Category Archives: Family / fun

Daisy the French Bulldog artist

My wife was painting and Daisy “slightly” overestimated her leaping abilities and landed in the paint tray, then produced this timeless treasure.  She was an amazing dog but we had to put her down in December due to some serious health issues.  She was my napping buddy through two serious series of chemotherapy treatments.  Frenchies are a high maintenance breed but never fail to entertain.

Bad spleen joke of the day


From the “weird search engine terms” category, I noticed a few hits from people searching for “spleen joke.”  Because you can’t start your week without a good spleen joke, right?  So I’m re-running this 2007 gem as a courtesy.

OK, it is more of just a pun, and the “of the day” part is a stretch.  This is probably more of a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Actual conversation:

Daughter:  My friend’s uncle found out that he had more than one spleen.

Me:  Well, then he has some ex-spleening to do.

You can start groaning . . . . . . . . . . now!

There was an episode of the TV show House where the patient had too many spleens.  I was surprised they didn’t work this joke into the dialogue!  Can’t you just see Dr. House saying that?

Feel free to share your own spleen jokes and/or odd search engine terms from your blogs.

Subtle, Facebook. Very subtle.

It was my youngest daughter’s 20th birthday recently.  The Facebook birthday reminder (not that I needed one — I’m pretty good at remembering things like that) noted the following:

[Your daughter’s] 20th birthday is today.

Give her Jamba Juice

[Your daughter] likes Jamba Juice

Well, she does like Jamba Juice.  Who doesn’t?  I have fond memories of stopping by there to pick up a bunch of Smoothies at their ballet studio on Saturdays when they were rehearsing for shows like the Nutcracker.  So I sent her a note that said, “Maybe you should get a Jamba juice? That suggestion had no effect on me whatsoever.”

The next day Facebook had this message in the birthday reminder section:


[Your daughter’s] 20th birthday was yesterday.

Give her Jamba Juice for her birthday

[Your daughter] likes Jamba Juice.

So I sent another note that said, “LOL – and they are still reminding me today!  OK, OK, I’ll buy you a Jamba Juice!  Tomorrow they’ll probably have one that says “[Your daughter’s] 20th birthday was two days ago . . .”

You know where this is going, right?

Yep.  The message on the next day:

[Your daughter’s] 20th birthday was 2 days ago.

Give her Jamba Juice for her birthday

[Your daughter] likes Jamba Juice.

I’m pretty sure that tomorrow’s message will say, “[Your daughter’s] birthday was 3 days ago and you still haven’t given her a Jamba Juice.  What are you, a deadbeat dad?  Now give her a Jamba Juice like we told you!” Or possibly, “[Your daughter’s] birthday is 362 days from now.  Give her a Jamba Juice.”

I’ll let you know if/when this ends.

P.S. To Facebook: I like Jamba Juice, too.  Please remind people of that on my next birthday.


Bonus section: Speaking of smoothies, I’m sure you are all interested in my latest recipe.  I decided to add beets.  Well, not multiple beets, or even a whole beet.  Just part of a beet (a whole one had a little too much flavor).

  • Milk or green tea
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Beet
  • Banana
  • 2 types of frozen fruit (apples, blueberries, peaches, etc.)
  • Protein powder
  • Oatmeal

I drink half in the afternoon as a snack and half for First Breakfast each morning.

More on ballroom dancing

An RKO publicity still of Astaire and Rogers d...
An RKO publicity still of Astaire and Rogers dancing to “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in Roberta (1935) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No, not moron ballroom dancing, although that’s what I sometimes feel like when learning new steps.

I wanted to follow up on my original post with some additional thoughts on the hobby we started two years ago to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

We take lessons several times a week (they have group classes nightly from Tuesday through Saturday and we take at least one private lesson per week) and venture out at least a month.  Our favorite place is in the Heights where they have big band music and a variety of dances.  It is a great deal — only $11 per person and you can bring your own snacks and drinks.

We are taking at a Fred Astaire studio close to our house.  We’ve been really pleased with the instructors.  Very thorough and friendly.  If you tell them we referred you it is only $25 for a startup package with two private lessons and one group lesson (and they give us a free lesson). It is $50 without a referral.

One tip that could really help you: Once you’ve learned a step, make a video from your camera phone of your instructor showing your partner.  Then you can watch the steps and know you are practicing it correctly.  There have been many times when I thought I remembered it correctly but ended up practicing the wrong thing, which takes twice as long to un-learn then re-learn.

Also – and I realize this goes in the Captain Obvious category — it makes a huge difference if you practice new figures.  It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, just a few minutes on a couple occasions as close to when you learned the steps as possible.

