Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Kids Put the "Clutter" in Chaotic Kids & Clutter

We are trying to figure out how to teach the kids to clean up their toys each night. As you can tell, we have no clue. I was thinking about putting all the toys that didn't get put back on the toy shelf in a bag and not giving them back until the kids can prove they can clean up better. But then they wouldn't have any toys to play with tomorrow... At least this mess is downstairs, behind a closed door, where I can ignore it. I think I will do just that!

The Art of Gluttony

I like to eat. Eating is awesome. There's no other way that I can think of to accurately describe it, so I will stop there.

One of the things I love to eat is seafood. Especially shrimp. Especially shrimp scampi. I love it. So, whenever Red Lobster has their bi-annual Endless Shrimp promotion, the family makes a point of heading over there at least once to endlessly eat as much shrimp as we can. Usually Grandma D pays, which makes the endless eating even that much more fun. Thanks Grandma D!

Over the years, I have made an art out of eating as much shrimp I can. Really I only do it so that Grandma D gets her money's worth. I'm always thinking of others, as you have probably noticed from previous posts. There are several things I do to ensure a good return on her investment. First of all, I try not to eat as much before our trip to Red Lobster as I would on a normal day. A couple of times I made the mistake of not eating at all for several hours before the shrimp fest, but I quickly learned that doesn't work because my stomach shrunk and I didn't have as much room for shrimp. I gotta eat beforehand, just not as much as usual.

Secondly, I make sure that I always put in my next order of shrimp when they bring a plate out to me. Sitting around, waiting for shrimp to arrive just allows your stomach time to feel full. If you keep shoveling those bad boys in without taking a break, you can get more in there before your stomach has a chance to react.

Thirdly, don't fill up on non-shrimp calories. Sure, the cheesy biscuits are delicious, but would you rather eat one biscuit or 10 extra shrimp? I would choose the shrimp every time. Same goes with french fries or whatever side order I have chosen. As soon as my plate arrives, I take the side order off the plate and give it to the Wife or any other random unsuspecting person within 15 feet of me. I am there to eat shrimp, and shrimp is what I will eat.

All of these rules have made me an Olympic-caliber shrimp eater, if I do say so myself. My record is eating 10 plates of shrimp, which I estimated to be around 200 of the little buggers. I have done that twice in my life. Both times I had some considerable gastrointestinal unease afterwards, but it was totally worth it. Last night I was only able to eat 8-and-a-half plates, which was a little disappointing, but at least I felt fine all night. Kind of makes me think I should have kept eating...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Middle Child Day

Middle Child Day is a real thing. It's actually on August 12th, and today is September 12th, but middle children always get the shaft anyway, so let's celebrate it a month late, shall we?

Here at Chaotic Kids & Clutter, we celebrated Middle Child Day by finally remembering to take a photo of our middle child, the Boy, before he left for preschool this morning, on his third day of school...Yes, we know that we were supposed to take the photo before his first day of school, but we forgot. I would like to make some elaborate excuse about why we forgot, like that when we stepped out on our stoop to take the photo on Monday, a rabid wolverine jumped out of the bushes and chased us to our minivan, so we just drove to school instead of taking the photo. But somebody would poke holes in that story because we dug all the bushes out of our front yard a few months ago. So, I will just admit that we forgot.

I was going to take the photo on Wednesday before we took him to his second day of school, but I forgot then too. I would have forgotten this morning, as well, but my beautiful and brilliant wife, the Wife, reminded me right before I was about to leave. So, we finally have a photo of the Boy on his third day of preschool this year. Happy Middle Child Day, son! I'm sure it won't be the last important thing we forget...
The Boy, before his 3rd day of preschool for the year. It's OK, he's only 4 but he's already used to being the middle child.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Regrets, I've Had a Few...

Life is filled with ups and downs. You probably didn't expect such a deep statement to start this particular blog post, since I usually write about poopy diapers and other "joys" of parenthood. I can't always write about silly things like diapers, though. Sometimes I can be pretty philosophical, like when I came up with today's opening line. Yes, life is filled with ups and downs, and there's no getting around that.

Lately I've let myself get a little down because I've been thinking about some of the regrets I've accumulated in my 40 years on God's green earth. I have a few big regrets and a ton of medium and small-sized regrets. The regrets that have been bothering me the most lately all fall into the same category: the regrets of things sold.

