Monday, September 26, 2016

Stuff I Read

I know how to read. But that doesn't mean that I actually read all that much. I very much prefer to write instead of read. I have often heard that people who like to write are usually voracious readers. I guess that, in this facet of life, much like most of the other facets of my life, I don't do what most people do. I'm cool with that.

I do read some things, though. Some of the things that I read quite a bit are books of short stories. Specifically fly fishing or outdoor humor stories. The two authors that I read the most are John Gierach and Patrick McManus. Mr McManus' stories are very humorous; Mr. Gierach's are not supposed to be humorous, but oftentimes some humor creeps in any way. Both men are prolific writers, and I have read and re-read most of their work.

I also like to read maps and atlases. Sometimes, if I need something to read for just a few minutes, for whatever reason, I will pull out one of my many DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteers, which are map books for an individual state. I have the DeLorme Atlas for eight or more states, and looking through them helps me to relive past trips, and daydream about future ones. If there's one thing I need to do more of, it's daydream, although nobody else would probably agree with that...

You would think that, since I am a blogger, I would read a lot of other people's blogs. But, really, there are just a few that I keep up with. EddieRivardFlyFishing.blogspot.com probably is my favorite right now. Eddie writes great stories about his fly fishing adventures here and abroad, and I feel like I can live vicariously through his posts. Averagejester.blogspot.com is another fun one, and I am not just saying that because I was recently asked to write a guest blog post for it... I also read my buddy Bryon's blog, TimberOfFaith.blogspot.com, which is a faith-based outdoor blog in which he sometimes writes about our ventures outdoors. You should definitely check that out, too.

Other than that I mostly go back and re-read my own posts here on Chaotic Kids & Clutter and my fly fishing blog, The Riffle. I do that so that I can find any errors or typos I might have made, and also because I am a normal human being and I find my own life to be highly entertaining. Hopefully my readers agree...

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Champ, No More

I got soft. I got weak. I didn't practice. I didn't do what I needed to do to remain the Champ. I found out what happens when I don't do those things: I get beat, like a drum. I would like to say that I put up a good fight, at least, but that would be a lie. I got demolished. I got annihilated. It was ugly. It was no contest. I guess all I can do now is wish the new Champ the best. And offer to get him a bucket if he feels like he needs to puke...

I am talking, of course, about the eating contest we have at the Endless Shrimp festivities at Red Lobster! Every year at this time, Red Lobster offers their Endless Shrimp deal, and every year I go and eat as many shrimps as it takes for me to feel like I am just about to die, and then I stop. My record is 11 plates of shrimp, which I figure was well over 100 shrimps, and nobody I had ever gone with had ever come close to matching my feat. OK, some had come close, but nobody had ever beaten me. I figured my record would stand until long after I was dead and buried, probably from overdosing on shrimp...But, no, it didn't even last until my 43rd birthday. Oh, the shame!

Having my record broken is one thing, but having it easily broken, by two people on the same night, is another. It was slightly humiliating. If I wasn't having so much fun watching those two guys, Keith and Dave, gorge themselves, I might have even gotten a little sad. But, as it is, when I woke up this morning, I was no longer the Champ. That title has moved on to my good friend, Keith, who ate 15 plates of shrimp last night. If he ever wakes up, I'm sure he will wear that title proudly. Way to go Keith!

My friend, Adam, showing off the remnants of a plate of shrimps he had just devoured.
Just some of the carnage I created whilst stuffing my face with shrimp scampi all night.
Adam, left, and the new Champion, Keith, on the right. This photo was taken about halfway through the meal. He still  looked this alive even after he finished his 15th plate of shrimp! It was a very impressive showing.

Monday, September 12, 2016

2 Kids, 1 Bus

Our two oldest kids, the Girl and the Boy, finally started school last week. I want to write that I had been looking forward to that day since June, but that would make me sound like a bad parent, so I won't. But they did start school, and for the first time, they both rode the same bus. Last year we had three kids riding three different buses at three different times, and let me tell you, our mornings were quite chaotic, if you couldn't already imagine that. Once the Little One's school starts later this week, we still will have two different bus times, but two sounds way more fun than three.

