Category Archives: Family

Mother of the Year

Austen planned to give her daughter the worst birthday present ever! (Picslist)

Ask almost anyone who the most important person in their life is and a large percentage of people will likely say their mothers. After all, none of us would be here without them. And in most cases, mothers are there to help, support and nurture their kids. They lift us up when we’re down, remind us of our self-worth and understand how important the mother-child bond is with regard to our personal growth and development.

Every so often, though, a mother goes astray and does things more damaging than nurturing. And in some cases, what they do is downright stupid.

One such mom is Nicola Austen from the United Kingdom. And believe me—she won’t be winning any Mother of the Year awards anytime soon.

Last February, Austen’s daughter was going to turn 18, so mom decided to celebrate in style. Her plan was to rent a limousine and to head to London for a good time. To fuel their celebration, though, Austen ignored her motherly instincts and purchased some disturbing party favors: 12 bags of cocaine weighing more than eight grams.

Fortunately, Austen’s plans never materialized. In late January—and because she had six prior convictions, including one for methamphetamine possession—police paid her a little visit… and they brought a police dog with them. It didn’t take long for the curious canine to sniff out the coke, so Austen confessed. She got lucky, though. Because she had a young son who would suffer if she were tossed in jail—as well as a grandmother she cared for—the judge let her remain free. Her sentence was suspended and all she has to do now is complete 250 hours of community service.

Austen’s lucky she lives across the pond because if this happened in the States, her next Mother’s Day (or ten) would likely be spent behind bars. Talk about being born under a good sign!

Childhood Trauma

Proof that you should never force your kids to take freaky photos wearing matching outfits (Awkward Family Photos)

Proof that you should never force your kids to take freaky photos wearing matching outfits (Awkward Family Photos)

Jedi Babies

Two adorable toddlers dressed as Darth Vader and Princess Leia engage in a fierce lightsaber battle over a cupcake. Click through to find out who wins. <span class=meta>Oscar Rene/YouTube</span>

Using the force was never this adorable (Oscar Rene/YouTube)

With Episode VII set to open roughly a year from now, Star Wars buzz is starting to build and even toddlers and babies are getting into the spirit.

Take this VIDEO from filmmaker Oscar Rene Lozoya II entitled Star Wars Jedi Babies – Crib Wars Episode I: The Baby Menace. It features his kids as characters from a galaxy far, far away—and it could not be cuter.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Night of Terror

Those were the days! (Flickr)

Oh, how I miss the Halloween of my youth.

As a child growing up in 1970s America, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. I remember going to the local drug store with my parents, walking down rows of boxed costumes, selecting my identity for the evening and drooling over all the candy to come with the setting sun.

Sure, there were warnings about razor blades in apples, but none of us really cared since we would never eat the apples we were given. If anything, we tossed them into bushes, threw them at each other or chucked them back at the houses from whence they came.

All we wanted was candy, and lots of it.

Back then—and once I was old enough to handle things on my own—my friends and I could trick-or-treat without our parents. We never worried about pedophiles, psycho killers and other villains intent on doing us harm. The world was a safer place, we knew our neighbors and we all looked out for one another.

You think I’m kidding, but Kim Kardashian costumes could be all the rage this year (NY Daily News)

It was a far cry from today, in other words.

Of course, this doesn’t stop me from venturing out with my son every Halloween, collecting (and checking) mounds of candy and withdrawing indoors to watch scary movies until the wee hours of the morning. It’s not the Halloween I remember, but to my seven-year-old son it’s still new and exciting. And now it’s his turn to make some memories.

So as you venture out tonight with your brood—dressed as superheroes, monsters or even reality television stars (think Kardashians)—I hope you enjoy the spookiness that Halloween has to offer while also being safe. It should be a fun time for all!

Flashback: Living through ALS

I wrote this article a number of years ago as my father was wasting away from ALS. Given all the attention on this disease recently—as well as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenges appearing on Facebook and other social networking sites—I thought it might be nice to re-post this. Unfortunately, my father lost his battle and passed away in 2008—roughly a year after my son was born. It is too late to help my dad, but I hope we can find a way to save the lives of other ALS patients before they suffer the same fate. I love and miss you, Dad. This is for you.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—is a degenerative motor neuron disorder that generally affects the muscles, but later spreads into almost every system in the body. Those unfortunate enough to develop the disease experience “rapidly progressive weakness, muscle atrophy and fasciculations, muscle spasticity, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing and decline in breathing ability” (Wikipedia). And the mortality rate for ALS is 100%. There is no cure and the outlook is always grim.

