Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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...

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!