FOF Observation #29

The "FOF Observations" are a series of perpetual posts where I will share with you, my readers, short little observations that I have made (or will be making) on being the father of a large family. You will be able to access each of the posts in a cohesive list by clicking on the "FOF Observations" link in the "Perpetual Posts" group on the sidebar.

Normally these "Observations" have a foundation based in humor.
Today, I am switching gears into a more serious tone.

One of the members of a Facebook Group I belong to for "Dad Bloggers" recently asked an open question to all the other members.  MoJoDad Jim asked for a response to the following question....
What would be your one major piece of advice for any first time father?
I thought about it a little bit.  I mean, I am a father of five - and two of the five have reached "adulthood" (with one more reaching that milestone in less than a month).  I do have "some" experience in this area.

I started reading some of the many replies.  There were all very good.
"You have no idea what you're doing and that's ok."    -S.A.H.D.ness
"Do what you think is right... Ignore the naysayers."    -DadRambles
"Don't be afraid to hold them. They won't break."    -DadBlunders
"If the baby is crying don't stress out!"    -Souvenirs of Fatherhood

"Spend as much time outdoors as possible with them from day 1" -OutdoorsWithDad
There were also some pretty funny ones too!
"Deep Breaths!"    -DoubleTroubleDaddy
"If you fart... You can blame it on the baby."    
-Souvenirs of Fatherhood
"Always carry an extra diaper in your back pocket."    -Souvenirs of Fatherhood
"Blame the little ones as long as you can."    -DadBlunders
I had a basic concept of what I wanted to convey, so I started started typing.

Here is what I came up with.

Despite what it may seem like, relish each and every moment. When you look back, the time you have with your kids will have passed like the blink of an eye.
                                                                      - The Life of a Father of Five 

My comment received many "likes" and...  nearly brought me to tears.

What would be YOUR one major piece of advise for any first time father?
Leave your answer as a comment.

A Brief Geologic History

#3 of 5 - in 2008Way back when #3 of 5 was still a cute little “ankle biter” (around 8-10 years old) he had an intense curiosity on all things geological.  He would “collect” rocks from the playground, the beach, the waterfalls, or on any trips we took.  If there was an interesting (or even non-interesting) rock to be had, he collected it.  This young lad had buckets (plural) of rocks in his bedroom. 

We picked up some books on Geology, he did a Geology Merit Badge, and was was given rock gifts (like a polished stone egg, and a polished stone box).  If you would have asked me what I thought he would grow up to become, I would have told you (without hesitation) that he was destined to become a geologist.

During this same period, my father was cleaning out his garage, and stumbled upon a rock tumbler that he bought us when we were kids.  (The tumbler was only used once that I remember – because it is a very length and involved process).  Knowing #3 of 5’s interests in all things “rock”, he gave it to me. 

I was very excited, as was #3 of 5 (which was no surprise to us) – so we quickly we went to work picking through all his rocks to find the ones we thought would look best polished.  With the rocks picked out, I ordered the necessary selection of “grit” to achieve the results we were looking for and set up the rock tumbler. 




Not long after we started, the motor on the twenty(+) year old tumbler burned out.  I wasn’t all that surprised – the tumbler sat unused for nearly two decades.   What I WAS surprised about was how much a new rock tumbler cost!  I did a little bit of searching and located a source for a lower cost rock tumbler. 

Once I got that one home and running, it too quickly failed.  Repeatedly.  The more I tried to keep it working, the more things went wrong.  After three sets of belts, an overheated motor, and worn bushing, I took the barrels off the tumbler, set them on my work bench, and “shelved” the whole project.  I told myself (and #3 of 5) that I would find a different option one day, but for now I had to put the project on hold.  I could sense his disappointment.  

There on my workbench the barrels sat, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year.  There they sat, often mocking me about how I STILL haven't followed through with completing the project. 

Yes, I could have moved them out of sight and out of mind, but instead I chose to keep them in place I would often see as a reminder that they were still there waiting for us.

IMG_4396  IMG_4398

I would pick up the barrels and give them a shake from time to time.  It often sounded as if they only contained water, but sure enough, once the rocks shook loose from the grit they had settled into - the tell tale sounds confirmed that the rocks we put in the barrel so many years ago were still in there! 

Fast forward seven or eight years.

We were having a family meeting / discussion about improving upon “following through” with chores and cleaning up after one’s self.  We worked our way through a couple of other items up for discussion, when I stumbled over something that bothered me.  It was an example on how easily we all can forget to “followed through” on things, and how terrible I felt about one of my “follow through failures”. 

I admitted my disappointment for never having followed through with #3 of 5 on completing the polished rocks project.  In fact I was so ashamed of myself that as I talked about it, I was choking back tears.

That night, as I fell asleep, I really reflected on why I never finished the project.  Time.  Money.  #3 of 5’s weaning interest in geology.   They were all there, but as I sat thinking about it, I realized they were not really reasons, as much as excuses used to justify why I never completed the project. I felt bad.  No…  I felt terrible!

The next morning, I started researching what it would cost me to get the polisher operational again.  After a couple of weeks of searching, I located the parts necessary to get the rocks tumbling again, and placed my order. 

Once I had ordered the parts I told #3 of 5 what I had done.  As I was talking to him about it I noticed a bit of that “little boy smile” I miss seeing now that he is almost an adult.  I don’t know if it was because we were going to get the rocks polished, because he he was so surprised that I actually followed through, or simply out of nostalgia. I didn’t care.  I loved seeing that smile!

A couple of days ago the parts arrived. 
I repaired / assembled the tumbler, and went outside to retrieve the barrels from their spot on my workbench.  The rocks have been sealed in those barrels in their bath of water and grit - and have not seen the light of day for just under a decade.  They have been through more freeze/thaw cycles that I care to think about, and have all but boiled in the summer heat of my garage.

