Monthly Archives: January 2019

Punking Your Kids: How a Chrome Extension and the Eucharist are Helping Me “Dad”

I’ll admit that technology sometimes serves me well as a “babysitter”.

I hate that.

I work two jobs. My wife works the equivalent of about thirty – albeit from home but that sometimes makes it harder; with she and the kids in the same physical space. Typical scenario: I pick up the kids from school, bring them home, get them a snack and started on any homework. Wife is working in her office. I get called for my next job and have to run out the door. Wife is on a conference call. Kids somehow end up using my laptop, her phone, or some jerry-rigged amalgamation of tin cans and a LAN cord and the next thing you know they’re on Youtube.

Don’t get me wrong, Youtube is kind of a go-to for me these days. We cut the cord. For those of you not in the know, that means we have no life cable TV. But truthfully, I’m not dissatisfied with what I have to watch on Youtube. And the Youtube seems to know me well, too. For instance in my suggested watch list is a series about conspiracy theories (heavy on the JFK stuff), talks by Fr. Chad Ripperger (an exorcist), and anything having to do with flying, landing, or even the crashing of airplanes. Don’t judge.

For my son it’s usually Super Mario Bros. “walkthroughs” where some loser gamer literally plays a Mario game for hours explaining how he’s making it through those levels. For my daughter it is a brain damaged twit named Wengie. Wengie hurts my brain. Wengie lowers my IQ. I tell my daughter this. Despite my hatred of her tweeny-pop saccharine nonsense and penchant for unicorns, glitter, slime, and glitter-slime unicorns I’ve still memorized the lyrics, music, and dance steps for her hit song Icing on the Cake and I sing the same to my little girl when I wake her up for school.

The reality is they really aren’t on these “devices” for too long of a stretch and my wife and I do keep pretty good eyes on what they’re seeing. But here’s the problem. Even the best eagle-eyed parents cannot monitor this stuff completely. My first clue was when my son dropped something he had heard on a Youtube video. The vile, hateful, vulgarity coming out of his innocent mouth made me cringe.

“Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.”

I could take it no more.

I had a conversation with a friend the other night. We’re part of a Catholic men’s group called Exodus 90. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been posting sporadically of late. Go look it up. Guys, if you’re looking for a kick in the rear, give this a shot. It’s like “Hey Catholic man, we know you love Lent… But wait, there’s more!” One of the goals is to break the things to which we are enslaved in life and for many of us the internet in all its nasty forms is one of those taskmasters. Ergo, we try to stay off EVERYTHING that is deemed non-essential or work-related. This friend mentioned how he had installed a Chrome extension to block his favorite sites. No, nothing to do with what you’re thinking. At least I hope not but even so, all the better for him to break that insanity. No, we’re talking things like Facebook, the Drudge Report, and cagneyandlaceyfanfic.com. I don’t judge. Also, the extension is capable of redirecting the browser to a different site…

So this morning I got this brilliant idea and I installed the extension on my laptop and then later on the other laptop we have. It’s slower but that’s a total first world problem.

This afternoon my lovely little girl plopped herself down on my bed with my Macbook, flipped open the lid, and looked around. She gave me a knowing glance as if to say “Something’s up here, Dad… You’re too calm given the fact I just absconded with your laptop and didn’t even ask.” I gave her a look as if to say “Just you wait, genetic minion, just you wait…”

I heard the tapping of little fingers.

And then I heard:

“ARGHHHHHHH! Daddy what did you do?!”

How’d she know it wasn’t a glitch?

I had long since made myself scarce by ducking into my closet for fear I’d laugh and ruin the whole thing. Stepping out I heard her, now in the kitchen, yelling to her brother:

“Daddy blocked Youtube!!! When I tried to watch Wengie I got sent to a livestream of Adoration at some monastery in England!”

That’s right, kiddos, I’d drop to my knees and start humming the Tantum Ergo if I were you.

Ah, technology and Jesus… For moments where Our Eucharistic King (even on livecam) makes an appearance in my day and helps me keep my children safe from predatory nonsense, I am very grateful.

O Salutaris Hostia… Protect my kids from low IQ tarts.

The Return of Super Moon!

