What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

Whither the Sizzler?

Filed under: Cars!,Family,Fun!,The Kids — dave @ 5:58 pm 2009/12/22

sizzlers_logo

One of the coolest toys I remember from my younger days was the Hot Wheels Sizzlers. They were the size of regular Hot Wheels cars, but were made of plastic and had electric motors (like you’d find in slot cars) and batteries that would recharge in a minute or so using The Juice Machine — a gas pump-styled charging station — or the smaller charger that would clip to your belt.

sizzlers_juice_machine

The cars and the triple-wide black tracks were all the rage when they came out in 1969, but Mattel phased them out by 1976(?) Then a few years ago (2006?) just before Christmas I saw them again in the Target toy department! Tracks, cars, chargers, the whole works! The really cool thing was that Mattel had used the original graphics for the packaging and the original tooling to make the cars & track — it was like going back in time!

But being the procrastinator that I am, I waited too long to buy that Christmas season, and the opportunity to bless the kids with one of my boyhood toys was gone. I never gave it much thought after that, but then last weekend I went into one of the local Ace Hardware stores — they usually have a decent selection of oddball toys you don’t find at department stores — and there it was! One lone box with the Sizzlers Extended Eight racetrack inside!

sizzlers_ext_8_box

$20.00 later, it was mine (to give to one of the boys, of course!) and I was on my way. But looking closer at the box I noticed that there’s only one car and the belt-clip charger inside; what good is a racetrack if there’s nobody to race against? So in the days following I started looking around for more cars. They are nowhere to be found locally. I even asked at Target, and the kid there said others had asked about them, but as far as he knew they hadn’t had them since that one year a while back.

Shopping online it’s possible to find them, but they don’t come cheap at all; Amazon has them but they start at $20 for just the car, and go up from there, some listing for $70! I’m unsure whether that’s for a 30-year-old original or one of the more recently built cars… A Google search will yield other websites that specialize in selling original Sizzlers to collectors, and some of them go for a lot of money.

So for this year, it’s just the track and one car, and I’ll keep an eye peeled for more Sizzlers to pop up in coming years.

One thing I did to make-do without multiple Sizzlers cars is buy a few Darda race cars; they are German-built wind-up cars that are really pretty incredible. You press down on the car and push it back & forth a few times to wind it, and when you let it go, it really flies! The cars can be purchased individually or with track packages, and the tracks are pretty incredible too, as they typically have a number of loops on them, sometimes stacked loops. And even more incredible is that these little cars can make the loops! We found out about them through a friend who babysat for us a number of years ago; she had several sets and a number of cars that her son had used, but didn’t play with much anymore. We borrowed them for a while, and I think I had more fun with them than the kids!

darda_vette darda_army darda_mustang

darda_track

There’s only one store in Sioux Falls that sells them — Kidtopia — and thankfully they had plenty on hand. I bought one for each of the boys, knowing that the older boys will want to play too. I don’t know if the Darda cars will have the endurance of the Sizzlers, but they’ll have plenty of speed. Should be a fun toy mashup for Christmas!

The Cicada Killer Wasp

Filed under: Home Life,Just Stuff,Personal Growth,The Deep,The Kids,The World — Tags: , , , , — dave @ 11:01 pm 2009/08/20

For the last few summers we’ve had some scary looking bugs in our yard. Thankfully, they’re just scary looking, and nothing to really be afraid of, provided you’re not a cicada.


A female cicada killer wasp in flight, approaching a prospective nest site.

The lifecycle of the cicada killer wasp sounds like something out of a Ridley Scott movie… The female cicada killer wasp hunts down a cicada and stings it to paralyze it. When the cicada is safely immobilized, the wasp carries the cicada back to its burrow — a hole dug in loose soil. The cicada is placed in a dead-end chamber of the burrow; the female then lays a single egg (sometimes two) on the still paralyzed but very much alive cicada, and seals up the chamber. When the egg hatches, the larva gnaws through the exoskeleton of the cicada and feeds on its internal organs, saving the nervous system for last so as to maximize the length of time that the cicada remains alive. Gruesome, no?