Two of the barrels still contained the same rocks and the water grit slurry that we sealed inside so many years ago.  Since it is Feburary in Minnesota, these two barrels were frozen.  I placed the barrels in a bath of hot water, and once I could hear that the ice released it’s grip on the slurry and rocks (by shaking), I placed one of the barrels on tumbler and I’m happy to report that the rocks are officially tumbling again!!

This morning when #3 of 5 came up from his bedroom this morning, his face lit up again.  He had that “little boy smile” on his face when he asked me if those were our rocks, and I answered “yes”! 

I am hoping he is as eager as I am to open that barrel and take a peek back in time
and enjoy a
little bit of “geologic history”!

Family Lunch – St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist Jordan, MNIf you have spent any time here on FoF, you know how supportive I am of our local Catholic School – St. John the Baptist.  Four of our five have attended St. John’s (the fifth (#1 of 5) didn’t due to his age).  It’s bittersweet to think that we are down to our last St. John’s attendee.  St. John’s has been a second family to us.  So, I plan on making the most of what time we have left (as parents with a student(s) enrolled).

Each year the Catholic Church celebrates “Catholic Schools Week”.  According to the National Catholic Schools Association – “National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It starts the last Sunday in January and runs all week” Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities, and our nation.

St. John the Baptist Jordan, MNThe week is given a theme.  This year, the theme is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” 

On Saturday we had a kick-off celebration Mass followed by cookies, coffee, and milk in the church’s Gathering Area.  St. John’s students were invited to participate in the evening mass as greeters, readers, singers, gift bearers, etc. 

At the end of mass, the school recognizes two people important to the school. The school gives out a “Honorary Graduate” award (one who did not graduate from St. John’s but who’s service to the school, church, and/or community represent the teachings of the school) and a “Distinguished Graduate” award (who graduated from St. John’s who has carried the teachings of the school beyond his or her time attending, having gone on to tremendous things for the school, church, and/or community.)  

This year, in BOTH cases, very well deserving men and friends of ours won the award(s).  In BOTH cases, they were WELL deserved!

  St. John the Baptist Jordan, MN

The “Honorary Graduate” is the father of our former neighbors and good friends. 

The “Distinguished Graduate” award went to a very talented and inspirational husband and father.  Our sons went to St. John’s together.

I could not imagine two more deserving men!
It is my honor and privilege to say I know both of them!

They are photographed along with our school Principal and our Parish Priest. 


After the kick-off mass, the focus shifts back to the school and the students.  Each school day is given it’s own theme around the general weekly theme.  As you can see, it’s a busy week at St. John’s 

MondayFollow your dreams! (Pajama / Lounge wear – All school kickoff assembly)
TuesdayWe Are All One Team!  (Favorite team jersey day – Family Lunch Day)
WednesdayWe are all different and yet all fit together! (Uniforms with mismatched / misfit socks – weekly mass)
ThursdayGet the St. John’s Spirit!  (School Spirit clothing day – Students will serve the community by volunteering time at our local nursing home.  Singing songs, playing games, and visiting with the residents (many of whom attended St. John’s themselves!))
FridayWe are all a beautiful party of God’s world.  (Rainbow day – each grade wears a different color of the rainbow – Field Trip – and St. John’s Family Association Pizza and Movie night)

Family Day Lunch - St. John the Baptist Jordan, MN


Today was “Family Lunch Day”.  Parents are welcomed into the school to partake in lunch with their children.  I was delighted to discover that I had the day off, so (of course) I planned on attending. 

This year we were very fortunate to have the menu and dinner prepared by our very own school parent (and esteemed Chef) Troy Mahoney!  

The menu for the day included Baked Herb Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Green Beans, a dinner roll fruit, and desert. 


I tracked down #5 of 5, and we got into the lunch line.  As fate would have it, we were (of course) second to last in line, but – it was all good – as the family in front of us are good friends and our daughters are classmates and good friends too! 

We passed the time in line doing goofy “father / daughter stuff”.  We stepped on each other’s feet, I walked with her standing on my feet (like a marionette).  I tried to get her to “look the other way” by tapping on her shoulder (the one opposite to where I was standing) – you know.. Goofy “father / daughter stuff”. 

Before we knew it, we were at the serving line, and the wonderful St. John’s volunteer servers were loading up our trays.  #5 of 5 picked out a seat, and we enjoyed our lunch together visiting about school and making jokes.

(…and… of course, taking time for a quick “father / daughter selfie”)   

#5 of 5 - Family Day Lunch - St. John the Baptist Jordan, MN  The Father of Five & #5 of 5 - Family Day Lunch - St. John the Baptist Jordan, MN

#5 of 5 - Family Day Lunch - St. John the Baptist Jordan, MNOnce we had our fill (and no, I could not finish my lunch – I took home our dinner rolls!) it was time to head back to the classroom.

I dropped #5 of 5 back off, but not without giving her a little grief about how messy her desk was (I guess the apple does not fall far from the tree in this case – as some of my “Nativity Family” may be able to confirm.)

All in all, it was a great afternoon.  I can’t thank the AMAZING staff at St. John the Baptist for all they do.  A finer group of people would be difficult to find – and I am grateful for their presence – not only in my life, but in the life of my children.

Family Lunch Day.  It really doesn’t seem like all that much.  Parents arrive.  Parents enjoy lunch with their kids.  Parents return their kids to the classroom, and go home. 

What it is to me is is just another shining example (as little as they all seem, they sure add up!) why I love
St. John’s School so very much!   

Twenty Years

For some, that’s considered a sentence.  Today, I am not talking about twenty years as a prison sentence.  Today, twenty years is referencing an anniversary.  You see, today I celebrate the twenty-year anniversary of my having donned a 9-1-1 / Police Dispatcher headset the very first time for my home town police department.

