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...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ode to a Doggie

When I married the Wife a little over 9 years ago now, I didn't just get the Wife. I also got the Three Sisters-In-Law, the Father-In-Law, the Mother-In-Law, the Four Nephews, the Three Nieces, lots of Cousins, Aunts and Uncles, a couple of Grandmas and Brothers-In-Law, and a Dog-In-Law named Max.

Max was the tiny chihuahua that belonged to the one Sister-In-Law who lived here in Minnesota. As you may know, whether you are a dog connoisseur or not, all chihuahuas are small, but Max was even smaller than most - he was the runt of his litter, and possibly the smallest full-grown dog in the history of the world. OK, that might be exaggerating a little, but he was small - only about 4 lbs at his prime.

Despite his lack of size, Max was a fine dog. Oh sure, just like every other dog he had his pros and cons. Sometimes he would bark a little too much. Sometimes, when we were dog-sitting him, he would get nervous and leave a trail of pee as he walked through the house. But no dog is perfect. He was about as loyal of a pet to the Sister-In-Law as I have ever seen. He loved her and would have followed her to the moon and back if she had cared to go there. They were quite the pair.

As I mentioned, Max was already part of the Wife's family when I came into the picture, oh so many years ago. In the past few years, he's had a lot of physical ailments. These ailments finally got the best of him, and the Sister-In-Law made the heart-wrenching decision to have him put down last week. He was almost 14 years old. It's never easy to lose a pet, and, although Max wasn't my dog, he was still a part of the family, and we were all saddened by his loss. Goodbye, Max, you were a good little doggie. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Cure for Toads

I haven't written about this here on the ol' blog, but if you and I are facebook friends, and let's face it, there's no reason why we shouldn't be, you may have read some of my posts ranting about the presence of toads in our backyard. Our old house was perched precariously above a pond, so that yard was home to a great number of different pond creatures, including turtles, ducks, egrets, and about a billion little brown toads. It was just something we had to live with. Most of the time we were happy to see all the different life forms lurking about in our yard, but the toads did get a little annoying, especially when I was mowing.

I don't know if you realize this, but whilst mowing, it can be extremely difficult to see a multitude of nickel-sized toads hopping about amongst the grass. I quickly had to come to grips with the fact that every time I mowed, at least from about the beginning of June through September, I probably was going to murder my fair share of toads with the lawn mower. It was not something I enjoyed, being the eco-friendly dude that I am, but I did come to grips with it.

Fast forward to this year, a few weeks ago at our new(ish) house. I was mowing the backyard, which is not perched precariously above a pond, or even within a couple hundred yards of a pond, yet I started to notice little nickel-sized brown things hopping out of the way of the mower. Lo and behold, for some reason unknown to man, this yard has millions of little toads in it, too. Not sure why they are there, but I do know that it still isn't much fun to murder them with the lawn mower.
I may be a tough guy, but even I don't like to murder sweet, little toads. Look at how cute he is...

I have racked my brain trying to figure out how to get rid of the little brown buggers, but I think I may have stumbled into the perfect solution. The Girl had one of her friends over for a play date last week, and part of their time was spent out in the backyard, playing on the swings, AND finding toads... This aforementioned friend could not wait to take one of them home with her to scare, I mean show, her mom. Eureka! All we have to do is have each of our three kids invite each and every one of their friends over, and make sure they all take at least one toad home with them. Let's see, if they each invite all their friends over, and they take at least one toad home with them, and we have approximately a million toads in our yard....carry the one... Hmmm, I think they better invite their acquaintances and enemies, too, just to be safe. And every kid we see for the next several years. Soon our yard will be toad-free. This seems guaranteed to work, if I do say so myself.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wedding Food Review, Vol. 3

I may have recently become an official "old dog" when I turned 40 years of age, but apparently I can still learn new tricks. I learned a lot this past weekend, as the Wife and I made our way south to the rolling hills west of Madison, Wisconsin, for the wedding of our friends, Bridget and Ted.

