Sunday, July 29, 2007

We Can Dance If We Want To

Last week we had family movie night out. All of our scheduling stars happened to be in alignment which meant the whole family was free to enjoy something together. Lady Di suggested we all see the movie Hairspray. She picked a very good movie.

The kids and I enjoy musicals so we were all on board for this one. We weren't disappointed. The film's music had Sweet Pea and Number One Son doing the 'rump wiggle' in their seats more than once. Sweet Pea's favorite part of the movie was seeing Tracy Turnblad's father, sleeping on a bed of whoopie cushions. You can imagine the wonderful sound effects from that scene. Lady Di and I got a kick out of the kids.

As it turns out, I was the only one in the family who had seen the original, John Waters, film from 1988. There are a few subtle references to that film in the current version.

The film also has a good message about segregation and race relations. It was interesting to note that N1S noticed that some people in the movie didn't want the different races to dance together. He couldn't figure out why that was. My friend, Clare's Dad, wrote a nice post about that. Another, less prominent message in the movie concerns self image and self confidence. The main character, Tracy, is not one of the popular kids. This fact doesn't stop her from having a very positive attitude of herself and towards others. She doesn't judge others and she doesn't hold herself back. She even helps her mother come out of her shell when she is self conscious of her weight and appearance.

When today's youths are following role models like Brittney and Lindsay and playing with Bratz dolls, it's nice to see a positive role model who may not fit the accepted celebrity fashion. There is a lot of pressure to look a certain way. This image is, many times, unattainable by most youth. I don't want Sweet Pea thinking that she is inferior just because doesn't look like a Barbie doll. Tracy's character may have been overweight and over-cheerful, but she was also confident and comfortable with who she was. She did her own thing and did what she thought was the right thing. Even when the right thing wasn't popular or easy. I hope our kids learned that anyone can be their friend. Your friends don't all have to be the pretty, athletic, rich kids. Actually, I hope our kids will try to be friends with the kids who seem to be alone on the playground.

So I would suggest seeing Hairspray if you get the chance. Even if you normally don't like musicals. It's a good film for children too. It is positive, funny, has good music and John Travolta in drag. And lots of whoopie cushions. I suggest seeing the 1988 version with Rikki Lake too.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Well, it's finally over. Number One Son's ear battles are behind him. About a month ago he had ear surgery for the second time to repair a hole in his eardrum. Last week was his final check up to see if the drum was healed. The doctor said yes. So now N1S can swim until he grows gills.

The poor kid has been on a 'two summer slump'. Last summer, he and his bike went over a four foot retaining wall and he broke both arms just above the wrists. He wore a cast on one of his arms until August. For most of the summer he had to settle for floating on the water with a duct taped bread bag around his cast.

This summer, he started out with a second attempt to fix his ear which required his ear to stay dry until healed. Once again, he settled for floating, but without the bread bag.

At his last check up, he still had some of the packing in his ear. Ethan was pretty nervous about the doctor going into his ear again. He really does not like people around his ears. He was quite brave to let the doctor use his metal loop to pull the remnants of the packing out.

When all was done, N1S got some gum from the doctor and called me at work from the doctor's office. He was excited to tell me about his gum and about how brave he was. After all that he has been through, I was extremely relieved to hear that his ear was now healed. I did not want him to go through another surgery. I also liked hearing the pride in his voice when he told me how brave he was. It may not seem like a big thing, but to Ethan, it was a big thing. We've seen how sensitive his ears are to him. It couldn't have been easy for him.

So now he can enjoy anything wet that the summer can offer. He can swim, dive, slip and slide. Maybe tomorrow I'll set up a bucket of water balloons....then run.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Sweet Pea's soccer season ended last Monday with her soccer Jamboree. All of the teams met at the fields with their coaches to get their medals and water bottles. It was nice to see the girls show their pride in their team and clap for each other as they got their medals. Her coaches did a great job and you could tell they were having just as much fun as the girls.

After the 'awards ceremony' , kids from all of the teams got to take turns climbing into a real firetruck. They got to see the inside of a police car too. I hope that is the only way she will see that. The kids also got to see the police dog, 'Buck'. Buck entertained the crowd with a demonstration of how to take down a criminal. Another officer 'volunteered' to be the bad guy, as Buck dragged him down and tried to shred his arm. All the kids cheered for Buck.