It seems like every time I turn around lately, I get reminded of something I used to have, but for one reason or another I decided to sell. Sure, at the time I always thought the small monetary gain was more important than the object sold, but over and over again I start to yearn for whatever the sold object was, making me more and more mad at myself for ever parting with it in the first place.

This happens all the time with music. I'll hear an old song on the radio, a song I haven't heard in years, and I'll remember back to the time when, not only did I own that song, I owned the entire CD it was on, and I could listen to it whenever I wanted to.There's even a certain hard rock/heavy metal CD that I've owned twice, but both times I took it to my local Half Price Book store and sold it for pennies on the dollar, so I can't listen to it, ever. Have I mentioned how I am not good at making fiscal decisions?

Two of my biggest regrets center around my love of fly fishing. I will let you in on a little fly fishing secret: people who fly fish can never own enough rods. There's always a reason to get a new rod, like a different kind of fish to try and catch, or a bigger body of water that requires a longer cast. Or you're bored and you enjoy having large credit card bills... Fly fishers can justify pretty much any reason to get a new rod, and I am no different.

This hilariously combines several of my regrets, if I do say so myself.
At one point, when I was single, I owned 13 fly rods. And I'm not ashamed of that fact. Along the way, though, I came to the faulty conclusion that I needed a quick infusion of cash in my wallet, so I decided to sell my beloved 7-foot-long 5 weight Orvis Superfine Small Stream Special rod, which was the only one like it I had ever seen. I also sold my Hardy Flyweight reel that I special ordered from a fly shop in Canada. Sure, neither of these two items were my go-to rod or reel, but they were really cool, and they would have been awesome things to have, and might have even turned into heirlooms down the road. Not to mention that they would have done nothing but appreciate in value. But no. I had to go and sell them. Now whenever I open up my reel bag or look at my other fly rods leaning in the corner or want to bang my head with some heavy metal for a few minutes, I think about the cool things that used to fill the voids. Having regrets is the worst, isn't it?

Monday, September 8, 2014

World's Best Football Picks

Those professional bookies out in Las Vegas have nothing on me. I am one of the top sports prognosticators in the world, whether anybody else realizes it or not. And, I am a very charitable prognosticator, so I am about to give you, free of charge, for a limited time only, my picks for this year's NFL playoff teams. You can do whatever you would like to with this information, but my suggestion would be to go to your bank, take out all your money, fly to Las Vegas, and lay down bets on any and all of these teams. Yes, my prognosticating skills are that good. Of course, myself and Chaotic Kids & Clutter can not be held liable for any losses you may incur. Just thought I better throw that in for fun.

So, here are my 100% non-guaranteed World's Best Football Picks. See how they compare to yours:

NFC North Champ: My beloved Purple & Gold, the Minnesota Vikings. Barooop, baroooop!

NFC West Champ: Seahawks
NFC East Champ: Giants (although every team in this division is going to be awful. I think the Giants will be the least awful.)
NFC South Champ: Falcons
NFC wild card team: 49ers
NFC wild card team: Saints

AFC North Champ: Bengals
AFC West Champ: Broncos
AFC East Champ: Patriots
AFC South Champ: Colts
AFC wild card team: Chargers
AFC wild card team: Jaguars

Yes, I picked the Jaguars, Falcons and Vikings, three of last year's worst teams, to make the playoffs this year. Am I insane? Perhaps. But didn't we all already know that when I agreed to give you my World's Best Football Picks for free? Be sure and let me know if you win millions of dollars in Las Vegas by betting on my teams. I expect to hear that good news from all of you!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Big Day in Blogville

Yup, it was a big day around here today. Our firstborn, the Girl, got on the small yellow bus this morning on her way to her first day of kindergarten. It was monumental, and none of us were quite sure we were ready for it. One thing I was sure of was that I was going to ball my eyes out, you know, because I do things like that. And I was sure that the Wife was going to be as steady as a rock. I had no idea how the Girl was going to react, which made the whole morning that much more tense, at least for me.
Here comes the bus to take my little girl away forever...not that I'm overly dramatic about it or anything...

