Thursday, November 3, 2011

Return of the Pumpkin Round-Up

Sadly, another Halloween has come and gone. Lady Di and I have snuck as much candy as we're going to get from the kids. They have hidden their stash in their rooms from us. I'm trying to teach Ruby the art of tracking. So far, she is no bloodhound.

Anyway, it's time for our annual Pumpkin Round-Up. This is where I force you to look through all my Halloween pictures whether you like it or not. This is the fifth year of Pumpkin Round-Up. If you would like to see previous year's pumpkins, go ahead and click here, here, here, or here.

Now, on to business. Let's start with Number One Son's Gourd's of Creativity.

It's pumpkins season and it's football season. N1S saved time by combining them.

His next pumpkin requires technical cleverness to figure out.

This is a smiling jack-o-lantern but it's not just a sideways face. Can you figure out the riddle? The answer is at the end of this post if you dare to continue!

Next in line are from Sweet Pea's gruesome collection. SP has been carving her own pumpkins for three years now and each year she creates a vomiting pumpkin.

Although, this one I believe just has a bad sinus infection. His friend is a skull but Lady Di and I thought it looked cute with a squash hat.

This one is a self portrait of SP. If you scroll down the right side of the blog you will see a picture resembling this. By the way, that candle skull lights up and was home made.

The next group of pumpkins were carved by yours truly.

I just couldn't pass up this warty lumpy orb. SP suggested that the bulbous bump should be made into an eye. So this is my mismatched eye pumpkin. And also my little squash buddy.

I call the next jack-o-lantern my Charlie Brown. I had a little trouble with the knife.

My last pumpkin is my favorite. It's carved in the style of The Nightmare Before Christmas and it is lighted with a green Christmas bulb.

And the best, I must confess, I have saved for the last. Lady Di's pirate pumpkin complete with silver tooth.

Eventually, I ran out of pumpkins and looked around the garage for something else to carve. We had two acorn squash that I carved into lanterns that we hung from two planters on the porch. The picture isn't too good but they really glowed with the porch lights off.

The jack-o-lanterns set the stage for a festive Halloween night.

SP dressed as a Titanic victim. I think she hoped that people would feel sorry for her and give her more candy.

And N1S was Darth Vader. He also made a sign that said "Please donate candy to build new Death Star". He said he got an extra candy bar from one home and another home jeered him. Must have been a Jedi home.

This is the Invisible Man holding his invisible bowl of candy.
Well, did you solve N1S's jack-o-lantern riddle? The answer lies on your keyboard just under your right pinky finger and just above the zero key. :) LOL

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's Not Halloween Yet

Sorry it's been so long between posts but it is October after all. And everyone knows October first always marks the start of Halloween decorating season. The beginning of the month started with temperatures in the 80's. That was just too hot. I got the ghoulish gear out of the attic but had to wait for more seasonal weather to start transforming the yard.
Then, overnight, our temps dropped to 40's and 50's. Now I was ready. Unfortunately, Mother Nature still wanted to challenge me. As soon as the temps got to the 50's, the wind increased to the 50's too. At least it felt like 50mph. So now my orange lights are tangled and falling off the trees. Styrofoam tombstones are threatening to blow away.
I've got one more week to stake, hang and plug in before All Hallow's Eve. If the wind doesn't take everything away before then, I'll post some pictures.

Meanwhile, our new puppy Ruby has been helping around the house as well. She is now seven months old and is really excited for Halloween. Honestly, she is really excited for everything. She likes to chew her toys. She likes to chase balls. She especially likes to be chased. Which is why she is still on a leash when outside. She got away from us outside a few times which resulted in a chase three neighbors over. She has trained us to get the treat bag and kneel in the grass until she decides to stop running circles around us and get her treat.
She answers to her name. She just doesn't answer to 'come'. She has also obtained many names which may be confusing her.
Along with the name Ruby, she has also heard the names,
Ruby Duby
Ruby Doobs
Ruby Dooby Doo
Ruby Tuesday
Ruby Begonia (That's from Grampa Gary)
Ruby Poo
Ruby Boo
And any other cutsie bootsie name that rhymes with ooby you can think of.
In addition to playing with her toys, she also likes to play games with us.

When she isn't playing or playing games with us, she likes to hang out under the couch. She will scooch her puppy butt underneath and peek out with her little black eyes.

She also likes to torment her cousin Rosie by taking her toys and then jumping on her face.

So far Ruby is working out to be a pretty good puppy. We often compare her unfairly to our previous puppy, Liberty. I'm not sure if she will ever measure up to Liberty. Liberty set the bar pretty high. Although, I think our memory of Liberty's first few years are a little fuzzy when it comes to her puppy naughtiness. We tend to compare Ruby now to Liberty when she was ten years old or so. When we could let Liberty run around the yard and not worry about her coming back or getting into something she shouldn't.

