Thursday, June 28, 2007

Anybody Got the Time?

I'm slowly realizing that the older our kids get, the busier we seem to be. I used to think, "I can't wait until they can walk so I won't have to carry them." Then I had to chase them around the store or wait for them to catch up because they wouldn't let me carry them any more. Then I couldn't wait until they were out of diapers. Then I had to spend more time in the bathroom with them.

I thought life would be easier when they started school. I found out that my time is now occupied with class volunteering and after school field trips. Now they are both on athletic teams for the summer. Ethan is playing baseball and Emery is playing soccer. Last week, Emery had a soccer game at 6pm and Ethan had his end of the year baseball jamboree at 7:30pm. I got home from work at 5:30pm and swallowed a hamburger "Wimpy style" (swallowed whole). Then we drove the half mile trip to the soccer field which took 20 minutes because everyone in town is either coming home from work or going to the soccer field. We got there just in time to set up the chairs and drink a bottle of water in the 91 degree heat before dehydration set in. Emery's game ended at 7pm. At 7:15pm we started to drive the 200 yards across the park to the baseball diamond. The soccer fields are at the bottom of the hill that the baseball diamonds are atop. Since everyone at soccer also had a kid in baseball, this short trip also took 20 minutes. It was a minivan-suv parade up the hill.

The baseball jamboree ended around 8:30pm and the temperature had plummeted to 86 degrees. We were all pretty much wilted by then.
As we walked the dusty path to our van, Lady Di whispered to me, "I kind of promised them we would go out for ice cream." Once again, the kids' supersonic bat ears heard every word and the "Ice Cream!" chant started.
After ice cream we arrived home a little after 9pm. The kids shuffled like zombies to bed, and Lady Di and I collapsed onto our couch.

Does it ever get any easier with kids? I've determined that it doesn't get either easier or harder to raise kids. It only changes as they get older. We trade diapers for help on the toilet. We trade strollers for bikes. We trade baby toys for board games. Each time your child accomplishes a goal you trade the old one for the next one. Each trade also involves a little more independence for your children and a little more worry for the parents. As soon as that first child is born, your time is no longer your own. We help our kids develop and advance in the hopes of getting a little time to ourselves. We are only fooling ourselves though. That extra time is always filled with something new. The only time in our lives when we finally do get extra time to ourselves, is when our children leave home to live their own lives. This is when we wish our kids would never grow up.

So cherish this time as special time with your kids. Accept the fact that your time is not yours but belongs to your family as a whole. We only have a certain number of minutes given to us in this life. Don't waste them by trying to find more time that isn't there.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Tonight was Ethan's last baseball game of the season. He had missed a few games due to his ear surgery but he was able to make it to his last game. He hit the ball a couple times and bounced a baseball off of his chin. He had a good last game.

It is gratifying to see a group of seven and eight year olds learn and improve during the two months of the baseball season. They actually started making a few outs in the field instead of filling their gloves with dirt. At the beginning of the season, one of our players confided to me that his favorite part about baseball is the snack after the game. It's also uplifting to see them become a team. They actually cheered for each other at games and asked about their teammates when they were missing.
Coach Adam and Coach Eric did a great job and all three of us feel privileged to have had such an enthusiastic team to coach.

I've mentioned before that this league doesn't keep score and everyone bats each inning. Competition is downplayed but individual effort is encouraged. Helping and congratulating each other were the most important goals that we achieved this season.

As a Dad, all you want for your child is for them to succeed and have self confidence to try things. Ethan's baseball skills improved, but his social interaction skills took a big jump forward this season. Having two way conversations with his peers is a daily learning struggle for him. Ethan was able to form friendships with multiple teammates and he missed them when he was unable to play. This years' baseball team was great mix of kids with different personalities. The whole team fit together well and everyone felt included as a team.

Next year, Ethan will move up to the next level of competition if he decides he wants to play baseball. He says he is ready to practice with me for the rest of the summer for next year. I hope we can find enough summer left to squeeze in swimming, golf, and fishing too. I also hope next year's league has snacks.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Day

Happy Father's Day to all fathers. I had a great day with my family. After church Lady Di took the kids and I out to Perkins for breakfast. Yes, I did have the Heartland Omelet and yes, it was tasty. After breakfast we came home and Number One Son and Sweet Pea gave me a wonderful gift...a nap. I can't believe how good it felt. It has been a while. After that I didn't accomplish too much. I watched some baseball and played with the kids. The kids gave me their homemade cards and we all went for a family walk around the neighborhood. I hope all fathers everywhere were able enjoy their day with their families. Thank you also to my Dad for being a great Dad. I owe much of my father skills to my own father. My family really makes it easy for me to love and support them.

