Tuesday, December 30, 2014

We're Losing It, If We Ever Had It In the First Place...

I think the Wife and I are losing it. We aren't the hep cats we used to be. At least that's what it seems like lately. The fact that I just used the phrase "hep cat" is a sure sign. Losing it, and using old-time slang from well before I was born, is cause for some concern, if you ask me.

We've always known that most people who have children the ages of ours are quite a bit younger than we are. It only made sense. We got married late in life. We started having kids late in life. We get tired and achy from doing strenuous things like walking down the stairs and getting out of bed. We are quickly becoming aged, while we watch all of our friends going out and having fun. It's sad.

It probably doesn't help matters that we try to think of ourselves as younger than we are. We even keep going to things that are labeled for "Young Adults". Sure, age is all just a mindset, but sometimes there are people in these "Young Adult" gatherings that are young enough to be my child. That's a sobering thought!

One of the groups that we belong to is a small group of people from church that meets every other week. We have had a great time hanging out with these people for several years now, despite the fact that the Wife taught several of them in Sunday School when they were kids. One of the things our group has done for a long time is to have our own little "draft party" once a year or so. It's kind of like Fantasy Football, if you replaced all the football players with babies. That seems like a straight-up trade when you think about it... Yes, we go through all the young couples we know and "draft" the ones that we think will be having a baby the soonest. It's just for fun, no money has ever changed hands, and it's always been loads of fun for all of us, since we all apparently like to secretly speculate about the people we know.

What has made it doubly fun for the Wife and I is that often our predisposed propensity to procreate has helped us be the first overall draft pick, or at least somewhere in the first round. I think we even picked ourselves one year, when we had a little inside info that only we and God knew about. We are thankful that God didn't blow our cover before that draft. Thank You God!

Our little annual Fantasy Baby Draft has brought us all lots of smiles for several years. Until this year. Yup, it finally happened. Not only did the Wife and I not get picked with the Number 1 pick; and not only did we not get picked in the first round; we didn't get drafted at all! Not even by us! In one way this made me pretty happy, because I am definitely to the point where I definitely do not want any more babies in the house. Definitely! But it also makes me feel like we've lost it. We're past our prime. We're ready for the old folks home. Looks like I might never be a hep cat again...

It's kind of sad that I may never be a #1 draft pick again...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Christmas Letter, Blog-Style

I feel I need to admit something. I am a little weird. I know, I know, you're probably saying to yourself "Self, this can't be true! Scott is quite possibly the most normal person I know! He's not really weird at all, is he?!?!" Well, it's probably about time this news came out into the open. I'm just glad it was me who told you. Just think how devastating it might have been for you if some stranger told you out on the street.

Yes, I am a little weird, at least when it comes to writing Christmas letters. I am one of those rare people who actually enjoy doing it. I know, right? What a weirdo! Nobody enjoys writing Christmas letters, do they? Well, I do. And I've gotta believe there are at least a few other people in the world who are like me. Don'tcha think?

I enjoy everything about making a good Christmas letter. I like to sit down and think about the year that's ending. I like to write it out. I like to go back and re-read it, tweaking things and making it funnier and funnier (at least to me). I like to pick out photos of my kids to spruce it up a little. And I even like to do the layout, making it all look nice in its final arrangement. Signing all the cards that we put the letter into and addressing all the envelopes aren't quite as much fun, but even getting those things finished makes the whole job seem complete and worthwhile.

I got our Christmas cards done and out in the mail a couple of weeks ago, but for those of you who aren't on our mailing list, I thought I would make a blog version right here, you know, because I'm one of those people who assume everyone wants to read even more and more about my family. So, without further ado, here is our 2014 Christmas Letter Blog:

We started out 2014 with possibly the weirdest movie ever conceived of, Being John Malkovich. Read about the exciting way we rang in the New Year in my post, How To Ring In The New Year With a Plethora of Small Children.

In March I got some really fun news when I learned that this very blog shocked the entire blogosphere when it won the Bloggie Award for "Best Kept Secret Weblog". Looking back at all these old posts from throughout the year makes me wonder how it ever won. Perhaps all the judges were on crack...oh well, I'm not going to give back the award, even if the judges do have a drug problem. Read about the exciting news in my post titled The Secret is Out

Some of my most critically-acclaimed posts from this year were my wedding food reviews. It seems as though the thing I remember most about weddings is whether the food was good or not, so why not write about that most memorable of things? My first wedding food review was right after the wedding of my friends, Dan & Ashlee. I must not have offended them too much with my post, since I just checked facebook and both Dan & Ashlee are still on my Friends list. Read all about the fun evening, and the delicious food, in my post Wedding Food Review, Volume 1.

I am a lunatic when it comes to fishing, and I was even more lunatical when two of my three kids caught their first fish on the same day this summer. Read all about the lunacy in my post, The Lunker Hunters, from the end of May.

We took a family camping trip to Yellowstone National Park this summer. It was a very successful trip in the fact that none of us fell off any sheer cliffs or got eaten by bears. Or did we...? The only way to find out would be to read my account of the trip in my post Was That a Moose or a Marmot...?

The Wife and I both turned 40 this summer. The day it happened to me, and the day right before and right after, were noteworthy for various unfortunate reasons. I don't really want to relive it all, but if you would like to read about it, check out 40 = The New Blah.

I'm sure there were lots of other fascinating things that happened to us this year, but this blog is already way longer than our actual Christmas letter, so I will end it now, other than to say that you should go back and read all the other posts I wrote throughout the year to get all caught up. Who doesn't want to know every single minute detail about life in our house? Nobody, that's who!

Well, hearing that our actual letter is much shorter than this blog makes me think that many of you will want to get on our mailing list for next year. Feel free to email me your mailing address, and I will make it happen. Merry Christmas! See you next year!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Surly...or Superlatively Smart?

I may have mentioned this a time or two before, but the Little One was not always the cherubic little angel that she is now. No. In fact, for the first two years of her life, she was ornery, antagonistic, unruly, and every other adjective that might possibly be used to describe a baby who was a complete jerk. In fact, I wrote about how she was a jerk right here on this very blog when she was just a few months old. I don't remember exactly what she had done that made me write that, but I write nothing but the truth here, so obviously it was something heinous.

When she turned two, about 9 months ago now, a very small internal switch must have gotten flipped. She slowly started to not be such a jerk, although it occurred at the pace of an arthritic snail with severe gout. Nowadays she is quite pleasant most of the time, and in fact, if I can trust you to keep a secret, some days she's even what I would call my favorite. I know, right?

The whole time she was being a jerk the Wife and I wondered what the reason could have possibly been. We kept her fed. We kept her in clothes. Our house is completely full of toys. We even usually remembered to change her diaper. Why was she so surly?!?! At one point the Wife and I joked that maybe she was so angry because she was actually brilliant, but she had no way of communicating with anyone, so she continually got frustrated with life. Everyone had a good chuckle at that one, but now we've learned that might have been the case all along!

For reasons that I won't go into here, the Little One has been undergoing a litany of tests to test her cognitive and verbal skills. The cognitive tests came first, and on the first day of testing we were all astonished to hear that she was solving problems, comprehending things, and doing all the other cognitive things at the level of a 7-year-old!!! What?!?!  She's only 2-and-a-half, how could that be? Don't get me wrong, I was very excited to hear we have such a bright little girl...I'm just a little worried she's going to surpass her old man's brainpower sooner than I expected. Like next week, maybe!

Oh well, I guess we should all strive to have kids that are smarter than we are. Deep down inside, I hoped that would happen, some day. Like, when she was 35!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Midlife Crisis, Hanson-Style

I haven't written on the ol' blog for a while. I would like to say that it's because I've been out helping the poor and needy and carrying random little old ladies, and their four heaping bags of groceries, across streets all over the Twin Cities, but that's not the case. Instead, I think I've been going through a little mini midlife crisis, not that I think my life is at all crisis-like. On the contrary. My life is pretty much idyllic, when I stop and think about it. I have a super hot wife who puts up with me; I have three kids who don't wail and gnash their teeth more than a few times every day; I have two dogs who...well, let's just leave it at that; I have four walls and a roof over my head; I live in a very peaceful part of the metro area and all of our neighbors seem to be high-quality; and I am surrounded by gracious and loving people who help us out through all of life's ups and downs. What more could a dude ask for?

