Monday, December 27, 2010

A Christmas Message

Merry Christmas to one and all. I hope that everyone enjoyed their celebrations as much as our family did.

Now since I'm sure you are all sitting on pins and needles, filled with anxiety about the happenings of our Christmas adventures, I will relate our entire holiday itinerary for your enjoyment and fullfillment.

Actually, I just have one small bit of interest about our Christmas Eve night. We started Chistmas Eve by going to our 7pm church candlelight service. We really enjoy our church. So much so, that two years ago, when our church needed new hymnals, we bought three of them and donated them to the church in memory of two of my grandfathers and one of Lady Di's grandfathers all of whom had passed in recent years. That was two years ago and we have yet to find one of those hymnals during service. It doesn't help that we always sit in one of two pews at the front of the church. But I still check the inside cover of the hymnals there just in case the ushers, for some reason, decide to rotate the stock every once in a while.

So back to our Christmas Eve service. It was much like past Chrismas Eve services. We sang carols and everyone got to light their little candles while singing Silent Night. This part is the kids' favorite and every year we recite the proper candle lighting procedure. Never tip a lighted candle! Then we view the reason for such a rule, a tiny spot of melted wax on the seat of the pew just in front of where Number One Son stands. This family tradition goes back about five years or so when N1S was less diligent about his flame.

Just as the service was wrapping up, Lady Di noticed that the 9pm service would feature a choir selection and a song by a quartet including a student home from college that we know to have a very good singing voice.

LD then said, "Oh we will have to come back for the 9pm service."

N1S and I both turned simultaneously and whispered with incredulity, "Not two churches in one night!"

Sweet Pea's face lit up because she would get a second chance to play with fire.

So we went home to relax a little before we returned to church. We couldn't even change out of our church clothes! The drive back to the church was a little grumbly from half of us. But N1S and I put on a happy Christmas face and made the best of it. Since we had already heard the sermon, we decided to sit closer to the middle of the congregation. We found a nice couple that we knew to sit with. We enjoyed the choir selection and were quite impressed with the quartet. As we waited for the ushers to start the candle lighting, I noticed the hymnals in front of us. I said, "What the heck.", and opened it. On the inside cover was placed an offical looking sticker stating, This hymnal donated in memory of Emery (Pete) Bell, my paternal grandfather.

I passed the open hymnal to Lady Di, who was so proud of herself for not tearing up during the 7pm candlelighting, and made her immediately well up with emotion and ask for a hanky. Then Sweet Pea saw her name (she is named after this grampa) and passed the hymnal down the pew to show the couple we were sitting next to.

What were the chances that we would attend a second church service, on Christmas Eve, and choose that particular pew to find one of our donated hymnals for the first time?

It made pastor's message about the importance of family even more meaningful.

With all the blessings we have been fortunate enough to enjoy, this warm Christmas message from our loved one will make this year one of our most memorable Christmas Eves.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Live Long and Decorate

Christmas is almost here. Are you ready? Have all of the cards been sent? Presents wrapped? Cookies made? And then eaten? And then made again?

Well, in order to save some time with this year's preparation, Number One Son volunteered to put up one of our Christmas trees. As you may remember from posts past, we usually decorate three Christmas trees. In early December, with Sweet Pea's help, I was able to assemble, light and decorate two of our trees but ran out of weekend for the last one. So as another busy Sunday night had us running Sweet Pea to volleyball practice, I offered N1S a project to keep him from thinking about the Wii time he had already spent.

"While we are gone, you can put up the tree to help me out.", I asked.

Surprisingly, he said OK.

On the drive back home, I wondered what kind of job N1S did. Would the small branches be on the bottom? Would anything break? How bad would the tree lean?

My fears, however, were unnecessary.

He did a pretty good job. It even looked like he started to shape a few of the branches. Like maybe about three. But then decided on the natural scraggly look with bare spots to show off the metal pole.
And just like any good assembly job, you always are left with a few spare parts right? I asked, "Wouldn't these three branches fit?"

Distractedly he answered from the couch, "Oh I don't know. They must have been extra."

I thanked him anyway for saving me time and effort this season. We decorated the trees the same way as last year. The only difference being that Sweet Pea did most of the kid tree decorating.