20150117_141548I’m not going to get into the “how I got here” story.  That has already been done. (The precursory story is broken into two parts.  Part-onePart-two.)

Instead, I am going to use this opportunity to reflect.  I am going to reflect on how grateful I am.  

I look back at the past twenty years and cannot help but be reminded how grateful I am to be employed.  Not just “employed”, but employed in a fulfilling career doing something I enjoy.  I am grateful that I am able to feel that what I do makes a difference (a positive difference) in people’s lives – and not just not just once and a while.  I am able to make a positive difference in people’s lives each and every day – no, each and every hour of each and every day I  am working.

It is easy to become complacent to this idea.  It really does not seem much like “help” anymore, especially after twenty years.  What most people consider an “emergency” has become routine, almost “mundane” to me.  It’s almost “robotic”.

Phone rings -- answer phone -- gather necessary / pertinent info in a calm and professional demeanor (despite the chaos that may be happening on the other end of the phone, or around me in the 911 center) -- triage and prioritize the call -- get the appropriate assistance responding to the various needs -- lather -- rinse -- repeat.   

But when I take the time to think about it… I mean REALLY stop and think about it…  it is overwhelming (and I am quite grateful for the opportunity) to be as helpful as I am.  It’s something I need to continuously remind myself.  I forget this fact far too often, so much so that I rarely give most calls a second thought anymore. 

I am often asked “What’s the _____ call you have ever taken?”  (Fill in the blank - worst, best, funniest, scariest, most memorable, most disturbing, etc, etc, etc) I can’t remember.  It’s not that I don’t want to,  I really cannot remember most calls.  Quite possibly because I (subliminally) “don’t want to” in order to protect myself mentally from sheer volume of trauma / chaos I deal with.  Yet, twenty years later there are very few calls that I think to myself… “Now, that’s a first”.

From my window-seat to the world… 

  • I have been a witness to the beginning of life.
  • I have been a witness to the end of life.  (Some by natural occurrence, some unfairly taken by another.)
  • I have been a witness to COUNTLESS ups and downs that occur to folks between the beginning and the ending (regardless of how the end was reached).

My gratitude may paint a rosy picture, but don’t get me wrong - there are costs associated to this opportunity. 

Stress from the sheer volume, the pace, the burden of responsibly, the potential liability, the long (and oddly varied) hours, the lack of sleep, the missed time from home.  Work this job long enough and it will alter (some would argue “enlighten”) your view of the world around us.  People, places, and things will never look quite the same to you.  Innocence and trust will be lost, replaced with cynicism and skepticism.   It’s a daily battle (with some wins and some losses – as I can attest to) to overcome.

Overall, the benefits outweigh the costs – and as long as that is the case, I will continue to do so… Gratefully!

A 2014 Goal – Accomplished

20141231_163827I started out this year wanting to reach a GeoCaching “threshold”.  I wanted to reach a “landmark” find. 

I had my eye set on 400.  Throughout the year I was slowly making my way towards that number, but then trailed off.  After leaving deer hunting camp this year, I planned a massive push to find a slew of GeoCaches in and around the area I hunt, and by the time it was all said and done, I was WELL within the reach of my goal!

But, after a few more finds, I stagnated out and have been stalled at 399 finds for a while now.  I kept putting off that last find, thinking there was always going to be time to find it.  Days turned into weeks, and the weeks kept piling up. 

The saving grace was that I did not have to work on New Years Eve – so in the back of my mind, I always had one last minute option, but it didn’t help that I had Backside of Forty pressuring mocking inspiring me to achieve my goal.

Well, I took it down to the wire.  I waited until 30 minutes before sundown to actually head out.  I loaded up my GPS.  I grabbed my current inventory of Travel Bugs and Geo Coins, I took #4 of 5 and #5 of 5 with me and we ventured out into the sub zero wind chill. 

The GeoCache I planned was less than a mile from my house.  I had found the matching cache a couple of months previously, so I was pretty confident.  We parked the car and headed out to the “beacon”.

There, in the cold wind, with the silo as our backdrop – and my trusty daughters #4 of 5 and #5 of 5 beside me for support – I found my four-hundredth GeoCache, and achieved my GeoCaching goal for 2014! 

With This Ring…

IMG_3354For the past 21 years(+), my left ring finger has been adorned by a simple gold wedding band.

I still recall shopping for it.  I liked the look of some of the more “ornate” rings (rings with small stones embedded in them) but, being the “practical” guy I am, I was really planning on a simple plain gold band – so in reality the “shopping” was really quite simple.

Once I selected band that I liked, the only real option was something called “comfort fit”.


In a nutshell, a “comfort cut” wedding band is one designed using extra metal, making it slightly domed on the inside of the band. 
This results in a far more comfortable fitting ring.

Originally, I was going to skip the whole “comfort fit” upgrade, and just go for the least expensive option.  That’s just how I roll.  It was the Mother of Five who actually pressured me into considering the comfort cut once I admitted how much more comfortable it really felt on my finger.  I succumbed to her pressure, and “splurged” on myself.

On our wedding day, the Mother of Five presented me the ring, and (for 99.9% of the time that has passed since) there it has remained.  Only once had I lost this ring.

It was our first year of marriage.  We were living in an apartment with one parking stall, and two cars.  I allowed the Mother of Five to park her car in the heated underground garage, while I parked my car outside. 

ringOne winter morning, I came out to find a flat tire on my car.  This was no big problem for me.  I pulled the spare tire, and changed the flat right there in the parking lot before heading out to conduct my business.  Not long afterwards I noticed that the ring was no longer on my finger.  Assuming I lost it in the snow while changing my tire, I headed back to the spot, and began a fruitless hour long search, coming up with nothing.  I was devastated.