The evening ended with the firetruck spraying the whole crowd with water. And on this 90 degree day, it was welcome. There were a lot of screaming, squealing and soaked kids.

When we got home we had a Popsicle and Sweet Pea showed her medal to her big brother who was quite impressed.
Our area really has an impressive number of opportunities for kids to be involved in group activities. Kids can choose just about any sport they want and can participate in something pretty much year round. In addition to sports, the community also offers many fun classes and camps for kids to learn and have fun. Where I grew up, we didn't have such choices. We could choose to participate in the one activity offered, or we could mow lawns. We consider ourselves pretty lucky to have so many different things for the kids to try and experience.

I hope Emery wants to play soccer next year. She likes to play with other kids and likes to do physical things. She also doesn't mind getting dirty. Sometimes she will complain about being too sweaty. But not very often.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Start your engines

What a beautiful day. I got off from work early this afternoon, got the lawn mowed and started playing. The kids and I played a game of Bean Bag. This is the game where you throw bean bags at some wooden car ramps, trying to get them into the hole in the middle. With a little expert instruction, Number One Son started to hit the target pretty well. His little sister, Sweet Pea was pretty good about nailing the fire pit ten feet away with her bean bags.

Grampa Ray came for a visit and he brought his boxer, Rosie, with him. Rosie is quite a bit bigger than our poodle, Liberty, but they get along OK. Since Rosie is still a puppy, she has to be tied up or else she will run to the next state. So she is tethered to the kids' swing set and was happy to have them play around her. Their swing set has an elevated club house so Rosie could rest underneath in the shade.

Tonight after supper I asked the kids if they wanted to go for a bike ride. "Nooooo!", was the immediate response. I guess the babysitter walked them to the park this morning and they were still tired. So instead of a bike ride I got out something better.

N1S got a NASCAR electric race track for Christmas two years ago from his Grampa Gary. I'm ashamed to say that I've been too busy to set it up before now. You know how it is. After work there's dishes to wash, lawn to mow, deck to build, snack to eat, game to watch, etc. Anyway, it's OK to be a little late as long as you use it eventually. So long as the kids are still at an appreciative age to enjoy it. Since the weather was so nice I set it up outside on the deck. Almost immediately, the kids started enjoying the concept of assembly required.

"OK, kids! Who wants to untwist all of the twist ties?!"
"We do!", was the trusting reply.

The glamour of that job quickly faded. I heard, "Is it ready yet?" , just after I found the instructions. Luckily it was a simple set and I had it set up just as the kids were finishing the sticker application to their cars. Yellow car for Sweet Pea, and orange car for N1S of course.

You could feel the excitement as they anticipated the squealing of tires with the first squeeze of their controller trigger. I placed their cars correctly on the track and off they went. Spinning out on the first curve. This race track set is the same as the one I had as a kid. When you squeeze the controller all the way down, the cars lose control and leave the track. Next, the kids practiced how to get their cars around the track without having to pick up the car and replace it on the track every four inches. They would carefully squeeze their trigger ever so lightly. The car would move a few inches and stop. Then a few more inches and stop. Gradually the car would go half way around the track before stopping. The giggling really started when both cars got around the track without stopping or crashing. After a while the racing got boring and the crashing got more inventive. Each tried to see how far their car would fly after removing one of the guard rails from a curve. After that standard was set, they pretended to go to restaurants with their cars and order drive up.

The main thing is that they had fun. It was a simple toy that provided a lot of entertainment and imagination. It also allowed the kids to enjoy the nice weather with something new to do. The most enjoyable times we have as a family usually involve a simple game or activity. A deck of cards, a board game or paper and crayons are usually enough to produce many memories. The kids actually played pretty nice together and it didn't get competitive at all. Thanks Grampa Gary.

Now what can we do tomorrow?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

If I had a Hammer

Well, it is finally done! I started building our deck off the back of our house last July. Now, last week, I finally screwed the last screw to the last board on the last step. I had never built anything this large before. I can cut a board and pound a nail here and there, but this is the first 'structure' that I've built. This is also the first thing I've constructed that other people will trust their lives to. People will actually be putting their lives in my hands as they step out onto my deck boards ten feet from the ground. I may have to invest in a trampoline in case anyone falls. I've put furniture kits together that people have used, but those had instructions.