First of all, on the way down there, I learned that Wisconsinites really love the speed limit, even though the speed limit in Wisconsin is lower than any other place on earth. And, it doesn't seem to matter which lane these Wisconsin drivers are in - they go the same speed whether they are in the right or left lane. Normally, this would have driven me insane, because I am a believer that the left lane is for passing, which is the truth, but all the slow drivers probably helped me to not get pulled over for speeding, because we saw no less than a dozen cop cars during the 4 hour trip. Cops were everywhere. If those annoyingly slow drivers weren't in front of me the whole time, I probably would have gotten pulled over multiple times. Thanks slow Wisconsinites!

Secondly, I learned that, if you want to take the scenic way home to God's Country (Minnesota) from southwestern Wisconsin, cutting through northeastern Iowa is not the way to do it. I have spent some time in NE Iowa, and there are a lot of really nice, scenic places there, but apparently you can't see any of them from the main highways. All we saw were miles and miles of cornfields. Plus, it took an hour longer than if we had come back the same way we went down, via Hwy 94 through Wisconsin. At least we didn't see as many police.

Thirdly, I learned that, if you really want to enjoy a wedding, leave your three small children at home. I actually had already suspected that before this trip, but it's now been cemented in my brain. The Wife and I did happen to leave our three small children at home, and we had a great time. We were able to pay attention to the ceremony; we were able to talk to people without being interrupted by screaming toddlers; we were able to eat without having to deal with fussy eaters (actually I'm pretty good at ignoring our fussy eaters all the time. When there's food in front of me, the rest of the world tends to disappear); and we were able to stay out past 8 PM, which is good, because that's when the reception was just getting going.

Bridget and Ted got married in a quaint little church in the quaint, little town of Barneveld (don't worry, I didn't know where it was either). The reception was in the next town over, the relative-metropolis of Dodgeville, at a bar/restaurant named Barn 23. The name "Barn 23" might not instill much confidence in you, but you should know by now that you should never judge a book by its cover. Barn 23 is a great place for a reception or other big party.

This is what I pictured when I heard the reception was going to be at Barn 23.
And the food was really good. They had two separate hors d'oeurve buffets set up, with everything you could want, in convenient snack sizes. The chicken wings were my favorites, but they also had little weenies, meatballs, mini quesadillas, veggies and dip, a cheese and meat tray, chips and dip, and little pinwheel or roll-up thingies that I heard were delicious. There probably was other stuff that I am now forgetting. It was all so good, I went up for seconds and thirds, and maybe even fourths, but that's only because the plates were so small.

Overall, the food, and the entire wedding was outstanding. You probably will never get married in southwestern Wisconsin, but if, for some reason, you do, make sure you check out Barn 23 in Dodgeville for a possible reception location. Or, just stop by for dinner if you're ever in town.  

Thanks for the invite, Bridget and Ted! Congrats!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Joys of Being a Blob

Last night was wonderful. I didn't do anything. Well, I didn't do anything once I got home from my Finance Committee meeting at church, that is. Although I did stop at the grocery store on the way home. I guess that's doing something. And then I did gather up and take out the garbage when I got home, too. That's kind of doing something. After that, though, I pretty much just sat around, being a complete blob on the sofa. It was blissful! And a little strange...
In the post I called myself a blob. This photo is probably a more accurate depiction...
It was strange because, for the past few months, we have gotten used to not being blobs on the sofa. We have been renovating our basement for the past year and change, but we really kicked ourselves into overdrive over the past several weeks. We set a date that we wanted to be done by, so we have been working hard every night trying to make it happen. We had a lot of late nights, the Wife and I, and I am the kind of person who needs a lot of sleep, so it was not a whole lot of fun some of the time. I have been in a constant state of groggy and lethargic for a while now. No good.

But, we got it done, or at least as done as we could by the date we set. We now have a basement that is about 98.3% finished. There are two things that need to get done for it to be 100% finished, but last night I didn't feel like doing either of them, so I didn't. And it felt great.

