Sunday, January 31, 2010

Adventures in Ushering

I may have mentioned: I love ushering. I dread it in anticipation and adore it in actual experience. One thing about ushering is that you never know where you'll be assigned, so you have to be prepared for all eventualities: warm clothes for the cold, cool clothes for the heat, and a book just in case you wind up in a quiet corner somewhere where you do nothing and see no one. As I drove to work, it occurred to me that I was woefully under-dressed for the possibility of being stuck outside in the low- to mid-30's, so I repeated a little mantra: please not outside today; put me in the arena. Please not outside today; put me in the arena.

So I was lead supervisor in the arena.

I gotta tell ya, I don't think I've worked this hard as Arena Seating Supervisor since, well, ever. And it was a women's basketball game, which is odd, because they typically have lower attendance and a higher percentage of older season ticket holders who've been coming to the arena for 100 years or so and know the building better than I do, and who know just exactly how to behave in a public venue-type setting.

But today, the visiting team traveled well, with a large contingent of fans, plus there were lots of group incentives, including free tickets for middle school kids who participated in a reading program. So the building was surprisingly well-packed.

So the gist is, I was running all over the place, reseating patrons, finding answers to unusual questions, helping people track down their parties and the guy who had their tickets, making excited kids stop sitting on the stairs and standing on their seats, and, well, I was running all over the place and calling on the radio and running all over the place some more. There was even a group of tiny uniformed cheerleaders, on this day of group sales and group promotions, who were hoisting one of their tiny uniformed cheerleader mates over their heads while she stood on one leg with arms upraised. Right in their seats, lifting that tiny cheerleader right up over everyone's head. That didn't seem safe to me. So I made them stop with the hoisting. Anyway, lots of up and down stairs. Lots of running around.

So at the end, I was kind of tired. We were almost done. Nearly all the patrons had left the building, but I noticed a couple of boys, probably 13 and 14, wandering around, looking for someone. They tried to re-enter the seating area, and another usher supervisor told them it was closed. They mentioned that they were looking for their dad. She told them the arena was empty, and he wasn't in there. They wandered away. A couple of minutes later, another supervisor saw them and pointed them to the nearest exit in a "you can exit here; thanks for coming" sort of way, not a "hurry up and get the hell out" kind of way. It didn't look like they'd found their dad yet, so I followed them out, chased them down, and asked them if they needed help.

"Yeah," one of them said. "Thanks. We kind of got thrown out." So I took them back in, let them use my cell phone to try to call their dad who wasn't answering, went to the most likely entrance where he might be waiting for them, and eventually reconnected them with the missing parental unit, who didn't look happy.

"Good night, guys," I said as they went out the door.

"Yeah," one said. "Thanks for the help," said the other.

I'm not sure I would have intervened if I hadn't seen this story on the news. I thought about the girl that got locked out of the arena without a ticket to get back in, who was never to be heard from again. I saw those boys, and thought of that girl. I thought, I can't wonder if they disappeared into the Austin night. I can't end up seeing a story about two kids who vanished from my arena. I had to go out and see if they needed help. But I might not have done it if I hadn't seen that story.

Oh, and my hat! I almost forgot to tell you about my hat. Thumper comes with me every month to sign up for shifts, so the other ushers know him and appreciate his singing and dancing skills. Another usher today gave me a hat to give to him. It's essentially an upside-down basketball net that you wear on your head, like one of these here, only with officially licensed team colors and logo. She told me I had to get a picture of him wearing it, so if I succeed in fulfilling that mission, I'll share here, too. Anyway, I wore that hat while I worked tonight, and I have never been more popular. Patrons yelled, "I love your hat!" at me as I walked by. They asked me where I got it. It was a conversation starter and a tension-breaker that just made the entire night more pleasant.

So there you go. Lives were saved; smiles were placed on the faces of children and adults alike. We did good work here, people.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Get a Gaming Console to Lose Weight?

It's so crazy, it just might work!

And of course you must realize, I'm thinking of Jerry Seinfeld saying, "Have sex to save the relationship..."

Anyway, our DVD player has been making ominous grinding noises, and Aerie got $125 online gift card for doing a survey and previewing new software for a business and personal finance software company, and I like video games, and it was around the time of my birthday, so we started thinking maybe it was a good time to get a new gaming console. We were leaning towards a PS3 because it can play DVDs and stream Netflix movies and because I love my PS2 and because Grand Theft Auto stopped making new titles for PS2. But I was also thinking of the Wii because, hello, Mario Kart.

