Monday, April 29, 2013

The Baby is Flitting, Whatever That Means...

My brain has been so rattled lately that I can't really remember what I have blogged about and what I haven't. We, as a family, have so much stuff going on right now that I am having difficulty keeping everything straight. I can't even remember if I ever blogged about the Baby finally figuring out how to walk, and that's a pretty big milestone when it comes to being a human. So I should have blogged about it, but now I don't seem to recall that I ever did.

So, I will now. Hey, did you hear that the Baby is walking?! It happened about three weeks ago. The Wife's sister came over to hang out one night, and she, the Wife, and I made a kind of Triangle of Adults in our living room, and the Baby just all of a sudden started walking from one adult to the next. Actually, she didn't seem too interested in walking toward Daddy's point on the triangle, but she did placate me by walking in my direction a couple of times. 

Since that night, her walking skills have grown in leaps and bounds. She started out walking much like Daddy used to on those rare nights when he had had a couple too many beers, and now is pretty much flitting around the house like a graceful ballerina. She hardly ever falls over, and when she does, she gets right back up and starts walking some more. She has even taken up the habit of carrying around one of our nearly-empty buckets of sheetrock mud while walking all over. She seems to have mad skills, as the hip people say.

Now that she has mastered the art of walking, the Baby's next milestone will be getting her first tooth. She has cemented our family's place in history as having the oldest children ever to get their first tooth. If she makes it another two weeks, which would put her well over 13 and a half months, she will be the oldest of all our children at the time of her first pearly white. I'm not sure if that is something to be proud of, but, since I've become a daddy, I can be prideful of just about anything. It's all very exciting! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


There is a lot of change going on in my life. It's kind of weird to think about, but so far, it hasn't seemed to make me too upset. Some people don't do change very well; I seem to be kind of an enigma when it comes to change - sometimes it can bother me, but usually it's not really a big deal. I don't know what the deciding factor is that determines if it upsets me or not, but for now, I seem to be handling it all pretty well.

As you may know, we are feverishly trying to get our house in prime selling condition, and then move into my in-laws' old house. Not only is this an enormous amount of work, but it will bring about a lot of change to our lives. I have lived in the eastern suburbs of St. Paul pretty much my whole life, and now we will be living very close to the outer reaches of Minneapolis. There will be a lot more people around, and it will take us more than 4 minutes to get out into the "country", which is about how long it takes us now. Our new street should prove to be far quieter than the street we've been on for the past 7 years, though, so that will be nice. I'm sure I will get used to it all.

I recently wrote about another change that is happening - the fact that my boss is retiring from the fly shop that I have worked at for the past 11 years. A new owner is coming in, so there is bound to be some change there, although what that change will be is still to be determined. Right now, the main change will be that I won't be seeing and laughing with my old boss nearly as much any more. I'm going to miss that.

There's still more change happening, too. I have been the Editor of a monthly trout-themed newsletter for the past 6 years. I have had a lot of fun doing it, but lately I have found myself not having as much time as I would like to be able to devote to it, so I have decided to give up my editorial duties and let someone else take over. Last week I laid out my last issue, and right now I am in the middle of stamping it and getting it ready to mail. Actually, I'm not going to miss the stamping part of it too much. That can get a little monotonous. But I will miss doing the lay-out and working with all the kind people who were nice enough to send in article submissions. It was a lot of fun.

There's also always the constant change that happens when you have 3 small children in the house. I won't go into it too much, but now all three of them are walking, meaning they are all able to get into things with much more ease. Mommy and I have to have our guards up at all times. But, I guess that's really not new. We've been dealing with the chaos for 4 years now, so I think we can handle it. Change is just a normal part of it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ode to a Guy

Last time I wrote an ode to somebody, it was a posthumous celebration of the life of the Wife's grandmother, Grandma Millie, on the day she died at the ripe old age of 98-and-half. I thought it was time to write another ode, but this time it's an ode to a very much alive man, Mr. Michael Alwin.

