Monday, July 25, 2016

Lost! and Found...



The good news is that my Wednesday Night Church Softball League team, the Leviathan, is currently still alive in our double elimination playoff tournament. The bad news is that, after our first night of playoff games, I left my favorite little red rolling cooler behind my car as I peeled out of the parking lot to head home. That was bad, but what made it even worse was that there were still four mini Drumstick brand ice cream treats in it that I was planning on scarfing down later that night. Talk about a bummer!
I realized that the cooler was not in my car when I got home and unloaded all my softball stuff. At first I was hit by a feeling of unbelief. I knew I had put it in the back seat, so where was it? I looked everywhere, which isn’t all that large of an area when you are talking about the backseat of a 2006 Dodge Stratus… Next came a feeling of utter panic, as I tried to figure out what could have happened. Finally I became enraged, as I imagined some hooligan finding my cooler and eating all my ice cream treats. You don’t mess with me and my ice cream treats, if you know what’s good for you!

But, alas, it was already going on 11 PM, and the softball fields were 20 minutes from my house, so I decided to wait until the morning, when I could swing by the park on my way to work. Hopefully my beloved cooler would still be sitting in the parking lot, waiting for me to rescue it.

I wish I could tell you that it was, and that the ice cream treats were still frozen and that they tasted yummy as I crammed them in my mouth that morning, but I can not. There was no cooler in the parking lot when I got to the park. There were no ice cream treats. There was no evidence of my cooler at all. Apparently my cooler had been found, but by some hooligan other than me. Not to be mean or anything, but I kind of hope they choked on the ice cream treats.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fried Chicken

The Baby is turning out to be a True American, and I can't be prouder. You know how I know? Because she loves fried chicken, that's how. I am pretty sure it's her favorite food, just like it's her old man's favorite food. Sure, she's only 7-and-a-half months old, and can't talk yet, but I can tell. For one thing, she scarfs it down as fast as we can put it in front of her. Just like me! Secondly...wait, there is no second thing, it's fried chicken, of course she loves it! How could she not love it?!?!

Although she seems to like all fried chicken, just like me, she seems to prefer the fried chicken at an unlikely place, Pizza Ranch, which is also the fried chicken that I prefer. You may ask yourself, "Pizza Ranch? Don't they just serve pizza?" No. Although they do serve a lot of pizza, it is their delicious fried chicken that we go there for. Oh man, is it good. And the Baby agrees, as you can see in this photograph, in which she is stuffing her face with the fried chicken:
Pardon the poor picture quality, please. I think it's blurry because there was chicken grease all over everything...   
Now, before you accuse me of bad parenting for feeding the Baby fried chicken all the time, know that she's only had it once or twice, which is way less than I would like. She actually eats quite healthy, but who wants to write about green beans and sweet potatoes? Not this blogger, that's for sure!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Campout!

Our family loves to camp. It's in our blood. But for some reason we hadn't been camping yet this year, so last weekend we were determined to change that. But where should we go? It was the 4th of July weekend, so all of the campsites within a 7 state radius would be booked up, and we didn't make any reservations. Plus, we didn't want to go too far, since the Baby had never been camping before, so we would need to be close in case she went ballistic and we would need to make a quick getaway (I promise that we probably wouldn't have left her at the campsite if that happened...).

We could have left our pop-up camper in the driveway, but that didn't seem very rustic, so we hitched it to the back of our standard issue grey minivan that anyone with 3+ kids needs to own, and drove it the 20 or so feet out into our front yard. Voila! We were out in nature! Off of the concrete, but still close enough to the house that we could run in to use the bathroom whenever we needed to, which seems to be more and more often the older I get...
Our camper, set up in the front yard. I think most of the neighbors who drove by thought we were insane, but what else is new?

