Thursday, August 27, 2015

Backyard Safari

*My apologies to Patrick MacManus, since I stole the title for this post from one of his short humor stories. Hopefully he will never see this, so I won't have to worry about being sued. If you know Mr. MacManus, please keep this under wraps. K, thanks!*

I think every child should go camping in their backyard at an early age. My kids - the Girl, the Boy, and the Little One - just had their first foray into backyard camping, and it was a blast. I, also, had my first foray into backyard camping at the same time. I don't mean to say that my first backyard camping trip happened when I was my kids' age. No, I mean that my first backyard camping trip was just a couple of days ago, with my kids! I thought it was a blast, too!

Our backyard trip had all the fun of a regular camping trip, without the bears. We had a roaring fire which we used to roast both hot dogs and s'mores. The four of us ate an entire can of baked beans, and then heard about it the rest of the night. We sat around in our camp chairs watching the fire until all hours ("all hours" means about 9:30PM to a 3-, 5-, 6-, and 41-year-old). One of us even had a fitful night of sleep because he didn't notice that his sleeping bag was directly on top of an enormous root from the gigantic maple tree that sat a few feet from the tent. In those regards it couldn't have been more like a real camping trip if we had tried!

The best thing was that those of us with the weakest bladders (that would be the youngest and oldest, if you are keeping track) got to go in and use our nice, comfy bathroom when we needed to in the middle of the night. And we all could escape the frigid temperatures in the morning and go inside the house for a toasty breakfast (when I say "toasty" I mean it was warm inside the house, not that we actually had toast for breakfast. Just thought I would clear that up. I could see where you might be confused...)

So, to finish, we had a fun time on our Backyard Safari, and I would recommend all kids and their dad do it at least once. If I ever get the kinks out of my back, I may even think about doing it again. Next time I will make someone else sleep on the enormous tree root!

These are two pics from our Backyard Safari. You'd think I would have noticed the enormous maple tree and its annoying roots when I chose which side of the tent to sleep on...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Men Being Men...

I left the Wife home alone with our 3.5 kids last weekend, and I don't feel the slightest pang of guilt. OK, actually I do feel a little guilty, but not nearly as guilty as I usually do when I leave the Wife home alone with our 3.5 kids. And because of that lack of guilt, I feel terrible. Thankfully, I know I will get over it quickly.

I went down to Iowa and had a great weekend. I know, I know, "Iowa" and "great weekend" usually aren't used in the same sentence, but this time it's true! Cedar Springs Wesleyan Camp held its annual Man Camp, and since I am a man, I thought I would partake. Let me tell you, my testosterone levels went through the roof! They are just now coming back down into the normal "suburbanite dad" levels, after being up somewhere between "lumberjack" and "Bruce Willis".

A bunch of us guys from throughout Iowa and Minnesota got together and did manly stuff, like archery and fishing and shooting guns and snoring and learning about sled dogs and stuffing ourselves with deep fried fresh caught fish. It was a fun time, I tell you what. I would recommend it to any man who might be reading this. The best part was just hanging out at Cedar Springs Camp right on the banks of the Cedar River, a beautiful oasis amongst the cornfields of northern Iowa.

Now that I am back home in suburbia, I'm not quite sure what to do with myself...I want to climb trees and shoot squirrels and catch fish and do some chainsaw carving, but instead I need to take out the garbage and do the dishes. Maybe I'll watch Die Hard after I'm done...
"Men Shooting Things" by Duane Prior

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Marriage Secrets...

or Happy Wife, Happy Life...

I am not some kind of marriage guru, in fact I'm not really a guru of any kind. But, despite that fact, I like to pretend that I know what I'm talking about, and I'm not afraid to share my (limited) knowledge with anyone who is willing to stand still long enough for me to start yapping at them. Since you are reading this, I assume that you will be willing to stand still long enough to read my yapping. Thank you!