Mike Alwin has had a profound effect on my life over the past 16 years. He probably does not remember that we actually had met several years before that - I was but a small lad starting to learn the ins and outs of the sport of fly fishing, and he held some position in the Trout Unlimited chapter that met in Hudson, WI. My dad took me to a few meetings, and I distinctly remember Mike being there, and talking to me once or twice. I would like to say that whatever he said to me made such an impact that it changed my life forever, but I really have no idea what he said back then. Come on, I was 12. I can't remember what people said to me last week. I do remember that we had some kind of interaction, and that's pretty good for me.
I stole this photo of Mike Alwin from a story in the Star Tribune about his retirement. It's an amazing photo because, somehow, the photographer got him to smile. None of his regular customers can figure out how he did it...
At about that same time my dad and I became regular patrons at the quaint fly fishing store in the quaint burg of Lake Elmo, MN. Lake Elmo is more famous for being the home of the Lake Elmo Inn, one of the best, and most expensive, restaurants in the area, but I was only interested in the fly shop, which happened to be named Bob Mitchell's Fly Shop, owned by Bob and Jean Mitchell. I spent hours at Bob Mitchell's trying to absorb anything and everything I could about fly fishing. My dad had done some fly fishing as a youth back in the 1950s, but his knowledge was limited, so every Thursday night, the only night Bob Mitchell's was open past 5:30, I begged my dad to drive me out to Lake Elmo so I could finagle any pertinent info I could out of both Bob and Jean. I'm not sure exactly what they thought of the buck-toothed, gangly, bespectacled kid that came out and bothered them every week, but they always treated me warmly and always answered all my annoying questions.

As time passed, I got more heavily into other things and away from fly fishing, so I eventually stopped going out to Bob Mitchell's all together. That phase lasted for several years, but at the ripe old age of 23 I decided I needed to get my old Cortland fly rod out of storage and try my hand at catching some trout again. I went back to Bob Mitchell's, but by that time, Bob and Jean had retired to Montana. I found out that they had sold the shop to the guy from the Trout Unlimited meetings, Mike Alwin. I went in to check it out, and ended up buying a new fly tying vise from him. That vise was just the first of approximately a billion purchases I made at Bob Mitchell's over the next few years.

During those next few years, I fished a lot, and I spent a lot of time hanging out at Bob Mitchell's Fly Shop. The Shop became a sort of second home, and Mike became a, well, probably not like a second father. And not really like an older brother either (he's way too old to be my brother). It's kind of hard to describe our relationship, so let's just say I was like one of his best customers to him, and he was like a surly, cantankerous fly shop owner to me. We got along beautifully! We were just what each other needed.

After a few years of that, Mike realized that I spent way too much time on rivers trying to catch fish, and that I had already purchased almost everything in the Shop, so there was no reason for me to remain a customer. He also probably thought that I needed some more human interaction in my life. So, he hired me to be one of his part-time "henchmen", as he calls us. My job was, and still is, to help our customers find what they need to get out on the water and catch some fish, tie a bunch of flies to sell to those customers, and teach whatever classes Mike has needed me to teach. That all started about 11 and a half years ago now, and I can honestly say that working at Bob Mitchell's Fly Shop has been one of the greatest parts of my life. I'm not going to go and say it's on the same level as the birth of my children or anything, but it has been a lot of fun. And Mike has been one of the best bosses I have ever known, despite his cantankerousness.

Mike recently made the announcement that he is selling the Shop and retiring in a couple of weeks. Sounds like he has plans to actually get out and do some fishing, which is something he hasn't had a lot of time to do while he's been running the Shop for the past 19 years. I am both envious and sad. It's going to be a lot different without the old guy around. But now maybe he'll have time to do something we've never had a chance to do: go fishing together. Maybe we'll start hanging out together so much he'll finally become like the really old brother I never had...Or maybe we should just start with fishing buddy and see what happens. Thanks for everything, Mike!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Freaky Fruit-and-Spice Induced Dreams

Up until a few years ago, I had never considered putting spices on fresh fruit. Fresh fruit is already some of the tastiest food you can get on God's green earth, so why would you ever try to spice it up. And, I never heard of anyone else spicing up their fruit. It was a completely foreign idea to me, and I assume it still is to many of you reading this right now.

But, a few years back, a friend of the Wife's gave us a small bottle that was filled with spices, and had a lot of words that looked like they must have been in Spanish on the outside. Me no habla Espanol, Senor, so I had no idea what the bottle was all about, but the Wife's friend informed us that she routinely put this spicy concoction on any and all fresh fruit that she eats. Of course, I instantly assumed that this friend was insane, and the bottle of spice got shoved in the back of the kitchen cabinet.

Then, a couple of years ago, we got what I seem to remember was a nice, ripe looking cantaloupe, which, when opened up, proved to have the flavor of a damp sponge. So, the Wife and I decided to give the unusual fruit spice a chance. We doused the melon with the stuff, and it proved to be very tasty. I have been hooked ever since.