Miraculously, about two weeks later (as the snow was melting), I just happened to be walking by the spot I had changed my tire when I glanced down and spotted the ring just surfacing from the snow bank! 

You cannot begin to imagine my surprise and relief!
(Yup.  Satellite photo of the exact spot!)

Time has since marched on (and “fatherhood” has taken hold - think “sympathy weight”).   Since I did a little “expanding” in the years since I received it, my ring has also need a little “expanding” of its own.  I have had it resized, which has worked out pretty well – at least until I began a gradual loss of some of that weight a couple of years back.  Now the ring fits much looser than it has in years.  It is most noticeable in the cold and when my hands are wet.  I am very cautious because in these circumstances - the ring just “falls” off my finger.

Then, this happened…

A few days ago I came home from a long day at work.  One of my tasks was to prepared a piece of furniture we were selling on Craigslist for the buyer who agreed to pick it up that evening. Getting the furniture ready included some organizing and long term storage (for items like my deer hunting gear that had “landed” on top of it).  Once the cleaning / organizing was done, and the furniture was ready to go, I headed back inside, and booted up Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 to help pass the time while I waited for the buyer to arrive. 

About an hour into building a new park, I noticed that…

20141206_115331I nearly lost my breath!

Periodically, I take my ring off at work and set it on my keyboard.  But when I do this, my hands (which are very much accustomed to the muscle memory of high speed typing under stress) feel “different” when I type.  I can immediately sense that the ring is not on my hand.  I had not recalled that feeling or remember taking my ring off during my work day. 

In this case, I had NO IDEA when I last saw the ring.  There was no “obvious” moment that it could have come off.

I began hyperventilating as my search of the most obvious areas (pants, pockets, work bag etc) and the few areas of the house that I was in since arriving home (garage, bathroom, kitchen, and family room) proved fruitless.  I called my workplace to have them keep an eye out. 

I checked everywhere I had been, most areas twice, and even some areas three times.  I was not finding what I sought.  I tried calling the Mother of Five to see if she may know where it was (like maybe I set it down somewhere), but she was not answering her cell phone.

With no where else to turn, I sent a text message to a couple of sources of strength when I am stressed.  Best Bud Ed and Backside of Forty – both being sympathetic to my cause, and both helping out in their own way – but it was Best Bud Ed’s suggestion that did the trick.

Best Bud Ed called me up after I failed to reply to a barrage of messages he sent off.  He & I traced my steps back from the moment I got home.  I got out of the car, I worked in the garage, I came in the house, used the bathroom, kitchen, then sat in the living room.  With Best Bud Ed on the phone (to help keep me from “kooking” out) I started in the car, then went to the garage where he told me to check the hunting bin that I stored my hunting clothing out.

IMG_3358I was reluctant at first – it seemed so unlikely, but I agreed to do it (if, for no other reason than to check it off my mental list of places I had checked).  I pulled my deer hunting backpack out, then I pulled out my blaze orange jumpsuit.  I went through the pockets of the jumpsuit, and ripped my way through the backpack.  I didn’t see anything.  I started packing it all back when Best Bud Ed suggested I keep the bag out, and bring it in the house to go through later.  I thought it sounded a little crazy, but I had nothing to loose, and so I brought it in the house.

I spent the next 30 or so minutes aimlessly walking around the house in a desperate and vein attempt to locate the ring.  I kept hoping that I overlooked it, and that it would pop up in a place I  had already searched.  I was doing my best trying to talk to Best Bud Ed on the phone while I searched and while I racked my brain to try and remember what I may have done with the ring. 

The phone rang.  Was it work??!?!  Did they find the ring??!  Oh, man – did I hope so!

Nope.  It was the Mother of Five.  Time to face the music.  I was almost in tears at the point I told her what had transpired.  Sensing my desperation (and I suspect wanting to avoid my manic / obsessive compulsive tirade she knew she would be facing when she got home), she tried her best to calm me, and told me not to worry.

By this point, I was convinced I would never see the ring again.  Unlike the first time I lost then ring (when we were first married) it was the thought of being out the money that upset me most.  Twenty-one years later (twenty-one years of blood, sweat, tears, good times and bad, sickness and health, for better and for worse) – I cared little about the money.  That ring was part of ME!  The sentimental value had far surpassed the monetary value of that ring!

I hung up the phone, and in a moment of mental exhaustion, I flopped down in our living room chair.  Sitting next to me (mocking me) was that damn hunting bag that Best Bud Ed told me I should bring in.  What was nothing more that an an attempt to occupy my mind, I reached down, grabbed the bag, unzipped it and started taking each and every item out.  I went through each item with a fine tooth comb – and AGAIN, came up empty handed. 

Then, just as I started stuffing everything back in the bag, there at bottom of the now empty bag, was a small simple gold band.  It almost looked “lonely” there in the bottom of the bag.


My knees almost buckled from under me.  The feeling of relief was beyond words.


I can only conclude that the ring had slipped off my finger (which was constricted by the cold) as I pulled my hand out of the bag after stuffing the hunting items I had left out on the furniture I was getting ready to sell.  Had it not been for Best Bud Ed’s instance that I bring the bag inside to go over again later, I would have likely driven myself MAD between now and next deer hunting season.

This ring that started out as being monetarily significant to me, and (over the past twenty-one years) had metamorphosed into something much more meaningful.  Much more symbolic.  Much more important to me.  It has become a symbol of my love for my wife.  My love for my children.  My love for my family.  All the things that money can not buy. 

The lesson (for me) in all of this is that I was reminded about just how fortunate a man I am.  Even if I had lost the ring forever, I still hold the TRULY important items close to me.  The truly important things that the SYMBOL (the ring) represents in my life.

