Place Your Bets..

I am thinking of starting a pool (or poll for you non-gambling types, like me).

Take your guesses at what time this "chronically overtired" and "stressed out" Father-of-Five will finally collapse while waiting for the new year to arrive.

Hint... I can guarantee it will be before midnight.

I'll allow for fifteen minute windows.. and overlapping and duplicates are just fine...

My guess.... 10:45 - 11:00 pm (Central).


New Year's Day Morning Update...

Wii until 10:15
Settlers of Catan until 12:30
Clean up, etc...

Final bed time... 2:00 am!

Surprized the heck outta me!

I just may need an "old man's nap" today...


In preparation for tomorrow night's (New Years Eve) celebration, #2 and #3 of 5 and I started a game of "Settlers of Catan" (one of my Christmas Gifts this year).

catan-1 catan-2

Little known fact about the Father of Five.... He LOVES board games!!
(Foreshadowing for a future post..)

The Spirit of Christmas

Today, a received an email from Best Buddy Ed.... 

Since he does not have a blog of his own (yet...), it is with his kind permission that his email has been converted into a "guest post" here on FOF.  Folks, this is a PERFECT EXAMPLE of what makes Ed the kind, and generous person he (and his whole family for that matter) is. 

Be sure to send him your thoughts through the Comments link....  I'll "make sure" he sees them.  (I'm bigger and older than him....)  He'll get them... You can bet on it!



Merry Christmas!

I just thought I'd share a story with you.

This story began 8 months ago when I had a tree felled in my front yard.  It was a very large White Poplar with a diameter of about 42" at the base.  Unfortunately, when Poplar trees get so large they begin to rot from the inside out.  Over the years the tree slowly got worse and worse, to the point that 65-70% of the upper branches had no leaves.  I had to have it felled professionally due to power lines on two sides and rows of cedar trees on the other sides.

Once the tree was on the ground, it was my job to clean up.  As I was cleaning up, I noticed my next door neighbor, B____, sitting on her front stoop.  I decided this was a good time to take a break and walked across the street to say "Hi".  During our conversation, I noticed she had a somber face.  Then she mentioned the tree.  I found out that tree was the last tree her dad had planted before he passed away.

I knew I had to do something special.

I went back to the task of cleaning up.  Looking for an opportunity to come up with something creative for her, I noticed a large branch that was a near perfect circle (13" diameter).  I knew right then what I had to do.  I cut a couple disks off the branch with my chainsaw, and stored them in the corner of my storage shed to dry.....hoping they would not split.

Fast forward 8 months...the disks did not split and were nice and dry.  Whew!!  I planed down the disks to 1-1/4" thickness...  Applied a satin oil finish to make the grain "come alive".....

DSC00131I assembled a few hands here, a couple numbers there....

and ......

I had made a beautiful clock for my neighbor!

Christmas Eve I called my neighbor up to see if she would be home for a few minutes.  J____ and I walked over to B____'s house and she invited us in.  I had the clock hidden inside a paper bag so she would not see what I had for her.  We sat at her kitchen table and began to tell her about the day on her front stoop when she told me about the tree.  I told her I noticed she was upset about the tree.  I then let her know she would always have a part of that tree as I pulled the clock out of the bag.....

As you can imagine, her eyes did not stay dry very long.  She didn't say much for a few minutes but she didn't have to.

The Spirit of Christmas is about giving...


