Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Turkey, Rock Stars and Parades

Thanksgiving weekend was a busy one for the 'Stuff' household. We had a nice gathering at Lady Di's sister's house for Thanksgiving. Our brother-in-law put out a sumptuous banquet as usual. He made three types of turkey and I had much of all three. I did save room for pie though. And by saving room I mean, I ate until I was miserable and then forced two pieces of pie down.

We ended up staying a little later than we had planned. After playing a few games of Catchphrase, we thought it was time to get the kids home and to bed. This was about ten o'clock in the evening. Our nephew then decided to bring out his Guitar Hero game. It was all over after that. We ended up staying until midnight. Number One Son got the hang of the guitar pretty quickly. You can see him in the picture above. Sweet Pea was a little too young to get the timing right and got frustrated when the game booed her. She did a good job dancing and being a groupie while others played, though.

Lady Di had so much fun that she challenged N1S to a 'rock off'. They each played the same song simultaneously to see who would rock it better. The scores were pretty close, but N1S edged Mom by about 1000 points. Too bad Lady Di.

At least Lady Di played better than her sister. I don't think she was able to finish a song before the game booed her off the stage. Her sister thought that singing the song while playing helped your score. Sorry, Sue, but I guess you just don't rock like you used to.

Later that weekend, our family journeyed to downtown Minneapolis for the Holidazzle Parade. We braved twenty degree temps and gale force winds to watch the lighted floats. This parade occurs every night until Christmas. We went on the first night and froze our butts because the floats were spaced so far apart that we kept wondering if it was over yet. I guess you never want to go on the first night.

Despite the cold, the kids enjoyed seeing the floats. Their favorite was the 'Wizard of Oz' float because the Wicked Witch rode a bicycle behind the float where everyone booed her. We met our friends and their kids to watch the parade. The cold must have brought the kids closer together, because they really got along well for just meeting. But, I guess that's what kids do best. The rock star and groupie are on the right.

We stayed in a hotel that night which was a rare treat for us. We did have to hide the basket of goodies left out by the hotel management though. I really couldn't afford a $4 Snickers bar. The next morning we all visited Macy's department store. And believe it or not, we didn't go to shop. Macy's eighth floor has a Christmas display every year and this year's theme was The Nutcracker. It had sixteen different displays with various animatronic people and animals moving around. We all enjoyed strolling through and taking in the spectacle.

After the Holidazzle on Friday and The Nutcracker on Saturday, I was exhausted by Saturday afternoon. Once we found our way out of the city we still had one more stop before going home. We pulled into the parking lot at Cabela's to see the fish, animals and goose calls. I saw a lot of things that would look nice under the tree this year. My wallet didn't see eye to eye with me though. Hopefully, Santa will get my letter.

We have had a pretty good start to our holiday season so far. I hope we can find time to see a holiday show or see Santa before Christmas. Next week, we decorate the trees. That's right, I said Trees.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

So Beautiful!

A few weeks ago, Sweet Pea, attended a kids pottery class offered by our local community education. She said she had a lot of fun. She didn't get too messy. She came home without clay in the hair. (that we found) We were told that her 'pot' would be ready in a couple of weeks after firing.
Well, last Monday we got the call. SP's clay pot was ready to pick up at the office.
Lady Di took the kids to retrieve SP's creation. When they got it home, Sweet Pea was eager to look at her artwork. While Lady Di was hanging up coats, Sweet was opening her bag. Lady Di then heard a sudden, loud gasp coming from Sweet Pea. Lady Di went into panic mode, "What happened? Did it break!?", she asked.

"No.", weeping, "It's just so beautiful" ,Sweet Pea answered with all of the drama of a soap opera diva. The way she said that, you would have thought that she was on the verge of tears while viewing the Grand Canyon for the first time.
When I looked at her 'pot' with it's mismatched lid, I had to agree. It was beautiful. Granted, you could tell it wasn't made by Patrick Swayzee and Demi Moore in Ghost. But, for a five year old, I would say it was very beautiful. Sweet Pea is certainly the artist in our family. I'm sure it will find a prominent place in our hutch to display for many years to come. We may even leave it out on the coffee table with M&M's in it for guests.