Yes.  I am very fortunate to have the items the ring symbolizes in my life, but, I am also very grateful to have the small token symbol of those items (the ring) back on my finger.

And for that, I thank you St. Anthony.

FOF Observation #28

The "FOF Observations" are a series of "Perpetual Posts" where I will share with you, my readers, short little observations that I have made (or will be making) on being the father of a large family. You will be able to access each of the posts in a cohesive list by clicking on the "FOF Observations" link in the "Perpetual Posts" group on the sidebar.

'Twas the night after Halloween, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The loot bags were laid upon the dining room table with care,
In hopes that in the morning, the candy would still be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of jack-o-lanterns danced in their heads;
And mamma in her PJ's, and I getting ready for work,
It seemed like the perfect chance for me to quietly lurk,

It was roughly 2am. 

I was getting ready for work while the rest of the house was quietly sleeping.  As I sheepishly got myself ready, and headed through our dining room towards the kitchen (where the breakfast and lunch I prepared for the next day was awaiting their retrieval from the refrigerator), where it occurred to me that just before I went to bed the night before, I noticed a large bag (henceforth referred to as the “loot bag) filled with every possible type of candy known to man.  This "loot bag" was the booty from a night of trick-or-treating by #4 of 5 (and her friend), #5 of 5, or a combination of their combined hauls.  It was at that moment that I decided that I needed deserved wanted a little early morning sugary boost.  I turned to snatch a little something out of the "loot bag" when I noticed it was…

GOA (Gone upon my arrival)
UTL (Unable to be located)
MIA (Missing in action)

I made a very brief attempt at locating said "loot bag", when suddenly a strange feeling overcame me.  I was overcome with a sort of weird feeling of…  Disloyalty?  Deception?  Dishonesty?  Thievery?  Guilt?  

So, when I could not find the "loot bag" (that my own children likely HID from me), I was sort of relieved…  But, that’s when the “question” came to mind…

I wonder how much of my childhood Halloween hauls were plundered by MY parents??!?! 

To be completely honest, I don’t recall noticing any significant deficiencies throughout the years, so if they did indeed ransack my "loot bags", they did a good job.

I hope to follow in their footsteps!
(Now, where oh where did they hide that "loot bag"??)            

Reminding Myself

When we were just starting out and my kids were very young, I would often find myself thinking / saying things like “I can’t wait until the kids grow up!”, “I can’t wait until I can do grown up things with my kids!”  and “I can’t wait to see how my kids turn out!”. 

Life (and it’s continual march forward) has a way of diverting your attention from some of the most important things - things like TRULY enjoying your children at the age they are at.  Believe me, there is plenty of time to enjoy who / what they WILL become later, and no way to enjoy them for what they WERE back when you were too busy wondering what the future holds for them.  Now that I am where I THOUGHT I wanted to be, I am finding myself wondering why I was in such a hurry? 

Case in point… #2 of 5.
     · High school graduate 
     · Current collegiate student
     · Highly independent   

Nineteen years…  It sure seems like a long time when you say it out loud, but as I look at my son, and realize I am now able to do adult things with him, and am beginning to see how he turned out (all those things I was far too eager for as a young father), I NOW wish I could go back.  I hear myself saying things like “I wish he was a little boy again”, “I wish I had done more little boy things with him when he was younger”, and “It’s hard to remember what he was like when he was just a little boy”.

Yesterday, I texted #2 of 5.  He attends college about two miles from where I work.  I asked him what time he finished classes, and it just so happened that his last class ended 10 minutes before I was planning on going on break – so I asked him if he would like to stop for lunch somewhere. 

He did – and we did.

Sitting across the table from my adult son had a bit of a surreal feeling.  I (once again) began wondering where my little boy went.  It occurred to me that I was falling into the same trap as I did when he was younger – only in reverse.  Rather than simply enjoying the fact that I am having lunch with a smart, caring, sensitive young man, I was sitting there feeling bad about how much I wanted my little boy back.  I really saw the situation for what it was in that moment

What is the lesson here??

I (personally) need to constantly remind myself to enjoy my children for who they are, and where they are and at the age they are at.  There is plenty of time for their “grown up” versions later - and now (as they are all growing up) it really sunk in that there isn't as much time time for the “early” versions as it seemed back then.

I hope he enjoyed our brief and impromptu lunch, because I truly did!   
(#2 of 5 – if you are reading this, anticipate a few more of these, okay?)

Ten Memorable / Influential Books

Recently, a good friend of mine posted a Facebook status update saying he was "tagged" by a friend to list the "top ten books that have stayed with him and had the most influence on his life".  He is not one to follow the norm and do things like this "just because" he was tagged, but I also know him to be a pretty vivacious reader, so it was not very surprising to me to see that he accepted the challenge.  He listed ten books (well, nine books and a blog...)  I found his list very interesting.  Having gotten to know this fella pretty well over the past number of years, I will have to be honest, I didn't find anything in his list very "surprising", but reading over his cohesive list did prove to be pretty interesting / entertaining...
Of course, like any good Facebook meme, it requires the author to "tag" ten additional friends, asking them to complete the same task.  I was one of the ten victims names he tagged.
This meme also reminded me of something I posted here on The Life of a Father of Five - WAY BACK in 2007!  The Horror in My Life (link)  Well, I found it fitting that I would combine the Facebook meme, and (given the similar theme from the previous post) I thought it quite fitting that my reply become inspiration for a post here on the blog!
So, without further ado, here is my list of the "top ten books that have stayed with me and/or had the most influence on my life".  I tried to keep them in somewhat a chronological order, and did my best to provide links for further info.