A Different Title

I was going to use "Wii Wish You A Merry Christmas" as the title for this post until I noticed that DadStuff beat me to the punch.  I then felt I needed to come up with "A Different Title".
Much like the Stuff in My Brain's Christmas, Nintendo made their presence known in our house, with the arrival of our new Wii.   In fact - our stories are SO similar that one only needs to change the names, and it would be a nearly identical experience!   
IMG_0169The kids have been all but BEGGING for a Wii for months, and since I do not respond to begging - one never showed up.  After the kids came to the realization that begging does not work and figured that I am too much of a cheapskate to buy a new gaming system (we have an older XBox (not the 360)), they sort of "gave up" trying. 
A couple of months ago (while the units were still in stock) - we made the plunge, and purchased one.  It has been kept hidden since. 
As Christmas drew closer, the kids started "hinting" about a Wii again - but every time we went to the stores they were out of stock.  A fact that I "pointed out" each and every time we were at the store.  I reassured them that even if I wanted to buy them a Wii, there was no way it could happen.
Well, Christmas came - and so did the annual "ravaging of the gifts under the tree".  When it was all said and done, nary a Wii was to be found.  As the kids attention was drawn away (busy with the gifts that they did receive), Mother of Five and I snuck downstairs, and hauled up the pile of similarly wrapped (but disguised in a different sized boxes) gifts. 
We distributed the packages evenly, and had #3 of 5 open the first box (the Wii unit).  It was not until it was completely unwrapped that they figured out what it was...
And it was all over...
#2 of 5 was Gasping for breath...  Speechless....  Just "Ooh", "Ahh", and "Umm"...  He started bouncing around like a circus chimpanzee.  When he finally got his breath back, #2 and #3 of 5 were INSTANTLY all "I know what's in THAT one" (while pointing to the Guitar Hero). 
IMG_0181The whirlwind opening of the Wii (and related accessories) was followed up with "This is the best Christmas I EVER had", and MANY "ThankYouThankyouThankYou's".
Since we celebrate on Christmas Eve, and the Wii was the last to arrive, there was only a small window of time to set the Wii up, and "test it out" with a whirlwind crash course of Guitar Hero (Only to find that one of the guitars had a defect in it) before we had to call it a night.  I let the boys and #4 of 5 play with the other guitar (and maybe a Father of Five had to "test it out" once or twice too) before I had to pack all the pieces and parts back up to exchange it on Friday... 
Since I had to work on Christmas day, the kid's Wii time was spent sans me...  But from the looks of the aftermath, it appears they enjoyed themselves (at least until they had to leave for Grandma and Grandpa's house).  I met them after work, and did not get home until after 10pm.
Friday is another work-day (with a forced hold over until 7pm) for me - so my hope is that the kids will help mom clean the house up, and I can exchange the Guitar Hero (on the way home) and we can have a little Guitar Hero family jam session.
We are TRYING (trying being the key word) to hold them off just a bit.  New Years Eve / Day are days off for me - and we want to have a family Wii-fest that night.
We picked up the Wii (with Wii Sport), Wii Play (with the extra Wiimote), one extra nunchuk (for the extra Wiimote), DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) with an extra Dance Mat, Guitar Hero Aerosmith (the set with two guitars), and Guitar Hero Legends of Rock (just the game - the boys like classic rock)...  I would have liked to have picked up MarioKart, but...  a.) when I looked I could not find one, and... b.) it's a pretty expensive game.  We will get one in due time I am sure.
On a related note, I just found out that my nephews (The Two Texas Twins - now living in New York) also got a Wii for Christmas...  Yikes, it has been a Wii Christmas for sure!

FOF Observation #11

The "FOF Observations" are a series of "Perpetual Posts" where I will share with you, my readers, short little "one line" 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.


On any given day, you do not want to run out of toilet paper in a house with seven people. 
It is bad...  Trust me.

But you
want to run out of toilet paper with a house of seven people ON CHRISTMAS DAY
It is
REALLY BAD...  Trust me. 
Paper Towels just 'aint the same folks... (If ya know what I mean.)
First on the list of "after Christmas shopping" today...  Toilet Paper.
(Maybe I can find some "Christmas theme" T.P. at a significantly discounted rate!)

An Open Letter to a Dear Old Friend.

Dear Santa.

It has been many years since you last received a letter from me. But after last night - I felt the need to share a frustration I have, so that nothing comes between a couple of life-long buddies such as ourselves...

First off, I must acknowledge a couple of things about you...
Your eyes -- how they twinkle, and your dimples how merry!
Your cheeks are like roses, and your nose like a cherry!

Your droll little mouth is drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of your chin is as white as the snow;

The stump of your pipe is held tight in your teeth,
And the smoke from it encircled your head like a wreath;

You have a broad face and a little round belly,
That shakes, when you laugh like a bowlful of jelly.

You are both chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I realize that many laugh when they see you,
in spite of themselves.

All that does not change the fact that I spent two hours (two hours of my life that I will NEVER get back) helping you out, by pre-assembling a "certain gift" for a "certain little four-year-old-girl", that will (when she sees IMG_0049that gift) undoubtedly provide many fond memories of you for her. Her eyes will light up, and oooo, that smile... She will be so excited, and she will talk about the gift you are bringing for many years to come...

Despite all this, I get BUPKIS for the work I put in "helping you" !

While it is true that I enjoy assembling items, I have been on a bit of a time crunch the past few days. Assembling this particular gift for you was a bit of an inconvenience, and cut into my already inadequate sleep time.

