The Carmine Code

carminesFor those not familiar with Carmine’s, it’s an amazing Italian family restaurant.  It opened its doors back in 1990, and pride itself to for making any meal feel like an Italian American wedding feast.

Many of my colleagues had spoken about Carmine’s, and I have heard reference to it on the radio and even in a few movies

… I think!

It was one of those places we simply had to visit, but we rarely went into the City.  If we did, it was mostly my wife and I, or perhaps just for a few business meetings.

A few days ago, the opportunity came knocking.  We had planned a visit to Broadway to see the “King and I” musical, as part of a fantastic offer with TDF who organises autism friendly performances.

After the amazing performance, it was late in the afternoon and we needed to refuel our bodies with some lovely food.  I unlocked my iPhone, opened the OpenTable app and made a reservation at Carmine’s.  It was like a new adventure was about to start.  Something mystical and mesmerising.

It was a journey to Shangri-La of food happy utopia, where we would sample wonderful dishes in a great atmosphere and among likeminded food loving people.

cloudyThe place itself wasn’t something amazing on the outside.  It was merely a small shop front, which led into a small bar area, full of people.  Then a dark magical staircase to the other side – to the promised land.

As we ascended the stairs, we were greeted by numerous scents and flavours.  It was in reality a smack to the face of gourmet food, and I was almost knocked off my feet by the sheer vapour bomb of food smells …. lovely food smell.

The waiter placed us at a family sized table, comfortable seating all five of us.  I glanced around the room and was pleasant surprised that this was in fact only large families.  People were happy, smiling, laughing and eating.  My kind of place!

We were Carmine virgins.  At least that’s what I told the very friendly waiter, and he was enthusiastic about explaining us the Carmine Code.  It was simple actually.

"This is a family restaurant
We serve family sized portions
The table share the food."

We ordered a salad, veal steak w/ mash and mixed plate of pasta.  According to the waiter, this should feed our hungry family.

Half way through the salad, which made Olive Garden’s salad tray look like a starter, I realized that we might have ordered a bit too much.

Then the two main courses arrived and I must’ve arrived in heaven.  In front of us were two large sized trays, filled with food.  Enough food to feed our family for a week.

I had to sample every piece, and it was fantastic.  Not Michelin star food, but real Italian style food, almost as mama would make it.  And, that was despite the amount of people who were eating with us, how many had been before us, and how many were coming after us.

I hit the food brickwall hard.  It was not unpleasant, but I was disappointed with my own performance.  We had barely made a dent in the past samples, and still half veal dish left.

heart-cloudsThankfully they have an excellent doggie bag attitude, and placed all the left-overs in tinfoil trays and a large shopping bag.

It was heaven.  We had just witnessed a food revelation and had in an instant become Carmine followers.  This was an amazing experience, and thank you food God for letting us experience utter stuffedness.

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Star Wars Spoilers

My wife had dropped a major bomb in our relationship before Christmas, stating that she never really liked Star Wars movies.  I was in utter shock and wasn’t too sure how our relationship could survive.  What other things was she hiding from me?

I had taken her to the premieres of SW 1 and SW2, at midnight, and seriously thought she enjoyed the story.  She had gone to the dark side!awakens

When Star Wars Force Awakens was released in the cinema, I was stuck at home looking at trailers and listning to my colleagues at work raving about the movie.  JJ Abrams had done a great job, apparently, and the effects were above expectations.  It’s just not the same watching a 2:43 min trailer compared to a 2h 19min movie in IMAX.  I felt as if I was missing out on a lot of important details.

When the movie was finally released on iTunes, I bought it. No hesitation.  Just a quick one-click decision.  And, I didn’t tell my wife.  It was like cheating on her.  Buying stuff only for me. Something she didn’t like.  I felt naughty and the feelings of the dark side were stirring inside me.  It felt good.

But, this excitement only lasted a few days.  Suddenly our kids fell ill and I did not have time to watch the movie.  It was my fatherly obligations to choose kids over Star Wars.  Not really a hard decision, but my soul was still torn.

One morning, I had to work from home, and the kids wanted to watch the new Star Wars while having projectile vomiting on the sofa.  Why not.  I’m a good dad.  I launched the movie, and slowly walked back to my office computer.  The intro music was filling the house and I peaked over my shoulders like a schoolboy trying to watch Exorcist when parents weren’t watching.

