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Archive for July, 2011

Jul 30 2011

Crossing It Off The List

Posted by Mugs @ 6:49 pm in Family

In June, Zeke had created his birthday list. When we arrived home in July, he crossed off kitten. Zeke loves crossing items off lists. Before he was in school, he grew irritated at me if I brought him to the grocery store without a list to cross off. As I walked down the aisle, I was forced to write items on a list before I placed the item in the cart. Then, Zeke took the list and crossed the item off. (He is now in school and I can once again wander about the grocery store listless – both meanings apply.) Most items on his birthday list: pillow pet, clay, water ring were easily attainable. Pin art (a rectangle of pins when pressed which hold the 3D shape pressed into them) was difficult to find.

At the beginning of July, we discussed ideas for Zeke’s party. For the last several years, he had home parties. Home parties are great fun for the birthday kid and their guests, and Abby’s help in the planning always creates levels of activities to keep everyone occupied. However, there remains a group of individuals who find no joy in home parties. The group is known as lazy mothers. Lazy mothers look in dread at the major cleaning event soon to be required of them, and they know the party day will end with them exhausted from all the happiness. Lazy mothers are always looking for a way of escape.

“Zeke, what do you want to do for your birthday party?” I asked

“We could go to Chuck E Cheese, or maybe a home party.” He replied.

“Chuck E Cheese is a great idea,” I said, “Let’s go to Chuck E Cheese.”

I have no love for Chuck E Cheese. Tim Hawkins, a comedian, sings a song to the tune of Imagine with the line “Imagine all the parents – burning down Chuck E Cheese.” I always laugh when I hear it. The last party I attended there included a multitude of screaming children and a broken air conditioner. I left there dripping with sweat and with a pounding headache. Yet, suddenly it seemed the most wonderful place in the world.

Zeke loves skee ball; he gave in.

On his birthday, we gathered happily inside thankful for the air conditioning (no longer broken); it was 100 degrees outside. Gabe used up all of his coins in the first five minutes.

“What do I do now?” He asked.

“Be bored,” I answered.

Zeke received an extra cup of coins, a Chuck E Cheese balloon as tall as his shoulder, an inflatable crown, a song and dance from Chuck E, and a trip into the ticket blaster. Each game you play rewards you with tickets that you use later to purchase cheap toys made in China that are all marked as having the capability to harm young children. These warnings do not deter lazy mothers.

“Sure, put those glowing plastic fangs made from toxic chemicals into your mouth.” We say.

“Oh, that jewelry made with lead looks terrific on your finger.” We add.

Zeke’s time in the ticket blaster allowed him to collect over one thousand tickets.

For the first time in his life, he was able to consider the toys on the high shelves. He looked up, and there it was – a pin art. He was very excited.

“I can cross this off my list now.” He said.





Jul 15 2011

If Your Brother Jumped Off A Bridge…?

Posted by Mugs @ 10:59 pm in Family

Zeke spent the reunion trying to keep up with the big kids. Getting on the boat, the little kids stepped on from the dock. Zeke refused. Instead, he jumped off the dock and swam over to the back of the boat to climb up the ladder.

When the kids went tubing behind the boat, Zeke initially sat in the middle seat while the big kids hung on to the sides of the tube. After a few turns around the lake, Zeke decided he could hang on to the side of the tube just like the big kids. So, he did. I couldn’t watch. He white knuckled it around the lake and while the two kids on the tube with him were bounced off, he held on.

He swam out to the water trampoline with the big kids. He played pickle ball with the big kids. He sat at the boys table.

A few days ago, Gabe thought it a great trick to walk around with Shadow (Zeke’s new kitten) perched on his shoulder. Yesterday, Zeke decided he could do that as well. Unfortunately, he forgot to take into account the fact that his shoulders are 1/3 the size of Gabe’s. Upon realizing his perch was quite precarious, Shadow dug his claws in for a better grip. Then he slid to the ground.

I try to convince Zeke that having some sense might be advantageous, but he won’t listen.

He has spent most days this summer trying in every way to pester Gabe, and if he wasn’t so clever and funny with the things he says and does, I’d stop him. Today, he stole Gabe’s nutty bar and took off running. Zeke’s laugh of glee as Gabe chased him around the house started Josiah and Abby laughing as well. The laughing only stopped when Zeke, not looking where he was going, ran into the wall.


