Sorry Everyone

I have not posted much and have only checked into my friend's blogs once or twice over the past several days. I have noticed a flurry of activity around Jeff's Blog, and feel kind of left out. I am glad to see he has started posting, and (in my opinion) he has "knocked one out of the park" with his "running theme - Photo quiz" posts! I think he found the niche that will keep him coming back! Nice job Jeff!

Last week, as I ended another long week with a large amount of overtime, I started feeling lousy Friday night when I went home. I felt pretty run down.

I awoke Saturday morning with a sore throat (again), and having just dealt with Strep, I went to the clinic Saturday morning. The "quick check" came back negative, and the Doc said I could have a tonsillitis, but it was unlikley strep. He said to take ibuprofen to relieve the pain, and go about my normal business. He said that they would still do the "full culture" in the lab, but because they were closed on Sunday, I would not hear back until Monday. He said it was a "no news is good news" way of passing along info. (If I did not hear from the lab, then the results were negative.)

Sunday was a very busy day (Confirmation send off Mass for Ben, and subsequent party). But the day came and went (still feeling lousy).

Monday came and went a little more quiet day, but I had Melisssa home with me for the day.(I was feeling even more lousy, but I did not receive any phone call from the lab.

Monday night / Tuesday morning I could not sleep - my throat still hurt, and it kept me awake that night. I had already decided I needed to go back because something was wrong...

Tuesday was VERY BUSY - the day was filled with me chaufering kids around (School, dentist, docotor, etc)

Jordan to Prior Lake.
Prior Lake to Minnetonka.
Minnetonka back to Jordan.
Jordan to Burnsville
Burnsville to Minnetonka
Minnetonka to Jordan

I got in my car at 8:30 am and made it home at 5:00 pm.

When I got home at 5, there was a message on the answering machine for me from the lab (I was not at all surprised to see that) saying I needed to call them back. I did, and found out that "the strep" was back. My wife was shopping at Target - So I had another prescription (this time a more powerful antibiotic (or so I am told)) called in there, and she was able to pick it up while she was there (saving me another trip).

When she returned home and we told the kids my strep was back, Zachary told us that he had a sore throat. I checked his throat, I could see the tell-tale signs of strep there too. So, just after she got home, she turned around and took Zachary to urgent care to get a throat culture done. That test also came back "negative" on the quick check, but they told us they will do the 24 hour culture and know for sure. We were told the same "no news is good news" deal about lab results.
I had my first dose of Meds in me by 7pm. Doc's orders was not to return to work until 24 hours after first dose, so I had to call into work sick (and "hose-over" one of my co-workers. (God how I hate doing that - Sorry to whomever that was).

Then, after my wife got home, I had one last trip back and forth between Jordan and Prior Lake.

Jordan to Prior Lake
Prior Lake back to Jordan.

I made it home by 10:pm.

By 10 pm last night I was really starting to feel bad, and am going to take most of today just to rest and catch up. I kept Zachary home with me today too, (as I am quite sure he also has strep) just waiting for the call from the lab.

So, my blogging friends, please forgive my hiatus from posting, and from reading. I hope to be back to normal some time in the next day or two.

On a side note - we have hired a new dispatcher, and he started work today. He was supposed to do a "sit along" with me and I was going to start his classroom traning tomorow. He will be sitting with one of my partners instead and I will begin his week of "Classroom C(omputer) A(ided) D(ispatch)" training with him tomorow. I will then spend the remaining few days of that work-week with him at a 911 console. I will take him with me for one more week as I move back to working evenings (3pm - 11pm).

That will be a big change for me. I have grown to like working day-watch (7am - 3pm) - I get to actually spend time with my kids. Mid-watch wont be too bad for the summer though - I get to be home with them in the mornings, and will get to do some FUN THINGS with them during the day-time hours!

Tax Season 2007

It's that time again... Taxes.

As Benjamin Franklin was once quoted as saying..

" this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

That being said, finishing my taxes was inevitable. For the first time in about twelve years, I did not have by taxes done early. Normally I get them done in February, but this year, I kept "putting them off". That was until I looked at my already "way too busy" calender, realizing that I had yet to finish my taxes, about three days to finish them in, and very little time available to get them done with.

As far as taxes go, being the "Father of Five" - I do have quite a few deductions.