We decided to invite the kids' cousin, the Cousin, over to join us, but with her inclusion, the Wife decided that she and the Baby would stay in the house. I guess the Baby will have to have her first camping experience some other time. That was probably a good idea, because trying to get a 7-month-old to go to sleep in a small pop-up camper that is also inhabited by 4 screaming kids in the 4-to-7 year old age range is a disaster waiting to happen. It's also a disaster waiting to happen for a 42-year-old to try to go to sleep in such conditions, but somebody had to do it, so it might as well have been me. I quickly figured out that if I let the aforementioned 4-to-7 year old hooligans pass out on their own accord in the camper whilst I lounged around in the house watching TV, it is much easier on all of us. Then I could just stroll out to the camper at my leisure and fall asleep at my usual rate of about 25 seconds after my head hit the pillow. It was perfect!

Aside from sleeping in the camper, we did all the other stuff you would usually do while camping. We had a fire in the fire pit, we had delicious s'mores and/or burnt marshmallows, we got eaten alive by mosquitoes, etc., etc. It was as good as being up in the northwoods, only without the agonizing 4 hour drive. We should do this more often!



Friday, June 24, 2016

I (Am Ambivalent About) A Parade!

I've never been a big fan of parades. Even as a kid, I didn't understand the appeal of them. Why would you want to sit out on the hot pavement in the most sweltering time of the year to watch a bunch of people, horses, and dogs you don't know walk by. The whole idea always seemed a bit absurd to me, even as a child.
Mmmm, potstickers...

As I grew into my young adulthood, I still didn't get parades, but my disdain for them started to crack one day during the annual Huff 'N Puff Days parade a few years back. I was working at my part-time job at Bob Mitchell's Fly Shop, and the shop was pretty much empty because the street out front had been blocked off for the parade. With nothing better to do, I went out front to watch for a couple of minutes, and miraculously I timed it just right so that I stepped outside and got handed a skewer of delicious potstickers that the people from the Lake Elmo Inn were handing out to parade watchers. Well, I love potstickers as much as the next guy, and if they're free they're even better! That was the first time I decided that parades might not be so bad after all...

Since we have had children, the Wife and I decided that it might be fun to take them to our local parade every summer, so we have been doing that for several years now, and I have to admit that it's kind of fun. The kids love to see all the different floats, and they love the horses, and they think it's fun to watch the people with the big shovels walking behind the horses. Oh, and I can't forget that they love getting the candy that gets thrown out to the crowds! For me, it's a lot of fun to see how much fun the kids are having. I might even say that I have become a fan of parades, if I got right down to the nitty gritty of it...

So, this all leads up to this past Tuesday night, when we had a chance to actually be in a parade. The kids were excited, the Wife was excited, and yes, even I was a little excited to march in a parade for the first time. We were going to be marching with a group of people from several churches in our area, and handing out candy to the kids along the route. I would have to leave with the two older kids, the Girl and the Boy, before the parade finished, because they had somewhere to be, but I figured we'd still be able to walk several blocks and hand out loads of candy before leaving. We got there in plenty of time, and stationed ourselves on the corner of the street the parade started on. We then proceeded to wait, and wait, for our turn to start. While waiting, we got the chance to learn some of the ins and outs of how a parade works, especially how nobody is ready to start when it's their turn...

Eventually we got to start walking about three minutes before we had to leave, so the Girl, the Boy and I pretty much threw all our candy as fast as we could, and then at the end of the first block we took a left and hoofed it back to our car. I am happy to say that my expert driving ability got us to where we needed to be with about 12 seconds to spare, and I even managed to sneak a bag of Gummi Bears for both the kids from the parade. I'm not going to say what I sneaked for myself... I wish it was more potstickers!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Crawler

Well, she's crawling. I will assume that you, my faithful readers, will know who I am talking about. I can tell you for sure that I am not talking about me, the Boy, or either of the dogs, because we are all dudes. And the Wife, the Girl, and the Little One are all very accomplished walkers, even if a couple of those females still might walk into trees and/or stub their toes way more than I would have ever expected. I will let you decide which two I am referring to...
I haven't gotten the Baby crawling on video or in a photo, so I stole this one off the internet. I am hoping the fact that all babies look alike allows me to fool most of my readers...