Where ever it ends up, it was a good $25 investment for the class.
Who knows, it may even turn into a career for her. Does anyone want to order the first custom made creation from 'Sweet Pea's Pots'?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Up On The Housetop

It's that time of year again. Time to risk life and limb in the attempt to properly show your Christmas spirit. I'm talking about putting up Christmas lights. Some people like to tastefully decorate their houses with a few strings of lights on bushes and trees. They usually use a balanced pattern with symmetry and artistry. My lighting philosophy is 'the more lights, the better'. I come from the Clark Griswold school of holiday lighting. If an airplane, flying overhead, cannot see my house, then I need another extension cord.

I tend to exasperate Lady Di. She is very artistic and creative and enjoys elegant white lights twinkling slightly in the winter breeze. I like color! Lots of color. Like a Crayola box with the stomach flu, kind of color. In the last few years I have been able to decorate the house my way. Mainly because I am still ignorant enough to climb up a ladder and hang over the edge of the roof to put lights up. Lady Di has been much smarter and avoids the ladder. She does keep the first aid kit handy and the speed dial set for 9-1-1.

When it comes to my holiday decorating tastes, anything goes. I don't mind mismatched nativity sets showing Baby Jesus playing wreath toss with Frosty. I don't mind a Santa sitting next to a camel with a gingerbread man on it's back. I don't mind candy cane lined driveways, or giant candles by the front door. A sleigh and reindeer on the roof always amaze me. I like flashing, blinking, and twinkling lights. So far, Lady Di has held me to 'lights only' on the house. But who knows, maybe a small army of toy soldiers will invade our yard this year.

I pretty much like any kind of holiday decoration, except inflatable displays. One reason is they seem too complicated for me to bother with. Anything with a motor and blower is not worth the headache for me. I also don't care for the way they lay on the front yard during the day when they are deflated. Plus, I'm sure, as soon as I put one up, the first strong winter wind will take it all the way to Mexico.

I probably get my love of holiday decorating from my Mother. She is a decorating demon every year for every holiday. At Christmas time, my Dad calls their house, "Little Vegas". They live across the street from a nursing home in a small town. The nursing home residents always tell my Mom that they look forward to seeing her yard at Christmas time. She even won her town's award for 'Most Festive Lights' last year. Whenever we go to visit we can usually tell when we are within 5 miles from Gramma's house by the 'Aurora Borealis' glow from her house.

So my goal is to create a winter wonderland before the winter comes. My plan was to get the roof lights done last weekend since we had nice weather. An extra work day put those plans on hold. Now I won't get another chance to plug in until Thanksgiving week. This is the latest that I will start decorating in quite a few years. I have decorated in the cold and snow before. I usually start with gloves until I realize it's impossible to untangle anything with gloves on. Then my fingers freeze and I have to descend the ladder to thaw my hands inside the house every half string.

Even if I don't find the time to light up the block this year, I will still get to enjoy holiday decorations. Every year, as a family, we pick a night or two to drive around town just to look at the lights in the neighborhood. I usually hear a lot of 'Wow, look at that one!' from the back seat from the kids. My sister and I enjoyed drives like this with our parents when we were young and I hope my kids enjoy them as much as I did. Hopefully, I can find the time to get our house up to a respectable level for viewing.

But it is worth it, right? Is it worth watching the electric meter spin like the Price Is Right wheel? Is it worth risking frost bite and/or a trip to the emergency room when I fall from the roof? The big payoff is when I make the whole family stand out in the street on the night after Thanksgiving and, with much pomp and ceremony, flip the switch. If I don't trip a circuit and put the whole block in a blackout, it's a success. I then bask in the glow of the kids' Oooo's and Ahhhhh's. Then they say, "We're cold! Can we go in yet?"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Second Chances

Last week Number One Son got together with our neighbor boy, who is the same age, to play. They have been playing together quite a bit lately. They get together with some other boys in the area and play war and spy games in the woods in our back yard.

They have not always got along so well. When N1S was about five or six years old, he struggled with peer play and social interaction. Couple that with clumsiness and little natural athleticism, and you can see where he might have trouble making friends. N1S has
Asperger's Syndrome and still has to work at friendships. He has improved greatly, but still needs guidance on occasion.

