Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fancy Annie's Birthday Spectacular!

We threw a party for my daughter Annie on Saturday. Since she's fancy, the theme was Fancy Nancy. If you don't know who or what Fancy Nancy is, it's a series of children's books about a girl named Nancy who likes to dress and talk as fancily as possible. Every book is filled with great vocabulary lessons - e.g., "Posh is a fancy way of saying 'fancy.'" I love reading the books to her, and she loves being fancy, so it all works out.

So what makes a party "fancy?" How about a chocolate fountain, for one?

Not fancy enough for you? How about an inflatable?

Still not fancy enough? What about an art station with paint on one side and chalk on the other?

Still not floating your boat? Well, we also had another art station to make your own bookmarks, and another one to make your own necklaces...

"Pin the Tiara on Fancy Annie"...

Swings and slides...

Well, if none of that is fancy enough for you, then I know this will be: a fancy four-layered cake, since Annie turns four!

And as you all know, I take no credit for any of this. Betty did everything. And, by the way, she did it after a tornado ripped through our area last week and us having lost all of our food from the fridge and freezer. And she somehow managed to bake the fancy cake right before our oven's bake element burnt out. Betty is amazing!

The party was a smashing success. Annie had lots of friends and family come to see her. She loved seeing her cousins and friends, and enjoyed receiving and sharing some new loot!

Oh, I forgot to mention that we had a dress-up station for the kids with boas, hats, clothes, fancy shoes, etc. As expected, I dressed up as fancily as I could - with a tuxedo shirt and cummerbund that I found at the Purple Cow thrift store in Baton Rouge for $10. Betty wore a fancy outfit that I got her (because I have impeccable taste in other people's clothes but not my own - it's a gift and a curse at once). Annie wore fancy everything. And Peter borrowed a tuxedo from our friends - he just about stole the show!

Our families were fancy, too! Here's us with Betty's parents...

And here's us with mine. Fancy Tanorys!

It was a little on the warm and muggy side, and I probably kept Peter in his tuxedo a little too long. He was really hot and thirsty for most of the time. But it was tough to get him to come inside and change, since every time I went to get him he hopped on another mode of transportation and took off in his threads - Mission: Impossible style!

We had such a great time. Thanks to everyone who came and made Annie's birthday party so much fun!

We'll see you next year! Start getting your fancy things together, because next year's party has to be bigger and better than this year's, if that's possible. But try real hard, because you don't want to make this little munchkin mad at you:

She turns four this week! FOUR! Can you believe it???

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Twister!

We had a tornado in Prairieville a few days ago. Not a tornado like, "My son Peter ate all the candy in the pantry and then frothed at the mouth while tearing up our house," kind of tornado. Like a real tornado.

It missed our house by two blocks on both sides.

I was at work when my coworker / friend / sometimes-running-and-gym partner Brannon came up to my desk. I'm not on Brannon's team any more so I rarely see him (even though he lives two blocks from me). He asked if I had heard from Betty and if everything was OK.

So at this point I was nervous and mentally preparing myself for a shock. What was wrong?

"Apparently there's been a tornado," Brannon said. "A tornado?" my face non-verbally asked. "Yeah, it sounds like it was bad all around us. You should call Betty and make sure she's OK."

It's great to have good friends, isn't it?

I called Betty and she was OK. Thankfully! She didn't even know there had been a tornado. She said it got really loud all of a sudden but she just thought it was due to the storm that was raging around her. Peter slept through it all. I told her to take him to the closet and sit there for a while, just to make sure. (Anne was at school.) Betty did that for a few minutes then went back to the recliner - it was worth it to keep Peter sleeping! Plus the tornado had already passed so it wasn't really necessary.

Everyone in Prairieville lucked out. Nobody was killed and we don't think anyone was hurt. A few trees landed in houses, and one landed on a car with people in it, but everyone got out OK. The firemen, ambulances and police were on the scene in minutes. Kudos to our first responders!