Yes, the Baby is officially crawling. I said she was doing so early last week, because right before I went to work one morning she crawled from one side of the living room over to my feet, where she proceeded to try to eat my shoelace. That was a distance of about five feet, which I would say meant that she was crawling. Nobody else in the family saw this happen though, and they all know my penchant for exaggerating things, so they wouldn't believe me. Here I thought I only exaggerated things on the blog, and in real life I was nothing but brutally honest, but apparently I have fooled myself into thinking this. So, to make a long story longer, she didn't start crawling until later in the week.

And it seemed like she would never actually crawl in front of enough people to make it "official". But then last Friday evening, while we were hanging out at my parents' place, she crawled all over the place. She went from one corner of the living room to the other. Then to another. Then back to where she had started. Then over towards Grandma. Then over by her Auntie. Pretty much wherever somebody would put her toys, the Baby would crawl over to get them. Then somebody else would put the toys in another location. So the Baby would crawl there. One of the good things about babies is that they don't catch on too quickly when you are trying to dupe them...

I still haven't gotten it on video, but please believe me that the Baby is definitely crawling. And if you don't believe me, which seemingly nobody does, ask the Wife. She has a much better reputation than I do when it comes to exaggerating. Or does she...?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

4 Kids - 3 Kids = Excitement!

Our three oldest kids, the Girl, the Boy, and the Little One, decided to go on a week-long vacation without their mom, their baby sister, and me. One day, about a month ago, they just informed us that they had decided they were leaving right after school got out for the summer, and they didn't even ask us if we wanted to go with. I found the whole idea rather surprising, you know, because the three of them, combined, are barely old enough to get a driver's license. So, how were they going to go on vacation? Turns out they must be smarter than I give them credit for, because they conned their aunt into taking them. She didn't invite the rest of us with, either...

Without those three scoundrels running around and being loud in our house, you would think that this week would have been relatively peaceful for us, but you would be wrong. Dead wrong. Remember, we still had the Baby, who, despite being happy and giggly much of the time, is still a baby, and so is prone to fits of rage or at least orneriness. For some reason which nobody has ever been able to figure out, sometimes babies fight taking naps, despite the well-known fact that naps make us happy. I absolutely love taking naps, and look how happy I am... sometimes. But the Baby is in a stage where she fights naps, and so is not happy, which makes her mom and I not all that happy, too. So, there's that.

We had another bit of excitement early on in this week, when the Wife woke me up in the middle of the night and told me it was time for me to leave the bedroom because my snoring was shaking the foundation. Actually, I don't remember what she told me, but whatever it was made it obvious I needed to leave, and the quicker the better. Thankfully the three kids were gone so I could sleep in one of their beds. If they were home I might have ended up on the floor with the dogs, and they snore worse than me. At least I used to think they did...

Later on in the week we had even more excitement, when the Wife walked into our laundry room and noticed that the concrete floor and the rugs that were on it were much more squishy than usual. There was water everywhere! Ugh! After some careful sleuthing on the Wife's part, she determined that our super-old water heater was leaking. Ugh again! Plus some other carefully chosen words that were muttered under our breaths... Thankfully, nothing on the floor was ruined, and we got the old water heater emptied quickly. But, that meant no hot showers for a couple of days until we could get a new one installed. Today, our good friend and most superb human being, Joe, came over and installed the new one for us. I watched him and helped when I could, and I think I could probably install one now, if need be, but I didn't want to try to install this new one, you know, because it uses natural gas, and natural gas + a moron who doesn't know what he's doing = no good. So we asked Joe to come do it, and he did. What a most superb human being, huh?

Well, the kids come home tomorrow, so our lives should go back to their normal, boring ways. I'm kind of glad we'll have four small children in the house again, I am getting tired of all the excitement!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Best! Which Seems to Change Often...

