Thursday, June 27, 2013

At Least She's Learning How To Share...





This scenario played out a couple of weeks ago while we were camping. Technically, she was sharing...


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The 25 Days of Summer

We all know that summer is not just 25 days long. Even in Minnesota, where it snowed several times in May this year, summer lasts longer than just 25 days. It's my prediction that it will be at least 26 or 27 days until it snows again here, of course I've always been somewhat of an optimist.

I didn't come here to write about the weather, though. No. I came to write about the phenomenon that occurs every year at about this time. It always lasts exactly 25 days. And, when I look back on it, it always starts on the exact same date: June 12th. June 12th is an awesome day. Flowers are in full bloom. Local ponds are alive with the sounds of Spring Peepers and other frogs. Butterflies fill the air during the day, and June Bugs slap themselves silly against the windows at night. Life is full of summertime activities. And we celebrate the birth of my beautiful bride, the Wife.
I was actually looking for a photo of a birthday cake, you know, with candles and stuff, but I couldn't take my eyes off this photo. It looks so good I almost licked my computer screen. That would have been weird...
Yes, June 12th is the Wife's birthday. And, every year, June 12th is the beginning of a stretch of 25 days in which I am giddy, no matter what life is throwing at me. Because, for the next 25 days, the Wife is a year older than I am. Yes, she turned the corner to the ripe old age of 3? on June 12th, and I don't turn 3? until July 7th, 25 long days later. And, being the nice guy and adoring husband that I am, I don't let her forget that for a single moment during those 25 days. Today is Day 13, the exact mid-point of the 25 days, so I only have 12 more days to gloat. Until next year on June 12th, when the cycle will begin anew. I can't wait.

Ah yes, isn't this a wonderful time of year?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The End of an Era

This is kind of a sad day for me. It's the end of an era. An important piece of my life is coming to an end, and it's making me a little emotional, even though I always knew this day would eventually come. I know that things are just things, and there's no reason to become emotionally attached to them, but in this case the thing in question is something I created, so it means more to me than it probably should.

See, the thing that is going away is a mural that I painted a little more than four years ago, before we had any of our chaotic kids running around, making life interesting. We were expecting our first, the Girl, to arrive at any moment, but at that point we weren't sure if she was going to come out with girl tiddly bits or boy tiddly bits. We had gone in for an ultrasound twice, but both times the Girl was too shy to show us the stuff, so we weren't sure. If we had known what we know now, we would have realized that if a fetus is too shy to let you see anything, she's probably a girl. But, we were too naive to know that then. So our house was filling up with all sorts of green and yellow baby clothes. You would have thought we were Green Bay Packer fans (I almost gagged while typing that!)

I had never lived with a baby before, and really knew nothing about them. I wanted to do something special for our soon-to-be baby since I was very unsure about my actual parenting skills, so I decided to resurrect my almost-defunct artistic skills, and paint a mural in his or her room. I had huge plans to paint the entire room, from corner to corner, with a fun montage of all the things I held near and dear: fishing, golfing, sports, and the great outdoors. It took me a while to finally dust off the old paintbrushes, so since the due date was getting closer and closer, I decided to keep my mural to just two of the walls in the room.

The first thing to do was sketch everything out. It took a couple of hours, but I got the whole design sketched out on two adjoining walls, and soon I was off to the races with my paintbrushes. A week later I finally got the first, and thankfully shortest, wall done. The due date was a few short days away now. I didn't want to get the second wall only partway finished before he/she arrived, and I definitely was not going to do any painting in that room once he/she arrived, because, even though I was not well-versed in parenting, I knew paint fumes are not good for a newborn. Also, by that point, I was completely tired of painting. So I called it quits, and made the Wife paint over my penciled sketches on the other wall. Hey, she's a much better wall painter than I am, so it was better that way. If you want to see a bunch of brushmarks on the ceiling, let me paint a wall. If you want a nice clean wall with no drips and no brushmarks on the ceiling, have the Wife do it.

So, my first, and probably only, mural was finished. It was a pond scene with lots of trout, a bunch of minnows, a fun duck, and even a crayfish. Oh, and a turtle and some snails, too. It was fun, I was pleased with it, and our new baby's crib was going to give him or her a bird's eye view of it all. And, in the four years since I painted it, all three of our little hooligans have slept next to it. It's been a fixture in our babies' lives.
No more fishies. Sadness prevails.

