Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Wenchjacking was a big problem in the Middle Ages." -Mike, MST3K


Prince The Boy on a big plastic horse, rallying all the other seven-year-olds on plastic horses.

We had decided during the long (hot) fall that we would go to the Texase Renaissance Festivale (to make it sound classy, I added an ‘e’ at the end of each word, like when they name a mall Birde Pointe Malle – see? classy) on the day after Thanksgiving. It would be at least down to below 95°F, right?

So, on Friday when the shoppers were clogging Pointe Pointe Malle, The Mrs., The Boy, Pugsley, Alia and I piled into the WilderMobile and headed north. I thought traffic was going to be light, heading away from Houston and all, especially with a back road that I took (thanks to Google® Maps™).

Traffic was miserable on the two lane highways leading to the Festival. About six miles away, we were doing about five miles an hour. We stopped a McDonalds for a quick drink and a brief respite from the breakneck highway speeds we were encountering, and I caught sight of a guy wearing tights and knee length leather moccasins. I took a guess that he wasn’t your average run-of-the-mill-varlet and asked, “How’s the Festivale?”

“Most excellent. Lots of hot wenches.”

Outstanding. I’m sure The Mrs. would love to hear that.

We thought that we’d be sneaky and “bob and weave” to avoid the crowds. It was cozy, just us Wilders and the 27,845 (official attendance that day) other people.

Parking, though, was a snap. We got out of the car, and I found that we were missing Pugsley’s stroller. He can walk, but a two-year-old can get very tired trodding around a medieval village, and carrying Pugsley is akin to walking around with a sack of forty squirming St. Bernard puppies. We decided to take our chances anyway.

The Festivale grounds are huge, and it didn’t seem all that crowded with 27,845 other nerds hanging around. (Note: You may protest that if you go to a Renaissance Festivale that doesn’t make you a nerd. Categorically it does, unless you’re just there to sell things to the nerds. Oh, sure you may not be dressed like a barbarian swordswoman with a chainmail bra covered in spikes, but if you go to one of these places, you’ve at least considered it a little. Nerd.)

The Mrs. bought a book. All the retailers called us anachronistic titles like, “M’Lord,” “M’Lady,” and, “Hey, put that down if you’re not going to buy it.”

We enjoyed a nice joust, took some pictures of The Boy on a plastic horse, looked at about a million swords, leather corsets, crystal amulets, and ale carts.

Finally, Pugsley went into full frantic mode. The Mrs. was leaving one of the shops and he executed a prime jujitsu move and flipped her over onto the cobbled street. The Mrs. has a bad knee from her time as an archer at the Battle of Hastings, so naturally she twisted the ankle of the other leg. Now instead of limping, she just shambles around the house. It’s kind of cute.

We decided to leave.

We got lost.

While wandering around looking for the exit, a vendor (selling plague rats, I think) approached me and noted that I was under the mistletoe. I looked and saw that he wasn’t looking at me, and sadly walked away as he worked hard to convince Alia that she needed to give him a smooch.

Blushingly, she finally did.

“You better not blog about this.”

No. Never. (Shhh). Not a bad way to end up the day in 1093.
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

"I've heard a lot of stories in my time. They went along with the sound of a tinny piano playing in the parlor downstairs." - Rick, Casablanca


The Boy. At the Renaissance Fair a store clerk gave The Boy a “dragon’s tear.” In a fit of parental genius, I told The Boy that it was magical, and that if he concentrated it on for thirty minutes or so, while being absolutely quiet, he would be able to see the future. The Boy made it for fifteen minutes before he gave up. Fifteen blissfully quiet minutes. More about the Renaissance Fair Wednesday. If you’re good.

I’m sorry Internet. I missed you this week, but it was because we were busy as heck. Oh, sure, I could have posted last Wednesday night, but I’m thinking that everybody was making pumpkin pies and celebrating The Mrs.’ birthday. You don’t celebrate The Mrs.’ birthday? Don’t worry, when I’m Emperor Wilder I, you will.

So, we’ve been busy. The Mrs. ordered a turducken for Thanksgiving (for those not in the know, a turducken is a boneless turkey stuffed with a boneless chicken and a boneless duck), and we had that for Thanksgiving dinner. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to open my own boneless turkey ranch, since I’m pretty sure that having to feed them would be wicked hard, and they would all just blob around all day and you’d have to individually turn them over so that they didn’t grow into the ground. As for the turducken? I’m all about meat, but only wish that they’d have stuffed a roast or some ham into it instead of, well, a duck. Besides duck hunters (who eat it to justify duck hunting – sorry, Duck Hunter) who eats duck? Three different kinds of birds? Talk about a big ball of salmonella.