I had some help from the Internet and the hardware store when I had questions. My good friend and neighbor T-roy helped me a lot with the initial framing and heavy lifting. My Dad also came from South Dakota to help put up floor joists. Definitely a two person job. And I also have to thank Lady Di for all that she did. How many other wives would grab one end of a two-man auger to dig the four foot footings needed for the posts?

So why did it take so long? Well, for one thing, I'm not handy by any stretch of the imagination. I usually measured twice or more, then measured again, then cut. I'm proud to say that I only cut two boards that were too short. So all of that measuring slowed me down a bit. I also ran into Autumn weather before I was finished. Fall came and it got cold, so I said I'll finish next Spring. Then we had warm weather for the rest of Fall. But, since I had already decided to wait until Spring to finish, I couldn't very well get my tools out again. So then Spring came, I got the railings up and found out that I was two spindles short. I had to go to two hardware stores to find the color to match. Then we got busy with baseball and the end of school, then graduation parties and family get-togethers, and before we knew, it was Summer. All I had left was to finish the steps from the lower deck to the ground. Just two steps all around the deck on one side. The first hardware store was out of my deck boards. The second store said, "Those deck boards were discontinued. We can't get them anymore." So I had to settle for a look-alike board that had to be special ordered. The special order took four weeks to arrive.

But now, one short year later, I can say that the deck is done. The table with the umbrella in the middle is out. The grill is in it's place at one end. All that is left to do is relax and listen to the birds in the back yard. I can enjoy the rest of the summer in peace.

I suppose we could have hired it out and had our deck last year and enjoyed it sooner. But I think I will enjoy it more knowing that I had accomplished something that I hadn't done before. I'll admit I have a little bit of pride in the finished product. Plus we saved some money. But now that it is done, I'm ready to do something else besides building a deck. I'm ready to move on to a golf or fishing project. There still is some summer left to enjoy.

What's that honey? Landscaping?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Aye, Aye Captain

Ethan got to visit both sets of grandparents in the past two weeks. Last weekend we went to South Dakota for my class reunion. Ethan and Emery got to spend the weekend with Gramma and Grampa. They got a ride in Grampa's convertible and played on the slip and slide. On Saturday night they attended a block party hosted by a neighbor. The kids got to dance the 'hokey pokey' and the 'chicken dance". Ethan hung out with the 'DJ' and got him coffee. The block party had a tropical theme so Ethan and Grampa got to wear their hawiian shirts. The kids even attended Gramma and Grampa's church on Sunday. The church was serving a breakfast to raise money to fix the roof. We weren't expecting rolls, sausage, eggs, waffle sticks mega breakfast. I have a hard enough time staying awake in church on an empty stomach.

On Monday, Ethan went 'up north' to Bemiji to visit his MN Grandparents. Little Sister wanted to come too but we had to bring her home for soccer. Plus, she got to stay with Gramma two months ago for a week. On the first night Ethan called home to tell us that we forgot to pack his toothbrush and pajamas. Therefore, he got go shopping at Target for new ones. He picked out a travel toothbrush because he liked how short it was, and skull and bones pajamas because they were cool. I think he hopes we forget to pack things in the future so he can go shopping for new things. Things like socks, snacks, video games, legos, etc. Ethan also got a ride on Grampa's four wheeler and pontoon boat. Grampa even let Ethan captain the pontoon around the lake with Rosie as his first mate. Ethan got to see the loons with their baby on the lake too. He also got to see a lot of deer and an eagle. He was so busy, he only played his Gameboy twice for the whole week.

Emery and the rest of the family caught up with him on the following Friday. He took us all for a pontoon ride and Uncle Greg took both kids for a ride in his speed boat. I think Ethan had fun being at Gramma's house for a week without his little sister. Little Sister had fun being the center of attention at home for a week. They both said that they missed each other and were glad to be together again. Although, Emery did wait until day number four to ask where her brother was.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Soccer Night

Tonight was Sweet Pea's soccer night. This afternoon was another scorcher. I'm glad Emery's soccer started at 7:30pm this time. The tight traffic leaving the soccer fields usually makes the evening a late one. But the air cooled off a bit when the sun went behind the trees and it was pleasantly comfortable. All eight of Emery teammates showed up tonight. I think it is the first time the whole team has been there since the first practice. Her team is showing signs of improving too. They are starting to spread out on the field a little. Usually, all the girls on the field collapse to the ball and follow it around the field as a group. Tonight a few of the girls hung around the group waiting for the ball to squirt out. Toward the end of the scrimmage, I think a few of the girls were spreading out because of exhaustion. They started walking toward the ball instead of running. But other than that, they all showed a lot of improvement and, as usual, had a lot of fun.