But then Aerie expressed an interest in the Wii and Wii Fit as a way to play together, get a little activity in the evenings, and to have an alternative to the treadmill, which can get a little boring. So tada! We got a Wii.

We got the console before the balance board and Fit Plus arrived, so I spent a few days obsessing over it and setting up the wireless network and spending money I shouldn't on a wireless keyboard and old NES and N64 games and the "classic controller" that will let me play them, etc. You can spend a lot of money on Wii games and accessories if you lose your head.

But the balance board and Fit Plus finally arrived, and I set them up last night. First good thing: it says I weigh 10 pounds less than the bathroom scale. Bonus! Right out of the box, and I've already lost 10 pounds! Unfortunately, it says my "fit age" or something like that is 47. So I lost 10 pounds, but I also lost 9 years. I guess it's a wash.

My motivation has been very low since a little before Thanksgiving. I stopped using weights at the gym in hopes that it would give my shoulder a chance to heal, but daily activity, like carrying my giant toddler when I'm in a hurry and he wants to examine every dirty-black piece of gum stuck to the sidewalk, is still aggravating it. The treadmill gets tedious. The bikes don't give me as effective a workout in the same time frame. I stopped counting points, and it's hard to start again. I think I'm going to like having a machine that turns push ups and running in place into a competitive activity, and encourages me to weigh in and work towards a weight loss goal. I'm not into the public weigh-ins aspect of Weight Watchers, or the group encouragement, but my electronic trainer is kind of fun. I hope this gives me the push I need toward the next twenty pounds.

UPDATE: Day 2, and I've gained 7 pounds. How is it that my weight can fluctuate so wildly in 24 hours on 2 different bathroom scales and a brand new Wii balance board? Interestingly, it also decided my Fit Age was 33 today. So I gained seven pounds, and became 5 years younger. or 14, if you consider I was 47 just yesterday...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

We Never Had a Chance

"Katie Wilso gives hugs and kisses to everyone."

That's what we had to work with. He told us that after we picked him up from Kids' Night Out at the Y last night. We tried to figure it out.

"Is Katie Wilson one of the Y ladies? Did she give everyone hugs and kisses?"

"No. Katie Wilso. Those are from Mungo's words."

We tried and tried. We asked him lots of questions. We had no idea what he was talking about.

Turns out, Mungo's been teaching the boy Gaelic phrases. Apparently, something like "Kay hee wilto" means "give me a kiss" in Gaelic. No wonder we couldn't figure it out.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Avatar

It's beautiful, and engaging, and a stunning achievement. However, three thoughts kept popping into my head:

1. It's Dances with Wolves... in space!

2. James Cameron loves bioluminescence. But then, who doesn't?

3. Whoever came up with the word "unobtainium" should have been fired from the project very early on.

UPDATE: Apparently "unobtainium" is a real word. Those engineers and their wacky senses of humor.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SAHD Conversation

He: What happened to your thumbs?

Me: I volunteered at the Housing Authority. I spent three hours on Monday raking and bagging leaves. I lost a little skin on the deal.

He: Why didn't you just use a leaf blower?

Me: I don't have a leaf blower.

He: What did you use?

Me: A rake.

He: Well, what do you use at your house?

Me: A rake.

He: ...

Me: We don't all have multi-acre spreads, you know.

He: I don't have multi-acres. "Multi" means double digits. I've only got 5 acres.

Me: I don't even have one acre.

He: Well, next time, let me know. You can borrow mine. It's gas, very powerful.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day of Service

Well, he may have been over-scheduled, but this morning was wonderful. I'm so grateful that Thumper has extended family in his life that enjoy him and are willing to be involved with us. Freckles did an incredible job keeping him busy so that I could volunteer raking up leaves at a housing project. I wasn't sure how it would go, whether there would be any playground or anywhere else for him to be while I worked. I didn't know if the weather would cooperate. But I signed up thinking that if it was a complete disaster, we could always leave.

It was about as far from a disaster as we could get, though. I had a great time working together with a lovely young lady named Jill. She and I pooled our efforts, and I have to say, we were smokin' all those other volunteers. The two of us amassed an impressive mountain of bags full of leaves, we had fun doing it, and I got some good exercise without going to the gym. Freckles came prepared with a bag of balls, toys, snacks, and more, and she and Thumper explored, played tag, checked out the playground, and even helped scoop up a few handfuls of leaves for us now and again.