Yet, something has been missing. And I have been filling it with stuff. Not the normal stuff that is associated with midlife crises, though. There is not a shiny new sports car out in our driveway, and there's no chance I will ever try to trade in my current hot wife for a different hot wife. That would be crazy. Instead of lusting after all the "normal" midlife crisis stuff, I have been lusting over something even worse: fly rods. I know, I am sick. Tell me something I don't know.

What's weird is that I haven't even been lusting after shiny new fly rods, you know the super high-tech graphite ones that can cost well over $700. And I have no interest in the meticulously hand-crafted bamboo rods that can cost several thousands. No, instead, I have been spending hour after hour scrounging through the rod listings on ebay searching for 30-, 40-, and even 50-year-old fiberglass fly rods that probably cost less than $15 when they were new, and now range from $10-$50, depending on the shape they are in. I don't think I'm hooked up right...

A beautiful scene. Photo by Nathan Chapman
Yeah, I've been in a fiberglass fly rod frenzy lately, which is weird. The good thing is, despite the low prices, I haven't bought many. I mean, I don't have any time to fish, any way, so why am I lusting after all these old rods? I guess I just like to look, which, when I write it out like that, makes my problem seem even creepier than I realized.

At least I can admit that I have a problem. Now I can start the process of ending this midlife crisis and getting better, by asking for help. Or by asking for $25 so I can get that sweet little L.L. Bean rod I've had my eyes on...Hey, it's not like it's a new Corvette or anything!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Kids Say the Darnedest Things!

I think I may have come up with an idea for a killer TV show, if I do say so myself. Picture, if you can, a friendly older celebrity of some sort, wearing a warm and colorful sweater, a sweater which exudes comfort, contentment, happiness and humor. This celebrity might be a little cantankerous some of the time, somewhat curmudgeonly at other times, but for the most part he would have a heart of gold, and that would show through in each episode, as he sits down and has heart-to-heart conversations with a bunch of angelic-looking young children. He would ask the children questions that would seem quite straightforward to all of the adult viewers at home, but the children, being as naive as they are cherubic, would answer in a way that only small children can: oftentimes silly, sometimes poignant, but always heartfelt, and in a way that will tug at the heartstrings of viewers of all ages. I think I have a hit on my hands with this idea, what do you think? And the best part is that cherubic-looking kids are a dime a dozen. They're everywhere! Now I just have to figure out which grandfatherly celebrity I should have ask the questions...I wonder if Ozzy Osbourne is doing anything these days...
Ozzy looks right at home in this comfy sweater, don'tcha think? Photo illustration by Scott Hanson

I got the idea for this awesome show because our three wunderkinds, the Girl, the Boy, and the Little One, have been saying a lot of silly things lately. I really should start carrying around a video camera all of the time so I have visual proof of all the silly things they say. I could have a TV show right there! Instead, I am forced to use my memory, one of the least dependable things on the planet, to remember all of the silliness. Here are a couple that somehow remained in my gray matter:

The Little One is now 2-and-a-half or so, so this is really her first winter that she can remember. She was over at her Grandma & Grandpa W.'s house the other day, and just happened to look out the window towards the lake they live on, which is already iced over and covered with snow, even though we haven't celebrated Thanksgiving yet. Don't get me started on the misery that is a Minnesota winter...Any ways, the Little One looked out the window and got a flabbergasted look on her face. "The lake is gone!!" she exclaimed with horror. Thankfully Grandma was able to get her settled down quickly. Living in a frozen wasteland like this can be very traumatic to a toddler!

The Girl was the perpetrator of the other silly saying. She was getting one of her regular piggy-back rides from yours truly. Everything was going smoothly, and we were having a lot of fun. Until she glanced down the back of my shirt, that is. "Daddy, you are hairy all the way down to your feet!" she blurted out. Looking back at the situation, I don't remember asking her for her opinion on the matter. Oh well. I have been called a Sasquatch countless times by one of my so-called friends, so I guess I should embrace the truth. The worst part was that I didn't even know how to respond when the Girl said that. I bet Ozzy would have said something witty if he was there...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reverse Snowbird Syndrome

I have a lot of epiphanies when I am doing long, boring things that I don't enjoy. I guess it's because my mind starts to wander away from whatever it is I am doing, and moves on to other things. Actually, instead of wandering, it's more like my brain races away at the speed of light, or possibly 8-10 miles over the speed of light, which usually won't get you pulled over for speeding.

Any ways, my mind seems to have wandered off again as I was writing that last paragraph...what were we talking about again? Oh yes, long, boring things that I don't enjoy. In that category I would place listening to classical music, watching and/or playing soccer, mowing the lawn, and shoveling snow. I was doing the latter this morning when I had my most recent epiphany. I wouldn't call it one of the most profound epiphanies I have ever had, but then again, it wasn't a very heavy snowfall, so I wasn't shoveling for all that long...

Whilst shoveling the driveway, which I would soon leave in my vehicle for what would surely be an excruciatingly long commute on the snow-covered highways and byways of the greater Twin Cities Metropolitan area, I realized that most snowbirds have it all wrong. If you are unaware of the term "snowbird", it's the name we Minnesotans give to retired folks, or anyone, really, who leaves God's Country (Minnesota) for warmer climates (Florida and Arizona are the first to come to mind) in the fall, right before our weather turns from Eden-like to a frozen purgatory that lasts at least for the next 5 months (which seems more like 82 years).
This would be a perfect place to hunker down, if I was retired. Are you with me? Photo courtesy of sun-surfer.com.

But I think the whole "snowbird mindset" is backwards. Personally, instead of waiting until I am retired to move south and avoid the snow, I would rather move south now, while I am still working, so that my commute to work isn't 4 days, each way, like it was today in the snow. I wouldn't mind this kind of weather at all if I were retired. Retired people don't have to do anything if they don't want to, am I right? Winter weather like what we had today would be just another excuse to stay home and do whatever I want. And really, isn't that what retirement is all about? I can't wait.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why Don't You Make Like a Tree, and Leaf

The Wife and I have a love/hate relationship with our trees, a relationship which is tipped, for a large portion of the year, very much towards the "hate" side of the scale. Right now it might be more like loathing, or even abhorrence. Our trees are the worst!

To be honest, we only have three trees on our property, but the smallest of them is gigantic, and the others get bigger from there. They are all maples, so in the spring, as soon as the air temperature in Minnesota warms up from "ice age" to just slightly frigid, all three trees form these red bud-like things that stay on the branches for approximately four minutes, until they all fall off and completely cover our yard, driveway, and cars, turning everything into a squishy red mess.

More and more of these red things grow on the trees for a few weeks, and then about two hours after they have all fallen, the trees start to drop their helicopters all over the place. If we want to go anywhere outside of our house, we have to walk through a sticky hodgepodge of red goo and helicopters, which then gets tracked all over our house and in our cars and wherever we happen to have driven. We should each probably start traveling with our own personal dustbuster so we can clean up after ourselves, but we aren't that forward-thinking. Perhaps next year, although I probably will have forgotten this great idea by then.

From about August 8th to August 17th our trees give us nothing but pleasure. They are fully leafed out, they don't bombard us with helicopters or red goo, and they are so large that they pretty much keep our entire house shaded all day long, significantly reducing our air conditioning bills. Then the first hint of fall comes, and the big, stupid tree in the back yard starts to lose its leaves, a process which takes approximately 6 months to complete. Our backyard is covered in a fresh blanket of leaves pretty much every day for those 6 months, no matter how tirelessly we try to get them all picked up the day before.

The two red maples in the front take pity on us during this time, by holding onto almost all of their leaves until after the first snow falls. Isn't that nice of them? It is super fun to try to go out and pick up leaves while also trudging through ankle-deep snow drifts. Plus it's a great aerobic exercise. You should really try it some time.
This was one of our red maples last year, right after it snowed for the first time. It's one of the most evil trees on God's green earth...

So, to make a long story longer, we hate our trees. If any of you love raking leaves more than anything in the world, come over to our house any time between now and Christmas. Watch out for the red goo.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Don't Be So Grabby!