We didn’t have a meat thermometer, so I cooked it until the turkey had the relative consistency of the sole of a Merrill™ hiking boot, so that we didn’t all end up in the hospital.

But, Internet, tonight was the highlight of my weekend. The Mrs. is a huge fan of Tori Amos. I’m sure that some of you are saying, “who?” and that’s fine. As I said to The Mrs. tonight, Tori’s not unpopular, she just has selective appeal. Regardless, Tori pulls in a lot more green than me.

I must say that when The Mrs. bought the Tori Amos concert tickets, I cringed internally, because I have heard her music. Not to say that it’s bad, if you like hearing a bag of cats being strangled by piano wire. Me, not so much.

I went to the concert. It was a severe estrogen-fest, since about 80 percent of people there were woman-people. The majority of the minority of males (think about it) were there sitting with their significant other, who bought the tickets.

Several impressions: First, a Tori Amos concert smells waaaaay more like soap and perfume and less like stale beer and cigarette smoke than say, an Iron Maiden concert. Second, the fans (even the guys) are much more well behaved. I went to the bathroom, and men were using the sink. To wash their hands. At your typical Judas Priest concert (back in the day) social order would break down in the mens’ room and in the ensuing anarchy the sinks would still be used . . . but let’s stop there. Third, concerts have change a lot in (insert very long time here) since the last one I went to.

People brought their digital cameras, and were taking flash pictures. This caused a near girl fight in the row behind, as one woman-person (nosy girl with glasses) told another (skinny shallow girl) she was rude and low-class for taking flash pictures. The skinny shallow girl responded that nosy girl with glasses wasn’t a lawyer. When nosy girl with glasses got up, skinny shallow girl began berating nosy girl to her friend. From the conversation I overheard, these people ACTUALLY CAME TO THE CONCERT TOGETHER BECAUSE THEY WERE FRIENDS. Wow. I sure hope that skinny shallow girl doesn’t post those pictures she was threatening to post on Myspace of nosy girl with glasses. Is it just me or should I expect that women in their thirties wouldn’t act like they were thirteen?

Anyhow, Tori Amos started her concert. I had considered bringing earplugs, but thought that might really chap The Mrs. (and when The Mrs. ain’t happy, nobody’s happy). I was very, very pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed the concert very much. Tori Amos can sing, and can play the piano, both way better than me.

I was impressed. Here was this professional musician who made really good music. Despite the fact that I couldn’t understand a word she sang (think all the enunciation of Stevie Nicks) I greatly enjoyed the concert. About two hours in, The Mrs. leaned over to me and said, “I’m ready to go.”

I wasn’t. I was grooving to the beat, but, I thought, this wasn’t my birthday present. That was a cool gold ring I found on my birthday. Makes me invisible. I loves it. Oh, another story. Anyhow, we left.

The Mrs. says I use the word “irony” incorrectly from time to time. The true definition is when something happens that would be the opposite effect that you’d expect from experience. Me, a confirmed Tori Amos non-listener, came away humming the songs, after having thoroughly enjoyed the show (I’d go again). The Mrs., a confirmed Tori Amos fan, was severely disappointed (go to The Mrs. Myspace page, link at left, for her version). That, Internet, is ironic.

So, I vow this. When I assume the throne as Emperor Wilder I, Tori Amos will play the songs The Mrs. wanted to hear for her birthday. She’ll play them until she plays them right, even if it makes her fingers bleed on the piano keys.

Me? I’ll sit and hum along.
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Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The Game Commission has set the legal limit on campers to 3. So if you're hiking today wear something bright and keep low."-Tripper, Meatballs


See the charcoal in the bag, underneath the grill that will soon be hot? Man, talk about foreshadowing.

After enough caffeine to give a hippo a heart attack, I trudged up the hill with The Boy to the designated Cub Scout meeting place. Time for a hiking trip. Unlike Houston where the only changes in elevation are skyscrapers and overpasses, the park where we were staying actually had some differences in elevation. A group of over twenty Cub Scouts and even more parents started off the hike.

The Boy capered up the trail, like a terrier in search of a pork chop. If there is a thing in nature that attracts boys more than hiking, that thing is dirt. Fortunately, hiking also involves a huge amount of dirt, unless you’re sea-hiking, which normal people would call swimming.

As we reached forks in the trail where other Scouts became tired, it almost became a challenge with The Boy. “We’re going the long way.”

