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Apr 7 15

Where the belt test looms

by John

Last weekend, I ran a half marathon. This coming weekend, I have a full marathon. I’m Daddy Runs a Lot. You’d think my thoughts would be focused on the running.

But they aren’t.

That first word is Daddy — and that’s a big word. The meat in the running sandwich, this week, is a karate belt test. CJ started taking Tang Soo Do over the summer. And, when it was time for us to determine whether we were going to have him continue or finding something else to try to burn off endless child energy focus his attentions, I asked him if he’d like karate better if I did it with him. CJ was pretty emphatic that karate would be “more better” if I did it with him. So I signed up.

Being an adult among the kids is kind of fun. I’m someone who takes his fitness very seriously – I end up being a combination instructor/authority figure/student in class. I can’t really do much in the ways of explaining how to do a specific move/form (because I’m still learning them all, myself), but basic exercises? Well, I’m a helpful coach for push-ups, sit-ups, suicide runs, etc.

Anyway, tomorrow, CJ & I are looking at our second belt test (we tested, and received, our yellow belts a few months ago, assuming we pass, we’ll have orange belts). This is a pretty significant hurdle for CJ – because it means that he’ll be allowed to start his weapons training (to receive the next belt after orange, you need to demonstrate a nunchuk form). I’m still coming to grips with the fact that we’ll be giving my son nunchuks (though, to be fair, he’s held my old wooden nunchucks from my Kung-Fu days).

Anyway, martial arts schools don’t necessarily do well in not allowing their students achieve what they set out for — the fact that CJ has been invited to test means that his instructor has seen enough from him that he’s confident that CJ will pass the test. But CJ doesn’t know that. As far as CJ is concerned, tomorrow will be a “get it or not get it” moment. And he has been FOCUSED. He wants to start training with nunchuks. Heck, the other day, he started talking about how he really wants a black belt — and the focus has me super excited.

But, before we get to getting nunchuks. Before we get to black belt planning, we have to get through the next belt test. And the “biggie” is the second high form. CJ knows it . . . he knows it down cold. But when he does it in a group setting? He second-guesses himself. He watches what others are doing and, sometimes, overthinks himself. My mission? To get CJ to have confidence in his abilities.

CJ – if you mess up, do it confidently. Be strong. Be proud. If you hit a wall? Make sure there is a CJ-shaped hole in your wake.

Apr 2 15

Where I try to plan for the busy stretch

by John

You’ll have to excuse me as, again, I find myself turning to this here blog to try to keep the crazy at bay . . . I have a particularly busy stretch coming ahead, and need to plan it out, so I figure the three and three-quarters of you still reading will keep from unsubscribing y’all would love to see the way my mind works.

Complicating the busy stretch for me are two factors. First, I’m the organist of a Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and the Greek Church and the Western Church commonly celebrate Easter on a different schedule. So while most of the Christian world celebrates Easter this coming Sunday, this Sunday actually marks Palm Sunday in my calendar. So, everybody who might have scheduled around Holy Week, or, at least, Easter . . . well, they scheduled directly INTO my busy time. Then, my wife is following one of her passions, helping to make a local community theatre production great . . . and she approaches Tech Week as I work around Holy Week.

  • Saturday:
    • 5:30am: wake-up, walk Benji, start coffee brewing
    • 6:00am: shower, get into costume
    • 6:30am: drink coffee, eat breakfast
    • 7:00am: out of the door
    • 7:30am: check in at race
    • 8:00am: run the Movie Madness Half Marathon dressed as Rocky Balboa
    • noon: pick up the kids from Duffy‘s rehearsal
    • If I’m thoroughly exhausted:
      • Take kids to Starbucks, get myself coffee
      • Head home to watch movies on TV, put feet up
    • If I’m able to function:
      • Take kids to garden store, get cold weather seedlings (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts), pest-repellent plant seeds (marigold, mint)
      • Throw above shit into garden
    • 4:00pm: start dinner and hardboil eggs
    • 4:30pm: have kids dye eggs1
    • 6:00pm: dinner, movies, whatever the fuck happens at night. Drink a bottle or two a measured amount of wine because, fuck, I just ran a half marathon. Sleep.
  • Sunday:
    • 6:45am: wake-up, walk Benji, start coffee brewing
    • 7:15am: shower, dress self and kids for church
    • 7:45am: drink coffee, force breakfast down kids’s gullets
    • 8:30am: head to church, rehearse with choir, get through Palm Sunday service.
    • noon: donate blood (blood drive at church)
    • 1:00pm: head to my mom’s for Easter Dinner
    • 2:00pm: chores / child wrangling / piano playing / dinner eating / hugs / kisses / goodbyes
    • 7:00pm: home for movies and whatever the fuck happens at night.
  • Monday:
    • 5:30am: wake-up, walk Benji, start coffee brewing
    • 6:00am: head back to bed (Duffy and the kids have the day off . . . so I’m taking the day off, unfortunately for her, she has dental surgery)
    • 7:00am: shower, drink coffee, dress and play with kids
    • 9:00am: pack up van, drive Duffy to dental surgery
    • 10:00am: drop off Duffy, take kids to Starbucks. Or maybe McDonalds. Somewhere.
    • 11:30am: pick up Duffy, head home, make kids lunch, play with kids (possibly, head to garden store if I couldn’t make it on Saturday & every one is up for it)
    • 4:00pm: pack overnight bag for kids, make dinner, eat dinner
    • 6:00pm: drop kids off with my mother-in-law for the night
    • 7:00pm: symphony rehearsal
    • 10:30pm: sleep. Blessed sleep
  • Tuesday:
    • 5:30am: wake-up, walk Benji
    • 6:00am: start coffee brewing, light strength-training workout, dress for work
    • 7:00am: work
    • noon: gym for shower/massage chair
    • 1:00pm: work
    • 5:00pm: choir rehearsal
    • 6:00pm: Holy Tuesday service
    • 10:30pm: sleep.
  • Wednesday:
    • 5:30am: wake-up, walk Benji
    • 6:00am: start coffee brewing, dress for work
    • 8:00am: symphony board presentation
    • 9:00am: work from home
    • 12:30pm: preschool presentation
    • 1:30pm: work from home, pick up CJ
    • 5:00pm: karate belt test with CJ
    • 6:30pm: pick up Leila
    • 7:00pm: home for dinner, baths, bedtime, sleep
  • Thursday:
    • 5:30am: wake-up, walk Benji
    • 6:00am: start coffee brewing, dress kids, dress for work
    • 7:00am: work
    • noon: gym for shower/massage chair
    • 1:00pm: work, pick up CJ
    • 5:00pm: karate belt test with CJ
    • 6:30pm: pick up Leila
    • 7:00pm: home for dinner, baths, bedtime, sleep
  • Friday:
    • 5:30am: wake-up, walk Benji
    • 6:00am: start coffee brewing, dress kids, dress for work
    • 7:00am: work
    • noon: gym for shower/massage chair
    • 1:00pm: work
    • 5:00pm: choir rehearsal, Good Friday service
    • 10:30pm: sleep
  • Saturday:
    • 5:00am: wake-up, walk Benji, start coffee brewing
    • 5:30am: shower
    • 6:00am: drink coffee, eat breakfast
    • 6:30am: out of the door
    • 7:30am: check in at race
    • 8:00am: run the Garden Spot Village Marathon
    • 2:00pm: shower, rest, eat something
    • 9:00pm: dress
    • 10:00pm: choir rehearsal, Easter Vigil service
    • 3:00am: sleep. Blessed sleep.
  • Sunday:
    • whenever Benji sticks his face into mine: wake-up, try not to strangle him, walk him
    • half an hour later: back to bed (with head under covers)
    • noon: dress
    • 2:00pm: family Easter celebrations. Finally break my “no refined flours/sugars” restrictions

