Bath Time and Bed Time

January 30, 2014

This is one my favorite Notes in the universe of my three books – it is also one of the longer ones too. It covers something simple: getting your little kids ready for bed, along with their bath. Simple things that everyone with children sees but as with many of life’s activities that seem mundane something larger can be gleaned from them across the sea of years.

To Roger and Jane:

Baths

When children are little, mom and dad have to do some things for you. Bathing is one of those activities, as is getting you ready for bed each night. Like most couples who work all day, we did those things with you every night.

The process was the same each night. Fill up the bathtub with warm water, get you undressed, put you in the tub, and throw in a gaggle of bathtub toys. Then soap and shampoo came out, and sometimes you both hated those. You were scrubbed, and your hair rinsed out to get rid of the dirt and grime you had collected that day.

Then it was play time in the water, which was one of your favorite things. We had a ton of bath toys in your bathroom upstairs—rubber ducks, fish, boats, and Little Mermaid things, too. They would all go in the tub, and you would splash away until the water got too cool. Sometimes, you splashed too hard, and water flew out of the tub onto the floor, which would be soaked up with a towel. That was work cleaning up, but it was just a part of the day and things kids do.

Three of the bathroom items I remember (even now) were a yellow rubber duck, Sudley’s Shower, and Obie.
The rubber duck was nothing unique, but it was something you both played with. I want to say at one point years back, you still had it at your mom’s house.

Obie, also known as “Bug Out Bob”, was a squeeze toy, shaped like a bowling pin whose eyes, ears, and nose popped out when you squeezed him hard. Your mom and I would grab him and make some noise, like we were in great pain. You kids would laugh at this, and we would do it over and over again, and then you would laugh some more.

Now Sudley was a plastic elephant head that fit over the shower faucet and supposedly amused the child using it in the tub. It was grayish blue and had a hose with a shower head attached for its snout. I do not remember what prompted us to buy it or if it was a gift, but Roger liked it most. What is funny is that you can still buy a Sudley and an Obie on the web today.

Bed

When the playing was done and the water had turned cold, we would pluck you gently out of the tub and dry you off. We put on your pajamas and dried your hair. When it was cold, you both wore pajamas with feet on them to keep you warm—“footies” they were called.

Once you were dressed, it was story time. Story time was fun but its purpose was to get you tired and ready for bed. Like most families, we had a bunch of children’s books. There were the usual titles by authors like Dr. Seuss and the like. But the one that stands out the most after all of these years was Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. It was a fine, little book with soft pastel colors and read with a soothing, gentle cadence. I can still hear myself reading it in my mind with one of you on my lap. “Goodnight moon,” I would quietly say.

After reading books in the rocking chair, it was time for your crib or bed. I would put the book down and gently lay you down. You might still be awake, but I always kissed you good night, told you to sleep tight and have sweet dreams, and told you I loved you. I would cover you up, turn off your light, close your bedroom door, and go downstairs to finish the day with your mom.

That continued until you were each old enough to bathe and dress yourselves. While I think Sudley is gone, your mom still has Goodnight Moon at her house. So one day when you have your own kids, get your own copy of Goodnight Moon—it is still in print— and read it’s quiet, comforting words at the end of the day. When your own kids are on your lap listening to you read, picture you on my lap falling asleep in your warm “footies” by your bed. And maybe a new Sudley and Obie, plus a replacement rubber ducky, will be in the bathroom nearby, ready for the next night’s bath.

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Jane the Geologist

January 28, 2014

This is a note from ‘Notes To My Kids”. My daughter, who majored in marine biology at Texas A&M, once upon a time liked rocks…..

To Jane:

All kids get interested in a hobby or past time as they grow up. It can be something unexpected, something that they see on TV, or an interest they see a parent enjoy. In your case, you got interested in rocks and fossils, perhaps from hearing me talk about geology and the oil business, which I knew a bit about.

You got the rock bug before Christmas one year and I did some research on what to buy to get you started on that. I bought you two books: Roadside Geology of Texas and A Field Guide to Fossils of Texas. The first book had road routes you could take through different areas of the state which highlighted the rock formations along the way. The other described the fossils you might find in a location or in a rock. Needing more than books, I found you a real rock hammer and magnifying glass. With books and tools in hand, we went rock and fossil hunting on weekends when you were with me.

On one, we went down Highway 180 from Mineral Wells, looking at the Cretaceous limestone that lined the way. We stopped at spots noted in the books and got out of my truck and hammered away. We did something like that on 377, north of Granbury too, in the road cuts there—limestone again, in fact. But the real find was not there and was seen on an expedition down Fall Creek near Acton.