I couldn't have asked for a nicer Dad's Day.

Thank you and I love you.

Pay no attention to the date on picture.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Game On!

Our Number One Son had some ear surgery earlier this week. This was the second surgery he had to undergo since the first one didn't fix the problem. Ethan was a bit more apprehensive for the second go round. For some reason he was afraid to breath the anesthesia gas to put him under. In the end he was brave and put the mask on. His bravery did take a little cajoling though. We reassured, asked nicely, pleaded, bargained, used reverse psychology and negotiated. After about twenty minutes of this the doctor said, "Well, we always could do this another day." That was not an option.
Out of desperation we offered to get Ethan a new Gameboy, if he was brave. Ethan did a double take and said, "How about an X-Box?" This isn't a contract negotiation for a pro athlete. Suffice it to say, Ethan settled for the Gameboy.

I know it isn't always the best thing to buy things for kids when you want them to do something they don't want to do. But Ethan is a good boy and he graciously allows us to limit his video game time. He can only play for an hour or so on Fridays when his chores are done. He gets to choose either a game online, a game from one of those joystick retro games that plug into the television (aka Pac Mac, etc), or a game on his early nineties Gameboy from a garage sale. For as much as he likes video games, he really is appreciative of what he does have.

So after he went under the anesthesia the doctor said the medicine usually has an amnesia effect and he probably won't remember a thing. Cool!
A couple days later I asked Ethan if he remembered anything about his surgery. He said, "Yeah, I remember the Popsicle I got afterward." Alright, so far so good.
"Anything else?", I asked tentatively.
"Hmmm. No, nothing else."
Whew, we dodged a bullet on that one.
"Oh yeah, I also remember that you were going to take me to Gamestop for a new Gameboy."
Cue the 'Price Is Right' loser music. Whah, whah, whah, whaaaaaaaaah.

Alright, so we're caught. It's OK though. He really deserves one anyway. The next question was, when are we going. "We can go on Thursday. Is that OK?"
Everyday until Thursday was filled with Ethan telling everyone and anyone where he was going on Thursday.
Well wishers came by to ask how Ethan was. "My ear is OK. Did you know I'm going to Gamestop?", he repeated to all. That story was much more interesting to him than his ear.

When Thursday afternoon came, Lady Di called to the living room, "OK, get your shoes so we can go." Usually this needs to be said four or five times before the television loosens it's hypnotic grip on him. This time he had his shoes on and was sitting in the van before Lady Di finished her sentence.
On the drive to the store, he was very excited. "Are we really going to Gamestop? I can't believe we are going to Gamestop!"
As Lady Di pulled up to the store she noticed the 'door ajar' light on the dashboard. She got the van into park just in time to see an Ethan sized blur swoosh through Gamestop's front door. Lady Di said Ethan was like a kid in a candy (video game) store. He saw lots of things he liked. Lady Di picked out the game we were going to get him. Ethan then started a conversation with the sales clerk trying to talk the clerk into upgrading him to the game that was twice the price. Lady Di didn't fall for that. He picked out a Star Wars lego game and a Mario game to play on the way home.

That night, when I came home after work, I tried to play one of the games. I must not have good thumb-eye coordination, because I couldn't get the hang of it.
Well, we finally caved and bought him his game. I think this will have an overall positive effect on his chores. Now that he has a good game to play, we will be able to leverage that into more work. The driveway does need to be sealed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This Old Closet

Today is my last day of vacation. What are good things to do on your last day? Nap, read a book, play golf? Nope. Put up wire shelves in my daughter's closet? Yes. We had a gift card for Menards, so we got some shelves and today is also the last day we have before Emery returns from Gramma's house. Lady Di will go and pick her up tomorrow. So it's now or never.

All of Emery's clothes and toys and books are now all over her bed and/or floor. I don't want 'Sweet Pea' to come home to that.
"What did you do to my room!!!" , "I want a different Daddy!"
OK, she probably wouldn't say that, but she wouldn't be happy.

So I asked Ethan to help me with this project.
"OK, Dad. What do we do first?", he asked.
"First, you get your radio from your room.", I instructed.
"To listen to music while we work?", he excitedly offered.
"Exactly.", I answered. "You do that while I get my tools."
Ethan plugged in his radio and couldn't find a radio station he liked so he put in his Wacky Songs CD. The one with Monster Mash, Short Shorts, and Purple People Eaters.