Nobody was hurt as far as we know, but there are several houses near ours that no longer have roofs. And our good friends Matt and Nicolvin, had they still been living out by us, would probably be staying with us right now because their old street is pretty much torn to shreds.

The sight of some of the houses around us make us sad. We used to see kids playing basketball on those driveways, and now there are tens of guys out frantically trying to fix up their houses. Some people out here probably don't have home insurance, ya know? Betty brought them donuts and muffins today, which was really sweet of her. Hopefully we'll be able to do more to help them, although I'm really awful with any kind of manual labor. (You do NOT want me helping to put your roof back on your house... just trust me on this, OK? Tornado or no, I'm not allowed to use power tools or scale construction projects.)

Our street was narrowly missed. Apparently the tornado started in a field on one side of our street, hit a few houses there, then receded... and passed right over us. Then it landed about a half mile away and destroyed some other houses there. We are so lucky.

Brannon's wife was actually outside on their patio when the tornado passed by, and when it went by it sucked all of the loose objects on their patio out and flung them all over their yard. She's really lucky that she didn't get sucked out.

So, we had a near miss, but we still feel like we've been through something incredibly stressful. And it makes us so thankful for all that we have, and it definitely makes us want to go out and help people - not just in our area who have been affected, but anywhere we can.

So the next time you're aggravated when stuck in traffic, dealing with a problem employee at work, or angry at Roger Goodell for suspending Sean Payton for a year... just remember, there are people out there that have it much worse than you do. Some of those people live two blocks from me. I'm going to see if I can do something about it. Please do the same for the people in your area!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Coach Bob

Every coach I've ever had, with the exception of my dad, is known to me simply as "Coach." (I call my dad "Coach Daddy.") My high school soccer coach? Coach. My little league baseball coach? Coach. My horse and buggy? Coach.

They can't all be good jokes, people.

Most of my coaches were doing more than just teaching us kids how to choke up on a bat, how to steal a base or making us run laps before practice. They were mentoring us. They invested their time not only into practice and games, but they also invested their time in us. They made a personal connection. Along the way we learned how to be gracious winners, to learn from every loss, and how to mentally prepare for the game. Basically, they taught us life lessons that I am forever thankful for.

And this Spring the Coach Torch is being passed onto yours truly. I am going to coach my daughter's soccer team.

I will henceforth be known forever as Coach Bob.

To be honest, I'm really excited and also slightly terrified. OK, very terrified. What if I am a bad coach? What if the kids don't have fun?

I'm not really concerned about winning and losing - I just want the kids to have fun. Hopefully they get to experience some wins along the way. But I really want to instill in them that soccer is a great and fun sport. I played for 14 years and was lucky to play in the Lafayette area, which when I was growing up was filled with some of the best players in the state. My high school, Acadiana High, won the state championship twice while I was on the team. Our rival high school, Lafayette High, won a few years later. STM was also a great soccer school. I haven't kept up with which team won which year, but my point is that we had a lot of great players.

So hopefully all those guys that I played with are now coaching their own kids... which my team will then crush. Game on!

Today Betty and I took the kids to Academy to buy some soccer balls (pink for Annie, blue for Peter), shin guards and cleats. When I was young we also wore knee guards, but I guess kids today are too cool for that. I also got some orange cones, which will come in handy for soccer practices as well as for Halloween this year.

But Academy... wow, I was like a kid in a candy store! Just walking through the aisles filled with cleats, balls, and bats made me really excited about our kids playing sports. Betty had to literally drag me by the arm to get me to focus on getting cleats for Annie. I kept wandering off. "But Betty, maybe we'll need this 6x3 soccer goal in the near future...."

But the best piece of soccer equipment that I bought was my whistle.

I decided to test my whistle out on my kids. So when I walked into the house tonight, I blew the whistle and yelled for my family to line up. Even Betty got in line!

"When I blow this whistle, you will each pick up toys in the living room and put them in the appropriate place. Ready?" Whistle!