I think that the Wife and I might have inadvertently stumbled into one of the secrets to having a happy marriage. We stumbled into it right from the get-go, more than 10 years ago, without any forethought or real planning of any kind. Want to know what our secret is? We don't give each other gifts, ever! I know, right?!?! Not for birthdays, not for Christmas, not even for Valentine's Day. Oh sure, I have gotten her flowers every once in a while, but not for any special occasion, just for fun. Since we don't buy each other gifts, there's no worrying about what to get, there's no hard feelings over bad or poorly thought out presents, and we don't have to waste time with wrapping paper. It's the best! And don't get me started on cards...If we haven't already stated how we feel about each other in person, a $2 card isn't going to fix things...

So, that's our secret. Maybe you and your spouse should try it for a while. If it works and your marriage becomes super blissful, let me know. Who knows, maybe I'll become a marriage guru after all. I wonder what kind of benefits that job comes with...
Just look at how happy we were, not only because we didn't have any kids or dogs yet, but also because we had already chosen to not get each other gifts, for any occasion. We are living in a gift-free zone, and loving every minute of it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Shiny New (Used) Toy

Just a couple of months ago, right here on this very blog, I wrote a glowing testimonial about my beloved 40- or maybe even 50-year-old lawnmower, which, at the time, I was genuinely excited about because it had started up after a long winter. (Read that glowing testimonial here) Ever since then that stupid old mower has done nothing but cause me consternation. If I looked at it weird it would throw one of its wheels, and if I or a nearby chipmunk breathed too hard in its direction the carburetor would blow out a thick plume of black smoke, and then it would sputter and die. My weekly job of mowing the grass changed from a peaceful hour of exercise into an evening of muddled swearing and throwing things (usually the things that were thrown were the wheels that had fallen off).

Thankfully, I recently had the opportunity to get a new hand-me-down lawnmower to replace my old hand-me-down lawnmower, and this one is only a few years old, instead of several decades. I have good feelings about this new one, probably because it's so shiny and new-looking. I, and my neighbors, are excited for my mowing time to go back to being peaceful again. If you see me outside muttering to myself, though, steer clear. That usually means the wheels are about to start flying.
Doesn't it look shiny and new? And look at the wheels! They're still attached!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Top 5 Things I Am Not Looking Forward To With This New Baby

I'm sure you probably won't believe this, but there are actually a few things about having another baby in the house that I am not looking forward to. I know, I know, you may think an expectant father shouldn't say things like that, but I am all about the truth, no matter how blunt or politically incorrect it might be. So, yes, having a fresh, new baby in the house will not be all happy and bubbly; there will be some bad times as well. Here are the top 5 things I am not looking forward to when this new baby arrives, in no particular order:

1. Having to use the snot-sucking turkey baster-type thingy.
Parents use this contraption to suck the snot out of a baby's nose when they are sick. It's the worst
thing ever. And, I've never actually gotten it to suck out much snot. Instead, I think it forms a vacuum seal on the baby's brain, causing parts of the poor, tiny gelatinous mass to be sucked into the baby's nasal cavity. At least that's what the terrible crying seems to indicate...

The snot-sucking turkey baster-type thingy. I hate it.
2. Blowouts that shoot out the top of the diaper and get all over baby's clothes.
This is as gross as it sounds, however I have a theory that this problem is worse with boys, since they have more um, you know, anatomical "stuff" in their diapers, and there's less room for poop, so it (the poop) just goes on the path of least resistance, which happens to be out the top of the diaper. Since our fresh, new baby is going to be a girl, maybe this problem won't be as bad. That's my theory, at least...

3. Diaper Rashes
Those things look like they hurt! And the associated crying is loud!

4. Tummy Time
Our kids never liked it very much, but the "experts" say you gotta do it. It usually just made our kids angry, which in turn made everyone in the house angry. Since they didn't like it, we (the Wife and I) didn't make them do it very often. Yet they all know how to hold their heads up now, at least most of the time. I say that Tummy Time is overrated!

5. Getting pooped on whilst I am changing a diaper
This actually has never happened to me, yet, which makes me think it's about time it happens with this next baby. And, even though it hasn't happened yet, I just know that when it does, I won't enjoy it. That's why it's on this list.

I'm sure there are other things I won't like about having another baby, but these are the only ones I could think of in the 4 minutes I took writing this blog. If you think of any good ones, let me know, and I may write about it. After all, a blog just isn't a blog unless I'm complaining about something.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Truth About Global Warming

As you probably know if you are an avid reader of this blog, and who in their right mind wouldn't want to be, I love to tackle the controversial subjects. Over the years I've written about such timely and controversial subjects as: "Is it grosser that Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin, or that she was 13?", and "Candy cigarettes - Malicious or Delicious?". Now I am going to tackle yet another doozy:
global warming.