Of course, I have a week of “more-normal” (which is still pretty structured & busy) before I start tech rehearsals for my next show (Schoolhouse Rock) as Duffy spends weekends with her production run of The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr. My kids will remember who I am, eventually. I’m sure.

With the aforementioned schedule, I have the added fun of planning to run a marathon in there, which requires meal planning. I’m . . . truly disciplined in what eat (because, if I deviate from a plan, everything falls to shit in a heartbeat and I wonder why I’m shoving fistfuls of sugar into my piehole with one hand as the other hand slices a wheel of cheese into bite-sized bites). Every weekend, I take a little time to

  • Place a large quantity of high-quality meat in the crock pot with a bunch of spices overnight, then in the morning, I shred the meat before placing it into John-sized single-serving containers
  • Mix a small amount of yogurt with milk and leave at 110°F overnight, bottling the yogurt into single-serving containers
  • Shred/chop/slice large quantities of green cabbage, napa cabbage, bok choy, carrots, onions, and/or red cabbage, placing the result in large jars with spices and salt, and leave the result to ferment at room temperature for the next month
  • Take a batch of the fully-fermented prior and package into John-sized single-serving containers
  • Pour a half-gallon of whole milk over kefir grains and store to ferment at room temperature for a week
  • Take a batch of fully-fermented kefir, strain out the grains, and portion into single-serve containers

For breakfasts, I have coffee & kefir & yogurt. For lunches, I have the pulled meat and sauerkraut/kimchi. For the most part, this treats me quite well (you might recognize the diet as a fairly standard weight-lifter’s diet . . . it’s about 50% protein/25% fat/25% carbohydrate) . . . but, well, I need to bump up my glycogen stores for the marathon . . . which means more carbs. As I haven’t been gaining weight (and, well, normally I would care a LOT more about body fat percentage than my actual weight — but 26.2 miles is a LONG way to carry even an extra 2-3 pounds, so, well, my weight does matter) I’ll simply be adding a sweet potato & a beet, which I’ll munch on, throughout the day – perhaps the stray avocado as well.

After the marathon? I’ll rest. Or something.

1 Coloring eggs with the kids in the traditional “place hardboiled eggs in colored water and wait” doesn’t really work with my kids – so I’m trying to find ways that are a bit more active. I’m going to add rice & food coloring to airtight containers, then have the kids add one egg at a time & shake the container like a polaroid picture – I’m hoping that “more active” will mean far happier children.
Mar 31 15

Where a splash & a little bit of lip crack me up

by John

I’ll admit to having a bit of the same identity crisis as my friend Cameron, where I don’t fully know what direction to take this little blog of mine and it’s three & three-quarter readers. I can write about diet & fitness & the like until…whenever. But, well, even I’d grow tired of reading it . . . and it’s my life. I can only imagine what it would be like for you readers (that said, there will be two race reports over the next two weeks — and, possibly, a detail of a workout plan between now & my next full marathon, if only to help me formalize what I want to do, myself — once it hits this blog, well, I’m much more likely to abide by the plan I set out). I enjoy sharing little tidbits about home life & my cute children . . . but, at the same time, I do think my kids deserve some level of privacy.

But then I think that my kids can’t even read yet, so it’s not like they’re going to REQUEST that I stop writing about them . . . because they have no idea I’m doing it.

And also? This blog is, kind-of, serving as a “memory book” for the kids . . . at some point, between this blog, Duffy‘s blog, Instagram, and Facebook, we’ll be able to recreate much of my kids’ lives, growing up. Heck, even now, Timehop reminds me of what the kids did, when . . . and this is a story that, well, just can’t easily be shared on any of the prior, so it seems like it screams for a blog post.

Yesterday was not a banner day for child behavior.

CJ had already lost the ability to play video games, play with his iPad, choose a TV show (basically, most everything in the parent arsenal of “I have shit to do, here, entertain yourself”) due to behavior infractions the prior weekend. He still had his toys & his Legos, so it’s not like he was being tortured with boredom, but he was…difficult.

Leila, however, henceforth to be known as The La, was actually pretty good the past weekend. So I was quite disappointed when I picked the kids up from my mother-in-law & heard tales of horrible child behavior. No iPad/no movie picking for her for the night.

Great, what am I supposed to do now, to entertain the kids? Actually spend time with them. Fuck that shit.

Dinner passes ok – the kids eat pasta, I have a truly obnoxious-sized roasted turkey leg (I “breaded” it with almond meal before roasting, and then put a Carolina-gold BBQ sauce on for the last 45 minutes of roasting . . . it was heavenly). Then we play, approximately, 9,381 games of Candyland.

Then the kids ask to play chess. I’ve tried to teach them chess — they, simply, are not ready. So I suggest checkers. But hearing that checkers isn’t a 3 person game leads to dual temper tantrums.

Well, temper tantrums mean no more games. So, running out of tools in my parenting arsenal and knowing the sun still hadn’t set, I declared it bath time. Fortunately, the kids were really, really into this idea. So yay!

I still bathe the kids together. And the beginning of the bath is all business. Start the water, wet the hair, wash the hair, wash the bodies . . . then daddy can play Trivia Crack on his phone the kids can play until there just isn’t any more hot water. Imagine my complete lack of surprise when I tidal wave of water hits me. Followed by another. And then another.

I expected to find CJ staging some epic battle between a Batman action figure and one of Batman’s foes. Or Luke Skywalker. Or a Littlest Petshop figurine. But, however, it was The La, pumping her arms and slamming a Princess Tiana figurine, repeatedly, into the bath water.

“Leila, please stop that” I said, calmly but firmly.

(she continued to do it)

“Leila!” I say, with a note of aggression in my voice.

“I’m not doing it, it’s the princess!” she responds, splashing again.

“Does Tiana need a timeout?”

Leila stops the splashing. I think she’s contemplating what answer will keep her from getting a timeout.

“Well dad, that’s up to you.”

A better parent would have taken their daughter from the tub and put her in timeout for the second time that evening1. Or explained that the toy wasn’t making any decision on her own, and that continued “acting for the toy” would result in punishment.