And note that dancing makes you smarter!  Seriously, a New England Journal of Medicine discovered that something about the rapid-fire decision making involved in some forms of dancing has a profoundly more significant impact on reducing dementia than other forms of exercise, and even twice as much as reading.

Mary left this fantastic comment on the last post:

I just got back from a ballroom dance party. Love it! It’s good exercise, fun, mentally stimulating, expressive, and it makes me happy. :)

It also teaches me a lot about the Christian marriage dynamic. In ballroom dancing, as in Christian marriage, the man leads, and the woman follows his lead. They work together as a team, both being equally important and necessary to the dance, but with distinct roles. The man needs to lead gently, but firmly, making his intentions clear and doing his best to bring the best out of his dance partner. The woman follows the man’s leading, being sensitive to what direction he is taking her in and going with the flow of the movement he initiates. Much courtesy and grace is needed from both parties. Both will make mistakes. The key to getting the best out of one’s dance partner is encouragement for what they do right, coupled with diplomatic suggestions for improvement. Without the encouragement, the suggestions for improvement don’t go down as well. If one party gets the dance completely wrong, the other party has to stop them and gently indicate what it should be. Sometimes, there are times when the man gets the timing wrong. The woman can help him with the timing. But at other times it’s best to just keep going with the beat in his head. It feels frustrating sometimes but it works out better than struggling with your dance partner.

I’m single, but the above looks a lot like the Christian marriage dynamic to me.

I’ve used that illustration when teaching passages about Christian marriage, such as Ephesians 5.  Anyone who has danced realizes how chaotic it would be if there was no official leader.  Yet the notion that you are competing with your partner is foreign to dancing.  You are most clearly a team.

World’s most famous Italian Greyhounds! Probably!

Admittedly it is a niche category, but I’ve got the evidence to back up my claim.  My all-time favorite picture of my dogs was used on a t-shirt sold by Aerie (a girls’ clothing chain owned by American Eagle).  Now they are all over North America!  My daughters were excited when the salespeople said it was their favorite shirt (without knowing it was our dogs).

Click the picture for a larger view.  A shot of the t-shirt is in the upper-right.  Wishbone and Xannie are in the back.

It was one of those rare shots where they actually look posed (seeing the other shots from that day will tell you that it was a random event to have them looking the same direction and to be positioned like that).  We just had the patio put in so it is perfectly white, and the lighting was just right.

They did turn Wishbone into a girl on the t-shirt, but he hasn’t noticed and I don’t plan on telling him.   Shhhhh . . .

P.S. Here’s another secret: We don’t think Xannie is all Italian Greyhound.  We think she is part stuffed animal or possibly part skunk.

Houston Repertoire Ballet: A Celebration of Dance–April 9 & 10

If you are in the Cypress, TX area and want a little culture this weekend, check out Houston Repertoire Ballet: A Celebration of Dance.  It is your best fine arts value.

My youngest daughter will be doing her last performance for HRB, then she’ll be retiring from ballet and doing the college thing.


Spring 2011 ad  2


The professionals featured in the show are from the American Ballet Theater in New York City.  Jared Matthews used to dance with the Houston Repertoire Ballet.  He is a really down to earth guy.  The last time we were in New York my oldest daughter checked with him to see when he’d be performing (the girls have had the good fortune to be onstage with them many times over the years).  He went out of his way to get the girls and their friends discount tickets to the show at the Lincoln Center, plus 15th row seats to watch a rehearsal and walk backstage.  Jared and Yuriko both took time to give her a lot of good career advice over the years.  It is always nice to see people who are that good at something yet are still humble and approachable.

Here they are on So You Think You Can Dance.



Tickets available here.

Italian Greyhounds = Best. Dogs. Ever.

At least for our family.  Here’s a good overview of the breed.

My favorite picture of our two:


A few years back we were watching a dog show and eagerly anticipating the Italian Greyhound’s appearance (doesn’t everyone zero in on their favorite breed?). The announcers typically say complimentary things for each breed, noting their intelligence, loyalty, skills, etc. Here is the sum total of what the announcer said for the Italian Greyhound (IG):

[Pause] They are the dogs that love to be loved.

We just laughed. That’s it?! They "love to be loved?" Well, I suppose he was right. They love to sit on your lap and be petted. You can pet Xannie (short for Xanax, the anti-anxiety medicine) for thirty minutes, then as soon as you stop she’ll look at you like, “Make with the petting!” They will get up as close to you as caninely possible. They can usually be found sleeping in a pile on top of each other or on top of you.  They make great napping buddies. 

They aren’t stupid, but neither are they the sharpest knives in the drawer. They are extremely friendly (my vet says he has been bitten by every breed except IG’s).They are incredibly fast. I love to watch them run. They are very low maintenance. Their fur is so short they don’t even need to be brushed and they rarely need baths.