Yup, that's what I call 'em - "My little deductions", or (in the case of one specific child) "Deduction #2" or "Deduction #4". I'll shout across the yard "Hey, Deduction #1, it's time to come home to wash up before dinner", or (as I tuck them into bed) "Good night sweety, don't forget how much your daddy loves his little Deduction #5"

"Deduction" is so much easier to remember than their real names.

(Now, if I could only get their birthdays changed to the same date - then I'd be on "easy street"!)

On a side note, I lost a deduction this year... One of five has reached adulthood (or something that partially resembles adulthood...)

A little about our taxes:
I have a much higher amount taken out of my check via my W-2 than I need to each year. I view my tax withholding as a "forced savings plan". No, it is not the smartest way to make the most of my money, but I have found it works out well for us. My kids go to private school. It is a sacrifice that both my wife and I feel very strongly about, but the "monthly payments" would break us. (This year the payments would be between $700 - $800 a month.) We have set up our finances so that each year our tax return covers the cost of the tuition for the NEXT year. So (for example) I still have a bit of last year's tax return in the bank to cover the rest of THIS school year. When this tax return arrives, it will stay in the bank until I need to start paying for NEXT school year. This way I always have the tuition money, but I also have a bit of a "cushion" in the bank that I can "borrow" against in case of an emergency. (For many years now we have been a "single income" family and I have had to become a wiz at "alternative" money management matters...)

History of Tax Filing:
I opted out from using a PC to do my taxes for many years - I guess I was just a plain old "hold out" for the days of paper, pencil and eraser. But, in 2004 (Tax year 2003) I broke down and became a Turbo Tax user. I was very impressed with the "easy to use" format of doing my taxes, making changes through the software, and the speed in which I got my return when I e-filed. I stayed a Turbo Tax user until last year (2006 - Tax year 2005). I decided to try Tax Cut for a change (mainly because it was noticeably cheaper). Tax Cut did the job, but was missing a couple key features that Turbo Tax allows you to do (namely the ability to save and/or view your return as a PDF file). In order to (electronically) view my Tax Cut return from last year, I had to reinstall my 2005 Tax Cut Software and then open the 2005 file. (It is "proprietary" in nature). This is a HUGE disadvantage. I had PDF files of the two prior years tax returns, but alas, not one for last year.

This year (in the mail) I received a FREE copy of this year's Tax Cut Federal and State. It was "no cost" to use it, making their profit on the e-file charges (which Turbo Tax does too). But I stuck to my guns, and purchased a copy of Turbo Tax. Now having finished my taxes, I can still say (without hesitation) that it was worth the extra cost.

This year's timeline:
I had started using the software in February. I had made my way through about half the program, before putting the whole process on hold. (Heck, what's the big deal - We are getting a refund anyway, and we still have lots of time - What's the hurry?). February became March, and March turned into Easter, and then, my schedule kicked into high gear, and I had not given the taxes another thought until the 13th of April (Friday the 13th!). Now in a desperate, last minute state of near panic I spent about 4 hours finishing up the taxes. I finished them and e-filed them on the 13th. That night before bed, I checked back on the status of my e-file (like the program asks you to do). I found out my return was rejected. Apparently one of the SSN's was wrong. (Error #1) I checked the return and sure enough I had reversed two of the numbers on one of the 'lil deductions SSN. It was late on Friday night, and I had to be to work early on Saturday morning, so I made the correction, re-e-filed, and went to bed.

I was up at 5am and ready to for work by 5:45. I decided to check the email before going to work and was advised (via email) that I had another (#2) error. Now (with 5 minutes before I had to leave for work) I made the correction, and "fled" to work (making it with 2 minutes to spare).

I went straight from work to a Twins Baseball game, and did not get home until around 11pm. I logged in to check my email, and discovered YET ANOTHER (#3) error... I was tired, and grumpy and NOT IN THE MOOD for this. I entered the Turbo Tax program, and found out that the SSN I had corrected that morning did not match the number the IRS had on file for that "deduction". I checked my source for that SSN, and it looked like a a match. Not sure what the problem was I got the original card out of the safe only to discover that my source was incorrect, and the actual SSN was different (by one digit) than my reference. I corrected the problem, and re-e-filed (e-file #4), and headed off to bed.