So Santa, my dear old friend, I could not (in good faith) let this frustration just sit and fester between us without sharing it with you. I'd hate to see such a simple thing come between a lifelong friendship, like the one you and I share.

Maybe next year, you could have a couple of the elves help a Father of Five out...
What do you say?

Your dear old friend...

P.S. I hope this letter does not end up putting me on your "Naughty List".

When I Am Not At Home

I was going through my 2008 photos, and came across this picture (that I had forgotten that I had taken).
It was supposed to be a follow up to THIS POST by Postulates and Pasttimes.

When I am not at home, this is where I can usually be found.
(One of the 4 main consoles at work.)


A Few of My Favorite Things

One of the best things about living in a rural town is pulling into the gas station to gas up my car right next to a fella on a SNOWMOBILE, gassing his snowmobile right at the pump like a car!

I'll see if I can snap a photo in the next day or two... It's really a wonderful site!

I love "Trifecta Friday"

When "my Friday" (the last day of my work-week) ends on a true calendar Friday, and that happens to fall on a payday Friday - we call them "Trifecta Fridays".

This happens once every six weeks.

Trifecta Friday is followed with four (well needed) days off!

Since I am on the topic of "work"... Check out THIS LINK!
That made for an exciting morning!

A Christmas Treasure part 2

As a Follow up to A Christmas Treasure, I could not (in good faith) let it be unsaid that besides the Lionel Barrymore recording of A Christmas Carol (in all it's audio glory) there exists a VIDEO version of A Christmas Carol that holds a place my heart almost as big as the audio version.

Alistair SimGrowing up, another one of the Christmas Treasures I most looked forward to (in addition to listening to the LP of A Christmas Carol), was our family's tradition of taking in a theater screening of "Scrooge". 

Scrooge is the 1951 (originally black and white) film version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol staring Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge.

I have seen (and heard) many different versions of A Christmas Carol over the years, yet I can (without hesitation) state that I have seen, NONE (and by NONE - I mean Not. Even. One.) version that comes CLOSE to providing the joy in my heart that Alistair Sim's 1951 version does.

Much like the Lionel Barrymore LP version, the sentiment I feel for "Scrooge" (the film) runs much deeper than the dynamics of the movie itself.  You see, as very young children, "Scrooge" also became a part of our family's Christmas traditions when my parents brought us to the annual screening of "Scrooge" held at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts theater each year.  It was one of my favorite parts of Christmas, and something I looked forward to each and every year.  Seeing Scrooge as a boy with my family still remains one of my fondest childhood memories.

With the advent of VCR's and now DVD's - came the ability to see the movie in the comfort of my own home (which I do).  As convenient as this is, there is something lost in the meaningfulness of watching the movie as I did when I was a child.  We make an evening of it.  We curl up on the couch with blankets as a family, and turn the lights down.  It is still a lot of fun, and one of my favorite traditions - only it has changed slightly over the years, and become something slightly different.

I have often asked myself how much would I be willing to pay to have the opportunity go back in time (just for one day) and be that little boy - in all his innocence - going to see "Scrooge" at the Art Institute, holding hands with his mom and dad and little sister just one more time. 

Folks, please... Treasure the Christmas traditions you share with your kids.  They mean more than you can possibly imagine.

One of Life's Simple Pleasures #2

Simple Pleasures:

A series of posts where I share some of the little things that make a HUGE (positive) difference in the Life of a Father of Five!

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

I got ready for work early - anticipating a car that would not start.

I was pleased to discover that unlike yesterday (when my car almost did not start) - today - it started right up!

Man, as I get older - it get's easier and easier to make me happy.

Dangerous Nights

Temps tonight in the -16 to -20 degree range - with winds from the SE 5-10 miles per hour.

That gives us wind chill temps between -25 and -41 degrees..

Anyone up for some ice fishing?

My Christmas Gift to You!

Folks, it was not that long ago that I wrote about my favorite Christmas Tradition - Lionel Barrymore's "A Christmas Carol" on a 33 1/3 LP that I had converted over to CD a few years ago.

Well, thanks to my Best Bud Ed, he located a link to the audio on the net... and the best part?? It's FREE!!

The audio is considered "Open Source" and therefore available for EVERYONE to enjoy!

So, with many thanks to Ed, I would like to present each of you the link to download your own personal copy of my all time favorite version of A Christmas Carol!

The file is a 2.7mb mp3 file - and plays in 16kbps.