Dinosaur Park near Glen Rose is a place where the bed of the Brazos River has exposed tracks of the ancient reptiles from the distant past. You can walk by them and see their footprints and toes, sometimes their claws as well. That same limestone was in the Fall Creek area and made up its bed. One Saturday, we went walking down Fall Creek, west of the bridge, and found a track in the rock that was not covered with water. I had a camera with me and took some shots. A picture of it is still in a frame on your desk at my house. You can see the three pointy toes in the white limestone surrounding it. Something big and hungry had walked that way millions of years before.

As time went on, the track disappeared. Once, not so many years ago, I tried to find it and had no luck at all. I found out that many times the rock is fragile, and tracks don’t last long sometimes. Like the beast that made the print, the track was washed away by the endless waters of time flowing down the creek.

After some time, you lost interest in this hobby and turned to other things. Kids are like that, as are adults. Interests come and go as the years go by. Some remain throughout life. Even though rocks aren’t your thing now, I can see the same spark in your eyes with the animals you study at college. Do you remember when I came to Galveston, and we went to the marsh where you and your class had tagged the hermit crabs? When you were poking around in the water and mud, I saw not just you as twenty years old in college, but also you at Fall Creek that day. The times looking at rocks are like the footprints the dinosaurs left in the limestone and are like tracks in the riverbed of time. They make a mark, are seen for a while, and then disappear because nothing lasts forever. But while we are here, the footprints are there for us to see and be reminded of the steps we, and those before us, took down the fast stream of being alive.


Roger The Rifleman

January 27, 2014

I am for gun ownership, I have some of course (rifles & shotguns). Gun safety needs to be #1 when you own them, marksmanship #2. This is from “Notes To My Kids” and shows how I used my Dad’s gun safety methods with my own son.

To Roger:

When I was a kid, Granddad Tom took me dove and quail hunting on some family member’s farm. When I was small and did not have a gun, he made we walk behind him and check where I was at all times. He did that to keep me safe and teach me where not be when a group is hunting. When I was older and got my first gun, he always asked if it, a Daisy BB gun, was on safety or not. Later when I got my first shotgun, an Ithaca .20 gauge, the lessons continued unabated as before, each time he asked if my gun was on safety or not. With your granddad, safety was first before marksmanship or making a shot. He was never the type that went out in the country and “shot everything that moved,” like some people we knew did. Those lessons paid off. None of us were ever hurt or got shot because of the strict safety drill he taught. Those lessons stayed with me. When you wanted a gun, I continued his ways.

One Christmas, I decided to get you a .22 rifle instead of a shotgun. Why you ask? Well, after my BB gun, your granddad had me practice on his .22. What was good enough for Granddad and I was good enough for you and me I thought. I went to Wal-Mart and bought the gun, which was placed under the tree along with ammo for it, too. When you opened it up, you were very excited to see it, a real gun in your midst—I remember the Christmas when I got my shotgun and was excited just the same.

Since we did not have a farm to go shoot at, we went to the gun range at Whiskey Flats to teach you to shoot. I showed you how to load the gun and most importantly where the safety was. Just like my dad, I started the endless process of asking if your gun was on safety and telling you how to handle it. I explained why I was doing that; you were perhaps a little irritated at the endless safety quiz; hence you were just like me when I was young. I knew why Granddad asked what he did, but every 20 seconds? Yes, the question was asked frequently to get you into the habit of being aware of the gun’s safety and what it was set on. You learned to shoot okay at the range, too. In the end, you became Roger the Rifleman in my mind.

As you grew up, you retained an interest in guns. Not the shotguns and rifles your granddad and I had—but handguns, which were more to your liking. Now you have a CHL and own a handgun or two. I don’t know if your original .22 sparked this interest, but it at least continues the practice of shooting guns in the family. Therefore, it seems that Roger the Rifleman has become Roger the Grown-up Handgun Owner, who shoots at the range. So when you pick up your gun at the range and slip in a clip, check your safety and always remember me asking you if it was on at the Whiskey Flats range. And rest assured, my son, I can still hear my dad asking me the same simple question when I was young: “Is your safety on?”


Birthday Cakes I Should Not Have Baked

January 26, 2014

This is from ‘Notes To My Kids” and is a tale of attempting to cook a birthday cake for my son using a recipe my mom used for me as a kid. Mine did not turn out quite as good as mom’s…..

To Roger:

As you know, I am a pretty good cook. I can whip up a good meal just about any time and cook just about any type of cuisine you could want. But the one area of the culinary arts I am not so good at is desserts. A perfect example of this woeful shortcoming was when I tried to bake you one of MeeMaw’s “Billie Sue Chocolate Cakes.”

This cake, a childhood favorite of mine and one you also liked, was an old fashioned recipe MeeMaw made me (and others) when I was a kid. That cake had cooked icing made with Hershey’s cocoa to produce a rich, dark, milk chocolate dessert that when done right was perhaps a “food of the gods.”