Again, with the same "up at 5am routine", I logged back in to discover that this time, my return was >>ACCEPTED<< !!!!

Whoo hooo!

It was Sunday April 15th (Tax day - minus this years extension) the closest I have filed my taxes in YEARS. (There was one year (I think the first year we were married) that I drove to the airport at 10:30pm to mail my taxes from the MSP airport's post office. They had postal employees taking tax returns from the road from a row of "drive up" cars (full of idiots like myself) so they could get their taxes in before midnight. I told myself "Never again".

That stuck until this year.

Thank goodness for e-filing!

Time Management

I've hit another one of those patches where it seems like it has been a long time since my last update.

I am not going to go into ALL the details with you, but between my work schedule and my home schedule, I have been on a non stop string of activity that started just before Easter and does not let up until Saturday the 21st. My "days off", as well as my "off duty" hours have been filled to capacity. I have not gotten to sleep before 11pm (and have been up as late as 1am). I have to be up at 5am on my work days, and I get to "sleep in" to 6:30 am on my days off! I am getting between four and six hours of sleep a night.

I did get a couple of productive things done during this time - I managed to get my taxes done*, I am helping my dad get rid of some of the "leftovers" from his kitchen remodel with a CRAIGSLIST ADD, I helped work on my father-in-law's basement (he is finishing it), and I helped a family friend who had a basement flood (and then start to mold). I helped with some "deconstruction".

*Watch for future Post(s).
In addition to "Taxes", I have started posts on the "Invention Convention", and a quick one about a second Twins Game I attended. (This is what I like to call this my "teaser-line").

The rest of this week is very, very busy - but I will try work on getting these posts ready for "public consumption".

Oh, on a side note... Based on a recommendation from a fellow blogger (Thanks Eric!), I picked up a copy of "More Stories of the Old Duck Hunters" by Gordon MacQuarrie. This is book two of a three book set. I got it for a pretty good price off of eBay, and so now I will start watching for the other two - Book one "Stories of the Old Duck Hunters & Other Drivel" and book three - "Last stories of the Old Duck Hunters" (Now, if I can only find some time to read without being so tired I fall asleep!) I am looking forward to reading them!

No Pressure

I have been bugging my sister to start a Blog. She has twin boys, so she has her hands VERY VERY full, but I hear some of the best stories of the shenanagins my little nephews get into from her. She has been keeping a diary of some of the stories... I would LOVE for her to share - for her family, and for the sake of all other new Mothers of Multiples!

I took the initiative and spent some time setting one up for her, and getting it all ready to go. I sent her the info and some instructions on how to use it. Now, it's just a "wait and see" situation!

I planted the seed, lets see what grows!

My Sister's Blog

One Year Anniversary

One year and eight days ago to be exact.

It all started HERE on April 2, 2006. To tell you the truth I had NO IDEA how much I would enjoy keeping a blog. I have a new hobby!

It all started because a friend of mine had started a blog called Many Things do not Fly. She shared it with me, and I was hooked! That blog was like a drug. I could not get enough. When the author could no longer "provide" at a pace to keep up with my "need" I took matters into my own hands, and started the "Father of Five".

"Father of Five" has grown into the world of FOF - A "Trifecta" of blogs.
1. Father of Five
2. Dad's Outdoor Journal
3. My unattainable Dreams

The outdoor journal blog started from an actual outdoor journal that I keep for my kids and their kids, and their kids kids, and so on... I started blogging the entries in the journal (and now that I think about it, I have more that I need to add from many years ago). My unattainable Dreams is just a place to talk about the things that I daydream about, but know will never happen. (Alaska is a big theme on that one!)

I am thinking of starting the "World of a FOF" marketing campaign. Cups, hats, mugs, tee-shirts, frisbees, etc... Maybe FOF will be the next "pet rock", and I'll make a million! (Ok.. perhaps that needs to be filed in "My Unattainable Dreams"!)

Since starting my foray into the world of blogging, I have provided some inspiration, or had some part in the inception of at least two, and perhaps three other blogs.
1. King of Clubs
2. JDZ Photography
3. Refusing to turn 30
There are at least two others friends and one family member that I have been urging to start a blog. One has said they are interested and have even started planning / searching out a name. The second has said that they were not interested. The family member has expressed an interest, but... well... We will see... (She has some of the best damn kid stories that I have ever heard, and friends/family all over the US! It would be a GREAT blog! - She knows who she is!)

