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My Blog

September 2010

Jake Ewing: Star of the week!

How proud was I last week when I saw Jake and his classmates perform at the Redlands Prep Father’s Day breakfast.  You see Father’s Day here in Australia is the first Sunday in September – it’s in the spring just like it is in the states.  This year it meant that I got pampered on both US Father’s day and Australian Father’s day… heh, heh, heh.  
To celebrate Father’s Day at Redlands, the Prep school puts on a breakfast concert and Jake’s class sang a medley of songs about Australian animals – they did a great job!  The Father's Day concert was a lot like the grandparents and special friends concert that the prep school put on a couple weeks ago.  Unfortunately none of Jake's grandparents could be there so we were lucky enough to get this video of the song that kindy sang.  Jake is in the last row, 4th from the left.  To his right is a tall boy (just a little taller than Jake) with dark hair.
Before the Father's day concert, Jake and I had a chance to spend a little time in his classroom.  We read a couple books, he showed me some of his work, and then he showed me the wall of honour – where he was featured as the star of the week!  In Kindy Yellow when you’re the star they put up a picture of you and then ask you all sorts of questions so people can get to know you a bit better.  Jake’s teacher asked him questions about his family and some of his favorite things.  Jake reported his favorite sport as basketball, and also reported that his family consisted of his two brothers, his dad and of course his mum -- that’s Australian for mom :-).
In an answer about his favorite food, Jake declared that cupcakes were his favorite.  That’s my favorite food too!  When asked what kind of work he wanted to do when he grows up, Jake reported that he wanted to be someone who works at Vistaprint!  Hey, I work at Vistaprint!  I burst with pride as I hugged my little chip off the old block… what a wonderful kid, with impeccable taste and solid career aspirations in the area of small-business printing.  
But wait, perhaps this is just a really sinister long-range plan to steal my identity.  I’ll have to keep an eye on my credit report :-).
It seems that Jake is proud of his dad, but he can’t possibly be as proud as I am of him.  I love me some Jaker-Bake and his crazy snaggle-tooth too! 

Feeding the Animals

Now you might think, based on the title, that I’m going to talk to you about our wonderful experience at the Featherdale Wildlife Park last Sunday where we got to feed kangaroos, pet koalas, see live wombats & echidnas, and even have our shoes cleaned by emus.  But no… I’ll post some pictures about that next. 
The animals I’m referring to are our kids.  We are in a foreign land and yet we are still eating all the same foods we ate in America.  Pizza Hut and Dominos pizza can be delivered to our door.  The boys have smiley fries on their plates beside their meatloaf, maple syrup on their pancakes, Fruit Loops (when they are really lucky) in their breakfast bowls, and PB&J (or actually SFB&J - sunflower butter & jelly) in their lunch boxes.  So when we go out to eat, wouldn’t you think we’d do something different?? 
The boys (all 4 of them) deemed last night’s dinner out their favorite to date.  Where were we? The Counter, an American burger chain.  If you want a taste of our Aussie experience, you could probably find one near you (   
Granted, the burgers were good, but where’s the kangaroo steak?  The incredible seafood?  Melt in your mouth BBQ?  We couldn’t tell you.  Don’t worry, though.  By the time any of you get here, we will have found them.  If not, at least we know where to go for a great view or a great burger.

Dating in Australia

As Mike mentioned in an earlier blog, I’ve been dating since we arrived in Australia, looking for new friends.  It turns out, Alex has also started dating!  Here’s how it happened…
Just like every other school in the world, Redlands has certain grade levels that are really tight and others that aren’t so much.  Year 5 (Alex’s grade) has a group of mothers who are incredibly social and love to organize fun things for the kids and the parents.  So they’ve started an annual tradition of having a “disco” for the kids.  It’s been quite interesting watching Alex’s feelings and thoughts regarding the event change… 
Step 1. Avoidance.  Alex didn’t even want to go to the dance.   
Step 2. Reluctance.  Alex agreed to go if one of his buddies was going. 
Step 3. Anticipation.  Once that was settled, the talk around the playground turned to girls.  Some of the boys in Alex’s class had asked girls to the dance.  Alex comes home and says, “That’s crazy.  What’s the point?!  My friends and I aren’t asking any girls to the dance.  We’re just going to hang out together.”   
Step 4. Excitement.  The following day, the first words out of his mouth when I pick him up at school are, “I asked a girl to the dance.”  He’s all calm and cool about it until I ask, “Was your heart pounding out of your chest when you asked her?” which was just enough for him to launch into a full retelling of the events the way that only Alex can do it. 
Now, we aren’t really sure what that means.  Do I need to call her parents and ask if we can drive her to the dance?  Does he just meet her there?  According to Alex, we should give her a ride and give her flowers.  What a romantic!  
Many mothers who only have sons wish they could have a girl.  All of the excitement around this one event has taught me, once again, that my boys are everything I need.  They have the same emotions and go through the same dilemmas as the girls, but in a different way. 
I’m so proud of Alex.  I hope he and his date have a fantastic time at the dance next Friday!