The same female digging in the loose dirt for a new nest site.

The female cicada wasp killers are very large; up to 2 inches long. I’ve had them buzz by my head a few times and the sound is pretty unnerving if you’re not expecting it. The males are supposedly much smaller, but I can’t say that I’ve seen any.

Very scary looking, but very cool. It’s this kind of thing that makes me really question the theory of evolution. The evolution of physical body parts is only part of the equation; what about complex behaviors like this? So the larvae that just happened to leave the nervous system for last gained an evolutionary advantage over the others? And how did that “just happened” get passed on to the progeny of those lucky larvae? Nah; not buying it. I wouldn’t need to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient Creator to know that something like that doesn’t happen by chance.

God makes some cool stuff!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

Filed under: Faith & Worship,Family,The Kids — dave @ 9:03 am 2009/05/10

Today is Mother’s Day, but for the last several years I’ve felt a little left out. My mom, Celeste Agnes Green Thornton passed away almost five years ago, just one short week after Mother’s Day.

Grandma Sis

The last few years that Mom was with us were difficult; Alzheimer’s Disease stole them from us. I first realized that Mom’s condition was getting the best of her when she forgot my birthday one year, something that had never happened before. At first I was I was quite put out by that, but as I came to understand it was only part of a larger pattern of forgetting things, some important, some not so important.

For a time it seemed she’d just forget things that had happened fairly recently, but could remember vividly things that had happened decades before. She’d forget where she was going at times and get lost driving around the city in which she had lived all her life; before long she forgot the names of our kids, and finally even our names. She had moments of lucidity, but as time went on, they became increasingly rare. In the end she had forgotten everything.

Visiting Mom was difficult and unpleasant those last couple of years. The kids didn’t enjoy it any more than I did, and I finally just stopped going. That last month of her life I had plenty of warnings from my siblings that Mom was sick, but I didn’t quite grasp how serious things were, and I failed to even pay her a visit that last Mother’s Day. She wouldn’t likely have been aware of it, but that’s not the point:

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12

I missed a good teaching opportunity for my kids by neglecting that command, and set a bad example by not visiting Mom in spite of the difficulty her health condition presented. But even before that I don’t remember a time when I really showed Mom the respect she deserved, even after I became a Believer. The two of us had our difficulties & misunderstandings, and I was less than forgiving. And now it’s too late. I know that I’ve been forgiven for all that — even though I was most undeserving of forgiveness — and my sin washed away by the Blood of Christ but the impact of that will live on in my kids, and in my regrets.

So, if your mom and dad are still around, do yourself a favor; don’t neglect giving them the respect you ought. Even if it’s difficult, you owe it to them, to yourself, to your kids, and to God.

Parenting Advice

Filed under: Personal Growth,The Kids — dave @ 11:13 pm 2008/08/01

“The best piece of parenting advice I’ve heard came from flight attendants; in case of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first.”
Randy Pausch

Randy said that during an interview with Diane Sawyer that was broadcast earlier this week. Makes sense to me; if a parent isn’t taking care of himself/herself, they’re not doing the kids any favors.

Good advice.

I’ve heard that Randy’s Last Lecture is a must-see for everyone. I haven’t seen it myself (yet), but I have it on good authority…

Real Family History

Filed under: Old Things,Personal Growth,The Deep,The Kids — dave @ 11:37 pm 2007/11/04

I’ve been working on tracking down some of my ancestors lately, and there’s one thing that really, really sticks out to me — for most people the sense of who we are and what we’ve accomplished doesn’t stick around very long after we’re gone.

I look at the names of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, and I have no idea who some of these people are nor what they did in life nor what was important to them. My Mom’s mother lived across the street for us until she died in the late ’60′s, but I can’t say I knew her well. Grandma Thornton lived close by too, and I remember spending a lot of time with her, but my recollection of her is pretty fuzzy. She died when I was 12, and knowing how my own boys were able to understand things around them at my age helps me to understand why I don’t remember her better. Both my grandpas were gone before I was born, so what I knew was told to me by my parents, and that was pretty sparse.

