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Monday, December 5, 2011

Questions for Santa

My 10-year-old son Aaron has some unanswered questions for Santa that have left him distraught to the point of considering seeking remuneration for emotional and psychological damage.

Dear Santa,

1. How do you fit all those gifts in one bag?

2. Do you ever get sick from eating all those cookies?

3. How do you make the toys without being sued for copyright and trademark infringement?

4. How come none of my gifts ever say "from Santa"?

5. How do you get your bag down the chimney?

6. How come every Santa I take a picture with looks different?

7. When I saw you at Petco yesterday, why did you look like a woman dressed as you, and who were you texting?

8. How come they never pick up your workshop on radar?

9. How do you avoid setting off alarms in homes with security systems?

and lastly,

10. Do you know every language on earth?

I would ask you how you manage to deliver all those gifts in one night, but I figured out that has to do with a time dilation machine, which I suppose technically could be defined as "magic" by certain lawyers, but I feel a little bit condescended to when you tell me it's magic.

I also figured out why you never run behind schedule at the north pole. If you ever are behind, you just move back a time zone or two by stepping backwards.

Aaron Vanderschuit

P.S. Any withholding of any owed holiday cheer or "naughty listing" will result in my exposing you as a fraud and a cheat (however, answering the above questions will go a long way toward avoiding such a lawsuit).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Two Loves

I remember when I was in my mid twenties and my dad asked me if I knew where he got his little saying "I never heard of such a thing!" I was surprised to find out it was in fact from me, from way back when I was about three years old -- he'd been saying it for so many years I just thought he really liked saying it.

Got me thinking about something I've been saying for years that I got from my brother Michael's daughter Johanna. She said it years ago during the time when I stayed with Michael a few days to help him out after he had cut off part of a finger with his lawn mower. On one of those days, Michael was dropping something off at school, Johanna and I were in the car waiting and had this exchange:

"I love you, Uncle Blaine."

"I love you too, Johanna."

"No, I love you," she answers.

"I know . . . I love you too."

"No, I love YOU," she repeats.

"Yes, and I love you," I repeat, getting a bit confused at what is happening.

"NO! I love YOU!" she insists.

Then a light bulb goes off in my mind. I remember how kids at that age are naturally egocentric, which causes them to have trouble seeing beyond their own point of view. I think about what I might say to get her to see things my way as well. "Johanna loves Uncle Blaine, AND Uncle Blaine loves Johanna," is what I come up with.

For the first time, Johanna says nothing. I wonder if I got through to her. I start to open my mouth to try again.

Suddenly her little voice squeaks, "TWO loves!"


Oh, man! She got it! Oh, how she got it! And in her wonderful little way with words I could never have imagined with my grown up mind.

I've always remembered that sweet conversation with my dear niece. Sammy and I play this little game where we repeat the conversation, sometimes with him in Johanna's role, sometimes with me in it (sometimes Aaron, too). Sammy and I did this once again the other night, and I asked myself whether I'd ever shared that with Johanna. So here I am making sure:

Johanna, though many miles may lie between us, I thought that you should know that you are in my heart, and that the stamp of love you left on me endures in me and now in Elisa and your cousins.

After emailing this to Johanna through her mother Angela, I got the following reply:

Johanna says, "Aww, I remember that! :-) I could hear the conversation in my head as I read, the whole scene coming back to me. I could hear your voice and my own so clearly, I was so hyper then :-P I miss you too <3 "

Mom says, "Thanks for that. Johanna is in such a good mood now. That really lifted her day. She is back doing Biology now. Hope all is well with you. I will look for a photo of you and Johanna.
God Bless,


Friday, March 18, 2011

Rites of Passage

You ever read about rites of passage to manhood ceremonies? Some are pretty outrageous. How about wearing a wasp suit without whimpering? How about discoloring or even knocking out some teeth? Rubbing your privates with stinging nettles? Cutting? Scarring? Not for me! But there are some truly great ones of times mostly long past. How about becoming a squire to a knight or an apprentice to a craftsman, leading a hunt, or surviving alone in the wilderness? Something profound seems lost these days sitting in front of the TV or video games. I sometimes wonder how I might pass on a sense of manhood to my boys similar to the way my own father instilled some of that in me. But it didn’t all come from my father.