This neighbor boy that N1S has been playing with lately, wasn't always his friend. Two or three years ago I would have described this boy as aggressive and bullying. He was into sports, guns and playing war. Back then we tried to get the boys together to play a few times. It rarely turned out well. Sometimes N1S would come home crying because of mean things said to him. He was pushed down and got things thrown at him a couple times too. N1S didn't really know how to talk with the boys without sounding weird. Most times he would go off on a tangent and the other boys would not want to bother with him. The play often started OK, then one of the boys would team up with another one and either gang up on N1S or just exclude him. There were many times N1S would come home at 3pm because the boys told him they had to go inside for supper, only to come back out a little later.

That was then, this is now. I mentioned that N1S and his friend have been playing together a lot this summer and fall. I think it has to do with both boys maturing quite a little in the last three years. N1S has also caught up a little bit in coordination. What ever it is, it has made play dates much better. N1S has learned more of the rules of their games and has also learned more of the rules of social interaction. Things still aren't perfect, but they are definitely getting better. We are now more comfortable letting N1S go on his own to find his friends and join them. This is also the first year that those boys have actually come to our house looking for N1S to play. The first time this happened our hearts just about burst out of our chests.

Just last week, N1S was playing outside with his neighbor friend I described above. After a while they both wanted to come inside to play in N1S' s room. They played Lego's a while and we invited his friend to eat supper with us. After supper, sister Sweet Pea wanted to play the board game,
Sorry. She set out the game on the living room floor and we all played. Lady Di & Dad were a team against Sweet Pea, N1S and his friend. And the kids were truly playing against us. Three years ago, I would've thought that playing a board game would have been uncool to N1S's friend. But he had the most fun of all of us. I was proud of all of the kids. The game of Sorry offers a lot of chances for throwing fits of bad sportsmanship. No one threw a fit except Lady Di, when she was sent home for the tenth time while the little trio sang, "Soooooorrrrrry!".

After the game, it was time to go home. N1S said good bye to his friend. His friend said, See ya later, N1S." Just hearing a kid say that to N1S and mean it, gave me a warm feeling inside.

I think N1S earned a few points with his friend that day. N1S's friend also moved up a few points in my book. What kids do when they are young, does not necessarily mean that is who they are. It's easy to hold grudges, especially when someone wrongs your child. But kids, and adults as well, deserve second chances. Denying this will just limit everyone's friendships to a few. Everyone makes mistakes. Maybe, sometimes, kids don't have to actually apologize to say they are sorry. Sometimes actions speak louder than words. Maybe this was Sweet Pea's clever way of getting that apology for her brother.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Tuesday night, Sweet Pea invited me to escort her to her Girl Scouts' bowling night. All I could thing about was, I hope the alley had insurance. With ten wild scouts pounding their lanes, it could add up to some damage. Thanks to Lady Di's good directions, we found the bowling alley, which happened to be in the middle of a dark corn field with no lighted signs. We deserved a scout badge just for finding the place.

First, we had to get bowling shoes. Sweet Pea ran to the counter and politely asked, "Size 11 please."
I asked, "How do you know your bowling shoe size?"

I guess she had already bowled at an after school program earlier that afternoon. Which meant, either her bowling arm would be tired out from bowling earlier or it would be warmed up just enough to win some serious money. I then found out that wagering is not allowed at Girl Scout activities. I was also disappointed to know that only the scouts were going to be bowling and not the parents. I felt that, against Kindergartners, I could have had my best chance of actually bowling better than someone. Although, when I saw all ten of them bowling at the same time, I was glad that my toes were safely in the sitting area. Even though the 'bumpers' were in the gutters, a couple girls found a way to get their ball stuck there. And only a few bowling balls ended up rolling back toward the parents instead of the pins.

There were many bowling styles on display this night. Rolling the ball between the legs was popular. Also, the two handed swing your body three times was used. One scout thought it would be good to hold the ball above her head and let it drop from there to the lane. Let's say that that wasn't the only time the adults winced.

Sweet Pea came ready to bowl. She liked to run to the line and push her ball down the lane. It worked pretty well for her. It was probably fortunate for me that adults weren't bowling this night. Sweet Pea scored a 99 in her first game! I was thinking that I have got find a father-daughter league to enter. Then I remembered a few of my many sub-one hundred pin games. A mother-daughter league would be much better. Lady Di is the bowler in the family and she, apparently, has passed on her ten pin talents to Little Peatie.