Ziggy and his Colors
By Frans and Joyce Van Lamsweerde
Ziggy and his Music By Frans and Joyce Van Lamsweerde
Ziggy what Animals Say By Frans and Joyce Van Lamsweerde

 Ziggy and his Colors  Ziggy and his Music  Ziggy What Animals Say

I am clumping this three book set into one entry.   These were among the first and most memorable of all the books my mom read to my sister and I as very young children.  These books were written in 1968, and (as you may be able to tell from the covers alone) written around the time that would be the peak of the “Age of Aquarius”.  Both the story content and illustrations were overly colorful, vivid, free and flowing, and have an overtly strong “hippy” vibe to them!   When I look them over now as an adult I have to wonder if these delightful children’s stores were actually the result of an acid trip, and written on the journey back from the dark side of the moon.  (Well, it WAS the 60's - right?)

Acid trip or no acid trip, the stories do make for wonderful (and memorable) children’s stores – as evident by the fact that they top off my list of Top Ten! The premise in the first two (Colors and Music) is that Ziggy (the main character in the books, who sort of looks like the well-known Comic Strip character Ziggy, but seemingly has no real connection other than a coincidence) goes around collecting colors / sounds from the everyday environment around us - and later uses the collected colors / sounds to create paintings and a music box.  I do not have much memory of "What Animals Say" - I think we may have lost or ruined the book as children.
I am pretty sure if you were to ask the Sister of the Father of Five if she remembers the books, not only would she say yes - she may even break the books out and show 'em to you!!  If memory serves me correctly, the books ended up in her possession!

Children's Stories of the Bible from the Old and New Testaments
By Barbara Taylor Bradford.
Children's Stories of The Bible from the Old and New Testaments Jeff (my friend who tagged inspired me to do this) listed The Bible as one of his most inspirational books.  He is a very spiritual fella (which is one of the things I admire about him).  I too consider myself pretty “faithful” in my beliefs, but I am not as heavily vested in the literal interpretation of Bible as I am in the figurative interpretation of the concepts found within.  (Apologies to those who are more “Scriptural”.   I certainly respect your choices.

That being said, the #2 book on my list of top ten inspirational / memorable is this book is Biblical in nature.  My #2 book is a collection of Biblical stories of both the Old and New Testaments for children.

I no longer have the book, but recall it was inscribed as a gift from (I believe) my Uncle Greg and Aunt Marilyn.  It was either a Baptismal gift, or a gift from my First Communion (suspect the former).  I have fond and vivid memories of flipping through the pages and admiring the artwork, and hearing the familiar stories from the bible.  A couple of the stories that immediately jump out at me are the story of Moses (and the picture of a baby in a basket being put in the Nile River), and the David and Goliath story (not sure if that was because of the namesake, or that I am a virtual Goliath myself?!?!)            
While it is not “The Bible”, it is a favorite childhood collection of Biblical stories that make it into my “Top Ten”.

The Ghost of Dibble Hollow By May Nickerson Wallace, Orin Kincade (Illustrator)
The Ghost of Dibble Hollow Back CoverThe Ghost of DIbble Hollow Front CoverAs mentioned in the previous post “The Horror In My Life” (linked above), I have had a penchant for ghostly, and horrific fiction for as far back as I can remember.  This  was a book we picked up at a garage sale at my request.  The book had me hooked from the image on the cover – although, the scariest part of the book IS the cover!  For one reason or another, I have kept this book.  I still have it in my box of childhood “treasures”.  The Ghost of Dibble Hollow just may have been my “gateway” into a lifelong infatuation with macabre fiction!

A Night to Remember by Walter Lord

A Night to Remember It’s not that this is an amazing book, or that I even really enjoyed it, but I have had a lifetime fascination with The Titanic. 

Remember folks, when I read this book, the Titanic had yet to be found – and was really a story veiled with a lot of mystique. 

My fascination with the Titanic was mostly with the thought that such a incredible ship (and it’s contents) lie silently at an unknown location at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean – refusing to give up it’s voiceless secrets.   

The Dead Zone by Steven King

The Dead ZoneHere it is again…

This time, cropping up in my early teen years.  This was a book I grabbed on a whim (having never heard of Steven King before reading this book) from the library to take along on a family road trip vacation.  Quite honestly, I remember more about reading the book (and wanting to get back to reading the book) than I do of the actual vacation.  It was one of the earliest “can’t put down” books for me – and (because I enjoyed it so much), it was the catalyst for my “decade long” run with Steven King.

The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck.

The Grass is ALways Greener over the Septic Tank I am pretty certain that this was one of the first books I ever checked out of the library in High School.  I left my small K-8 school (and limited library geared for the younger kids) and was presented a whole new collection of books to choose from when I started attending the Academy of the Holy Angels as a 9th grader.  It was (for me) one of the first “laugh out loud” books I had ever read.  I remember going back and rereading paragraphs just to make myself laugh again and again.  I suspect I found humor in this book having grown up in the suburban utopia of “Prestigious West Bloomington”!

The Grass is Always Greener was an eye opener for me.  It demonstrated to me that there are books out there that are REALLY funny!!  Humor has, and continues to be an very important aspect to my life! 

The Nighttime GuyThe Nighttime Guy by Tony Kenrick

Why this book?  I can’t be completely sure.  I mean, who has ever heard of this book?  Who has ever really heard of this author?  Not many I suspect – but for some reason – this book (while I am certain wasn’t intended to) made me laugh out loud! 

Much like Erma Bombeck’s “Grass is Greener” – there were a couple of scenes in the book that made me laugh so hard my sides ached – and I read them over and over again (finding them just as funny as the last time).
The memorable scenes all involved a supporting character (a young girl… maybe eight or nine) who was rude, crude, and borderline vulgar.  For some strange reason, her antics REALLY made me laugh.  I tried reading a couple of Kenrick’s other works, but none of them really struck a chord with me like '”The Nighttime Guy” 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
Ahh…   Mrs. Hanson… 
My senior year English teacher. 