I know this because my father passed away in 2008 from ALS.

My father in the early days

Although I’ve come to accept the fact that he is gone, I often find myself wondering how someone like my father could develop such a horrible disease in the first place. And even though it isn’t genetic—he was the first in our family to suffer from ALS—I worry that eventually, I could be next. Of course, my father and I were almost polar opposites in many respects, so I am optimistic and feel confident something else will likely get me.

This fact doesn’t make me feel much better, though. After all, we’ll all die from something eventually and none of us can escape it.

What bothers me most about my father dying from ALS is the way he lived his life and the eventual irony of it all. You see, my father was an orthopedic surgeon who exercised all the time. In fact, some of the equipment at our local YMCA had been donated by my father and uncle, both of them surgeons and partners who endorsed exercise and physical activity at every turn. When my brother and I were young, my father forced us to accompany him to work out, hoping we would follow his example and start exercising more on our own someday. Granted, we both stayed active through sports and other pursuits, but pumping iron wasn’t really our focus. And he was hoping to change that.

For years, the three of us would visit the YMCA, work out to the point of exhaustion and then repeat the process several times each week. Dad even hired personal trainers to set us up with exercise routines tailored to our specific needs. Combined with his exercise tips, we learned everything we needed to know and worked hard to get in shape, at least in the beginning.

Unfortunately, my brother and I responded to being forced to exercise in very different ways. He continued long after we were free to choose for ourselves and still exercises regularly today. I went the opposite way, choosing to exercise indirectly through work or other activities like sports. Oddly enough, the same thing happened with church. Being forced to go anywhere didn’t really agree with me, but my brother could find all sorts of value in it and, as a result, is a more religious person than me. And in this respect, I was more like my father.

Diet and nutrition were also important factors in my father’s life. To this day, I have never seen anyone consume as much fruit as him, sometimes two or three different fruits in one sitting. As for drinking, he would occasionally have some Vermouth with dinner, or the rare glass of wine or cold beer, but generally abstained. Smoking was never his vice, either. Instead, he would lecture me for hours about its dangers once he discovered that I had taken up smoking cigarettes. And no matter what ailed me, he always claimed it was the result of my smoking.

My dad was also a man of adventure and always took us on trips full of excitement and thrill-seeking, as evidenced in my earlier post “Ketchum If You Can”. Over the years, we traveled all over the world to go white-water rafting, skiing, hiking and sightseeing. We ended up at one time or another in Colorado,Costa Rica, Hawaii, Argentina and dozens of other wonderful locales. And even when he was unable to accompany us, my father would still finance our trips to places like Brazil and the US Virgin Islands.

It was during a family trip to Costa Rica that I first noticed some of his physical limitations.

During most of our previous hikes, my father was front-and-center, leading us through the woods or jungles with a Devil-may-care attitude and almost unlimited energy. This trip into the rain forest was much different. Instead of maintaining his footing and trudging along, my dad would often slip or have to keep himself from falling down an embankment that normally would not have fazed him. My siblings and I expressed concern, but he always blamed it on being a little older or unfamiliar with the terrain. We had our doubts, though.

Dad before the symptoms began

Later, I noticed that my father had started limping. When I asked what the problem was, he would simply qualify it as some minor nerve damage that would eventually correct itself. Only it never did. In fact, it started to get worse, but he insisted it was nothing. And since he was always the tough, macho man from South America, we never questioned it.

Then came the phone call that changed everything.

I was dining out in Raleigh with my fiancé and her family, walking back to the car after a delicious meal at the Macaroni Grill. The call from home seemed a little strange since I had spoken with my mother earlier, but I really started to worry when I heard my father’s voice instead. He was never much for phone calling and our conversations were always short and sweet.

This conversation was much different.

He told me he had been diagnosed with ALS almost a year before, but didn’t want us to worry so he kept it a secret during that time. Knowing next to nothing about the disease at the time, I asked about his prognosis and he told me he wasn’t sure, but things wouldn’t end well once the disease progressed. Of course, I was crushed and immediately thought the worst. He comforted me and assured me that he would be around for a long time. We both knew that wouldn’t be the case, but remaining optimistic seemed like the best approach at the time.

Over the next year, I watched helplessly as a man who was always strong, muscular and mentally sharp deteriorated into a mere shadow of the father I once knew. One by one, his muscular systems started to shut down and, towards the end, he even needed help using the bathroom. We bought him an electric wheelchair to allow him greater mobility, but he hated using it because he was so proud. About the only time he would ride it was when I brought my newborn son to visit. They only spent a year together, but my son still remembers cruising around the house with him.