If you look closely you'll notice that Mr. Spock must have gotten a puppy from Santa this year to help him at his science station.

As did Dr. McCoy.

So boldly celebrate Christmas, where no one has celebrated before!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sixth Grade Wilderness

Last month I was lucky enough to be chosen to chaperon N1S's sixth grade field trip to LLCC wilderness camp. N1S's three day, two night, sleeping in a dorm, in late November, in Minnesota with 100 other sixth graders, field trip. Was I chosen to chaperon or was I hoodwinked into it?

The forecast for those three days was 20 to 30 degrees F with a chance for snow each day. The A group of sixth graders that went two weeks earlier had temps in the 60's with sunshine.

Despite the cool weather, we still had a lot of fun and weren't really that uncomfortable.

We started our adventure with a two hour bus ride. As bus rides go, this one started out fairly civilized. Halfway through we visited a rest stop to stretch our legs. That only proved to wake up the louder kids in the back of the bus who started 'singing' Christmas carols. The closer we got to the campground, the louder the singing became. The crooning had crescendoed to shouting by the time we reached our destination.

When the bus stopped, one of the teachers cleverly chose six volunteers to help unload the suitcases and bags from the trailer. It was surprising how many of the 'best' singers were chosen for such an honor.

Once unpacked, we were directed to the mess hall where KP was explained. I tried to bring some of the KP excitement home with me but N1S must have lost it on the bus.
Here are our table mates from table nine. The rockinest table at camp! Everyone said so.

For two and a half days we were scheduled from 8am to 9pm. We went on a bog hike. Yes, that's a hike through the bog. Not a swamp, and not a wetland. We learned that those are totally different. With the snow it was a pretty hike though.

This was where our guide got us lost in the bog. Apparently, she hadn't been on bog duty for a while and the new snow made the multiple trails confusing. She ended up calling for backup and one of the staff members back at camp rang the school bell to point us in the right direction home.

One of the activities that all the kids were buzzing about was archery. Quite a few arrows hit their targets, many more ended up in the woods.
I was just glad N1S loaded the pointy end away.

The kids also got to make a wilderness lunch. They had to gather their own wood, light their own fire and roast their own hot dogs. I think by the time the sticks got stacked and the birch bark lit, the kids were so hungry they only warmed their hot dogs in the smoke of their fire.

I think they are either waiting for someone to make a decision or for the fire to start itself.

For the last night we were there, the camp hosted a rendezvous. This was to demonstrate how pioneer trappers and traders would get together and celebrate with games like arm wrestling and tug of war standing on stumps. Just when the volume of the room had reached its peak with squealing and shouting sixth graders, the staff introduced leg wrestling. The parents in the room quickly exited to spare themselves the gruesome outcome of such an idea.

Luckily, no one lost a tooth or an eye and the rendezvous was a success in getting the kids all riled up before lights out.

On the last morning of our last day the staff hosted an orienteering race. Kids used a compass to find their way to checkpoints in the woods and race back to base with their card checked.

N1S placed second in his group. You can hum the theme song from 'Chariots Of Fire' if you want to.

Despite the cold weather, I think N1S had a fun time. And despite having to keep one hundred plus sixth graders from doing anything that would get on the local news, I think the parents had a good time too. N1S and I both got to meet and interact with new friends. And I am very proud of N1S for using good judgement and good friendship skills for his first overnight camp.

Yo, peace out y'all!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Is The School Haunted?

A few months ago, Lady Di was nice enough to accompany her mother to the Mayo Clinic while she underwent some tests. This required an overnight stay for Lady Di, leaving me in charge of the kids.

First thing on the list was to let the kids talk me into going out to the Chinese Buffet for supper. As we sat in our booth enjoying our sweet and sour whatevers, a dad and his son sat in the booth next to us. Number One Son said, "Don't look, but that kid is kinda strange. He goes to my school."

And any parent of an Aspergers kid will know, that the act of N1S calling someone else strange is like Twitter calling Facebook a big waste of time.

So I looked.

"That's not a nice thing to say about someone.", I answered.