For most people, if you go back three or four generations, even the barest of details is difficult to unearth: Where were they born? Who were their siblings? Who were their friends? Whom did they marry, and why? How many children did they have? What difficulties did they face through life? The record of their life history is reduced little more than a few pertinent dates, if that. And that’s sad.

My own kids didn’t have much opportunity to know my parents; Dad was gone before Emily was born, and the accursed Alzheimer’s had made Mom pretty much unknowable. I’ve tried to help them know Mom & Dad a little through stories I share about them, but there’s a huge gap between what I can tell my kids about Mom & Dad and what was truly important to Mom & Dad. For that matter, I can’t honestly say that I know what was truly important to Mom & Dad, because that was something that was never discussed. They were busy raising nine kids, and did what they could to pass their values & morals on to me and the rest of the family, but all of that is colored and distorted by how I processed all that through the years. I’m left with my impressions of them and a handful of stories and photos.

Very few people are truly good communicators. It’s a difficult thing to articulate one’s thoughts, feelings & desires to someone directly and have them really understand. It’s more difficult still to do that indirectly, to someone one or two generations removed. It’s pretty close to impossible if you don’t set out to do that intentionally, and for most people… Well, life is pretty much all-consuming for us in this day and age, and I’m sure it was even more so in days past. There’s a lot of stuff to fill out in Maslow’s Hierarchy before you are able to make time for leaving a legacy.

I don’t know if I’m just weird, or if I have too much time on my hands to think about things like this or what, but I don’t want my kids and their kids to not know me and Yvonne. So I’m going to set out to leave a history behind. Most of it will be pretty boring — just as my parents’ and grandparents’ stories were likely pretty boring — but what I wouldn’t give to have a better understanding of who they were. I don’t have any specific plans, but I will come up with something by the end of this week, and will report back. I’d encourage anyone reading this to come up with your own plan, and leave a legacy for your kids, and grandkids, and great-grandkids. They’ll love you for it.

After posting that last night, this morning’s devotional focused on Psalm 90; I thought parts were very fitting to the subject at hand;

You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

The Famous Maurice Fire Escape Slide

Filed under: Fun!,The Kids,Travel — dave @ 10:19 am 2007/05/17

We spent Mother’s Day in the thriving metropolis that is Maurice, IA. And a day in Maurice (pronounced “mawr-is”, as in “morris”) isn’t worth much if you don’t visit the park and take a ride down The Famous Maurice Fire Escape Slide.

maurice_fire_slide.jpg

The Famous Fire Escape Slide can’t be terribly famous; a Google search comes up pretty much empty. I found one post in a Blogspot archive by a guy named Steve-O, writing about stuff to do around Sioux Center, IA (must be a Dordt alumnus.) Steve-O’s post somewhat confirms what little I know about the slide; that it used to be the fire escape for the second floor of the school. I don’t recall ever seeing a school building in Maurice, so it must’ve been bulldozed after the Maurice & Orange City school districts merged.

Anyway, the slide looks like a steel-clad silo, but you climb the stairs to the top, jump into the hole, and it dumps your butt on the ground below after twisting you around a couple of times on the way down.

The rest of park there is just as great; not only does it feature The Famous Maurice Fire Escape Slide, but also a swingset that has the crossbar about 15 feet off the ground, and real honest-to-goodness teetertotters! And not the emasculated ones, but the ones that will truly emasculate you if improperly used. Built from 2×12 lumber, angle iron for bracing across the middle, welded steel tube handles at each end, and a four-foot high center, these puppies could cause serious injury. Removes any doubt why they are so hard to find in our litigious modern age. The only question left is why they remain in Maurice!

Enjoy!

(more…)

Pippin!