It was pure agony.  I could hear the effects.  i could hear the kids being amazed with the story and movie.  They cheered, cried and laughed.  Then the movie ended.  I had passed the challenge and would pass into the West.

Unfortunately my six year old kid ran into the kitchen.  Big eyes and shouted “DAD!!!  Han Solo died! And the bad guy survived”

I was like  O M G.  What do I do?  Slap her for spoiling the movie or just laugh it of.  Corporal punishment is no longer permitted so I just laughed.  It wasn’t real laughter, but painful and tearful at the same time.

I had waited so long,  Finally got my copy of the movie and then my six year old tells me an important part of the movie.  oh well, the joys of parenting.  I was pleased she had her Star Wars moment, which she will cherish just as much as I, when I first saw Chewie and Han.

My the force be with you my little Sith Daughter!
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Wheeling Samaritan

… previously on Judgebrix.com

As I was sitting in my Dodge Charger, contemplating how to get my tire changed and still make it to work, I had come to the realization that I needed reinforcement.

Time to call a friend!

The first friend was 25 miles away, and at work.  The second friend never picked up – what a friend, eh?!

I for some reason decided to call my wife.  Well knowing she couldn’t help me, as she was minding our 2 sick kids, but she could perhaps offer some moral support.  I needed a virtual hug now that I was also injured, and stranded on Fury Roads.  In reality, she would offer me little technical support, and resorted to calling road-side assist :-(

roadsideSuddenly, a giant van pulled in, in front of me.  The driver slowly reversed.  A slightly large dude jumped out and walked towards.  There where no-one else around, so it could only be me he was approaching.  Now, was he going to rob me a gun point, rape me with plastic gloves or was he simply a good samaritan?

Thankfully he was the latter, and my butt was starting to relax again.  He pulled out the proper tools from the van.  Jacked up the car.  Unscrewed five bolts with ease.  Swapped the tires and dropped the car again.  He had an extremely hairy ass.  Not that intentionally looked at his backside, but it was pretty difficult to miss it.  All within 7 minutes.

It was 7 minutes of magic.  For a brief moment I had forgotten my injury, and was smiling ear to ear.  As he was packing up his gear I asked him how much for the pleasure of his services, to which he replied “don’t worry, glad to help!”.

I was utterly surprised and waiting for him to say I owed him $200.  But no, he kept packing up and was preparing to leave.  I quickly dropped $20 in his hand and couldn’t thank him enough.  He just smiled and took off.

top-gun-maverick-thumbs-upI was back in my car, hitting the road and going to work.  So many cars passed me that morning.  It only took one realtime hero to help a stranded office dude.

Thank you my unknown road-side hero.  You’re my wing man. My Goose :-)

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I’m not Hulk

The week had not gone as well as we would have hoped.  66% of the kids were down with severe cold & flu symptoms, and partial strep.  It had been 4 days of missed school and I wondered if this would have an overall impact on their scholarship applications missing a week of elementary school.  You never nowadays.

When I was standing in the shower that morning, I do not anticipate how manic my morning would become.

I left 66% of my kids in the care of my lovely wife, and 33% by the road waiting for the school bus.  Once she had jumped on the bus, I shot off in my “new” Dodge Charger.

I was early for once.  Only a few minutes, but it still gives a good start to any day.

tireOn my route to work, there’s a section where a few highways cross, and a diabolic like lane change happens.  There’s nothing around on this isolated piece of road.  For about a mile it is just barren wasteland – no-mans land – an area you would see as a battle ground in Mad Max as they fight for water.

On that particular strip of road, I suddenly started to feel sluggish steering capability and low air pressure on left front tire.  Deep inside, I knew I should’ve changed my tires some weeks ago.  It’s just one of those things you should’ve done, and didn’t do, and now shit comes back to haunt you!

Luckily I had all the necessary tools in the boot of the car – or trunk as the Yanks are calling it.  Either way, I was prepared for a DYI roadside assist.  Little did I know that was missing a key ingredient – wd40.  You cannot leave your home without it!

Within minutes of diagnosing the flat tire, I had whipped out the necessary tools needed to do the job effectively.  3 simple items that can make it so much easier.

  • A jack
  • A lug wrench
  • A spare tire

The only obstacle that you are never prepared for is how tight the wheel bolts.  Fear not.  I attacked those suckers with an attitude and a ferocity that would scare any WWE wrestlers.  I was gonna come out victorious.