I have been trying to rack my brain lately, in hopes of remembering why I ever bought one of those Grabber thingies that you see on the "As Seen On TV" shelves at WalMart and Walgreens stores. I have owned one of them for a long time, but no matter how hard I try, I can't remember why I was ever moved to buy it in the first place. I guess that doesn't matter. What does matter is that it has become probably the most beloved tool in our house. Let me explain.
I love my Grabber thingy...
At our old house, we only used the Grabber thingy to pick up the trash that would collect along our edge of the pond every winter. The trash wouldn't reveal itself until all the snow had melted every spring, which was OK by us. Who wants to go out on a typical -40 degree day in a typical Minnesota January to pick up trash? Not me. So, once the snow would melt in mid-August, I would take my trusty Grabber out and pick up all the old, soggy newspapers, plastic bags, used diapers, and whatever else we would find washed up on our shore. The Grabber thingy and I really got that shoreline clean. Ahh, those are some good memories!

We currently don't live on a pond, but our Grabber thingy has come in even more handy than it did at our old house. Now, instead of boring old garbage, I use it to pick up all the mouse corpses, along with the handy-dandy reusable mouse traps that are clenched tightly around their tiny skulls, that have fallen behind either the washing machine or dryer. I have caught most of our mice up on a ledge in the laundry room, and when those plastic jaws of death snap down on their little vermin-heads, the force can make the whole thing go flying in any direction. I sure wouldn't want to climb behind the dryer and try to reach them with my bare hands! That would be gross! Thank you, Grabber thingy, for saving the day!

Another gross thing has a tendency to happen upstairs in any of our bathrooms, all of which came equipped with toilets. Sometimes, with three small children in the house, toilet lids can be left up, whether or not the person who left the lid up has remembered to flush said toilet. With the lid up, it is very easy for any number of small items, such as barrettes, steak knives, stuffed animals, toothbrushes, etc. to get dropped into the toilet, which as I said, may or may not have been flushed. Well, I definitely am not going to reach into a possibly unflushed toilet just to get a now-unusable toothbrush! So I go get my trusty Grabber thingy and we get the whatever-it-is-that-fell-in-the-toilet out together. I'm so glad I own a Grabber thingy...

So, this is my Public Service Announcement for today: if you are about to become a house- or baby-owner, go get yourself one of those Grabber thingies at your local retail establishment as soon as possible. At some point you will have a reason to use it, and you will be glad to know it's already in the house.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wedding Food Review, Tumbleweed Edition

Being a lifelong Midwesterner, I thought that tumbleweeds had gone the way of the dinosaur. I figured that us ingenious humans had probably found a way to eradicate tumbleweeds by now, making them a thing of the past that could only be found in old John Wayne movies. Or Wile E. Coyote cartoons. But no, tumbleweeds are still alive and well, and I learned that firsthand on our way back from my cousin Grahm's wedding in Colorado over the weekend. Who would have ever thunk it?

Yes, we saw, and drove over, billions of tumbleweeds blowing around in the vast wastelands known as eastern Colorado and western Nebraska. I saw a couple that were as big as elephants. One that was only hippopotamus-sized jumped out at us unexpectedly and got stuck on our front grill for a half hour or so as we drove down Highway 80, until an extra large gust of wind finally blew it off right into the windshield of a passing State Trooper. There are still some remnants of it stuck in various nooks and crannies of the van. I'm probably going to leave them there to see how long it takes for them to fall out on their own (actually I'm going to leave them there because I'm lazy, but don't tell anyone).

The tumbleweeds were but a minor nuisance though, since we were so excited about the wedding. Grahm is an awesome guy who spent several years being a fly fishing guide at a dude ranch in Colorado, so he is a man after my own heart. His courtship of his now-wife, Carrie, had been a whirlwind over the past few months, so we were excited to meet her and welcome her to the family. And I was excited to eat some delicious food, since we all know that will be the only thing about the wedding I will remember in a few years...

And, let me tell you, the food was delicious! Both at the Groom's dinner on Saturday and at the wedding on Sunday. Neither were catered, so all the accolades need to go to the families of the bride and groom. On Saturday we had some really yummy pulled pork sandwiches with various side dishes, and on Sunday they had, get this, a BACON BAR at the reception! As much as we could eat of four different types of bacon, all cooked to perfection. I usually am not a fan of sweet bacon, but even the maple cured bacon was delicious! I was accused, by a certain other cousin of mine, of being the reason they ran out of bacon. Um, what did they expect when they invited me? Hello?!?!

Oh yeah, there was other yummy stuff there too, like lots of different quiches, and biscuits and gravy, and loads of little pastries. The bacon bar was the thing that stood out to me, though. Oh yeah, and somebody got married. Who was that again...?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Thought I Knew How To Be Creepy...

I've been feeling pretty creepy lately. Not my normal, say-inappropriate-things-at-innappropriate-times kind of creepy, but a totally different kind of creepy. And I'm not talking about looking up everybody I meet on facebook to see what's going on in their life. That is being a "creeper", which is also something I do, but that's not what I'm writing about now.

The creepy I have been feeling lately is more of a pre-Halloween, try-to-freak-out-my-kids kind of creepy. Usually I'm not like this at all. I know I didn't want to be freaked out when I was a kid, and I usually am nice enough that I don't try to freak out our kids. But lately I haven't been able to control myself.

The creepiness has unfolded like this: I have been working diligently at cleaning out our garage, so that we might actually be able to fit a vehicle in there once the snow starts flying. Which, here in the frigid land known as Minnesota, could happen any second. So, I have spent several evenings and a couple of full days out in the garage cleaning up.

As I've been cleaning, I've come across a few boxes that never got unpacked when we first moved into the house. Nestled within a couple of boxes were some toys, toys that I'm sure our kids had totally forgotten about. So, I thought it would be fun to give them back to the kids. But, instead of just handing them to the kids, I decided to do it as creepily as I could think of. I waited until the kids were in bed, then I placed a toy at the bottom of the stairs, in front of the door that leads to the kids' playroom. That way, the toy would seem to be "waiting" for them the next morning when they went down to play.

I thought this was totally creepy, and very funny, but my kids didn't seem to be too impressed. Or freaked out. The first morning, the Boy just brought the toy upstairs, asked me where it came from, and then told me he didn't want to play with it. This morning, when I placed a Cabbage Patch doll down there, there was no reaction from any of the kids.

Maybe I'm not as creepy as I thought I was. Maybe it's time to go back to saying inappropriate things. I know I'm good at that...
The Cabbage Patch doll, waiting for the kids to come downstairs. Isn't that at least a little creepy? I thought so...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Something to Celebrate........?

Courtesy of Warner Bros.
This is the 300th post in the history of Chaotic Kids & Clutter. When I sit down and think about it, it makes me wonder how there could have ever been 300 things in my life that were worth writing about. When I think that thought, I then move on to wonder if maybe there were some things I probably shouldn't have written about. But, I'm not one to brood over negative concepts like that, so instead let's celebrate my compulsion to write, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. Celebrating is more fun than brooding, I always say.

To get ready for the celebration, we went through every single post we've ever written, looking for the best ten. Our first task was to discard all the fluff and piffle, but then we realized that's all there was. So we dug all the fluff and piffle out of the dumpster, and went through it all to find the fluffiest and piffliest, if that's a word. Here, in absolutely no order, are the top ten posts in the history of Chaotic Kids & Clutter, as judged by me, the person who wrote it all, although you could argue that other posts should have been included instead...Oh well:
  • Anatomically Correct, October 22, 2012 - This post dealt with the delicate situation that arose when the Boy and I were discussing his, um, tiddly bits...It was more than a little awkward.
  • This Post is Icky, March 8, 2013 - The Little One was still the Baby at this time, and she did something in the bathroom that is almost unspeakable. That doesn't mean I didn't want to write about it, though...
  • Hold On To Your Tire Covers, July 15, 2014 - This was a very popular post I wrote about our summer vacation in our brand new very used pop-up camper...
  • Inside a Baby's Head, November 15, 2012 - I may not be a Dr., but I have a good idea on how things work...
  • T.M.I., March 1, 2013 - Believe me, this post really is T.M.I...
  • My Son, the Cow, September 10, 2012 - This is an oldie but a goodie. Thankfully the Boy doesn't still think he's a cow. He's more like a mule now...
  • The Lunker Hunters, May 30-2014 - I just realized I write a lot about fishing. No wonder this blog is so awesome!
That's it, those are the Top Ten posts, as far as this blogger is concerned, as of right now. Perhaps you have other favorites; I would love for you to go back and read through them all, and then let me know which ones you like. Oh, and tell all your friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and mortal enemies to do the same. We can use all the readers we can get. :-)

Thanks for humoring me by reading my silly posts. I invite you to stick around for the next 300! Thanks again!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

An Update on "Kissing Bob"

Last week I wrote about how my dear, sweet, innocent kindergartener, the Girl, was kissed (I believe I used the term defiled, which is probably more accurate) by a conniving, tricky, up-to-no-good boy, whom I called "Bob" (not his real name). I thought I should post an update so everyone can know what's going on with this situation.