I have added to the regular menu of blogs that I read too. In addition to the blogs listed above, I am a frequent visitor to...
1. The Ethereal Garage
2. Brandon Otte's Blog

Too cute not to share.

Today (Easter Sunday) I had to work. It was a pretty slow day, so I noticed on the TV Guide that Napoleon Dynamite was on. My boys hold this movie in such high regard. They talk about the scenes, and repeat some of the quotes. I assume this comes from what they have picked up from their friends, as have never actually seen the movie. They frequently ask to see the movie, but I never have gotten around to renting it fore them.

Since the movie was going to be on TV, I ran to Walgrens (on my break) to buy a blank video tape so I could set up the VCR at work to record the movie for the boys. (The movie finished just before I got off duty - how convenient...) While standing in the checkout lane, I saw the cutest little "transaction" between three young children. It really brightened my day, and I left Walgrens with a big smile on my face. I wanted to share the story. It's probably going to be one of those "you had to be there to appreciate it" stories, but I am going share it anyway.

Standing in line in front of me were three young children. I would estimate their ages as between five and seven. There were two boys and a girl. One of the boys and the girl were obviously siblings, while the other boy must have been a friend. They were purchasing a liter of generic Walgrens soda and two "grab and go" bags of "salty snacks" (Freetos and something else). While in line, they were discussing the costs of each item, and how much they (collectively) had.

As they reached the front of the line, they discovered they were going to be five cents short. They started looking desperate. As they laid their loot on the counter, I started to dig into my pocket to be able to "rush to their rescue" and provide them the needed balance. All of a sudden the little girl took off her shoe, and grabbed a nickel that she had stashed in her shoe under her (un-socked) foot. She reluctantly handed the nickel over to her brother. The brother took it, when the second little boy turned around to the little girl and said "no-backs" in what I could only presume to be a declaration that no one was going to pay her back the nickel. They all stood wide eyed as the cashier rang up their total, and you could see the delight in their eyes when the total came to $3.05. One of the boys (excitedly) exclaimed "We get a penny back!"

The kids got their snacks purchased, and asked to have it bagged (to make carrying their loot back home a little easier), and scuttled out the door.

As a father, it was fun to be able to sit back and watch these three kids interact amongst themselves. I often wonder if (when they are not under my watchful eye) my kids interact the same way with each other and with their friends...

I hope so!

Taking things for granted

Anytime I do work on one of the cars (oil changes, coolant changes, spark plugs, etc) I inevitably take it out on a short "break in" road test. I usually drive about 3 miles south on Highway 169 to the O.K. Corral, turn around, and head back home - clocking in about six miles (four of the being freeway). It's just the right distance, and it takes just about the right amount of time to do it.

After completing my last repair, I needed to get the car out on the road and give it little "break-in". This time though, I felt like changing things up a bit, and decided to take a different route. This day, I took the proverbial "road less traveled" and headed west down Township Road 57 until it turned into Park Boulevard (about a mile from my house). The road is called Park Boulevard because it cuts through the Minnesota Valley State Park. I often "forget" (ok, lets be honest here... "take for granted" would be a better choice of words - hence the title of this post) that I have an actual State Park less than 4 miles from my house. It's about a two or three minute drive from my garage to the State Park.

As you drive through the park, it is easy to totally forget you are 3 minutes from Jordan, and about 35 minutes from the dreaded Mall of America (shudder). Bordering the east end of the park is a cattle grazing field. The landowner keeps longhorn cattle on that property. I passed the longhorns, and was surprised to see a pair of white-tail deer standing on the road. I slowed down, hoping to get a picture of them (I still had the camera in my car from taking photos of the brake job). But, alas they fled before I could get a picture, so I continued down the road. Towards the western end of the park I again noticed a group of three white-tails. This time I slowed down to a stop, and turned the camera on. Just as I brought the camera up, they fled into the woods. Another missed shot. I left the camera on and continued to the far west end of the park, but never saw any more deer. As I made my way back through the park I was hoping that some of the deer had returned, but I knew better, and indeed did not see any. Not wanting to leave "empty handed" I did snap a couple of pictures of the longhorns, and the surrounding landscape to share.