The last time I saw my father, we talked about the life he helped me create for myself and the new family I had just formed, which brought him a great deal of pleasure. He just wanted to know that his own life had made a difference to someone else, which it certainly had. In fact, he had impacted nearly every person he came into contact with, including his family, friends and the hundreds of patients he served during his successful career in medicine. Everyone who knew him loved him. And I made sure he knew just how much I loved him, too.

The next morning, my mother called to tell me he had passed away in the middle of the night and that I should come over immediately to see him one last time. My sister had spent the night on the couch near his favorite chair in our living room. She woke up in the middle of the night and gave him a kiss before heading to bed. Little did she know, but that would be the last kiss he would ever receive.

I found my father lying in the same chair, only now he was perfectly still and cold. Grief took hold of us all as we wept beside his body, holding his hand or gently stroking his head. Then his body was removed and cremated, leaving me with only a small urn containing remains that were split between my mother, my siblings and me. Today, it sits on my mantle with his picture, a constant reminder of the man who spent his life for his family, and who made me the man I am today.

ALS is a terrible disease that affects roughly 30,000 people at any given time. And as I mentioned before, there is no known cure for it either, but there is hope. The ALS Association is working hard to find ways to treat and eventually cure this degenerative disease, and they are making progress. I encourage everyone to support their efforts because, believe me, you don’t want this to happen to you or someone you know and love.

And if you are living with ALS, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Kung-Fu Kitty

This poor little guy needed ten stitches, but it could have been worse if not for Tara (Scripps Media/ABC News)

This VIDEO has gone viral, so there’s a good chance you may have seen it already. Nevertheless, I wanted to blog about arguably the coolest cat in the country: Tara from Bakersfield, CA.

Earlier this week, a young boy was riding his tricycle in the front yard of his home when surveillance video captured a vicious attack. His neighbors’ dog—who apparently got off his leash and was looking for trouble—suddenly “bum rushed” him, bit into his leg and started to drag him across the lawn.

Fortunately, Tara came to his rescue.

From off-screen, you can see the pissed-off pussy come flying into view—paws with claws spread in attack formation—and defend his “little brother.” And if you thought scaredy dogs didn’t exist, think again. This poor furry bastard learned his lesson and took off once he saw the feline fury heading his way. And do you know what impelled this kitty to defend his young owner?

Love, baby… and isn’t that what life is all about?

The Last Laugh

Funny man Walter Bruhl. Jr. (Fox-6 Now)

Walter Bruhl Jr. was an 80-year-old veteran of the Korean War, a grandfather of four and—based on the obituary he wrote for himself before he passed away this Sunday—an undiscovered comedian.

“This was him to a T,” Bruhl’s son Martin said of his father and his hilarious obituary. “I’m sure he is laughing back down at us.”

Bruhl’s other son Sam posted the obit to Facebook—and later to Reddit—with the following message: “Typical of my PopPop. He’s the only man I’ve ever known to be able to add his own humor like this.”

Rather than picking and choosing what to share from Bruhl’s “last written work,” I will instead include the obituary in its entirety to honor a man whose funny bone never stopped working… even from beyond the grave. Enjoy!

Easily one of the funniest obituaries you are ever likely to read (Sam Bruhl/Reddit)

Easily one of the funniest obituaries you are ever likely to read (Sam Bruhl/Reddit)

The Real Cookie Monster

Must have COOKIES! (Sodahead)

A few years ago, I was visiting with family at my mother’s home, enjoying some quality time while our kids played and ran all over the place. Everything was going fine until we received a strange phone call… from the police!

As it turned out, my son had misplaced one of his toys and decided the best course of action would be to call 911. He remembered us mentioning how this emergency number was used to report important things, like accidents, crimes and missing persons. Well, in his mind, his missing stuffed animal was a missing person, so he made the call. Fortunately, the 911 operator was very understanding and this provided me with an important teachable moment. And we haven’t had this problem since.

Of course, the phenomenon of kids calling 911 for the wrong reason is pretty common. Something similar just happened in Honeyville, Utah, even though the impetus for the call was much different from my son’s.

Police in Honeyville recently responded to an emergency call from a 7-year-old boy who claimed his mother had thrown a knife at him. When they arrived on the scene, however, they realized this wasn’t really the case. In reality, the young boy called 911 and lied about the knife attack because his mother refused to give him something he desperately wanted: more Oreo cookies!