I had plans to go and have words with this Bob, and possibly rough him up a little, you know, not in a violent way. Maybe I would steal his favorite Legos, or smush his sandwich before lunch, or something like that, just to let him know that I mean business, and to make him think twice about kissing my daughter again any time soon.

Turns out I didn't have to do anything that drastic. Bob got moved to a different Kindergarten class. I assumed it was because he heard I was gonna come "have words" with him and he begged school officials to let him switch classes. The Wife thinks that he just got switched because the school added another class to ease the overcrowding in the other classes, and every class had to give up a few kids. That sounds pretty fishy if you ask me.

I'm thinking that if Bob knows what's good for him, he'll warn all the other conniving boys who are up to something to stay away from the Girl. If you have a kindergarten-aged boy, I would suggest you do the same...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New House Rules

Things have gotten a bit unruly around our house lately, so I think the only way to combat it is to install a new
house rule. I probably should have instituted this rule even before the Wife and I got married, oh so many years ago. But, there's no sense crying over spilled milk, or anything else that might happen to get spilled during a normal day at our house.

Yes, it's about time for this burly manly man to put his foot down. I don't want my new rule to hinder anyone's creative juices, and I certainly don't want to cramp anyone's personal style, even though I kind of doubt that a 2-, 4-, and 5-year-old actually have their own personal styles yet. They pretty much just do what we tell them or they get a timeout. But that's beside the point...

My new rule will be fair to everyone, and will help to instill a sense of order, harmony, and all-around calm that has been lacking for what seems like several years now. I think many of you will deem my new rule to be ingeniously simple, and you may want to adopt it for your own household. I am cool with that, as long as you refer to it as "Scott's Rule" (Copyright pending) whenever you use it.

I think it's about time to unveil my new rule. Are you ready to be amazed? Are you ready to have your life transformed? Are you ready for order, harmony and calm to take over your house? Me too! So here is Scott's New House Rule:

Everyone in the house has the ability to purchase any fly rod they want, at any time, as long as it costs under $30*. Doesn't that sound like a great rule? And it applies to everyone, so it's as fair as fair can be. Just think, I anyone can continue to expand my their fly rod collection, slowly but surely. Believe me, it's hard to find good fly rods for under $30, so it's not like you would be spending a huge amount of money ever. Plus, I a person can never own enough fly rods - just ask anyone who fly fishes. It's a perfect rule! Why didn't I think of this sooner?!?!

As soon as I implement this new rule, I expect the chaos in our house to dwindle. I will let you know how it goes when I do. Look for my report in a future blog post after all the kids finish college or I win the lottery, whichever happens first...

* Not including tax or shipping charges.

Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm Not Ready For This

I really am not ready for this. My kids are growing up too fast. I want them to be my happy-go-lucky, innocent, sometimes-angelic kids forever. Now I know that's not going to happen...

I have oftentimes kidded with the Wife about how I won't let our two girls, the Girl and the Little One, start dating until they are 30. The Wife usually gives me a polite giggle, but to be honest, I am only half kidding. I know how boys are. I was a boy once, and still act like one often. Boys are, generally speaking, up to something. And I don't want that something to include my sweet little girls.

I seem to have a lot of work to do, though. I realized that last Wednesday. It was my day to be home when the Girl got home from school. She cheerfully got off the bus and ran into my arms to give me a big ol' hug, like she has done a billion times over the past five years. We went inside to drop off her backpack, then quickly went out and got in the car so I could take her to her Grandma & Grandpa's house, where her siblings were already waiting. After dropping her off I was going to head out of town for a couple of days with some friends from church.

I wanted to find out how the Girl's day at kindergarten had been, so I asked a bunch of the normal questions during the short drive to Grandma's house: Who did she sit by on the bus? How was her teacher, Mr. B.? Did she eat her lunch? And so on...

After that I asked if she had played with some of the friends she had told me about in previous conversations...Ethel; Laurie; Kevin. She answered yes to all of them. Then, without any prodding, and without any warning, she matter-of-factly blurted out "I kissed Bob and Bob kissed me." WHAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!?!? I was not ready for that news. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My sweet, little, innocent princess had already been defiled by some......boy?!?!?!?! Just two weeks into kindergarten?!?!?!

It took me a while to compose myself after that one, but finally I was able to mumble out a "Oh, that's nice. Where did you kiss him?"

"In school", she replied, as innocently as could be.

"No, I mean did you kiss him on the..."

"He kissed me on the cheek, and I kissed him on the cheek."

"Oh, OK..." I didn't know what else to say. Thankfully we arrived at Grandma's house, so I shooed her inside and then made my way to meet my friends. I don't really remember the trip out of town. I must have been too worked up to notice anything.

I am definitely not ready for my little girl to grow up. But it looks like I better get myself ready. Apparently there are a lot of five-year-old boys out there that are up to something...
I was not there to see the kiss, so this is an artist's rendering of it. It's probably best that I wasn't there, because I might have smacked that kid...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Kids Put the "Clutter" in Chaotic Kids & Clutter

We are trying to figure out how to teach the kids to clean up their toys each night. As you can tell, we have no clue. I was thinking about putting all the toys that didn't get put back on the toy shelf in a bag and not giving them back until the kids can prove they can clean up better. But then they wouldn't have any toys to play with tomorrow... At least this mess is downstairs, behind a closed door, where I can ignore it. I think I will do just that!

The Art of Gluttony

I like to eat. Eating is awesome. There's no other way that I can think of to accurately describe it, so I will stop there.

One of the things I love to eat is seafood. Especially shrimp. Especially shrimp scampi. I love it. So, whenever Red Lobster has their bi-annual Endless Shrimp promotion, the family makes a point of heading over there at least once to endlessly eat as much shrimp as we can. Usually Grandma D pays, which makes the endless eating even that much more fun. Thanks Grandma D!

Over the years, I have made an art out of eating as much shrimp I can. Really I only do it so that Grandma D gets her money's worth. I'm always thinking of others, as you have probably noticed from previous posts. There are several things I do to ensure a good return on her investment. First of all, I try not to eat as much before our trip to Red Lobster as I would on a normal day. A couple of times I made the mistake of not eating at all for several hours before the shrimp fest, but I quickly learned that doesn't work because my stomach shrunk and I didn't have as much room for shrimp. I gotta eat beforehand, just not as much as usual.

Secondly, I make sure that I always put in my next order of shrimp when they bring a plate out to me. Sitting around, waiting for shrimp to arrive just allows your stomach time to feel full. If you keep shoveling those bad boys in without taking a break, you can get more in there before your stomach has a chance to react.

Thirdly, don't fill up on non-shrimp calories. Sure, the cheesy biscuits are delicious, but would you rather eat one biscuit or 10 extra shrimp? I would choose the shrimp every time. Same goes with french fries or whatever side order I have chosen. As soon as my plate arrives, I take the side order off the plate and give it to the Wife or any other random unsuspecting person within 15 feet of me. I am there to eat shrimp, and shrimp is what I will eat.

