Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The CK&C Guide to Guiding

Over the years I have played around with the idea of trying to be a part-time trout fishing guide. It would be fun to have a reason to go fishing more often, and for the most part I get along with almost all types of people, plus a little added income never hurt anyone. The idea has been percolating up in the recesses of my brain for a long time, but I've never pulled the trigger and actually started guiding, for two reasons.

The first reason is that one of the main duties of a fishing guide is to provide lunch for his clients. That means taking the time to slap together some sandwiches, putting some pops or waters in the cooler, and having some chips or other snacks at the ready. When it's just me going out, I just jump in the car and go, and worry about eating later. When hanging out at home, I am a grazer, eating all day long. But when I fish, I am there to fish, and I can go for hours, or even decades, without thinking of food. So, feeding my clients would be a huge drawback.

The second reason I've never started guiding is that there is a distinct possibility that a client could drown, and that would be a serious buzzkill. Even on seemingly quaint trout streams, where I would do most of my guiding, an uncoordinated novice fisherperson could easily step in the wrong spot and go tush-over-teakettle into moderately deep water. Have you looked at the average human these days? A lot of them are quite uncoordinated. I don't need that headache in my life.

So, I continue to not be a fishing guide. Except on rare occasions, when I take a friend or two out and show them the ropes when it comes to fly fishing. I have had the pleasure of taking my very coordinated friend Bryon out fly fishing a couple of times, and I am happy to say that he caught his first trout on a fly yesterday, along with several other trouts, a few suckers, and even a handful of sunfish. He even performed a beautiful LDR (Long Distance Release) on a brute of a brown trout that seemed to fly all over the pool before coming unattached to Bryon's fly. I witnessed that LDR from just a few feet away, and I am proud to announce that Bryon showed just the right amount of exasperation after the trout got off. No actual tears flowed, but I could tell that he was crying on the inside. Just like a seasoned fly fisherman!
The coordinated Bryon and his trout. He's so coordinated that he took this photo himself. Now that's coordinated! 

All this talk about guiding and trout and heartache reminds me that, although I am not a guide, I do fancy myself as a teacher of the sport, and I have an "Intro to Fly Fishing" class coming up in the near future through the city of Roseville, Minnesota's Community Education department. You can spend two nights learning more than you ever thought was possible to learn about fly fishing, and yet still just scratch the surface of this amazing sport. If you are interested, check out the Roseville website here. If you can't make it to the class, send me a note and maybe I will take you out on a guided trip. You'll have to pass a battery of tests first to prove how coordinated you are, but that shouldn't be difficult. Unless you are an average human...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Game of the Century

I was driving around with all three of my kids yesterday afternoon. Somehow the conversation turned to softball, specifically my softball game that was going to take place later that evening. So far the kids haven't gone to any of my games this season because they've all been past their bedtime, and that was going to be the case again last night. All three kids seemed honestly sad that they would miss yet another of my games, but the Little One had a great question for me. "Can we just watch it on TV, Daddy?" she asked, as innocently as a 3-year-old can. If only they, and everyone else in the world, could have. It truly may have been the Game of the Century, if a mid-May regular season Church League softball game could ever hold that title...

The game started out looking like anything but a Game of the Century contender. My team, from my tiny little Wesleyan Church that is tucked in a seemingly hidden corner of NE Minneapolis, was taking on the hated Lutherans from the mega-church known as St. Andrews. I should state here that we don't actually hate any Lutherans. It's just a ploy I use to try to get my team to play with an edge. I think my ploy just makes everyone laugh, but being loosey-goosey can be a good thing when playing sports, too.

So, we were playing the guys from St. Andrews, and we were up to bat first. We were amazing, hitting sharp line drives and deep towering fly balls all over the field. And we were being aggressively smart on the base paths, too. It also didn't hurt that the opposing pitcher was having trouble finding the strike zone, as we took our fair share of walks. Before anyone could blink, we were ahead 14-0 after the first half inning. It was looking like another slaughter, just like our first two games of the year were. There was much jubilation on our bench, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the St. Andrews bench.