Don’t deny me my Oreos! (Food Fashion & Flow)

Fortunately, the boy was too young to be arrested and was instead subjected to a teachable moment of his own, this time by the cops. They sat him down for a long talk and explained what 911 should really be used for—making sure he understood that people who use it incorrectly could face serious consequences and even criminal charges.

Whether or not this young man “got the point” remains to be seen, but I can say this: I’m glad he didn’t steal a gun and try to knock over a convenience store for cookies. Far too many kids out there seem willing to resort to violence when their “needs” aren’t met… even the youngest ones. I give this kid serious kudos for picking up a phone instead of a pistol.

Death by Soda

Soda can do more than rot your teeth and make you fat; it can kill you (Roderick Pena/Stewart's)

Soda can do more than rot your teeth and make you fat; it can kill you (Roderick Pena/Stewart’s)

I’m sure we have all heard the “urban legend” about a young boy caught smoking by his parents, who then lock him in a room with a carton of cigarettes and tell him not to come out until he has smoked them all. Their objective is obviously to punish the boy for being bad while also ensuring he gets so sick of smoking that he never picks up a cigarette again. Granted, this seems like a very extreme measure—especially where young children are concerned—but some would likely classify it as “tough love” and support such a decision.

I am not one of those people.

The reason I classify this example as an urban legend is because I’ve heard about it numerous times, but never knew anyone who actually experienced such punishment—at least not until I read about a Tennessee couple who did this very thing recently. Instead of using cigarettes to punish their 5-year-old daughter, though, they used something most of us would never consider dangerous: grape soda.

Randall Lee Vaughn, 41, and his wife Mary Lavonne Vaughn, 58, of Surgoinsville, Tennessee are currently being held on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child neglect and aggravated child abuse. If convicted, they could face up to 60 years in prison or even the death penalty, depending on how things play out. Of course, I hope the latter occurs and after you hear what they did, I’m sure you will feel the same.

Alexa Linboom died from drinking too much grape soda (The Guardian UK)

Alexa Linboom died from drinking too much grape soda (The Guardian UK)

Apparently, the Vaughn’s daughter Alexa Linboom—a precious little 5-year-old girl—stole several cans of grape soda that belonged to her stepmother, so they decided to teach her a lesson. In the span of only a few hours, they forced Alexa to drink more than two liters of grape soda and water. What they didn’t consider, however, is how damaging it can be to consume so much liquid in such a short time. It basically dropped Alexa’s sodium levels so low that her brain began to swell. She started to turn blue and when she became unresponsive, the couple put her in the car and drove her to the emergency room. Alexa was soon airlifted to Niswonger Children’s Hospital, but the brain damage she suffered was too great. She was removed from life support and died a few days later.

The official cause of Alexa’s death was homicide due to “acute fluid/water intoxication,” but it’s obvious that something more disturbing was to blame—something both of her parents seem to possess in spades: stupidity. After all, punishing Alexa with “time out” or even a small spanking would likely have taught her the lesson… and she would still be alive, too. Thanks to stupidity, though, the outcome was much different… and much more tragic.

And all because an innocent little girl took some grape soda… how ridiculous is that?

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time

Back tomorrow as we cruise toward 2014! (Lincoln County Library System)

Back tomorrow as we cruise toward 2014! (Lincoln County Library System)

Christmas 2013 is in full swing and children everywhere are enjoying toys, games, electronics and all sorts of amazing gifts. Family and friends are spending time together and finally slowing down after another busy shopping season. And though there is always some darkness to be had—like the bombings in Baghdad that claimed 34 lives earlier today—the overwhelming feeling that I get is one of peace and joy.

I certainly hope it lasts.

Since my son will become a “child of divorce” next year—and is currently a “child of separation,” which should also be a category—my Christmas with him won’t begin for another few hours. Santa has already visited and done his thing, but there are still some last-minute, loose ends to tie up.

Happy Holidays from The Bent! (Harilo)

Happy Holidays from The Bent! (Harilo)

Combine these preparations with the unavoidable afternoon flurry of Lego building to come and blogging, I’m sorry to say, must take a back seat. After all, Christmas comes only once a year and when you’re the father of a 6-year-old boy, you have to treasure these moments because they will not come again.

So on this wonderful and amazing Christmas Day, I wish you and yours—wherever you are in this big, old world of ours—the best Christmas ever. Peace and love to you all, my brothers and sisters.

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