All of these rules have made me an Olympic-caliber shrimp eater, if I do say so myself. My record is eating 10 plates of shrimp, which I estimated to be around 200 of the little buggers. I have done that twice in my life. Both times I had some considerable gastrointestinal unease afterwards, but it was totally worth it. Last night I was only able to eat 8-and-a-half plates, which was a little disappointing, but at least I felt fine all night. Kind of makes me think I should have kept eating...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Middle Child Day

Middle Child Day is a real thing. It's actually on August 12th, and today is September 12th, but middle children always get the shaft anyway, so let's celebrate it a month late, shall we?

Here at Chaotic Kids & Clutter, we celebrated Middle Child Day by finally remembering to take a photo of our middle child, the Boy, before he left for preschool this morning, on his third day of school...Yes, we know that we were supposed to take the photo before his first day of school, but we forgot. I would like to make some elaborate excuse about why we forgot, like that when we stepped out on our stoop to take the photo on Monday, a rabid wolverine jumped out of the bushes and chased us to our minivan, so we just drove to school instead of taking the photo. But somebody would poke holes in that story because we dug all the bushes out of our front yard a few months ago. So, I will just admit that we forgot.

I was going to take the photo on Wednesday before we took him to his second day of school, but I forgot then too. I would have forgotten this morning, as well, but my beautiful and brilliant wife, the Wife, reminded me right before I was about to leave. So, we finally have a photo of the Boy on his third day of preschool this year. Happy Middle Child Day, son! I'm sure it won't be the last important thing we forget...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Regrets, I've Had a Few...

Life is filled with ups and downs. You probably didn't expect such a deep statement to start this particular blog post, since I usually write about poopy diapers and other "joys" of parenthood. I can't always write about silly things like diapers, though. Sometimes I can be pretty philosophical, like when I came up with today's opening line. Yes, life is filled with ups and downs, and there's no getting around that.

Lately I've let myself get a little down because I've been thinking about some of the regrets I've accumulated in my 40 years on God's green earth. I have a few big regrets and a ton of medium and small-sized regrets. The regrets that have been bothering me the most lately all fall into the same category: the regrets of things sold.

It seems like every time I turn around lately, I get reminded of something I used to have, but for one reason or another I decided to sell. Sure, at the time I always thought the small monetary gain was more important than the object sold, but over and over again I start to yearn for whatever the sold object was, making me more and more mad at myself for ever parting with it in the first place.

This happens all the time with music. I'll hear an old song on the radio, a song I haven't heard in years, and I'll remember back to the time when, not only did I own that song, I owned the entire CD it was on, and I could listen to it whenever I wanted to.There's even a certain hard rock/heavy metal CD that I've owned twice, but both times I took it to my local Half Price Book store and sold it for pennies on the dollar, so I can't listen to it, ever. Have I mentioned how I am not good at making fiscal decisions?

Two of my biggest regrets center around my love of fly fishing. I will let you in on a little fly fishing secret: people who fly fish can never own enough rods. There's always a reason to get a new rod, like a different kind of fish to try and catch, or a bigger body of water that requires a longer cast. Or you're bored and you enjoy having large credit card bills... Fly fishers can justify pretty much any reason to get a new rod, and I am no different.

This hilariously combines several of my regrets, if I do say so myself.
At one point, when I was single, I owned 13 fly rods. And I'm not ashamed of that fact. Along the way, though, I came to the faulty conclusion that I needed a quick infusion of cash in my wallet, so I decided to sell my beloved 7-foot-long 5 weight Orvis Superfine Small Stream Special rod, which was the only one like it I had ever seen. I also sold my Hardy Flyweight reel that I special ordered from a fly shop in Canada. Sure, neither of these two items were my go-to rod or reel, but they were really cool, and they would have been awesome things to have, and might have even turned into heirlooms down the road. Not to mention that they would have done nothing but appreciate in value. But no. I had to go and sell them. Now whenever I open up my reel bag or look at my other fly rods leaning in the corner or want to bang my head with some heavy metal for a few minutes, I think about the cool things that used to fill the voids. Having regrets is the worst, isn't it?

Monday, September 8, 2014

World's Best Football Picks

Those professional bookies out in Las Vegas have nothing on me. I am one of the top sports prognosticators in the world, whether anybody else realizes it or not. And, I am a very charitable prognosticator, so I am about to give you, free of charge, for a limited time only, my picks for this year's NFL playoff teams. You can do whatever you would like to with this information, but my suggestion would be to go to your bank, take out all your money, fly to Las Vegas, and lay down bets on any and all of these teams. Yes, my prognosticating skills are that good. Of course, myself and Chaotic Kids & Clutter can not be held liable for any losses you may incur. Just thought I better throw that in for fun.

So, here are my 100% non-guaranteed World's Best Football Picks. See how they compare to yours:

NFC North Champ: My beloved Purple & Gold, the Minnesota Vikings. Barooop, baroooop!

NFC West Champ: Seahawks
NFC East Champ: Giants (although every team in this division is going to be awful. I think the Giants will be the least awful.)
NFC South Champ: Falcons
NFC wild card team: 49ers
NFC wild card team: Saints

AFC North Champ: Bengals
AFC West Champ: Broncos
AFC East Champ: Patriots
AFC South Champ: Colts
AFC wild card team: Chargers
AFC wild card team: Jaguars

Yes, I picked the Jaguars, Falcons and Vikings, three of last year's worst teams, to make the playoffs this year. Am I insane? Perhaps. But didn't we all already know that when I agreed to give you my World's Best Football Picks for free? Be sure and let me know if you win millions of dollars in Las Vegas by betting on my teams. I expect to hear that good news from all of you!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Big Day in Blogville

Yup, it was a big day around here today. Our firstborn, the Girl, got on the small yellow bus this morning on her way to her first day of kindergarten. It was monumental, and none of us were quite sure we were ready for it. One thing I was sure of was that I was going to ball my eyes out, you know, because I do things like that. And I was sure that the Wife was going to be as steady as a rock. I had no idea how the Girl was going to react, which made the whole morning that much more tense, at least for me.
Here comes the bus to take my little girl away forever...not that I'm overly dramatic about it or anything...

Turns out, I had things all wrong. The Girl, although seeming a little scared, got right on the bus without any hesitation. She would have walked right back to her seat if we hadn't told her to look at us for the 4 billionth photo of the morning. I was too busy filming the whole thing with my camera to get emotional, which might be the biggest surprise in the history of mankind. Except, that is, for the fact that the Wife got a little teary-eyed as the bus pulled away. I know, I can't believe it either!

Another thing happened when that bus pulled away. Apparently the Boy and the Little One thought that without their bossy older sister around, the house had turned into a lawless abyss, where they could do anything and act as mean as they wanted. The Wife told tales of timeout after timeout after timeout. It almost made her wish the Girl was still at home to bring some bossy order to things. It made me glad I had gone into work. Sure was a weird day...

The End of a Beautiful Relationship

Well, it's over. It's been 9 great years, but it's finally come to an end. Sure, there were probably some things I could have done differently, but there's nothing I can do about it now. The time has come to say goodbye, and move on to a new chapter in life. It's sad, but we'll all be better off...

I'm talking, of course, about our split from the greatest camp chair in the history of the Known Universe, the "loveseat" camp chair we got for a wedding present from our good friends Mike and Deb so many years ago. It was the wedding present we used the most, and it started more conversations than all the others put together. People had never seen such a camp chair, and we loved using it every chance we got. I might even say that it helped the Wife and me get through some ups and downs along the way, since it forced us to sit so close, no matter how mad she was at me. That was a good chair.

But, now it's gone. It started to fall apart earlier this summer, and through all of our camping trips this year it's just gotten worse and worse. The canvas was ripping. The poles were coming apart. Things were poking us that never used to. Finally, yesterday, after our last camping trip of the summer, we decided to put an end to it all, and we kicked it to the curb, so to speak. Actually we just threw it in the dumpster at the State Park we had been staying at. Now it's time to move on, and try to find another camp chair to join our family. It's funny how quickly we humans can move on, isn't it? I've already started looking at camp chair matchmaking websites, like Amazon and REI.com. "Love is fickle and fleeting", they always say. I guess that's true...
This was our beloved "love seat" camp chair, right before we ended the relationship for good. Notice the poles sticking up through the canvas. They aren't supposed to do that. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Oddball Central: Our Annual Trip to the State Fair

Yesterday we got to spend the entire day with about 100,000 of our closest strangers, only most of whom had odd, undefinable odors about them. Yes, that's right, we went to the Minnesota State Fair! Known as the "Great Minnesota Get-Together", it's the place where all sorts of life's oddballs come out of the woodwork and make their one yearly appearance in my life. Or maybe I'm making my one yearly appearance in their life...hmmm.... Something to think about...

