Monday, January 25, 2010

To the three remaining readers . . .

To those three of you still reading this blog, one of which who lives in my house and is related to me by marriage, I am happy to present the Q1 2010 update for the Fontanos South Central. (Time-out for a grammar lesson: Should that be Fontanos or Fontano's? Or maybe Fontanoes? I'm sure Fontanōz is right out. Maybe I should spell it phonetically. Fawn tan hoes. This is always the worst when you're writing Christmas or thank you cards. That's why I don't send either.)


The hardest part about blogging is getting myself in the mindset that our lives (that is to say the lives of the aforementioned Phontaneauxs) have anything going on even remotely worthwhile, and that anyone else in the world would have the slightest interest in reading about it. As last year was drawing to a close, I looked back over the last several months and thought, 'Honestly, we are pretty lame people.' And it's true. We've done nothing noteworthy, nothing that might give someone reason to pause and say to themselves "You know, those Fahntinose sure are neat. I think I'll take them off my 'People I hate' list and move them to my 'People I am undecided on' list."

We didn't plan and take a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation with a dazzling itinerary that we could map out here in great detail for our faithful reader to enjoy hour by hour, slightly-less-than-advertised attraction by slightly-less-than-advertised attraction, overly-priced meal by overly-priced meal, infinite-round-of-quiet game by infinite-round-of-quiet game, tracking our every move with painstaking specificity and accuracy so that he or she could be swept away as if riding right along with us in the car and/or plane and/or boat. Nope. No such magical vacations for us this year.

We didn't accumulate any new possessions that we could photograph from 34 different angles and present in collage form here, posted along with a scanned copy of the owner's manual and completed warranty card so that our devoted reader could enjoy it with us, as if he or she were sitting right beside us and could almost feel the water splash on his or her face as we sail across the lake in our new boat, or feel the air sweep through his or her hair as we drive around the lake in our brand new convertible or in our gently-used pre-owned motorhome with the windows open. Nope. Not even like a cool new power tool that at least our reader could enjoy if he or she was just a he, or new throw pillows for the living room that 'are not the same color as the old ones, you idiot - the old ones are beige and these are clearly light tan' if he or she was a she.

No peaks climbed, marathons run, walk-a-thons walked, tell-a-thons tellied. Nope. No weight lost, muscle gained, bad habits broken, good habits adopted. No major home renovations, no minor home renovations. No celebrity sightings, no names dropped, no unfortunate brushes with the law. No books read (unless you count Tara's 3rd re-reading of the Twilight trilogy), no quilts quilted, no amazing recipes discovered, or at least cooked correctly. Frankly, its been a very dull year for us (unless you count Tara's 3rd re-reading of the Twilight trilogy. It's so much better the 3rd time.)

We did DVR a heck of a lot of stuff, which was nice. But a listing of TV shows conquered seems hardly blogworthy, at least not for an end of the year post. That's more of a summertime post in between the NBA Finals and the start of football season when good TV is off the air and our reader would appreciate a look back at better television-viewing times, back when they were still showing new episodes of Community and the Bachelor hadn't yet delivered the final rose. You know, way back in the spring.

As I reflected on this utter lack of accomplishment by our family, I determined in my mind that 2009 would not go down as a dismal failure for the Fontaños. No, we must do something we can actually write about on the blog. But what? What was it we could do? I thought and thought and searched for an idea, any idea, but was stumped in my attempts to come up with something, anything. I paced the floor night after night for at least two nights to no avail. The idea would not come.

I asked Tara for ideas and she made a few suggestions. They were okay.

"Why don't you volunteer down at the local food bank?"
"Tara, I'm doing this for glory and adoration, not to help people."

"Why don't you try to take the Christmas lights down before February?"
"Tara, goals should be realistic and attainable. Have you even looked in your Franklin Daily Planner?"

"I could re-read the Twilight trilogy."

Alas, I fell to the ground sobbing, at which point Tara said "Please don't cry on the carpet, Peter, I just had it steam cleaned." Some might say that I was finished and indeed, a smaller man would have broken at this point. But as you all know, I have a bit of a weight problem so I am not a smaller man. (A cheap laugh, yes, but you know you went there before I did. No one can resist kicking a fat man when he's down.)

I should mention here that I took English 101 in college three times. I say that to illustrate a point, which is that sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed. And sometimes you have to fail twice in order to succeed. A wise man once said it doesn't matter how many times you get bucked off by the easiest English class taught at the collegiate level, and taught at that academic powerhouse, The Community College of Southern Nevada no less; the only thing that matters is that you re-register and drop another $75 per credit hour and take it again. These are the indelible lessons of life that remain with us forever, and come to our aid when we can't think of a single, stupid idea to put on the least-read blog of all time. My creative genius pulled a low C two nights in a row, but was I going to let that keep me down? Possibly, yes. I mean, come on - it was really hard to think of anything good.

