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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Location: United States

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Got a picture of her when she was 14 in a swimming cap. She looks like a falcon." - Michael, Arrested Development


Our pool on a nice an sunny day. Wait, what’s that next to the swimming pool? Is that a pocket Bigfoot? Yeah. Must be. I think I need to get the Bigfoot zapper light working again. You may click on the picture to embiggen it.

Perhaps the best thing about living in Houston (besides the traffic, man, I just love traffic) is the swimming pool, or, as The Mrs. refers to it, “The Cement Pond.” (The Mrs. kicked me when I wrote that, but I couldn’t resist.)

Swimming pools are an absolutely decadent way to spend an afternoon, especially if you’re eating steak and caviar in the pool while oppressing serfs. Recipe substitution: oppressing a simple peasant family covered with oregano and flour will do if you’re out of serfs.

One of my great pleasures is coming home from work and finding the family in the pool, swimming. I quickly slip into my swimsuit and goggles. The Mrs. says the goggles make me look like the ultimate nerd, but I really like to be able to see underwater and ensure that there are no grizzly-shark (the sharzzly) hybrids that were the result of a government experiment that escaped the laboratory hiding in the deep end.

Our family fun has generally consisted of The Mrs. and I swimming around while The Boy and Pugsley use various floatation devices, trusting their lives to Chinese pool toys, to meander around in the pool.

For some reason, The Boy doesn’t trust me. I think it has something to do with the time in his life when he was afraid of the closet monster he dubbed “Ribbler” and I hid in the closet with a glow in the dark, neon green, alien head and jumped out at midnight screaming that I was going to eat his liver. Maybe that was it.

In the context of the pool, though, he had huge issues. I think he was worried I was going to bite a bit of plastic out of his swim ring and then leave him to slowly sink and drown in the deep end. Oh, sure, the thought crossed my mind, but that would preclude me from twisting his life up further.

I bought a toy, the Toypedo®. Although it looks exactly like a German V2 rocket, it is made of rubber and will not hit London unless you take it there and slam it to the ground. The Toypedo© is, however, really cool at slicing through the water like Paris Hilton slices through, oh, I guess tomatoes, when she’s making a sandwich. The Boy and I created a rather intricate game that involved the number of times you caught the Toypedo™ before it hit the bottom of the pool.

The point of this game was twofold. First, fun. Second, getting The Boy, who was afraid of water as a cat, to stick his mug underwater. You can’t play Toypedo® from a swim ring. Within two weeks, The Boy was swimming like a fish, but didn’t realize it.

The Mrs. realized the crux of the matter. It was, of course, the Boy Scouts.

The Boy worships Scouting principles like they were written down by Moses. After Moses got his Eagle Scout, of course. The Mrs. noticed that the Wolf Scout badge required The Boy to swim 32 miles on one breath, and tread water for 34 hours. She told that to The Boy. The Mrs. suggested that The Boy swim (next to the edge of the pool) as far as he could. The Boy swam the length of the pool.

The Boy looked at me in shock. I told him, “Come on over. You can swim.”

Since then The Boy has been like a (very, very awkward) fish in water. With a few free moments he wants to hit the pool and swim around in his unique, spastic way.

Am I proud? Yes. Very much. The Boy discovered that the biggest enemy that he was fighting was his own fear. And his learning that lesson is worth living in Houston and enjoying the traffic, filled with insane, maniac, crack-addled Texas drivers on their way to the Oklahoma Psycho Convention.

I think.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

“And cause I was a gazillionaire, and I liked doing it so much, I cut that grass for free.” – Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump


Above is the (honest to goodness) real cover for The Mrs.’ book, due out in October. Yes, you’ll see this picture again. And maybe again after that. By the way, her name is what’s shown in the title, just like mine is John Wilder, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s real name is Todd O’Reilly. That’s just the way it works.

I’ll admit that my long-term plans have me being the pool boy, spending the days toning my abdominal muscles, bathing in Propecia™, lifting weights, and working on my tan while push-mowing a forty-acre lawn.

I could be a kept man.

The story starts out about eight years ago. I’m a rather talentless fiction writer, but The Mrs. claimed she could write like Stephen King, if not in quality, than at least in volume. I encouraged The Mrs. to write, and after The Mrs. met the cannibal clown that is now her muse (it lives in the closet, The Mrs. says) The Mrs. started writing.

The original plot idea for The Mrs. first novel (The First Seal, you can find it on Amazon.com, and it has nothing to do with circuses, which enrages The Mrs.’ cannibal clown friend) was, in my opinion, really, really weak.

So, in true Wilder fashion, I encouraged The Mrs. to change the plot entirely. Sadly, when I read her original concept in novel form, some loser named Dan Brown had just finished closing his deal to buy Italy with the proceeds from his book, The DaVinci Code. The Mrs. originally didn’t have Da Vinci involved, but the plot elements in common with her original plot were so striking that I have to wonder if Dan Brown hadn’t been rummaging through our trash and found the notes somewhere under beer cans and wilted lettuce. There always seems to be wilted lettuce.