Going to the State Fair is always fun, in an odd, ritualistic, nostalgic kind of way. I've been going there since I was a kid, as most native Minnesotans do, and, for some reason, I always look forward to going back, despite the fact that I don't enjoy several aspects of it.

I'm not a big fan of being surrounded by a billion people, just because all those people make it difficult to get around. Wherever I look, there's another person, most of whom are walking right where I want to be walking, only not as quickly as I would like to be. So, there's a lot of bumping in to people, tripping over people, and running head-first into people, which really isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Another thing about the State Fair is that it's almost always hot. Late August in Minnesota can be sweltering and humid, not unlike Africa, and yesterday was no exception. Actually, it wasn't all that bad yesterday with a high of somewhere in the low 80s, but it was really bright, and I forgot to wear a hat, so my forehead got burnt to a crisp. I thought about buying a hat once we were on the Fairgrounds, but the cheapest one I found was $20, and I am far too frugal to spend that much money on a hat when I could use it to buy my kids a handful of mini doughnuts.

This is what happens when I fail to wear a hat to the Fair on the brightest day of the year...
Speaking of food, we have a habit of only buying the food that comes with a corresponding coupon in the annual State Fair Coupon Book. All the food at the Fair is overpriced, but if there's a coupon for it, it's slightly less overpriced than all the other food. Thankfully there was a coupon for a food I had recently heard good things about on the radio, Ollie's Crab Fritters, so I took the opportunity to try them out. Going in, I only had experience with fritters of the apple variety, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But I love crab, so I took the plunge. These fritters looked more like hush puppies that had been stuffed full of flaked crab meat. I don't know if it was the actual fritters that tasted so good, or the creamy red dipping sauce that came with them, but the combination was super yummy. I would highly recommend you try them out if you're going to the Fair in the next few days, or, if you don't like crab, buy some and bring them to me. And, tell all the oddballs I say "Hi".

Monday, August 25, 2014

An Uneasy Weekend...

It was a gross weekend around the ol' Hanson household, I tell you what. Actually, it was only gross for me. Everyone else was fine, but your friendly neighborhood blogmaster was suffering from a monumental case of gastrointestinal unease that I won't describe further, for fear of getting the FCC's censors up in arms. The internet is a nice, clean place, and I don't want to go around muddying things up with a lot of potty talk.

So, I will just leave it at that. Other than to say that it wasn't really even the whole weekend which was affected by the gastrointestinal unease - it was pretty much contained in Saturday, with a little spillage over into Sunday, but not much. I awoke with the unease at about 5:30 on Saturday morning, and it pretty much kept me company the rest of the day. All I can say is that whoever it was who designed our house back in 1964, I would like to thank him or her for having such forethought. He or she obviously took this past Saturday into account when they added that third bathroom about 3 feet from my side of the bed. What a genius!

Aside from my proximity to the bathroom, the day was made much more bearable by my keen ability to sleep when sick. Even after having a full night's sleep, for the next 11 hours or so I only ventured from my bed for the hourly trips to said bathroom, and when each trip was done, I crawled right back into bed and fell right back asleep. This went on until 5PM, when I decided I should probably do some kind of physical activity, so I moved out onto the sofa so I could watch some golf. That was as much physicality as I could muster. When I realized that televised golf was done for the day, I turned the TV off and went back to sleep.

At the end of the day, I figure I slept for about 21 hours on Saturday, which might be a new record for me, at least in the time since I've been out of diapers. Speaking of diapers, I would make a joke about wishing I was in diapers on Saturday, but, you know, the FCC might be watching, so never mind.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Get Out of My Head

From what people often tell me, I don't think my brain works the same as most, and I'm OK with that. "I ain't hooked up right", I often tell people, secretly more proud of that fact than I let on. It's fun to be abnormal. Who wants to be normal, any way?

I bring this up because I always have a song or several stuck in my head, and I wonder if that problem afflicts other people like it does me. I like a wide range of music, so you never know which song might be stuck in there. The past few days I have had a couple of songs that couldn't be more different from each other stuck in there: Never Let Me Go, a hard rock/crunk rock song by Family Force 5, and Crunchy Granola Suite, a high-voltage pop tune from the 1970s by that era's hairiest of superstars, Neil Diamond. My brain has the uncanny ability to switch from song to song on a dime, sometimes in the middle of a verse. I might be dancing one second and banging my head the next. It's pretty cool...
It's hard to imagine a dude that's even hairier than me, but I think I found one...
Lately I've had a lot of Family Force 5 songs in my head. They have a lot of catchy tunes, like Wobble, Dance or Die, BZRK, and others. I have a tendency to go through musical phases. Before Family Force 5 I was into 70s heavy metal, and had songs like Judas Priest's Diamonds and Rust and UFO's Oh My and Rock Bottom in my head. Before that I was in a disco mood and had Shame, Shame, Shame by Shirley and Company stuck in the ol' noggin for a while.

One time I had Shadows of the Night by Pat Benatar stuck in my head for, literally, a year and a half. I'm not sure what I did to get it out of there, but I sure am glad it is. It's a good song, but it's not a year-and-a-half-good song. Another song that overstayed its welcome was Can't Get You Out Of My Head, by Kylie Minogue, which is completely true to its namesake. Despite its awesome beat and catchy tune, that song might be pure evil...

Usually the songs are ones I like, but sometimes a song I really can't stand creeps in and takes refuge. At one point I theorized that, if a song gets stuck in your head, perhaps it's a sign that, deep down, you really do kind of like it, even if, on the outside, you think you don't. But then a couple months ago the Chicken Dance Song got stuck in my head for most of a day, so that blew big holes in that theory. When I look back on that day, it's a wonder that I survived the ordeal at all...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ode to a Doggie

When I married the Wife a little over 9 years ago now, I didn't just get the Wife. I also got the Three Sisters-In-Law, the Father-In-Law, the Mother-In-Law, the Four Nephews, the Three Nieces, lots of Cousins, Aunts and Uncles, a couple of Grandmas and Brothers-In-Law, and a Dog-In-Law named Max.

Max was the tiny chihuahua that belonged to the one Sister-In-Law who lived here in Minnesota. As you may know, whether you are a dog connoisseur or not, all chihuahuas are small, but Max was even smaller than most - he was the runt of his litter, and possibly the smallest full-grown dog in the history of the world. OK, that might be exaggerating a little, but he was small - only about 4 lbs at his prime.

Despite his lack of size, Max was a fine dog. Oh sure, just like every other dog he had his pros and cons. Sometimes he would bark a little too much. Sometimes, when we were dog-sitting him, he would get nervous and leave a trail of pee as he walked through the house. But no dog is perfect. He was about as loyal of a pet to the Sister-In-Law as I have ever seen. He loved her and would have followed her to the moon and back if she had cared to go there. They were quite the pair.

As I mentioned, Max was already part of the Wife's family when I came into the picture, oh so many years ago. In the past few years, he's had a lot of physical ailments. These ailments finally got the best of him, and the Sister-In-Law made the heart-wrenching decision to have him put down last week. He was almost 14 years old. It's never easy to lose a pet, and, although Max wasn't my dog, he was still a part of the family, and we were all saddened by his loss. Goodbye, Max, you were a good little doggie. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Cure for Toads

I haven't written about this here on the ol' blog, but if you and I are facebook friends, and let's face it, there's no reason why we shouldn't be, you may have read some of my posts ranting about the presence of toads in our backyard. Our old house was perched precariously above a pond, so that yard was home to a great number of different pond creatures, including turtles, ducks, egrets, and about a billion little brown toads. It was just something we had to live with. Most of the time we were happy to see all the different life forms lurking about in our yard, but the toads did get a little annoying, especially when I was mowing.