This parent?

He dropped to his knees, laughing.

Seriously, the kids stopped what they were doing and watched me. CJ asked if I was going to be alright.

“Yeah buddy, I’ll be fine.”

Splashing, for the remainder of the bath, at least, was curtailed.

Later in the evening, as we read bedtime books, Snickelfritz, who is old and grumpy and deaf and blind and has a gimpy leg so he will only ever go up or down stairs if he is sure what he wants is on the other end of the stairwell, started barking. The barking got increasingly distressed. So I went to check on him.

This past weekend, I started work on my vegetable garden . . . I haven’t planted anything yet, but I took out the plants from last year, tilled the soil, and put up a barrier to better keep grass from working its way into the vegetables. I still have a lot of work to do: put up a fence, put down a weed-protective lining, etc., but it felt good to be outside & doing something.

Anyway, when I removed all of the plants from last year, I took out the tomato cages and put them aside. Somehow, and I really don’t know how this could have happened, but dogs – especially grumpy old dogs, have ways of making the impossible possible. Anyway, Snick ended up trapped inside a tomato cage. He managed to get himself through the dog door, but couldn’t get up the stairs.

I managed to get the cage off of him, somehow, and the kids did, eventually fall asleep.

They’re perfectly well-behaved in their sleep.

1 Earlier in the evening, Leila decided she wanted pack of mandarin oranges . . . however, we don’t let the kids open the mandarin oranges because, well, the juice they’re in would go anywhere. CJ, in a very bossy way, reminded Leila of this fact, and to let me open the oranges, to which The La threw an absolute fit. So I sent her to her room. Where she cried and cried and cried. When I went to check on her to try to calm her down, she looked at me and stated “just leave me alone.”
Mar 26 15

Where the random comes to visit

by John
  • Around these parts, the high temperatures are, consistently, above freezing every day — but, I’m ready for *warm*, dammit. And it has not been warm.
  • Before I married, I lost a significant amount of weight (mostly through a-near starvation diet), but found most-all of it over the next 10-12 years. Well, this time, as I’ve lost weight, I believe I’ve kept my head on a far more-level level. Yesterday, however, my weight registered 179 pounds, which was my previous low-water-mark. I’m still processing what this means — I feel that I’m far healthier than I last was, at this weight — I’m stronger and I’m not facing the same bouts of hunger that I was all those years ago. Yet, the number on the scale was a bit of a reality call, and I’ll be incorporating more calories into my diet (I’d say that I’d work out less but, lately, well, I’ve barely been working out, fighting a series of colds and an extraordinarily busy schedule1) in an effort to put on a few pounds in a responsible way.
  • Yes, I realize that I’m an absolute asshole for saying “I need to gain weight,” but, well, best to call a spade a spade.
  • My brain has moved onto the Appalachian Trail since my last post . . . alas, commitments don’t go away just because I have pipe dreams aspirations. It will likely be until August that I’m actually able to make a multi-day hike a reality. My current plan has me leaving the AT from a point close to my home, heading north, spending a night on the trail, heading north again, having Duffy and the kids meet me near a shelter, pray that the shelter isn’t overly-attended, spend the night as a family at the primitive facility, and drive home, together, the next day.
  • While my kids claim to “want to camp,” they’ve been used to campsites. While certainly “closer to nature” than staying at a hotel, they do include a bunch of amenities: running water, the ability to plug in & charge electronic devices, the car you got there in, mostly reliable cell phone coverage. I’ll be interested to see, if this “more primitive” night actually takes place (I’m not going to say “truly primitive” because it’ll be at an established shelter, with a well provided for water and a privy dug), if it changes my kids’ opinion of camping.
  • Part of me wants to take Benji with me — but I will not because I’m concerned enough with myself and, while the dog has lots of energy, he’s used to napping for the better part of the day, most every day – I’m not sure how he’d do on the trail for 12+ hours of movement.
  • Speaking of Benji, he’s taken to hunting rabbits. In the past month, he’s brought in 3 rabbits that he’s killed in the yard. Now, I love my dog, but, as far as canines go, I do not think he’s especially bright. And he is not, in any definition of the word, stealthy. But, he is quite quick – what I think is happening is that a large portion of the back yard is fenced in, and the fence is buried in most places, to keep dogs from burrowing under it. But, at the two gates, there is some “wiggle room” for small animals to get through. I think they’re getting through, causing Benji to notice them, and then they can’t work their way out of the fenced-in area. And the dog makes quick work of them. While cleanup from these adventures is gross, it does leave me thinking that we mightn’t have the same rodent problem in the garden as we have in years past.
  • Speaking of the garden, I’m hoping to head out to till the soil, dig/place some barriers to better protect against grass incursion, and put up some fencing. Despite the fact that I’m looking at a TON of work for myself, I’m kind-of giddy, thinking about doing it.
  • I worked from home yesterday while recovering from a dental procedure. I dislike the dentist for anything more than a cleaning (I kind of like the fact that I’m forced to unplug & “just be” during a routine cleaning), but the worst part of the whole event was getting back home. I knew the procedure was going to force me to have a numb jaw/tongue — the thought/worry about what was coming weighed on me & affected my appetite that morning. After the procedure, I knew things would return to normal, and with that, my appetite returned. The problem was that I couldn’t feel my tongue. I couldn’t taste anything . . . I’m sure I COULD have eaten something, if I was quite careful & whatever I ate was mushy (because, if I tried to chew, I’m pretty sure I’d have bitten my tongue) — but, well, what’s the point? I waited for feeling to return before finally eating . . . but being hungry and not eating is a horrible feeling. Which makes me think about the levels of comfort that I have. Very rare are the times that I want to eat, where I cannot eat. I am fortunate. I know this.
  • Two weeks until my next half marathon. Three weeks until my next marathon . . . wanna guess how much I’ve been running lately? Let’s say that I’m happy that I won’t be concentrating on my time.
  • Yesterday was J.R.R. Tolkien Reading Day . . . I wore a silly tshirt with a “Calvin & Hobbes”-ified picture of Gandalf & Frodo. Leila expressed a great interest in the shirt . . . so, last night, I put on the animated version of The Hobbit. She loved it. My geeky heart could not contain its excitement.
  • My current music mix at work contains several renditions of God Bless the Child (Billie Holiday, Blood Sweat & Tears, Lou Rawls, Sonny Rollins, Annie Lennox, Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett), in case you’re curious where my mind travels when I’m exceptionally busy.
  • Is there any way to name someone Aretha in today’s day & age?

  • 1 Yes, even for me
Mar 23 15

Where I process this past weekend

by John

A long time ago, I started a blog specifically to chronicle my cycling. Then it turned into “how I was going to get myself healthy.” It didn’t take long, however, for me to start writing to “keep the crazy at bay.” I don’t write here as much as I once did, mostly because I find myself busier than I was, back when I created this character of “Daddy Runs a Lot.” But, today, well, I’m fighting off the crazy a little bit, so you’ll have to excuse me as I just extract the thoughts & turn this dumping ground collection of posts into my own, personal pensive.