And the long way we went, ending the hike at (my guess) about four miles. I’m pretty sure The Boy didn’t bother to look around, in anything but the most academic sense – The Boy was intent on hiking not looking at silly things like trees or the surrounding countryside. For looking at things we have the TV. Trails are for hiking, and going. It doesn’t matter that where we’ll end up is where we started, to The Boy the sheer Zen of hiking was all.

After we got back, I asked him, “Ready to go again?”

Bad choice, John Wilder, because his answer was as quick and unequivocal and earnest as a group of Enron® executives when asked if they’d like to lie for money. “Sure.”

I promised The Boy that we could hike before we left the next day.

We went back to our campsite and had sandwiches. After sandwiches, we went to the organized Cub Scout achievement thingy, where The Boy studied all things manly and was compensated for his study and action with a series of tiny metal loops that he could put on his belt. None will hold a Blackberry™, but that’s probably a good thing.

The night brought dinner time. I again fired up the grill with charcoal, this time using enough to heat Bill Gate’s place. The water boiled nicely for coffee and cocoa. As I did this, I turned my attention to the campfire.

The campfire (for our campout) was partially for aesthetics and cooking marshmallows, but in the licking flames and intense heat, there comes a sense of peace, of man having tamed fire for his own uses. In the campfire there is a sense of a minor mastery of nature. I think fewer people would have mental problems if they could just toast marshmallows over a fire with a seven year old.

The peace of the fire was shattered when I looked over at the grill. My mastery of fire was entirely defeated when one of the heaped pieces of burning charcoal fell into the bag of charcoal in the “to be burned later” category. Well, later was now.

I don’t know about you, but I can barely get charcoal to light in the first place when I want it to light. Here, by the grace of gravity and my own stupidity, I had created a massive conflagration of charcoal. A great column of flame shot from the charcoal as it and the bag were consumed.

It was okay. I was in a whole gaggle of Cub Scouts. Somebody probably knows the whole formula to put out fire, right?

Oh, yeah, water.

An evening of seven-through-eleven year olds telling jokes and ghost stories followed. The Boy and I headed back to our tent, which we packed up the next day.

“We’re going hiking, right?”

In truth, Internet, I was still sore from the last time, so I tried to placate The Boy with promises of a gazillion dollars when he was 76. He did not buy it.

We went hiking, this time on the trail listed as “Difficult.”

The Boy again was a hiking machine, and my soreness worked itself out about a mile into the trip. We went far higher, and actually spooked a few deer (they make seriously huffy sounds when you sneak up behind them, since they pride themselves on being sneaky and deer-like) and I only got us lost twice, neither of them seriously.

We drove home. About three hours into our trip, The Boy was looking melancholy. I was worried he missed The Mrs., this being almost as long as he’d ever been away from her.

“What’s the matter, Sport?”

“I miss our campsite.”

Boys. Dirt. Hiking. Camping. Fire.

These things all seem to go together. Oh, and greasy Whataburgers®.
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Monday, November 12, 2007

"I tell you, that boy's got a talent for dissipation that is absolutely unique." - Ben Rumson, Paint Your Wagon


The Boy, studying for a Cub Scout achievement thingy, or maybe it was the MCAT, which would explain why someone named “John Hopkins” keeps calling.

The Boy and I got to our campsite when it was nearly as dark as the inner recesses of Ted Turner’s mind. We always seem running behind, despite our best efforts to not be horribly late and generally inept. Oh, sure, Internet, you can smugly sit and wait for us to be inept for you, but that just means you’re not trying hard enough to be as inept as us.

Anyhow, how we were late, and why we were late is relatively immaterial (I would blame The Mrs., but she sometimes reads this and certainly wasn’t to blame, since she can read and all). Part of what delayed us was me not being able to find one of our five(!) – not exaggerating – tents somewhere in our house. At least they used to be in our house, but at this point I think that they’ve been translocated to some dimension where tents are needed by an army of Christopher Walken clones for the purpose of . . . well, best not to go there. But at least that’s the simplest explanation I can think of as to why I can’t find my tents.

We got to the campsite and The Boy and I put the tent up. After that, I built the first charcoal cooking fire that I’ve built in over a decade. My mistake? Not dousing the charcoal with enough starter fluid to drain Saudi Arabia? No. Remembered that. My mistake was in not putting enough charcoal in the grill. In retrospect, it would have been faster to have grilled the hamburgers over a Bic© lighter.

As The Boy unrolled our sleeping bags, he kept singing, “Give Me Your Dissipation.”

Although “Give Me Your Dissipation” has only four words for lyrics, it is somewhat catchier than you might imagine, especially if you sing it like Ozzy® singing his old Black Sabbath© stuff.