But then, like in many sporting events, there was a massive change of momentum. Apparently from the first inning to the second, we forgot how to hit, and St. Andrews remembered how to play. At the end of the first inning, the score was 14-2. Then after 2 innings it was 14-6. Then 14-8. Then we had a slight relapse and scored 5 runs to go up 19-8. Then it was 19-15. This was getting far too close for my comfort. I much prefer games in which we continue to annihilate the opposition from beginning to end. Not only were we not annihilating them any more, it was becoming quite apparent that St. Andrews had a very good chance of winning. No good.

So, the score was 19-15 going into the bottom of the last inning. We had to keep them from scoring 4 or more runs, but they had all the momentum, and we were listless and worried. That is not a good combination in sports, if you didn't already know that. The first batter got a sharp line drive single to left. Not a good start. The second guy got a sharp line drive single up the middle. Still not good. Next guy got a double down the line. Even worse. Now they had runners on second and third with no outs, and had already scored a run, making it 19-16. Next guy got a single. Oh no!! Two runs scored, making it 19-18, and still there was nobody out. By this time the area around second base looked more like a puddle than a ball field, from all of my cold sweat. My steely exterior was starting to rust.
Not a good fielding position when you are playing 2nd base...

The fifth batter of the inning also got a single, so there were runners on first and second with no outs. It was all I could do to not go into the fetal position at this point. My nerves were as tattered as could be. The sixth batter of the inning hit a rocket down the 3rd base line. Thankfully our 3rd base guy, Delton, made a great heads-up play, or else the game might have ended right there. The next guy hit a soft liner to left-center field, but not deep enough for anyone to score, so now the bases were loaded with just one out. The tying runner was on 3rd base, and the winning run was on 2nd. I was having a total conniption fit, and possibly hyperventilating...I'm not sure because I think I also blacked out for a few minutes.

I must not have been out for too long, because when I came to, we were still ahead by one run, and the Lutherans still had the bases loaded with just one out. Their fastest runner was up to bat, and things were not looking good for us. Our pitcher, my good friend Joe, was as cool as a cucumber on the mound, even though the count was full and one more "ball" would walk in the tying run. Joe threw a beautiful pitch, and their guy swung with all of his might. Perhaps he swung too hard, because he fell down trying to get out of the batters' box. He hit a routine ground ball to our heroic shortstop, Doug, who stepped on 2nd base, and then fired a strike to first base for a game-ending and conniption-ending double play. Ahh, the jubilation that erupted from my teammates was so fun. Too bad it wasn't on TV. It would have been fun to watch!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

10 Things I Hate About Spring

Don't get me wrong, I love spring. It is my favorite season of the year. There's new growth everywhere, the grass is growing, there are bugs all over the place (this is a good thing if you're a buggy guy like me), and the fish are biting. But that doesn't mean everything about spring is perfect. Oh no. There are plenty of things to hate about spring. Since you've read this far, why not check out my 10 Things I Hate About Spring?

1. Our three trees. Yes, we only own three trees, but all of them are enormous maples, and if you know anything about enormous maples, you know that they drop a lot of stuff. First of all, early in the spring, every branch and twig sprouts millions of these little red things. I am not sure what they are, technically speaking, but they seem like buds of some kind. Whatever they are, they all fall out of the trees at the slightest provocation. If there are wind gusts, they fall out. If there is a slight breeze, they fall out. If it rains, they fall out. If a duck flies by, they fall out. If you look at the tree cross-eyed, they fall out. All of this falling out wouldn't be so bad, except they all fall onto our driveway, sidewalk, or directly onto our cars, where they become stuck and ooze red goo all over everything. Plus, a great number of them get stuck on our shoes and then end up getting dragged into our house, where their red goo gets embedded in the carpet. Immediately after the red bud things are done the helicopters start to fall, covering the ground for miles in every direction. They too get stuck on everything. They are almost as bad as the red things. I hate them.