Dude! It worked! My house is spotless! My kids were listening so well, and I didn't know when the novelty would wear off, so I had to keep going.

"When I blow this whistle, you will put on your PJs." Tweeeet! My kids miraculously put on their PJs with no fussing.

"When I blow this whistle, you will go brush your teeth." Tweeeeeet! Teeth brushed!

My whistle is magic!

The only person who doesn't respond to my every whistle command is Betty. My next purchase might have to be a bullhorn.

I can't wait to become Coach Bob. I just hope that I can do even half of what my former coaches have done for me. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of the great people who shared your love of the game, your time and your energy with us when we were kids. I really appreciate it. And I hope that I make you proud as I make my own way into the coaching world.

Look at me... still trying to make my coaches proud!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Relearning How to be a Kid

One of my favorite things about being a parent is that I get to be a kid again. Sure, there are games to be played, dirt piles to be climbed and Disney movies to be watched, but being a kid is much more than that. It's living in the moment, having no inhibitions, and wearing your emotions on your sleeve at full throttle.

And it comes very unnaturally to an adult. Even I, whose maturity level topped out at around 4 years old, have found that I've had to relearn how to be a kid.

Kids don't have any inhibitions. If my kids hear music that makes them want to dance, they dance. And they don't do the jitterbug, the waltz, a line dance or whatever minimalist grinding goes for dancing with today's youth. They fling their arms out, kick their legs each way, and generally look like the Tazmanian Devil on speed. And they're so happy when they're dancing!

And me, being old and having had society beat me down, have to stop singing and nodding my head to the music at every red light. What have I become?

I'm happy to "act the fool" when I'm with my kids in public. If they want to dance, I'll dance! Screw the onlookers! If my kids want to sing, I'll sing! If they want to scale a rock wall, I'll scale that rock wall with them! And I don't think they're "acting like fools," as we adults like to say. But if an adult, on his or her own, just started dancing in the middle of a restaurant because a great song with a funky beat comes on, other people would think that person should go to the looney bin.

Basically, adults are boring. Why is it so fashionable and acceptable to be mundane?

My kids are amazing, and I love being with them. I love their energy. I love how they show their emotions so freely. And I especially love that they don't give a crap about what other people think of them right now, because the only people they have to worry about are me and Betty, and we think the world of them. And that makes me want to dance!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Dealing with Bullies

I'd like to take the day off of pretending to be funny and instead focus on something that's serious: bullying.

Getting bullied sucks. You get nervous, you start to avoid people and places, your social status can be affected... it can affect your school life, your social life, your home life, etc. Some kids have even killed themselves from being bullied. I've read one too many of those kinds of articles, so I thought I'd throw in my two cents on how to deal with bullies - because in general I don't think there's a lot of good advice going around on how to stop from being bullied.

First, let's talk about cyberbullying since that seems to be pretty common. Cyberbullying is when someone bullies you over email, text message, instant message, etc.

How to deal with cyberbullies:

Good: Just delete the emails, block the user on IM, etc.

Better: Set up a rule to send any emails from that person into your trash bin.

Best: Set up a rule to send those emails into a folder on your email to store as evidence for when you complain to the school or police. Set your Instant Messaging app to store conversations locally so that you can retrieve them. The bully is essentially giving you a paper trail that you can then use against him or her. Turn on full headers on your email to capture the IP address and all that other good stuff, so that the aggressor can never claim that you've spoofed their communications. And remember, if you or your parents send any mail to another parent or to the school referencing of these files, send it as a certified letter so that you've got proof that the recipient received the notice.

Basically, anyone who bullies you online is an idiot because they're just incriminating themselves.

On to regular bullies.

How to deal with school bullies:

Good: Telling your parents, teacher, guidance counselor, etc. Adults have gone through this before and generally know how to deal with it. They might not do anything that very moment, and might just wait and see how it all plays out, ie, letting you stick up for yourself (which is a good thing, by the way). But they'll keep an eye out for you.

