Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Ladies, start your engines! On Saturday, Sweet Pea and I entered her pine wood derby car in her girl scout race.

My dad helped me build my own pine wood derby car when I was in cub scouts. So I was excited to relive those memories with my daughter.

First, I asked SP to pick out a few of her favorite toy cars to use as a template. Out of those, I chose a design I felt my woodworking skills could live up to.

Here is the body design with it's first coat of paint.
It is a convertible sports car and it already looks fast. After SP applied the Malibu Barbie pink, I asked her if she wanted any skulls or flames or lightning bolts on her car. She opted for jewels, sparkle snowflakes and flowers.

She also wanted to paint a picture of a girl with a green dress on the hood. She said it was a picture of Mommy. I said, "Well, if your car travels as fast as when Mommy is driving, you will set a new record."

Once at the race, we weighed in. Her car needed to be as close to 5 ounces as we could get it. I needed to remove one of the cars washers for weight and it brought us to 4.8oz. Just street legal enough. They also made me remove the small turbo charged motor I had added at the last minute. Apparently, they have some bogus rule about fairness and no cheating.

We were told to arrive early for weigh-in because over 100 cars were entered for the race. That meant 100 little scouts and their parents squeezing into about half as many chairs. Luckily, SP had a 'Pit Pass' and could kneel next to the track to watch. Before the race, all of the cars were lined up on the table to inspect and vote for in categories such as 'Prettiest', 'Most Unique', 'Most Colorful' and others. Two scouts made cars that looked like bathtubs and two others made their cars look like Orca whales. The organizer of the derby said that he had done many cub scout derbies but this was his first girl scout derby. "There is a lot more pink and purple to the cars today.", he observed.

Since we had a little time to spend before the races started, I told SP she could get a doughnut to snack on. Of course, she had to pick the messiest one they had.

So I told her to stroll over to her car and brush some of her powdered sugar onto her car's axles to make it faster. She didn't want to waste good powdered sugar on that.

So I sent her in undercover to dig up some secrets that the other scouts used on their cars. She came back to report that other girls painted their cars really pretty too.

At the end of the day, our car was built more for beauty than speed. She didn't win any of her heats, but her car's times averaged right in the middle of the pack. She was a little disappointed that she didn't win anything, but said she still had fun.

The scouts were then offered a chance to build their own wooden car stand. I pre-drilled some holes in the pieces and handed SP the screwdriver. She gave it a good try, but we had to resort to the power drill. She then had to wrestle paintbrushes away from the dozens of scouts all trying to do the same. And guess what? More pink and purple.

All in all it was a memorable day. Even though we didn't win anything we still get to keep the car we made together as father and daughter. And next year, we're going to be faster, smarter and sneakier.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I'm Hunting Wabbits.

Yesterday, I must have had some bad karma catch up to me for something I must have done to someone previously.

My day started off alright. Work went well enough that when my replacement came in, all of my work was done. Since we were caught up, I got to leave about a half hour early.

I thought to myself, "Since I have this extra half hour that no one (Lady Di) knows about except me, I believe I will visit my favorite hardware store for a stroll through."

It's been quite a while since I was able to just leisurely walk through the hardware store, so I was really looking forward to it.

Since I wasn't looking for anything in particular, I just wandered. The tail end of winter put the snow shovels on clearance so I picked up one to replace our worn down misshapen one.

With spring approaching, I drifted to the gardening department. For the last few years our yard has had three or more rabbits eating all of our plants and bushes so I found some Deer and Rabbit Repellent. It said it was all natural and the ingredients included putrescent egg solids and garlic. Apparently, rabbits don't like Italian omelets. When I read the line that said 'Odorless When Dry', I was sold. The store had a ready to use spray bottle or a larger concentrated bottle to mix with water in a sprayer. I wanted to do our whole yard so I grabbed the concentrate.

I was feeling pretty good with my first fifteen minutes of my free time. Even though I didn't have a list to get, I had found two things that we really needed anyway.

I then walked around in the hand tools aisle, because you can always find something interesting there. This is where my day took a sharp turn.

With a snow shovel in one hand and my gloves and a bottle of putrescent eggs in the other, I bent down to look at a heavy duty nail puller. I must have had too much in one of my hands. The bottle of rabbit repellent slipped out of my hand and landed cap first to the floor. Now you would think that a child proof cap on something as vile as rabbit repellent would be strong enough hold when dropped. Guess again. The cap popped completely off and the bottle came to rest sideways on the floor with half of it's garlic surprise already across the floor.

My nose told me immediately what had happened. My nose also alerted me to the fact that before the bottle came to rest, the impact from hitting the floor had splashed a good amount of liquid stench onto my shoes and coat. When I tried to wipe some off with my gloves I then had gloves that stunk too. I would never see the last fifteen minutes of my hardware stroll.

I then started my speed walk to the exit. On the way I passed two employees and told them of a spill in hand tools. I made sure to keep walking as I talked in order to stay downwind from them. Then I said, "I didn't see the guy who did it but if I do I'll let you know." Then I gave them an eye roll and said, "Some people, huh? Tsk.".

