Tuesday, August 25, 2009

HappWii Birthday, N1S!

The calendar says another year has passed to mark the eleventh year since Number One Son made his familial debut. I was shocked, last year, when he so abruptly reached his first double digit birthday. This year I am worried that the years are piling up too rapidly and it won't be very long before he reaches the dreaded teens.

But I put all of my anxieties aside this day to help him celebrate.

You may be scratching your heads thinking, "I thought he had his birthday last week at Valleyfair." You needn't scratch any longer. We did celebrate an 'early birthday' with one of N1S's friends. But anyone who knows us, knows that our kids usually get a handful of birthday parties each year. We usually have one special party for our child and a special friend. These are usually a big trip or something else equally costly. Hence, the one special friend rule.

Then we usually throw a party for the rest of the friends. This usually constitutes a party at the park, our home or in this year's case, the water park.

We also have to plan on a few 'family parties' as well. Since both sets of grandparents live far away, these parties take place whenever we visit them within a month or two of the actual birth date.

So this year, N1S got to invite five of his friends for an afternoon of water slides and tubing. It was the same water park that Sweet Pea had her birthday party. The only difference today was that the kids were bigger, and Lady Di and I chose not to get wet. I decided, since SP's party guests absolutely exhausted me a few months ago in the pool, I wasn't going to stand a chance against six fifth graders. I'm not sure why Lady Di didn't swim, unless it was some left over nightmares from the rocket water slide.

The kids swam from 11am until 1pm when we took a break for a picnic lunch outside. We brought extra sandwiches in case we needed them. Fifth graders apparently always need them. Especially one of N1S's friends who made sure we wouldn't be bothered taking care of any leftovers. Lady Di once again, performed her baker's wizardry with a Mario Kart steering wheel and Wii remote cake.
After sandwiches and cake, the kids splashed back into the water and swam for another two hours.

We finally dragged them out of the pool with the promise of tokens for the arcade. Once out of the pool, we sat in a circle while N1S opened his gifts. This year is the year of the gift card. N1S got two gifts and four gift cards and was equally excited for all of them. I was too, because our kids have enough toys. The gifts he got were just what he wanted. Legos and a video game. And now he has some gift cards to buy.........Legos and a video game. This is literally all he ever wants.

It was a pretty great day for N1S and his friends. He had a good day with all of them. He even was acting 'too cool' for his parents most of the day. Which is OK for today.
N1S has a great group of friends. A few posers and at least one vampire, by the looks of this picture. And Sweet Pea is, of course, posing as a puppy.

When we got home, both he and SP were very tired but still had enough energy to try out his new video game.

After supper and a little more cake, we brought out our family gifts for N1S to open. You'll notice that once again, Legos and a video game are included in this group. He also got one of his and his parents' favorite movies and a t-shirt from our favorite northern Minnesota pizza place.

Overall, it was a busy day for the whole family. When it was time for bed, the kids didn't put up too much of a fight. That is, after they tried out N1S's other video game.

Happy Birthday, N1S.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stopping to Breathe

Tonight I was inspired. No, the kids didn't achieve another milestone or say anything cute. I was inspired by the most simple of things. The smell of the evening air.

Tonight, was one of those nights for the senses. After work this evening I exited the building to find I had just stepped into an almost perfect night. It was just warm enough to know a jacket was unnecessary and just cool enough to avoid breaking a sweat. There was just a wisp of a cool breeze. Just enough to give the leaves on the trees something to do. The low temperature and dew point combined to give the air a freshly sliced watermelon smell. It was the kind of smell I would experience when, as a kid, I would peel a strip of bark from a live tree trunk, exposing the smooth, damp, virgin wood beneath.

The air was so sweet, I couldn't help myself but stand still and breathe in a long, deep sniff. This is an act that can only be attempted in Minnesota for about five months of the year. The other seven pages of the calendar picture air filled with nostril burning frost and brain freezing wind chills which would mean certain death if inhaled in such a reckless, indulgent fashion.