So, last Tuesday morning, all six of us went down to the bus stop to send the two oldest kids off in style. We got there a few minutes early, just to make sure we didn't miss it. It was sprinkling, so we all huddled underneath my giant golf umbrella. We talked about all the friends they would see on the bus, just to soothe any possible nerves. We talked about all the fun stuff they would learn and do at school. It was a fun time of bonding for all of us.

Then the bus came. I was expecting a long, drawn-out, mushy goodbye. I thought the Wife might shed some tears. I thought the Girl and/or the Boy might whimper a little as they got on the bus. I thought that I might be an emotional wreck for the rest of the day as I thought about the sadness that happened that morning. But no. Both the kids ran off to the bus and didn't even look back. They were ready to start the year. They were ready to be done with us for the next 8 hours. It wasn't at all what I was expecting, but it was kind of sad, too, only in a different way...


This is what happened when the two older kids went off on their first day of school...

Friday, September 9, 2016

Pigs, Pigs, And More Pigs

Getting back to the State Fair, as I wrote about in my last post, the first animal building we went in was the Swine building. "Swine" is Latin for pigs, if you have never studied Latin. The photo below is of the biggest boar at the Fair. "Boar" is Latin for "pig dude". This one weighed something like 1400 pounds or 6 tons or some crazy number like that. Everything about this boar was enormous, as you can see from the photo. I thought about censoring the photo to hide his enormous tiddly bits which are somewhat visible on the right side of the photo, but they don't make him cover them up in person, so I guess he's not embarrassed.

Staying in the Swine building, we watched some kind of competition between much smaller pigs than the above-mentioned boar. The competition consisted of about 10 people walking around in a large pen, each one with a medium-sized swine. I believe the judges were judging the pigs, and not the people, but it was difficult to determine exactly what was happening for sure. Each person had an implement that looked kind of like an extra-long fly swatter, and they were gently swatting their pigs in their behinds and/or flanks to get them to walk around in a dazed and confused manner. Most of the pigs seemed like they would much rather be taking a nap in the corner instead of parading around in a mass of pig chaos. I took the photo of the chaos below from well outside the pen, since I didn't want to get trampled by dazed pigs. I put my money on the older gentleman in the green shirt, because I figured he was the most experienced of all the pig people and therefore he had the best chance of winning the competition, but he was a little slow, physically I mean, and wasn't able to keep up with his pig very well. That meant he (the pig) was more chaotic than the rest, so, even though it looked like he would have made a delicious slab of bacon, he did not win this competition. Oh well, I will try to win my money back at next year's sheep round-up.
We spent way more time in the Swine building than I would have ever expected. Pigs are an interesting animal, when you get right down to it. If you ever have the chance to stare at one for an extended period of time, you may be amazed what you notice. The Baby had been staring at the pig in the photo below for hours, and now she gets mad if we don't have pork chops at every meal... It's a weird deal, I tell you what.
Speaking of a weird deal, we also walked through the Poultry/Bunny building. This building is filled with rows and rows of chickens. Now, I like chickens, but even I think there are too many of them in there. But that's not the weird part. Along one wall of this building was a small stage surrounded by some aluminum seating, like you would see at a little league baseball field. These seats were filled with people, so I assumed they were there to watch some kind of chicken competition. I made a beeline to see what was going on, and so I could try to figure out which rooster I should wager on, when I noticed that all these people were looking at...nothing. There was no judging going on at all. No Barred Plymouth Rocks were on the stage. No Blue Andalusians were strutting around. There weren't even any bunnies being shown off. Nothing. I guess all these people were either really eager for the chicken judging to commence in a half hour, or they just needed a place to sit down after hoofing it all over the fairgrounds all day. Perhaps they might be on to something...

Friday, September 2, 2016

It Was a Fair Day

We made our annual trek to the Minnesota State Fair the other day. For those of you who do not live in the Fair-obsessed state of Minnesota, you may not understand how integral the Fair is to life around here. The Fair is huge, almost everyone goes, some people go multiple times during its twelve-day run, and if you don't go local people will look at you as though they are quite sure you aren't hooked up right. For several years back in my insane bachelor days, I was one of those people who didn't go. I think it made me feel like a rebel, or even a bad boy, or at least a bit aloof. But now I am married, and there is no more need for me to appear to be a bad boy, so I go, and I even look forward to it most years.
Just some of the throngs of people we had to walk through on our way from one food stand to another at the State Fair.