I better not let this become a habit though, there's too much other stuff to do. After we finish the two things that need to get done in the basement, we'll be moving outside to finish re-landscaping the yard, which we started a couple of months ago. Then we'll move upstairs to tackle the kitchen, which I also started a few months ago. After that we're going to do some work on the living room. Once that's done, we'll move on to both the upstairs bathrooms. When we're all finished with all that I'll be ready to retire in my finally-finished house, and I'll be able to sit back and have another night of sitting around, being a complete blob on the sofa. I can't wait!

Monday, July 28, 2014

This Goes Against All My Better Judgment...

I'm not sure what to do. I'm totally conflicted, deep down at the root of everything I stand for...

As soon as we started having kids, lo those many moons ago, I was adamant that I would never let my kids do one thing: play soccer. As far as I was concerned, soccer wasn't fun to play, or watch, or interesting enough to waste any time on. I still feel that way, but now that two of our kids (the Girl and the Boy) are old enough to be on sports teams, I may be softening my stance a little. It seems as though every kid in the entire world plays soccer nowadays, at least for a year or two. And, it would be good for the kids to get some good exercise, and to learn the importance of teamwork for, you know, when they play real sports...
I think this animated GIF grabbed my attention because it reminds me of a soccer match I played against Gandhi back in the day...He was surprisingly spry for such a peaceful man...

I see our city is offering soccer leagues in the fall, and we'd probably only have to sell one or two of our kidneys to be able to pay the entry fees for two kids...So far, I haven't gotten myself to pull the trigger and sign them up, though. I'm not sure what I am waiting for. Perhaps a sign from God; or for us to win the lottery...what's more likely is that I am waiting for myself to come to my senses and sign them up for anything else they might offer. I will let you know how this deep inner turmoil resolves itself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

At My Wits' End - A Plea to All You Parents Out There

I'm not shy about giving out parenting advice, whether I know what I'm talking about or not, but right now I am the one in need of some advice. There's one question that has been bugging me for a couple of years now, and I have finally worked up enough gumption to throw it out there. I am hoping there are some other parents who will feel my pain and help me through this troubling situation I have found myself in. It's almost too difficult to put into words, but I'm sure I will feel an overwhelming sense of relief once I do. So, here it goes....

How long do we have to keep all of the projects that our kids bring home?!?!? Our kids bring projects home from school, Sunday school, grandma's house, other people's houses, and I think there must be some secret kid-only project-making workshop they sneak out to when the Wife and I are sleeping. It's crazy how many projects our kids can bring home. And for the most part, it's only the two older kids who are making the projects! The Little One just acts as a pack mule to help get all the projects to our house.

Please, please don't get me wrong. I really am excited that the kids get to be creative and that they are learning new skills and exercising their artistic muscles. I just want to know what the cut-off date is for keeping things. We have two entire walls that are already completely covered in projects and artwork, and piles of the stuff sitting around in our house, car, van, and anywhere else we can set it. I am tired of having to shuffle sideways through the house!

Is it OK to throw some of the older stuff away? Do the kids even remember some of the older things they made, or are their brains incapable of such thoughts? Do we need to set up some kind of storage system so our kids can throw the projects away themselves when we're dead?  This is, by far, the part of parenting that I was least prepared for, and that's saying something, because I barely knew which end of a baby did what when we first started having kids. I am asking for help.

If you have any thoughts on the matter, or an extra large accordion file, or a super-sharp paper shredder we could borrow, please contact me. I am at my wits' end, which some people might say is not all that far from where I normally am... Please help!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pigs and Corn...and Bass? Oh My!

If you have read this blog much over the past couple of years, you should know that I have written my fair share of outlandish statements. I am about to write something that may top them all. But it's perfectly true - I promise I am not making it up. Are you ready for some outlandishness? OK, here it goes...

The family and I just had a wonderful weekend of camping in...Iowa!! Really, I am not lying about this. I know you are probably thinking two things: First, Iowa is nothing but pig farms and cornfields. And second, nothing fun has ever happened in Iowa. But, it's true, there are some really pretty parts of Iowa, and we, along with a few hundred other people, really had a fun time. It's almost beyond belief!