But let me repeat myself, when done right is the most important thing to remember. When not done right, the result was a kitchen tragedy to behold. Yes, this is about a time when I did not do it the way it should have been.

You may now ask what my mistake was. It was a simple thing I did wrong, caused by my tendency to not precisely measure things when I cook. I usually “wing” measuring things, like the amount of spices to use The outcome, while usually good, is not consistent every time. The ingredient of the chocolate cake I did not exactly gauge was the one I should have measured exactly to be sure. That ingredient was the cocoa powder that went into the batter of the cake.

Instead of using what MeeMaw’s recipe called for I added an amount of cocoa that could have made a bunch of cakes—not just one. I scooped out more and more cocoa into the bowl, and I mixed it up. The batter was very dark indeed, but I thought nothing of it at the time. What could be wrong with more cocoa? Next, I poured the batter into my cake pans, and in the oven they went. After a while, they came out, cooled, and I iced up what looked like a normal Billie Sue cake. But appearances were not the problem, it was the God-awful taste. I had used so much cocoa, the flavor was beyond strong, to say the least. Horrible is a better word to use, I must say. It was really bad, and we all knew it with our very first bite.

Therefore, that cake did not get consumed with glee like a Billie Sue cake should have been. I think it ended up in the trash because it was so outright wretched tasting to the tongue. Who knew what the reason was in the blink of an eye?

It was MeeMaw, of course, the Queen of the Baking and Cooking. Having made many of these cakes over the years, she asked how much cocoa I had used. I did not know for sure, so I just said “a lot.” The result was a brief lecture by her on always exactly measuring the ingredients of a dessert. If you don’t, a disaster is what you will get.

Since that day, I have taken her advice to heart, but I can’t say that I have applied it either because I have never baked another cake. Instead, I have left that birthday chore to others who follow the baker’s art. Most thankfully for those eating the cakes, I am sure you will agree.


CERT Class: Starting to be Partners

January 22, 2014

This is from “Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered”. It shows how you can get a date via fire suppression training…..

We met by accident in Community Emergency Response Team class. We both wanted to serve the community, and we signed up for it not knowing the other and certainly not looking for a girlfriend/boyfriend there either. But that is what we got out of the class in the end. And how that happened was kind of funny.

We both remembered seeing the other the first time and thinking the other was cute. With this newfound and unexpected attraction, we started talking to each other, and I thought there was some mutual interest. But when you stopped talking to me, I was surprised. I was not aware until later that some of your erstwhile “friends” in Code Blue were giving you a hard time about it—something they kept doing even as our wedding approached. But that idiocy is not the story here; the story is how we resumed things.

One night in class, the topic was fire suppression. We would use fire extinguishers to put out a small fire in teams of two. The class teacher, Officer Lambert, along with a fireman explained how the drill would be done. Each team would have two members. One person would carry the fire extinguisher and the other, called a “buddy”, would hold on to the first person, in case that person had to be pulled out to safety. After that simple explanation, you dropped the bombshell.

We were standing around talking as people were starting to pick partners, and you said something like, “We should become partners.” Of course, you meant something besides just being partners in the class. So, we teamed up for the drill. I was in front first, with you holding on to me, and then we switched places. You later said that was fun and that it really turned you on to be able to hold on to my backside. The same was true for me. I liked your nice, curvy rear end, too.

I got the hint and asked for your phone number after class in the Police Academy parking lot, which led to our first date. And the rest, as they say, was history.


I Love You

January 21, 2014

This was an important night for me and Stephanie:we said the “L” word to each other. Not at some fancy or romantic place but after seeing some real estate. Now, how does that work you are asking? Read below and see. This note is from “Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered”.

After we decided we were an item and were “going steady” as people in our generation used to say, I was invited to the open house of the Texas and Pacific Building by a lady who was an acquaintance of mine. With you having your real estate license still and me once having had one, it was a natural event for us to go to.

The Texas and Pacific (T&P) building was redone and turned into condominiums, changing the space once used decades ago for offices by the T&P railroad into cozy lofts and spaces for the urban dwellers of modern life. Not my type of place to live, but I wanted to see it, and you were curious about how they had redone the whole building and the prices of the units.

Like on our other dates, we climbed into my old F150 and drove downtown and parked by the building on Lancaster Street. Lancaster itself was also being reborn after the demolition of the now infamous I-30 Overhead and the re-routing of I-30 south of the T&P. Rebirth and renewal were in the air and still are in downtown Fort Worth.

