Thursday, July 29, 2010

Workin' For A Livin'

This summer Number One Son has decided to go into business for himself. And when I say 'decided' I mean we suggested it to him and told him he would. But we did it in a sneaky way.

N1S is always complaining about not having any money to buy the video games he wants. He actually has the money in the bank but once it's in the bank it stays in the bank. So we suggested that he ask our neighbors if they needed someone to mow their lawn this summer.

He made a couple of posters to advertise his newly formed business and put them on the doorsteps of each house next to ours. Our bachelor neighbor next door accepted N1S's terms and employed him immediately.

N1S was pretty excited to start. His excitement quickly changed after a few passes with the mower though. He must have thought that mowing the lawn was easy after watching his dad gleefully dancing up and down the yard performing graceful and acrobatic movements with the mower, creating intricate and dazzling patterns in the lawn, transforming mere grass into works of art. Let's just say that N1S doesn't have the same appreciation for the lawnitary arts that his dad has. He found out the mower is heavy, the air is hot and our neighbor's hills are steep. He's also discovering new muscles he didn't know he had. Those are called work muscles.

But I guess I too lacked enthusiasm for the glamour and privilege of sweating away my summer days pushing a heavy, polluting vibration machine at that age. I can still feel the blister between my ring and middle fingers from pulling the start cord twenty times before flooding the motor. And then I would have to massage my sore shoulder while I waited for the mower to 'rest' until I was able to try starting it again.

In my youth, my dad taught me all the 'tricks' to use when the mower wouldn't cooperate. You had to prime the motor just enough, but not too much. Sometimes I had to take the air filter off with a screwdriver and then use the screwdriver handle to 'tap' out some of the dirt from the filter. When those things failed I would start hitting the mower with the screwdriver handle anywhere I felt the mower would feel the sting the greatest. When that didn't work, I would ram it into a tree or kick it or yell some choice words of encouragement until I exhausted myself.

Then it would usually start with one pull.

In this picture you can clearly see the character being built in N1S.

Not to be outdone was N1S's sister Sweet Pea. When she saw him making his lawn mowing posters, she immediately started to work on her entrepreneurial venture.

She wasn't very excited for mowing lawns so she decided on something more in tune with her interests.

Poor SP has yet to land a paying client. That may be due to how she takes care of her own dog. There are many days when watching iCarly takes a higher priority than a full water dish. I'm also a little suspect of her qualifications when it comes to hamster sitting. Since we've never owned a hamster, what does she think she has to do to take care of one? I suppose she would entertain a hamster for the day by staring at it and petting it. Whatever she has planned, at least her prices are reasonable.

Does anyone need their fish walked?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How Much Can We Do This Weekend?

Two weeks ago marked our first family camping trip of the summer. Our neighbors were kind enough to invite us to set up our tent alongside their campsite. We set up on Saturday afternoon and packed up on Sunday afternoon. We thought it was a good idea make our first tent outing of the year a short one. We also made sure the campsite was only about fifteen miles from home.

The campsite is on a large lake with a very nice swimming beach. So, predictably, we spent most of our time there.

We were also visited by our other neighbors who just happened to bring their boat to the lake. They were kind enough to pull us around the lake on their tubes.
The kids really were having fun despite their bored expressions. At one point their tube dipped under the water, flooding the tube. Once we noticed the kids were submerged, the boat slowed down to see if they were alright. Once the kids had air to breathe they both screamed, "That was AWESOME! Do it again!".

After an afternoon of swimming and tubing the kids were tired enough to sleep right through a rain storm that night. Lady Di and I, however, enjoyed the constant noise of a million rain drops trying to tap their way into our tent to soak us. Luckily, the tent proved water proof and the rain gave up around 2:30 am. We packed up our wet gear early Sunday morning and started the long drive home. Fifteen minutes later I was home re-setting up the tent to dry it out.

This left us just enough time for a short rest before surprising the kids with a trip to the X-cel Energy Center to see Star Wars In Concert.

When I say we surprised them, we didn't let them know where we were going. The kids only found out at the front gate when Lady Di told them to read what their tickets said.
Then we had to race to our seats because we were three minutes late thanks to the 'wonderful' detour signage put up by MNDOT.

It was difficult to get any good photos of the concert, but the music was very good and the sound was great considering we were in a giant hockey arena.
The concert consisted of a full orchestra playing score music from all six of the Star Wars movies in front of a large movie screen which showed various clips of all of the movies. The actor who played C3PO, Anthony Daniels, narrated the show introducing each movement. Every once in a while a laser light show would dance to the music too.
We had a twenty minute intermission to enjoy the Star Wars displays in the lobby.