"He's always acting like a dinosaur in school, but I guess he's a nice kid.", N1S amended.

Then N1S got up and went over to talk to the kid which was a nice thing to do. It was great to see him use skills he has learned in his friendship groups at school. Aspergers kids usually have difficulty interpreting social cues, which makes initiating and maintaining friendships a challenge. Perhaps a kid who acts like a dinosaur in sixth grade could also use an extra friend to say hi at the buffet.

While N1S was gone, Sweet Pea turned to me and said, "I bet that kid likes to scare people."

"I suppose that's what dinosaurs do, huh.", I concurred.

"He probably hides somewhere and jumps out to scare people.", SP offered.

"Why do you think he does that?", I queried.

"Because he's the ghost of N1S's school.", was SP's answer.

After thinking for a minute, I realized what SP meant. I then explained that N1S said that the kid goes to his school, he's not the ghost of his school.

It seems that social cues aren't the only things that get misinterpreted in our family.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's a Hard Knock Post!

It's time again for my children's musical review. This is where I get to critique and rant about how the kids did in their most recent production, Annie Jr.. Actually, I usually just crow about them as any parent would. So get ready for some major proud parent crowing.

And speaking of crowing, N1S landed the part of Rooster and his little sister earned her role of orphan. While N1S had all of the funny lines, SP got more singing, dancing and stage time than her big brother.

Both kids had a blast though. N1S got to unleash some of his comedic skills and SP got to sing out loud. And the show started out with a bang too. This production was by far the best the kids have been in. When all of the orphans sang 'It's A Hard Knock Life', it sounded like a professional group. You could tell the kids really practiced hard for this one. There were no weak links at all. People familiar with local children's theatre will know that sprinkled through out each show are a few forgotten, rushed or too quiet to hear lines. This show had none of those and quite a few well delivered performances from the entire cast.
Here, SP just finished showing how she has a hard knock life.

All of the orphans sticking Miss Hannigan with a safety pin.
And then laughing at Miss Hannigan. The little brats.

Here is a short video of N1S's opening scene as Miss Hannigan's good for nothing brother, Rooster. The director told him to use a Jersey accent and he laid it on as thick as he could.

N1S wanted a picture with one of his good friends that he has shared the stage with for six shows. I think he also wanted a picture of his mustache which he asked to keep after the show.

This is N1S's big moment on 'Easy Street'. Make sure your volume is on.

And, of course, the big finale, singing 'Tomorrow' with President Roosevelt.
I mentioned before how impressed I was with this production, but it seems I say that about all of them. Well, it's true every time I say it. I'm very thankful to Acting Out (click for more pictures) for providing such a quality opportunity for youths to express themselves in a fun and positive way. We are so proud of our kids and the benefit they are receiving from these experiences truly can't be measured. Especially for N1S. He is not athletic and struggles socially with some of his peers. But the stage has given him a sense of pride and accomplishment that he hasn't gotten anywhere else.

Thanks once again to Amy and Kristen for taking our kids under their wings and helping them soar.

They aren't stopping here though. They will be appearing in their next musical 'The Elves and the Shoemaker' on Dec. 10th and 11th, so save the date.

And remember, you're never fully dressed without a smile.

Or a fake mustache.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Halloween Hangover

Halloween has come and gone, but like a Minnesota goodbye, I'm dragging the season out as long as possible. I finally got the last string of orange lights in the box and stowed in the attic this week. Remarkably, tearing down the decorations took a lot less time than the two weeks it took to properly haunt our front yard.

So here is the official recap of our most favorite holiday.

Our Halloween spirit got an early start with a cookie bake with the kids at the end of September. I waited a full week into October before hauling out the boxes and chests and cauldrons of happy horror. Here is a picture of our house mostly spookified. I had a few more bats and cobwebs to add before the big night. You can click on the picture to enlarge it if you dare.

I rigged the owl on the left to have light up orange eyes to match the orange flame bulbs around the archway.

I, once again, unearthed a forgotten cemetery under our gallows tree. I put the same orange lights hanging loosely from the tree and added a black pumpkin with green lighted face.

Last year's scarecrow flew into town on his broom just in time.
And then the windstorm hit. We had two days of wind gusts up to 60mph.Poor Jack Scarecrow's post snapped in two.