Kate Hanson - English Teacher extraordinaire! Ya gotta give her a ton of credit.  She put up with a lot.  (And, by “a lot”, I mean me).  She continued to try to reach me knowing full well that 99% of the reading assignments she gave me went…  well…  Unread. 

Not only “unread”, but “UNASHAMEDLY unread” .
Yes, that is me bowing my head in shame and embarrassment. 
Forgive me Mrs. Hanson, for I knew not what I was doing.
The names of numerous (unread) classic novels completely escape me now for having never read them -   but not Frankenstein!  I cannot be certain if it was the horror theme, or Ms. Hanson’s rebellious declaration that she was one of the last teachers in the State of Minnesota still teaching this book, but for whatever reason it was - I actually read it! 

Not only did I read it, I THRIVED at this unit.  I read every assignment, answered questions and actively participated in class.  I read ahead of where we were supposed to be.  I did well on the quizzes and test.

It was to be my most successful endeavor in her class!  Thank you Mrs. Hanson! 
You did it!  You reached me through Frankenstein!

(Photo of Mrs. Hanson from the 1987 Academy of the Holy Angels yearbook)

It by Steven King

Come on…  What horror fiction fan and Steven King enthusiast wouldn’t undertake this massive 1138 page lighthearted tale of an evil entity posing as a “happy dancing clown” living in the sewers of a small town preying upon the children?? 

Not this one!! 

Pennywise in the sewers
“When you're down here with us, you'll float too Georgie!”
This book had me lock, stock, and barrel – to the point I would be up at night, reading in the dark of my room (freaking myself out), and even got me scolded by a college professor for reading it during her class!

Announced to the whole class during lecture:  “Mr. FOF, I know I can’t compete with Mr. King, but would you please put away the novel and at least attempt to listen to my lecture?”  (true story!)   
I hope you have all had the pleasure of creating scenes and imagery in your head of what you are reading about in a book.  I know I do.  In “It”, the kids are drawn to “The Barrens” (the gateway to Pennywise’s lair).

Well, as I read the book, the image that came to my mind was of a very real place not far from my home.  I imagined The Barrens looked a lot like a large storm drain outlet that pours into Nine Mile Creek in Harrison Park (Bloomington, MN). 

When “It” was finally made into a movie, and I got a chance to see it, I was completely freaked out by how similar the movie scene seemed to what I pictured in my head.  

Pennywise in the Barrens

(Photo of Harrison Park storm drain outlet coming soon!)

Here you can see the image from Harrison Park / Central Park / Moir Park in Bloomington, Minnesota that came to my mind as I read the book.  In summer, it is much greener.

It would look something like this....


Dracula by Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker - DraculaLet’s see.  Ghost stories, Steven King, horror movies, evil clowns, etc, etc, etc.    And I had not read Bram Stoker’s Dracula before adulthood??  How this one slipped by me, I will never fully understand. 
By this time I was working overnights at a 9-1-1 center.  Between calls and during my downtime, I took to reading.  I was planning on re-reading Frankenstein again, but was unable to locate my copy of it – so instead, I ran to the library.  I wanted to find something similar to Frankenstein – so I thought to myself… Dracula!  Why not Dracula?  So I checked it out.
Have you ever read Bram Stoker’s original Dracula? 
No, the movies, comic books, and “Scholastic” versions of the novel do NOT count. 

I’m speaking of the Dracula novel as written in Bram Stokers own words!
A hidden love story. 
Forsaking God.
Supernatural entities. 
True evil.
Subtle sexuality. 
Victorian era gothic settings.
Dracula started me down a long road of vampire fiction.  Not the “Nü Vampire genre” (like one can find in “True Blood” (and all the other recently romanticized vampire stories) – but down the dark, evil, gothic, and violent vampire fiction.

I am also going to cheat by adding an 11th bonus entry – but this is not so much a “book” as a means of reading.
The Kindle By Amazon. 
Kindle walking My Kindle has completely reinvigorated, revitalized and reinvented the way I read.  Not only the WAY I read, but HOW MUCH I read too.  I went from reading a fair amount as a boy, to reading little (if any) for personal leisure since graduating college.  The “reading drought” continued for more than 10 years.  

On a whim, I went out and bought both myself and The Mother of Five a simple e-ink Kindle Touch.  I cannot even being to tell you how much this has changed my reading.  I am averaging a novel a month now, am frequently prowling for new (bargain, discount, or free) content to add to my Kindle (I have over 300 books stored in my Kindle at the time I am writing this post), and have even dedicated a page on this blog to my Kindle reading habbits. 

(Feel free to check it out by clicking on THIS LINK)

The Project – Part One

For months now (maybe even a year) – I have been contemplating a project.  For many, this project may not seem like much, but for a fella like me (livin’ a life of “chaos in paradise”), this has been quite the undertaking.

It all started  when the END OF ONE ERA ushered in the BEGNING OF A NEW ERA.  Then, a vehicle upgrade (well, actually a “downgrade” in size), and an pending vacation trip made the project even more of a necessity!

cartopping the canoeIt all started (in earnest) in the fall of 2013.

I had been “car-topping” my canoe for transportation to and from my paddling adventures, but getting the canoe up on top of the car (or van) and back down has proven to be a little more of a hassle (and scratch/dent inducing) endeavor than I had envisioned.  Then, I up(down)graded my vehicle from a 2000 Saturn SL1 to a 2005 Toyota Corolla.  The vehicles are comparable in length, but the roofline is noticeably shorter, and thus, even less stable to “cartop” than the Saturn.  (I suppose I could “make it work” if I had to, but between the scratch/dent issue and the shorter roofline, I elected not to risk it.)