Better: Ignore the bully. They just want attention. Don't show fear, don't run away (but walk away from any confrontation). Act casual. Bullies like to get a rise out of people, and if you don't let things bother you then usually they'll get bored.

Best: Stand up for yourself. Bullies generally pick on people because they are insecure, and it makes them feel better when they're making someone else feel like crap. So don't let yourself be bullied. Practice a few insults to hurl back at a dimwitted bully who instigates things, and don't be afraid to throw a punch or kick a guy in the nuts if you get pushed around. Just make sure that you're faster than whoever you're hitting.

Honorable mention: Humans are social creatures, so make as many friends with as many people as you can. That way, when a bully is picking on you, he or she now has to deal with you plus everyone else. And that means sticking up for your friends when they're bullied as well. Bullies will usually single out an individual, so you're better off with a group.

Also, let me say this: it's OK to be different. Most kids don't realize this until they're in college. Whatever is different about you sets you apart and makes you stand out. That's what people will find interesting about you. That's why we have different types of music, different TV shows, etc. We all don't like the same thing, and that's a good thing. The world would be a pretty terrible place if we were all exactly the same (unless we were all hot Brazilian bikini models - I'm sure that would be a pretty cool world).

How to deal with bullies on social media sites:

The eHow site has some good info on how to deal with bullies on Facebook, and shows you how to block another user, report offensive posts, etc. Here's another site with info on Facebook's anti-bullying tools.

Last but not least:

How to deal with bullies at work:

Congrats! You've made it out of school and into the real world! No more bullies, right?

Sadly, some bullies eventually make it into the workforce. But if they're dumb enough to harass you over email, and if it's repetitive and is disturbing your work, save the emails and forward them to your manager, that person's manager, and to HR. Usually the issues will get handled appropriately.

Plus, if you eventually attempt to leave the company due to being bullied and nobody doing anything about it, the company might either:

1. Fail because they've lost you as an asset, which is only good as long as you've sold all your stocks from your Employee Stock Purchase Plan and rolled your 401K over; or

2. Offer you more money to stay. You could also give the ultimatum that the bully is let go, sent to some kind of training, etc, in order to stay. More money, less hassles... it all depends on how you deal with it.

Not sure if anyone finds this helpful. Feel free to leave comments with more useful tips, advice, success stories, etc. Oh, and if you think you can leave a comment and bully me, think again - I'll be capturing your IP address and will track you down, sucka!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Cake That Keeps On Giving

A few days ago I baked two cakes for Betty's birthday with help from my kids. Then I wrote a blog about it to show how wonderful a husband I am.

An unintended consequence of that blog post was that my dad decided to bake a cake for my mom. And since he doesn't have a blog, he decided to text pictures of it to me. One can only assume that he meant for me to post them to my blog, to show the world that not only am I a great husband, but that I am inspiring great husbands everywhere. Thanks, Pop!

So that's my dad's cake above. It looks pretty tasty. More importantly, it made my mom happy. Here's a picture of her being happy with the cake in the picture, so we can only assume it was the cake that made her happy and not some hilarious joke that my dad just told her.

Here's what I think the conversation was that led up to my dad baking a cake. We'll see how well I know my parents.

Mom: Oh Richard, come check out this cake Bobby baked Betty for her birthday! Wasn't that so sweet?

Dad: Humph! How hard is it to bake a cake? He just poured the batter into a pan and put it in the oven! Anyone could do it!

Editor's note: I'm sure my dad said this sarcastically, not realizing what would come next.

Mom: Oh yeah, Mr. Hot Shot? Then why don't you bake me a cake?

Dad: I will! Baby, I'll make you the biggest, chocolate-ist cake you've ever seen! And I'll make it have three layers since Bobby's cakes only had one!