Turns out, I had things all wrong. The Girl, although seeming a little scared, got right on the bus without any hesitation. She would have walked right back to her seat if we hadn't told her to look at us for the 4 billionth photo of the morning. I was too busy filming the whole thing with my camera to get emotional, which might be the biggest surprise in the history of mankind. Except, that is, for the fact that the Wife got a little teary-eyed as the bus pulled away. I know, I can't believe it either!

Another thing happened when that bus pulled away. Apparently the Boy and the Little One thought that without their bossy older sister around, the house had turned into a lawless abyss, where they could do anything and act as mean as they wanted. The Wife told tales of timeout after timeout after timeout. It almost made her wish the Girl was still at home to bring some bossy order to things. It made me glad I had gone into work. Sure was a weird day...

The End of a Beautiful Relationship

Well, it's over. It's been 9 great years, but it's finally come to an end. Sure, there were probably some things I could have done differently, but there's nothing I can do about it now. The time has come to say goodbye, and move on to a new chapter in life. It's sad, but we'll all be better off...

I'm talking, of course, about our split from the greatest camp chair in the history of the Known Universe, the "loveseat" camp chair we got for a wedding present from our good friends Mike and Deb so many years ago. It was the wedding present we used the most, and it started more conversations than all the others put together. People had never seen such a camp chair, and we loved using it every chance we got. I might even say that it helped the Wife and me get through some ups and downs along the way, since it forced us to sit so close, no matter how mad she was at me. That was a good chair.

But, now it's gone. It started to fall apart earlier this summer, and through all of our camping trips this year it's just gotten worse and worse. The canvas was ripping. The poles were coming apart. Things were poking us that never used to. Finally, yesterday, after our last camping trip of the summer, we decided to put an end to it all, and we kicked it to the curb, so to speak. Actually we just threw it in the dumpster at the State Park we had been staying at. Now it's time to move on, and try to find another camp chair to join our family. It's funny how quickly we humans can move on, isn't it? I've already started looking at camp chair matchmaking websites, like Amazon and REI.com. "Love is fickle and fleeting", they always say. I guess that's true...
This was our beloved "love seat" camp chair, right before we ended the relationship for good. Notice the poles sticking up through the canvas. They aren't supposed to do that. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Oddball Central: Our Annual Trip to the State Fair

Yesterday we got to spend the entire day with about 100,000 of our closest strangers, only most of whom had odd, undefinable odors about them. Yes, that's right, we went to the Minnesota State Fair! Known as the "Great Minnesota Get-Together", it's the place where all sorts of life's oddballs come out of the woodwork and make their one yearly appearance in my life. Or maybe I'm making my one yearly appearance in their life...hmmm.... Something to think about...

Going to the State Fair is always fun, in an odd, ritualistic, nostalgic kind of way. I've been going there since I was a kid, as most native Minnesotans do, and, for some reason, I always look forward to going back, despite the fact that I don't enjoy several aspects of it.

I'm not a big fan of being surrounded by a billion people, just because all those people make it difficult to get around. Wherever I look, there's another person, most of whom are walking right where I want to be walking, only not as quickly as I would like to be. So, there's a lot of bumping in to people, tripping over people, and running head-first into people, which really isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Another thing about the State Fair is that it's almost always hot. Late August in Minnesota can be sweltering and humid, not unlike Africa, and yesterday was no exception. Actually, it wasn't all that bad yesterday with a high of somewhere in the low 80s, but it was really bright, and I forgot to wear a hat, so my forehead got burnt to a crisp. I thought about buying a hat once we were on the Fairgrounds, but the cheapest one I found was $20, and I am far too frugal to spend that much money on a hat when I could use it to buy my kids a handful of mini doughnuts.

This is what happens when I fail to wear a hat to the Fair on the brightest day of the year...
Speaking of food, we have a habit of only buying the food that comes with a corresponding coupon in the annual State Fair Coupon Book. All the food at the Fair is overpriced, but if there's a coupon for it, it's slightly less overpriced than all the other food. Thankfully there was a coupon for a food I had recently heard good things about on the radio, Ollie's Crab Fritters, so I took the opportunity to try them out. Going in, I only had experience with fritters of the apple variety, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But I love crab, so I took the plunge. These fritters looked more like hush puppies that had been stuffed full of flaked crab meat. I don't know if it was the actual fritters that tasted so good, or the creamy red dipping sauce that came with them, but the combination was super yummy. I would highly recommend you try them out if you're going to the Fair in the next few days, or, if you don't like crab, buy some and bring them to me. And, tell all the oddballs I say "Hi".