We went in the building and presented our invitation to gain access to the event. We walked around and talked to the lady who invited me to the gathering—her name I now forget. We partook of the drinks and Hors D’Oeuvres and looked around. As we got up to see the spaces and units, we ran into my city councilman, Danny Scarth, who we talked to briefly. Of course, I said I was one of his constituents, which was true since I voted for him.

We went up and looked at more than one of the units, thinking they were all a bit small; but the models that were open were nice, and we thought they would sell. We exited one, and out of curiosity, went to the end of the hall where there was a little alcove. With no one around, we naturally embraced and kissed a little—your leg was wrapped around me, which was sexy indeed. You were a pretty sight in your black dress and black hose. We certainly liked each other and perhaps the drinks we had added some fuel to that fire. After that, we did not stay there long, but we soon left and drove through downtown, going north towards Weatherford Street or Belknap Street. And that is when it happened.

I do not specifically remember now what we were talking about exactly, but you said you loved me and caught yourself. I asked you back, “So do you really love me, Stephanie?” You paused as we went past some building and you said yes, you did and looked at me. I, of course, replied back that I loved you as well. Our feelings were in sync, of course; I had no doubt about it. We had progressed beyond merely being a couple or just casually dating and were getting to the “serious” stage.

And thus our relationship changed and was born again, you might say. Just as the T&P and Lancaster Street were being redone and becoming something new, so were we. We also changed by saying those three little words—“I love you”—to each other in my old Ford pickup in downtown Fort Worth that very lovely summer evening now years ago.


Bath Time and Bed Time

January 18, 2014

Those of you who have kids will recognize this daily routine: bathing the little ones and getting them ready for bedtime. Even though this is a daily, mundane activity it can build many memories. This is from “Notes To My Kids”

To Roger and Jane:

Baths

When children are little, mom and dad have to do some things for you. Bathing is one of those activities, as is getting you ready for bed each night. Like most couples who work all day, we did those things with you every night.
The process was the same each night. Fill up the bathtub with warm water, get you undressed, put you in the tub, and throw in a gaggle of bathtub toys. Then soap and shampoo came out, and sometimes you both hated those. You were scrubbed, and your hair rinsed out to get rid of the dirt and grime you had collected that day.

Then it was play time in the water, which was one of your favorite things. We had a ton of bath toys in your bathroom upstairs—rubber ducks, fish, boats, and Little Mermaid things, too. They would all go in the tub, and you would splash away until the water got too cool. Sometimes, you splashed too hard, and water flew out of the tub onto the floor, which would be soaked up with a towel. That was work cleaning up, but it was just a part of the day and things kids do.

Three of the bathroom items I remember (even now) were a yellow rubber duck, Sudley’s Shower, and Obie.
The rubber duck was nothing unique, but it was something you both played with. I want to say at one point years back, you still had it at your mom’s house.

Obie, also known as “Bug Out Bob”, was a squeeze toy, shaped like a bowling pin whose eyes, ears, and nose popped out when you squeezed him hard. Your mom and I would grab him and make some noise, like we were in great pain. You kids would laugh at this, and we would do it over and over again, and then you would laugh some more.

Now Sudley was a plastic elephant head that fit over the shower faucet and supposedly amused the child using it in the tub. It was grayish blue and had a hose with a shower head attached for its snout. I do not remember what prompted us to buy it or if it was a gift, but Roger liked it most. What is funny is that you can still buy a Sudley and an Obie on the web today.

Bed

When the playing was done and the water had turned cold, we would pluck you gently out of the tub and dry you off. We put on your pajamas and dried your hair. When it was cold, you both wore pajamas with feet on them to keep you warm—“footies” they were called.

Once you were dressed, it was story time. Story time was fun but its purpose was to get you tired and ready for bed. Like most families, we had a bunch of children’s books. There were the usual titles by authors like Dr. Seuss and the like. But the one that stands out the most after all of these years was Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. It was a fine, little book with soft pastel colors and read with a soothing, gentle cadence. I can still hear myself reading it in my mind with one of you on my lap. “Goodnight moon,” I would quietly say.

After reading books in the rocking chair, it was time for your crib or bed. I would put the book down and gently lay you down. You might still be awake, but I always kissed you good night, told you to sleep tight and have sweet dreams, and told you I loved you. I would cover you up, turn off your light, close your bedroom door, and go downstairs to finish the day with your mom.

That continued until you were each old enough to bathe and dress yourselves. While I think Sudley is gone, your mom still has Goodnight Moon at her house. So one day when you have your own kids, get your own copy of Goodnight Moon—it is still in print— and read it’s quiet, comforting words at the end of the day. When your own kids are on your lap listening to you read, picture you on my lap falling asleep in your warm “footies” by your bed. And maybe a new Sudley and Obie, plus a replacement rubber ducky, will be in the bathroom nearby, ready for the next night’s bath.