They were certified as therapy pets, so used to take them to nursing homes with the girls (they have now retired from that).  Their temperament is great for these settings.  They make great icebreakers.  The residents loved to talk about their dogs.

Ballroom dancing

An RKO publicity still of Astaire and Rogers d...
Image via Wikipedia

My wife and I started taking ballroom dance lessons last month to celebrate our 25th anniversary and have really enjoyed it.  It is a great way to spend time together and learn something new.  I never liked free form dancing but ballroom is much different.  The key for me is just breaking it down and getting lots of repetition.

Do any of you do ballroom dancing?  What do you like about it?

We’re about ready to venture out into the public.  A friend told us about this place in the Heights that plays some big band music at least one Saturday a month.  Any other good places to go in the North Houston area?  We thought it would be fun to get some friends to go out together now and then.

We’ve covered a lot of dances – Rumba, Cha cha, Waltz, Foxtrot, Salsa, Swing, Two step, and more.  Some are progressing more than others!  We were leaving one night and I noted that I really enjoyed the Mamba.  My wife pointed out that a mamba is a poisonous African snake and that I probably meant the Rumba.  (She was right, though I should have claimed I meant it as a combination of the Samba and the Rumba).

We are taking at a Fred Astaire studio close to our house.  We’ve been really pleased with the instructors.  Very thorough and friendly.  If you tell them we referred you it is only $25 for a startup package with two private lessons and one group lesson (and they give us a free lesson).  The group lessons aren’t very large – we’ve never had more than 5 people in a class.  Note: It gets more expensive after the trial: There are packages that average $100 for a private lesson and a week of group lessons (i.e., $400 for 4 private lessons and 4 weeks of unlimited group lessons).  But group lessons are only $25 and you can learn a lot in those.

They also have free Saturday night open dancing for students, sort of a ballroom dance party.  They play music for all the different dances and are glad to give you tips along the way.

The Nutcracker

The Houston Repertoire Ballet presentations of the Nutcracker Ballet are December 3 – 5. Tickets are $15-18. It is your best holiday entertainment value.  Nice theater, good show and no having to to drive downtown!

Guys, impress your wives/girlfriends and take them to see some fine arts.  It is a big hit with kids because it is colorful, fast moving and has many short scenes.

Click here for tickets and more information.

I’ll be playing the role of Dr. Stahlbaum (the opening scene party host) for all the shows.  I’m retiring after this year! My youngest daughter is the real performer.  She has various lead roles in each show.  My wife is helping make the costumes.  It is fun having something the whole family is involved in.

If you bring any young kids who want to meet the dancers after the show just let me know and I can arrange that.

My oldest is performing in the Nutcracker at the professional company where she is a trainee.  We’re excited to go see that one as well.

Backup dog is smarter than we thought, but more evil.

Our 2nd dog, Xanie (named by the rescue dog worker after Xanax, the anti-anxiety medicine) has never seemed terribly bright, at least as dogs go.  But perhaps we’ve underestimated the most hedonistic dog in North America. 

When Primary Dog (aka wishbone) is resting comfortably on the couch, she’ll coax him to get off to play.  But as soon as he gets down she jumps up and takes his spot.  She does everything except say, “Psych!”  Wishbone just looks confused. 

BTW, she is not expressing any shame in the photo below.  We’re not sure what she was doing.


 xanie (1)

She sometimes sleeps like this.  The poor thing is missing a few teeth.

xanie (2)

Dave Barry is still funny

Enjoy his year-end column here.  I didn’t realize he was still writing.  A few bits:

BAD NEWS: The economy remained critically weak, with rising unemployment, a severely depressed real-estate market, the near-collapse of the domestic automobile industry and the steep decline of the dollar.

GOOD NEWS: Windows 7 sucked less than Vista.

The No. 1 item on the agenda is fixing the economy, so the new administration immediately sets about the daunting task of trying to nominate somebody — anybody — to a high-level government post who actually remembered to pay his or her taxes. Among those who forgot this pesky chore is Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who sheepishly admits that he failed to pay $35,000 in federal self-employment taxes. He says that the error was a result of his using TurboTax, which he also blames for his involvement in an eight-state spree of bank robberies. He is confirmed after the Obama administration explains that it inherited the U.S. Tax Code from the Bush administration.

