at the Elks’ Lodge. We were about 2 grams over the 5-ounce weight limit, which didn’t surprise me given the several layers of paint on the car. I had to drill some holes in the bottom of lighten it up, and soon we were good to go.

When Sunday afternoon’s race finally arrived, we went back to the lodge to find a beautiful aluminum track set up, complete with an electronic timing system. Pack 259 takes the derby seriously, and we couldn’t wait.

I knew we might be in trouble when I saw the other 30 or so cars, many of which were simple, aerodynamic wedges. Our car had a big plastic motor on the top, like my car from years ago, which was sure to create a drag during races.

Sure enough, our car was pretty slow. But unlike some of the other cars, at least it rolled to the finish line on its own.

A. was a little discouraged at first by his finishes. But I told him to wait until the other special awards were given out. Prior to the race, everyone was given a sheet to rank the cars in different categories.

When awards were handed out at Wednesday’s pack meeting, we went home as winners in the categories of best design and most decals. A. had a big grin on his face, much like I must have had during my big race years ago. I couldn’t have been more proud of him.

A. is already planning this next car, this time with a sleek, speedy design. We have plenty of time to mull it over, think about paint and get ready.

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Moving Slowly

Two busted sleds, two seriously bruised rear ends, and two very satisfied sledders.

That pretty much sums up our trip up to Cisco Grove on Saturday, where A. and I basked in the sun, ate lots of Fritos and had one of our best snow-play missions ever.

Today I feel like I was on the losing end of a SmackDown match, with bumps and aches all over. Since I passed 40, it seems like I pay a little more after spending a day riding the chutes behind the Valero gas station. Even A., who is usually pretty resilient, is moving a little slower.

We try to hit the slopes behind the station at least once a year. We, like tons of other visitors who flock there on weekends, tend to ignore the signs that tell us we’re sledding there at out own risk. It is, after all, a sort of unofficial sled spot.

On Saturday, we arrived to find some of the smaller hills near the station pretty bare, with dirt showing in many areas. It’s been sunny and warm up there in recent weeks, and they haven’t had any serious snow for awhile. But a short walk into the woods revealed a motherlode of great sledding tracks, well worn by previous visitors and lined with slick, fast ice.

We attacked the hill shortly before 10 a.m., when the surface was like concrete. A. had his Wham-O Snow Boogie, a soft sled that absorbs the bumps well. I rode our old faithful Torpedo, a red ride made of thin plastic and lacking any cushioning at all. Getting there early paid off, allowing us to have one hill to ourselves for about an hour. We rode again and again, catching what seemed like massive air on bumps built up along the course.

After a cocoa break at the station, we really ramped things up by moving to a nearby ravine that has the best vertical of any of the runs. The top was shaded by tall pines, making it incredibly icy and fast, more like an Olympic bobsled run than a mere sled trail. This is where our sleds met their demise. While other smarter folks were riding from about midway up the hill, we headed close to the top against better judgment.

I stood partway down the hill to help clear the track and issue warnings to others as A. came whizzing down the hill. He hit bumps at full speed, launching him and his sled into the air. The little guy hung on well, whooping it up along the way. I tried it myself, and it felt like I jarred a couple fillings loose in the process.

After a few runs, A. had broken a handle off his sled, and I had snapped the Torpedo in half, turning one big sled into two smaller ones that we attempted to use through the day.

Luckily, the snow softened up as the sun rose higher in the sky. A. and I soon retired to smaller hills, resting more between runs. We met the mountain, and as usual, the mountain won.

Now that we’re back home, we’re resting our sore selves and reliving our rides. Of course, the amount of air we caught increases with each retelling of the tale.

We’re now also in the market for some new sleds. We need models that can take extreme punishment. I’m also thinking about adding some extra padding to my snow pants. We’ll need both for next time.

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Under The Gate

Ever have a day when it feels like someone is watching over you, in a good way?

Saturday was just such a time, when my mom and I went out on a boat to scatter my grandmother’s ashes along the coast near the Golden Gate Bridge.

We’d planned the trip for awhile, but busy schedules and bad weather delayed our voyage.

My grandmother, Eda Mae Sagar, passed away in 2009. One of her wishes was not to be buried, but have her ashes scattered near San Francisco, the city where she was born and grew up. Like Tony Bennett, her heart was always in the city, and I can’t blame her.

My mom and I met our hired captain along a dock in Sausalito. Earlier he’d told us that he does scatterings from a 20-foot Boston Whaler, which he touted as unsinkable. No problem, we thought. But as the boat pulled up, I could see my mom tense up a little. The boat did look pretty small, especially since we were planning to go under the Golden Gate. Don’t worry, I told her, somewhat trying to convince myself in the process. But easygoing Captain Mike reassured us, noting that even if the boat got cut in half, both halves would float. We hopped in and were soon on our way.

The weather helped calm our nerves as well — beautiful and clear, about 60 degrees with only a wisp of wind even out on the bay. We brought extra jackets preparing for a gale, but we didn’t need them. February on the bay often brings some of the best weather of the year, we found out.

As the Whaler slowly moved out toward the huge, elegant red span, the weight of what we were about to do settled in. The gate holds a special place with our family. My grandmother first walked across the bridge in 1937, the year it was completed. Many decades before that, some of our ancestors came through the passage on a boat that had brought them around the horn from the East Coast.

Immediately under the bridge, we met up with the edge of the fierce current that brings water into the bay. There we were surprised to see dark porpoises surfacing quickly, appearing in a flash between their feedings. The water is full of fish, the captain told us, and the porpoises were there to enjoy an easy meal.