After my fifth or sixth trip to the garage, I finally had all the tools I needed. Lady Di mapped out where each shelf was to go and I started to work. So I marked a few spots, drilled a few holes, trimmed a couple shelves, remarked a few spots, redrilled a few holes, cursed a little, and a few hours later, my daughter had shelves. I now can't stand the song Monster Mash. Ethan was a very good helper. He got the music going. He resharpened my pencil. He actually took the broken pencil and returned with a different sharpened pencil. He thought this was pretty funny. He even made a 'Men Working' sign for the job site. We even got to whistle at Lady Di when she walked by. Just like real workers.

After we got the shelves in, it was Lady Di's turn to work on the closet. It was her job to put everything in place. She made sure the dresses were all together in the proper order. She also organized all of Emery's pants, tops, belts, socks, underwear and tiaras. Some books and Barbies also found their proper place. It is amazing how many clothes she has.

Ethan must have been tired after all of our work. We laid down on his bed to read a chapter in his book. When that was done, he pulled his shades and fell asleep. He may still be a little worn out from his ear surgery on Monday. Or he may be tired of watching movies all day and not being able to run around outside. Either way it was nice to get something done on my last day of vacation, and to have such a great partner to help me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Absence Makes the Father Grow Fonder

Last Monday my son Ethan had his second ear surgery to repair a hole that didn't close after his ear tubes fell out. About one month ago he had the same surgery, but the patch to cover the hole didn't attach itself. This time we spent another long day at the hospital. We got there at 8am and came home around 5pm. Ethan did a great job. He was a little scared of going under anesthetic this time around, but in the end he was brave. He was a little crafty too. Like I said, this time he was scared of going under for some reason. We tried to reassure and persuade him that it was alright. Out of desparation we offered to get him something he wanted if he was brave. We said we would get him a Gameboy. He said, "How about an X-box?" We declined and he resigned himself to a Gameboy and allowed the doctor to put him under. He was quite groggy and in some pain afterwards. To make matters worse, we hit rush hour traffic on the way home. On top of the traffic, we had 2 detours to maneuver around. He only complained a couple times about not being home sooner. Now we have to keep him from running, jumping, blowing his nose and roughhousing. Basically, he has to stop acting like an 8 year old boy for at least one to two weeks. So we borrowed our friends' Harry Potter movies and bought a couple new Jack Sparrow books and lined up as many indoor activities as we could think of. Luckily, he likes board games and reading.

The weekend before Ethan's surgery, his little sister Emery went to stay with Gramma and Grampa up north. She is having a great time. She caught a sunfish "all by herself" yesterday. She has gone swimming and shopping and even went to a township meeting with Gramma. I talked to her on the phone tonight and asked her if she is ready to come home soon. She said, "Yeah, soon or maybe later." I think she still has some fun stuff to do.

It's nice for the kids to visit family overnight on occasion. The dinner table has definitely been quieter though. I am finding that I sure miss her when she is gone. I notice her missing in the morning when I make breakfast. I only set the dinner table with 3 plates instead of 4. I see piles of pony tail holders, stuffed animals and 'My Little Pony's' and I miss her.

Tonight, Ethan was to have had a baseball game. He had to miss it due to his surgery. When the coach called out his name inadvertently I had another sense of something missing. I knew he was at home, but it still made me notice that something wasn't right.

Losing a child is something I don't ever want to have to endure. I can't imagine how it feels for parents who have lost a child. I don't want to seem morbid. I know my children aren't far away. But sometimes their absence from a place I'm used to seeing them in, reminds me that something could happen to them. Then what would I do? I wouldn't be the same man. I guess that my family is such a large part of who I am, when one or more of those parts are missing, a large part of myself is missing. It is natural for a father to love and protect his family at all costs. When I think of such things, I think of how grateful and fortunate I am to have the family I do have. I love Lady Di and the kids more and feel greater joy when we are together. Emery will be back home on Friday. I think I'll give Ethan an extra special breakfast tomorrow morning and save a couple dozen hugs for Emery on Friday.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Festival Season

Today we went to the Albertville, Friendly City Days parade. Albertville, Mn is a small town of about 6000 or so. This is the first time we have attended this parade. We were expecting a typical small town parade. For the most part, it was typical. Except for the fact that it was not very small. In fact, it was 2 and half hours long.

I grew up in a real small town. My home town's population runs around 1000 or so, depending on if you include cattle or not. Our main street is 4 blocks long. Our parades usually had a couple marching bands, a half dozen floats, a couple politicians in convertibles and around 20 tractors. Did I mention my home town is a small agricultural community in South Dakota. Our parades ended like many parades, with the firetrucks.