Filed under: Home Life,The Kids — dave @ 3:46 am 2007/04/24

Meet the newest addition to the Thornton family; Pippin the Canary.

pippin_2.jpg

Yvonne had mentioned before that she’d like to have a pet finch or two, so for her birthday I bought her a bird cage & told her that she could pick out the bird. I suggested a canary (definitely my preference, but it was her birthday present after all!) but because of the cost I didn’t know if she’d go that direction or not. We spent quite some time in the pet store the Saturday after her birthday, Yvonne trying to decide whether to go with the finches or a canary, and finally settled on this guy. He’s more of an orange/white combination, but from what I’ve read their color can change after molting according to nutrients in their diet. Guess we’ll find out.

Pippin didn’t get a name for a about a week after he came home with us. He adjusted pretty well, and was entertaining us with his songs almost right away. At first we had his cage in the dining area, and he’d get quite loud with us right next to him. We just got a larger cage this past weekend, and moved him closer to a window. He seems much happier, as are we, with a little distance between us & him.

We also picked up a CD with canary songs on it. Playing that on the stereo is a sure way to get him to burst into song. He tends to be a bit on the quiet side unless the room is brightly lit; when the cage was in the kitchen he wouldn’t sing until the lights were on. In his new spot, he gets to see the sun come up, so he’s been singing bright & early.

It’s funny how a little critter like Pippin can have personality, but he certainly does. Yvonne & I both agree that he was a great addition to our home!

Buck Buck!

Filed under: The Kids — dave @ 7:53 pm 2007/04/08

One of the kids’ favorite things to listen to is an old Bill Cosby comedy album that I’ve had forever. One of the things Cosby talks about is playing a game called BuckBuck. In BuckBuck, five kids will line up, each one bent over the back of the kid in front, so that you end up with what looks like a ten-legged horse. Then the other team runs up from behind the others & jumps on top. If the bent-over team crumples under the weight of the other, they lose.

Well, it seems that BuckBuck has a following that I’d never dreamed of, and is played by youth groups & college students all over. Guess that’s something I missed by not being involved in a church youth group when I was a kid and by my non-trad college experience. Anyway, one of Emily’s classmates needed some video footage of a game of BuckBuck, and being unable to find one, got Emily & some others to play for the camera. Here’s the result. She can fly!

Is it Caleb? Or Calvin?

Filed under: The Kids — dave @ 10:56 am 2007/03/16

Caleb pulled a couple of good ones this evening. After dinner he was reading a book when he stopped & asked, “What does ‘e-i-e-i-o’ spell?” I almost fell off my chair.

Then, later on he took a bath, which he does on his own with little trouble. Mostly. This time he filled the tub to the brim and was making waves trying to knock an empty shampoo bottle from the corner of the tub. What was he thinking?!

Yvonne happened to be downstairs while this was going on & heard water dripping; it was raining in the laundry room (directly beneath the bathroom.) She ran upstairs to see what was up, but got caught short by the ringing phone; it was her Mom. So while trying to speak pleasantly with dear old Mum, she opens the door to the bathroom to find the floor covered with a half-inch of water. Then she did her best to keep a happy face on while talking with Mom, while at the same time cleaning up & scolding him for flooding the bathroom. I wish I could’ve been there. Or maybe I’m glad I wasn’t!

The whole incident reminds me way too much of the Calvin & Hobbes cartoon where Calvin has a tub full of water and is making a tidal wave… Maybe we shouldn’t let the boys read those Calvin & Hobbes books!

Bear Feet

Filed under: The Kids — dave @ 8:32 am 2006/09/15

I was reminded tonight of a “Caleb-ism” from a while back. Caleb went running out the door in cold weather with no shoes on, and I shouted at him, “Hey! You don’t want to go out there in bare feet!”

He stopped & looked at me with that “What the hey are you talking about” look, and said, “I don’t have bear feet; I have boy feet,” and proceeded to run outside.

Gotta love that kid!

While I’m at it, another bare feet story, this time from Emily. While at the day care one day she had her shoes off, and one of the day care workers commented that she had “such dainty feet.” So for a long time “dainty” was synonymous with “bare”; Emily never had bare feet, she had dainty feet.

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