Vacation Review

Vacation is never long enough!  I was off for 5 days last week and while I had some great moments to relax, I still don’t feel like it was enough.  We live in a society where people are overworked and underpaid.  I don’t think anyone would mind if the United States adopted the mindset of France, Brazil, or Finland who average 30 days of paid vacation!

There were highs and lows during my week.  One of the lows was not being able to get my boys for a couple days.  I was supposed to pick them up on Sunday, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I wasn’t able to get them until Wednesday.  I was very happy to get them prior to the Fourth of July.

Without the boys, that gave me some time to get a few things done around the house.  I was able to mow the grass, straighten up the house, and work a little bit in the garage.  I have had some things out there that I have wanted to go through.  I have some boxes out there with books in them.  I probably need to get a book case to put them in, but we really don’t have the room.  Maybe I can put it in the basement??

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On Monday, my buddy Shawn messaged and said he had 18 holes of golf (with a cart) and wanted to know if I could join him.  Naturally, I jumped at the chance.  It’s about an hour drive to Mt. Pleasant and on the drive there, I finished listening to a book on CD I started a while back (The Innocent Man by John Grisham).  There was some concern as to whether or not it was going to rain, but the weather cooperated and I had a good round.  I actually made par on about 6 holes.

shot

We golfed with a couple radio guys Shawn works with.  There were a lot of laughs and it was a good time.  While in the pro shop, one of the guys pointed out these golf balls with a matted finish.  They are brighter than your normal yellow or orange golf balls.  He kept saying, “You just can’t lose these balls!”  I was curious and got one.  I actually hit it very well.  I hit it off the tee on one of the holes on the back nine and we all saw it go slightly right through a big tree.  We never saw it come down.  We drove up to where the ball should have been and checked the vicinity.  We had all four of us looking for this extremely bright red ball.  “You just can’t lose these balls,” he said again!  Well, I proved him wrong.  It was lost.  We really wondered if it got stuck in the tree!  It was crazy!

Thanks, again, Shawn!  Always a great time on the links with you!

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Thursday was the Fourth.  We normally have a big bash at the house, but with all we had going on, we just didn’t get around to inviting a lot of people.  We ended up with my in-laws and a couple of friends from college (Hope and Matt) and their spouses.  I threw some hot dogs and brats on the grill, cut up a HUGE watermelon, we had mac and cheese, and loads to snack on.

There is a family fun day with many events.  They also have a concert at the amphitheater, which we can hear from our backyard.  Also from our backyard, we have great seats to watch the town’s fireworks.  It is all funded through the fireman’s homecoming carnival.  They also take donations in town.  This year the show was about 25 minutes.  After the show was over, the guests started to leave.  We got the boys to bed, and we sat with our friends Hope and Kevin at the bonfire and BS’d for a while.

Great company and great conversation!

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Friday, there was a bit of drama (which is not even worthy of writing about).  My wife had one big paper that needed to be written for school and she was working on that.  I took the boys to play mini-golf.  There was a place just south of the house that I had never been to.  They have golf and ice cream.  The course has a train/mine theme to it.  It was actually very cool.

mine

I got the first (and my only) hole in one.  Each of us got one, which always makes mini-golf fun!  The wind picked up as we reached the end and we were lucky to finish before a HUGE downpour!  Must not have been my day, Dimitri shot 40, Dante’ shot 42, and I shot 44.  It didn’t really matter who won, though – it was about having time with the boys.

Whenever we play mini-golf, and I help them with their swing, I still flashback to those days at the Caseville Putt-Putt course.  I remember my dad, or my grandpa, reaching over me and helping me with my grip and my swing.  It’s one of those “generations” things – my dad and grandpa helped me, now I am helping them.

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Saturday I worked on the air at the radio station.  I was on from 9a-2p.  When I got off work, it was 86 degrees out.  I wanted to take the boys swimming somewhere.  There are a couple places that have pools where I could have gone.  One of the places had an indoor pool, which kind of defeats the purpose on a hot summer day.  The other place has outdoor pools, but because of the holiday weekend, they were not doing day passes (they were doing their fireworks that night).

Sam suggested this little place in Davison called Lake Callis.  It’s a little recreation complex with a splash pad, pavilions, and a beach.  I had never been there, so we went.  It was actually a very nice place.  There were many birthday parties going on that day, and it was fairly busy.  We found a picnic table on the beach and went in to the water.  It was not freezing (which is always nice), and the boys swam for a while.