I like all kinds of music. But my favorite music changes from time to time. Sometimes I prefer hard rock. Sometimes I like 1990's dance music. Sometimes I want to go back and revisit the music of my youth from the 1980s. Or even listen to some old-time country or bluegrass music. And, just as often, my favorite song of all time changes. You would think that if a song becomes my favorite song of all time, it should remain in that spot forever. But, my "all time" isn't like most people's "all time", because it changes and morphs to suit my needs. It's kind of fun to have control over time like that...
Oak Ridge Boys

The first song I remember having as my #1 was Elvira, by the Oak Ridge Boys. My mom was a big O.R.B. fan, so we would oftentimes listen to their albums on our huge wall-length stereo that we had in our living room. Shortly after that, when I was about 9, my parents got a couple of enormous headphone/radios for me and my sister to listen to. I remember wearing mine while walking up and down our street for what seemed like hours, hoping that the deejays at WLOL would play Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant. At the time, I didn't think I would ever hear a better song than that. Remember, I was only 9 at the time...

As I moved into my high school days, I eschewed modern pop radio, and instead turned my attention to the great rock and roll of the 1960s and 70s. My favorite band became Jethro Tull, and their classic Aqualung soon rose to the top of my list. After that, I glommed onto the classic Ride Captain Ride, by 1970s one hit wonder Blues Image. Both are still good songs, but hearing them several thousand times over the years has diminished their appeal.

The late 80s saw a song that rocked then, and continues to rock to this day: Alone by Heart. There's something about Ann Wilson's voice, particularly on this song, that sends chills down my spine. This song is always at least in my top 5.

For the past few years I have been really digging Judas Priest. Some people reading this would probably cringe at their name. Like most bands of that genre, I tend to like their older stuff more than their newer stuff. I like a lot of their stuff from the 70s and early 80s, but Heading Out to the Highway is my favorite. I've actually started singing the chorus as a ni-night song to the kids...

Another hard rock song that was #1 for a good long while is Screaming in the Night by Krokus, even though the video might be the worst of all time. Oh, and how could I forget It's A Long Way to the Top by AC/DC. That might not be #1 right now, but it is easily the greatest rock song that includes bagpipes, and I don't think it will ever lose that title.

Devo has been one of my favorite bands for a long time, which is something you don't hear a lot of people say...They have a lot of great songs, which is another thing you don't often hear, but I think my favorite is Watch Us Work It. It rocks!

If I had more time to think, there probably have been a dozen other songs I would have considered to be the best song of all time at some point in my life, oh, like Wildfire by Michael Martin Murphy, or Let Your Love Flow by the Bellamy Brothers, oh, or (Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty by KC & the Sunshine Band, or Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone by Cinderella, or Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds, or Bears by Zebra, or I Can't Wait by Nu Shooz or Wobble by Family Force 5...I guess there have been a lot of Best Songs Of All Time, but we'll end this list with the happiest song of all time, We Like To Party by Vengaboys. I dare you to listen to this song and not get up and dance. I don't think you can do it...



Monday, June 13, 2016

Shower Time!

When people in our church get married, we tend to throw them a shower. That probably doesn't seem too strange to you, but just wait. A lot of the time, we throw them a co-ed shower, so both men and women are included. That's the strange part...

Not that kind of shower...
I had never been to, or even heard of, a co-ed wedding shower until I came to this church. That first co-ed shower that I was part of, more than 11 years ago now, was thrown for me and the Wife, who was still the Fiancee back at that time. It was a super fun event, and it was a great way for me to get to know the people of the church a little better. The Wife didn't need to get to know them, since she had grown up in that church.