As I attached the lug wrench to the first bolt, it was clear this was going to take a little more effort than earlier anticipated.  All five bolts were as welted to the wheel, and didn’t give a crap that I was pulling it.  If they had a voice, I’m sure I would have heard them laugh and mock me.

I pulled.  I stood on the wrench.  I kicked the tire.  I poured warm coffee.  I cursed. I kicked the wrench.  I kicked the tire.  I kicked the car. I kicked the ground. I scratched the wheel with my nails. I screamed at it. I used a large rock as hammer on the wrench.

I prepared for one final attempt.  I focused my anger at the bloody wrench.  Grabbed it with both hands, and mentally transformed into the Hulk.  All my powers were being directed to my hands.

hulkAs I pulled the immovable bolt, I let out my manly war-cry, which sounds like the Dementor from Harry Potter, and flexed all my muscles in my entire body who had been on holiday for the last decade.

Sweat was being forced out from various places on my body and forehead.  The war-cry quickly turned into a cry of agony.  I felt and heard something pop on my left side, from muscles I hadn’t used for a long time, and it was like being stabbed by Excalibur. Not that I have much stabbing victim experience, and not planning on it either, but this was painful.

Cars (drivers) flying by on the highway must’ve had a wonderful experience, seeing a guy dressed in a nice suit, jumping on a wrench attached to his car, and being totally animated.

I was in pain.  Tire was not coming off.  I had to call for reinforcement.

... to be continued.
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Speed Dating Parent Teacher Meetings

The school year has flown by.  I can’t believe that there’s only a few months left until the summer break.  It seems as yesterday when my daughter started her middle school adventures.

In true school spirit, we have to meet the teachers every three months to really assess how our children are progressing … or not.

The first semester was awesome.  Our daughter was initially placed in AIS, much to my dismay, to assist her with math.

Academic Intervention Services are services required by New York State which provide additional instruction to students in English and/or mathematics based upon performance.

Nobody puts baby in the corner, but despite doing so, she showed them all how wrong they were.  She was was added to B honours roll in first semester – and to my absolutely delight, jumped to A honours roll in March.

She obviously has my wife’s intelligence, and good lucks.  Not too sure what genes she got from me.  Probably the rock music and playing games parts.

My wife and I went to the first parent / teacher meeting, but due to other parenting needs at the house, I went to the recent one alone while my wife looked after the kids.

speed-datingI was amazed with the new format of parent / teacher meetings.  I do not remember it being like that previously.  It was like speed dating, just with teachers.  You have a defined amount of time with one teacher, as soon as you get to the interesting parts, then you get pushed to the next teacher.

Ahead of the teacher conference, which they call it nowadays, we had to select specific times to meet key teachers.  It’s a bit like an interview for a job, where you have to speak to a series of potential colleagues to make sure you are the right person.  Except this time you talk about your child.

  • There’s an awkward moment when you look at the teacher, and they attempt to find your child based on your good looks.
  • You have exactly 6 minutes with each teacher, and spent more time introducing yourself, getting comfortable in the shitty chairs and look at a list the teacher has prepared
  • You stand in line until your name is called, hoping the parents ahead of you are not there or have few questions.
  • You rush to the next teacher on the list, running down the hallways.  I find the latter exciting as it reminds of my time in school, and teachers shouting at me “NO RUNNING” … so I ran faster today :-)
  • You are late for the next session, you think, but realise quickly that some parent has abused the speed dating rules about timekeeping.
  • You try to do small talk, which fails as teacher is only interested in your child’s performance
  • You try to remember all the questions you had prepared in advance, but fail in every aspect and frantically text my wife before I sit down
  • The worst bit, you can hear how well the child next to you is doing … and in some cases they are not doing very well at all.  Both parents and teacher are trying to keep smiling, while delivering some scathing comments.

Keep-calmHonestly, I’m not too sure I got the full picture of my daughter’s performance.  All the teachers loved her.  Her grades are top, She’s a great friend to her class mates and she interacts with everyone.

I was proud when I heard all this, but more so when the teacher said she stands up for other kids, and defends some kids against bullies.  That’s my girl!

Next time I might dress up a bit, bring my chess clock and play some tricks on the teachers.  We gotta spice up the teacher speed dating thing a bit.