We spent the weekend at our church district's Family Camp, just like we have every year since we became a family, almost nine years ago now. And every year, Family Camp is held at the Cedar Springs Wesleyan Camp in Floyd, Iowa. When most people hear the name of the town, they probably have visions of Mayberry, Little Opie Cunningham, and Barney Fife. The real Floyd, Iowa is not much different than that. Floyd is a tiny little town just off the highway. Most people who drive by probably don't even realize there's a town there. That's OK, as far as I'm concerned.

The Camp sits a couple of miles up the road from Floyd, right on the banks of the Cedar River. I am a fan of rivers in general, being the avid fly fisher that I am, and the Cedar doesn't disappoint. It doesn't hold my beloved trout, being a little too warm for them, but it's got its fair share of spunky smallmouth bass, which are as much fun to catch as any fish out there.The kiddos love to splash around in the shallows, finding enough clam and snail shells to fill the back of the old minivan. Every year I amaze them with my ability to catch some crayfish with my bare hands. I guess I can't deny it, it truly is amazing...

Aside from the river, the campground sits in a lovely little wooded valley, with gurgling springs and babbling brooks, and lots of trails leading here and there. Hardwoods line the banks, and there isn't a pig within eyesight. Sure, there might be a cornfield up on top of the valley, above the dining hall, but this is Iowa. You can never fully get away from the corn...

Cedar Springs Camp is a wonderful place to get away for a while and get in tune with God and nature, and they are happy to have other groups use the facilities. If you or your group is looking for a great place to get together and meet, check out Cedar Springs Camp at www.cedarspringscamp.com. I know it's in Iowa, but check it out any way! You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hold on to Your Tire Covers!

I don't know if you heard this or not, but we went to Yellowstone National Park last week on vacation. We had planned on taking my in-laws' hard-sided pop-up camper, but due to an unfortunate incident that was caused by someone who shall remain nameless*, the in-laws' hard-sided pop-up camper was not in working order. We found out that it would not be fixed in time for our trip two days before we planned to leave.

This news wasn't the end of the world, since we still had our trusty 8-person tent that we have camped in a billion times in the past 9 years. But, for some reason, when you think you are going to be spending the week in a luxurious pop-up camper, a tent seems like a huge letdown.

So, the Wife and I did what any normal married human beings would do, we decided to buy our own pop-up camper. We had about 48 hours to find one, sell one of our kidneys and/or children to raise some money, and get the new camper packed and ready to go half-way across the country. Somehow, we did just that (minus the selling of a kidney and/or child. We realized we didn't have to because we made enough money by only selling 9 pints of blood each...)

That Thursday night before our trip was a whirlwind of searching on craigslist, sending out emails, phoning up sellers, and trying to figure out just what we actually wanted in a camper. We had talked about getting one for a couple of years, but it never seemed like it would actually happen any time soon, so neither of us really put all that much thought into what kind of features we would want.

We went to go see one that was for sale in Falcon Heights, a suburb a few miles from our house. It seemed pretty nice online, but in person it left a lot to be desired. We also found a possible one in Jordan (about an hour to the south) and another in Chisago City (about an hour to the north). We weren't sure what to do, and it was getting late, so we decided to sleep on it. I'm glad we did, because another possibility entered the race: a lovely little Jayco pop-up that came with everything you would need while in the great outdoors, and a few things you probably won't ever need. Don't tell my diehard, granola eating, backpacking friends this, but it even came with a little pop-up camper-sized microwave.We never had one of those in our tent!
The whole family in front of our new camper on our first night of the trip. Has there ever been a more idyllic photograph in the entire history of the world? I think not...

So, after dinner on Friday night, we took the short drive up to Anoka and bought it, and we took it across the good ol' U.S. of A. the very next day. Everything went swimmingly on our trip, except for one thing. Apparently none of the previous owners towed the camper at the speeds it will now have to become accustomed to in our family. Somewhere along the way we lost one of the built-in levels that was glued to the outside of the camper, as well as the canvas cover that had been on the spare tire for the past 21 years. Oh well, at least it was nothing major. I think before our next trip I'll have to have some racing stripes painted on it. Seems fitting to me!

* He's remaining nameless because of the 5th Amendment...