Even cute little Spidey-poo got tipped over.

But don't worry, this story has a happy ending. The Great Pumpkin came through on the day before All Hallow's Eve and set everything right.

Now just a note about our pumpkins to wrap things up. I did a few new things with this year's jack-o-lanterns. I decided to put a string of purple lights in two of our larger pumpkins and have them flash on and off. It really worked great but I seemed to have lost the picture of them.

Since the lights worked so well, I put a single green bulb in this shark pumpkin.

N1S called this our disco ball pumpkin. I made it with two sizes of drill bits. The candlelight really did shine out like a disco ball.

This is SP's small gray pumpkin that she named Squidward.

And about five or six other jack-o-lanterns filled up the remaining empty spots in the yard. Next year I may skip the tall skinny pumpkins because they are just too hard to clean out. I'll also allow about three extra hours for N1S to design his jack-o-lantern. SP finished three faces to his one.

Well, only 300 odd days until our next haunting. But less than two month until the next house decorating. If you live in Minnesota, I hope you already have your Christmas lights on the roof.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ghosts In The Graveyard

We just can't wait for Halloween, so Lady Di and I helped Sweet Pea host a Fall party for some of her friends. There were no costumes so it wasn't a Halloween party. But the decorations, food and games definitely had a Halloween theme.

The weather threatened rain, but thankfully held off.

We started the night with a community service. A friend of ours sends small bags of treats overseas to a charity which distributes them to underprivileged kids. Our first party game was an assembly line bag filling contest.

Sweet Pea must have thought this was the 'make a face' picture.

Then the girls got to decorate their own treat bags to be filled later. The markers, stickers and beads entertained them for a while, but they started to get antsy. So we quickly moved on to boo bingo. Which is just like regular bingo except I would randomly sneak up behind a girl and yell boo at them. Number One Son assisted by running the bingo calling. And thank goodness he did. Not only did he buy us some time to sweep up stray beads and clean up wayward stickers, but he really had the girls entertained by building suspense before each call. He got them all cheering and groaning as a group for every call.

After all of the excitement and drama of boo bingo, we brought out the pizza and witches punch. Lady Di froze a pair of 7up filled vinyl gloves to float in the red punch bowl. One finger even broke off for effect.

Next was dessert. But the girls had to earn it. We hung three strings from the ceiling and tied donuts to them. So with hands behind their backs, each girl giggled and hopped and used their fishmouths to pull, lift or tear their dessert down.

Once their desserts were devoured, we needed to cool the girls down. Time to bob for apples! Some girls were clever enough to grab the apple stem.
A few girls got a good face washing. Some had eyes as big as apples when they came up with fruit in their teeth.

Next was walk the plank. We do this game for most of the kids' parties. Each girl was blindfolded and led up the plank and told to jump at the end. The object is to make the girls think they are walking up to a height greater than the six inch rise of the plank. Some of the girls knew what was coming. Some girls didn't want to jump but laughed when they found out the trick. One girl actually looked forward to jumping blindly into a deep pit and was disappointed when the truth was revealed.

By now it was dark enough for the bonfire. I got a roaring blaze going and settled into a lawn chair to enjoy the dancing flames. Unfortunately, I was alone in my interest. The girls decided to play Ghost in the Graveyard instead. Which is basically tag in the dark. And instead of counting to twenty, the 'it' person counts the hours to midnight.

But they must have tired just before the party ended, because they eventually gravitated to the fire like moths and told ghost stories. I threw a few color flame packets into the fire for the girls to ooh and ahh at the green, purple and blue show.

At 8 o'clock the parents came to retrieve their goblins. Fortunately, there weren't any fights and all the girls got along and all participated. I hope they all had fun and I was very impressed by their good manners.

Thank you Lady Di for putting on such a great event. And thank you for letting me cleanup the leftover pizza.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Season for Sugar

A couple of weeks ago I got impatient for Halloween to come so I tried to hurry it along. I consulted the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook for inspiration. SP and I decided to tackle cut out cookies.

Lady Di has a killer set of cookie cut outs for every season.