There are several reasons to go to the Fair, most of which include eating copious amounts of fried food, usually on a stick. I know it happened just the other day, but I am having trouble remembering all the foods I ate, but I will attempt to list them all, in order of appearance: Egg-Sausage-&-Cheese Croissant Sandwich; 2.5 free Cheddar Cheese Sticks (mine + most of the Wife's + most of the Little One's); Deep Fried Crab Fritters (these are always stupendously delicious!); Deep Fried Monte Cristo Sandwich on a Stick (the Wife and I shared this); the World's Greatest French Fries (they gave themselves that title. I think they are very good, but not so sure they are the world's greatest...); Deep Fried Popcorn Shrimp; Gyro on a Stick. I think that's it...Like I said, I may have forgotten something. If I remember it before I am done writing I will be sure to let you know.

Another reason to go to the Fair is to people watch. I can't believe how many weirdos there are out there in the world, and during the rest of the year I tend to forget. They all go to the Fair, though, so I get my annual reminder. I also can't believe how many large children get pushed around the Fair in gigantic strollers. We pushed the Baby in an umbrella stroller, but she can't walk yet. All of our other kids walked the entire day like they are supposed to, and they have for a long time, but I constantly see kids that look like they are 4-, 5- and even 6-years-old being pushed around in strollers or pulled in wagons the size of minivans. Why would a parent want to do that? Kids who are bigger than a baby are heavy! I don't get it...

A third reason to go to the Fair is to see animals, specifically farm-type animals. If you want to see as many cows, pigs, horses, sheep and chickens as you can stomach, the Minnesota State Fair is the place for you. Our kids can stomach a lot of all of those animals, so we go through all of the farm buildings. I won't go into it now, but it seems like the Swine Building is our favorite. If you like swine, and who doesn't?, make sure you read my next blog post... How do you like that awesome teaser, huh?












Monday, August 29, 2016

The Story of Our Bathrooms

I am sure you have always wanted to hear the story of our bathrooms. Well, today is your lucky day!!

We have three bathrooms in our house, but when we first moved in only two of them got used. The tiny master bath in our bedroom was used by the Wife and me, and the medium sized bathroom down the hall was used by our kids, which we only had three of at the time. The biggest bathroom in the house, which is downstairs, almost never got used, because we are your typical American family, meaning we are all too lazy to walk down the stairs.

A year ago or so, that all changed, because the shower in our tiny master bath started leaking into the basement, but thankfully our big, unused bathroom was directly below it, so nothing of value got ruined. It did mean that we had to do something about the leak, though, so of course we decided to gut our tiny master bathroom so that we could fix the problem, and re-do it to our liking. The Wife and I considered forcibly taking over the medium-sized bathroom down the hall, and kicking our kids down to the bathroom in the basement, but we decided that making a 4-year-old go all the way downstairs every night in the dark when she wakes up at 4AM to go pee might cause much undue stress on the entire family, so we opted to move ourselves down to the bathroom in the basement, and leave the kids in the medium-sized bathroom down the hall.

Now that our master bathroom has been renovated, the Wife has moved back up there. I haven't been so quick to move my stuff out of the basement bathroom, though. It's kind of fun to have my own little oasis in the basement, if I must be honest. Plus, the fan in that bathroom is nice and loud, which is a bonus on those occasions when I don't want to hear any wailing and/or screaming from the rest of the house...

I was going to continue the Story of Our Bathrooms by going into the grim details of how children don't always remember that they need to flush the toilet after going to the bathroom, and how this fact continues to surprise me even though our children are all getting older, and how I often think that they should be old enough to remember such a simple rule, and how this is just one of the many things that I never thought about before I became a parent, and how I sometimes think I should write a book about all the things that have surprised me about parenting, but this post has gone on long enough already, so I will save all that stuff for another day. Keep your eyes peeled for The Story of Our Bathrooms, Vol. 2, coming soon! Oh goody!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Too Smart to Slide?

You might think, by the title of this post, that I might be writing about the sliding that can occur during a softball or baseball game. And knowing that I love to play softball, and that two of our kids, the Girl and the Boy, are playing baseball this summer, I can see how you might think that. But you would be wrong. Oh, so wrong! As I always do on this blog, I zigged when you thought I was going to zag. My zagging when you think that I would be zigging is a normal thing around here, so you better get used to it.

