Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Another adventurous weekend has come to an end.  With the Boy's school closed for the extended Easter weekend, we made the most of our time together, culminating in a camping trip on Monday night.  The Boy had never been camping before, and with the weather a balmy and sunny mid-60s, he and I decided last minute that it would be the perfect day to give it a go.

So, we made our plans.  We began by making a list of everything we'd need to survive the adventure.  My list included the tent, two flashlights, sleeping bags and extra blankets.  His list consisted of marshmallows. 

We were set! 

After our lists were complete, we packed up and loaded our gear and eventually set out on our hike toward the campsite.  We trekked together for a good jaunt, ending up at the far western edge of (drumroll) the backyard.  Whew! 

The Boy picked out a good flat spot under the stars and near the marshmallow cooking pit.  After staking down the tent (and returning to home-base for other necessary supplies including the DVD player, games, books, and Cheetos), we cooked up some hot dogs and sugary confections.  Camp-on-the-Highway was open for business!  Our nutritious meal digesting, we spent the wee hours of the late evening playing Chutes and Ladders, watching movies and eating junk food until drifting off to sleep around 10:30.  Or at least he did some drifting.

Being ever the victim of Murphy and his Law, Monday night was also the night that the neighbors to the south (and invited guests) decided to open up their backyard gazebo- and sand volleyball pit - for the first time this year and have a raucous party.  Until 2 in the morning.  On a Monday night.  Do these people not have jobs?  Of all the...not that the Boy heard any of it, though.  Only those of us with 35 year old backs trying to sleep on the hard ground took notice. 

And, it wouldn't be camping without an overnight rain storm.  Literally 5 minutes after I heard the last of the rowdy neighbors stumble toward their house to sleep off all that they had imbibed, thinking that I could finally get some shut-eye, the wind began to howl and the rain began its plunking and spattering against the tent fabric. 


When we awoke the next morning (and by "awoke" I mean he awoke, I was still just laying there watching it get slightly lighter outside, sigh)- with the temperature hovering around the freezing point and the tent doing a below-average job of keeping the rain out - we made a break for homebase, abandoning our water-absorbent gear to the mercy of the elements. 

Overall, we had an outstanding fun time - definitely something he'll remember.  He was extremely proud of himself for staying outside for the whole night and wants to do it again.  Which is Excellent.  My favorite part?  Walking the 50 or so feet back to the house and taking a hot shower and getting the coffee pot going. 

Ah, camping. 

I confess that the neighbors were lucky it was still raining at 7:00 am when we headed indoors.  While lying there listening to them clank beer bottles around and play midnight volleyball under their bleeping floodlight with music blaring, I was secretly plotting revenge from the other side of the fence.  Amongst my sinisterly less-than-appropriate fantasies involving a chainsaw and/or gasoline and matches to burn down their gazebo, I had settled on doing some spring yard work with my extremely loud leaf-blower near their bedroom windows.  Had it only stopped raining. 

So, here's some pictures of the past few days, starting with a couple of obligatory Easter shots.  I hope your weekend was equally memorable!

The Boy had a wonderful Easter with his cousins in Northfield on Sunday.  Definitely one of the highlights for the adventurous lot was discovering the storm drain in Grandma's backyard and all of its inherent echo-iness.

It's universal for 5 year olds that during an Egg Hunt you are required to stop after each find and take inventory.  And then eat inventory.

Before the camping trip on Monday, the Boy decided he wanted to eat at the driveway-drive-thru.  I'm not to proud to flip pretend burgers and serve them out the living room window...would you like fries with that? 

And on to camping!  Here's to you, oh mighty campfire!  Thank you for your ability to melt things.

And here's the finished set-up.  I'd like to believe we were perched on a cliff side, deep into the heart of the northwoods.  Here we are,  just off the trail, after a long day backpacking our gear and rations in.  Please ignore the evidence to the contrary, namely the woodpile.....the well manicured lawn....the chain link fence with highway views....the orange power cord entering the tent....nothing to see here....

Definitely my kind of camping.  We're really roughing it here -  I mean, seriously - look how small that screen is!  We can hardly see it! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

So, it snowed last night.  Silly Minnesota.  About 2 inches of the white stuff flocked the trees overnight, and now with the mid-morning wind picking up and warming the air, it looks like Snowmageddon, with giant white clumps leaving their tree roosts and hurling themselves toward the unsuspecting ground. 

Snowbombs.  Awesome.

The Boy was equally unhappy with the weather this morning.  His exact comment as he climbed the stairs from his basement domain and caught a glimpse of the trees and yard:  "What?  No-ooo.  No no no.  This can NOT be happening again.  (one second pause, then turn to face kitchen) Can I have strawberries for breakfast or are those a dessert?"