2. I can't think of anything else right now because thinking about our stupid trees for the past 20 minutes has made me too furious to think about other things I hate about spring. If I can calm down and stop thinking about our evil trees for a while, I will continue this post at a later time. If not, you may just find me out in the yard doing something drastic with my chainsaw.
This is a photo of one of our idiotic enormous maples from last fall. Notice how it held onto its leaves until after the first snow. This is just another example of how evil our trees are. I hate them.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Happy Birthday to Us!

I completely failed to realize that this blog that you are now reading, Chaotic Kids & Clutter, recently had a birthday. Can you believe it?!?! Yup, it turned 3 years old a few days ago, and the only thing that made me realize it was when somebody mentioned they got a LinkedIn message touting the anniversary. So not only did I forget this blog's birthday, but I also forgot i had a LinkedIn account. Crazy!

To celebrate this milestone, I dug deep in my archives of old photos and pulled out the first picture of me ever writing in a blog, oh so many years ago. Wasn't I a cutie? Whatever happened to that cherubic little blogger...?

Since this birthday belongs to just my blog, and not one of my children, I won't bore you with a silly birthday song. But beware that the Boy has a birthday in less than two months. So be ready...

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Artiste in Me...

If you know me well at all you probably are aware that my first foray into college did not go all that well. It lasted exactly one year and one day, and then I decided I had had enough of school, so I dropped out with no other plans of what to do with my life. I did finally go back twelve years later, and graduated 3 years after that, so in other words I took a four year degree and crammed it into 16 years. Does that show stick-to-it-iveness or what? I think "What" is probably the correct answer to that question...

So, any ways, if you didn't know that about the length of my college career, you also may not know that for that first year and a day of college, I was an Art major. I suppose the high quality of the doodles that have accompanied some of my blog posts might have made you a little suspicious about my training in the fine arts. Well, I guess the cat's out of the bag now. Yes, I was quite the artiste.

The only reason I am writing about my prolific artistic abilities now is because we have recently been working at cleaning out my parents' house a little bit, and I came across some of my old artwork from back in my college days. It was stuffed in my old homemade portfolio and crammed in the recesses of the basement, exactly where it belonged. Actually, where it really belonged was in the recycle bin, which is where some of it has gone, but there were a few old drawings that I am a little proud of, and I thought I would share them in the museum that is better known as this ol' blog. Since I am the curator of this blog, I can do what I want. And, since no other museum would ever even think about putting any of my artwork up, it's up to me. So, I am proud(ish) to present what is sure to be my first and only art show:

This first batch of drawings are of what I can only assume is the same model. I don't remember anything about her, but I am sure I was probably madly in love with her, since this was the closest any female ever let me get back in those days...

I'm assuming she was only in this pose because she just realized that she had to pose for me yet again...
This next set of six drawings were from what I call my "thing phase". No people were allowed on set during my "thing phase". Artistes can be very temperamental, you know.
Not sure what this one is all about...
This was probably my first ever self portrait. Unfortunately it is eerily lifelike, even the mullet...
I swear I've never done drugs...
I wasn't sure I should include this one here on this PG-rated blog, but it very well might be the finest ever drawing of a nude lady with a potato for a head, so I thought I might as well.
This is also unfortunately a very accurate self portrait..
At first, the Wife and I turned this one round and round, trying to figure out what it was. Now, it's obvious! It's the Easter Bunny! Were we blind?!?!

So, this ends my first and only art show. Thank you for making it all the way to the end! Come back and revisit it any time, and don't forget to tell your friends!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ode to a Lawnmower

I can't believe it happened again. I took our lawnmower out of "the Shed" (that's what I call the storage area under "the Addition"), wheeled it out to the front yard, filled it with gas (how old was that gas in the gas can? I don't remember buying it...) pulled the cord, and it started right up. I couldn't believe it! Sure, it only ran for about two seconds before it died, but that's beside the point. It actually ran...What are the odds?!?!