I don't know if you realize this, but whilst mowing, it can be extremely difficult to see a multitude of nickel-sized toads hopping about amongst the grass. I quickly had to come to grips with the fact that every time I mowed, at least from about the beginning of June through September, I probably was going to murder my fair share of toads with the lawn mower. It was not something I enjoyed, being the eco-friendly dude that I am, but I did come to grips with it.

Fast forward to this year, a few weeks ago at our new(ish) house. I was mowing the backyard, which is not perched precariously above a pond, or even within a couple hundred yards of a pond, yet I started to notice little nickel-sized brown things hopping out of the way of the mower. Lo and behold, for some reason unknown to man, this yard has millions of little toads in it, too. Not sure why they are there, but I do know that it still isn't much fun to murder them with the lawn mower.
I may be a tough guy, but even I don't like to murder sweet, little toads. Look at how cute he is...

I have racked my brain trying to figure out how to get rid of the little brown buggers, but I think I may have stumbled into the perfect solution. The Girl had one of her friends over for a play date last week, and part of their time was spent out in the backyard, playing on the swings, AND finding toads... This aforementioned friend could not wait to take one of them home with her to scare, I mean show, her mom. Eureka! All we have to do is have each of our three kids invite each and every one of their friends over, and make sure they all take at least one toad home with them. Let's see, if they each invite all their friends over, and they take at least one toad home with them, and we have approximately a million toads in our yard....carry the one... Hmmm, I think they better invite their acquaintances and enemies, too, just to be safe. And every kid we see for the next several years. Soon our yard will be toad-free. This seems guaranteed to work, if I do say so myself.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wedding Food Review, Vol. 3

I may have recently become an official "old dog" when I turned 40 years of age, but apparently I can still learn new tricks. I learned a lot this past weekend, as the Wife and I made our way south to the rolling hills west of Madison, Wisconsin, for the wedding of our friends, Bridget and Ted.

First of all, on the way down there, I learned that Wisconsinites really love the speed limit, even though the speed limit in Wisconsin is lower than any other place on earth. And, it doesn't seem to matter which lane these Wisconsin drivers are in - they go the same speed whether they are in the right or left lane. Normally, this would have driven me insane, because I am a believer that the left lane is for passing, which is the truth, but all the slow drivers probably helped me to not get pulled over for speeding, because we saw no less than a dozen cop cars during the 4 hour trip. Cops were everywhere. If those annoyingly slow drivers weren't in front of me the whole time, I probably would have gotten pulled over multiple times. Thanks slow Wisconsinites!

Secondly, I learned that, if you want to take the scenic way home to God's Country (Minnesota) from southwestern Wisconsin, cutting through northeastern Iowa is not the way to do it. I have spent some time in NE Iowa, and there are a lot of really nice, scenic places there, but apparently you can't see any of them from the main highways. All we saw were miles and miles of cornfields. Plus, it took an hour longer than if we had come back the same way we went down, via Hwy 94 through Wisconsin. At least we didn't see as many police.

Thirdly, I learned that, if you really want to enjoy a wedding, leave your three small children at home. I actually had already suspected that before this trip, but it's now been cemented in my brain. The Wife and I did happen to leave our three small children at home, and we had a great time. We were able to pay attention to the ceremony; we were able to talk to people without being interrupted by screaming toddlers; we were able to eat without having to deal with fussy eaters (actually I'm pretty good at ignoring our fussy eaters all the time. When there's food in front of me, the rest of the world tends to disappear); and we were able to stay out past 8 PM, which is good, because that's when the reception was just getting going.

Bridget and Ted got married in a quaint little church in the quaint, little town of Barneveld (don't worry, I didn't know where it was either). The reception was in the next town over, the relative-metropolis of Dodgeville, at a bar/restaurant named Barn 23. The name "Barn 23" might not instill much confidence in you, but you should know by now that you should never judge a book by its cover. Barn 23 is a great place for a reception or other big party.

This is what I pictured when I heard the reception was going to be at Barn 23.
And the food was really good. They had two separate hors d'oeurve buffets set up, with everything you could want, in convenient snack sizes. The chicken wings were my favorites, but they also had little weenies, meatballs, mini quesadillas, veggies and dip, a cheese and meat tray, chips and dip, and little pinwheel or roll-up thingies that I heard were delicious. There probably was other stuff that I am now forgetting. It was all so good, I went up for seconds and thirds, and maybe even fourths, but that's only because the plates were so small.

Overall, the food, and the entire wedding was outstanding. You probably will never get married in southwestern Wisconsin, but if, for some reason, you do, make sure you check out Barn 23 in Dodgeville for a possible reception location. Or, just stop by for dinner if you're ever in town.  

Thanks for the invite, Bridget and Ted! Congrats!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Joys of Being a Blob

Last night was wonderful. I didn't do anything. Well, I didn't do anything once I got home from my Finance Committee meeting at church, that is. Although I did stop at the grocery store on the way home. I guess that's doing something. And then I did gather up and take out the garbage when I got home, too. That's kind of doing something. After that, though, I pretty much just sat around, being a complete blob on the sofa. It was blissful! And a little strange...
In the post I called myself a blob. This photo is probably a more accurate depiction...
It was strange because, for the past few months, we have gotten used to not being blobs on the sofa. We have been renovating our basement for the past year and change, but we really kicked ourselves into overdrive over the past several weeks. We set a date that we wanted to be done by, so we have been working hard every night trying to make it happen. We had a lot of late nights, the Wife and I, and I am the kind of person who needs a lot of sleep, so it was not a whole lot of fun some of the time. I have been in a constant state of groggy and lethargic for a while now. No good.

But, we got it done, or at least as done as we could by the date we set. We now have a basement that is about 98.3% finished. There are two things that need to get done for it to be 100% finished, but last night I didn't feel like doing either of them, so I didn't. And it felt great.

I better not let this become a habit though, there's too much other stuff to do. After we finish the two things that need to get done in the basement, we'll be moving outside to finish re-landscaping the yard, which we started a couple of months ago. Then we'll move upstairs to tackle the kitchen, which I also started a few months ago. After that we're going to do some work on the living room. Once that's done, we'll move on to both the upstairs bathrooms. When we're all finished with all that I'll be ready to retire in my finally-finished house, and I'll be able to sit back and have another night of sitting around, being a complete blob on the sofa. I can't wait!

Monday, July 28, 2014

This Goes Against All My Better Judgment...

I'm not sure what to do. I'm totally conflicted, deep down at the root of everything I stand for...

As soon as we started having kids, lo those many moons ago, I was adamant that I would never let my kids do one thing: play soccer. As far as I was concerned, soccer wasn't fun to play, or watch, or interesting enough to waste any time on. I still feel that way, but now that two of our kids (the Girl and the Boy) are old enough to be on sports teams, I may be softening my stance a little. It seems as though every kid in the entire world plays soccer nowadays, at least for a year or two. And, it would be good for the kids to get some good exercise, and to learn the importance of teamwork for, you know, when they play real sports...
I think this animated GIF grabbed my attention because it reminds me of a soccer match I played against Gandhi back in the day...He was surprisingly spry for such a peaceful man...

I see our city is offering soccer leagues in the fall, and we'd probably only have to sell one or two of our kidneys to be able to pay the entry fees for two kids...So far, I haven't gotten myself to pull the trigger and sign them up, though. I'm not sure what I am waiting for. Perhaps a sign from God; or for us to win the lottery...what's more likely is that I am waiting for myself to come to my senses and sign them up for anything else they might offer. I will let you know how this deep inner turmoil resolves itself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

At My Wits' End - A Plea to All You Parents Out There

I'm not shy about giving out parenting advice, whether I know what I'm talking about or not, but right now I am the one in need of some advice. There's one question that has been bugging me for a couple of years now, and I have finally worked up enough gumption to throw it out there. I am hoping there are some other parents who will feel my pain and help me through this troubling situation I have found myself in. It's almost too difficult to put into words, but I'm sure I will feel an overwhelming sense of relief once I do. So, here it goes....

How long do we have to keep all of the projects that our kids bring home?!?!? Our kids bring projects home from school, Sunday school, grandma's house, other people's houses, and I think there must be some secret kid-only project-making workshop they sneak out to when the Wife and I are sleeping. It's crazy how many projects our kids can bring home. And for the most part, it's only the two older kids who are making the projects! The Little One just acts as a pack mule to help get all the projects to our house.