In years past (before he moved to Duluth) Ed would call me up (frequently from the road whilst en route to my house) asking (ok, again lets be honest - its was more like "telling") me what I was doing for lunch. He would have already packed a lunch, then he would swing by my house and pick me up. We would head into the park, find an empty campsite (it was always #9, #10, or #12 on this map), make a campfire, cook our lunch, followed with a game of cribbage and / or a hike on one of the many trails. After working our lunch off on the hike, we would return to the site, clean everything up, and head out. This usually took less than two hours. These State Park Lunches happened about once a week, and are one of the biggest things I miss about having Ed in the Twin Cities. (But, now that he is the "Father-of-One-with-Another-on-the-Way" (Ahem... Ed.. Possible Blog Title??) I am sure our State Park Lunches would be less frequent (well, that - and I am now working during day-time hours).

A couple of times now we have also camped at Minnesota Valley State Park. Once we got together with a group of friends (Ed (of course), Janine & her girls, and Katie & Brianna). We camped in the "walk in sites" (#29, 30, and 31). It has been many years since though, and (at the time) the kids were all very small. It was difficult because they were so small, and because we are in the Minnesota River-bottoms, the mosquito infestation was pretty... "significant"...

I do love camping. I grew up spending time the BWCA and learned how to camp there. It is a very rustic, very low impact, very "no amenities" style of camping. State Park camping, although nice, is just not the same as BWCA camping, and so I have a difficult time feeling like I am "camping" when I am "camping". (This is an "internal" battle within myself - and I need to (more frequently) tell myself that State Park "camping" is better than no "camping" - I often forget this fact.) I also struggle with camping 3 miles from home, where it is WAY to easy to jump in the car, head back home if you forgot something. Again, this should not keep me from camping, but for some odd reason, it tends to...

Expanding outward from the "close proximity" and convenience of the Minnesota Valley State Park (Lawrence unit), as you can see on this map there are several other "outdoor recreational opportunities" within just a few miles (some as few as 5) from the State Park. (The State park is in the lower left corner.) The highlighted areas along the Minnesota River north and east from the State Park is the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge. The two closest units are the Rapids Lake Unit and the Louisville Swamp Unit.

In years past ("years past" seems to be a theme here...) I have hiked and worked a "clean up detail" with the boys' Cub Scout troops, and hunted squirrels and pheasants with Ed and with my brother in law Mike at the Rapids Lake unit.

I have also hunted ducks in the Louisville Swap and Michel WMA (about 20 minutes away) with Ed.

As I drove through the Minnesota Valley State Park (breaking in my new break pads), it really sank in. There really is no good reason whatsoever that at least a couple times a year I don't camp out there with the one, some, or all of the kids (or as a whole family). I need to come to terms with the fact that it is O.K. to not camp in the BWCA, if the BWCA is not an option (due to timing, schedules, funds, or any other reason).

I regularly read through The Ethereal Garage, and frequently daydream of snowshoeing through the BWCA, winter camping, and ice fishing trips. I get to feeling trapped by my own life, and how life feels like it keeps me from doing the things that I enjoy. It is true that my life is a bit "busier" than I had ever planned it to be. Being the Father-of-Five was never on my radar as I planned my life. Although they all have their "moments", I can not imagine my life without all five of my children. I truly enjoy 99.99% of the time I do get to spend with them.

As I drove through the State Park thinking about how busy my life is, how much I miss many of the outdoor activities I "used to do", how much I would like to resume some of those activities, and how much I want to spend time with my kids before they are too old to want to spend time with me - I realized that perhaps what I need to do is to start compromising. I need to be more open minded in what my idea of camping is. I need to stop feeling like my life does not "prevent me" from doing the things I want to do (life may "limit me" a bit, but it does not "prevent me"), and that I have a responsibility (as the "Father-of-Five") to make sure I do MORE of these activities, passing along what I have learned, for the sake of helping broaden the horizons of my children.

Perhaps by spending more time "State Park" camping (even for quick "overnighters"), I can spark an interest within one or more of my children for the taste of a more rustic "BWCA" camping experience, thus providing me a higher probabilibity for opportunity to return to the camping that I enjoy so much. (My wife is not a "rustic" camper. She likes camping, but is more of a "State Park" camper.) It is an easier "sell" the idea of a BWCA trip, if it involved a larger percentage of the family than the 14% of the family that is "Dad".