John Wilder: “What does dissipation mean, anyway?”

The Boy: “You know, like when ghosts disappear, they dissipate.”

Hmmm. He had me there.

Ever shared a tent with a hyperactive seven-year-old? Don’t. They want to talk about, well, seven-year-old stuff, like whether or not Einstein meant to add in the cosmological constant or not, and not interesting stuff like which Army division is dating Paris Hilton now.

Anyhow, after the siren testing factory and jet fighter training school shut down for the night, I was able to get some sleep. I went to sleep at 10:00 PM, at 11:32PM, at 1:03AM, at 3:00AM, and then again at 6:13AM. It’s amazing the level of discomfort little blue foam sleeping bag ground covers can transmit through the sleeping bag, since at one point I awoke and was fairly certain that I’d had a stroke, given that the entire left side of my body was numb. I turned to lay on my right side. Repeat process. Listen to the rain on the tent. Turn to stomach. Listen to what sounds like cloven hooves smashing into the ground around the tent. Turn to back.

As I tossed and turned, I reflected that this was not the most uncomfortable night I ever spent in a sleeping bag in a tent – that would have to go to the time I was camping above 13,000’ in the Rockies between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I listened to the advice of my (stick skinny) friend and took his “way super cool” sleeping bag instead of mine. What I had forgotten to do was to see if the bag fit. I got into the tent (blizzard conditions, 60 MPH winds, -20°F temperatures) and found I couldn’t zip the sleeping bag up past my waist (this really happened). The really uncomfortable part, though, was wondering if I’d remembered to lock the back door to the house at home. Bugged me all night.

At 6:47AM, I came to the realization that I was now a decade older and this, indeed was the most uncomfortable night I’d ever spent in a tent. I counted the minutes until it was time to get up – and then The Boy and I tromped over to the rest facilities, which were tiled and not the general state-issue bare concrete, and had showers.

The Boy: “They have showers here.”

John Wilder: “I didn’t drive several hundred miles to come camping and have to shower. Camping means you don’t have to shower.”

He nodded, as if the advice I gave him were as sage as Arnold Schwarzenegger saying, “Hasta la vista, baby” at the end of Terminator II.

After our morning ablutions, he and I meandered back to our campsite where we had a breakfast consisting of Pop Tarts© and coffee. Okay, I made the seven-year-old hot cocoa, and had all the coffee myself. Did you think I was about to share?

We then got ready for the hiking and other bits that would make up our day.

Me? No radio. No television. No computer.

No withdrawals . . . just a sense of peace, the peace of the inept, preparing for the day.

Ain’t life grand?
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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"No other species in the universe goes camping. Celebrate your own uniqueness." - Captain Jack, Torchwood


The Boy, earnestly appearing to be earnest, clad in all his Cub Scout spiffiness. I think The Boy is attempting to smile, but his expression looks to me like he’s dreading the bellybutton piercing The Mrs. is planning for him. I guess that’s what The Boy thinks happiness looks like.

The Boy and I are getting ready to camping this weekend.

The Cub Scouts are scooting out to some place or another (I’m really not sure where, but I’ve already paid – I’m pretty sure we won’t be going to a converted waste dump, that’s pretty much the territory of the “New Jersey Scouts” – you gotta problem with that?) but I’m also sure it’ll be fun.

One of the things I did tonight to get The Boy out of my hair harness The Boy’s creative energy was to have him compile a list of things we’ll need. Here they are, in the order that The Boy put them, spelling as intact as I could create it (my comments follow the items):

1. fashlight (I prefer a good fashlight when I’m camping. Keeps the wooves away.)
2. camra (I forgot to add this to my list. Good catch, The Boy.)
3. ALARM clook (Hmmm, he’s been a bit too citified.)
4. tint (Nice. Starting to get the picture.)
5. Food (Good.)
6. (a drawing of what looks like a washer and drier – still puzzling that one out)
7. TAPE RECORDER (To catch ghostly sounds. The batteries in that may die early.)
8. (a drawing of walkie-talkies, a probable Christmas gift that has really, really been on his mind)
9. 9. V. (9 volt batteries. Not sure what for.)
10. (a drawing of a notebook and pencil. So he can, well, umm, make more lists?)
11. (a drawing of a sign with “WARNING” on it, presumably to warn the wildlife that the Wilders are around)
12. (a Picasso-like drawing, cubist period)
13. (a drawing that looks like an ‘L’, which I believe to be a laptop, which we certainly won’t be taking)
14. (incomprehensible – wait – is that a knife, fork and spoon?)
15. (looks like cans of soda with straws)
16. (a drawing of AA batteries – dang – now I have to lose the tape recorder and the batteries)
17. OFF! (Good thinking again, The Boy)
18. 1 AID KIT (Impressed me.)
19. T.C,a (I’m sure this means something to him)
20. MONEY (The Boy’s figuring out the way the world works, isn’t he?)
21. UNIFORM (Go Scouts!)