I ask that question because our beloved no-name lawnmower is approximately 40, maybe more like 75, years old. And in the nine years that I've owned it since I got it as a hand-me-down from the father of a friend of ours, I have never: drained or used up the gas at the end of the mowing season like you are supposed to; changed the oil, although I have added to it once or twice; or gotten it tuned up by someone who actually knows what they are doing. I have changed the spark plug once, and I have "cleaned out" the carburetor several times by scraping all the dirt and gunk off it with the end of a screwdriver, and I have had to reattach all of the wheels at one time or another after the bolts holding them on rattled their way off somewhere in our lawn. I've even redone the pull cord a couple of times and sharpened the blade when it became obvious that it would be impossible to find one that fit my mower at any of our local stores. But other than that, I don't really do any of the preventive maintenance a well-intentioned lawnmower owner is supposed to do. Yet the crazy thing keeps working. It's pretty much a miracle!

This year, after it ran for the first two seconds and then died, I did have to do a little maintenance on it. I filled up the oil, I cleaned the carburetor again, I sprayed some starter fluid in it, and I noticed the little metal thing that hooks up to the spark plug wasn't hooked up very well. Hooking that thing up correctly is probably what did it, because that crazy lawnmower roared to life the next time I pulled the cord. Maybe we'll get through another summer with it. Will wonders, and miracles, never cease?

Monday, May 4, 2015


If you didn't already know, this blog originates from the great state of Minnesota, also known as the Earth's ice box. Minnesota has the reputation of being really cold for about 10 months of the year, and I do everything I can here on the blog to keep that stereotype going. Us native Minnesotans have a kind of weird provincial pride that makes us feel better than people from other states because we have to put up with weather-induced misery for a large portion of the year. It's this state pride that causes me to make fun of our neighboring states like Iowa, Wisconsin and North Dakota, even though they pretty much have to deal with the same weather we do. If you're not from here you probably wouldn't understand it, any way...

So, I like to make fun of our neighboring states, even though, deep down inside, I kind of like them, or at least some parts of them. I especially have very fond memories of Wisconsin, since I spent a large portion of all my youthful summers over there at my grandparents' hobby farm, and I have spent countless hours fishing and camping all over the state. I haven't spent a lot of time in North Dakota, but it seems fine, too. I really like to make fun of Iowa, saying things like the only things in the state are corn and pigs, and complaining about how it seems to take about 4 years to drive through it when on our way to somewhere else (this is obviously an exaggeration. It actually takes about 7 years...). But, Iowa has some good parts, as well, and we experienced one of those parts this past weekend.

Yes, we took the 2.5 hour drive south to the beautiful Cedar Springs Wesleyan Camp in Floyd, Iowa. Cedar Springs is owned by the Iowa-Minnesota District of the Wesleyan Church, which our local church is a member of. The campgrounds sit right in a little nook on the banks of the Cedar River, in a lovely little
wooded valley that is surrounded by, surprise!, a bunch of corn and pig farms. We went down to Cedar Springs in search of two things: morel mushrooms and smallmouth bass, and we caught exactly none of both of them. Yes, we got skunked, but it was a wonderful weekend any way. We had a great time tromping through the woods with our kids; we got a lot of sun, which is necessary after spending the past 10 months inside; and none of our kids fell down any sheer precipices, so I would call it a successful trip despite the lack of bass and 'shrooms. The most exciting part of the weekend, for me at least, was when I unexpectedly flushed a full-grown turkey out of the forest undergrowth about 15 feet in front of me. After making sure the thunderous, flapping beast wasn't in attack mode, I was able to get my heart rate back in the "normal" range in just a few hours, so that was good. If you ever want to spend a nice relaxing weekend in a beautiful valley, next to a pristine smallmouth bass river, surrounded by turkeys that seem to explode up out of the earth, check out Cedar Springs Camp at cedarspringscamp.com.