I'll let my parents weigh in on whether or not I got that right. But I can definitely picture my parents having this conversation... right after they both agree that I am their favorite child and that they love me more than both my brother and sister combined. (Just kidding... they love us each equally. Except for my brother, I'm sure he's third on the list.)

Speaking of my brother, he's now the only Tanory male to not bake a cake for his wife. You're on notice now, Bro!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Happy Birthday to Betty!

Happy birthday to my beautiful wife, Betty!

My kids and I made Betty a cake for her birthday. It was my first time ever baking a cake on my own. And by "on my own" I mean with limited (read: lots of) help from Betty. I also watched a couple hours worth of YouTube videos showing me how to ice cakes.

My daughter was extremely helpful by pointing out all the things I was doing wrong, and then running to tell Betty about how awful I was doing. But she meant well, so she still go to eat some icing when it was all said and done.

I made two cakes - a circle cake and a heart-shaped cake. I thought I was being fancy by making two cakes out of a single box of cake batter, but apparently that's what you're supposed to do. My circle cake could have gone a couple of minutes longer, but I didn't realize that until I leveled it and found a small semi-gooey center. I thought I was going to have to start all over with it, but we tasted some of the parts that I had cut off and it was good, so Betty just cut out the center and replaced it with a cupcake.

The lesson here is to always undercook your cakes, kids.

Next came the fun part: icing the cake. Betty got out all the ingredients for me to make our own icing while I wrapped my head around the fact that Crisco looks like a blob of white butter. We mixed some red food coloring in with our confectioner's sugar, Crisco, water and almond extract to make a nice pink icing, and then my daughter Annie helped me ice the cakes. Her way of helping me ice the cakes was to attempt to eat all of my icing, thereby making me be more creative with whatever icing was left.

YouTube taught me how to make flowers out of icing by using a 2D tip and an icing bag, so I used my newfound skillz to flowerize both cakes. Then I mixed some blue icing in with the leftover pink icing and made a nice lavender color. This was a gamble, because things could have gone one of two ways: 1) it would either look great on the pink cake, or 2) it would look hideous and then Annie and I would have to eat all of the icing in order to hide the evidence. Luckily for my diet, the lavender came out well, so I piped that shizzle onto the cakes.

I thought the heart cake came out great. I'm going to give this one to Betty, and she can eat it alone just like our kids ate their own cakes at their birthday parties. Why not? It's fun to act like a kid, and why should we stop acting like kids now just because we're a year older?

I didn't space my letters out great on the circle cake, but I think it still came out OK. Next time I'll use molds that mark the letters in the icing as a guide instead of free-handing it.

Betty was excited when she saw the finished product. She had just finished bathing our son Peter, and he looked as hungry as a little tiger cub when he saw the cakes. Although he had just gotten a bath, he was soon covered in pink and purple icing and needed another good scrubbing.

As for me, I'm now a Cake Master... well, maybe a Cake Master's Apprentice. I think I want to follow in Duff's footsteps from Charm City Cakes, and bring my own attitude to cake baking. I'm thinking I'm going to thug out my cakes, like so:

Or maybe just stand by them and look pretty, like so:

Or maybe I'll practice a few more cakes before I let it go to my head. All I know is that it was a lot of fun, and I really hope Betty and the kids like the cake. I really enjoyed baking it for Betty. It also made me more appreciative of all the times that Betty makes us something special for our birthdays - or on just a regular day, since she always makes our day more special.

Happy birthday, Beebles! I love you!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Dirty South

The term "Dirty South" may have originated as a rap term, but I think that Louisiana is really beginning to look like the actual Dirty South. It's generally a filthy place. You can't drive a tenth of a mile anywhere down here without seeing garbage flung around everywhere. It's as if our citizens don't have trash cans or are not smart enough to use them. It's disgusting and frankly I'm sick of it.