I think another reason I wanted to make cookies was to actually see these bad boys in action instead of just sitting in the cut out tote in the cupboard.

We got all of the Halloween cut outs ready. Frankenstein Head, ghost, pumpkin, bat, cat and skeleton. The skeleton cut out was actually a gingerbread man. But with some creative frosting, bones and skulls appeared.

SP and I teamed up to take on the recipe. I read the ingredients and measurements. SP measured and mixed. She even cracked her own egg. I still have trouble keeping the shells out.

After mixing the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients I put the dough in the fridge to wait of three hours.

"What?!", cried SP.

"You have to let the dough sit to rise or age or just let the ingredients get to know each other well and get their cookie game plan figured out. Or something like that.", I informed her. "It just says so in the cookbook."

It was also a learning experience for me. I have cut out cookies before but I have never actually prepared cookie dough before. I was surprised to find out that the recipe didn't include opening a tube. But using the mixer was quite fun. Did you know that raising the mixer above the bowl while set on high will fling dough quite a ways? I also learned too late that you need to put flour on everything unless you want dough sticking to everything. It stuck to my hands, the roller, the cutting board and the spatula. Luckily, the dough stuck to itself and kept the shape it was cut into and out came Halloween cookies.

We found out that the larger the cut out, the fewer cookies came out of the dough. So once a Frankenstein head and a ghost were cut, the remaining dough got filled up with smaller bat patterns. We ended up with a whole caveful of bats.

The next step was even more fun and more sticky. The frosting.

Lady Di set up the most vivid orange, green and black frosting. We also got out the orange and black sprinkles. The first few cookies received much artistic attention to detail from the kids. Then when they saw the large pile left to frost, many cookies only earned one color of frosting each. Once the pile of cookies dwindled to only a few, the kids were tired of frosting and these cookies got a glob of each color of frosting to empty the bowls and swirled them all together producing an olive green brownish shade befitting the holiday.

Here's a sample of our creations. They range from cookies with a half inch of frosting and sprinkles to the duck shaped cookie on the right with one black frosting dot for an eye.

Once our desserts were prepared, we all enjoyed one cookie of our choosing. They were so good we treated ourselves to another. The rest found their way to the freezer. For some reason, once the cookies retired to the freezer, the kids completely forgot about them. So just to make sure they didn't spoil, I checked in on them regularly for the past two weeks.

Which necessitates the preparation of a new batch today.

Happy Early Halloween.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How Sock Monkey Saved Our Weekend.

Last week my mother had to have her knee replaced. Apparently, all those years of chasing my sister and me around the house has finally caught up with her. She lives five hours away in South Dakota so I planned to leave Friday afternoon after work and return home on Sunday afternoon.

Lady Di was still a little dizzy from her ear surgery and Number One Son had a piano class on Saturday, so they elected to stay home. Plus, it was homecoming week and N1S was excited to see the local football game. And of course, 'see the game' really means hanging out with your friends and seeing how much Mountain Dew and Skittles you can get for five bucks.

So I asked Sweet Pea if she wanted to visit the golfing grandparents with me. She, of course, said yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,...

So Lady Di was nice enough to sneak some of SP's clothes into my suitcase along with her leopard print bathroom bag and we were ready to go. I made sure to bring along a Star Wars color book, some paper and crayons for the trek.

Unfortunately, about a half hour into our journey Lady Di called to say that SP had forgotten her pillow which was packed with her jacket, stuffed animal and most importantly her purple blankie. Then around a half hour later, SP asked if I could hand her pillow back so she could rest.

"Uhhhh, can you just use the blanket under the seat?", I offered.

"I like my pillow better.", she countered.

'I might as well get this over with.' , I thought.

"Mom just called and said that you left it on your bed. Sorry.", I consoled.

Surprisingly, she was only a little disappointed but she brightened up when I told her that Grandma's sock monkey is probably really excited to sleep with her tonight.

After that, she used the blanket as pillow to rest. Thank you Sock Monkey!

Around hour number two of our drive, the dreaded backseat question emerged from the shadows.

"How much longerrrrrr?"

About three more hours.


Luckily, I thought of a game to play. Since we were driving to South Dakota and it was the first day of October, we played 'Count the Combines.'