I was not always a big believer in global warming. For one thing, everyone in the media thinks it's definitely true. That fact alone makes me suspicious. Have you listened to people in the media lately? They all seem insane. Secondly, it seemed to me that the scientists who were pro-global warming were making their claims based on a little over a hundred years' worth of weather data, but the Earth is a lot older than that. So, yeah, maybe it's warmer than it was a hundred years ago, but that's just a small blip in the overall age of the Earth. Perhaps it is more of a mirage than a trend...? It sure didn't seem any warmer than usual the past 5 winters in Minnesota, am I right?

But the last couple of summers have changed my mind. It seemed like things started to change right around the time I turned 40. Summer seemed hotter. Air conditioning felt nicer. I started to sweat buckets while doing the smallest bit of strenuous activity. Back in my 20s I could play game after game after game of basketball on the hottest day of the summer and just have a slight glistening afterward. Now that I am in my 40s, I am completely drenched if I shoot one three-pointer.

Along those same lines, I mowed the yard tonight, and my shirt was wet for hours afterwards. It was gross. The only reason I can think of for all this added sweat is global warming. What else could it be? So, if you were on the fence about global warming before, believe me, it's true. Just ask my sweaty t-shirt! I'm so glad I could clear up this big controversial subject for you. Next week I think I will tackle another controversy: Potty Training: Pull-Ups or Undies? You'll want to stay tuned for that one!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

That Is Some Weird, Wild Stuff

The house I grew up in will soon be just a memory, as my parents are getting ready to move into a new apartment. We've been over there doing a lot of cleaning and packing and reminiscing lately, and during the cleaning process we have found some things that I would classify as weird, wild, or even mildly disturbing. Not that I would have expected anything less!

Before my dad retired he was a chemist, and his laboratory was in the basement of the house. Nobody else in the family really knew what kind of crazy formulas dad was concocting down there, and I think we were all happy not knowing. Even though he retired about 10 years ago, there were still a lot of chemicals, beakers, mixing things and other chemistry paraphernalia that we had to go through. Plus it seems that he seemed to be more of a collector of stuff than I had ever realized. When I cleaned off his workbench in the basement I found receipts and instruction manuals that were from the 1960s. He even had the instruction manual from our old metal swingset that rusted into oblivion almost 30 years ago. The flimsy paper instruction manual far out-lived the actual object. Until I chucked it in the recycling bin...

What might get the award for the weirdest thing I found would have to be the pig made out of marzipan. I found it neatly stored on my dad's messy workbench, still in its original bag. I had never seen it before, and had no idea why my dad would have had a marzipan pig laying around. I don't think he even likes marzipan...even if he did like marzipan, why hadn't he eaten it, instead of keeping it for several decades? This pig looked old enough to have become petrified. I found out later that it had been a gift from my sister to our dad after she went to France or some other foreign land that is filled with marzipan pigs. I didn't want to tell her, but it seems to me that giving someone a souvenir pig made out of marzipan is kind of a weird thing to do. I mean sure, I've brought people licorice llamas and fondant goats from my travels abroad, but marzipan pigs? That's just weird.

This was the decades-old marzipan pig I found in my parents' basement. It was delicious, by the way...

Saturday, August 8, 2015


The odds were stacked against him. He was outnumbered at least 50 to one. But he had cunning and guile. And he knew how to fight. He only attacked at night, when his enemy was least expecting it. And he had sharp, jagged implements of destruction that he knew how to use. As well as his secret weapon, peanut butter. One by one he picked off his enemies, until soon his kills numbered in the dozens. Despite his proficiency at taking out the enemy, he received no accolades, other than the occasional peck on the cheek or pat on the tush from his adoring wife. He especially liked the pats on his tush...