Today's parade was different in that it started with the firetrucks. Not only did it start with firetrucks, it started with a lot of firetrucks. I counted twelve fire and emergency vehicles. You may ask why I counted. Because whenever we go to parades we always have cover our kids ears when the firetruck sirens and horns sound. Ethan's ears are especially sensitive to the loud, sharp, surprising noises. So much so, that he jumps when they blare unexpectedly. I know the sirens and horns make the parade more fun and exciting. But I think they are just too loud. They are even too loud for many who are not especially sensitive to noise. Over half of the young children at the parade had to cover their ears. A few toots and one long siren would be sufficient, I think. Keep the lights flashing and throw out fire safety Frisbees. There is no need to deafen anyone for the sake of entertainment.

One more thing that would have been welcome is for the firetrucks to spray the crowd with the water hose. Today's temperature got up to 88 degrees and we northerners aren't used to 80's this early in June. I suppose there is some sort of liability involved so trucks can't squirt people anymore. Which is too bad because, a couple floats had people using squirt guns on the crowd and people were begging to get dowsed. A couple of the marching bands even had boosters spray them on the back of their necks to cool them off.

Anyway, once the firetrucks had moved on, our ears were able to enjoy the rest of the parade. Emery was staying at Gramma's house this weekend, so Ethan got enough candy thrown at him for both of them. A few floats even threw frozen Flavorice popcicles to the crowd. The crowd pounced upon them like starving hienas.

Maybe it's a sign of the times or just the area we live in, but there was only one horse in the whole parade. I was disappointed that we wouldn't get to guess which band member would 'march' when he should've 'sidestepped'.

Overall, it was a very good parade. The weather was nice in spite of the heat. And we had good seats with good friends. I think we will try to visit another parade this summer. But we will bring ear plugs next time.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Beauty and the Barber

I get my hair cut about once per month. I used to go to my barber before he closed shop. Why do some men go to barbers and some go to beauty shops? You get the same basic haircut. Men's haircuts usually include the 'buzz cut' or the 'trim'. The buzz cut is pretty self explanatory. The trim involves cutting the patron's hair to look exactly the same as when he came in, only smaller. If you walk in with a 'helmet' of hair, a trim will have you leaving with a smaller 'helmet' of hair. I get a combination of the two. I get the sides buzzed and the top trimmed.

For those unfamiliar with barbershops, I will try to describe observations I have made through the years. The first thing you will notice is that only men go to barbershops. I have never seen a female getting a haircut in a barber shop. That is probably due to the female aversion to the 'buzz cut'. The barbershop decor is usually outdoor related. If there are any pictures on the walls, they are usually landscapes or wildlife. There is usually a fish mounted on the wall too. Sometimes, the fish sings. Sometimes a few sports related items are in view. And there is always, fake wood panelling.

Beauty shop walls show pictures of women with various hairstyles. Which is curious, because I don't remember seeing any customers getting any of those hairstyles. There is also one obligatory picture of a male with 1970's style cut and Magnum P.I. mustache. Beauty shops also include those massive, sit-down hair dryers. The ones that look like alien robots trying to suck your brain out of the top of your head. I also can't figure out how some women can carry on a conversation during the hair dryers' roar cycle. Conversations at the barber shop include sports, fishing, hunting and the weather. These exchanges are usually short, too the point and agreed with by everyone in the barber shop. There is rarely a political debate during a haircut.

Barber shops and beauty shops smell differently as well. A barber shop has the smell of dust mixed with the smell of the blue antiseptic that the combs are soaked in. Add a little 'old man sweat' and Aqua Velva, and you will be able to cut hair. Beauty shop odors include 'old lady perfume' mixed with Aqua Net hairspray. On a bad day, you can also expect 'perm fumes' to nauseate you. I think both places could be helped by ceiling fans. I suppose the hair on the floor would disagree. Although, it would be cool to see a hair clipping tornado.

Reading material also differs between establishments. Barber shop periodicals include the local paper, Field & Stream and Sports Illustrated. Beauty parlors have multiple 'hair style books' (usually 3 to 5 years old or more) and a Good Housekeeping or two.

One point where barbershops and beautyshops are alike is their sad box of 'toys'. These toys are usually broken or missing pieces or batteries. Even so, these toys have a magical effect on kids. No matter how pathetic they are, these toys get new life in the haircut places. There is such a lack of any other diversion, that children will actually wrestle for the Troll key-chain, or the Matchbox car missing two wheels.