In May of 2012 I wrote the following post about an unusual lunar phenomenon. Tonight I had a chance to revisit my words and God’s grace. I hope you enjoy this trip down the uneven path that is my memory lane…*******

The Original Super Moon

Last evening, my wife and I set out on a journey with our kids.  The purpose of our journey was to seek out a Mexican restaurant for a proper celebration of Cinco de Mayo.  Our conversation at one point went something like this:

wife: “Is there anything on the other side of the highway?”
me: “I see a Chili’s.”
wife: “That’s not Mexican!” (wild laughter)
me: “It has a giant chili pepper above the door.  Aren’t chili peppers Mexican or something?”
wife: “Yeah, well there’s a Walmart right next to that.  I guarantee that’s more authentic than the Chili’s.”

Ultimately we settled on a place nearby that turned to be great.  They handed out fake mustaches as we entered.  Not sure why.  But the kids had fun with them.

That super yellow dot is the moon.

On our way home, my wife looked skyward and asked about the moon and why it appeared so large.  I told her that it was called the “Supermoon” and that I had seen a story about it on the morning news.  It happens when the full moon occurs as the moon is closest in her orbit to earth.  It causes the moon to appear about 15% bigger and about 30% brighter than normal.

And then, as if the earlier conversation hadn’t been strange enough, thing really  got weird.

me: “Could you imagine if the moon were 50,000 miles closer all the time?”
wife: “I think that would be cool.  Hey… would that, I mean, the moon doesn’t…”
me: “What?”
wife: “The moon isn’t hot, right?  I mean that wouldn’t make it really hot on earth?”
me: “No, the moon just reflects the sun’s light.  (slight pause)  It would definitely screw up our tides, though.”
wife: That would be awesome!”
me: (long pause)  “Um…  What?”

We went on to discuss that for such a situation to be feasible, houses would need to be chained to the ground so that they could “float around when the inevitable 400 mile high tide brought the Gulf of Mexico into Dallas twice daily and then returned at low tide.  This way, the houses would roughly stay in place.  According to my wife, for some reason, this would also necessitate flying cars.

wife: “Of course.”
me: “Of course.”

The Return of Super Moon

Flash forward to this evening. We are almost six years removed from this post and some things never change. Except the kids. They’re older, exhibiting more of the quirks of their parents’ genetic codes and even more of their own “super” personalities. Their mom is napping because she’s had a long day and it’s a perfect mid-winter evening for that sort of thing.

Me: Kids, come outside quickly”

Kids: “Why?”

Me: “Just do it!”

Kids come to the porch.

Me: “What do you notice about the moon tonight?”

Son: “It’s closer to the earth by a few thousand miles making it appear larger. I heard it on the news this morning.”

Daughter: “It’s also a full moon and there’s a lunar eclipse tonight. Can we go inside?”

Me: “Nit until you two get next to each other and pose for a picture for Daddy’s blog.”

Daughter: “But I’m cold. AND he won’t stop bothering me!”

Son: “I’m not bothering her. She was bothering me!”

Me: “I don’t care who was bothering whom! How often does a father get to take a totally staged picture of his kids gazing at a super moon in wonder and awe?”

Kids: “Wasn’t it like March of 2012 and you totally forgot to take the picture then too?”

Oy… I can’t fault them for having my memory and my wife’s practicality.

And for moments like tonight where God gives us super celestial nudges that are just really cool, I am super grateful.

God bless!

Baptism Day!

41 years ago today yours truly was baptized. For historical reference, my twin sister and I were about six weeks old. The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Denver Broncos 27-10 later that day in Super Bowl XII. Jimmy carter was President. Paul VI was pope. And Baby Come Back by Player had just knocked How Deep Is Your Love by the Bee Gee’s our of the number 1 spot on the charts.

Couldn’t find one of my own baptism so I let my lookalike daughter stand in.

My sister and brother served as my godparents while another pair of siblings were my sister’s godparents. We were baptized in a gymnasium as the parish had not yet constructed a proper church building. The parish has since been closed by that diocese.

But I’m still here!

And I’m celebrating.

My daughter wants to get in in the InstantPot action while my son just wants a fun dessert. These both sound fine. But the best celebration for me will be picking up my wife from the airport later tonight. Did I mention I kind of miss her a little?

Triple prayers for everyone today!