All in all, a most successful MLK Day of Service. I'd definitely do that again.

Maybe I should start a fitness club, call it Community Service Fitness. Instead of jogging together or working out in the gym together, we could all get together and volunteer ourselves for manual labor wherever we're needed. Might could work...

Sunday, January 17, 2010


It's been a packed several days here in the Rodius household. On Thursday, Thumper and I drove to Dallas to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Biggest Brother, his girlfriend, Number One Niece, and her boyfriend all came over to visit, too. It was a fabulous time, and Thumper did everything he could to show off all of his skills, especially his sugared up singing and dancing skills.

It turns out that Cuz found me because Biggest Brother had done some reaching out of his own. It was kind of surprising to me, because I'd always thought of myself as the one, and maybe the only one, who was interested in family connections. Turns out he is, too, and wanted to reconnect with his uncle and cousins, and his reconnecting brought me back into contact, too. Thanks, Biggest Bro!

So I just wrote a long "here's my life over the past 30 years" email to Cuz, which has put me in a strange and sentimental mood. Forgive me if none of this makes much sense in the way of a unified narrative, but I felt like I should blog, since my mother wants circus pictures, and I don't have any because I forgot to bring the camera. But I do have a birthday party picture:

Yeah, he looks kind of wiped out, huh? We drove to Dallas on Thursday, partied like rock stars, drove back on Friday, went to the circus on Saturday, and birthday partied today. There's been a lot of sugar mixed in there, too. Tomorrow we're volunteering; that is, I'm volunteering raking and bagging leaves and cleaning gutters at a low-income housing development while the impressively mature young Freckles keeps the boy busy. Which is to say, I don't think that tomorrow is going to bring the boy much rest, either.

Tuesday, though, we'll be back on schedule. He's been a busy, busy young man. Maybe he needs a vacation.

Oh yeah, and what about the circus, which was his first arena event? It was kind of a sad little circus, certainly not the greatest show on earth. The tiger trainer was ridiculous, the sound was horrible, and there were too many slow-paced acrobat and contortionist acts in a row to hold a toddler's attention. But he did really well. The snow cone helped. We left at intermission, but that was longer than I expected him to last. I thought he'd either be traumatized by the lights and noise or bored sitting in a seat. He was a little upset when the tigers had to jump through a ring of fire, but it was brief and he recovered quickly. I'd definitely try that again. He didn't even make us buy him overpriced and short-lived souvenirs. Bonus!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Introduction to Structure

Gymnastics was a lot of fun today, but I was a little disappointed, mostly because I created my expectations based not at all on any facts.

Awhile back, we went to a Dads' Group playdate (to which no other dads showed up) at a gymnastics school. Every Friday, they have a sort of free-for-all session, where you can come in and play on the equipment with your child for 45 minutes. We did it, and Thumper had a blast, but I wished at the time that there had been more interaction with the instructors.

So when I saw gymnastics classes for his age group at the YMCA, I invented in my head without any confirmation in reality the idea that this would be more structured, that an instructor would show him how to tumble, how to jump on the trampoline that I'm not allowed to go onto with him, show him how to hang and swing on the bars.

Turns out it's precisely the same thing that we did at the gymnastics school that day: a free-for-all. Again, he had a blast, but since I thought this would also be an introduction to structured activities as well as an introduction to gymnastics, I was a little disappointed. Still, we had fun. If nothing else, it makes for a really cool playground. I tried to show him how to use some of the equipment. This is the result of me showing him to do a somersault down the wedge:

Here he is displaying his grace and balance on the beam:

And here he is not jumping on the trampoline:

I guess I'll work harder at making Library Storytime our introduction to structured activities, but so far he hasn't displayed much enjoyment of that one. He spends most of the time telling me "I won't sit down!" and "I want to go play puzzles!" He stands when we're supposed to be sitting quietly; he sucks his thumb and stares with bafflement at the other kids when they sing along and do all the hand motions to the songs. And even though it's short, he wants to get the hell out of there long before it's over.

Oh well. We'll get to structure eventually.

A Busy Week

Toddler gymnastics begins today; we're driving to Dallas to see Grandma and Grandpa; and we're going to the 2nd birthday of a pal of Thumper's who moved out of the neighborhood around Halloween (he still asks if we can go look for him every time we go outside). One or more of those activities should bring pictures, videos, anecdotes, or maybe all three. Hope your week is as full of fun!

UPDATED: Oh yeah, and his first arena event: Circus! How could I forget that!
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