The spice in question is called Tajin. Since I don't habla Espanol, I am not entirely sure how to pronounce it. Is the "j" pronounced like a "j" or like an "h"? Is the "i" pronounced like an "i" or an "e"? Is the "T", "a" or "n" silent? I really have no idea, and I guess it doesn't really matter.
No matter how it's pronounced, it's delicious. And possibly hallucinogenic...

What does matter is that it is delicious. It's made out of just three ingredients: ground chile peppers, salt, and dehydrated lime juice. It definitely has a kick, but it's a wonderful kick.

There is only one downfall to Tajin, and I found out what it was last night. I sprinkled some on a banana for a late night snack, about an hour before I went to bed. That would prove to be a mistake. Despite chewing down 3 Tums before I hit the hay, I was soon awakened with a crippling bout of heartburn. Spicy stuff always does that to me. Four more Tums later, I was able to get back to sleep, but that wasn't the end of my crazy night.

I had weird dream after weird dream. The craziest one that I remember was really weird. In that dream, everything seemed to be going along like a normal day at our house: the kids were as chaotic as always, and Mommy and Daddy were just about at their wits' end. In the dream I had a larger than normal headache, and the reason was apparent when I looked in the mirror. Apparently I had recently been to the doctor, who had decided to remove a baseball-sized piece of my skull behind my ear, along with the skin, without telling me. That probably wouldn't have been too bad, but he forgot to replace the piece before he sent me on my way. So, when I looked in the mirror, I saw a section of my skull was missing, and my brain was visible, only it wasn't a normal brain - it was beating, like a heart. In my dream I just stared at my beating heart-brain for a long time, mesmerized, until one of the kids, who shall remain nameless, came up and tried to poke it. That's when I woke up in a somewhat frantic, and totally confused, state of mind.

The only reason I can think that I would have such a crazy dream is that I had too many ground chile peppers right before bed. I've heard that chile peppers can have some crazy effects on you. I'm beginning to think that's true. It's almost bedtime now...I think I'll eat some more and see what happens. If I have more exposed-brain dreams tonight, I will be sure and report it here on this blog. Look for it soon.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Rise and Fall of Led Zeppelin

Today I think I am going to write about music. I'm not really sure why I chose to write about music, other than maybe to get my mind off things. Actually, there's just one thing I want to get my mind off of, and that is our front yard. It is a fine front yard, and it serves the purpose that a front yard should, quite admirably, most of the time. The reason I want to get my mind off of it right now is because the three-foot-high snowpack that we've had all winter is finally melting, and in its place is a front yard that is completely littered with dog poop from the past few months. I know, I know that I should be better about going out and picking it up as soon as the dogs do their business. But, c'mon, it's cold outside during a Minnesota winter. You would have left it, too.

So, I am trying to get my mind off that, and my mind naturally wanders to the topic of music. I love music. Listening to music is one of my favorite ways to while away a day. I think I can safely say that I have a very wide ranging taste in music. I could paraphrase Donny and Marie Osmond and say that I'm a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, a little bit disco, a little bit heavy metal, a little bit polka, a little bit hair band, a little bit dance music, and so on and so on. My friend, Mike, thinks I have a very eclectic taste. I just think that there's a wide array of good music out there, and it can be found in every genre you care to listen to, so I listen to a lot of different genres.

I should probably clarify that and say that I have listened to a lot of  different genres. Nowadays, I have pared down what I listen to quite drastically. That probably is because I have children, and some of the music from my past probably wouldn't be totally appropriate for the kids to hear. Let's just say that we don't listen to Rage Against the Machine in the house any more.

Nowadays, we listen to a lot of top-40 radio stations in the car. That is something I never used to do, but since getting married and having kids, I have become a fan. Here in the Twin Cities, there are several radio stations that I switch between when driving around with kids in the car. I usually start at KS-95, then go to KDWB, then try K-TWIN, and finally go to JACK-FM. JACK plays a lot of songs from my youth as well, so that can be a fun station.
This is an old photo of Robert Plant, the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. He can really yell when he wants to.
The other day, I had all three kids in the car, and I couldn't find a good song on any of the aforementioned stations. So, I checked out some other stations that I like. I landed on one that was playing "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin, one of my favorite hard rock bands of all time. Figuring that  there weren't any bad words for the kids to hear, and that they probably wouldn't be able to understand any of the words any way, I left it on that station. The kids sat in silence in the backseat for a minute or two, until the Girl blurted out "Daddy, why is that person yelling so much?!?" After explaining that some musicians like to yell when they sing, I put it back on KS-95 and listened to the latest song by some group I can't remember now. I guess Led Zeppelin is an acquired taste.