I also had a pleasant surprise from Number One Son. Those of you who know Ethan, know that he has a difficult time starting and maintaining friendships with his peers. It's hard work for him and we usually have to encourage and coach him about how to act. He usually doesn't go up to kids on his own and start playing.

Tonight, as Emery started soccer, Ethan asked if he could explore a treeline next to the soccer field. I could keep an eye on him so I said OK. A few minutes later I noticed that he was talking to two boys close to his age. This is when we usually start to feel a little nervous about how he will interact. I let him alone and watched Emery's soccer some more. A little later all three boys were intently examining something they were holding. I found out later that it was just some berries they had found in the woods. The important thing, however, was the fact that Ethan was doing something with his peers and was involved in the project. Many times he is an observer and doesn't participate. But tonight I observed him conversing with the boys and contributing to what they were doing. It felt good to not worry so much about Ethan's behavior. It made me think that he is learning and eventually he will be able to apply what he has learned towards persuing his own friendships. Later the boys found bugs, tried to start a fire banging stones together and played a small game of soccer amongst themselves.

Tonight both kids showed me how they are growing and improving. Emery is learning a team sport, improving her coordination and getting exercise. She is also making friends but that is usually easier for her. Ethan showed he could initiate a friendship and be an active participant. Tonight was a good night. These are the nights that let you know why you are a parent.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Class of 87 Still Rules

This weekend I dragged the family to my home town for my twenty year high school reunion. I can't believe it has been two decades. I don't feel twenty years older. Well, sometimes my back feels that way after mowing the lawn.

I graduated with 29 other hopeful youngsters. Yes, I'm from a town where everybody knew everybody. We had about a 50% turnout for the reunion. I was hoping for a better turn out, but it was still nice to catch up with the classmates who were able to attend. Surprisingly enough, It didn't seem like anyone changed all that much. I know I am still the 'cool dude' I was in high school. My kids tell me that all the time. Most classmates had started families of their own and that is what everyone talked about of course.

We got to play some golf. Some of us just chased the ball from tree to tree before feeding it to the creek. It was a very loose game. The 'foot wedge' was used often and a few golf balls were thrown by hand with better results than some hits with the golf club. Golf etiquette was observed at all times. Except when we were shouting or laughing during someone's swing.

Those of us with kids got them all together with us at the park to play and get acquainted. After the kids had a hot dog picnic they were given over to their sitters, and we grilled steaks before invading the local tavern to jam to Outfield and Bon Jovi music. We acted like headbangers without the hair. It seemed some of us weren't used to having a night out sans kids. When 'no kids' was combined with seeing friends you haven't seen in ten to twenty years, it added up to loud evening. After a few drinks, some classmates started acting like they were still in high school. By the end of the night, a couple classmates actually thought they were still in high school.

Overall, the weekend was very fun. It was worth the five hour drive to reconnect with friends. It also made me realize that I miss my friends and I need to keep in touch better. We have all led such different and interesting lives. Many classmates went off in directions that no one could have predicted. Some have been around the world and have experienced different cultures. It also makes me re-evaluate my own life. Have I done enough and seen enough at this point in my life? Probably not. I now have email addresses that will allow me communicate better and hopefully learn more about where my former classmates have been.

Thanks to Christi, Kim, Maria and Mike and everyone else for all of their hard work. And if anyone needs a good pecan bar recipe, I'll get it from Carolyn.

By the way, I'm the old guy who's still 'got it' in the picture.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Where do you want to eat?

I've been tagged with a meme for the first time. This is so exciting. What is a meme? I'm so new I had to look it up. Clare's Dad sent me this idea so I'm going to give it a whirl. I only hope I can live up to his expectations. I don't want to disappoint Clare.

This meme involves the following rules.
*Link to the person who tagged you.
*Include the state and country you live in.
*List top five favorite local restaurants.
*Tag five other people and let them know they’ve been tagged.