Impatience, Changes, and Immutability

Impatience

My wife is out of town. I miss her. A lot. I’m eager to have her home. I know the kids sure are. Just when I think I’ve gotten a handle on playing “Daddy” I have to discover that I also have to sometimes play “Mommy”. I’ve been managing and I’m always grateful for the time spent with them.

They’re getting older. I don’t like that. Except that I do. Both of them seem to have inherited my sense of humor – or rather, different aspects of my sense of humor. Take for instance my son. Over the weekend we found ourselves in the greeting card aisle of the supermarket. A friend’s son just had a birthday. Since he’s also one of my favorite former students (the son, not the friend) I was picking up a card to drop in his mailbox. Son and I looked at the offerings. One card said on the outside: “Congratulations!” And on the inside: “You’re a great friend!” Almost in unison my boy and I said “Congratulations… You’re an idiot!” We laughed a little too hard at ourselves. On the way to the car he was still laughing when I told him “Listen, son, I’m going to have to go back in and buy that card and then write inside it, put it in an envelope, and mail it. In a few days it will arrive right back at our house addressed to you. You’ll open it and read “You’re an idiot!” and laugh some more.

I’m not exactly sure why that’s funny but it was.

My daughter? Oh, she’s something else. On Saturday night she got into a fit of complaints. I recognize what she’s going through. I didn’t always know how to express myself at that age. I still don’t except through writing. I’ve gotten very good at public speaking and impromptu addresses. I am a teacher after all. But when I was young I sometimes couldn’t find the words especially if I was sad or angry. She didn’t know how to say that she was frustrated with a situation… Until she finally screamed at me in the car “I’m FRUSTRATED!” Calmly I turned to her. “Good job, lady! You did it!!! Now let it out!” Then I told her what I say when I’m frustrated, replacing most of the words with the word “blank” or “blankety-blank”. “Real easy, sweetheart, you just wait until you’re alone in your car and say it all. No one can hear you and no one’s the wiser and you feel a lot better.” Getting out of the car she said “Daddy, I’m sorry I said all of that to you earlier.” She was truly contrite. It was a breakthrough. I took her aside and, stooping down, put my arm around her. “It’s OK baby. Just be careful not to speak to Daddy again like that. Or I’ll snap you like a twig and dump you in the lake.” On that sentence my voice trailed off a bit and I gazed into the distance. We both looked at each other – she was a bit of mocking terror in her eyes, me with a Hallmark smile and a twinkle in mine. And then we laughed very hard.

Dinner? It’s ON.

Speaking of impatience, I bought my wife an InstantPot for Christmas. She hasn’t had a chance to use it yet. Today I had a few hours free. I FaceTimed my sister in Jersey and she walked me through a few finer points. This evening, thanks to her guidance, I made chicken teriyaki in about 20 minutes. If you know me, you know I’m not a cook. I’m also not patient. I stand in front of a microwave yelling “HURRY UP!” But boy was this thing easy. Five minutes of prep time (throwing a bunch of things in the pot). Ten minutes to pressurize. Twenty minutes to cook. It was quite tasty too. I told my wife about my adventure with dinner on the phone. Not quite impressed… I don’t quite think she gets what a game-changer this will be that I finally feel confident making dinners that, even though I’m cheating with the awesome power of steam, might approach one-tenth the level of edibility of her cooking. And she won’t have to lift a finger!

Changes

How ’bout the new look? I mentioned I was making some changes. And today I did it. I took over 1700 posts from the previous 8 years and archived them. It’s time for a fresh start to Harvey. What went before is great and I will always laugh when I look back and read my posts. Sometimes I will cry. But it’s time to move on. This is what I like to think of as “Harvey 2”. What you will encounter now are more posts about the kids, more posts about my life as a Catholic dad, more posts about the blessings God has given us. I want to be uplifting. I want to be real. I want to share my life.

But every blog worth its salt has a focus, almost a hyper-focus. So mine is now this: confessions of a Catholic dad doing his best to raise saints. The original taglines have been swapped out for something new and concise. And the best part is that it’s now all under the URL of harveymillican.com! I finally broke down and snatched up my domain. That should make sharing by word of mouth a bit easier. Will those old posts ever make an appearance again? Sure, in the pages of the books I’m writing.