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For no reason in particular, I tend not to swim much in a lake.  Maybe it’s the “lake smell” or the fact that there are fish in there, I really don’t know.  This lake was man made, and as far as I could tell, there were no fish.  The water was warm and swimming with the sun beating down on us was awesome!  It was a bit breezy that day and when you got out of the water, it got chilly!!

It was fun to watch my boys making new friends with other kids out in the lake.  I loved watching them run around at the splash pad.  It was also fun to just sit at the picnic table eating Cheez-It’s and potato chips and talking about whatever they brought up.  It was great father-sons time!  We will definitely be going back there – we had a blast!

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Tonight is my first night back to work – and I am already ready for another vacation!!!

 

Knowledge is Power!

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As a kid, we lived for Saturday mornings! We never slept in because we knew that all morning long we had our choice of back to back cartoons! There was Scooby-Doo, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Hong Kong Phooey, Blue Falcon & Dynomutt, The Laff-O-Lympics, The Flilntstones, The Pink Panther and many more! It was great! We’d sit and watch these shows all morning long with a big ole bowl of cereal and laugh away!

One of the things I remember most about Saturday mornings was also one of the things that helped me in school – School House Rock. These little musical features helped me learn multiplication, history, and English. If that it what they set out to do, it worked. Oh, how many times did I find myself singing those songs in school!

Multiplication Rock

Learning the times table is one of those things that ALL kids absolutely hate! God, I hated those 60 second tests where you had to write the answers to as many problems as you could. The stress of that was awful for an elementary student. School House Rock helped!

Let me start with the most memorable. I remember when I had to help my son learn his times tables, I sang the “ready or not, here I come” song which helped you count by 5. This little song centered around a game of hide and seek, and they had to count to 100 by fives while the rest of the kids hid. To this day, when I have to count by fives – I think of this song!

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Counting by twos was illustrated by Noah and the ark. The biblical account talks of Noah bringing all the animals on the ark in pairs. So throughout this number, Noah answers his son’s question of how many animals were on the ark by counting the animals two by two as the exit the boat.

twos

The first song that was recorded for the series was “Three is a Magic Number”. The story goes that creator Bob Dorough’s son could remember “every lyric to a Rolling Stone’s song, but could not remember his multiplication tables”. If it truly is a magic number, what better way to illustrate it than with a magician?

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What child didn’t do a bit of daydreaming in school? To remember how to multiply 8, all we had to do is think about the little school girl who daydreamed she was a figure skater. She skates her figure 8 and the song told us how.

Figureeight

Grammar Rock

English was one of my best subjects. I remember being in 5th or 6th grade and going to something called the Academic Olympics. Schools within the district had these little game show like contests with teams for Math, Science, English, and History. I was chosen to be on the English team. I certainly never had an issue with the parts of speech because of School House Rock.

Well every person you can know,
And every place that you can go,
And anything that you can show,
You know they’re nouns.

Yep! Thanks to SHR, the little girl and her dog – we knew a noun was “a person, place or thing”!

noun

What’s happening? Verb! That’s what’s happening! The coolest “action” hero? Well, I don’t know about that, but a verb shows action….and I always remember him!

I get my thing in action (Verb!)
To be, to sing, to feel, to live (Verb!)
(That’s what’s happenin’)

A verb expresses action, being, or state of being. A verb makes a statement. Yeah, a verb tells it like it is!

Why do I remember this? Because the music was cool. The character was cool. We didn’t even know they were trying to teach us something!!! We were learning and it was cool!

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And what about describing a noun? Well all you had to do was unpack some adjectives…but watch out for the scary, hairy bear!

Adjectives and adverbs were so hard for some kids to get. I could not ever understand why. I got it pretty quickly … because of a little girl and her trip. You see, her friends ask her to describe her camping trip. She said that all she had to do was unpack some adjectives.

We hiked along without care.
Then we ran into a bear.
He was a hairy bear,
He was a scary bear,
We beat a hasty retreat from his lair.
And described him with adjectives.

adjectives

Moving on to Adverbs, I had help from SHR and also The Electric Company (which was mentioned yesterday). On the Electric Company, they turned to Tom Lehrer (who is pretty darn funny and has some comedy albums you can still get today). He created the simple song “L-Y”. Why? Well, most adverbs end in “ly”.

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School House Rock’s song about adverbs was memorable because it was just a fun little song that takes place in (where else?) an adverb store! Need an adverb – shop at Lolly’s! The brilliance of this song is it is like a commercial for the store…and they really sell it! Hell, if I really needed to go buy and adverb – I would shop at Lolly’s!! After all … they are family owned!