We pressed westward, directly under the span. We looked up the see the underbelly of the massive structure, a view not many folks get to see up close.

Captain Mike kept us pretty close to the north tower, in water that was almost strangely calm. We decided to keep going, eventually arriving at Kirby Cove, a spot popular with crab fishermen and within clear sight of the bridge and the skyline of the city. The boat came to a stop. This is the spot, we thought, that my grandmother would love. My mom and I released the ashes together, watching as they sank from the surface into the blue-green deep.

We popped open a bottle of bubbly, which my grandmother always enjoyed, and drank a toast to her. Then, we poured the remainder of the bottle in the water.

As we were set to leave, another boat came over, and the fishermen on board asked us if we wanted some Dungeness crabs. We gladly took them up on the offer. My grandmother would have gotten a big kick of this, and would have said something like, “Why how did you know I wanted some fresh crab?” She looked forward to crab season, and always enjoyed crab salad or cracking crab herself.

The generous fishermen motored away and we basked in our good fortune and the wonderful winter sunshine. We were there to honor my grandmother, and it felt like she was right there with us.

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A. wandered out of his room first thing this morning and, with his eyes still full of sleep, had an announcement: He was going to put his sister in federal prison.

She deserved to be put on trial, he said, for annoying him.

So began another day in our house, where 3-year-old C., who is just acting her age, spends a good amount of time getting into her 8-year-old brother’s head, driving him half crazy in the process.

She gets into his Legos, draws on his homework and messes up his room. The other day, she threw a small remote-controlled car and hit him in the brow, but no serious damage was done. The trouble for A. is that when he retaliates, he gets in big trouble. He is, after all, a lot bigger and stronger.

As parents, we find ourselves in the role of referees all day long, separating them often and taking one or the other on errand trips just to keep the peace.

Other parents say this love-hate thing is all just normal, and really doesn’t let up until they are, say, 25 years old. Dang, that’s a long haul for us.

It’s been this way for awhile. A. told me yesterday that the day C. was born, he felt deep anger. It was sort of funny to hear this coming from such a little guy. I remember him asking shortly after her birth if we could get a baby cannon and shoot C. out of town.

When I grew up, I was the only one, so this is all new for me. I’m still trying to figure it all out. It’s enough to drive me batty.

As for A. and C., things improved this morning when we put a “Scooby” video on.

They both settled in and all was blissfully mellow.

“I love you,” A. told C. as they sat down to watch.

I think he really meant it, which makes this whole thing that much more strange.

Before he wanted to see his sister in a prison jumpsuit. Now they were best friends.

I didn’t try to over think it, and just enjoyed the quiet.

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Calling Santa

Am I a bad parent for threatening to call Santa on my cell phone when 3-year-old C. refuses to clean up her room, put on her shoes or pick up toys she scatters around the house?

Maybe, but I’m not the only one.

A co-worker who has kids said she had a picture of Santa on her cell phone, representing a sort of North Pole hotline. In the past, she even had relative she could dial who would play the role on the other end of the line when things got dire.

C. is at this golden stage where she understands who Santa is, and she believes me when I say I have Mr. Kringle on my speed dial.

Up through November, all I had to do was promise to call grandma if C. was misbehaving. This was especially effective, but at the same time strange, mainly because the grandma I was talking about is one of the nicest and most generous people in her life.

But this Christmas season, playing the Santa card has worked well.

When C. won’t eat her dinner, or stands up in her chair or does something else to make dinnertime a circus, all I have to do is reach for the phone and she snaps to attention.

Toward the end of the month, she has started to get a little wise to the ruse. Today I said was I going to call The Jolly One when she refused to get up off the floor and get her shoes on.

She looked at me and said “nooooooo” with a tone of playful challenge.

Only when I whipped out my phone did she finally get moving.

Unfortunately, this scheme does not work on A., who at 8 years old said he no longer believes in Santa.

I think that will change for him tomorrow. On Christmas morning, everyone becomes a believer.

As for now, I’m glad to have Santa on my side. He may never know how much of a help he really is.

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Darth Vader Sleepover

Could Darth Vader be misunderstood?

Three-year-old little C. thinks so.

Let’s back up a little. In a moment of weak parenting, I let C. and big bro A. watch “Star Wars” Episodes IV and V. It appeared to be a good idea. Nothing beats these old-school stories. Since L. is out of town on business and I’m watching the kids by myself for five days, it also seemed like a fine thing to keep them occupied.

But somehow C. has gotten attached to Vader, and now she wants to go to his house for a sleepover and to play video games.

“Darth Vader’s nice,” she said.

What does she see in this guy? After all, he has succumbed to the dark side after all. (I hope I’m not left asking myself the same question about her prom date when she’s 16.)

Trying to figure out her fixation, I asked a few questions.

So what kind of video games does he like?

“Star Wars” games, of course.

What’s his favorite sleepover food?

“Snail sandwiches,” she joked.

(That’s actually what I promise to make for dinner some nights. I usually just make mac and cheese.)

But what do they really want to eat at the sleepover?

“Pizza,” she said.

She said they’ll put on their pajamas. She’ll wear PJs with dinosaurs on them, while his will have tigers.

They’ll have flashlights, stay up late and have cereal in the morning. When it’s over, they’ll go for a walk, she said.

It all sounds like a pretty good time, except for the fact that Vader likes to go after people with a light saber.

“He’s my friend,” she said.

Boy, I hope this is just a phase.

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