Or, perhaps I pretend to be the father of another child too, which would really confuse most teachers :-)  It’ll be alright and we are all awesome.

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Happy Birthday

12years

Breakfast w/ scones

Today is exactly 12 years ago since our coolest and oldest daughter arrived.  She was 5 weeks premature, but that has certainly not stopped her from being an awesome child.

I’m very proud we were chosen to be her parents.  It has been, and still is, an honour to see her grow up and become the awesome individual she is today.  I know she will continue to grow and become an amazing woman with all the possibilities ahead of her.

She is excelling at school, which is obviously good genes from her mother.  She loves games, outdoors and has great sense of humour.

Happy Birthday my little girl!

Disclaimer / Warning

I do wish to warn all boys that I have a small forest behind the house, with plenty of wild life and areas not often visited by by-passers.  If any you hurt my baby girl, break her heart for some foolish attempts to be her boyfriend and then dumping her, you will probably not be walking away from it. 

I have several friends who would happily share their protective gestures and outbursts, if anything emotional harm would be afflicted on her.  Just like I would support them if their daughter’s were harmed.

We hare the clan of proud fathers.  We have viking blood running in our veins, and some of my brothers are trained in the art of pain.

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Goodbye Jaws

A perfect smile is worth millions and opens many doors.  A smile has magical powers.  A big smile gives the owner of the pearly whites a sense of pride and confidence.

When our daughter was born 11 years ago (almost 12) we were informed that she had cleft palette and would need surgery before turning 1.  That’s a lot to take in when this was your first child, but we also knew that she is special and will succeed in whatever she does.

Some kids born with cleft may also have some dental challenges.  Challenges we never encountered until we met a great dentist in the US.  She had developed an underbite due to her cleft, but were told that it could be addressed somewhat easily.

All she needed to do was to get braces, up and down, and that would correct her bit.

That was more than two years ago, and after being presented with a bill of $8000 (USD) – $5000 after insurance covered their part.  Perhaps not too bad of a price to pay to give her a smile she could be proud of – it’ll last her a life time :-)

I had noticed that she was not fully confident and she failed to smile on many occasions. It was not her real smile we saw.  She never mentioned if her underbite bothered her, but as she started to grow and mature, it was certainly affecting her confidence.

$5000 and 2.4 years later, and it was finally time to get the braces off.  Day of reckoning and moment of truth.

She had suffered for a long time.  Missed out on some of her favourite snacks, such as popcorn, and the constant dental visits to get the braces tightened.

Getting the braces off was like be released from prison … according to her at least.

The change was phenomenal.  Goodbye underbite and hello Hollywood.

She was over the moon and soooooo proud of her new smile.  Teeth were the same, but the braces had really done an amazing job.  The pain, tears and months of suffering had paid off.  It was a delight to see her beaming of confidence.

We bought a big bag of popcorn, sunflower seeds and chewing gum to celebrate her release.

She hasn’t stopped smiling since, and why should she.  Be proud and show off your smile.

smile

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Big Dumb Blond

ChiquiStPatrickWe have been blessed with a gentle giant for almost 10 years.

She was a small fluff ball when she joined our family, in the shape of a small St Bernard, and Beethoven era was upon us.  It was like a Gremlin hairy ball, who grew fast.

One important piece of advise, never go see St Bernard puppies with your kids!  That’s how we ended up with three dogs simultaneously; labrador, Bernese Mountain Dog and St Bernard.  Each dog become a bigger breed.

Nevertheless, we loved the dogs and they became part of our family.  Kids rode them like ponies, ran with them in the snow and cried as the parted us, walking across the Rainbow Bridge.

Chiquita (named after the banana for no apparent reason) was the last of the trio.  She was a gentle clumsy giant, who loved everyone she met.  Yes, she wasn’t the brightest bulb in the lamp shop, but that didn’t bother her or us.  It was the sheer love she gave us, in particular the kids.

