All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Category: Family (Page 4 of 15)

Where I express my endless and boundless love for my kids through the stories of their youth. Someday you’ll all be old enough to be embarassed by these. Chuckle. I’d talk about Laura here, but she doesn’t like that… private she is.


A little spider had strung a line from a hanging lamp to the floor.  Jaimito noticed him first when he came into the kitchen early in the morning.  He was so tiny, at first I could not spot him.  “Daddy, watch out.  He’s right there,” he said pointing.  His tone was not one of alarm or fear, but simply a motion of caution.  Please be careful, our spider friend is there.  Don’t hurt him.

“He’s our spider-bro, Jaimito. Ready to defend us.”

“Yeah, he’s like ‘I got my eye on you, fly'”  I laughed at Jaimito assuming the voice of our little friend.

“That’s too funny!”

With the bustle in the kitchen it seemed most prudent to relocate him, lest something happen to our faithful arachnid vigilante.  I picked off the web from the hanging lamp and edged my way to the corner.  Spider bro, leaped to the floor and was gone.

“I got my eye on you, fly!”

Bring Me Fishsticks!

I had a weird dream last week, one which my family took great interest and amusement in fulfilling.

In this dream, we are sitting at home discussing what we are going to have for dinner.  At some point, I suggest fishsticks, that I’ve been craving these breaded codfish fillets that are oh so good.  That sounded good, everyone agreed.  Now, to the task at hand.  The Egyptian mummy/pharaoh/sorcerer was close to getting an amulet of ultimate power and it was up to us to stop him.  If he got it, he would control the world and we would be doomed.

I don’t know how it happened, but in the course of our battle with this figure, I ended up with the amulet.  The throngs of people turned to me and asked me what my bidding was.

“Fishsticks,” I replied.  “Bring me fishsticks.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to command us to do something more world-dominatingly?” they asked, their confusion mounting.

“Did you hear me, slave?  Bring me fishsticks!”

And I woke up.  It seemed so real, the breaded codfish still lingering in the air.  Everybody got a chuckle at my retelling.

Friday evening, Jaimito came to me with a plate.  “Daddy, we bring you fishsticks,” he said with a little bow.

Javier Ignacio el Sabio

Laura and I were in the car with all our kids talking about something interesting I had read online about China and some or their seemingly ridiculous cultural behaviors.  The post in question closed with this:

It’s not a land in which the foreigner suffers. It is not a hostile land or a wild land. It is, rather, a land of pointless minor absurdities and wholly unnecessary inconveniences, which coalesce to infuriate the ill-tempered and delight the rest. When I first arrived, I was informed by a nice older gentleman, “FIRSTNAME, do not ever ask ‘why’ here. You can ask yourself any other question, and the answers will enlighten you. But do not ask ‘why,’ because here, there is no ‘why.'” And he was right. The answer–the only answer–to “why” is “because China.”

Much back-slapping was had about other Chinese cultural blind spots, but inevitably the talk turned to why America was superior.  Someone stepped in and posted:

I’m troubled by the attitude exhibited by the original poster, which I find common among Westerners who interact with East Asia (and that includes anyone from casual travelers, long-time expats to even Asian Americans). In a nutshell, the attitude is this: “When I encounter something that is ridiculous and absurd to my Western frame of mind, it must be because it’s actually ridiculous and absurd.”

To which another poster challenged:

Disprove this attitude by providing a counter-anecdote for a theoretical Chinese national visiting America.

Where finally, I offered the following:

“Would you like to supersize your combo meal, sir?”

“Why would I want more food than I can eat?”

“Because it’s only $.50 more. It’s a better value.”

Because America.

There we were in the car, reviewing this debate, and how ridiculous and uniquely american all these super sized for cheaper deals are, when from the back seat a little voice piped up:

“That’s what’s called ‘up-selling’.”

To which Laura and I burst into irresistible laughter at Javier’s brilliant little mind.   The cute question is, “Now what does it say about us that this boy, who at barely 7 years of age KNOWS what upselling is?”  He knows its an American thing, he knows it does not make sense.  He knows it is a cultural temptation only relevant to the US.

Amazed and Privileged to Know Him

Jaimito came running to me, breathless and excited.  “Daddy, daddy! Come here, you have to see this beautiful sunrise!”  I followed him down the stairs and went to the window, leaning out into the cool wet morning.

“Oh, Jaimito, it is beautiful!  Thank you for getting me.  I’m glad I didn’t miss it.”

He was smiling, pleased with himself, but more than that, happy and privileged to have witnessed such a nice sunrise.

I love that in this modern age, with smartphones and millisecond attention spans, my kids can still look up the sky, be amazed, and want to share it.

He’s His Mommy’s (Anthropologist) Son

I introduced my kids to a dessert treat that I had as a kid, the ice cream float.  The most typical, I believe, is the root beer float, a scoop of ice cream served in a glass of root beer.   In Puerto Rico, it’s a little tough to find root beer, but we improvised with strawberry soda.  Sounds yummy doesn’t it? I had talked about the tradition with the kids during the day, building anticipation, talking about how I enjoyed this as a kid, and how my mother had enjoyed when she was a kid.  Once it came time to experience the tradition my four niños were as effervescent as the carbonated beverage.