I didn't grow up on a farm but like most small SD towns, we lived in the middle of farm country. Tractors cruising main street were given about as much notice as mini-vans at a soccer field. And my hometown community has seen more than a few wedding parties being paraded through town on a flatbed trailer complete with straw bale seating.

But for me, harvest season is special because it's the one time of the year that I get to actually see combines in action. I don't claim to know enough about farming to know anything about what they are actually doing. I just think if looks cool to see corn and bean fields getting mowed down in straight sections with the rows going on and on for miles. Each cornstalk standing broomstick straight marching single file all the way to the horizon only to meet the blue sky and a few cotton ball clouds. And as it gets dark you can see a small cloud of dust surround a few headlights, as the combine, like a caterpillar devouring a leaf, steadily munches away into the night. I would encourage anyone to take a drive in the country this week to see what I am talking about. And, if any farmers want to take a short break next year and let me drive one, I'll make myself available. As long as you are OK with few crooked rows.
As our game started, I spotted the first few combines which gave SP a picture of what she should be looking for.

When she spotted her first one she yelled, "There's another compound!"

"You mean 'combine', right?"

"Oh yeah. I got mixed up."

We saw mostly red and green machines. A few yellow ones and one gray with a red stripe. In the last hour of our trip our total reached sixteen combines discovered. Only one combine away from our record last year. But it was getting dark and getting late and SP zonked out in the back seat. We passed four more machines but I didn't tell her until morning. So now our new record is twenty combines spotted. Our new record didn't last very long because we spotted twenty six working combines on the way home on Sunday.

On Saturday, we got to visit Grandma in the hospital. She was a little pale and weak but in good spirits. SP gave her the birthday and get well cards she and N1S had made and she put them on her table to show the nurses.

Since Grandma's hospital was in Sioux Falls, SP and I made a little side trip the Ronald McDonald House there. This was where Lady Di stayed for two months while N1S was in the hospital growing from his premature birth. We had a big box of pop tabs to donate and SP got to sign the guest book. Sometime you should ask Lady Di about the time she almost burned Ronald's house down making toast.

We also got to visit with an old college classmate of mine who happens to own a restaurant in Sioux Falls. We showed up at Michael's Steakhouse and Dave gave us the best table in the house. We got to catch up a bit and enjoyed a great meal. Plus, Dave and his sister offer homemade cheesecake from their parent business, Epiphany Desserts. So after stuffing ourselves at dinner, SP, my dad and I all enjoyed a piece of the best cheesecake I have ever eaten. SP couldn't eat all of hers so she took it home in a Styrofoam to-go box which she decorated with a sad face with her finger nail.

"This is how my tummy feels.", she groaned showing me the box.

We did eat a lot.

This was a nice weekend to see my folks, my sister and my Grandma Peg. I really wasn't able to actually help them with anything until Mom can come home from the hospital. But I did get to eat cheescake...and see combines.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

To Run, or Not To Run...

As some of you know, I have recently discovered the joys of running for my health. And when I say 'joys', I really mean aches and pains. At this point, I have been running somewhat regularly for about a year and a half and by now I can tell when my body feels good and when it feels like a forty-one year old going 0n eighty. Luckily, for the most part, the good days slightly outnumber the challenging days, so I'm still motivated enough to go out and keep running. Just like the amazing golf shot on the last hole of an absolutely horrid round. Or the fish that nibbles your line five minutes before you'd planned to pack it in after five hours of taking your night crawler for a swim. As long as you end on a positive note, it's much easier to trick yourself into forgetting about the blood blister that forms on your right pinkie toe.

So here are the things that I love about running, along with the things that try to get me to consider ordering a thigh master and working out from the couch instead.

Number one on the list of positive influences to my running is my Ipod. This little miracle has almost single handedly got my butt into running shoes. At first, I just wanted to play with it, but now it's keeping my mind off what I'm doing so well that I don't notice my lungs burning so much. The down side is that I don't think I could run without my Ipod now. I forgot it once and all I had to listen to was the clomp, clomp, wheeze, wheeze cadence of my running. That 30 minutes was the longest 45 minute run I've ever had.