Soon our hero found himself on the cusp of a monumental event: his 50th kill. It had taken more than two years, but now it was within his grasp. His plan had to be even more cunning, his guile had to have guile of its own, because his 50th victim had proven to have guile as well. This enemy was a smart one, that's for sure. He seemed to be laughing at our hero's implements, and eating our hero's peanut butter without leaving a trace. But a hero never gives up. He gets more clever. He gets more determined. He gets more peanut butter...

Today he came upstairs from the dark, cavernous basement with the taste of victory on his lips. He had made his 50th kill, and he was darn happy about it. He boasted to his wife, who gave him an extended tush pat. He liked that. It made him excited to kill his 100th...

His 50th kill... I apologize if this kill photo is too graphic for you. I have gotten used to death, being the vicious killer that I am...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Place to Hibernate

I'm sure you probably assume that life with a 3-, 5-, and 6-year-old in the house is pretty hum-drum and boring, much like a lazy siesta in the afternoon, or even like the groggy and lethargic feeling that lingers after a hibernation of several months in length. Not being Mexican or a bear, I'm not entirely sure about those two metaphors, but I can say that the Wife and I had been lulled into a false sense of blahness in recent months. I blame our three kids for this. It's not that they are just motionless blobs or anything, but it seems like the clatter that they make is always at the same level - not quite loud enough to make your ears bleed, but not quiet enough to let you have any deep coherent thoughts, this blog being proof of that. Since the clatter is always at that same level, the Wife and I were getting pretty bored, let me tell you.

So, we did two things to liven things up a little around the house. Both of which weren't really planned. First, we got pregnant. When the baby arrives, in about 4 months, there should be a definite rise in excitement, and noise, around our house. And, of course, what do sane people do when they find out they are having a baby in a few weeks? Duh, they start to demolish their house! Not the entire house, just important parts of it, like the bathroom. Since the Wife and I like to pretend we are sane, that's exactly what we did.

We tore up the master bathroom, the place we both use on a regular basis, and the one room in the house where I have gotten some quiet solace from the noise for the past 6 years. We had thought about doing this since we moved in, but some leaky pipes made us make the decision sooner rather than later. So, we ripped out the 50-year-old fiberglass shower enclosure, and soon will be doing the same with the toilet and floor tiles. And probably the sink and door, as well. One of these days we'll have all the demolition done, then we'll  have to hurry up and figure out how we want to re-do things. We need to get this bathroom redone quickly, because soon the baby will be here and I will definitely need a place to hide. And I'm thinking about maybe hibernating in there, too. We'll see how loud this baby is...
This seems like a perfect T-Shirt for me...

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Weirder the Better, I Always Say...

The Wife and I just got back from a lovely weekend of camping in North/Central Minnesota. It was lovely for a variety of reasons. First of all, it was beautifully sunny and hot all weekend, but the nights were cool and comfortable to sleep in. The bugs weren't too bad, at least if we remembered to put on some bug spray. We were in a very nice park that was filled with trees and wild animals and open savannahs and nice trails, and we had fun exploring. And our van made it all the way to the park and back pulling our pop-up camper, and it didn't die! And, oh yeah, we left the kids at home! Woohoo!!!
These people all look super happy, and I know why...they all went camping without their kids!! They are brilliant!  Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
It was super fun to spend a couple of days with just my lovely bride, as we were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. We got to sleep in both mornings until AFTER 8:30!, which never happens at home. And we didn't get awakened every hour by some little person needing help to go potty, or whatever else little people need at all hours of the night. I'm usually too asleep to realize what is going on, even if I am the one who is helping said little person. This weekend we sat around in our camp chairs, we went on hikes when we wanted to, we biked around the park, and if we didn't want to do anything, we didn't. It was perfect!

It's almost like the Wife and I were getting to know each other all over again. We laughed. We talked about the last 10 years. We dreamed about the next 10 years. We reminded each other of all the stuff we will have to look forward to as we have another baby in a few months. Then we cried. And then we cried some more. Then we just enjoyed each other's company. I could tell that I made quite the impression on the Wife throughout the weekend by the fact that she told me she had forgotten how weird I was. It was nice.

I would suggest that every married couple get away from the kids and real life for a few days as often as possible. The Wife and I are going to be adamant about doing this again, and not waiting for another 10 years to make it happen. Which brings me to my next question - wanna do some babysitting next weekend?