To Tweet or not to Tweet

I’m pretty sure I’m getting old.  Actually there’s no pretty sure about it… I’m getting old. 
The other day, I stopped myself when I realized I was shaking a raised fist and shouting things like “you hoodlum kids, get out of my garden.”  Wendy has convinced the boys that I turned 50 on my recent “milestone” birthday. (I most certainly did not… Of course there’s nothing wrong with turning 50, I’m just not in that much of a hurry to get there any faster than the calendar gets me there).  And then there’s twitter, I don’t get it.  Apparently millions and millions of people do get Twitter, they must be young and hip… or are they just bored?  There are 5.9M people following Britney Spears for goodness sake, don’t they have anything better to do with their time?  Or for that matter don’t they have any taste?  Why they would follow Britney, I can’t guess. 
To try to get a better understanding of what the big deal with Twitter is I started by asking some probing questions.  Why is it a tweet?  Shouldn't it be a twit?  And then I went out to Twitter and looked up some recent posts.  Here’s a tweet from Denise Richards that’s interesting, or not... 
DENISE_RICHARDS: Packing..  Heading to NY tomorrow!
Denise Richards posts that she is packing, and is heading to NY tomorrow.  Okay? Am I missing something or does this seem like the worst kind of waste… and it’s only five words!  She has 1.7M followers – are you kidding me?  Nearly two million people lined up in order to have special access to the news that Denise Richards (of married to Charlie Sheen fame) is, get this, packing for a trip?  I’m embarrassed to be human.  Oh, and just so it's clear, I didn’t add that extra period in her post, I guess she thought that one word sentence really needed an extra full-stop.  Full stop is what they call a period here in Australia, I kind of like it..
Next I checked out a tweet from Benji Madden:
BENJAMINMADDEN: @evanlucy next year I will jn ur FF league cuz I always draft LJ...SKINS B-BY SKINS!!!!
First, Benji Madden?  This is a guy who is part of a decent band you never heard of (Good Charlotte), and only has any notoriety because he dated Paris Hilton, who only is famous because she’s… well famous.  It makes my head hurt that we can go two degrees of Paris Hilton now where we have people who are only famous because they were connected to someone famous who is only a celebrity because they are famous.  It’s like an Escher painting.  Oh, by the way, Benji has a quarter of a million people following him.
Second, I get the idea that my twitter friend Benji has tweeted in this case about fantasy football, but what language is he using?  In Australia we have some different words for things, but at least we mostly use the Roman alphabet and almost all words contain a vowel or two.  (Funny side story, in Australian slang there are six different non-standard uses for the word blue or bluey.  The word "Blue" when used as slang can refer to a fight, and it can mean a mistake.  In the form “Bluey” it can refer to a traffic ticket, it can reference a blue cattle dog, it might mean a heavy wool jacket and it can be in reference to a bluebottle jellyfish.  And that’s just the beginning, don’t get me started on Australian words.)   To solve this twitter language thing I might start a school to teach old people how to speak in the new languages of txt, sms and tweet.  Who am I kidding I’m qualified to teach none of them.    
The final tweet I checked out was from RainnWilson who is Dwight Shrute of The Office fame.  Check it out:
RainnWilson: Recipe for salad: 1 head of iceberg lettuce, shredded.
Okay – now that’s funny.  He clearly gets it, or at least I think he does.  In 140 words or less (that’s the maximum length of a twitter post) it is often hard to tell if someone is being serious, funny, stupid or sublime; but I can tell you without hesitation that the tweets I find the most hopelessly embarrassing for the sender are the ones that provide W-TMI (Way Too Much Information).  The Denise Richards Tweet is an example that just wastes a couple minutes, the truly horrifying tweets are about meals and let’s just say habits.
MikeTweetsDownUnder:  @whoeverislistening. I had a big bowl of AllBran for breakfast today.  Watch out!
Perhaps getting old is not the worst thing in the world – at least it allows me to just simply shake my head and walk away from the tweet-o-sphere.  Kids these days, next thing you know they’re going to tell me that this Al Gore internet thingy is more than just a fad.  
What about you... do you twit?