But since I was lucky enough to be in a more reasonable month, I took advantage of my rare opportunity. As the cool green smelling air filled my respiratory system, it felt like a tonic for my sore muscles. I could almost feel the cells of my body recharging and repairing as my health was being restored. My lungs held their gulp of air greedily, only exhaling for the promise of another draft.

As I walked through the parking lot to my pickup, my legs noticeably slowed their pace, almost as if my body was pleading, 'Just make it last a little longer.'

On the drive home, with the window down, the evening gave me no choice but to give it a few more minutes of attention by stopping at the river for another deep breath. This time, my sense of smell was accompanied by all my other senses in a stimulating concert of beauty. The inky blue evening sky provided the backdrop to contrast the velvety pitch of the dark treeline silhouette on the river's shore. The water's casual pace under the bridge created babbling white noise more soothing than any lullaby. The cottony light breeze would periodically rustle the tall reeds to add to the symphony. There was no moon out this night, so the dark, slippery water looked at smooth as a rippling parachute. Noticeably absent was the chirping of frogs, cicadas or any other creature. It was almost as if they too were appreciating the beauty of what nature had put on the canvas this night.

As the evening got deeper, I unfortunately had to leave. I solemnly thanked Mother Nature for providing such uplifting entertainment. The rest of the drive home was spent thinking about important things. Family, health, spirituality. I don't know why I was so moved by so common an occurrence. Perhaps, I just needed a reminder of the beauty of simple things to find perspective.

Once home, I immediately took a deep breath to try to recapture the mystical feeling of twenty minutes earlier. But the moment was gone like candle smoke in a gale. The air just smelled like air. I hope that someday I will be able to revisit such a time when nature conspires to excite all five senses in one glorious moment, causing a powerful peace to entirely fill the body.

Until then, I can only attempt to relate what I felt for those few minutes as best I can. And try to keep the memory as vivid as I can to hold onto it before it's magic fades.
And hopefully, I will be alert enough to recognize when the next inspiring moment will present itself, no matter how simple.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Best Day Ever!

In just a week and a half, Number One Son will celebrate his eleventh birthday. It's hard to believe that he used to weigh only 3lbs just over a decade ago. Although, he always has been something of a stringbean, this summer his body started to fill out a little around the love handle region. He has shot up almost sixteen pounds since last February. He must have thought his little sister was trying to catch him.

So with N1S's midsection expanding, we decided to do a pre-birthday workout at Valleyfair amusement park. N1S invited his friend, D, and the three of us headed out on our thrill seeking adventure. Sweet Pea likes amusement rides too, but she is too small for most of the 'good' rides. And Lady Di's heart rate rises just by mentioning the word 'roller coaster', so the ladies stayed home. N1S and myself are thrill ride junkies. Once we told N1S about the trip to the amusement park, he couldn't talk to anyone without starting the conversation with, "Guess where I am going?"

We arrived at 10:30am and made a bee line for the nearest roller coaster. The rest of the day was spent darting from ride to ride. And we made it to every big ride that the park had. Not only did we ride every ride, we rode them each multiple times. We rode in the front car, the back car, and the middle car of each roller coaster. N1S achieved his goal of holding his arms up on each roller coaster for the entire ride. Our favorite coaster was Wild Thing. Not only was it the fastest and highest roller coaster, it also travelled through a pitch black tunnel at the end of the ride.

We rode the blue Power Tower that shoots you straight up so that your spine is an inch shorter after the ride. We also stretched our spines back out on the red Power Tower which lifted us up at a painfully slow, anxiety building pace. Once we reached the stratosphere, we lingered at the top for a few long seconds to admire the entire city and dodge airplanes before being rocketed down.

Our favorite ride in the whole park, though, had to be Steel Venom. With this ride our seats hung from a horseshoe shaped ride with our feet dangling and would launch us forward and up into the sky to one end, then speed us backward to go up the other end of the horseshoe. And just for fun, the ride would stop at one of the ends and try to shake us out of our seats fifty feet above the ground.