Jul 11 2011


Posted by Mugs @ 9:38 pm in Family,Sightseeing

During the reunion, we all took an excursion to the Como Park Zoo. Having lived in Australia with their eco-friendly, habitat conscience environment, we Manrys experienced a bit of culture shock returning to the type of old school zoo Dale and I went to as kids. I looked about for crazy celebrities holding picket signs, but none emerged.

Each young cousin was paired with an older cousin to keep watch. I informed my family that this made the cousin pairs “battle buddies.” This terminology was rejected as too militant for my nieces and nephews. Unfortunately, I could think of no other term to use, and continued to remind them to watch out for their battle buddy. Is there a kinder, friendlier term I should use if I find myself in such a situation again? (Dines, you’ll be no help here.)

Keeping track of some Meloch Reunion battle buddies took a bit of effort: My brother Rob proving the most difficult to track.

Everyone liked watching the sea lion swim, the wolf pace, the tiny baby tamarin hanging on, and the giraffe walking over to say hello. We went on the old fashioned carousel together, and took pictures of the flamingos and the polar bear.

However, the real excitement happened when Gabe spotted the Mold-A-Rama: a large machine, invented in the 1950s which pumps hot plastic into an animal mold, shoots hot air into it to make it hollow, blasts it with coolant and scrapes it down to you. You have to hold it upside down when it comes out to allow it to fully cool so you won’t get burned by the hot wax.

Gabe was mesmerized watching his lion being made, and Marcus ran around happily with his gorilla.

If you happen to find yourself at an old zoo or out of date tourist attraction in the Midwest, Texas, or Florida, keep your wits about ya. There just might be a Mold-A-Rama in the corner to put a bit of WOW in your day.


Jul 09 2011

Lost and Found

Posted by Mugs @ 5:07 pm in Family

On Thursday, Josiah and Abby went with some friends to Kings Dominion Amusement Park. Abby and her friend wandered about together and Josiah ended up as the third wheel to his friend and her boyfriend. The guy didn’t like to ride roller coasters, so Josiah and his friend went on a few rides together. At about 6pm, Josiah decided he was tired of hanging around doing nothing and told them that he was going to go to the water park and would return. He left his backpack with his money and glasses inside. (I had not allowed Josiah to bring his phone because I was worried that he would lose it and he wasn’t wearing a watch because his had broken.)

He went to the water park, rode a roller coaster on the way by and then could not find his way back to his friend, primarily because he cannot see without his glasses. Hence started his grand adventure of being lost in an amusement park without glasses, money, a watch, or a phone. “What to do?” He thought. “Oh, I know…I’ll dash around the park here and there willy nilly, look about a bit, and ride any roller coasters I come across.”

At 9pm, Abby was informed that her brother was nowhere to be found. Her friend was seriously worried for Josiah, “What if something happened to him? Maybe he collapsed or fell ill?” she surmised. “No,” said Abby, “He’s just riding roller coasters.”

At 10pm, the announcement was made that the park was closing. Abby heard this announcement, but Josiah didn’t. Most likely because he discovered that the roller coasters were now lit up and he could ride them in the dark.

Abby tried guest services twice to no avail. She asked if they could make an announcement for her brother. The girl suggested Abby try calling her brother on his cell phone. Abby told her that he didn’t have his phone with him. The worker replied, “You can use our phone to call.” “He is the one without a phone, not me!” Abby responded in exasperation. “Is it a medical emergency?” The worker asked. “I have no idea.” Abby replied. “We can only make an announcement in the event of a medical emergency.” The worker informed Abby. Abby gave up in exasperation.

“Maybe he went to the car,” Abby’s friend said. “He has no idea where the car is,” Abby replied. “Wouldn’t he go to the front and stand and wait?” her friend asked. “No,” Abby said, “He would ride roller coasters.”

There was a concert going on inside the park and when the people began to stream out of the venue towards the gates, Josiah decided that might be a clue that the park was closing and followed them out.

He then went to the lost and found. I surmise he did this to turn himself in. Hoping that later, Abby would take a look through the boxes: “Sunglasses, a Water Bottle, a Cell Phone…Oh, there’s Josiah” and pull him out.

The lost and found informed him that he had to go to guest services to find actual people. He asked where guest services was and they told him it was back in the park. At this point the gates to the park closed behind him. Which was probably for the best since even if he found guest services and not another lit up roller coaster, they would only help him if it was a medical emergency.