Immutability

Christ is the same yesterday, today, forever. My commitment to daily mass is going strong, thanks be to God. I need it. I need to grace. Dad taught me this and I have to honor him. Each day I will bring my prayers to the altar and they will always include a prayer for each of you who read (double prayers if you comment). I have hope that God will make me a better husband, a better father, and a better man if I only approach Him every day, offer my prayers with the sacrifice of His Son, and receive the Lord with humility. Pray for me that I keep this up.

God bless!

The Lion, The Witch, & the Nutjob

I originally started writing this post about my experience reading some books to my daughter in mid-November.  Having finally the time to finish it, I publish it now.  Keep in mind we’re currently on The Silver Chair.  The fun never ends.  With apologies to C. S. Lewis

I need a break.

Yesterday I got called to drive to Lubbock.  Lubbock is a city of about a quarter-million souls in the Texas panhandle.  It vies with Amarillo for the title of “Jewel of the Panhandle”.  I suppose that’s better than it’s former moniker: “Notch #3 on the Bible Belt”.  It’s actually a very nice city; it’s just that there’s literally nothing between here (the Dallas-Fort Worth area) and there.  And it’s a five hour drive without stops or traffic which, believe it or not, can pop up on the remotest stretches of I-20 without rhyme or reason.

I received my marching orders from my boss around noon yesterday for a package that needed to be delivered no later than 8:30 this morning.  Now go back and read where I said that Lubbock is five hours away.  Ordinarily I would have taken that information and made use of it.  My plan was to grab the kids from school, workout, and hit the sack.  If I could be in bed by 7, I figured, I’d get about seven hours of sleep before leaving home at 2AM for the long drive out west.  But you know that wasn’t going to happen…

About an hour before the kids got out of school I took my pre-workout meal which consists of a bowl of cream of rice mixed with a tablespoon of almond butter along with 50g of whey protein.  For funsies I like to add a shot of bourbon or two.  It takes the sting away when I realize by the time I’m taking my post-workout meal that I haven’t made much of a dent in my progress.  And the cream of rice is so tasty!  I almost wrote that without laughing.

My favorite Narnian, Puddleglum. He’s such a downer but Lewis nailed something distinctly human here.

Even though it’s been cold with temperatures in the 30’s I headed out the door to get the kids wearing my running shorts and a hoodie.  You have to know from that fact that I was never going to get to workout.  I got called to run a different job at 4:30.  Then I was informed that the thing I’d be taking to Lubbock wouldn’t be ready for pickup at the airport now until 10:30.  One thing lead to another and before I knew it, it was 2AM, I hadn’t slept a wink, and I was heading off to Lubbock.  This was not going to be fun.

I delivered the package ahead of deadline, grabbed some coffee, and headed back home taking in the now-familiar cotton fields and oil wells along the drive.  I’ve now done this Lubbock run often enough that I know what’s off every exit.  Need a Chick-fil-A?  Wait until Weatherford. Clean bathrooms?  Try the Allsup’s in Abilene.  Heading out the final 90 mile stretch on US 84?  Check the gas gauge.  There’s only one station between Roscoe and Post.  My God when did I become this man?

I walked into my house just shy of 3 this afternoon. I took my belt and shoes off, climbed into bed, pulled the covers over myself, and slapped my hand twice on the mattress next to me.  That signaled my Jack Russell, Buddy, who dutifully came running in from the family room, hopped on the bed, and curled up next to his master.  Man’s best friend indeed.

The Chronicles of the Chronicles

A few hours later I woke up.  You’re probably wondering about the title and the Narnia reference.  Patience is a virtue Eileen.  I’m gettin’ there.  I got out of bed and had some dinner.  I even tossed a scrap at Buddy for being such a good boy.  He, being a terrier, took the morsel and then snapped at me before walking away muttering something about getting some money together so he can “get outta here and find his own place.”

This is a story about one of my kids and our fascinating relationship. My daughter is very much like her old man in many ways. By that I mean that her brain seems to process interpersonal relationship in the same way I do. This can be a good thing. But one area where I think we diverge in our thought patterns is how we pay attention to another when that person is reading to us. OK, so I can’t say I’ve had anyone “read” to me as such in many years but you get the point.

Two years ago I endeavored to read the seven book “Chronicles of Narnia” to my son. I had read the first three when I was young. I’m glad I got through all seven with him. I thoroughly enjoyed the series as did he. Within the past month or two my daughter asked when I would be reading the series to her. It seems she cannot be left out and if he got something, she wants it too. For instance there was that time she wanted her tonsils out just like her brother. Or how about the time she demanded life would be no good unless she could also play basketball. I still think it odd that she asked why she hadn’t been circumcised.