But, now we are selling that house, and everyone says it will probably sell better without the mural. The Wife is over at that house right now, covering up my masterpiece with some Dutch Boy paint that matches the other three walls in the room. I volunteered to stay here at our new house to put the kids to bed, only because I knew it would be too emotional for me to see my mural being painted over. I suppose whenever any artist paints a mural, they should probably think that some day it won't be there anymore. I knew that 4 years ago, but it doesn't make it any easier now.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Little Slice of Branson

I'm not sure how much you know about Branson, Missouri. Maybe you are a frequent visitor and know all the ins and outs of the town. Maybe you've never heard of Branson or Missouri. I don't know because you never write about it. You should start a blog so I can find out what you already know!

Since this is my blog, I will write about what I know. Branson is located deep in the Ozark mountains in southern Missouri. Sure, the Ozarks aren't "mountains" in the same regard as the Rocky Mountains are, but they are very beautiful, nonetheless. They reminded me a lot of the Black Hills in South Dakota. What, you've never heard of South Dakota, either?!? I will write about it later. For now, let's stick with Branson, shall we?

Branson is well known for all of the lavish shows you can see in town. It should also be known as a beautiful area with lots of outdoorsy things to do, but I'm not sure some people realize that. We camped at the beautiful, and surprisingly quiet, Table Rock State Park, about 5 miles from downtown Branson. The Park is located right on the shores of the huge Table Rock Lake, a man-made concoction that stretches for miles in several directions. There are countless things to do in the great outdoors in the Branson area.

Although the biggest attractions in Branson probably are the shows, I never thought I would actually go to one. But, last week, we joined the rest of the Wife's family in the Branson area to celebrate the in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary, and a lavish show, Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, was on the agenda. I guess, since there are a ton of horses, stagecoaches, ostrich races, and even a few bison thrown in, this show isn't quite as lavish as some others. But there was still a lot of singing, dancing, and flowing gowns, so I wasn't sure I would like it.
Photo courtesy of dixiestampede.com
Let me tell you, it was awesome! There was non-stop action, high-quality musical numbers, some comedy sprinkled in, and even a little bit of Old West history thrown in for good measure. Two of our kids (the Girl & the Boy) were completely enthralled with what was going on in front of them. The other one (the Baby) was not nearly as entertained, but in her own sinister way, she did keep Mommy and Daddy from being able to watch the entire show, since we were walking around with her to keep her quiet, so I'm sure she got some satisfaction from that.

The show was really good, but my favorite part of the evening was the food. Everyone in the arena got a huge meal, which consisted of, in order, a cheesy biscuit, a big bowl of cream of veggie soup, a whole roasted chicken (!), a slice of pork loin, corn on the cob, a half a potato, and a huge flaky apple turnover type thing for dessert. But guess what we didn't get - any utensils! Yup we got to eat all this food with our bare hands. It was awesome! The chicken was especially good, and I can attest to that because we brought the Girl's and Boy's chickens home for Daddy to eat. They made the entire trip back to Minnesota and were still delicious.

I'm not really in the business of critiquing restaurants, shows, or any other places of business, but if you are ever in the Branson area, I would definitely suggest you consider taking the kids to the Dixie Stampede. It's totally family-friendly, and I think everyone will enjoy it. And, if you don't finish your chicken, bring it home for me, please!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Keeping Our Sanity in the Great Outdoors

If there's one thing we've learned in the past 15 months, it's that the only way for any of us to keep our sanity is to put the Baby in a room by herself. Not all the time, just at night, when she's supposed to be sleeping. Although the thought of putting her in a room by herself the rest of the time has crossed my mind...

If I haven't made it clear in my previous posts, you should know that the Baby has been our most difficult baby to date, and it's not even close. I would say that she has been at least a billion or two times more difficult than either of our other two children, the Girl and the Boy. Sure, both the Girl and the Boy probably gave us some trying times, but the Baby surpassed them all within her first few weeks on God's green earth.

I don't mean to say that she is always terrible. Now that she is walking and trying to learn how to talk, she actually is quite pleasant most of the time. She still has her moments though, each and every day, in which she makes both the Wife and I want to run away and move to Canada. We would miss our other two kids too much, though, so, we usually turn around in Duluth and head back home.

For the first few months of her life, we had all 3 kids in the same bedroom. This proved to be a mistake, though, since the Baby's crying would often wake the other kids up at night. We quickly determined that one cranky child is better than three cranky children, so we solved that problem by moving the older two into another bedroom. Eventually the Baby learned to sleep through the night, but we have kept that scenario ever since. Nighttime in our household is actually quite blissful.

Last week, though, we went camping in the great outdoors. Things would be different. We usually all cram into one tent. The Baby wouldn't be in her comfy crib. Who knows how all this change would affect her. The Wife and I weren't real keen on having her in our tent where she could more easily bother us, and we could more easily bother her, which would then make her bother us. There was the possibility of much wailing and gnashing of teeth, from both the Baby and her Mommy and Daddy.