After paying for my snow shovel in record time, (I just threw my credit card at the clerk on my way out the door and said keep the change), I jumped in my truck. I then realized that the claim of 'Odorless When Dry' was flagrant false advertising.

Now the cab in my pickup smelled so much I had to roll down a window in the middle of February to keep my eyes from tearing up too much to drive. Let's just say I was home in record time.

When home, Lady Di and the kids were surprised to see me home so early. I then told them the story. The kids went running for cover and Lady Di ordered me throw everything in the laundry room. So much for sympathy.

I guess the positive way to look at it is that there were absolutely no rabbits anywhere near the pickup to bother me while driving.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Getting Married? Better call Bernice.

Once again, it's time for a trip down memory lane. Time to stumble over the cracked sidewalk of my brain to pay a visit to one of the primary influences in my life. We've already had a colorful conversation with Grampa Pete. And eaten a green tomato pie with Grandma Peg. Now it's Saturday afternoon and Grandma Bernice is waiting. And that's pronounced Bernice, as in rhyming with furnace. Not burr-neice.

I mentioned before that I grew up in a small town two blocks away from both sets of grandparents. I suggest, if possible, everyone should do this.

Grandma Bernice lived across the street from my high school. So her house was often a required stop on my way home. Remember how Grandma Peg could bake pies? Well, Grandma Bernice baked wedding cakes. If you went to a wedding in our church, you probably ate Grandma's cake three times out of four.

When my sister and I were younger, we would have fun looking through Grandma Bernice's old wedding cake books from the 60's and 70's. A lot of yellow and orange frosting was used back then. Sometimes Grandma would let my sister and I practice our frosting technique on a piece of wax paper. I could never make a recognizable rose out of frosting, but I sure enjoyed disposing of the attempts.

Grandma Bernice died in 2001. But Lady Di and I will always remember our favorite wedding cake from her. It was a three tiered white cake with a lemon poppy seed cake topper. And, yes, we did freeze it and eat it a year later. Well, actually it was a year and a couple of months because we forgot about it. It aged very well in that year. Now Lady Di has all of Grandma Bernice's old cake decorating tools and she has put them to good use on the kids' birthday cakes.

The first cake is N1S's volcano (or planet Mustafar if you are a Star Wars geek). The next cake was SP's Barbie cake for her last birthday.
Since Grandma couldn't make me a wedding cake every day, she usually popped popcorn for me when I would stop in on my walk home from school. We would sit in her living room, eat popcorn and play Kings in the Corner or watch television. I would have to watch grandma-type shows, but I honestly didn't mind it much. Now I can watch bowling, Lawrence Welk and Match Game reruns and actually enjoy them.

Grandma Bernice was very active. She was on a bowling team and had the trophies to prove it. She also went dancing with Grampa two to three times per week. When I was in college they would often surprise me with a care package of some sort on their way to their dance. I can honestly say that I was the only guy in the frat house that ever got visits from their grandparents. And I didn't get teased about it once. I think my roommates liked my care packages too.

Grandma Bernice was a hard worker. She grew up on a farm, farmed with Grandpa until 'retiring' and moved into town. She was a typical Lutheran church basement lady. She was superintendent of the Sunday School for multiple years. She held just about every church office there was, and when others her age started to 'slow down', she took the job of cleaning the church every week just for something to keep active.

I have a lot to thank Grandma Bernice for. I appreciated her while she was alive and miss her now that she is gone. She was mostly business but also had a funny side.

She would always tell the same joke while reading an auction notice from the newspaper. The ad would list the items up for auction and then state that 'lunch would be served on the grounds'. And she would ask us every time, "Why would they serve food on the ground?"

If it was one of her wedding cakes, I would have no problem brushing off a little dirt.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ode to Lady Di

Roses are red

Violets are blue
Is not the best way
to write a poem for you.

It's too cold for violets
and yellow roses you like.
All other flowers
can go take a hike.

So, what do I get you
this Valentine's Day?
You deserve so much more
than I'm willing to pay.

Diamonds, gold and jewelry galore.
And anything else from that Jared's store.
A winter home in the south
or a cabin up north
are all things that measure up to your worth.

A meal at a fancy restaurant
or a night at a play
or would you like to visit
the Mall of America for the day?

Or maybe a quiet evening at home
after the kids start snoring
we could just rent a movie
if it's not too boring.

Although, boring or not
whatever we do
I will be happy
just being with you.

It may take some time
and a robbed bank or three
but I will grant all of your wishes

My number one goal
is to treat you like a queen
Just tell me which bathroom
you would like me to clean.

My poetry is clumsy
and I struggle with rhyme
just be patient with me
Just give me some time.

And time is something
I gladly will spend.
As long as it is with
my soul mate and friend.

I'm glad that you picked me
so many years past
with more years to come
I hope it will last
an eternity and more
because I'm greedy that way.
I cherish every second
of every day.