So Bad it's Good

Hello from the future (it's fourteen hours later in Australia) :-).
I just saw this picture and it inspired me...
The picture was posted on Facebook by my identical cousin Steve Custis who has on occassion inspired me, but more often he just makes me laugh.  He posted the photo with the headline, "Greetings from Blue Earth, MN.  Eat your green beans...Ho Ho Ho"  Hmmmm, giant road-side attractions... the american mid-west... fertile territory no-doubt.
Not too long ago I read an article about places around the world that were so terrible they were good… The concept is kind of hard to get your head around until you hear some of the examples…Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, World’s Largest Ball of Twine.  You get the idea, and if you know the location of any of these examples, you’ll see a theme emerge; almost all of these wonders of imagination exist in the middle of the country, not around the edges. 
Now, the US in my experience doesn’t have an exclusive franchise on stuff that defies reason – or places that are so bad they're good.  An example is a place in Spain called Poble Espanyol.  This place was designed for the Barcelona International Exhibition in 1929 with the idea that it was supposed to replicate an ideal Spanish village.  Imagine Plymouth Plantation without the happy middle-aged people in character dress.  So they build this ideal Spanish village and now a hundred years later they take your money to let you wander around an ideal Spanish ghost-town.  The biggest attraction we encountered there was the stray cats climbing an overgrown fig tree.  On second thought this place wasn't so bad it was good... it was just bad. I want my money back.
America also doesn’t own the license on large stuff either.  There are a couple great examples here in Australia.  My favorites are the giant worms Bill Bryson mentioned in “In a Sunburned Country” and the nine meter high prawn that I like to call the giant shrimp, which is an oxymoron and a road-side attraction all in one.  We’ve started a checklist and we’ll send pictures as we tick them off the list.  Many of these supersized attractions are in the northern Australian state of Queensland and we’re planning to visit for the first time later this month, wish us luck.  As a bit of a side note, Australian’s often refer to people from Queensland a little like people in the states might think about someone from Iowa or West Virginia.  Decent enough folk, but a tiny little bit of crazy got mixed in with their cornflakes.  In Queensland it could explain a proclivity for large stuff and roadside attractions featuring the likes of the big pie or the giant paperclip.  I’m not sure what excuse South Dakota has.
Back at the top of the “so bad they’re good list” brings us full circle to American’s mid-west.  Within the mid-west, I go straight to the cheese capital of the country. And, within the cheese capital I am quickly drawn to the Wisconsin Dells.  Anyone have a mental image yet?  Right in the center of town on the wonderfully terrible Wisconsin Dells parkway is an attraction so awesome that everyone should see it once.  It’s called Top Secret.  Now I’m not going to give it away as that would ruin the surprise for those of you lucky enough to be cruising through the Dells looking for a place to be amazed.  But it’s probably enough to quote some of the recent visitors: 
“The Secret is out, this place sucks.”
“Just take your $50 and flush it down the toilet now.”
“Burn your money and enjoy the fire…it’ll be better.”       
With reviews that bad it just has to top the so bad it's good list.  We visited a couple years ago with cousins (once again Steve Custis and his family enter the comedy) and it became a bit of a punch line that just gets funnier as the pain subsides.  The picture below shows that it looks very interesting from the outside and the kids really wanted to see what was inside (okay I did too).  Steve and I each shelled out like $60-$70 bucks, and ten minutes later I would have been happier if someone reached directly into my pocket to take the money.  We laughed anyway and I later sent Steve a t-shirt commemorating our Top Secret adventure, it was just that bad. 
I’d love to hear about what tops your list of so bad it’s good.  Leave your comment below, knowing that there is no prize for participation and the only benefit you’ll get is the satisfaction of a good chuckle at your own expense.    
What's inside really is Top Secret
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