I obviously do not know how my experience compares with others. I'm sure women have multiple levels of hair nirvana. That may be why a woman's cut costs more than a man's. I am sadden by the fact that barbershops are becoming obsolete. My dad took me to a barber and I have taken my son to a barber a few times. A beauty shop haircut is fine, but I am usually watching the clock until it is over. A barbershop makes me want to slow down time and 'set a spell'. I guess it also makes me talk like Andy Griffith.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Kick It!

Our daughter Emery is now old enough to play on a team. And it's about time! She has had to watch her big brother play baseball and basketball. She has had to watch him in concerts and plays for the last 5 years. Every minute she had to sit on the sidelines would kill her. She always wanted to be right in the middle of the action. Now it is her turn to shine.

Emery is playing soccer this summer.
Now, I don't want to put any pressure on her. I just hope she has fun. She doesn't need to score in every game. Just most of them. And if one of her little opponents get a little too aggressive, I've instructed Emery to use a little intimidation when needed. The rules don't say anything about a little accidental tripping, or head-butting. Wait, I guess the rules do clearly prohibit such tactics. So much for cheating.
Emery had her first practice tonight. She is on the lavender Gopher team. Pretty intimidating, huh? Our area has about 30 teams of 8 to 10, five year olds. Tonight's scene resembled a chaotic anthill. Kids running, kicking and squealing everywhere. Emery was excited to say the least. She kept repeating, "I'm so excited!", over and over. On the drive to the soccer fields she instructed us on how to cheer for her. She said we could either say, "Go Emery!, Go Emery Go!, or Go Gophers!" We assured her we would abide by her rules.
When we arrived, Emery received her jersey, socks, and shorts. Her coaches ran the team through some fun drills. The girls didn't even know they were learning soccer. Emery got to run to the sidelines for her water bottle about a half dozen times. She informed us that she was really sweaty and that she was 'getting a workout'.
The coaches then organized a scrimmage with another team. They played a game of four on four which turned into eight little girls chasing the ball back and forth. Each team scored a couple of goals with both teams celebrating for each one. At one point, Emery was taking her turn on the sidelines, drinking her water. She looked back to see her brother, Ethan, entertaining himself with a soccer ball.
"Ethan! You are supposed to be cheering for me!", she scolded.
She didn't say we could cheer, "Sit, Emery, Sit!"
All kidding aside, I know Emery will have a blast playing soccer this summer. I've never played organized soccer before, so I will be learning too. I hope they allow foam fingers at her games.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

May is Movie Month

I'm in a movie rut. Parents with kids know that going to a movie is a pretty rare treat. Many obstacles usually block any kind of a meaningful night out with your sweetie. First you need to pick a day that isn't booked with baseball, soccer, piano, chest club, field trip, conferences, birthday, wedding, funeral, Dancing with the Stars, Etc. Then you have to examine your finances to see if you qualify for a Baby Sitter Loan. Especially if you have to pick them up and drive them home, with today's gas prices. So we finally pick an open date. And luckily we find a baby sitter with an opening in her schedule. Now we have to pick something to do.

Skydiving? Spelunking? Square Dancing?
All right, dinner and a movie. I didn't say I was creative.

I generally like to eat out and see a movie. I, of course, like action movies in the theater. A movie with only a good story can be watched anywhere. But I get the most bang for my buck (or $7) from a special effects movie in the theater. Did I mention a movie rut? We generally don't go to the movies often but this month I have seen 3 whole movies. Can you believe it?

The first movie Lady Di and I saw this month was Spiderman 3. I'm sorry but I was a little disappointed. Not even the IMAX screen could help Spidey live up to the hype. Although, when the Sandman was about to make an appearance in the film, our seats were actually vibrating due to the decibel rumbling IMAX speakers. Rock on THX!

The second movie of the month was Shrek 3. OK, so this one wasn't a date. This one involved Emery's five year old birthday party. We only have one van so Lady Di and I borrowed our neighbor's van and loaded 9 five year olds and 2 eight year olds into both vans and headed for the cinema. The kids did a great job sitting through the whole film. I liked the first two Shrek films, but the third one was a bit slow until the end. If you can wait in the lobby eating 'free refill popcorn' until the last 15 minutes of the movie, you'll come out ahead.

9, five year olds and 2, 8 year olds

The last movie of May was Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End. My neighbor invited me for a guy's night out. I don't think I've been on one of those since the early nineties. Anyway, this movie was definitely the best one of the month. It was a little long in spots, but overall, very swashbuckling.

Not Johnny Depp

So, does anyone notice the subtle theme of my movie viewing? The last three movies I have seen are all third movie sequels. Is this all Hollywood has to offer? Or am I too cheap to splurge on a movie with thinking in it? Are you allowed to refill your popcorn bucket 3 times?

Stuff About Me

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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.