My problem was that I thought that the plot was ludicrous. Like the reader would buy that some ninja-Catholic group would want to kill people over rumors not fit for the National Enquirer®.

My bad.

Turns out that the reading public is pretty much okay with that, or some 2.8 billion copies sold must be wrong. Plus Tom Hanks bought into it. Loser.

Anyhow, I thought (and still think) that her book ended up being better. If only 2,999,998,342 more of you thought that way . . .

So, when The Mrs. announced she was taking a break writing her “Seals” series (she’s completed two, has a third in draft, and the second one should be out this year) to write some short stories.

One of the short stories ended up at about 85,000 words, which is a wee bit long for a short story, since it’s something like 350+ pages.

I utterly refused to read any of it until I could have 10,000 words at a stretch. Also, I utterly refused to comment on plot.

Turns out I didn’t need to. It’s her best work yet (not that I’m biased). She sent it out to three publishers and had a contract within a week. I had (perhaps) three minor comments, none on plot.

This angered her. She was used to such rich, in-depth ranting from me (“This sentence is longer than the preamble to the Constitution. Might want to cut it down a bit.” And “Are these guys knights or cats? They certainly seem frightened by a little water.”) that I think The Mrs. thought I was patronizing her.

Nope. Turns out, when I’m not in the picture, The Mrs. is a damn fine writer. Heck, maybe that guy who produced “Forrest Gump” will turn it into a movie. Don’t know if there’s a part for Tom Hanks, though.

Anyhow, if The Mrs. is going to be rich and famous, I certainly need to start working on the abs. And The Mrs. said something about a “bikini wax.” Although I’m not sure I know what the heck that is, she assures me I need one.

Plus, that lawn isn’t going to tan itself . . .
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

"The same thing we do every night, try to take over the world clean the house!" - The Brain, Animaniacs


Pugsley, clutching his drink as if his life depended upon it. In this case, it did, since that’s where I poured in the antidote. Muahahaha.

On Saturday, The Mrs. took a huge gamble. The Mrs. left me, The Boy, and Pugsley all to our own devices. Oh, sure, I’d like to tell you that she was gambling away our nest egg playing baccarat in Monaco, but in reality The Mrs. had been invited to sign some books at a book store, and would be gone for hours.

The Mrs. does not trust me to take both The Boy and Pugsley on Cub Scout camping trips. I’ll explain:

The Mrs. is worried that I’ll come home after taking Both Boys out and she’ll say: “Where’s Pugsley?” and I’ll respond with, “He wasn’t with you?”

So, having The Boy and Pugsley all to myself on a Saturday afternoon is rare. I had fantastic plans about what The Boy and I would do after Pugsley went down for his nap. We would build an unpermitted aircraft hangar as our first step toward building our own air force and taking over Texas. The whole point of that is world domination, but I’m stating the obvious.

Anyhow, it was way way way too hot outside for all of that nonsense. If you live in Texas, it’s better to attempt to build the infrastructure for a mad-scientist-type world takeover in November. That way you catch people paying off their credit cards from Christmas in January, so they don’t notice a change of management so much. Ever notice when they inaugurate new presidents? Hmmm?

Instead we stayed inside. As the coffee The Mrs. left behind slowly permeated my synaptic nervous system, I began to be much more dictatorial. Immediately, I began ordering the small blonde household residents about.

Immediately, I was met with a chorus of:

“Awww, man,” from The Boy, and

“Ee-ee-ee EE hauf!” from Pugsley.

Despite the malingering whining from the tiny ones, I rule with an Iron Pinkie. Soon enough, small bodies were scurrying back and forth, taking trash out, mowing lawns, and welding up a new trellis.

In the span of the five hours that The Mrs. was gone, I reconfigured our media center (sounds pompous for plugging some electrical crap in, doesn’t it?) led The Boys to clean up all the spare clothing in both bathrooms, cleaned toilets, lifted barges, toted bales, etc., etc.

The Mrs. showed up, and far from seeing the scene of devastation that she was expecting, saw a house that had no less than three rooms that were cleaner than when she left. (I didn’t do dishes. Sorry.)

I always default back to that old Andy Griffith Show when Aunt Bea left to visit some relation or other, and left Andy and Opie all by themselves. They had a kegger, of course (my memory is a little vague here) and then had to rush to clean up everything so that when Aunt Bea showed back up, everything was nice and tidy.

That made Aunt Bea sad, since she didn’t feel needed. I think (again, memory is a little rough here) that Andy roughed up Aunt Bea and then she was okay. Or maybe not. Maybe it was Barney.

Anyhow, The Mrs. showed up and just was happy that the three pagans that were left in charge of the place made it a little nicer. Which is good, since I really, really don’t remember what Andy did to make Aunt Bea feel good again. I do think that The Mrs. will trust us when she has to be gone again. Fortunately, she has no idea about the kegger we had.

Thankfully, nobody reads anything on the Internet, right?
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

"You see, certified mail is always registered, but registered mail is not necessarily certified." - Newman, Seinfeld


The invasion of the Metal Children. No wonder you can’t find a bench to sit on nowadays.

I made The Mrs. snort yesterday.