And so the snow plops to the ground, melting on contact with anything previously sun-warmed.  It's supposed to rain in the next few hours/overnight.  Winter's last gasp.  It will all be over soon, and while the winter every year seems to drag on forever while in the middle of it, really it did go by fast on reflection. 

Speaking of fast, The Boy is nearing the end of Year Two of his pre-school.  How is that even possible?  It wasn't that long ago that we brought our trembling little 3 year old to the school for a visit, his tiny body fighting back tears brought on just by sitting on the floor with these strange new faces for "morning meeting", and me and the missus just standing there shell-shocked about how old he was getting.  Now, he's a 5+ year old, his confidence and courage booming, (sometimes to an aggravating fault) and we're drawing the pre-school chapter to a close in only a few short weeks. 

And I suppose that'll be good.  Let one school build him up, and then ship him off to a new one to rejoin the trembling newcomers.  I know we'll look back at this transition - and then the next from Kindergartner to grade-schooler, and then the next....and wonder at how fast things seem to move, like April snow plopping from the trees.  His mom's family has a tradition of singing "Sunrise, Sunset" to each other at milestones like this, I can hear them now...

The Boy finished his strawberries and begrudgingly put on his winter coat and hat, lamenting that he "was just wearing shorts and flip flops last week!".  He seemed to know that this new snow didn't stand a chance against the looming summer, announcing that he wasn't even going to bother making a snowman at school because it would melt before he got it finished. 

He's so right.

Monday, April 11, 2011

File under Drown, Attempt Not To

For a significant portion of my early grade school years, my family lived up over the hills of Duluth in a rural area called Pike Lake, cleverly named as such because, well, there was a lake in the middle of it.  Called Pike.  Genius, that.  We didn't live on the lake - no, no.  That was reserved (in my elementary eyes) for the uber-rich and uber-lucky, like professional hockey players and Italians that sold frozen pizzas.  Seriously.

And both Grandmas and Grandpas.  The nice thing about having both Grandmas and Grandpas living on the lake's northside, besides being able to tell all my friends that both my Grandmas and Grandpas lived on the lake's northside, was that I had free access to the beaches pretty much every day of every summer that wasn't a thunderstorm.  I remember when I learned how to swim, around the Boy's age.

I didn't have much choice in the matter.  When you "grow up on the lake", you learn how to swim in the following series of steps: 
Step One:  Get in the water.  And do it quickly, because your cousins, including some of the younger ones, already did, and you don't want to look Chicken.
Step Two:  Don't drown.
That's it.  Congratulations, you're a swimmer!  No instructors.  No lifeguards or Life Vests or Kickboards or Lane Dividers.  You just jump in.  Sink or swim.  (Or more literally - sink and then swim).  

Honestly, not until I was an adult, having moved to the safely-lit suburbs of an Urban Cultural Center, did I discover that people actually paid other people to teach them how to swim.  In chlorine!  With strangers!  And you had to shower first!  With strangers!  In a locker room!


So, anyway, the Boy, being an Urbanly Cultured lad, had his first "swimming lesson" back on Saturday.  A "rite of passage", my wife calls it.  An exercise to be labelled and filed under Drown, Attempt Not To.

And I will say, he composed himself very well, given the situation.  First, I'll start by saying he absolutely loves the water; has a blast whenever he goes "swimming" with his cousins in the Shoreview pool or his cousins in Duluth.  He even loves the Log Flume at the MegaSuperHugeAndUnnecessaryMall in Bloomington.  But even at his young age of (as he calls it) "halfway past five", I saw that he could sense just how unnatural and contrived a "swimming lesson" can be.  He was very unhappy about the whole experience, this Boy that loves water, and I'm just hoping we aren't ruining future visits to water parks for him. 

And I'll say in his defense, while sitting just beyond the Splash Zone,  the whole environment bordered on surreal.  I would've hated it too.

Where to begin.  Hmm.  Oh, how about the instructor?  I have never - NEVER - heard a voice like hers.  The closest comparison I can think of is Alvin - of chipmunk fame - after sucking the life out of a helium balloon.   I imagined dogs in the neighborhood barking at the wind, picking out phrases of hers that were beyond human capacity to actually hear.  It was all vowels, the consonants completely lost, tied up in knots in the back of her tightly pinched larynx.  Maybe that helps the kids focus or something. 