One unintentional rite of passage occurred for me as a result of continual childhood arm-bruising from my older brother Michael which, in all fairness, I sometimes deserved. (Forgive me if you've heard this story before). It took place one day at about age twelve when for the first time ever I didn't cry when he hit me on the arm. I was about to cry, but then I thought to myself, Wait, I don't have to cry, and this light went on in my head. Somehow I managed to say through teary eyes and a quivering lip, "That didn't hurt! Do it again!" I lied. Big time. It was probably the hardest he had ever hit me, pinpointing that nerve near the shoulder. But then the strangest thing happened. He just harrumphed and walked away. And he never ever hit me on the arm again. It was as if there was some unwritten code that must be followed…a subconscious rite of passage.

A number of years ago when the boys were much younger, I got tired of the kids balling over the tiniest bits of pain. My first thought was, Where is Uncle Michael when you need him?

But then I shuddered, and fortunately slapped myself back to sanity. That’s when the idea of the “controlled pain game” struck me. I named it “Smacky." Basically, the inner forearm is bared and smacked with varying levels of intensity. The game ends when each participant has endured at least one firm smack without any whimper. It worked like a charm. Over the next few months when my boys would have a minor injury and start to cry, I’d ask them, “Did that even hurt as much as Smacky?” You could just see the lights turn on in their eyes. “No!” And they’d realize they don’t have to cry over every little thing. The only problem was they wanted to play Smacky all the time and would cheap shot me on the back! Nothing quite like hand prints left on the back.

A few years later, and Smacky has generally faded away, giving way to sports, homemade bows and arrows, and snow shoveling duties. I try to keep in mind I’m raising future men and to keep on the lookout for more and more rites of passage as the years roll on. I welcome any stories or traditions anyone might care to share.

Oh yeah, I can’t forget. After I shared much of the above in an email several years ago, my brother Michael wrote this reply. His side of the story, told his hilarious way:

Dear Blaine,

Nice email, Brother, especially the parts about me hitting you and making you cry. I really like the happy end of the story though, when you realized that you didn't have to cry anymore. Actually... you know, I was the one that placed that realization into your brain. Yes, that lame, drained, insane in the membrane, blaine brain. (Sorry, I couldn't resist). For years, telepathically, experimenting using various techniques, including the Vulcan mind meld, I finally perfected my own revolutionary technique. It's called P.U.N.C.H., which stands for PUgilistic Nerve Chronic Hitting, or commonly known as "Punch UNtil Crying Halts." Due to the thickness of your skull, however, it took years longer than I had anticipated but... eventually, my painstaking (pun intended) research paid off. No more crybaby little brother!!! A metamorphosis took place that fateful day, when you transformed into the well adjusted, lean mean fighting machine of a man, that you are today. It was a labor of love. No need to thank me. Love, ya.

Things that I do with my kids to toughen them up, which they actually enjoy, is picking them up and tossing them onto a bed or couch. You have to find the CT (Crying Threshold), with each child, as to how high, how hard, at what velocity, etc.. The CT seems to fluctuate depending on the individuals mood, state of health, alertness, tiredness, and so on. Another fun one is a safer variation of the grab one arm and one leg and swing them in a circle. What you do is have them lay in the middle of a blanket and pick it up and swing them around inside it. The deprivation of sight, being inside a blanket, while being swung around in a circle at high velocity, helps one overcome one's fear of the dark, roller coasters, and the like. Just be careful not to overdo it or you will go over the PT (Puke Threshold). Or, for best results, combine both of the above games. After you are done swinging them, let go of the blanket so they land on a couch or bed. Be careful on the timing of the release of the blanket or you may over or under-schuit the landing zone.

That's all for now folks. Until next time, be happy (no crying), or vee vill hav to schuit you!