Monday, August 25, 2014

An Uneasy Weekend...

It was a gross weekend around the ol' Hanson household, I tell you what. Actually, it was only gross for me. Everyone else was fine, but your friendly neighborhood blogmaster was suffering from a monumental case of gastrointestinal unease that I won't describe further, for fear of getting the FCC's censors up in arms. The internet is a nice, clean place, and I don't want to go around muddying things up with a lot of potty talk.

So, I will just leave it at that. Other than to say that it wasn't really even the whole weekend which was affected by the gastrointestinal unease - it was pretty much contained in Saturday, with a little spillage over into Sunday, but not much. I awoke with the unease at about 5:30 on Saturday morning, and it pretty much kept me company the rest of the day. All I can say is that whoever it was who designed our house back in 1964, I would like to thank him or her for having such forethought. He or she obviously took this past Saturday into account when they added that third bathroom about 3 feet from my side of the bed. What a genius!

Aside from my proximity to the bathroom, the day was made much more bearable by my keen ability to sleep when sick. Even after having a full night's sleep, for the next 11 hours or so I only ventured from my bed for the hourly trips to said bathroom, and when each trip was done, I crawled right back into bed and fell right back asleep. This went on until 5PM, when I decided I should probably do some kind of physical activity, so I moved out onto the sofa so I could watch some golf. That was as much physicality as I could muster. When I realized that televised golf was done for the day, I turned the TV off and went back to sleep.

At the end of the day, I figure I slept for about 21 hours on Saturday, which might be a new record for me, at least in the time since I've been out of diapers. Speaking of diapers, I would make a joke about wishing I was in diapers on Saturday, but, you know, the FCC might be watching, so never mind.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Get Out of My Head

From what people often tell me, I don't think my brain works the same as most, and I'm OK with that. "I ain't hooked up right", I often tell people, secretly more proud of that fact than I let on. It's fun to be abnormal. Who wants to be normal, any way?

I bring this up because I always have a song or several stuck in my head, and I wonder if that problem afflicts other people like it does me. I like a wide range of music, so you never know which song might be stuck in there. The past few days I have had a couple of songs that couldn't be more different from each other stuck in there: Never Let Me Go, a hard rock/crunk rock song by Family Force 5, and Crunchy Granola Suite, a high-voltage pop tune from the 1970s by that era's hairiest of superstars, Neil Diamond. My brain has the uncanny ability to switch from song to song on a dime, sometimes in the middle of a verse. I might be dancing one second and banging my head the next. It's pretty cool...
It's hard to imagine a dude that's even hairier than me, but I think I found one...
Lately I've had a lot of Family Force 5 songs in my head. They have a lot of catchy tunes, like Wobble, Dance or Die, BZRK, and others. I have a tendency to go through musical phases. Before Family Force 5 I was into 70s heavy metal, and had songs like Judas Priest's Diamonds and Rust and UFO's Oh My and Rock Bottom in my head. Before that I was in a disco mood and had Shame, Shame, Shame by Shirley and Company stuck in the ol' noggin for a while.

One time I had Shadows of the Night by Pat Benatar stuck in my head for, literally, a year and a half. I'm not sure what I did to get it out of there, but I sure am glad it is. It's a good song, but it's not a year-and-a-half-good song. Another song that overstayed its welcome was Can't Get You Out Of My Head, by Kylie Minogue, which is completely true to its namesake. Despite its awesome beat and catchy tune, that song might be pure evil...

Usually the songs are ones I like, but sometimes a song I really can't stand creeps in and takes refuge. At one point I theorized that, if a song gets stuck in your head, perhaps it's a sign that, deep down, you really do kind of like it, even if, on the outside, you think you don't. But then a couple months ago the Chicken Dance Song got stuck in my head for most of a day, so that blew big holes in that theory. When I look back on that day, it's a wonder that I survived the ordeal at all...