Or I could look at it as “she wants some time with Daddy”. And for that I’m happy.

We zipped through the first book in the series. And for the record, the ONLY way to read them is in the order in which they were written. The effort of some publishers after the fact to rearrange the series into some kind of chronological order, to me anyway, does not work. Forget for a second that Narnian time does not work like time in England. There is something to be said about reading such an epic tale in a way that leaves mysteries – past and future – intact. So many times I find myself saying “Ah… so that’s why that happened so many books ago,” even though it was an event in the “future”.

As soon as I returned The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to the library I picked up Prince Caspian. This one took a little longer to get through. We were into a season full of distractions like Halloween. Try settling any 9 year-old down to hear about a barbarous battle on a fictional hill after demolishing a bag of Kit Kat’s. But we trudged on right through the scene were Glenstorm and Trufflehunter savagely attacked Rum Tum Tugger and Mungojerry before beating Miraz to death with a the severed arm of a centaur named Bobby.

All the while my precious darling was doing her level best to pay attention to all the details. In fact, she followed the story quite well. Her brother had a better time following but that’s because he didn’t stop to ask questions. With her it’s “Wait, Daddy, why did the White Which do that?” or “Wait, Daddy, Where was the train station located? Like couldn’t they find it again and go home?” or “Wait, Daddy, do you think unicorns can really poop glitter?” You know, esoteric comprehension stuff like that.

Finally, Caspian the Tenth restored to the throne of Narnia and the Telmarines (I hate them) returned to whatever pirate island they came from, we moved on to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Night after night we read a few pages at a time. I didn’t mind because I was enjoying the time with my baby. Her observations are amusing and she really seems rapt in the sound of my voice. It’s a sweet picture of a sweet girl and her old man.

But those observations do tend to make me reach a breaking point when I’m tired. She had already asked about how the dragon died on the island. “I don’t know.” She had asked about why Caspian was sailing on this voyage again. “Let me recap the entire first five chapters, dear.” She had told me that a friend at school has an iPhone X and it’s not fair because she gets everything. “You know what she doesn’t have, lady? A freakin’ father!” Oh wait, that wasn’t supposed to be verbalized. Falling asleep in her bed one night I read the following line from Cousin Eustace: “Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me.”

As I read the words between yawns I could see my little girls hazel eyes (same as mine) grow wide with excitement.

“I know! I know! I bet it’s Aslan, isn’t it!?!?!”

I slammed the book shut and said “Well who the hell did you think it was?! He’s the only lion in the whole damn series!”

And because she has inherited my sense of humor she took this not as a rebuke but for the humor it was and we laughed.

I read a few more pages. Eustace stopped being a brat. And my daughter drifted off to sleep.

And this is why I love being a dad.

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Prayers on a New Endeavor

As this posts, I will be starting my first day of work in a new place. Any prayers you lovely readers wish to toss my way are greatly appreciated.

I’m asking for some prayers, not a liver transplant. The guy in this picture seems a touch more desperate than I.

Eyes On the Road, Pal…

This post is dedicated to readers Jay and Jane who both correctly identified that the heading picture of this blog changed recently.

For several years my Jack Russell Terrier has diligently guarded this page. All the while he sat behind the wheel of our old Town & Country staring at the road in front of him – in this case I-35 Southbound somewhere near Sherman, Texas. We were returning from a family trip to a friend’s cabin in Oklahoma and sitting in traffic. The pup couldn’t resist climbing into Daddy’s lap and placing his paws on the wheel.

When I snapped that picture I actually took a few in rapid succession to make sure I got a good one. The other day I came across the series in my Google Photos feed.

Since I am taking a slightly renewed direction with my posts I thought it wise to tweak the banner.

Now, the dog is staring out at you, not unlike my dear mom used to do when she’d cart us kids around town. I don’t know how she did it (and we never crashed) but I know it scared the hell out of Dad.

So, if you’re ready (and grateful for all that you’ve got), let’s hit the road together. Come on, it’ll be fun!

Besides, you know you’ve always wanted to be chauffeured by a tiny dog.