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here.
Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, got some adverbs here.
Come on down to Lolly’s, get the adverbs here!
You’re going to need
If you write or read,
Or even think about it.

adverb

I still remember learning about interjections for the first time. I also learned about the punctuation that followed it …

Interjections (Hey!) show excitement (Yow!) or emotion (Ouch!).
They’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
Or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.

This song was full of characters – the kid with the flu who needed a shot, the gal getting asked out on a date, the fans at the football game, and others who were all full of interjections!

The chorus of this song is one of the most well known, so sing along:

So when you’re happy (Hurray!) or sad (Aw!)
Or frightened (Eeeeeek!) or mad (Rats!)
Or excited (Wow!) or glad (Hey!)
An interjection starts a sentence right.

yow

While all of these are memorable, probably the most memorable Grammar Rock song is about three small words and a small little train conductor. The bluesy swing song with the repetitive refrain and the amazing vocal talents of Jack Sheldon makes Conjunction Junction one of the all time BEST sing a longs.

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?
Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.
Conjunction Junction, how’s that function?
I got three favorite cars
That get most of my job done.
Conjunction Junction, what’s their function?
I got “and”, “but”, and “or”,
They’ll get you pretty far.

Ask any child of the 70’s to give you a conjunction and they will spout off “and”, “but”, and “or” immediately! That’s a sure bet!!

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America Rock

Moving forward, and wrapping up with History, we come to America Rock. Some of the biggest events in US history were brought to life in 3 minutes of musical perfection!

Interest in American History is still abounding today. Recently, there was an AMC series called Turn! which was about the Revolutionary War and George Washington’s spies as well as an HBO series on John Adams and the role he played in the Independence of America. Let’s start there.

No More Kings was a silly little song about the colonists coming to America and being taxed for everything. This leads to the Boston Tea Party and America wanting no part of King George (who can see what’s happening through his telescope).

They wanted no more Mother England.
They knew the time had come
For them to take command.
It’s very clear you’re being unfair, King,
No matter what you say, we won’t obey.
Gonna hold a revolution now, King,
And we’re gonna run it all our way
With no more kings…

Hence the colonization of America!

no more kings

What followed was the Revolutionary War. Which got it’s own song called The Shot Heard Round the World, which of course is then followed by the Declaration of Independence, which got it’s own little song … and Fireworks.

The Declaration of Independence
In seventeen hundred seventy six
The Continental Congress said that we were free
Said we had the right of life and liberty,
…And the pursuit of happiness! (You totally saw the guy chasing the gal when you read that line right?!)

Thanks to School House Rock, today I can still recite:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,
That all men are created equal
And that they are endowed by their creator
With certain inalienable rights.
That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

fireworks

Who doesn’t sing the “Fireworks song” on the 4th of July??!

Then, of course, after we declared our independence, we had to have a Constitution. Memorizing the Preamble of the Constitution was no problem for me in school … I had it set to music!

We the people,
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

preamble2

There have been many Amendments to the Constitution, and the 19th was a biggie! It allowed women to vote! It is hard to imagine that they didn’t have that right until 1920!! The right was referred to as Women’s Suffrage. School House Rock Tackled this historic occasion with the song “Sufferin’ Until Suffrage”.

Women were American’s too. They wanted the right to vote. The video for this song is part cartoon and part black and white pictures of women throughout history. It’s a rocking number that gets the point across and you can here the “victory” in her voice in this “gospel”-ish song.

Oh, we were suffering until suffrage,
Not a woman here could vote, no matter what age,
Then the 19th Amendment struck down that restrictive rule.

sufferin

Throughout history, we’ve seen many inventions that have made our world a better place. “Mother Necessity” was the character who is in this song and the “mother” of the inventors of these wonderful things. We hear of the Wright Brothers and their airplane, Thomas Edison and the light bulb, Eli Whitney and the cotton gin, Samuel Morse and the telegraph, Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone and a few others.

“Mother Necessity where would we be indeed!”

mother

Finally, the School House Rock showed me how the legislation process happens…with our friend, Bill.

Bill is just that – a bill. How does a bill become a law? I learned how with this song. Performed again by Jack Sheldon (Conjunction Junction) perfectly, you learn about the whole process and lengths a bill goes through to be a law. Naturally, we all feel great when he finally becomes a law at the end!

I’m just a bill.
Yes, I’m only a bill.
And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.
Well, it’s a long, long journey
To the capital city.
It’s a long, long wait
While I’m sitting in committee,
But I know I’ll be a law someday
At least I hope and pray that I will,
But today I am still just a bill.

bill

Thank you School House Rock for helping me and many other children learn so much about so many things! Now, to end with an interjection….

Darn! That’s the end.

darn