Since then, there have been dozens of co-ed wedding showers at the church, and I have even helped throw a few of them. The most recent one was yesterday, and the Wife and I were part of the team that put it together. I wasn't in charge of the food, which everyone was thankful for, and I wasn't in charge of the decorations, which I was very thankful for. I did get the job of being the emcee, which I think went fairly well, and the Wife asked me to do some kind of devotional. I had never written anything like that before, and I wasn't sure where to start. But after several days of racking my brain, I cobbled together a few of my ideas about how to have a good marriage, and read it at the shower. I am not all that good at public speaking, but I made sure to read it loud and slow so all the little old ladies could understand me. I think it went pretty well, and I even got a couple of compliments on it.

Since I am always trying to come up with things to write about here on the ol' blog, I thought I might as well post the devotional I wrote. If you like it, that's cool. If not, that's cool, too. Maybe you'd even like to use it if you ever need to make a speech at a wedding type ceremony. I'm cool with that, too! I think professional speech writers make about $500 per speech, so just go ahead and wire that to my PayPal account after you're done. Alright, here it is, but the names have been changed to protect the bride and groom:



This is my first so-called devotional, so let’s see how it goes… The Wife and I haven’t been married as long as some couples around here, but it’s been long enough to learn some things about marriage. Being married is totally different from being single, and we would know because we were both single for a long time. When you are single, your world revolves around you. You can do whatever you want. If you want to eat cheese slices and pepperoni for dinner, you can. If you want to call in sick at work and lounge around in your underwear all day, you can do that.  If you want to spend all your money on comic books or fly rods, you can, and the only person you might be hurting by doing these things would be you. But, if you want to have a happy marriage, and I think you do, you can’t be so selfish anymore.  It isn’t about you anymore, it’s about the two of you. The two of you are going to be a team, Team Willis, and teammates have each others’ back, they pick each other up if they’re down, and they work with each others’ weaknesses and help each other use their strengths.  Being part of a team is a special thing, but being a good teammate takes effort. 


One of the most important things I’ve ever heard anyone say about marriage came from our good friend Clint Eastwood, just a couple of years ago. He and Sally were teaching a marriage class, and he told a story about how, when they had first gotten married, he, perhaps unconsciously, tried to turn Sally into “the best Clint Eastwood she could be”. In other words, he thought that his way was the best way. If she did things a different way than he did, it was just because she hadn’t learned his better way of doing it. He wasn’t trying to be mean; it’s just natural for us stubborn humans to think that we know best. Don’t be that way. Accept your spouse for who they are. If you continually try to change them or criticize the way they do things, they will start to get defensive and angry.  Lift them up, don’t beat them down. Accept them for who they are. I’ve got news for you: you are both human, and all humans have their own quirks, foibles, and annoying habits. Get used to that idea, but don’t focus on the annoying parts. Focus on each other’s awesomeness. 


Make it a point to spend time together, and apart.  Once you get married, don’t stop going on dates. Don’t stop wooing each other. Try not to take each other for granted. But don’t feel like you have to spend 24 hours a day together. Have your own interests. Do your own thing. Have your own corner of the house to get away to. And don’t feel bad about it. 


Lastly, spend time on your faith, both alone and together. Pray together before bed. Read the Bible or do devotionals together in the morning.  Go to church. Ask God how you can be a better husband, or wife. And listen for God’s answers. Here are a couple of Bible verses that can help in day-to-day married life:
1 Peter 4:8-  "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins."

Ephesians 4:32- “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."


Bruce & Demi, marriage is an amazing thing, a unique bond you will have with each other, but it’s not always easy. You’ll have to work at it, but if you do, your relationship can continue to grow until the end of your days. Congratulations, and know that the people of this church will be there for you through all the ups and downs.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lil' League

I am not a big fan of the contraction Lil'; I prefer the actual word "little", you know, because it's a real word. But I am using Lil' today because our two older kids, the Girl and the Boy, just had their first baseball practice of the summer, and the league they are in is known as the "Lil' Sluggers". Practice went OK, meaning that neither of my kids got seriously hurt. The Boy took a couple of baseballs off his melon, but thankfully they use soft "Incrediballs", so the pain subsided quickly. He handled it like a trooper, but it's obvious we need to work on his catching skills...
Here is the Boy, not paying attention at 2nd base. He seemed to enjoy holding his glove on his head like this, except when the ball was actually headed towards his head. No good...