So as all hopeless and desperate men do, I turned to that great source of all inspiration, and as I was thumbing through the channels, I came across Man vs Food - San Antonio Edition on the Travel Channel. It was there that I first learned about Lulu's Cafe and Bakery, housed in the nastiest building in all of Texas that is not yet condemned and nestled in the heart of downtown San Antonio. There they have the world's largest sweet rolls. I think so anyway. At least the largest in the greater northern downtown San Antonio area. As I watched the patrons eating these monstrous delights, I suddenly knew our family mission for 2009. We would conquer the Lulu's Sweet Roll and mark our places in history. And then, of course, post about it so the world could recognize exactly where that mark was, since I'm not entirely certain who is in charge of keeping those particular parts of the history of mankind.

I know this is shaping up to be a pretty awesome story. You're probably glued to the edge of your office chair, reading faster and faster as you anticipate the outcome, even though you're already certain what it is. You're breathing deeply, sucking in the heavy fumes of inspiration and feel-goodedness, you're chanting in your mind 'Rudy . . . Rudy . . . Rudy.' And as that exciting fervor builds within you, let me just say this: 2009 was a pretty dull year for us. No major awards received, no special dinners with ranking local politicians, no clips of myself on Sportscenter, and no World's Largest Cinnamon Rolls devoured. Nope. Nothing eventful. What a waste of a year.

What can I say? That cinnamon roll was freaking huge. We shared the thing between the family and only got half of it down. I blame Tara personally. She never caught the vision of this thing and just kept saying "Listen Slim, I am not buying you a new belt if you break this one, so you just remember that while you're trying to swallow this house of a pastry on your own."

I guess there's always next year. And I'm going to start watching TV right away so I don't leave our attempts at greatness to the very end, just in case we fail (or fail twice). All the best, my friends, for a happy, healthy and productive 2010.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Q2 Check-in

It seems like a quarterly update is in order.

First story, Bennie Boy cut his head open and became our first child to require stitches. It remains an unsolved mystery to this day as only he and mom were home and, as all good mom's do, Tara had locked herself in the closet to sneak a sip of the hard stuff and steal 5 minutes of peace. Just as she was tipping back the Johnny Walker Blue, she heard The Man screaming and came running around the corner to find him standing in a pool of his own blood, shirt soaking, face unrecognizable. So the story goes any way. Tara will have to post the gory details as I was quite busy enjoying Saturday play at the Shell Houston Open and choking down bad hot dogs at the employee tent. Seriously - they were cold and non-beef, the hamburgers were less than edible, and the cheese was sweating. I had to have 3 ice cream bars just to cleanse my palette. So anyway, Tara Leigh took him to the local ER and he got six stitches and is well on his way to his first battle scar.

Of course, he has since been getting attention from all the hotties in the nursery. Chicks dig scars.

Tara has a theory that the injury resulted from the following key circumstances that came together at exactly the right time to form a perfect storm, if you will. Just prior to the incident, Ben:

1. was prancing about in Abbie's flip flops,
2. was prancing about in said flip flops on the slippery tile in our entry way, and
3. was prancing about in said flip flops on said slippery tile whilst rummaging through easter baskets and plastic eggs - empty eggs and baskets, emptiness that could have created confusion and panic as he searched for the normal spoils that accompany such festive artifacts.


By the way, the first thing Tara said to me after the frenzy had subsided was 'It's too bad it wasn't in the shape of a lightning bolt. I asked the doctor to cut another little jag at the bottom but he wouldn't do it. So he got not tip from me.' True story.

Speaking of stories, here is story number 2 from Q1 2009:

We went camping. Technically the trip occurerd in Q2, but everytime I post I feel like it may be my last so I am going to get this story in now. Let me digress for a moment, though, since you brought up doing something for the last time. We were in Chicago in February visiting Tara's mom as she celebrated her . . . wait for it . . 60th birthday. 60! Holy crap, that's old. And I only say that because I know she's the one person reading this blog (kind of like the time I plotted the 'accidental' deaths of my in-laws online). (She took it well). Truth be told, 60 is the new 55. You're still young and spry, Carol, and don't let them tell you any different. And if they do tell you different, and you have something clever to rebut with, be sure to put your teeth in beforehand because it's really hard to understand you when you forget. Ladies and gentleman, that last age joke brought to you by the 3rd oldest man in the Summerwood Texas Ward, Pete Fontano at age 34. 34 is the new 40, my friends, and I've got the hair and ponch to prove it. Rather, I don't have the hair to prove it.