I was in the pit of Jesus Christ Superstar when the director asked me if I’d be interested in playing bass for a show in Hershey — the show was Edges, and it was a one-weekend commitment, and it would probably pay . . . and I was free for that weekend. So I said sure. But then the show was delayed & I didn’t think about it too much. It turns out that the show was pushed to this past weekend . . . though I missed the original note as to the new dates, I was still able to play — so play I did.

Dustin, the director for Jesus Christ Superstar, is the president of the Carlisle Theatre Company (I have the honor of saying that I’ve been part of every pit for every musical that the theatre ensemble has put on where they had a live band . . . and the only times the group has put on a musical that didn’t involve a live band was when the licensing of the musical dictated that tracks would be used). He doesn’t cast himself in shows at Carlisle very often, but he’s a very good entertainer, and every time he is involved with a show, there’s a good reason for it. Edges — it’s not a show, but a song cycle (meaning that it’s just a bunch of songs, very loosely tied to one another) . . . it’s very odd, but very fun. And the talent of the four actors that put it on? Well, I was blown away. It was fun and profound and silly and funny and, well, just a good time.

This was my first time playing at the Hershey Area Playhouse (which is a beautiful theatre, and the support staff there is, truly, top-notch), and the whole thing was just a blast. This, however, was the first time that I’ve played a two-show engagement . . . meaning that every song I played was either the first or last time I’d play that song in front of a crowd. Well, I guess it’s likely that I’ll end up playing the show again, but, even if it’s the same cast, in the same theatre . . . well, every production feels like an entirely new show. I’ve played Annie so many times that I think I can actually dictate all of the dialogue (and I’ve never been on stage), yet, every time I play it, it feels new.

Anyway – the show was super fun. Saturday night, however, I was in one of those “I am performing” clouds. The best way I can explain this is to compare it to the runner’s high. No longer was I playing the music on the page, but my being was part of the performance (just like the only way I can describe the “runner’s high” is that I’m no longer running on a course, but that I’m, simply, part of the run). If there was a feeling that I wish I could recall, at a moment’s notice, it’s that feeling . . . better than anything in the world.

The show’s rescheduling, however, came at a precarious time — Duffy was out of town Saturday to Sunday for a girls’ weekend. And I had to be in NJ for a family baptism on Sunday. Fortunately, my mommy lives pretty close to the theatre, so, on Saturday? We trekked over to her place after I got through my “need to do in order to ease my mind” chores on Saturday (started a batch of sauerkraut, prepared lunches for the week) — I tried to do my best “good son” impression: did her taxes, fixed her computers before taking advantage of some free babysitting. My kids and I got home around 11pm on Saturday night . . . yeah, I had a four year old and a five year old out, almost to midnight. I don’t know why anyone thinks that I’m the least bit responsible. Truly.

I woke early on Sunday to tidy up my shaved head and to trim my beard. As I started preparing car snacks (chopped vegetables, lox & kefir-cheese wraps, nuts, and cheese), the kids woke. I cut CJ’s hair, bathed the kids, dressed the kids . . . and we got out the door.

I may have stopped for coffee a time or two along the journey.

We made it to NJ, attended the baptism of my stepbrother’s son. The kids . . . well, I’m conflicted as to their use of electronics. For the church service, the kids sat (mostly) quietly in the pews, playing with toys, which is, honestly, as good as one can hope with young children. At the banquet, however, I let the kids take their iPads in . . . they got the iPads for Christmas and, for long car rides & the like, they’re life-savers. Here, however, there were other kids about . . . I was really hoping that my kids would, you know, play with those other kids. But, it was also a fancy Italian restaurant . . . and the iPads were keeping the kids quite quiet and out of the way of the servers. I let them play & watch whatever — but, thankfully, they shared the screens with their cousins & stepcousins & friends of their stepcousins, and whoever else happened to be there.

Leaving the banquet, I had a voicemail. I checked it.

A friend of mine – the drummer in my two bands. His wife had died of cancer.

I screamed in frustration.

The kids asked me what was wrong.

We spent the better part of the ride home talking about death (well, the kids are kids – we talked about Doritos. and cheese. and Halo. and Legos. and Spongebob Squarepants. and what TV shows daddy watched when he was their age. and Batman. and “Strawberry Cupcake”. But death circled about a lot – especially as we passed any graveyard) and why someone dying would make me frustrated (yes, La, frustrated like when you have a potty accident). It’s truly remarkable how provocative and introspective kids can be.

Eventually the kids fell asleep and I went back to the audiobook that I had been working through: A Walk for Sunshine by Jeff Alt, finishing the book just around the time the kids woke once again. I am one of the most “connected” people I know. So, I don’t know why I feel the draw of the Appalachian Trail as I do . . . but I do. Anyway, I truly enjoyed the book, and it got me thinking that I’m going to need to hike the trail some day (I know, I know “some day” is the term that people use when they want to do something but never will — I truly applaud my friend Lisa for getting things in order so that she can turn her life to her passion of travel). Alt, throughout the book, does a GREAT job of detailing the food he’s eating . . . and, well, if there is something I think about more than sex, it’s food . . . I found myself salivating over his descriptions of the all-you-can-eat restaurants, and, I’ll admit, finding myself a bit jealous of all of the sugars he was eating (though, to be honest, I’d be a LOT more lax about my diet if I were moving 25+ miles/day on my feet).

I found myself thinking about Jack London & the Call of the Wild . . . there’s something about the wilderness that speaks to me. I want to be one with nature . . . yet I still want my iPhone. I think about Alexander Supertramp and, while a winter in the Alaskan wilderness is completely crazy — I’m left wondering if I could do it. I’m left wanting to test myself. Until I think about the fact that my feet are cold, so I turn up the heat in my truck, and realize that, yeah, maybe not.

The AT runs through my town . . . heck, in times of good weather & lax schedule, I run portions of the Appalachian Trail with a friend of mine (Hi, Linda!). I’m giving serious thought to packing up a pack and heading out for a long weekend — two days out, two days back among the rockiest terrain of the stretch . . . and with that, I’ll figure out when I might be up for more. Though, if I’m honest, I maintain the hopes that one or both of my kids catch the “like to make myself tired” bug that I have. Hiking the Appalachian Trail with my son after he graduates high school. Celebrating my daughter’s doctorate with a bicycle ride across the US.

We got home, had some Chinese, I drank some too much wine. I prepared my breakfasts for the week (I made goat’s milk yogurt for the first time, for those of you who follow my diet closely — I’ll have a report eventually), read a bedtime story to the kids, put my feet up, started the next Star Trek movie (I’ve been working my way through them) and was asleep before the opening credits were over with. I’ll still need to watch The Final Frontier.