But the big political drama takes place in Washington, where David Souter announces that he is retiring from the Supreme Court because he is tired of getting noogies from Chief Justice Roberts. To replace Souter, President Obama nominates Sonia Sotomayor, setting off the traditional Washington performance of Konfirmation Kabuki, in which the Democrats portray the nominee as basically a cross between Abraham Lincoln and the Virgin Mary, and the Republicans portray her more as Ursula the Sea Witch with a law degree. Sotomayor will eventually be confirmed, but only after undergoing the traditional Senate Judiciary Committee hazing ritual, during which she must talk for four straight days without expressing an opinion.

In government news, top Washington thinkers, looking for a way to goose the economy along, come up with the “Cash for Clunkers” program, under which the federal government provides a financial inducement for people to take functional cars, which are mostly American-made, to car dealers, who deliberately destroy these cars and sell the people new replacement cars, which are mostly foreign-made. This program, which was budgeted for $1 billion, ends up costing $3 billion and is halted after a month. The administration declares that it has been a huge success, which everybody understands to mean that it will never, ever be repeated. With this mission accomplished, the top Washington thinkers are free to train all of their brainpower on the nation’s health-care system.

Dave forgot to mention that people later discovered that they had to pay taxes on the “benefit” of wildly over-paying for the new cars, because in a shocking maneuver the dealers dramatically reduced their mark-downs because of the increased demand for their same supply.  (Why can I teach the principles of supply and demand to 7th grade Junior Achievement classes in 30 minutes yet politicians can’t understand them ?)

On the environmental front, Copenhagen hosts a massive international conference aimed at halting manmade global warming, attended by thousands of delegates who flew to Denmark on magical carbon-free unicorns.

Hat tip: Lone Wolf Archer and Chuck (from Facebook)

Nutcracker 2009

The shows went really well.  The artistic director said it was the best production in memory.  Everyone was great to work with and seemed to have a good time.  I got to watch my youngest dance from the audience as well after the party scene was complete, which is always fun.  Over the holidays we’ll see the oldest in her first Nutcracker with a professional company.

One more year and I’ll retire!  Now if I could just get this music out of my head . . .

Happy Halloween! Sort of!

2009 update: Not only is it a great excuse to eat candy, but we get to turn back the clocks 1 hour tonight (either that or get to church an hour early tomorrow).  Doubly sweet!  Better yet, we moved this year so I can try my stupid joke on new kids.  And it is Reformation Day and the weather is beautiful!  This is shaping up to be the 4th best day of the year (after Easter, Christmas and birthday).


I like giving out Halloween candy (or Reformation Day candy, for those who oppose any costume/treat activities on October 31), but when our door bell rings 100 times then the dogs go nuts 100 times.  Trend analysis is not their strong suit.  One good thing is that this conversation gets repeated often:

Little kid:  Look at the doggies! 

Me:  Actually, they are cats dressed up as dogs.  Great costumes, eh?

Little kid:  Really?

The reactions are pretty consistent.  Little kids: laugh or look confused, adolescents: laughter, teens: (sometimes reluctant) grins.  Try it if you have pets, free of charge.

Fortunately the production only lasts a couple hours.  I just sit around playing my guitar in between visits.

Variety bags of candy always seem to have something objectionable in them.  It is a conspiracy to dump their bad candy by packaging it with good stuff like Butterfingers.  This year one bag had Almond Joys and another had chocolate Laffy Taffy.  I’ll have to sneak those into their bags or my house may get egged.

My wife bought the movie Alien for the girls to watch.  I heard a great comment on that last year.  Most horror films (I’m not a fan of the genre, BTW) leave you saying to the characters, “Get out of the house, you idiot!”  But with Alien that wasn’t an option, so it made it scarier.

Here’s a good perspective on Halloween and Christians by one of the most conservative blogs I read.

The dogs.  Or possibly the cats.

Some oldies.

For your parody pleasure, this is a great send up of The Shining by The Simpsons.

It’s a party every Saturday!

The title of the post is the nickname for the Nutcracker rehearsals each Saturday when the “party scene” is rehearsed.  The actual performances are Friday, December 4 – Sunday, December 6.

This year I get to play Dr. Stahlbaum, the host of the party, for two of the shows and a regular “party dad” for two other shows.  I always like to learn something new.  The party guys are wearing tuxes this year instead of old-timey duds, so that will be a fun change. 

My youngest has a bunch of good roles, including the Dewdrop Fairy (my favorite).  My wife is helping make a lot of the costumes.  My oldest is performing in the Nutcracker at the professional company where she is a trainee.  We’re excited to go see that one as well. 

It is your best holiday entertainment value – $18 for adults, $12 for students and seniors.  Nice theater, good show and no having to to drive downtown!  Guys, impress your wives/girlfriends and take them to see some fine arts.  It is a big hit with kids because it is colorful, fast moving and has many short scenes. 

Go here to order tickets for the Houston Repertoire Ballet production of the Nutcracker.