I scooped one nice ball of vanilla ice cream into each of their glasses and poured the soda over it.   The mixture bubbled up in a thick pink head of sweet creamy foam.  Armed with a long handled spoon they dug into their drinks.  “Oooo, Daddy,” they squealed, “IT’S AWESOME!”

It was Javier, however, who had the most to say about it.  His experience seemed to go beyond the visceral and deeper into the larger questions.  It was obvious he had been thinking about it all day.

“Daddy, this was a tradition with Grandma Weez, right?”

“Yes, Javier, I had ice cream floats as a kid.   We used to really enjoy them, and Grandma Weez loved them when she was a little girl.”

“Um, I don’t know how to say this, Daddy.  If you just say it, it’s a lie, right?”

“What do you mean, Javier?  I don’t understand what you are getting at.”  Javier, furrowed his brow and chewed his lip.  His thought, it seemed, was more sophisticated than his vocabulary.

“Um, I’m not saying it right.  If you just say it, it’s not a tradition, right?  You have to do it.”

“Oh, I see what you’re saying.  I hadn’t thought about that,” I said, pondering the depth of the inquiry.  It was a really profound question.  Are the traditions passed down from one generation to the next rendered null if they are no longer practiced?  If you just tell stories about them, they begin to die, or in Javier’s explanation, become lies.  “Well, Javier, there is something called oral tradition, that is, those things that are stories that are told from one generation to the next.  It’s a form of entertainment and cultural history that one generation passes to the next.  It’s kinda like TV or movies.  You see them, listen to them, and then you tell others about them.”

I continued, “But I do see your point, if the practice of telling a story or actually participating in a tradition, doing it, becomes something you just talk or reminisce about, something as a curious bit of nostalgia, then I guess you would say it’s not a tradition anymore.  You are one smart little cookie.  I hadn’t through about that before.”

I have been thinking about the question he raised since yesterday, and I believe I will continue to think about it, but it seems to me that nostalgia is not a substitution for tradition.   That little Javier is his mommy’s son, a little anthropologist in training.  Keep those questions coming, Javier.  Sometimes the most profound thoughts are actually simple questions.

Asier Learns to Swim

Age 4 1/2 yesterday, Asier has learned to swim.  We couldn’t find his floaties and in the interest of not wasting more time looking, we decided that we would have a swimming lesson.  He made it half way across the pool on his first try.  As he gained confidence he keep going farther and farther, until he could practically go all the way across before he got tired.  With the other children we had to coax them into trying and help them overcome their fears.  Asier just decided that it was okay and kept going.

“Again, Daddy!”  And swim he would, lap after lap after lap.  He was beaming.  Actually it looked just like this, his first day of school.

Such a big boy.  The sooner we drown proof him, the better.  Having a pool that little ones can fall into is nerve racking and I live in fear of somebody falling in and drowning.  My fear coupled with Asier’s big boy resolve and we have the makings of an O’Malley Gorbea Family swim record – 4 1/2 years old.  Yeay!  Asier.

Clela and the Giant Lemon

It all started back in August when we went out to Los Angeles to visit my Grandmother on her 90th birthday.  She is doing very well and I swear she hasn’t aged physically or mentally in 20 years.   She is better read, sharper, and more alive than I am, I think.  I hope I have that to look forward to if I make it to 90.

In her back yard, she has this old lemon tree, not just any lemon tree, let me tell you.   This one was was loaded, and according to Grandma, it has had this tremendous abundance year after year.  We must have picked over a hundred and still its branches strained under what was left.  It looked barely touched.  And the lemons? They were huge.  In fact, here’s a grapefruit sized monstrosity.

The lemons were all healthy and enormous, and even though Southern California is a desert, the fruit was saturated with liquid. It was all I could do to keep it from dripping all over the counters. I juiced pitchers and pitchers of lemonade for all the grandkids and great grandkids.  We had a hoot messing up grandma’s kitchen, then making popcorn. Oh yes, it’s not an O’Malley party without popcorn!  Popcorn and lemonade.  Yum.

So I juiced all these lemons, had so much fun, and decided I wanted a souvenir.  I dried out about 40 seeds, took them back to Puerto Rico, and promptly planted them.

Look, a little lemon tree sprouting up through my compost. Now that I have at least one, I’m going to plant more and give them away, spreading those delicious fruits as far and wide as I can. All those little seeds came from somewhere, and it is splendid to seem them flourish.

Phosphate-Free Enzymatic Cleaning System(TM)

Makes kitchen cleanup a snap, even removes the hardest baked/caked-on residue with no fuss and no muss.  Just place pots and pans on the floor, walk away and let nature take its course.  BEST TIME SAVER EVER!

They’re happy.  I’m happy.  WIN!

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