Another fun thing to use while running is my heart monitor. Lady Di got me one early on. It's a belt worn around your chest which communicates your vital information to your sport watch. So it's kind of fun to see your heart rate rise at the beginning of your run and it also keeps track of your minutes and calories burned. It also beeps if your heart rate gets too high which usually happens about 3 minutes into my jog. That's my signal to pull over and sit on the curb or use some stranger's lawn chair that happened to be left out.

One other thing I like about running is going downhill. If you ever think about starting a running plan, go downhill. It's awesome!

But I hate running uphill. So avoid going uphill at all costs.

During warm days I love turning a corner and running into a nice cool breeze to cool off. But running against the wind is awful. It feels like running through a bunch of wet blankets hanging on a clothesline. So always run into a breeze and never against the wind.

The main reason I run though is to remain healthy. At forty-one I'm no longer the athlete I once was. And the athlete I once was, wasn't all that athletic to start with. I also want to be around for my family as long as possible. I see running as adding time to my life account. Every step I take is another ten seconds of extra life that I can use for more running.

So on the whole, the positives still outweigh the negatives so I suppose I'll keep it up. There is only one more negative that I hope doesn't get worse. I'm really bothered by all of the women who check me out while I run. It's getting to be so many that I'm worried that people will start to talk. So if you are one of the hundreds that sit in your driveway on Tuesday and Friday afternoons, please resist. I know if will be difficult, but it's for the good of us all. Remember, try to restrain yourself on Tuesdays and Fridays between 3 and 4pm.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Giants In The Earth

The days are getting shorter and the air is getting crisper, so that means Fall is fast approaching. That also means it's time to see what grew in the garden this year. You may remember last year's bountiful harvest. This year I changed seed to see if I would have a little bit better luck.

This year I planted corn, cucumbers and carrots. I decided that pumpkins will not grow in my shady acreage so I chose only vegetables that start with the letter 'c'. The letter 'c' loves the shade. Shade is cool, as are cucumbers. And just like corn, shade can be high as an elephant's eye, if you are standing next to an elephant. And I picked carrots because I wanted something orange to grow in the garden.
So around about the middle of July I had a couple dozen corn stalks about thigh high, three and a half rows of carrots and one cucumber plant starting to bloom. Then we went away for the weekend and in the course of two days, all of my corn stalks were trampled. After falling to my knees and shaking fists toward the sky screaming, I got out the magnifying glass to search for clues. Namely, small tennis shoe tracks. But, alas, we have pretty well behaved kids in our neighborhood, so no incriminating tracks were found. Do squirrels like to trample corn stalks and at the same time stomp on the horticultural dreams of a middle aged man just for kicks?
At least the cucumber and carrots were spared. In August, I picked no less than four six inch cucumbers before the vine dried up. I finally proved that something can grow anyway.
Last week, Number One Son and I dug up the three and a half rows of carrots. And let me tell you this, the size of the carrot showing out of the dirt at the top doesn't necessarily indicate how big the carrot under the ground is. It's somewhat like an iceberg in reverse. Usually, the iceberg under the water is much larger than the tip showing. My carrots had a top showing that was about as big around as a nickel. But when they were dug up I found out that some were about as long as a nickel as well. So quite a few carrots look more like carrot-balls than sticks.

Here is a fair representation of the range of sizes that were unearthed. Unfortunately, the produce at the left side of the picture was the most abundant. But along with the many mini carrots, there were some interesting shapes as well.

I named a few of the most unique vegetables that came out of the dirt. If you can't read the small print, it reads from left to right, Snowman, Hershey Kiss, Xmas Tree,Twister and Love.

Here's a close up of our favorite carrot of the season. I think it signifies all the love and caring I put into the garden this summer. Even though I kind of gave up after the corn stalk massacre and let nature do it's own thing.

These zucchini came from our friends garden but N1S was so impressed that he wanted to take a picture of them. He used the zucchini on the right for a gun since it grew a curved handle on the end.

But this year's zip lock baggie of carrots has encouraged me enough to probably try again next year. I will have to find some other shade loving vegetables or possibly try flowers.