We also need to figure out exactly which hand the Boy should be throwing with. He is a lefty in almost everything, but in sports it's not so obvious. It seems like he swings things, like a bat or a golf club, better right-handed, but we haven't been able to figure out which hand he is better at throwing with. We have both a left-handed and right-handed glove for him to use. Tonight at practice he threw left-handed. I'm thinking we might try right-handed next time...
These kids were tossing mowed grass at each other instead of paying attention to the coach. Mine are the two in the middle...

All this Lil' League talk takes me back to my glory days in Little League. I don't know if I ever mentioned this before, and knowing me it's hard to imagine that I haven't, but did you know that I was named to the All-Star team in 4th grade? Yup, I threw quite the forkball back in the day, and I was one of the All-Star pitchers that year. In fact, I probably had a better arm back when I was 10 then I do now...I'm not proud of that fact. Another thing I'm not proud of, but that is ingrained in my memory like it happened yesterday, is the fact that on multiple occasions while pitching in Little League, I was able to get opposing batters to hit a foul ball by throwing the pitch behind their head and hitting the bat as they were still holding it on their shoulder. Sure, it's hard to throw strikes, but you should try hitting a bat that hasn't actually been swung. Now that takes talent! OK, maybe I'm a little proud of this feat...

Alright, enough dreaming about days gone by. And enough writing this silly blog post. I've got a job to do, and that's to get the Boy out of bed and throw him some pop flies. There's only 9 days until the first game, and we need every minute of practice we can get. He can sleep after baseball season is done, right?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Food

I love food, probably more than the next guy, especially if the next guy is some skinny dude who doesn't like to eat. I can prove my love for food by telling you that I currently weigh much more than I used to. I won't go into the specific numbers or anything, other than to say I now weigh about 70 pounds more than I did when I graduated from high school, even though I am just about the same height. I don't know how you feel about this paragraph, but I am finding it to be a little depressing...

So, let's talk about something else, shall we? Like how we just started the Baby on real food. If you have been reading this blog since its inception, and if you haven't...why not?, you might recall that the Wife and I start feeding our kids differently than most parents do. Right before the Girl was born 7+ years ago, the Wife discovered a "new-fangled old-fashioned" way of starting babies on solid food, in which they actually eat solid food, not pureed food that comes in tiny jars at the supermarket. And it's not pureed at home in a turbo-charged food processor, either. It's not pureed at all, it's just solid food, as in a hunk of hamburger, or a slice of apple, or even a piece of steak. It's known around the world as "baby led weaning", and there are books and websites about it. It's quite the phenomenon, even though babies learned how to eat actual solid food for eons before the food processor and tiny jars were invented.

We have loved it with all of our kids. They were feeding themselves within a few days, we didn't have to spend time pureeing or lugging around jars of food, and we didn't have to try to coax our babies to open wide enough to cram some disgustingly liqufieid "peas" into their mouths for them to spit out a millisecond later. They became more dexterous by holding their own food, they got to learn about all the different textures of food and not just the texture of puree, and they learned to eat what we were eating, so we were able to share in the eating experience. I would highly recommend you check into it, you know, if you have a baby that's around 6 months old...
Since she's already had chicken and steak and hamburger, she thought she should probably mix in a salad... Photo by Sonie Walquist

We just happen to have one of those kinds of babies, the Baby, so we started her on solid food about a week ago. She has had steak, chicken, sweet potatoes, hard fried eggs, an apple, bananas, and broccoli. There has probably been more that, but I was too busy eating to take notes...If you want to learn more about baby led weaning, check out the links above, or feel free to talk to me. What are you waiting for...?