Our tent (the big blue one), and the Baby's tent (small yellow one). This set-up worked very well at keeping her from getting cranky, at least at night. The rest of the time was more of a toss-up.
We had to come up with a plan. So, before we left for the trip, the Wife and I put our heads together and came up with the brilliant idea of bringing along our much smaller two-man tent that I used in my former role as a bachelor. We could put the Baby in there, essentially giving her her own "room", just like at home. We put her in there whenever she was ready for bed, and zipped it up nice and tight until morning. It couldn't have worked out better! Now, we just need to figure out how to stop her from being cranky the rest of the day...

The Wonder of It All

The Wife is Wonder Woman. There is no other possible explanation for her amazing abilities in all facets of motherhood and wifedom. She is always able to make our chaotic family of five look incredibly normal, usually while I am off in the corner, totally overwhelmed and quivering. I am not entirely sure how she does it, but she does do it, time after time after time.

It happened again on Saturday. She took what very easily could have been a catastrophe of catastrophic proportions and made it seem almost mundane. "Ho hum," she seemed to say after all was said and done, while several onlookers were left aghast at what they had just witnessed.

It happened like this: We were several hours into our drive home from Branson, Missouri, where we had spent the past week celebrating several things: my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary; the Wife's 3?th birthday; and our family's week-long contest to see who could sweat the most in the oppressive heat (It was close, but in the end I think the Baby narrowly squeaked out a victory over yours truly.) We had finally made our way out of Missouri and into Iowa, a smallish state which nonetheless seems to take several years to drive through. Everyone in the van was having a good time. Mommy and Daddy were having some rare quiet time in the front seats. The Baby and the Boy were near the end of a couple of long naps. And the Girl, who had emerged from her nap a half an hour earlier, was silently and happily coloring in the back seat. It was as peaceful and idyllic as our family has ever been.

Then it happened. A noise that sounded like a liquid-filled cough erupted from the back seat. Then it happened again within a second or two. I looked in the rear-view mirror to see the terrible sight of the Girl hurling chunks all over the backseat and her now-awake brother. It looked bad. But, in a flash, the Wife had unbuckled her seatbelt and hurdled herself over the middle row of seats to take care of our poor oldest child. And she got back there just in the nick of time, as the Girl was about to blow another round of chunks. The Wife miraculously found an empty bowl sitting nearby and calmly used it to catch all of the "stuff". It could have been oh-so-much worse, but the Wife's nerves of steel and calm demeanor kept the awfulness to a minimum. I, unlike my beautiful bride, remained frozen in my seat, unable to help in any way. I guess that wasn't such a bad thing, though, since I was driving at the time.

I sped to the nearest gas station in record time, which, in the middle of Iowa, seemed like about 10 or 12 hours. The Girl was quickly feeling much better, we got the car and the Boy cleaned up, and we all marveled at the amazing performance the Wife had put on. It was truly something to behold, even though I hope I never have to behold it again. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Well, we made it back to Minnesota after our whirlwind trip through Kansas and Oklahoma. Not only was it a whirlwind because of all the driving we did, but also because high winds and tornadoes were all around us. We were never in danger, but apparently there was a small twister that touched down just about 20 miles from where we were at one point. We were in Bartlesville, OK, for the second half of our trip, and we just had high winds and lots and lots of rain there. Ponds that had been dry for several years were now overflowing. I think most people were pleased with all the moisture. I felt as though we were at least slightly responsible for the weather, since we have had a wet and dreary spring in Minnesota, and it just seemed as though we brought it with us to the parched south. You're welcome, Oklahoma!

Other than the weather, the trip revolved around our niece, Kayla, and her wedding to her extremely tall husband, Cameron. To be more precise, in my eyes, the wedding actually revolved around my two oldest kids, the Girl and the Boy, who performed flawlessly in their roles as Flower Girl and Ring Bearer, respectively. I didn't actually see much of the other parts of the wedding, as I was primarily watching my kids to make sure they didn't do anything in front of everyone that could potentially ruin the event, such as lift up their dress (the Girl), throw the ring pillow at one of the bridesmaids (the Boy), or set the church on fire with the unity candle (either of them).
The Flower Girl & the Ring Bear, along with all of the other cousins from the Wife's side of the family. I've heard it was a beautiful ceremony.

And I had to spend part of the ceremony walking around, trying to soothe the Baby, since she was especially restless and loud right as the pastor started to speak. So, in all actuality, I didn't really see any of the actual wedding stuff, like the exchanging of vows, putting rings on each other's fingers, or even the first kiss. I'm not entirely sure they actually got married. I better find out for sure so I know who to address their Christmas card to. Going from hot Oklahoma to cold Minnesota makes me think the holidays will be here quicker than we think.