So now we’re on Monday & I can’t stop thinking about a solo hike. I think this needs to happen, and happen soon. My schedule is dictating my life lately. I live between my work calendar and the google calendar that I share with my family. But, as the voicemail reminds me, life is precious. Time is finite and precious. I need to find my roots – and in so doing, maybe get over this funk that I’ve been fighting for the past . . . . oh, I don’t know, I hate to say it, but I think I’ve been fighting it since the new year.

Mar 9 15

Where I contemplate life as a musician

by John

I still remember my thought process in college. At the start of my freshman year, I was eager to get my degree in music education. Sure, my salary might not be quite as much as it could be, otherwise, but I’d be able to moonlight with private lessons and gigs of some sort or other — I’d get to do what I wanted to do, having fun along the way.

What do you call a musician? Someone who will put a $5000 instrument in a $1000 car to drive 100 miles for $50.

Then my first credit card bill came in during the same week that I heard from a band on campus that they were going to go with another bassist – it’s the first time I wanted to join a group and didn’t (except for that time I auditioned to be in the middle school musical and forgot the audition song halfway through the audition — and, even then, I played in the pit of the musical, and that was far more “me,” in the end). Heck, even the first time I auditioned for regional symphony, having barely looked at the audition piece, while high on codeine, I made the orchestra.

I don’t want to say that I was an entitled kid, but I was, at least musically. What I wanted, I did 1. And, suddenly, well, “moonlighting for the New York Philharmonic” wasn’t a certainty. I had a bit of a crisis and, by the middle of the semester, I had changed my major from music education to computer engineering, which I stuck with until graduation. And I’ve done quite well for myself, employment-wise, since making this decision.

But, after graduation . . . well, it was months before I even set up a cheap keyboard in my apartment, and it wasn’t until I moved to central PA that I touched Lynnette. I tried to remove the “musical aspirations” from my life. I was a good web developer, I was on a good career curve.

But those passions in life, well, they never really leave you.

When we finally moved our furniture into the house2, my wife had a piano that came from her mother’s house. I had a church organ that had been with me since high school. I had Lynnette back. I had music all around me, and I started playing when I could. And, as this was before kids (heck, this was before I even started running), so I had some decent downtime, so I played a fair bit.

Then I was asked to play with a pit band for a theatre fundraiser. A college friend of mine found that I was in the area and had me join the community symphony. The theatre fundraiser gig turned into my playing piano with a musical production, which turned into my playing with the classic rock band. I was married in a Greek Orthodox church, and the previous organist died in a car crash, during my wedding rehearsal (I had hired a local musician from outside of the church to be my own organist). I didn’t know this — but, ahead of my wedding, I played the organ just to blow off some steam . . . choir members heard, and I was approached about becoming the organist there. I’m still the organist there, 11 years later.

Anyway, I don’t believe I’m a great musician3, but I do believe I’m a competent, reliable, & easy-to-get-along-with musician. And, well, that makes for opportunities – and I’ve had several. And with opportunities come random thoughts!

  • As mentioned above, I’m the organist at the local Greek Orthodox Cathedral . . . and, well, the powers-that-be in the church would far rather there be no organ used in the ceremony. Every now & then, the choir director gets a gleam in her eye about having me, simply, provide an opening pitch and then having the choir sing a capella — maybe, for the more-difficult passages, I’d just mirror the soprano part. Every time this happens, I just smile & nod, knowing full-well that, if this were to become common practice, I’d walk away from the job. Yes, the job would become exponentially easier . . . but all challenge would be removed. You’d be able to teach a monkey to provide pitches, and I wouldn’t feel that I was “making music,” and that just wouldn’t be worth it to me. Though losing the paycheck would be a shame.
  • My classic rock band has had a real problem finding a lead guitarist. The lead guitarist that was there when I joined the band quit because we weren’t gigging enough (though, well, he wasn’t exactly going a lot to bring in performance opportunities). We found a new guy & were having a lot of fun coming “up to speed” with him, but he walked . . . a big part of the reason? We played some songs that, while the typical “bar crowd” loved to hear, he didn’t like to play. Those who have seen me play know I am…expressive. Heck, with the symphony, I may be expressive to the point of distraction — I can’t dance worth a lick, but I move to the music I make and, in so doing, am providing a single focus of all of my energies. If I’m not moving, it means that I’m either bored or I’m still learning the music (meaning that there’s little going on outside of my seeing the music, interpreting the music, and relaying things to my hands — I’m “playing notes” and not “making music”). Heck, most of what I play, I consider not-challenging and, mostly, it’s not fun to play. But I smile, and I do as good a job as I can in playing it, even if it’s the ten-millionth time I’ve played “Stars and Stripes Forever” (just a slight exaggeration). When I play, whether or not I truly enjoy the music I’m playing, those watching see a musician who is actively seeking to make the best of the performance. And that makes even playing a boring piece well-worth the time & effort into performing it.
  • Regarding the previous, I’ve been told, a time or two, that I’d be wasted as a studio musician. I can’t say that I disagree — performing for a recording is great & everything, but it pales in comparison to playing in front of a receptive crowd.
  • I truly get a kick out of my most common “audience of two” (you can’t see Leila doing her ballet moves here, but I promise she was). Again, nothing beats a receptive audience. Even if said audience is small (in both quantity and stature).
  • I have made little progress on my musical . . . but I have not given up hopes of writing it. Some day. It just hasn’t been a priority.

  • 1 I was cut and/or rode the bench for my share of sports teams . . . it was only with musical groups that I seemed to be writing my own ticket.
    2 When we moved, we originally rented the house in which we currently live back to the sellers for a month or two, and then moved only what we absolutely needed, with the bulk of “our stuff” held in my mother’s garage as we did some hardcore renovations of the house – notably floors and walls, which are a whole lot easier to do when you don’t need to re-configure furniture. Then I broke my elbow and we just had movers move everything in.
    3 This isn’t false modesty on my part (though I’m aware that some who may have heard me would disagree, perhaps vehemently). What I learn to play, I play well. To a certain level, I can play most anything — and, if I put in the time/effort, I can learn to play anything. I don’t typically have the time to sit down and teach myself the truly elite passages, and I, generally, learn to play only what I need to play, to get by – and, if I did have the time to “become a great musician,” I fear that I’d find other things to do — there’s always something that needs attention . . . memorizing Rhapsody in Blue isn’t one of those things.

    With all that said, I believe myself to be an elite accompanist. I listen incredibly well, and am always aware of what I’m playing and how it’s interacting with everything else going on during a performance. I have a strong grasp of musical theory and can help a featured musician work out of a mistake by changing up a chord progression. I have enough experience to make incredibly educated guesses as to where someone may change things. In short, when I play with others, I believe I make those others better.

Feb 11 15

Where I provide my take on the current crop of fitness buzzwords

by John

There are tons of buzzwords heading about the fitness world these days — and, I’ll admit, there are times that I feel overwhelmed by them all — and I’m, admittedly, someone who has things “better in tow” than most. So, I figured I’d take a minute to throw a bunch of the buzzwords that are used, break them down, and share a few thoughts about them.