After her 99 game she cooled down a little and bowled a 74 for the next game. Still pretty good. Regardless of the scores, all of the girls had a fun time. There was lots of talking, giggling, squealing, dancing and laughing. I think I was the only one following the scores. Many girls didn't even bother to watch their ball snail down the lane before skipping back to laugh with their friends. Which is fine, because the point of the night was to have fun. We were at a nice alley, I got to meet some of Sweet Pea's friends, and we had some fun father-daughter time together. I hope, someday, when Sweet Pea is grown with her own life, she will think back to times like these. Maybe she will even ask me someday, "Dad, do remember when we went bowling?"

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Only Fifteen Shopping Days Until Thanksgiving.

Halloween has come and gone. The Christmas shopping season has already started. In the rush to get Halloween decorations put away and the rush to get the inflatable Santa on the roof, don't forget about the other holiday in between.

Thanksgiving is the unassuming, humble holiday that doesn't get the respect it deserves. There are very few Turkey Day holiday specials on TV. Charlie Brown has one and I remember a pilgrim cartoon on PBS when I was younger. The kids' book orders include one Thanksgiving book per every ten Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah books for sale. There are no brown and orange Thanksgiving lights on the house either. Growing up, our Thanksgiving decorations pretty much comprised of the Cornucopia centerpiece, the pilgrim candles (half melted), and the accordion-fold-out paper turkey. Nowadays, our family has added window clings and, of course, the kids' traced hand turkeys. Other than that, Thanksgiving is just the halfway point on the way to Christmas. It just seems that Halloween and Christmas have grown so large that they are squeezing Thanksgiving out.

But that's not to say that Thanksgiving isn't a fun, memorable, family holiday. One of our family traditions is to watch the movie, Trains, Planes and Automobiles in November. It's a good family comedy except for the one car rental scene. You may want to mute it for thirty seconds or so. This is our favorite Thanksgiving movie. Right now I can't think of any other Thanksgiving movies. Other than that, we pretty much observe the same traditions that every one else does. We eat turkey and pumpkin pie. After overeating, we roll into the living room to watch the Detroit Lions play football. After that we dress in our Pilgrim and Native American costumes and reenact the landing at Plymouth Rock. Just normal things that all families do.

A few weeks ago, I posted about the types of books and movies that I'm drawn to in October. I also have a set of interests for November. I already mentioned Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I also tend to listen to more Aaron Copland music in the days preceding Turkey Day. Listening to Appalachian Spring or Rodeo(the Beef Council song) makes me think of family eating gatherings.

I don't seem to read anything particularly seasonal. I usually read Ten Fat Turkeys to Sweet Pea, but that doesn't have a whole lot of giving thanks. If anyone has any good November reading suggestions, I'm open to them.

It's unfair that Thanksgiving gets the reputation of being the warm up act for Christmas. It is an important holiday. A time to pray and thank God for our blessings. Maybe it is good that Thanksgiving hasn't been as commercialized as much as other holidays. That way it's easier to concentrate on Thanksgiving's true meaning.

A day off to get the Christmas lights on the roof.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Kitty and the Soldier

It was a cold and windy night. A three quarters moon was our only light, as we set off in search of sugary snack treats. Our plan was simple. We would disguise ourselves in fiendishly clever costumes, choose an unsuspecting residence, and ring their doorbell. When our victims answered the door, a shout of "Trick or Treat!" would give the poor, shivering home owners no choice but to fill our bags with candy and hope that we spared them and would then proceed to the neighbor's house. A plan so simple, so perfect and so diabolically genius could not fail. (Cue lightning crash).

Our first stop was to the local pharmacy to get a picture of the kids in their costumes. The pharmacy will make a picture button for us on Friday. The kids also got their first piece of candy for the night. And the plan wasn't even in effect yet. Sweet Pea picked a tootsie roll, then saw that her brother got a Hershey bar, so she wanted to exchange. Now that the sugar rush was officially started, it was time to plot our route.

The Soldier and the Princess Kitty and I piled into the pick-up to our first street. We went to see our old neighbor. He was dressed as a pirate, and he even had a real parrot on his shoulder. The kids were ready to trade their whole nights candy for the bird. Since we had only been to a few houses by then, it was no deal. After the first street I asked, "OK, is that enough? Should we go home?" Princess Kitty showed her claws in disagreement. Even though it was forty-five degrees with a stiff northern wind, we kept going.