Mt. Fuji is a hibachi restaurant in Maple Grove, MN. We were a little nervous going here the first time. Lady Di and Number One son tend to eat on the picky side. Sweet Pea and I, by contrast, brought our own chopsticks and bibs. It was a lot of fun. The chef was very entertaining. He made an onion smokestack complete with train whistle. The kids loved the spatula clanging and knife banging. But the thing they will remember best is when the chef got a good flame going on the grill, then brought out a little wooden doll about the size of a pop can. When he pushed down on the doll's head, the doll's pants lowered and water squirted the fire out. I think all four of us squealed like pigs. Then we ate like pigs. Even the finicky ones.

Another of our favorites is Daddio's in Elk River. As you would expect by the name, this is a 50's style burger joint. However, they have the best tacos in our area. Who would have thought that we would find good Mexican food in the middle of milkshakes, burgers and Elvis. This place actually has a life sized Elvis in the front window. A few televisions also show 'The Lone Ranger' reruns while you eat. High Ho Silver!

Last St. Patrick's Day we visited The Local in Minneapolis. I don't think I had been to a real Irish Pub before. We went with our friends who are Irish and had a blast. The food is authentic and the beer comes in pints. They also turned out to be the largest seller of Jamison Irish Whiskey in the nation. We helped them along a little bit with sales on that day. I don't suppose they have a bagpipe band march through the bar every night, but for Irish food, beverage, and atmosphere, it is the best.

The Time Out in Elk River is a sports bar with a very good restaurant. Lady Di and I each had a melt-in-your-mouth steak. After our meal we played pool and darts with our friends and decided to save the karaoke for next time.

The last eatery we enjoy visiting is Sticks in Minneapolis. The chicken and vegetables are very good. Sticks is part of the ACME comedy club. They usually have pretty good comedians and very often have a national comic. Our favorite is Nick Swardson. Check him out if you get the chance.

As you can see, our considerations in dining center around the level of kid friendliness and entertainment. We enjoy good food but are not really gourmands. Time spent together is more valued than what we ate. Being entertained during the meal creates more memories for us and the kids. I hope this helps someone who is looking for somewhere to eat. Because these establishments are definitely places to eat.

Now it's time to pass the fork to five others for culinary direction. I'm going to tag five people that Lady Di and I enjoy reading. Visit DJKirkby, Blog of Rand, Denver Dad, The Hygiene Chronicles, and Epixstix. Check them out if you like.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Day Game

Number One Son and I went to our first Twins game in about two years. Two years ago we took Ethan to the Metrodome and didn't have very good seats. He enjoyed it alright, but the game was a little long for him and we left early. Lady Di was getting antsy around the second inning.
Ethan's second game of his life was at noon, so we weren't quite so tired at the end. We got there a little early and browsed the Twins vendors. Ethan got his favorite Twin's shirt. I got a new cap. And Emery got a pink baseball pennant. She was a little disappointed about not being able to go, but she was brave and didn't cry.
I won tickets to the game from a raffle at work. These were the best seats I have ever had for a game. It was nice to actually be able to see and recognize players instead of squinting though binoculars trying to indentify the moving grains of rice from the nosebleed seats.
The only thing Ethan asked for at the game was a soft pretzel. He got his pretzel along with a DomeDog, Sprite and M&M's. He deserves to get a little extra once in a while.

The game started and it didn't look good. After the first half inning, the Twins were behind 4 to 0. After 3 innings it was 5 to 1. Then the Twins staged a comeback to win 8 to 5. It was exciting. We got our money's worth for this game. We got to see four homeruns. One of them was hit by Frank Thomas for the Bluejays for his 500th career homerun. He got a standing ovation even though the Twins were losing at that point. The Twins hit 3 more homeruns. We got to see a couple double plays, a diving catch by Torii Hunter, and the Toronto manager getting thrown out of the game for debating an umpire's call. Ethan even got to see his favorite player pitch in the 9th inning.

It was just nice to see Ethan following the action and being interested in what was going on in the game. In the past, he would have been more interested in the electronic scoreboard or reading the ads in the outfield. This time he cheered at the right times and asked appropriate questions about baseball. I really enjoyed our time together. He said he would even like to go to another game this year. I hope we can find the time to schedule another trip to the ballpark.

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.