Like when they hear helium-Alvin say:  "o-HAY!  Nah ley's AH foh AHN ow ACKS!!!" (translation:  OK, now let's all float on our backs!), the students are so intensely focused on NOT allowing their ear drums to burst that they forget to splash each other in the eyes for a moment.  Excellent teaching strategy, I suppose, to keep the kids' fingers in their ears.

And add to that, the parent next to me.  Poor guy.  I'll start by saying that he's probably a good guy.  Pays his Taxes.  Drives the Speed Limit.  And definitely a Dedicated Dad.  He's here, after all, sacrificing his Saturday morning watching his boy or girl Not Drown.  But the book he's reading to pass the time?  I kid you not - it's called How to Read a Book.


How to Read a Book?  A book called HOW to READ a BOOK?  The irony-meter in my head had mercury busting through the top like a cartoon.  So.  Many.  Jokes. 

Like I wonder if they have an audio version?  With a bonus disc called "How to Listen to a Narrator"?

Or, Did he know to start on the left and move his eyes toward the right?  I'll bet there's a helpful navigation on the last page that says "If you are reading this, and you haven't read anything else to this point, you've started in the wrong place.  Please close this book, flip it over, and then re-open it again from the other side."

Or those helpful hand diagrams near the top of the first few pages that illustrate how to grab the corner, and in a gentle sweeping motion, pull Page One to the left, thereby uncovering Page Two?  Ha ha!!!

I have more.

But I won't.  Go there.

Back to swimming.  The Boy survived (both in the physical Not Drown sense, and in the emotional I Need to Get Through This Somehow Without a Complete Nuclear Meltdown into a Nervous Puddle of Brain Mush Like I'm Sure Will Also Occur the First Time I Want to Ask a Girl on a Date or Ask Dad for the Car Keys or Have to Give a Speech in 3rd Grade About Squirrel Habitats or President Eisenhower or Why I Love Minnesota sense), and did all of his proper kicking and back-floating and get-face-wetting. 

Once he was away from all the other kids, safely with Dad on the way to the locker room to reclaim his civilian clothes, he lost his composure, melting into sorrow about how NOT fun that was.  I couldn't help but agree.  After re-dressing, (I won't even START to describe the anxiety I felt, returning for the first time in 20 years to a boys' locker room), we soothed his nerves with a surprise trip to get ice cream.

Sigh.  Only 5 more weeks to go.  I'm going to need some Dairy Queen coupons if you have any.

Oh, and the guy was actually highlighting things!  I can hardly stand it!  Must! Make! Fun! Of!

Heh.  Highlighting must have been in Chapter One of the book, titled "How to Look Serious When Reading".  I imagine there exists a  paragraph that kindly warns purchasers that reading an ironic book in public could lead to ridicule from strangers.  It continues:  
"Therefore, we strongly recommend that if you are reading a book called How To Read a Book, in a public place, that you carefully color with (the attached) bright yellow marker.  This is called Collegiate Highlighting.  To achieve the desired effect of Not Looking Like a Complete Imbecile, be sure to highlight whole sentences, starting with the first sentence of each new paragraph you encounter and also anything that's printed really dark.  This is called bolding. (highlight this)  We recommend you also have a pencil handy to write small incoherent notes to yourself in the narrow white space to the left and right of the big clumps of words.  These are called margins. (highlight this)..." 

OK, I'll stop.  Just too easy. 

Have a great Monday everyone!  Don't drown.  Or at least attempt not to.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This is the Big One!

So, as many of you kind readers know, I've been a stay-at-home dad since last September.  Of course, that's just my ego-protective way of saying "unemployed", but still, it's been a grand adventure waiting for the Next Big Thing. 

And today I get to announce, with my wife's reluctant permission, the Next Big Thing for our family.  Yesterday, I was offered a position at a start-up company.  The pay is decent, not great.  The benefits are shady, but they are at least...existent.  

The only drawback is that the position is located just outside Anchorage, Alaska.

So, with excited hearts and a healthy dose of concern, we are packing up the family and heading North!  I truly believe it is Murphy's law that is driving us up the Alaskan Highway, what with all my complaining about the cold and snow.  Thankfully, we'll have housing paid for us - a small place, one bedroom and a kitchenette in the cabin.  Our nearest neighbor for this little adventure in the mountains, I've been told, is about 20 miles to the south. 

We leave mid-May after they have the road cleared.  We have a whirlwind of things to do before then - sell or rent the house and cars (the only road into our place requires an ATV or Jeep), get a Jeep, and arrange for storage and/or sell off all our furniture in order to downsize into the 350 sq ft cabin. 

Oh, and my wife is having triplets we just found out at our ultrasound appointment last Tuesday. 

Oh, and it's April First, which makes me realize I've got lots of packing to do! 

Or not. :-)