One thing Ruby does that is reminiscent of Liberty is her napping. For some reason, Ruby at seven months, will actually take multiple naps throughout the day. I don't think Liberty left us alone for a minute her first few years.
So, I guess, Ruby isn't too bad after all. We can probably be patient enough to see how she turns out in the next fifteen years or so.

In case you're wondering, yes we still have two kids. Just because I don't mention them in every post, doesn't mean they aren't doing something interesting too. Once I find where they are I'll ask them what they have been up to.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Day to Remember

Anniversaries are often times of celebration. They often involve getting together with friends or relatives that you haven't seen in a while to reconnect, catch up and enjoy each other's company. But anniversaries' primary purpose is to mark a significant event for remembrance.

Today marks one such significant event. There will probably be gatherings of family and friends. They will probably share stories of this day ten years ago. Stories of where you were when you heard the news. The only celebrating will be celebrating the memories of the life of a loved one lost.

But it all comes back to the primary purpose of an anniversary. To remember. To remember the ones who lost their lives. To remember the sacrifices made by the police and firefighters of New York. To remember the families and friends affected by the needless loss of life. To remember the reason why sacrifices are made. It's not easy keeping a country free. The freedoms we enjoy come at a price. Unfortunately, some people end up paying more than their fair share. We should not take our freedoms for granted. While we are remembering this tragedy from a decade ago, we should also remember to thank a vet, an active military member, firefighter, police officer or anyone else responsible for our safety.

Last year SP's and N1S's seventh grade cousin from Fargo entered a school contest to design something that honored the memory of all who sacrificed on September, 11th 2001. She came up with two pictures symbolizing what that date meant to her. The contest judges were so impressed that she not only won the contest, but her school decided to print her designs onto t-shirts to sell with all of the proceeds going to a veteran's organization in Fargo.

SP and N1s each have a shirt that they wear on most patriotic holidays. This year they wore their shirts to school on the Friday before September 11th.

Here, SP models her shirt. You can click on the picture to better see the detail that her cousin put into her design.

This is the back of the shirt. She incorporated the airplane numbers and the pentagon into her second design. The logo reads, "How Soon We Forget".

Many times we get caught up with what is wrong with the country. We need to balance that with what is right with the country too. Our country and the people in it are doing things every day to be proud of. Big things. Small things. They all count.

Take pride in your country. Appreciate what has been done for you. Return the favor.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Last of the Summer Fun

We are getting dangerously close to the beginning of September and the start of the school year. Once again we packed our lives in the pickup and headed northeast to Bayfield, WI to tent camp for four days. This is our third year in a row of camping here with our good friends who haven't yet packed up their gear midweek and changed campsites.

We had near perfect weather for the third year in a row also. Hot during the day and cool at night. The animals liked the cool night too because we were visited by many. The first night there was the noisiest night we have ever had to sleep through. The raccoons made not one but three separate passes through our campsite looking for food. In between raccoon raids, two White Owls were hooting back and forth like an Owl Idol competition. Then just as things quieted down for a whole fifteen minutes, and my eyes started to close, a pack of coyotes started to howl and yip. All these noises of nature would have been kind of pretty to listen too if it weren't for the thin piece of nylon tent being the only protection between my head and sharp teeth.

Perhaps the animals were drawn to our tent by our festive string of battery operated blue tent lights. Actually, they are Christmas lights but we didn't tell the raccoons that.

The second night we found out that duct tape doesn't hold lights on nylon very well. So the festive lights only lasted one night. Surprisingly, there were also no more nights of howling coyotes. Hmmm.

The weather was so nice this mermaid washed up on shore one of the days.

Our friends also rented a paddle board for the day. I don't think the kids did much paddling though. Instead, they used the board for a lot of falling in the water.

Later in the afternoon, we spotted some teenagers climbing all over a fifteen foot long log which had floated into the bay. They were about a hundred yards out. When the teens got tired and abandoned their find, Lady Di and her friend Kerry decided that they wanted that log. So they both jumped into the kayak that we had rented for the day and paddled out to get it. It took them about ten minutes to get to the log and about 50 minutes to tow it to shore. It was big and waterlogged and heavy. When they were within 20 yards of shore, a young swimmer told his dad, "Hey, I want to play on the log!" His dad, who had been watching LD and Kerry the whole time said, "For as much work as those two have gone through for that old log, I don't think they want to give it up so easily."