Realistically, I do have some time limitations. I have my summer work schedule in place (but yet have been assigned my overtime duties). I already know that due to a rotating work schedule, of all the weekends I have off between June 1st and August 31st, every single weekend is booked with plans. I am having a hard time (working with my cousins) coming up with our annual "guys weekend" at my Uncle's cabin. Michele and I even sat down a couple of days ago and tried to find a "long weekend" that we could go camping as a whole family. Not even one weekend was available.

The up side to my work schedule is that I also have weekdays off. Which can be nice, but now that Michele is working, it makes a Wed-Thurs-Fri camping trip next to impossible (at least when she has to use her vacation to go to her brother's wedding). That does not, however, keep me from partaking in some outdoor activities with the kids while she is at work. If we plan it out right, (utilizing the Minnesota Valley State Park) when my wife comes home from work (with the 3 year old) they can join us at the campsite, hang out, have dinner, and return to the comfort of home so she can be ready for work the next morning.

What does this all boil down to? As I have been reflecting on this, I have decided to establish a few realistic goals for the summer.

So, without further ado, I'd like to use this forum to make a public announcement. Let it hereby be known that by the first day of the 2007-2008 school year I plan...

Goal #1 - To broaden my ideas on what camping is by utilizing the resources available "in my own backyard" that I have taken for granted.
Goal #1.a - At least two "overnight" camping trips to the Minnesota Valley State Park.
Goal #1.b - At least two hikes in, through and around the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge units
Goal #1.c - At least two "State Park Lunches". (This could also be a "Wildlife Refuge Lunch" and is separate from Goal #1.b)

Goal #2 - Spend at least five mornings (I am going back to working evenings 3pm-11pm) fishing with the kids. (Since my outboard is on the fritz, and the clutch on my car is pretty much "roasted", hauling my boat may not be a possibility this year. I will have to limit my fishing trips to shoreline and pier fishing). This should be a fairly easy goal to reach as I can even take the kids fishing on days that I work!

Goal #3 - Update Dad's Outdoor Journal with the above listed activities as a means of tracking how well I am keeping up with my goals.

I will also (as a reminder) send this entry to myself as an email - scheduled to arrive on June 30th, July 31st, and Aug 31st - to help "keep me motivated".

Now, it's time to do some planning. If I do this right, it should be very easy. I can "pre-pack" a couple of large Rubbermaid boxes with our tent and camping essentials. All I will need to do is pack a little food and some personal needs - we can be on our way in no time at all! I can leave most of the stuff packed, and make another "overnighter" that much easier!

I can feel myself starting to get "stoked" for this... It may not be so bad after all!!

Grinding Metal

Well, I've talked about my 190k mile, "just starting to slip" clutched, suspensionally challenged 1994 Escort (that also suffers with many other numerous "ailments") before.

About a week (maybe two) ago, my Escort started making a noise (when you used the brakes) that makes your teeth ache. Oh, it probably does not make EVERYONE'S teeth ache - If you are a foot soldier in the "Army of the Oblivious", then your teeth wont ache. But, since you are reading this blog, I'll assume you are not. I will assume that you will know, or at least be able to recognize the noise I am talking about. It's one of those noises that once you have heard it, you will never forget it (again, assuming that you are not among the minions of the "Army of the Oblivious"). It's one of those noises that if you are the driver, and apply the brakes, not only can you hear, but you can feel it in your teeth, bones and joints. (By "joints" I don't mean the little white ones that you roll yourself and keep in a baggie under the seat.) Nope, this is the sound that will give you goose bumps, night sweats, and nightmares!

As you can see in the pictures of the drivers side brake rotor and the old break pads (below) it is obvious what has struck fear in my heart, and cause me to use a "feather-foot" on the breaks last week! I put it off as long as I comfortably could (and even a couple days past that), but I could take it no longer. I could not put my trusty little Escort (which has treated me so well all these last few years) through any more of this unholy torture.

So, in the middle of a 3 day stretch of overtime (3am-3pm) I spent what very precious little time I had between getting home from work and having to go to bed (I shoot for 8 pm when I have to be up at 2am) replacing the brake pads on the car.