My first smartphone is on its way to my house as we speak. I have mixed feelings about this. For one thing, I have a strong feeling deep within me that it isn't all that healthy to be connected to the rest of the world at all times. It's good to have some down time every day to let my brain settle down and recuperate from the day's events. Some of you probably read that and thought "Scott's brain is always in down time...", but nobody asked you, so please keep your opinions to yourself, thank you very much!
Courtesy of LG

Secondly, I am going to miss my old slide phone. I feel like it and me have forged a special bond over the years. It seemed like my old slide phone always knew exactly what I was thinking. If I wanted to write a text, it would eagerly slide open to reveal its full keyboard. I knew where all the function keys were, so I could write a lengthy and boring text to any of my friends as fast as I could, even with my eyes closed. If I wanted to call someone, it would instantly advise me to hit speed dial number 2, because it knew that I almost never called anyone except the Wife. If I would drop my poor old slide phone and all of its pieces would come exploding off, which seemed to happen more often than I would care to admit, I would gingerly put it back together, and that old slide phone would seem to look up at me and say "Thank you for putting me back together with so much love!" Yup, we have had a special bond, my old slide phone and me. It's going to be sad to send it off to retirement...

But, on the other hand, once I get my new smartphone, it will kind of be fun to be connected to the world at all times. My kids will now be able to harass me at any time, trying to get me to let them watch their favorite Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons at all times of day. If one of the kids asks me why the wolverine is my favorite animal in all of God's Green Earth, not only can I tell them that they are as fierce as can be, but now I can find a youtube video showing one ripping the guts out of a grizzly bear 6 times its size. How much fun will that be?!?

So, as you can see, I have mixed feelings about getting my new smartphone. If you want to talk about it more, perhaps I can send you a long and boring text some day.

Friday, August 5, 2016

4 Records in One Day!

You probably don't pay as close attention to world records as I do, which is good, because I am about to claim that we just broke four of them in one day, and I don't need you calling me out on it...

Yes, we broke four, count them, 4, world records in one day. When I say we, I mean me and my family, which at this point in time includes the Wife, the Girl, the Boy, the Little One, and the Baby. If the kids were writing this they would probably say that our family also includes our two annoyingly yippy dogs as well, but I don't feel that way, plus our two annoyingly yippy dogs weren't with us at the time we broke the four world records any way, so they shouldn't be included in our glory.

It all happened on Tuesday afternoon. We were on our way home to Minnesota after spending a few days in the Africa-like heat of Wichita, Kansas and Bartlesville, Oklahoma. We were in Bartlesville for our nephew's wedding, which went as smoothly as possible, at least as far as I could tell. My job at the wedding was to get the flower girl, the Girl, to the venue on time, and then sit around and eat most of the food while waiting for things to happen. I think I accomplished that quite well, thank you very much. After the wedding we then motored over to Wichita to meet our newest baby cousin, and to show off our own newest baby. Our baby cousin showed his enthusiasm for meeting us by sleeping and crying loudly, and our baby showed her excitement for meeting her cousins by throwing most of her food on their floor. Babies can be difficult to impress some times...

So, any way, we were on our way home from Wichita on Tuesday. We made our first stop just after we crossed the border into Missouri, at one of our favorite places to visit while on the road, a QuickTrip gas station. I can't tell you how many QuickTrip hot dogs I ate on this trip, only because if I did you might get physically ill... So, we stopped at the QuickTrip in Kansas City, MO, and then didn't stop again until we reached the Trails Travel Plaza in Albert Lea, MN, which is a distance of 336 miles!!! None of us set foot in the state of Iowa on our way home! It was so cool!

This amazing feat singlehandedly broke 4 world records at the same time: Longest Distance Traveled By Car W/O Stopping by A Family With A Child Under 1 Year Old; Longest Distance Traveled By Car W/O Stopping by A Family With 2+ Girls; Longest Distance Traveled By Car W/O Stopping In A Vehicle Over 15 Years Old; and Longest Distance Traveled By Car W/O Stopping In A Vehicle With 3+ Dashboard Lights On.

I am super proud of our accomplishments, mostly because our van had stalled on our first attempt to leave the QuickTrip parking lot, so I was more than a little worried that we wouldn't get home at all that day. But, the old hunk of steel came alive and performed flawlessly the rest of the day. What a great day of breaking records!


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!