But it was so worth it. As soon as the log arrived, everyone from our two families immediately wanted to get on it and float. The boys even tried to pull it back out to sea but soon realized that they didn't want to invest 50+ minutes in the endeavor. Who would have thought that a big old log would be the hit of the beach?
The log is half submerged in this picture. It was also so slippery that a picture with all four kids actually standing on it was rare.

Since we usually camp the last week of August, it usually falls on Number One Son's birthday.

Here he is blowing out his birthday citronella candle surrounded by cupcakes. That orange ball on the table is our homemade ice cream maker. There is a metal cylinder inside the ball which holds the cream and vanilla. Ice and salt go inside the outer area of the ball to cool the cream. Once each section is filled with appropriate ingredients, it's up to the kids to play soccer with the ball to mix it into ice cream. It was a delicious thirteenth birthday party.

So that puts a cap to our summer of 2011. Now we can look forward to school starting in a couple of days. How will we ever get the kids to go to bed without White Owls lullabying them to sleep?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Smells Like Teen Spirit

The big news around our place is that Lady Di and I are now the proud owners of a brand spankin' new teenager. As of 12:01 am Number One Son has now matured to 13 years. Even though we just drove him off the lot, he already has that teenage boy smell. We do have a sample can of Axe Body Spray that we hang around his neck to freshen him up a bit. In addition to the Axe we also picked up a basket of maintenance items to keep our teen looking new. We stocked up on soap,acne cream, deodorant, soap, three different sizes of shoes, ear plugs (for us) and soap.

He has been bugging us for a cell phone for a couple of years, so now that he has reached the responsible age of 13, we decided to implant a GPS microchip in his arm instead to know where he is at all times.

We also have pre-emptively removed his bedroom door to avoid the inevitable slamming.

We've taken out a second mortgage to expand our pantry to make room for the industrial sized cans of food needed to keep both of his hollow legs full.

We are also trying to prepare for the inevitable interest in girls. So far he still kids around with us when we mention the fair sex but we know that he is probably just showing disinterest to throw us parents off his trail. And I'm not talking about the trail of week old underwear snaking around his room.

Communicating with girls is a mine field for any teenage boy, but when you have Asperger's like N1S, it's like navigating that same mine field blindfolded, at a rock concert, wearing snow shoes. So I have put together a few sure fire opening lines to get him in the door.

Lines like, "You must be from Memphis because you're the only Ten-I-See." Or, "I seem to have lost my phone number. Can I have yours?" Or, " I don't have a library card, but do you mind if I check you out?"

And the never failing, "How you doin'?"

I'm sure these lines will do nothing but help N1S on his way to ladies-manness. They worked like a charm for me 15 & 1/2 years ago on Lady Di when I said, "Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?"

Here is a short video of N1S's show choir performing the song '13'.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The End Is Near

Our last month of summer vacation is always our last chance to actually relax. We purposely under-schedule August in the hopes of spending quiet family time together. But since nature abhors a vacuum, any space left open in the day automatically gets filled up with an event of some sort. This summer, to try something new, Lady Di took the kids up north to Grampa's lake to stay a few weeks. I, of course, would stay home and work which meant that at least one person in the family would have peace and quiet for a couple weeks.

But things don't move too fast at Gramma and Grampa's either. Most mornings found Sweet Pea sitting on Grampa's dock fishing. She would take a baggie of corn to use for bait and catch and re-catch sunfish. She always throws them back so I'm sure some of those sunnies are getting pretty fat and getting sore lips. SP has two fishing rods she is quite proud of. SP's cousin works at the local bait shop and gave her a good deal on a bright pink rod. It also has a reel that lights up when you spin it. When Grampa Ray saw all the fish she was catching with her new rod, he decided that she also needed a trolling rod for the boat. Somehow, he found a pink one of those to match. So now she has two really nice new pink fishing rods and is really getting some use out of them.

She also has discovered a passion for gardening. Grampa let's one of his neighbors use a spot on his land for a vegetable garden. So whenever Gene comes over to tend his plants, SP is tagging along at his heals and jibber-jabbering the whole time. She calls Gene her pea-pickin' buddy.

Here's SP's egg pealin' buddy.

Her brother is less interested in fishing or gardening or being outside. He will sit with her on the dock and help her with the net and getting the fish off the hook, but his patience doesn't last long. His idea of fun at Grampa's is watching the Twins play baseball while eating a bowl of ice cream. He also uses his time to play games on his 3DS and showing Grampa how to navigate his own computer.

Knowing N1S's interests, Lady Di broke her August scheduling rule and scheduled a Show Choir camp up by Gramma's house. So that makes three shows for N1S this summer. The camp in Bemidji had over 100 kids participating and they practiced three hours every morning for 1 week. This was something brand new for N1S and he didn't know anyone at the camp. Lady Di was a little apprehensive about dropping him off on the first day. "What if he gets lost? What if he doesn't make a friend? What if the kids are mean?"