Please, please don't get me wrong. I really am excited that the kids get to be creative and that they are learning new skills and exercising their artistic muscles. I just want to know what the cut-off date is for keeping things. We have two entire walls that are already completely covered in projects and artwork, and piles of the stuff sitting around in our house, car, van, and anywhere else we can set it. I am tired of having to shuffle sideways through the house!

Is it OK to throw some of the older stuff away? Do the kids even remember some of the older things they made, or are their brains incapable of such thoughts? Do we need to set up some kind of storage system so our kids can throw the projects away themselves when we're dead?  This is, by far, the part of parenting that I was least prepared for, and that's saying something, because I barely knew which end of a baby did what when we first started having kids. I am asking for help.

If you have any thoughts on the matter, or an extra large accordion file, or a super-sharp paper shredder we could borrow, please contact me. I am at my wits' end, which some people might say is not all that far from where I normally am... Please help!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pigs and Corn...and Bass? Oh My!

If you have read this blog much over the past couple of years, you should know that I have written my fair share of outlandish statements. I am about to write something that may top them all. But it's perfectly true - I promise I am not making it up. Are you ready for some outlandishness? OK, here it goes...

The family and I just had a wonderful weekend of camping in...Iowa!! Really, I am not lying about this. I know you are probably thinking two things: First, Iowa is nothing but pig farms and cornfields. And second, nothing fun has ever happened in Iowa. But, it's true, there are some really pretty parts of Iowa, and we, along with a few hundred other people, really had a fun time. It's almost beyond belief!

We spent the weekend at our church district's Family Camp, just like we have every year since we became a family, almost nine years ago now. And every year, Family Camp is held at the Cedar Springs Wesleyan Camp in Floyd, Iowa. When most people hear the name of the town, they probably have visions of Mayberry, Little Opie Cunningham, and Barney Fife. The real Floyd, Iowa is not much different than that. Floyd is a tiny little town just off the highway. Most people who drive by probably don't even realize there's a town there. That's OK, as far as I'm concerned.

The Camp sits a couple of miles up the road from Floyd, right on the banks of the Cedar River. I am a fan of rivers in general, being the avid fly fisher that I am, and the Cedar doesn't disappoint. It doesn't hold my beloved trout, being a little too warm for them, but it's got its fair share of spunky smallmouth bass, which are as much fun to catch as any fish out there.The kiddos love to splash around in the shallows, finding enough clam and snail shells to fill the back of the old minivan. Every year I amaze them with my ability to catch some crayfish with my bare hands. I guess I can't deny it, it truly is amazing...

Aside from the river, the campground sits in a lovely little wooded valley, with gurgling springs and babbling brooks, and lots of trails leading here and there. Hardwoods line the banks, and there isn't a pig within eyesight. Sure, there might be a cornfield up on top of the valley, above the dining hall, but this is Iowa. You can never fully get away from the corn...

Cedar Springs Camp is a wonderful place to get away for a while and get in tune with God and nature, and they are happy to have other groups use the facilities. If you or your group is looking for a great place to get together and meet, check out Cedar Springs Camp at www.cedarspringscamp.com. I know it's in Iowa, but check it out any way! You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hold on to Your Tire Covers!

I don't know if you heard this or not, but we went to Yellowstone National Park last week on vacation. We had planned on taking my in-laws' hard-sided pop-up camper, but due to an unfortunate incident that was caused by someone who shall remain nameless*, the in-laws' hard-sided pop-up camper was not in working order. We found out that it would not be fixed in time for our trip two days before we planned to leave.

This news wasn't the end of the world, since we still had our trusty 8-person tent that we have camped in a billion times in the past 9 years. But, for some reason, when you think you are going to be spending the week in a luxurious pop-up camper, a tent seems like a huge letdown.

So, the Wife and I did what any normal married human beings would do, we decided to buy our own pop-up camper. We had about 48 hours to find one, sell one of our kidneys and/or children to raise some money, and get the new camper packed and ready to go half-way across the country. Somehow, we did just that (minus the selling of a kidney and/or child. We realized we didn't have to because we made enough money by only selling 9 pints of blood each...)

That Thursday night before our trip was a whirlwind of searching on craigslist, sending out emails, phoning up sellers, and trying to figure out just what we actually wanted in a camper. We had talked about getting one for a couple of years, but it never seemed like it would actually happen any time soon, so neither of us really put all that much thought into what kind of features we would want.

We went to go see one that was for sale in Falcon Heights, a suburb a few miles from our house. It seemed pretty nice online, but in person it left a lot to be desired. We also found a possible one in Jordan (about an hour to the south) and another in Chisago City (about an hour to the north). We weren't sure what to do, and it was getting late, so we decided to sleep on it. I'm glad we did, because another possibility entered the race: a lovely little Jayco pop-up that came with everything you would need while in the great outdoors, and a few things you probably won't ever need. Don't tell my diehard, granola eating, backpacking friends this, but it even came with a little pop-up camper-sized microwave.We never had one of those in our tent!
The whole family in front of our new camper on our first night of the trip. Has there ever been a more idyllic photograph in the entire history of the world? I think not...

So, after dinner on Friday night, we took the short drive up to Anoka and bought it, and we took it across the good ol' U.S. of A. the very next day. Everything went swimmingly on our trip, except for one thing. Apparently none of the previous owners towed the camper at the speeds it will now have to become accustomed to in our family. Somewhere along the way we lost one of the built-in levels that was glued to the outside of the camper, as well as the canvas cover that had been on the spare tire for the past 21 years. Oh well, at least it was nothing major. I think before our next trip I'll have to have some racing stripes painted on it. Seems fitting to me!

* He's remaining nameless because of the 5th Amendment...

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Middle-Aged Man and the Fish

The middle-aged man wasn't always middle-aged. At one point he was a strapping young buck who lived off the land - hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. The fact that he went home and slept in his cozy bed most nights is beside the point. He loved the outdoors, and he spent every waking moment thinking about it. He was totally in-tune with nature. He could catch any fish in the stream; he could start a fire with nothing but the greens from a dandelion and a limp fettuccine noodle; and he could set up a three bedroom, two bath lean-to in record time during the heaviest of downpours. His favorite hobby was wrestling rabid wolverines after dinner. He was a manly man, that's for sure.

He spent countless hours catching every fish within a 40 mile radius. But there was one fish he had never caught. He had never ventured out to the Wild West to catch one of the native cutthroat trout that lived there. This caused an emptiness deep in his soul that brought with it sleepless nights, sweaty palms, and gastrointestinal unease that would make a hyena frown. Now that he was approaching middle-age at the speed of light, he finally decided he needed to do something about this.

The Wild West, where cutthroat trout prosper. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org
So, he marched through cornfields. He trudged through miles of soybeans. He slogged through oil fields. He tramped through the badlands. He plodded through swamps. He clambered up steep slopes. He ate only what he could forage from the wilderness, and drank only rainwater, and the occasional Pepsi, if he was near a Quik Trip.

He finally made it far enough west that he was in cutthroat territory. He was tattered and torn from the journey, and he had just the clothes on his back, a handful of flies, and his trusty 6 wt Scott SAS fly rod to help him achieve his quest. After hours of toil, he finally put his Madam X fly right where it needed to be. The great fish came up, eyeballed the fly for what seemed like eternity, and then finally sipped it in with a delicate slurp. The man deftly set the hook with the skill of a true craftsman, and the fight was on. The fish fought mightily, but he was no match for the man's cunning and finesse. The fight was over quickly, and soon the man held the beautiful cutthroat trout in his hands. His quest was fulfilled. He could finally truly be happy. Middle age didn't look so daunting any more...

An artist's rendering of the man's first cutthroat trout. Illustration by Joseph Tomelleri.

That's how I remember it happening, I have always wanted to catch a cutthroat trout, and I finally did last week when we were in Yellowstone, but it might not have been quite as intriguing as I made it out to be. In reality, I just walked down to the Gardner River while the rest of my family was eating a picnic lunch, and caught my first cutthroat a few minutes after I started. It was exciting for me, but I thought I better liven it up a little when I wrote about it.