What is it? In strength training, working your way to five sets of five repetitions at the maximum resistance. When you’ve managed to achieve five sets of five reps, you increase the maximum weight the next time.
Why is it being talked about? Because strength training is important, and this is a very easy and effective method of making yourself stronger, faster.
Do I do it? No. I focus, primarily, on bodyweight exercises, as I have limited access to free weights & barbells. However, when I first started strength training, I did abide by a 5×5 plan.
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!
Intermittent Fasting (IF)
What is it? skipping a meal every now & then. There are some who develop complex schedules about when/where you should skip – but, in the end, it boils down to skipping a meal every now & then.
Why is it being talked about? The old theory was that you “maximized your metabolism” if you broke your food intake down into several small meals during the day. Following the adage “never skip breakfast,” and then, essentially, grazing on healthy food, you’d just shed weight. Logically (to me, at least), that approach made sense — the body has to work in order to break down food . . . so if it’s always working to digest, there’s less chance for it to take from food stores to fat stores. However, modern research shows that skipping a meal could, in the end work. I should not that this is NOT a “eat whatever you want for a few hours a day and don’t eat the rest of the day” diet. That shit will fuck you up. If I had carte-blanche to eat whatever I wanted while at work, for example, and then eschew food for the rest of the day? I could do it. But I’d gain weight, very quickly – and most of it wouldn’t be muscle.
Do I do it? I actually do this, though not regularly. The “small meals” concept truly does make sense to me . . . but I’m someone who can graze all day & still feel hungry — so, when I try to employ the “lots of small meals” concept, it ends up blowing up in my face. I do much better about “eating on a plan” if I feel so satiated, at the end of a meal, that I don’t want to snack. I can deal with “being hungry” for a bit (as long as I keep from BEING HANGRY). Generally, I try to ensure that there are 12 hours between the last food I eat for a day and the first food I eat in the morning. I never skip a meal on a day in which strength training is my focus (I want to ensure that the body is building muscle), but on a rest day? Especially a rest day that I’m particularly busy? I might skip breakfast or lunch or dinner.
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!
Couch to 5k (C25k)
What is it? A training program designed to get a someone new to running to running 5k races.
Why is it being talked about? Running is fun, and free, and is growing in popularity. 5k is the most-popular race distance.
Do I do it? I started running by following Couch to 5k . . . while I’ve progressed beyond it, I absolutely followed it.
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!2
CrossFit (CF)
What is it? A fitness regimen/workout plan focusing on strength & conditioning. At the core, it’s: lift shit, using complex movements. With a focus on “getting strong” the rest of the body will come along.
Why is it being talked about? Because it works. The “modern gym” focuses on muscle isolation and cardio machines — but, in the real world, you never need just your bicep to get yourself out of a tricky situation. By employing complex movements (pull-ups, squats, etc.), you make the whole body stronger, spending time, overall, in the gym, and as you get stronger, everything kind-of falls into place.
Do I do it? Strictly speaking, no. I do not belong to a CrossFit gym, so, therefore, I do not follow CrossFit. However, my focus, 3-4 days a week, is in doing pull-ups, dips, pistol squats, goblet squats, overhead press, chin-ups, and push-ups, which are all regular items on the CrossFit Workout Of the Day (WOD). The main reason I don’t belong to a CrossFit gym is twofold: I’m just busy enough that juggling an external schedule gives me a headache, and they’re far more expensive than the gym I belong to.
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!
What is it? A fitness contraption, allowing you to easily re-adjust it and do a plethora of exercises in a relatively small amount of space.
Why is it being talked about? Because, when push comes to shove, any exercise that uses your own bodyweight will make you stronger, quickly. This contraption is something that allows you to do a lot of bodyweight exercises, at varying levels of difficulty (e.g., if you’re not strong enough to do a pull-up, you can adjust the mechanism to allow you to progress to doing a pull-up relatively easily), in a very small amount of space.
Do I do it? No. I’ve attended a TRX class or two at my local Y, but I don’t do well in juggling any more in my schedule than I already do. It was fun, certainly, but it’s not in my regular line-up. And the mechanism is expensive – too expensive for me to justify the cost at home (I do, however, have a set of gymnast rings and a pull-up bar).
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!
What is it? A diet plan following the belief that our minds/technology have evolved more quickly than our bodies, and we should be eating more along the ways that our evolutionary ancestors ate.
Why is it being talked about? Every few years, a diet ends up being the “in” diet. Right now, it happens to be the Paleo diet. Like most any diet, it works, as long as it’s followed. However, look through any Paleo message board and you’ll see tons of variations and firmly held beliefs about what is/isn’t paleo.
Do I do it? Kind of. I’ve eschewed most refined flours and sugars. If I can, I make my food . . . that which I can’t make (and, therefore, order from a restaurant), I try to only order those items that I know how they’re made and what ingredients they might contain. But, I fucking love cheese. Heck, I love most any dairy, but I fucking love cheese. I will not live without cheese. And, one of the first things you’re supposed to remove from your diet, when you go paleo, is dairy. So I don’t do paleo, and I won’t claim to do so. But, many of the aspects of the paleo diet, I do abide by.
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!
Low-Carb/High Fat (LCHF)
What is it? A diet wherein you get a relatively low number of your calories from carbohydrates and relatively high number of calories from lipids.
Why is it being talked about? Because for years, the general consensus has been the precise opposite: eat lots of grains (though limit sugar) as part of a low-fat diet. But, modern research seems to show that, as long as you’re keeping trans-fats out of your diet (and maybe, or maybe not, limit Omega 6 fatty acids while maximizing Omega 3 fats . . . as I said in the intro, this shit is overwhelming), you might be better off flipping the original model on its head.
Do I do it? Yes. I severely limit refined flours and sugars . . . this means I eat very little bread/pasta/rice. When I go to a restaurant and want a burger? I’m that jerk who orders it without the bun (though I’m much more likely to order steak or chicken and salad). When I order Chinese take-out? My kids eat the rice that comes with the meal. I don’t eat pizza, unless I make it myself, and therefore make it with a cauliflower crust. The carbohydrates that I do eat (and yes, I do eat plenty of carbs), are generally incredibly rich in fiber.
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!
What is it? A cast-iron weight on a handle
Why is it being talked about? These have become quite popular among the CrossFit crowd. Simply, they’re a bit more versatile than dumbbells.
Do I do it? Yes. I have a set of kettlebells in my basement, ranging from 5 to 35 pounds (in 5 pound increments). There is a barbell manufacturing company relatively close to where I live, so ordering directly from the manufacturer allowed me to save a bit of money — but, that said, they’re not overly cheap.
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!
What is it? An aerobic-dance class
Why is it being talked about? Because dancing is fun. Dancing and burning calories, all the better. Basically, the more you move, the better.
Do I do it? No. I like to say that my rhythm doesn’t extend beyond my musical talents . . . I can’t dance. I’m ok with this fact.
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!
What is it? A 30 day diet program built around “eating clean.” For 30 days, there’s no sugar, no alcohol, no grains, no legumes, no dairy. Essentially, if you can’t grow it or kill it, don’t eat it.
Why is it being talked about? This seems to be the “fad” new year’s resolution this year — while the program has been around for awhile, a lot of people seemed to kick off the year with a Whole 30 commitment. And, well, those that stuck with it, they experienced great results.
Do I do it? Oh hell no. Remember, I fucking love cheese. Also, I don’t do well with any eating plan that has me focused on an end date. I get “do this for a small time, just so you can see how it makes you feel,” but that end date seems too arbitrary for me — so what’s the point of sticking with whole 30 instead of whole 27? Then whole 24? Then “just give me the damn doughnut already.” I do appreciate the core belief of “don’t look for ingredient substitution methods,” however. There are entire websites built around ingredient substitution (instead of using white sugar, use coconut palm sugar and *viola*, it’s paleo-friendly!), and that’s just a practice that grates on me the wrong way1

Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!
What is it? Gluten is a protein found in many grains, especially wheat. A gluten-free diet is a diet wherein the dieter avoids any ingredients that contain gluten.
Why is it being talked about? There is a very serious condition, known as Celiac disease, where someone is allergic to gluten, and reacts quite poorly whenever they eat anything that happens to have gluten in it. Many, however, have gone “gluten-free” after trying a gluten free diet and . . . well, with less refined flour in their daily lives, they find they feel better.
Do I do it? Not really, no. My grain intake is quite low . . . but that comes from a desire to remove processed foods from my diet, not in removing gluten. Gluten, itself, doesn’t affect me. It’s just that I can eat a slice or a loaf of bread and be no less hungry than I was when I started eating. While I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I have next-to-no gluten in the food that I’m eating (if I ingest any gluten, at all), my intent is not to avoid gluten, and I don’t read ingredients specifically avoiding foods that might have wheat as an ingredient.
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!2
Red Wine
What is it? Fermented grape juice, also known as the stuff of heaven.
Why is it being talked about? This article, showing that a glass of red wine may offer the same cardiovascular benefit of an hour of a moderate workout has been making the rounds. Important to note from this article is that the benefits are limited to a single glass – they don’t accumulate as you drink glass after glass (or, in my case, bottle after bottle).
Do I do it? Yes. I commonly enjoy a single glass of red wine with dinner (I, typically, buy a 5L box of wine and then pour from that into a mason jar to ensure that I have a precise amount – allowing me to help hit calorie targets and stay on a budget). But, I don’t drink it for any health benefits. I drink it because I really, really love it. Almost as much as I fucking love cheese. Limiting myself to a single glass is difficult — but, well, I’m a dad first & foremost. In all things.
Should you do it? If you think it might work for you, sure!2

1 That said, I’ll admit that I’ve fallen into this trap with a banana bread recipe. See, I hate throwing away food — and, in my house, bananas are hit or miss. Sometimes, the kids eat whatever we buy, essentially the minute they’re brought home. Other weeks, bananas are ignored, entirely. And when they’ve gone overripe, really, the only options are to bake with them or throw them away. So I found a banana bread recipe that fits within my “no refined flours or sugars” philosophy.
2 But please, for the love of god, unless you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac disease, do not tell food preparers that you have an allergy to gluten (which means that they have to, essentially, sterilize their entire operation to make you food, where, really, you’re just looking to avoid an ingredient or two, but, you know, if they used a knife that once touched a slice of bread, nobody is going to have any ill effect).
Feb 9 15

Where I have a little giggle at human nature

by John

I love the way that we, as humans, feel the need to come up with back-stories for those we run across in our lives. When a person walks past me with a scowl on their face? I immediately start thinking what might have caused said scowl, and who might be responsible for the person’s bad mood, and what they did . . . it might be just a few seconds, but I’m, basically, incapable of seeing someone without coming up with some amount of backstory for them.

And while I’m far from a secretive person, I don’t exactly share each & every aspect of my life with each & every person I encounter. At work, I’ll gladly talk about anything — but non-work-related topics really only ever come up if someone broaches the subject with me. As such, people who work in close proximity to me know a bit about my running and music. They know a lot about my kids – but, really, that’s about it. And the people who work in the same building, but seldom with me, well, they just know there’s this tall guy who walks through the aisles.

Just now, in the office kitchen, a coworker sneezed around me & apologized. Now, it’s not like she sneezed in my face or anything — she just sneezed around me. I mentioned that there was no need to apologize & she just looked all confused. “Hmm, I thought you were a germophobe” she responded.

Now, I am far from being a germophobe. In fact, if there’s an opposite of germophobe, that’s me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to ever get sick — but, well, germs are a part of life. I think some exposure to them actually helps to keep you from avoiding them in the long run.

So, naturally, I had to follow up. She mentioned that I just seemed like such a neat freak, because she sees me do dishes every day in the office kitchen sink.

This made me, truly, laugh out loud.

I don’t think anyone who knows me can ever say that I’m a neat freak.

But, yes, I do wash dishes in the office kitchen sink every day.

See, because I’m an exceedingly cheap bastard because I like to ensure that I’m following my own eating plan, I bring in my lunch every day. Because I like to eat with reckless abandon try to eat enough food to ensure that, when I get home, I’m not “hangry”, my lunch typically consists of several individual containers (e.g., today, there was a small glass jar for my morning Greek yogurt, then for lunch I’ll have pulled chicken in a mason jar, sauerkraut and broccoli in Tupperware containers). My big fear is that something “comes up1 and when I next head into my truck, I find it missing from my driveway, having been driven away by a creature evolved from tiny scraps of chicken & sauerkraut particles, left alone without proper sanitation. Basically, I wash my dishes at the office kitchen sink in order to prevent a worse mess for the inevitable time that I leave my dishes, unwashed, for a significant period of time. And it helps provides me with a “non-work task” as I pack up for the day, allowing me to better “mentally break” work and home, which has, historically, been issue for me.

So, while I’d call myself a hoarder if I didn’t have a problem throwing stuff away (I’m not, honestly. I’m just too damn lazy to look through a pile of stuff to see if there’s anything that I know I’ll need in the future and/or is valuable enough to try to sell on eBay . . . nevermind actually listing an item to sell on eBay), I’m barely a step above a slob (though I’m trying to get better about this). And, because of that need for people to fill in the gaps of people they see in the periphery, well, some people see me as a neat freak. Funny, huh?