The displays consisted of authentic costumes and props from the movies. In this picture Number One Son is trying to be cool by not smiling. Newsflash N1S, if you are at a Star Wars event, coolness pretty much gets checked at the door.

The lobby also had these large backdrops to take pictures in front of. Lady Di drew a laugh from the kids when she told them to stand in front of this moon. "Oh Mom, don't you know that's the Death Star?!" We couldn't get a picture of the kids with the Ewoks because they were laughing too hard when Lady Di called them bears.

Here we caught the kids red handed playing with fire again.

This wasn't a display. Just a dad and his kids, but Lady Di thought they were good enough for a picture.

After intermission was over and we had avoided buying a $30 program, we found our seats for the second half of the show. I saw more than a few families with the expensive programs though. And even though it was only 3:00 in the afternoon, I also saw many parents come back from the concession stand with beer. I can understand drinking beer at a ball game or even something cool like a rock concert. But this was Star Wars. This was classical music set to space movies. It all just seemed a little too nerdy for beer. But perhaps some parents needed a few beers to make it through to the end. I asked Lady Di what she thought of the show so far. She confessed, "This is torture for me."

She isn't much of a fan.

She also was a little bit miffed when she saw a couple dozen audience members video taping the concert from their seats. Then she realized that the lights from the camcorders were actually little pen sized light sabers that were sold in the lobby.

All in all it was a very busy weekend. Thank you G & P for letting us crash your campsite. Thank you D & T for towing us around the lake on your tubes and thank you Lady Di for enduring an hour and a half of nerdy torture for us.

Now what are we doing for next weekend?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Something Borrowed, Something Red, White & Blue

Now that we are in the full swing of summer, we can enjoy the multiple seasons that summer has to offer. Baseball season, beach season and wedding season.

July 4th marked the blessed day that Lady Di's mother's brother's granddaughter got married. So that makes her my second-grand-niece-in-law. Although, I may be mistaken. I, myself, was riding Lady Di's shirttails all the way to the church. But even if I am a shirttail relative, my decision to marry Lady Di all those years ago legally entitles me the right to a piece of wedding cake and to dance the funky chicken in public.

You may ask, why would someone schedule their wedding on the 4th of July? Apparently, one of the bride's fondest childhood memories was of her dad taking her and her sisters to watch fireworks at this country club every year. And since we had no real firework plans ourselves, her wedding fit very nicely into our schedule.

I mentioned wedding cake earlier. To me, wedding cake is the highlight of every wedding. The vows, the tears, the toast, the bouquet tossing all take a back seat. Three types of cake were served. Chocolate, marble and three layer white cake with raspberry filling. Butter cream frosting was used on all. Whipped frosting may be healthier, but I prefer butter cream. And don't get me started on fondant!

Obviously, the wedding had a patriotic theme. And it looks like the happy couple enjoys motorcycles. Sweet Pea was in charge of cake photography.

She did take a break from photography to plant herself front and center for the bouquet toss. Luckily for us, the toss went high and right.

I said that cake was the highlight of the wedding but actually the highlight for me was when the bride's older sister sang an original song that she had written accompanied on the guitar to the happy couple.

The bride comes from a very musical family. Her grandmother plays piano and organ for their church. She has one uncle that plays piano and one uncle that plays guitar. Her father is also an accomplished guitar player. The bride and her two sisters also formed a band that they still play in called Trinity. And the music all started with the bride's great-grandma Ollie who can still pluck a pretty good folk song at 96 years old.

When the family music ended, the dance music began. And Sweet Pea was on a mission to dance her booty off to every song played this night.

I had to loan SP a dollar for this dance. I think it was a dollar well spent for such a nice picture.

The flower girl in the wedding was about a year younger than Sweet Pea, but that didn't stop her from asking Number One Son to dance. You could tell he was a little embarrassed but he danced part of a song with her. I guess he has now reached the age when he doesn't want to put himself out there as much as he used to. There weren't any girls his age at the reception, but I'm not sure if that would have helped him dance more or just serve to increase his embarrassment. He only found the dance floor for a few group line dances. The rest of the time he watched or blew bubbles with the bubble party favors.

Before the dance, SP went through about three tubes of bubble soap before the salads were served. After the meal, SP's older cousins showed her a trick they could do with the bubble soap. They each showed her how they could blow bubbles filled with 'pretty white clouds'. Then when the bubbles popped, the clouds would wisp away like the 'smoke' from a candle. I told SP that only her cousins could blow bubbles like that.

The evening ended with the fireworks show, of course. We had a front row seat for a spectacular show. I can certainly see why the bride wanted to relive such fond memories from her youth. The show prompted N1S to exclaim, "This is the best wedding I've ever been to!"

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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.