When we moved to Texas, one of the things that I specifically didn’t want was a strong, activist homeowner’s association. Why? The problem with homeowner’s associations (or, so I’ve heard) is that they are dominated by two types of people:

the retired who have nothing better to do, and
people so consistently downtrodden that they never have a chance to wield any power in real life.

This has always concerned me, since I take private property rights pretty seriously, and don’t want to be in thrall of some 80-year-old ex-postal clerk who might come by and jump off his walker to measure my lawn and make sure it’s within the appropriately proscribed height limitations. Nevermind the beer cans.

When we bought this place I talked to the President of the HOA, and asked him about the various rules, covenants, and bylaws of the association. His quote – “Once the house is built, there aren’t many rules that we have.”

About a month ago, I got a note from the mailman in my box – it indicated that a certified letter had been mailed to me, but there was a box checked “I’m too lazy to get out of the mail truck, so I’ll write this up and you can come get it at the post office tomorrow.”

Now, Internet, this is the FIRST certified letter that I’ve ever gotten in my life. I can’t imagine that people try to send good news by certified letter. Namely, I worry it’s the kind of news that’s more the “dead fish rotting in the garbage” kind of news that they don’t want to dirty their hands with.

I get paranoid.

I hit Google®, and attempt to find out why a person might want to send a certified letter. Most involved legal attempts to pull money out of your pocket. I shuddered, until I figured that by the return address (scrawled badly in a near-illiterate fashion) that it might be a local developer who had to send the notice out by law because he was going to put in yet-another-strip-mall.

The next morning I picked up the letter, and found that it wasn’t that at all – rather it was my homeowner’s association telling me that my siding was covered in a dried algae-paste, that there was waste, perhaps radioactive, behind my garage, that was just a smidgen visible if you drove by at 2 MPH (or, perhaps if you were using your walker to move on by).

As it happened, between the date the letter was sent and when I picked it up, The Mrs. had started scraping the algae off the siding (it makes a nice soup that goes well with a white wine).

Honestly, I drove by the house, and outside of a single tire behind the garage, there was scant evidence of any real issues.

The next weekend I scrubbed and powerwashed the house, and called the local haz-mat team to take care of the stuff behind the garage. Problem solved.

I had it mind to write a pretty snide response, and send it through some sort of mail service that was actually painful – one that, perhaps, had a mail carrier that insulted you to your face, slapped you, and then peed on your front step.

I decided to give it a rest, and perhaps send a much shorter letter, perhaps to the effect that “we know where you live.” I was discussing this with The Mrs. as she and I reached home after a day fiddling around Houston. On the front porch was a Home Despot© bag.

I asked The Mrs., as I squinted at the bag right on our front step, “What’s that?”

“Maybe it’s a bag of flaming dog poo,” was her quick retort.

“Oh, the Homeowners’ Association has been here.”

Yeah, that made her snort.
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Sunday, July 06, 2008

"Never thought I'd say it, but suddenly Independence Day seems a richly nuanced movie." - Mike, MST3K


Pugsley enjoys watching fireworks light up the night sky gravel.

This weekend we put in a long car trip across a quarter of the U.S.A., in search of a place with more liberal fireworks laws than our community here in Texas. It’s somewhat ironic that Texas, with some of the more liberal gun laws in the U.S.A. does not require you to drive with several sticks of dynamite, just in case you’d like to have a good “whump” sound.

Alas, no. Our city prominently advertises that fireworks are immoral and possibly fattening, and thus only a communist (or communist-sympathizer) would use them on Independence Day.

The Mrs. and I enjoyed a trip across Texas whilst The Boy and Pugsley fought like rabid badgers in the backseat of the car.

The fights were about the usual things:
“He’s bothering me,”
“He was trying to sleep so I pulled his hair, which doesn’t technically violate the Geneva Convention,” and,
“He won’t give me (that thing that is mine, or that thing that is his).”

The Mrs. and I talked as we drove. Recently, this luxury of talking to each other had been supplanted by my utter inability to be available. Oh, sure, we could talk to each other, as long as we didn’t mind the other not being able to hear.

As we drove, we talked about the cities where we’d lived as if they’d been previous relationships, rather than places where we lived. I think this is called anthropomorphism, from the Latin root anthro, meaning “insecticide,” and pomorphism, meaning “having a mental disorder that makes you pretend you’re a little Pomeranian on the lap of a rich socialite.” Here are our results to date:

The City We Lived Seven Years In: “Oh, sure, she was okay. It’s not that she had any horrible habits that would make you kick her to the curb, but overall you just knew you could do better, if it you needed to. She flossed regularly.”

Fairbanks: “She was a hot, sweaty, torrid and beautiful, but you knew your relationship was doomed from the minute that you touched her – it just wouldn’t, couldn’t last.”

Houston: “Oh, I love you, Houston. It has nothing to do with the steaming piles of money, I promise.”

We finally got to our destination, the hometown of The Mrs., where fireworks laws are among the more lax in the nation – most of the firecrackers we bought were the legal maximum allowed by the federal government, and we were encouraged to carry some in our car, so that we could make a nice, satisfying “whump” whenever we felt the need to.
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