What I did was start researching alternate methods of transporting the canoe.  I started looking at trailers that would haul canoes.

There are many different options available.  If money was no object, I could have had a readymade trailer delivered within a week – but, money IS an object.  So, it was back to the drawing board.  What became pretty apparent to me was that MANY people (particularly kayakers, but many canoers too) BUILD their OWN trailer – and in typical “Father of Five” fashion, I became ferociously obsessed with researching these trailers and the idea of building my own.

I think I identified (and visited) every website that documented the building, modifying, customizing, or rebuilding of a trailer for use as a canoe hauler.

To help me organize the ideas I stumbled upon, I turned to another online resource I had previously ignored… Pinterest.  I created something called a “pin-board” to collect the ideas I liked best.  (If you are interested, feel free to visit my “Canoe Trailer Pin-Board”  by following the link.).

The basic design (and sort of “foundation” for my project) looked something like the photo on the right.

(Thank to Jack from for permission to use photo)

My “ideal” canoe trailer would have the following features…
· It would be inexpensive
· It would be small and lightweight (but long enough to haul a 17’ canoe)
· It would need to have the ability to carry gear (either in the canoe or in/on the trailer)
· It would need to have the ability to use it for other purposes (aka – “convertible”)
· It would need to be storable
· To make it storable, I needed it to (easily) break down or fold up
· To make it usable, I needed it to (easily) be set up or unfold out of storage

Immediately, the Harbor Freight trailers became the obvious solution.  They have four models to choose from.  A “lightweight” and a “heavy duty” in a 40x48 “stick” trailer or a 48x96 “fold up” trailer.  Regardless of the deck size, I wanted to go with the heavier duty trailer.  The lightweight trailers have an 8” wheel and the heavy duty trailers have a 12” wheel.  The larger wheel is more suited for longer hauls.   

After several months (most of the LONG Minnesota winter of 2013-2014) and several discussions with / input from my good buddy “Backside of Forty” (of which mostly centered around the 40x48 vs 48x96 debate) I found myself more often than not drifting towards the 40x48 option.  Honestly, neither was the ideal solution.  It ultimately came down to price, size, and convertibility.

Once I felt as if I exhausted all “research” possibilities, I took the ideas I liked best, and combined them into a “hybrid” trailer.  I drew out (to scale) what I thought the trailer would look like.    
Convertable Canoe Trailer Convertable Canoe Trailer

As you can see, I chose the 40x48 stick trailer.  I would build it with two length options – one extraordinarily long (for the canoe) and one that is much more typical.   

I planned on keeping the trailer deck 40x48.  This way I can…
  • Build rails for the small trailer.
  • Build a storage box to fit a 40x48 floor. 
  • Buy and install (with the option to remove) a car top carrier. 
  • Build an “oversized” deck (that would rest three feet out the front on the tongue, and hang over the rear of the trailer by 1 foot) giving me the equivalent of a 48x96 flatbed (and could even build rails for a 48x96 trailer too!).
This would allow me to…

  • Use the trailer to haul JUST the canoe, or…
  • Use the trailer to haul the canoe AND a storage box / cartop carrier, or…
  • Use the trailer to haul a storage box / cartop carrier WITHOUT the canoe, or…
  • Use the trailer to haul as EITHER a 40x48 or 48x96 inch flatbed WITHOUT
    the canoe or the storage box / cartop carrier.

I can also remove all “accessories” (tongue, storage boxes, canoe framework, and rails), and be left with a very small, short and narrow trailer that can lean up against my garage wall, and snug between the studs.  The tongue(s) / rails / oversized flatbed could all be hung on the garage wall.

Yup.  This plan suited my needs!!  So, with all my plans in place, I began saving my “allowance”. 
It would only be a matter of time before I started!! 

Father's Day Fun!

I could not think of a better way to recognize “Father’s Day” than to dedicate this fun little post to MY dad! The “Father of the Father of Five”.

It’s a “spin off” to my previous post (Graduation 2014 - #2 of 5) in which I eluded to something I wanted to share that was related to graduation, but not really about the graduation.

You will (undoubtedly) see how it’s connected!


This is my dad. The “Father of The Father of Five”.

The “FoFoF” graduated from Roosevelt High School in June of 1955. This is his senior class photo.

On the day of his graduation, his parents took his photograph standing next to his car. When he graduated, he was driving a 1946 Ford Sedan.

(BONUS photo at the very bottom of this post!)

This is his high school.
Roosevelt High School - Minneapolis, Mn

The Father of the Father of Five. Graduation day, June 1955. Standing next to his 1946 Ford Sedan.

This is me. The “Father of Five

I graduated from the Academy of the Holy Angels in June of 1987. This is my senior class photo.

On the day of my graduation, my parents took my photograph standing next to my car. When I graduated I was driving a 1976 Ford Granada.

This was my high school.
Academy of the Holy Angels - Richfield, Mn

The Father of Five.  Graduation Day June 1987.  Standing next to his 1976 Ford Granada.

This is my son. #2 of 5.

#2 of 5 graduated from Jordan High School in June of 2014. This is his senior class photo.

On the day of his graduation, we took his photograph standing next to his car. When he graduated, he was (and still is) driving a 2000 Buick Century.

This was #2 of 5's high school.
Jordan High School - Jordan, Mn

#2 of 5.  Graduation day - June 7 2014.  Standing next to his 2000 Buick Century.


As promised (and...  for just a little bit of ADDED FATHER'S DAY FUN), here is a photo I found of Roosevelt High School's 1955 Homerooms #325 and #328B.

You may (or may not) recognize one of the faces in the crowd.
I may (or may not) have made the identification just a little bit easier!  (wink)

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