We also rode some 'wet' rides, drove Go-Karts and visited the water slide park.

I think I had just as much fun as the boys did. As the day progressed into evening, Lady Di called to see if we were on our way home. "Sorry, Hon, the boys want to ride some more." And by boys, I meant all three of us. I had never been to an amusement park at night and I wanted us to see the park's lights. We didn't leave until 9:30pm and even then it was difficult to pick a ride to end our night.

We decided to end our evening on the same roller coaster that started our day. With the marquee lights flashing and the tracks rumbling, it didn't disappoint.
Overall, N1S was pretty satisfied with his pre-birthday outing. It's not every day that we both get to enjoy eleven hours of thrill rides. With as much as we were tossed around, I'm surprised my bones were still in the correct places to make it back to the car. The day was hot and muggy. We did a lot of walking and a fair amount of waiting in line for the rides. But it was well worth it and I can't wait for N1S's twelfth birthday.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Run, Fat Boy, Run

Today I tried something that I have never done before. I ran in my first 5K road race. Although, my pace wouldn't probably qualify as racing. It was more like finishing with character. I only have to shave nine minutes off my time for next year's race to compete for the top prize.

I already know one thing I can do to save around 15 to 20 seconds. I can learn to operate my I-pod. When it was time to line up on the road for the race, I turned on my I-pod, got my playlist up and ready, then searched for the stopwatch feature. As I was in the middle of finding my stopwatch, the horn blew and everyone but me took off. Somewhere in the next ten seconds, I pressed the wrong button, sending me in what seemed like the opposite direction from stopwatch. After five more seconds of fumbling, I looked up to see nine-tenths of the runners rapidly getting smaller in the distance. So I just hit play for music and tried to catch up.

Since the first mile of the race was on the highway, we had to stay to the right to stay out of traffic. Also, it seems, that the back of the pack is where many runners like to run in groups, almost daring me to venture into oncoming traffic to pass them on the left.

After making the turn to start mile number two, the crowd stretched out more and allowed for more room to run. This is where I remembered Sweet Pea's advice before the race. She said, "At the beginning, just jog. Then when everyone else is tired, you can run fast." So I kicked it into turbo and started passing people. A little voice in the back of my head said I usually don't run this fast this early when I train. But that voice was so far back by now that I couldn't hear it.

When we turned the corner on mile number two to head for home, I was in a pretty good rhythm and not breathing too hard. Then mile number two and a half came. My legs started saying, "Remember when you were telling us to pass all of those runners a mile back?" And my lungs were also protesting, "We've given you all we've got, Captain! We canna change the laws of physics!" My pride shouted back, "I've got to have more power!"

Just when I thought I wouldn't be able to finish my first 5K without walking, my I-pod, sensing my peril, stepped in and recharged my dilithium crystals with an adrenalin pumping song. (Too many Star Trek references?) I got the help I needed from Mr Jon BonJovi with his thoughts about a young lady he once knew, who shot him through the heart and gave love a bad name. I also couldn't wait to see how excited Number One Son and Sweet Pea were going to be at the finish line.

Jon was able to run with me past the three mile sign and turn the corner to see Sweet Pea and Lady Di clapping, jumping and cheering me on. I gave SP a high five on the way by. Number One Son was waiting for me at finish line to catch my time on the clock for posterity.
I probably finished somewhere in the middle of the pack which is fine with me. I got a T-shirt, a bag of coupons, an apple and a bottle of water. I had to share the apple and water with both kids and share the coupons with Lady Di though.

The best part is now Lady Di and I are both anxious to run another 5K race. There is another local race at the end of the month. Maybe we can get Kubes to give us some pointers for the next race. For now LD and I will see if we can push each other to train for that and maybe improve a little. A little being nine minutes or more.

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.