Now I've digressed from my original digression, so let's get back to Chicago. We were eating at Portillo's - world's greatest hotdog restaurant. Love those jumbo dogs and their Italian Beef is dynamite as well, so having to pick one over the other proposes a very real quandary. (Reminds me of a great Katie Couric joke as told by Phil Hendrie impersonating Katie Couric, but not repeatable here. I'm sure Mike is the only one that gets that if he's reading). Anyway, what does one do in such impossible situations? Naturally, I got the Italian Beef and the jumbo hot dog and the large cheese fries; I convinced myself that I didn't know when I was ever going to be there again, so I better get one of all my favorites. As it it turned out, we were back 3 days later with Bud and Lindsey, but at the time, I truly felt like it could be my last Portillo's Italian Beef, and it very well could have been.

As a result, I made that visit count; I seized the day; carpe diem! Oh captain, my captain! Oh foreman, my foreman! And just as I put my body on the line that day, and pushed my arteries to their very limit, so today I am going to make this blog post count. Indeed, it will be my finest hour. And chances are I'll be back in 6 months to a year, but just in case I don't make it, you'll know that when the crew was up against it, and the breaks were beating the boys, I got out there and won just one for the Zipper.

So we went camping, as previously mentioned. Yegua Creek Campground at Somerville Lake, Texas. We went site unseen, and I was particularly nervous as I had picked the site and there were 4 other families with us. Really I was mostly afraid of Tara after what she did to Bennie (see Story Number 1 Q1 2009) so I was really hoping the campground would prove to be the greatest campsite ever found by man. And it was. Not really, but it was a nice campground and exceeded my expectations. We had 3 lake-front sites and, although they weren't the most level ever, they were probably a solid 100 yards deep and you could go toward the shore to find fairly flat ground. It was a lot of fun. We did some fishing, swam in the lake, hung out, burned stuff. It was good times to be had by all and here are some pics of the weekend.

Jeremy modeling the tent quite seductively.

Ben hanging out. He was pretty miserable for a lot of this trip but he did enjoy these rockets that Talmage brought.

Jeremy loading up the same rockets on the launcher.

Here's a shot of a lot of the kids.

Abbie flanked on either side by her mates Megan and Callie. These three are nuts.

And finally, a few pics of the kids playing in the water.

Forget that carpe diem crap, I'm going to bed.

Friday, January 23, 2009

2009 Update

I figure I'll get this update in now at the first of the year so we're good for the next 6 months or so. I want to dedicate this entry to a personal friend and inspiration, the best male blogger I know - Pete Broadbent. You know you've earned it.

We've had a mellow past few months, nothing too exciting to report. When your last entry is 'We survived a freaking hurricane', somehow chronicling our weekly trips to the grocery store just doesn't seem to be blog worthy, even with the occasional movie rental on a special week. We really have mismanaged expectations here. I blame myself - I should have known better.

It's like my theory for birthday parties for the kids. You've got to start very small, offering almost nothing - no friends, maybe a cake but only if it's carrot, meaningless gifts that you pick up for free at tradeshows or in hotel rooms, etc. Then every year you can add a little something something to make the celebration even better than the year before. A friend may be allowed. Frosting may be added to the cake. Maybe a balloon or two. By the time your child is 16, he or she will be thrilled just to have store-bought invitations and Hawaiian Punch.

But if you make the critical error that most parents seem to make of hiring a clown, renting an inflatable jump castle, allowing live animals of any kind, dropping $281 in Party City for balloons and other decorations, purchasing extravagant gifts like bicycles or video game consoles, inviting enough kids to populate the Children's Choir of Omaha, offering free curbside valet; all this when your child turns 4 - well, then my friend, by the time he's 16, half of the high school will be invited to the lakeside condo you rented to hear the private Jonas Brothers concert you had to pony up for. That will be the expectation anyway, hence the show My Super Sweet 16 on MTV. You've got to set yourself up to be able to improve, allow some wiggle room, see.

Now, we have fallen into the birthday party trap just like everyone else. But only because my wife of 9.6 years is so weak when it comes to these matters. I tried to convince her we should actually pretend to forget the kids' birthday for a couple of years just to help them really appreciate the giant numeral 7 candle when they finally got it. Alas, my arguments fell on deaf ears.