As you can see, (as I suspected) the drivers side rotor was the "grinder". The passenger side was not as bad, but was in "close to desperate" need of being changed also.

From start to finish, the job took me 3 hours, and $30.00. (Broken down as follows)

* The first 30 minutes was gathering tools, getting the car jacked up, and removing the tires.

* The next 30 minutes were spent visiting with a neighbor who stopped by.

* I spent the next hour carefully disassembling the drivers side caliper to get the brake shoes (so that I would be able to successfully "reassemble" it again), replacing the pads, and (successfully) reassembling the whole apparatus.

* The passenger side only took me 30 minutes to disassemble, replace and reassemble (it went VERY easy once I was familiar with the parts and layout of the caliper).

* The last 30 minutes was spent cleaning up, and taking the car out for a break in of the new pads.

I did discover a couple of things while working on the brakes.

#1 - My LOCKING C-CLAMP has broken. Dont ask me how or when, but the spring inside the hadle broke in the middle, rendering it useless. I will need to replace the spring (if possible) or replace the whole clamp. Disappointing..

#2 - It's time I buy myself a good breaker bar. I have never had one, and use a old aluminum tent pole, but the pole has seen better days.

After replacing the pads, I took the Escort out for a little spin to "break-in" the new pads. While out driving around a few thoughts came to mind. Those thoughts became another entry titled "Taking things for Granted". Feel free to check it out.

But now that the job is done, the breaks work perfectly! I sure wish the rest of the car did...

2007 Minnesota Twins Home Opener

Yes folks it's true. I attended the 2007 Minnesota Twins Home Opener last night. My brother-in-law from Illinois is a HUGE Twins fan, and he (and his soon-to-be wife) brought their (16 month old) son (our nephew) to his very first Minnesota Twins Game.

In attendance was:
Joe (Father in Law)
Carole (Mother in law)
Mike (Brother in law)
Brian (Brother in law)
Jessica (soon to be Sister in law)
Miles (Nephew)
Jonathan (Son)
Zachary (Son)
and Myself.

Now, it's no secret that I am not the biggest sports fan around. But for a chance to be with a major chunk of our family, at Miles' first baseball game, I could not pass it up!

Remember the question? The one about Thorton Melon's stores? Well, the seats at the Metrodome were also not made for "His customers".

While it is true that I am fat, I am also very tall... And just being overall a giant of a man, sitting squished in the metrodome seats for 3 hours is... uncomfortable.

This was more or less just an annoyance. Watching Miles at the game, and watching Brian enjoy having Miles at the game was worth the tight fit!

Overall, I had a good time. There was one point in this game where the Twins hit back to back home runs, and the crowd went WILD...

It was fun watching the upper deck (where we were sitting) try and get a "wave" going. It would start, and fade out... Then the starting section would boo the rest of the crowd, and start over again... Each time the wave made it a little further and the inevitable Booing, and restart of the wave, until it made it all the way around. (I have never seen that before).

My favorite part of last night's game (and got the biggest cheers from me) was when some uber-fan jumped the rail and took off into the outfield. At one point there were seven security officers chasing him around, and he evaded them much longer that I thought he could. When they finally caught up to him <> he went down hard! They dragged him up, cuffed him and began escorting him off the field. That was when I got up and started cheering! (I was not cheering because of the "take down" or that he was cuffed - I was cheering for this guy and for having the kahoonas to do what he did!!) Definitely the highlight of last nights game!!

On a side note... I HAVE TO go to another Twins game in April. Cub Scout event with Zachary. That will tie my record for number of baseball games in a given year... Maybe someone will run out on the field that day too!!

Streptococcal pharyngitis

Last night I went to bed not feeling great, and had a scratchy throat.
By the time I woke up this morning, my throat was killing me and swollowing was very painful. Since it was Sunday I was limited to where I could go to get a thorat cluture. So I thought I would try a new concept I have heard advertised about on the radio...
I ended up having to go to a
CVS in Chanhassen. It was less than 5 minutes into the procedure when the Doctor at Minute Clinic said the culture came back positive. (He did the whole culture in front of me! Pretty Cool!) I filled the perscription at CVS and was on my way home in less than an hour from the time I walked into the door. (And I was thrid on the list of patients). It was great!
(CVS and Minute Clinic was great, not the

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