It was a moving carpet and when she slept the neighbours could hear her snoring.  It resonated throughout the house.  At times I woke up in the middle of the night to move her, which only lasted a few minutes.  We had many fun filled moments with her … or at least on her account :-)

  • If she was in the garden, and I would call, she would look the opposite direction.  Not to piss me off, but simply because she had no clue where my voice came from.  EVEN, if I would stand 10 yards from her.
  • When shaking her head, we would have slobber streaks on walls and ceiling, as well as furniture, windows, TV, furniture – that’s just part of having a large breed.
  • A few times she was running towards me, only to trip over her front legs, almost crash into the ground, but magically recover the fall gracefully.
  • We would throw her treats, almost hitting her head.  She either couldn’t see the treat or had not idea what to do when we threw them.  She just continued to stare at whoever was throwing it.
  • She had the ability to dig out treats hidden in her dry-food, and lick off all gravy, and still leave all the dry-food behind.  She was a picky eater.  In fact, she would only eat meats and treats while in heat.

You can imagine the sadness that fell upon the family, when we found her lifeless in the living room the other morning.  She had slept in during the early morning.  I gently petted her head and body, said a few loving words, and then woke up my wife with the sad news.

The girls woke up and broke into tears.  They knew she was old, but that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye.  They hugged the fluffy giant while she slept, and my wife cancelled school that day.  It was simply too much for the girls.

keyringst_bernardLater that day, we carried her (not easy to carry 140lbs) to the car and I drove her to the vet.  One final visit and final goodbyes.  The girls had joined me, but couldn’t hold back the tears as they drove her away.  My oldest ran over to stretcher and gave her a strong loving hug, while tears were rolling down her face.  Then she came to me and needed a big hug.

Now the third dog has crossed the rainbow bridge, waiting for us to one day come across to play with them again.

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Days of Pinewood Thunder

Pinewood-Derby-LogoI’m new to the Boy Scout movement, and all the activities that comes with it.  We felt it would be a great idea to join the local den, allowing my son to interact with other boys his age.  And, it has been absolutely brilliant for him.

Being born with Down Syndrome, it is sometimes not easy to fit in.  But, the boys in his den have been super.  They involve him, cheer for him and hold hands with him.  He absolutely loves it.

When the opportunity arose to participate in the cult like event, ‘Pinewood Derby‘, we simply had to sign-up.  I had no idea what it actually was.  Reality soon hit us!

All boys were given a small piece of pinewood, four nails and wheels.  Instructions were simple.  Racers had the same starting point = a piece of wood!  You cut, sand, carve, scratch, bite, kick, spit, paint, meditate to slowly shape it into a super fast and awesome pinewood racer.

One minor catch.  It can only weigh 5 ounces.  Anything above 5 will be disqualified and anything less would be slower.  The key is to get the car to weigh exactly 5 ounces … nothing more, nothing less.

There’s a huge industry behind pinewood racing with online shops, communities, competitions, tips, tricks and plenty of how to.  Here’s one site I found.

How hard could it be to build a fast pinewood racer?

monster pinweood racerWhere I took a slight detour was when I  wrongly assumed that the boys were building the cars themselves, with some minor supervision from their fathers.  Basically provide parental cover for usage of heavy machinery, saws, drills, quantum physics and a bit of NASA research.

I’m a full-time employee at a major firm, and honestly find it difficult to spend much time on this activity.  However, I sat aside time every evening to prepare the car.  Spending 30-40 minutes with my son, while trying to get it ready for the weigh-in.

I was very proud.  My son’s car looked like something he had created.  It had rough edges, one funny wheel, some strange colours and yet elegant and aerodynamic.  A masterpiece the Dodge brothers (John and Horace) would be proud of.  There was a remote chance that he could win the race.  The pinewood racer had his personal touches.

On the weigh-in, the tensions were high.  Every father in the room were anxiously looking at the competition.  Smirks, taunts and even a few “better luck next time” were thrown around the room.  In one corner, the pit crews were working to bring the car to the desired 5 ounces.

Suddenly, a scream echoed from the weigh-in area.  The master scale was off by .2 ounce, which meant some cars had to be adjusted or face the disqualification … wash-out lane was being lit up, and one boy was whimpering while holding his father’s hand.

Battle stations!!!  Distraught fathers rushed to the pit crews to add or remove weights.  Boys were screaming at their fathers to hurry up, despite having several hours before the weigh-in finished.  And of course we all made it :-)

All race cars were securely locked away until the event, ensuring no father could apply some magic to their car.  Now it was just a matter of waiting for the day to arrive.

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Be My Valentine

My Dear Wife

We have been together since 1997, and it has been a fantastic adventure.  I’m just as madly in love today, as when we first met.  Perhaps even more.

You are the mother of our beautiful children, and an awesome friend.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy-Valentines-Day

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