Anyway, I'm going to post a bit more this year. It's a goal for 2009 (and it only took me 23 days to start!) Maybe it'll end next week like all of my other goals for the new year, maybe it will last a couple of months. Who knows. Maybe, just maybe, I'll make an entry every week that will blow your very mind such that you'll monitor our humble blog with unwavering hourly regularity because you just can't wait for the next masterpiece to unfold right before your thirsty blood-red eyes. But in the spirit of managing expectations, I wouldn't count it.

Happy New Year to you all and a much belated Merry Christmas!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


We've had a lot of e-mails and calls since Ike made his presence known on his way through Houston. We appreciate the love and concern from each of you. I thought I would give an update here for all to read.

We decided not to evacuate for Hurricane Ike. Our area was asked to "hunker down"* since we weren't in a flood zone.

Ike was a crazy storm!! I think it hit a lot harder than we expected. Our neighborhood took a pretty good hit and sustained a lot of damage. Lots of trees and power lines came down. Our home was blessed with very little damage. We lost an eight foot section of our fence and three of our little trees fell over but all are already fixed.

Unfortunatley we are one of the 22% of people who don't have power back yet. Tonight at midnight will mark our 13th day without power. The Centerpoint website says our neighborhood should have power back by Sunday. We are hoping it will be sooner since there have been a lot of work trucks in the neighborhood.

I wish I could say I was tough enough to handle it and was still in Houston but I am not. The kids and I came up to Chicago last Tuesday. Our side of the street was also having sewage problems and that was the last straw for me.

We will post some pictures after I get home and our power is restored.

Thanks again for all of your calls and e-mails to check on us!

*For you non-Texans out there. Hunker down means to shelter in place :)

The time has come...

We decided to start this blog last spring. I decided I would send the link out after I made my first official post. As you can see I haven't been too good at doing that! I am hoping to turn over a new leaf but I'm not making any promises!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

First Days of School

My good man Jeremy started 1st Grade two weeks ago, having to wade his way to the school entrance through a sea of his mother's tears. I went in to work late so the family could drive him over as Tara was in no state to drive. Jermaine, of course, couldn't wait to start school and was upset a few weeks ago when he mistakenly thought school started a week earlier than it did and he still had 7 more miserable days of summer. weirdo.

Abbie Leigh started pre-school last week, which broke her old man's heart. She is growing up way too fast. She's my snuggle bunny and she promised to marry me, but everday I fear that switch in her mind will finally flip and I'll just be another lame parent like her mother.

Friday, August 1, 2008

If a tree falls in the forest . . .

When we first moved into our house in Summer 2006, we had a beautiful 50 foot tree in the backyard. It was great because, while the base of the trunk was in the backyard, it grew at an angle such that the top was over the middle of the house. So it provided some nice shade over the yard and the roof. The pictures below attempt to show what I mean, though when we first moved in, it was much greener and more full than what is shown here.

Ever since we moved in, we would find small branches littered across the lawn after any rain or slight wind. The fallen branches were small and the tree looked healthy, so we didn't think much of it. Over time, however, the volume and size of branches falling to the yard seemed to increase with each rain. And then we noticed that the tree had several branches that had stopped producing leaves.

Toward the end of the summer of 2007, we decided to have a tree guy come look at it and tell us if he thought we could salvage the tree by trimming out the dead branches and give it a deep root fertilization. He agreed that it would help and made and offer to do the work. We, of course, did nothing.

The following spring, the tree started leaving later than any of the trees in the neighborhood. More than half of the branches did not produce any leaves, and those that did had leaves that were wilted and brownish. Finally, a fairly sizable branch came down on the back lawn and Tara, the wise, instructed me that I better call the tree dude back and get it trimmed up, or possible cut down, before any other big branches came down.

Me, being the typical awesome husband, disobeyed Tara's commands for about 6 weeks, just on principle. As you might expect, I should have only procrastinated for 5 1/2 weeks as a large branch gave way and put a nice hole in the roof over our back patio.

So we finally had a guy come out to hack it down recently. It took him 3 days - the first day he was rain delayed after a couple of hours, the second day he got it down to the stump, and the last day he ground said stump and hauled off the last 10 feet of the trunk.

I think he underestimated the job a wee. On the second day, he said to me with a tone of despair "This is a big tree." I didn't realize exactly how big it was either until I drove off to work and looked back the the house to see the worker half way up the tree. I called Tara and told her to take a picture of the guy and she dutifully did so.

Needless to say, it was a sad day at the fontee house the day we lost our tree. We promptly planted a new tree in the back to replace it. It should only take about 100 years so to grow as large as the one we just dropped. So we got that going for us, which is nice.