1 I, in my eagerness to be home, leave my lunch containers, in my lunch bag2 in my truck. I’ll get sick, the kids will get sick, some weather situation will materialize, and/or the weekend will hit and I’ll spend several days without ever even approaching my truck.

my desk

Feb 4 15

Where I try to take a snapshot of my children

by John

Several years ago, we were having dinner with some friends — my kids were babies, but our friends had one child who was a baby, and one who was firmly beyond “babyhood.” At the time, CJ had his finger wrapped around my little finger1 and I mentioned how much I enjoyed that little “baby reaction.”

The conversation turned to when the “no longer a baby” stopped doing it . . . and neither parent could answer. At the time, I was shocked – I mean, it’s something I so enjoyed, surely I’d notice when the kid stopped. But the thing about kids is that they, seldom, announce “I am going to start doing this,” or “I am going to stop doing that.” One day, they have a cute little behavior that identifies them as “a kid,” and the next? They’re asking for the car keys.

I was thinking about this, last night, when I mentioned that I went to the grocery store to buy milk, and Duffy called out “MULK”, a common refrain from the very early days of either kid speaking . . . when they’d wake, early in the morning, between the land of dream and wakefulness, they’d cry for a bottle of milk. They no longer do that . . . heck, most mornings, they beg us to leave them alone in the hopes that we might let them sleep-in. I can’t even begin to tell you when they stopped crying for their morning “mulk”.

So, here are the cute little things that define just where my kids happen to be:

  • Last weekend, Leila, for the first time, said “o-kay” and not “o-tay.” Though she will still say that she is “toad” when the temperature is low. However, if you answer that “yes, it’s toad outside,” instead of saying “yes, it’s cold outside,” she’ll correct you: “silly daddy, it’s TOAD, not TOAD”.
  • Anything that has happened in the past, be it 5 minutes ago or several decades, happened “last week.”
  • When CJ gets frustrated, or, really, whenever he feels like it, no matter what his surroundings might be at the time, he’ll declare the need to meditate. If you are not absolutely silent during his meditation, you’ll incur his wrath.
  • The La does a great, unintentional stoner impression watching toddler Netflix shows where they construct art projects — she will become zombified.
  • “Good for me” food, to CJ, is food that he finds yummy. The concept that anything that isn’t especially yummy might actually be good for him is a concept that’s beyond foreign.
  • Leila thinks we don’t notice that she always gets full after eating all of the marshmallows (leaving the cereal) out of a bowl of Lucky Charms
  • CJ will spend hours setting up detailed battle scenes out of little army guys and/or any toys that he can get his hands on.
  • “I’m hungry, but I’m not hungry for dinner” is a common refrain around dinner time, if/when kids have ice cream or candy on their mind.
  • I don’t mind repeated listenings of What Does the Fox Say, just because the kids get such a joy out of it.
  • Few things bring such joy to my children as when they get to bring the “Sharing Bag” home from preschool (meaning, the next preschool class, they’ll get to bring in something to share in a “show & tell” with the class). Every time they bring the sharing bag home, we have to fight to keep from getting them to try to fit all of their toys into it.
  • Upon hearing that we’re going to head in the car for awhile, it’s important to ensure that we have: juice, snacks, soda for mom, and beer for dad.
  • It’s not a trip to Starbucks without a cake-pop (not long ago, however, it was chocolate milk). Either kid will look at you as if you’ve grown a second head if you ask them if they’d like a sip of coffee.
  • If I sit down to play the piano, I’ll receive requests to play either Star Wars or Batman. Based upon the request, I’ll either encounter a masked/caped superhero dancing to the music or I’ll catch a lightsaber demonstration.

  • 1 It should be noted that both children have always had all of me wrapped around their little fingers, so it only makes sense that they’d be wrapped around a part of me, at some point.
Feb 2 15

Where I seek out to make crispy chicken drumsticks

by John

So, yesterday was the Super Bowl . . . and while it was a modest affair, I see the Super Bowl as the “last hurrah” of the holiday eating. Yeah, I try to be “good” and eat “clean” all year — but, well, I really fucking like food. I think about sex food all the time. And, as George Takei points out, The Super Bowl is the last hurrah in the Jabba holiday eating graph.

This year, I decided that I was going to indulge, but I was going to try to stay within my rules1 for the game. This meant no nachos . . . but guacamole and cheese.

It also left me wanting wings. Badly.

But, to get really crispy wings, I’ve always dried them, coated them in flour, and then baked them . . . and the covering in flour, well, that’s against the rules.

Also against the rules? Paying something like $5/pound for wings. Now, if they were cooked and delivered to me? That’d be different . . . but the local grocery store jacked up the price on their wings leading up to the Super Bowl – but, in looking at the meat counter, it looked like they had no shortage of people buying them. So good for them. Capitalism works.

But chicken drumsticks were cheap . . . and, really, drumsticks are just like huge, giant wings. So, I decided to figure out how to make huge, giant wings within my rules – and tried to get them crispy.

I started, as I start almost every recipe journey, with Alton Brown’s Wing Recipe, where he suggests steaming wings, cooling them, and then roasting them. But, the geek in me wasn’t content to stop there, and I went to the Serious Eats baked wings recipe, where they suggest a dry rub containing baking powder.

I decided to try both approaches. I was heading out of town for the weekend, so I didn’t have the luxury of the “3 to 18 hour” downtime . . . I had about 48 hours that I’d have to leave the chicken behind . . . so I steamed the drumsticks on Thursday night, let them cool, dried them with a paper towel, and rubbed them with a mixture of garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, and baking soda. Then I let them sit in baking trays, refrigerated, for the next few days.

When I got back home, I put them into the oven at 425, for 20 minutes, turned them, added the sauce (see below), and roasted for another 20 minutes.

The result was quite tasty, but not super crispy . . . I’m thinking about trying an almond meal breading next time. Though I’m hardly complaining about the result.

Oven Roasted Drumsticks


  • 10 drumsticks (about 3-4 pounds)
  • Aluminum foil (just to help with cleanup)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


Hot Sauce

  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
  • 1/4 cup ghee

Honey/Garlic Sauce

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  1. Steam chicken in large steaming attachment for 15-20 minutes (until meat appears to be cooked through).
  2. Allow meat to cool and dry with paper towel.
  3. Rub spice/baking powder mixture into drumsticks, place in aluminum-foil lined baking sheet, refrigerate until cold (at least 2-3 hours)
  4. Preheat oven to 425
  5. Transfer chicken to a roasting pan (otherwise the rub on the aluminum foil might burn) and place in oven for 20 minutes.

  6. Use this 20 minutes to prepare your sauce
  7. Turn the drumsticks and pour half the sauce onto the chicken.
  8. Cook for another 20 minutes.
  9. Remove and toss drumsticks with the other half of the sauce.
  10. Eat immediately, with greek-yogurt blue cheese dressing (if that’s your thing . . . this is the second time I’ve made it – I just put a Cuisinart mixer on low with all the ingredients together during the post-turn 20 minute span and the dressing came out just about perfect)

1 Minimal refined flour, minimal refined sugar. Nothing that might have trans fat. Limit potatoes, and/or corn without going crazy.