Whichever I choose, you can be sure to see me in my bib overalls and straw hat endlessly toiling in the hot summer air working on my farmer's tan.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Remember When Slide Shows Involved A Projector And A Bedsheet?

Glad you could stop by. Go ahead and get comfortable on the flower print sofa while I mix us a couple of 'Rob Roys'. Don't worry, we'll get to our weekly card game soon enough. First though, you're in for a treat. Our vacation slides just came back from the developer and I have them all loaded up in the projector. I tacked the bed sheet to the wall for our screen, so I guess we're ready to relive our entire summer with you.

What's that you said? Just sounded like a big sigh to me. Nothing? Ok, let's begin. Back in July we made the trip out east to the Wisconsin Dells. Did you know they have water parks out there? This is the one we visited for 3 and a half days. That's me at the top of the orange slide.
They even had one of them there fancy indoor water parks. Number One Son was showing off for the girls on the Wavy-Surfy thing.
Sweet Pea had fun on it too. Wipeout!!!And as if two water parks weren't enough entertainment, they had an indoor amusement park to siphon some more money from us. N1S is about half way up this rock wall during our race. I was climbing the wall just to the left of him. I was waiting for N1S at the top but unfortunately I was just cut out of the picture.

Well, how do you like the slide show so far? No, don't get up, there are plenty more slides to see. What do you mean 'it's getting late'? You just got here. Now put down your coats and sit. The little Lady will be out shortly with coffee cake and Sanka and then we'll start the card game as soon as the slides are done.

In this slide we see an actual mermaid the resort hired to swim around the park. She was a big hit with SP who is wearing the pink goggles. The mermaid swam all around the lazy river followed by a dozen or two little girls. It seems she was also a big hit with some of the teenage boys who were swimming. Haw haw haw!

I see the coffee cake has vanished. Hey Lady Di, your cake was a hit again! Well, that's the end of the slides. Just a minute! I meant that's the end of those slides. Now we can put in the second carousel of slides from our vacation to Madeline Island in Wisconsin for all of our enjoyment. Whoops! Looks like I put all the slides in upside down. Don't worry, it'll only take ten or fifteen minutes to turn all of them over. That'll give the Little Woman time to gather up those snack sets and get them washed. We've been having a little trouble lately getting our dishwasher loaded. It takes you about two shots and a beer chaser now, right honey! Haw haw haw!

There we go, that's better. We're getting ready to ferry over to the island with our friends and their family. Now these slides you'll really like. While on the island we camped in our tent for four days. We got to see a lot of nature while there too.
We saw a lot of deer at the campsite and while riding our bikes. Some were tame enough to let us get within 15 feet of them. Isn't this a great shot! If you can't see the deer, it's the tan thing in the middle of all of the gray, brown and tan things.

We also took a long family nature hike though the woods. And this must have been the year for mushrooms because we saw so many different kinds, shapes and colors that we had to take a picture of every one we saw.This slide shows the most brightly colored yellow mushrooms we saw. We literally found mushrooms of every color of the rainbow except blue. Yes, we even found purple.

Hey Honey, where did those other forty slides of mushrooms go? They don't seem to be in the slide carousel anymore. You don't know? Well our guests really wanted to see them.
Oh well, plenty more to see. You havin' trouble with your watch? You seem to be checking it every five minutes.

Anyhoo, we got to see some nice views of the cliffs on our hike too. Here, the kids got in the way of a nice shot of some old rocks.

On the last night of our camping trip, we took a family walk on the beach. We skipped stones, found driftwood and collected interesting rocks. Don't worry, we didn't take a picture of every rock we saw. Who would be dumb enough to want see that? We did, however, happen to have a full moon rising that night so we all lined up for a picture.

SP's dour expression comes from her accidentally losing her most precious and most interesting rock she found on the beach. A rock that she could NEVER EVER find another one like it ever in her whole life ever!!!

Well, I can see that your facial expressions are matching SP's for some reason. I hope it wasn't the coffee cake. So I guess we better just call it a night. I'll look around for those missing mushroom slides for next time. Sorry, we ran short of time for our card game. We'll just have to play two games next week. Haw haw haw!
What do you mean you're busy next week?

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.