My love for you
continually grows.
I don't say it enough
but I want you to know.

I love you Lady Di.

Happy Valentine's Day, Lady Di!

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Birds and the Bees and Girl Scouts

Recently, Lady Di and Sweet Pea had an interesting conversation on their way to their girl scout meeting.

From the back seat, SP asked, "Mom, did it hurt you when I was born?"

Not wanting to scare SP, Lady Di replied, "Not too much."

"Did it hurt when you had N1S?", she pressed.

Since N1S came cesarian, LD said no.

Then came, "How did N1S come out?".

LD was honest with SP and said the doctor had to cut an opening in her and let him out that way because he was so small and early. Starting to sweat, LD hoped that would be the end of the questioning. But SP had one more question to go.

"Where did I come out?", she innocently queried.

As LD was formulating what to say in her head, they arrived at the girl scout meeting. "We're here!", LD exclaimed, hoping her excited tone would make SP forget her question.

SP wouldn't be sidetracked, though. With all the confidence in the world, she stated, "That's OK Mom, I know where I came out. I came out of your B-U-T.", she spelled.

Lady Di hastily said, "OK, time for girl scouts.", and left it at that.
I'm sure glad LD didn't say, "We'll ask Dad when we get home."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Finger Lickin' Vacation

The last couple of weeks have been bone chilling here lately. Overnight lows reach twenty below or lower and daytime highs don't even reach zero. It has been so cold that school has been cancelled for two of those days. That is why Lady Di and I thought it would be a good time visit a warmer clime.

Last week we took our first vacation without the kids. We went to Grand Cayman for some thawing out.

We walked off the plane and the first thing I noticed, besides how overdressed I was, was the smell of green, growing plants. We usually don't get to see or smell green in Minnesota from November to April. So we were off to a good start.

We then found a place to rent a car. They had a Dodge Charger that would have been real cool if it didn't require a $2000 deposit. So we opted for the deposit-less Daihatsu.
This wasn't it but I was willing to trade up for it.

We stuffed our multiple bags and suitcases in our car until it resembled a clown car from the circus. We had just enough room to squeeze in ourselves and take off down the wrong side of the street. Since Cayman is owned by Britain, we had to drive on the left side of the road. We went with another couple, so we split up the driving. Another odd aspect of Caymanian roadwork is something they call roundabouts. These are circles placed at random intersections around town which you must orbit on the left even if you are continuing straight on your own street. As enjoyable as these carosels were, we got even more enjoyment from the yield signs posted at each one.

Apparently, you must always 'Give Way' to the car on your right. It seems we also had to shout out "Give Way!" each time we spun through one of these intersections. We were honked at a few times and the Caymanians were very patient with us.

We stayed at a two bedroom, two bath pink cottage on the beach. It was perfect because just outside our back patio were multiple reefs with lots of fish, so we could snorkel right out our back door. Which is what we mostly did. We snorkeled in the morning, then the wives would comb the beach for shells while the husbands napped. You are supposed to do things on vacation that you don't have a chance to do at home. So I got in a lot of reading and a lot of napping.

The Cayman Islands were first named Tortuga after the abundance of turtles in the area. We found none. Then the Islands were named after the caiman alligators which also were numerous. We found even less of them. What we did find for wildlife was chickens. Apparently, chickens have no serious predators on the island because they run wild. Actually, they walk through your yard wild. Every morning a few roosters and hens would show up to fight over our leftover pop tarts and Cap'n Crunch. What they didn't get the tiny iguanas would snatch up. We probably had some of the fattest iguanas on the island. Here's proof that the chickens here are pretty much fearless. Creative Type Dad would probably like the Caymans. In the evening, we would usually go out to eat. And since we were eating on an island, most of the menus featured seafood. I tried just about every fish they had to offer and it was all delicious. But after a week, I was fished out and just wanted a burger. Which is good because Cayman also has a Margaritaville and they serve Jimmy Buffet's Cheeseburger in Paradise. And pretty good margaritas too.

And speaking of drink, Cayman even has their own beer called Caybrew. It was pretty good too. But we certainly didn't spend all of our time drinking. We actually spent most of our days snorkeling. Besides viewing the tropical fish in our back yard, we went on a Captain Marvin's conch dive and trip to Stingray City. We even got to kiss the stingray for seven years good luck. No one got stung, so lucky us.

It's difficult to squeeze our whole vacation into one post. Perhaps later, I will post about the supper in Roland's back yard, or about our friend getting on the wrong snorkeling boat and almost leaving us, or about the nice couple from Wisconsin in the cottage next to us.

It was hard to say good bye to the Caymans. We met some very nice people there and will hopefully keep in touch with them through emails. It was pretty difficult for some in our party to say good bye to the duty free shop too. A few bottles of rum and some rum cakes made it back with us also. It's too bad we couldn't have brought some of the Cayman's weather with us. We went from 80's and sunny to teens and snowing in one day.

At least we have our pictures, memories and fifteen pounds of shells to remind us of our time there.

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.