He sat down on a bench to think. He did not know Abby’s cell phone number because he just gets Abby’s number from his contact list. The only number he knew was his mom’s number and there was no way he was calling her. Slowly, he got up off the bench and decided  he might try to ask if he could get back in the park to go to guest services.

Forty minutes after the park closed, his friend, who had been looking for him for 4 hours, found him. She and her boyfriend were not too happy. Abby was called to let her know that she could finally leave the park, Josiah had been found.

Josiah put his glasses on, the friend’s mom gave him a few snacks, and they all drove home.

If you happen to go to Kings Dominion this summer and you see a kid running around without a clue, kindly walk him over to lost and found and put him in a box for me.

I’ll claim him later.


Jul 07 2011

Character Camp

Posted by Mugs @ 3:54 pm in Family

The week in Minnesota prior to the reunion, I committed to cleaning out my parent’s basement. I sent an email to my siblings informing my nieces and nephews that they were welcome to come out to the lake and stay with the Manry clan. However, they would be required to work all week long like at one of those camps where they make you work all the time and tell you that you are building character. The week was thus named “Character Camp.”

On Tuesday morning the sort began. Some of the boys began hauling large items to the garage: couch, washer, dryer, treadmill, dressers, etc. The rest of the kids began hauling small items upstairs to sort into piles: knick knacks, baskets, papers, photos, vinyl records, frames, clothing, blankets, and more. There were piles everywhere. On the tables, on the floor, on the bed. Stuff, stuff, and more stuff.

When sorting, I have come to expect that it always looks worse before it can look better.

Once items were sorted into piles, Abby and Anja sat with Grandma and held up each item for her decision. It is my belief that when you see 100 knick knacks all in a row, an individual is able to determine which ones she truly values. Mom came into this process with a bad attitude, but as the memories and stories behind the items began to spill forth, laughter eventually arrived.

I began to dispose of items as I saw fit or was allowed. Some things went to the neighbors, others to the thrift store, some to Ben’s new place with his college buddies, others into the back of my van. Often an item had to be saved for posterity: Howie’s Smurf Bank, Rob’s gymnastic award, our high school report cards. Some items could never be parted with: Dad’s commemorative t-shirts and old vinyl records, Mom’s dolls and pottery, and the deacon’s bench.

Abby and Anja refused hundreds of items from Grandma who most often said, “I guess I can give it away…unless you want it?”

Slowly the piles decreased, eventually the stuff was hauled off or a place was found for it in the main part of the house. Bags and bags and bags of rubbish were thrown away. I had walked the line with Mom throughout and only once did she get really upset with me. She had a multitude of photo frames and I decided that it would be a good idea to pull all the photos out, store them in a bin, and present the frames for “keep or give”  judgement.

“Where is the picture that goes in that frame?” Mom asked Abby. “What did your Mother do with it?”

She was not happy even after I explained that the photo was in a bin waiting to be sorted and I thought she might wish to update the picture of the grandchildren that went with that particular frame. “You should not have taken that out!” was her reply.

Note to self: “Don’t mess with Mom’s pictures.”

Various wall art was sorted through as well and a great murmur arose among the grandchildren over who would receive the wolf etched mirror. Valuing my relationship with both my sister and sister-in-law, and in no way considering bringing it into my own home, I declared it bound for the thrift store to many groans of protest. Fortunately, they didn’t protest too long as at that point they had all realized it was not in their best interest to cross their Aunt Margaret during character camp.

Dale, the boys, and Mom’s neighbor with his trailer undertook the big haul of items to the thrift store and appliance drop off site. Of all the items they brought in, it was the wolf etched mirror that the owner of the thrift store set it aside for display in her own home. Apparently, I was the only one who underestimated its great value.

By Friday, all that remained in the basement was a double bed that Marie might take, and a small freezer that Mike wants. The kids breathed a sigh of relief. They declared that they deserved t-shirts. Their suggestions for what to print on them for all the cousins were: “Character Camp”; “I Survived Character Camp”; “I Got Kicked Out Of Character Camp”; “I Don’t Need No Character Camp”; “When I’m Bigger I’ll Go To Character Camp”; “Beware Character Camp.”

Upon sighting the cleaned out basement, siblings and neighbors alike reacted in shock. Especially Dad’s room, which my brother Rob so succinctly put it “was floor to ceiling ‘stuff’.” Of course, being Rob, he didn’t say ‘stuff’.

He has always been in need of a little character camp.