All in all, a good list. I think The Boy did a good job, though I must admit to prompting him with a few questions, “What might we need if there are mosquitoes? What might we need if there are Democrats?” but mostly just told him to keep at it, and think what we might need camping.

The real genius of Scouting (in my opinion) is that there is always a good dozen reasons not to go camping on any particular weekend, but as a parent there is no good reason to not go this weekend. The Boy and I will be piling in the Wildermobile bright and early and heading off, leaving The Mrs. to care and feed Pugsley and Alia S. Pugsley is (mostly) pretty easy to care for, and I’m getting the hint that the ladies are looking forward to having the double X chromosome club ruling the house this weekend without much interference from the sweaty, smelly boys

Me? I’ll be trying to lose a tape recorder and a bunch of AA batteries without littering. The Cub Scouts hate the littering.
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Sunday, November 04, 2007

"These go to eleven." - Nigel Tufnel, This is Spinal Tap


The Transco® Tower, now the Williams Tower™, rumored to be negotiations to be sold to Stephen King©, who wants to use it so he can stand up at the top and brood above the mist, and anchor some sort of beam (Geeky Dark Tower® reference).

Overheard at the Wilder House:
“Those people are generally very smart iconoclasts who think deeply and believe strongly in individualism. Either that or they’re rebellious morons. From the outside they pretty much look the same.”

The Mrs. and I had a nice weekend. We ended up in a bit of a tiff on Friday, which is unusual for us. Our marriage is like a Spinal Tap® amplifier, in that it goes to nearly 11 (years) and during that time, we’ve had a vanishingly small number of significant arguments, certainly less than one per year. Unlike many people, The Mrs., when she argues, mostly stays as rational as a Vulcan©, and mostly sticks to the subject at hand rather than bringing up subjects older and deader than Ben Affleck’s fame (remember back in 1998 when you . . .).

The Mrs. did get angry enough to raise her voice. My viewpoint was that The Mrs. had been a teddy bear, and I had gently petted it, only to find that instead of stuffing it surrounded a core of nitroglycerin. The Mrs. viewpoint was that she had clearly indicated that she was stressed, like a wounded grizzly bear, and that I had come in and jabbed her with the pointy part of a broken shovel handle.

As the action began to dwindle down, I walked through the front room where The Boy was sitting and watching some show or another on ghost hunting on the Ghost Hunting Network™ that our television has become.

“Are you in trouble?” The Boy asked, very gravely. The Boy knows the sound of being in trouble intimately.

“No. Momma just yells at me when she’s disappointed in you.”

Okay, I didn’t really say that, but that’s what I told The Mrs. later on as we were sharing a bottle of wine grape juice in the aftermath of our disagreement, causing her to nearly shoot wine grape juice out of her nostrils onto her nachos.

What I really said was: “No, I’m not in trouble. Everything’s fine, watch your ghosts.”

Untroubled, The Boy turned back to his show. By the time he went to bed, The Mrs. and I had long since worked through our issue, and were sitting and laughing. Okay, we were sitting, and talking and laughing. If we were just sitting and laughing, that would make us seem as nutty as Hollywood remaking mediocre television shows from the seventies into big-budget movies and calling that “creativity.”

“I feel sorry for the women The Boy’s going to date, since he sees us resolving things amicably and not being irrational all the time. He’s going to look for a decent relationship and boot out the psycho-nutty-needsomedrama-chicks that come along.”

The Mrs. smiled, as she correctly interpreted the compliment that I’d given her. The Mrs. is generally rational, and generally puts up with far more idiosyncrasies than any one person should have to cope with, especially when you commingle those of The Boy and Pugsley with mine. It’s like living in a house of extraordinarily picky, yet indescribably lazy people. Oh, sure, we want the grapes peeled and our pillows fluffed with a nice mint on them at bedtime, but we certainly don’t want to peel grapes, fluff pillows, and find the gosh-darned mints. That’s what The Mrs. is for. Besides, Pugsley has already found the mints, and now there’s baby slobber all over them.

Me? I’m glad to have The Mrs., and certainly understand that on occasion we push her buttons a bit too far, even if she does look like a fluffy teddy bear, we need to remember that sometimes, just sometimes, there’s a bit of nitro in there.
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