We then drove to our next street. Number One Son wanted to visit every house with a light on. I had to remind him that we don't go to strangers' houses. Unless they have Peanut Butter Cups, then we load up once, switch costumes, and return for a second haul.

By now the kids' arms were being stretched by the weight of their bounty and Sweet Pea had lost her Kitty tail for the third time. I could see signs of fatigue in Sweet Pea. The cold wind and her short Kindergarten legs were starting to discourage her. Then she dropped the bomb.

"I have to go to the bathroom!"

"Ungh, Can you wait until we get to our house two blocks away?", I pleaded. I believe anyone who has a daughter knows the answer to this question.

Luckily, at that point we were close to a friends' house that graciously let us in the back door to use their facilities. I hope the Kit-Kat bar we left on the sink was enough payment.
Now that we were warm and dry, we ventured out into the cold again.

One more street and we would be home free. The last street is, of course, our own street. I parked the Pixie Stix Pickup and we started our final push to fill our bags. It's a good thing our street goes downhill to the other end, or else Sweet Pea wouldn't have even started. I didn't tell her that we would have to come back up the hill to home. It's a good thing that we visited our own street because N1S, got to see the coolest Yoda pumpkin ever. He found this pumpkin at the same house that had the puking pumpkin last year. This is also N1S's favorite house because the home owner wears a cool Darth Maul costume. I think he wears it on other days of the year too.

Well, we got to see a parrot, a Yoda pumpkin and our neighbor's bathroom. It was now time to go home.

Lady Di and myself are two of those mean parents who let their kids eat only one piece of Halloween candy on Halloween night. And since Halloween landed on Wednesday this year, it was extra important to limit the sugar before bedtime. Otherwise, getting up for school in the morning would be just as scary as Halloween itself. N1S was lagging behind as we headed for home with a trail of wrappers following him. This surprised me. That is something I expect Sweet Pea to try, but I guess she was just too tired for tricks. In the house they each got a chocolate bar and a package of Sour French Fries. I thought the combination was just too good to break up, so I let the kids have two pieces of candy.

I'm sorry if you think my kids are getting a raw deal on the candy. They worked hard for it. They deserve it. They don't need it though. A little candy here and there is fine, but a Snickers Bar a day is not a habit I want to encourage. Plus, N1S's attention span seems to worsen in direct relation to how many M&M's he's eaten. The main part of Halloween is to have fun and be safe. We accomplished both goals. The kids had fun showing off their costumes to our neighbors. They also enjoyed seeing their friends' costumes and comparing bag contents. I got some new ideas for Halloween house decorating and pumpkin carving too. This year's pumpkins can be seen in the previous post.

Now I have to find a way to sneak most of the candy out of the house without the kids seeing. I guess I'd better start with the Peanut Butter Cups.

Halloween Pumpkin Roundup

Here are pictures of this years pumpkins at the Stuff in My Brain household. I need to give credit to Clare's Dad for the title of the post.

Sweet Pea picked out this pumpkin because she liked the bumps. So this is our Bumpy Pumpkin.
She also picked our a tiny warty pumpkin which she had to wash as soon at we got home. The bumpy pumpkin also got a bath.
Number One Son designed these. He even got to carve his own pumpkin for the first time. He did the middle one with the whiskers. For some reason, whiskers were popular on our pumpkins this year.
Yup, more whiskers. These are Sweet Pea's designs. She also got a taste of carving her own pumpkin. She did most of the top one. Note, she got a little zealous with the saw on one of the eyes.
Dad did these. I know they are kind of boring. I always let the kids draw their designs and then I try to carve them. When Sweet Pea was little she drew a face with one small eye and one large eye. I liked that look, so every year I carve at least one pumpkin with mismatched eyes.

Last but not least. This is the kind of pumpkin you get if you carve it a week and a half early. I think the sagging face makes it look pretty good.

Pumpkins are a favorite part of Halloween for me. I didn't do any Yoda pumpkins like my neighbor, but my designs still say Halloween. I like the faces that my kids design the best. They have all of the creativity anyway.

I just realized that I forgot to take a picture of the bumpy pumpkin. Oh well, I guess there is always next year.

I also just realized that this is my 100th post. Who woulda thought? And on a holiday too.

Stuff About Me

My photo
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.