Betty and I like to travel, and we've been to some pretty great places: Manhattan, San Francisco, Napa / Sonoma, DC, Seattle, Charleston... and the one thing all of those places had in common was that they were spotless. The people there actually took care of the land. People thought twice before chunking a glass bottle out their car window into someone's yard. (I saw that happen down here just the other day.) Even Houston is pretty decent in regards to litter.

While in Charleston, I took a picture of the only piece of garbage that I found. That's how rare it was.

On the bright side, I was able to enter the code from that Coke bottle into my My Coke Rewards account. Jackpot!

Every so often our law enforcement officers will have a heightened litter awareness weekend. That's good and all, and very much appreciated. I know our law officers are busy. But I think what we truly need is better littering laws and a means to enforce them.

Here's a simplification of Louisiana's littering law (LSA-R.S. 30:2531), courtesy of

Louisiana distinguishes between intentional and simple littering. First conviction for intentional littering: fine of $250 and eight hours of community service in a litter abatement work program; second conviction: $500 and sixteen hours; third or subsequent conviction: $1250, eighty hours, and one year suspension of driver's license.

First conviction for simple littering: $75 or eight hours of community; second or subsequent conviction: $500 or sixteen hours of community service. Those convicted under the statute must also pay for or repair any damages to the property and pay all reasonable investigative costs.

Let's be honest: if we had even the minimum $75 fine for just one in every 100 pieces of garbage out on the median of Airline Highway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana would be the richest state in the Union.

Here's what I propose:

1. We use the cameras at the red lights that capture speeders and people who run red lights, and use some of their power for catching people who litter. Sure, the range of littering that we could capture is limited, but it's a start.

2. You know those bums who are always asking for money at the corner of Airline and Sherwood? I saw one guy who was limping along on crutches, holding a sign asking for money, generally looking pathetic... until a cop told him to move. The guy literally picked up his crutches and ran off to the other side of the road. It was all a scam. BUT, since he's out there all day anyway, why not give him a real job and let him pick up trash off the side of the road? I'm not trying to say that there aren't homeless people who truly need help - I feel for them. It's just that once you see a guy who pretends like he can barely walk on crutches just to fleece you, only to get up and run from a cop (Forrest Gump-style), you start to wonder how well he'd do picking up Coke cans, milk cartons and the happy meals that people launch out their cars.

3. Outlaw smoking. Why is it not illegal to throw a cigarette butt on the ground? I think it should be legal to kick a person in the butt for however many cigarette butts you see them toss to the ground. This program could be called "Butts for butts." And if they're smoking menthols or Marlboro Reds, you should get to kick them twice.

4. Use shame as a deterrent. It used to be that when someone did something wrong, their name and picture appeared in the paper. I don't read the paper anymore so I don't know if that's still true. I doubt it is. I think nowadays they only show reality TV stars, Obama and whatever GOP candidate is leading the race this week in the news. But we should have a page devoted to people who litter that also states what they threw out. I bet that would deter people from throwing out the more bizarre items (or maybe it would just increase it after a while - who knows). It could also be like the "Want Ads" but flipped to be the "Do Not Want Ads" - instead of trying to find a job at a business advertising in the paper, a business could "hire" you for however long you're serving community service and make you do the jobs that nobody else wants to do, like clean toilets, clean sewage facilities, and manually collect sperm samples from horses. And finally...

5. The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries patrols for litterers, and they seriously need to up their game. According to their website, they issued 1,001 citations for littering for the 2009-2010 year. Seriously? I think there are 1,001 pieces of garbage on the grass from my house to my workplace. They do have the Litter Bug number (1-888-LITRBUG or 1-888-548-7284) that you can call toll free to report litterers, but I think they need a Facebook page or something so that we can snap pictures with our phones and then upload it to their website - preferably anonymously (unless there's a reward).

Realistically, the only people who are going to do anything about this are you and me. And I'm probably not going to call the Litter Bug hotline... instead, I'm going to write the license plate number down of whoever I see littering, find out where they live, and then haul a dumpster over to their house. Let them live in filth and see how they like it.