We needn't have worried. He was excited after his first practice and said he had an awesome time.

LD asked, "Did you meet any new friends?"

"Yeah, but I don't know their names.", was his reply.

This is pretty standard procedure for N1S. He has learned a lot of friend social skills but he still has to work on remembering them at the time. We prompted him to remember by telling him to exchange email addresses with someone. He can usually recall anything related to computers.

At midweek the camp held a talent show for anyone who wanted to perform. With some encouragement from us, N1S consented to play a song on the piano. He said he did OK. There was one other piano player. He said the funny thing was that three entries performed Katy Perry's song Firework. He said by the time the third one came around everyone was pretty tired of Firework. On Thursday he found out that he and three others got picked to perform on Friday between their Show Choir songs.

I wasn't able to attend the show but LD, SP and both sets of grandparents were cheering him on. The talent show winners performed their songs for the first forty five minutes of the show. And even though there were four talent show 'winners' I know who was ranked as 'first winner'.

Then the entire show choir camp performed three songs. LD said that for around 1oo kids the choreography was pretty clean and everyone gave a sharp show. Of course we all know who was the sharpest and cleanest.

That night I called N1S to ask how the show went and to congratulate him. He said he had a lot of fun. I asked if he made any friends. He said not really. "I was just too busy practicing and I forgot." But apparently he did make one acquaintance. After the show one of the high school directors came over to him to congratulate him and they discussed something about N1S's Nintendo 3DS game. N1S then said, "Maybe I'll see you next summer." So I guess that means he wants to come back. It'll give him another chance to 'remember' to make a friend or two. And hopefully, they will be closer to his age.

We've reached the middle of August. The cicadas are buzzing the trees. School can't be that far away. In fact, I think I can see it on the horizon if I squint. Can we squeeze in anymore fun before Labor Day! We better hurry!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Show Me What You Got!

Welcome back to our family slide show of our summer so far. Get ready for some shows, softball and swimming. Once we returned from SD at the beginning of June, Number One Son auditioned for a part in a local community education children's theatre workshop. The show was Willy Wonka Jr. and N1S was impressive enough to land the role of Willy Wonka himself. This production practiced three hours every day for 2 weeks. They used minimal props and costumes but concentrated on acting, singing and dancing.

Here is Mr. Wonka in his Choco-vison room. I'm not sure if he was singing or snoring behind his special goggles.

His good friend from school was also in the show playing Veruca Salt. I think they have been in about five or six shows together.

At around the same time Sweet Pea was playing softball for the first time. She got to hit for the first time. Well, maybe not this time. She got to pitch for the first time. Steeeeeeeeeeeerike!
She even got to catch for the first time. Trust me, it is her under all that gear.

None of the teams in her league had nicknames so the girls came up with one of their own. Since they wore yellow shirts, they called themselves the bumblebees. But as they improved with each practice they decided to change their name to the Killer Bees! I told SP that their team should all start buzzing when the other team was batting but it never really caught on. SP however, did convince N1S and I to help her make some inspirational posters to hang in their dugout during games. This is one of SP's.

N1S liked to come up with slogans for his posters. "Drive For The Hive" and "Bring Your Bee Game" were his favorites.

SP thought her team could get some help from the dark side with her poster. I think it's fun to use my lowest Darth Vader voice and read, "Bees, I am cheering for your team."

During SP's softball schedule, we had some of the hottest, most humid days of the summer. Luckily, the kids have an Auntie Sue who lets them swim in her pool.
Oops! I hope pink shoulders are in this year.

The schedule just got busier from there. While SP was playing softball and N1S was performing Willy Wonka Jr., both kids were practicing for their third Show Choir show. This Show Choir theme was 'Songs from Glee'. They, along with about 40 kids formed the junior choir with about 16 members of the senior choir. They started off the show with a song called 'Loser Like Me'. SP and N1S dressed as nerds for this song.

Next on the program was the song 'Cooler Than Me'. The kids are trying their best to look 'cool'. Shake it, SP!

N1S got to sing with the boys to the tune of Justin Bieber's "Baby". Each guy in the choir got to sing a short solo while giving the girls in front of the stage a thrill by touching their hands. SP was picked to be in front of the stage waving her homemade JB posters with her friend. For some reason SP insisted that her posters have multiple puppies and kitties to keep JB company.

They ended the show with a high energy, highly freaky version of Lady Ga Ga's song 'Bad Romance'. This one had a lot of masks, feathers and sparkle.
Now that brings us to the end of July. Only one month left to go.

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.