Here is a link to the Internet Archives web page. It has a built in player on the page, so if you choose not to download it, you can stream it - and listen to it right off the webpage. (There are a number of different versions listed - The version in question is #13 on that page).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

And, for those of you who want to get right to it, here is the direct download link.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

On a side note, another version (my second favorite) was also listed on that page. #1 - #6 is the Ronald Coleman version (another LP we used to own) of the same story. While I enjoyed that version as well, it does not hold the same place in my heart as the Lionel Barrymore version does.

Again, I can not thank Ed enough for finding (and sharing) these links... You are the greatest friend a guy could ask for!

A Christmas Treasure

We all have family traditions, or family memories that hold an undeniably special place in our hearts. It may be an ornament, a decoration, a special food item, or (in my case) a Christmas Recording.

For me, Christmas would not be Christmas without listening (at least once) to this recording.

Come on FOF, get to it already - what is this "recording" that holds so much meaning to you?

The recording that I am talking about is a vinyl LP (any one actually remember these things?) of "A Christmas Carol". It stars Lionel Barrymore as Ebenezer Scrooge, and is narrated by Richard Hale. This LP is one that my father purchased as a young adult when he bought his first "Hi-Fi" set.

AChristmasCarolFor as far back as I can remember (since I was maybe four or five years old) we have listened to this record. It holds so many memories, both fond and "frightening"

"Frightening" in that I lost my first Grandfather at age 5. (Thus confirming I must have been listening to this recording before I was five years old) because I have memories of being scared that my grandfather would return and visit with me (Much like Jacob Marley did.)

I would (at a young age) get so frightened while listening to this record - that there were times I would close my eyes, and cover my ears, and talk to myself so I did not have to hear Jacob Marley's voice. Yet, as frightened as I was by those portions of the story, I could not resist listening to it, and even asked to "play it again".

That LP became as much a part of my Christmas as our tree, eggnog, and Santa Claus was. I would (often) listen to that LP several times a day. I am (still to this day) able to recite the script, with matching vocal expressions, word for word.

Sadly, the day came when there was no longer a record player in my or my parents house. Thankfully, my father had a friend make a copy of the LP on cassette - and that took the place of the record for many years.

Close to ten years ago, (when eBay was still "fun" to shop) out of curiosity, I ran a search - and found another copy of the record. Wanting a "back up" copy, I IMMEDIATELY put a high bid on it - and won the auction. When it arrived home - I was delighted to find that it was the EXACT same recording, in the EXACT same cover, but with a different Label and Record company.

I started getting curious, and so I started my own little "History's Mysteries" surrounding this wonderful recording. Here is what I found.

Original Record - Lion Records - L70124 - A Christmas Carol - Lionel Barrymore [1959]

eBay purchase - MGM Records - E3222 - A Christmas Carol - Lionel Barrymore [1955-1956]

The MGM recording (eBay purchase) was the original recording of this version of "A Christmas Carol". It was sold as an MGM Labeled Record in their "E series" records.

The Lion Records version of the record was released in 1959. Lion Records was a subsidiary label of MGM Records that produced 12-inch vinyl LP's between 1958 and 1960 when it went defunct.

So, while my dad has (what is in my mind) the "original" LP, I discovered that the copy I own (the eBay purchase) is technically the "original" copy, and the LP I grew up listening to was, in reality, a re-issue.

Around that same time, I paid a co-worker (who was/is big into computers and electronic gadgets) to take my beloved LP, and make a CD version of it as a Christmas gift to my father (and as a back up copy for myself). He did an outstanding job of it - having to make several scans of the LP cover (due to it's size) and pieced them together to make a single color photo for the CD cover. It turned out BEAUTIFULLY!

My CD of "A Christmas Carol" continues to be one of my most prized possessions, and an important part of my Christmas each year!

Does my love affair with "A Christmas Carol" end there? No... No it does not. Stay tuned.

A First...

polish Today, I share with you a first in my life - courtesy of #5 of 5.

With the Mother of Five serving hot lunch - then going on a field trip with #4 of 5's class, I get some home-alone time with #5 of 5.

What was the first thing we did??

After we got home from preschool, she came running up to me with four little tiny bottles in her hand, and asked me to paint her fingernails...
PAINT HER FINGERNAILS?? I've mixed and sold paint. I have painted houses, walls, boats, and even cars (Tony, have you seen the "Pizza man"??)... But fingernails?? TINY HUMAN FINGERNAILS??
She chose two colors (one for each hand), and reminded me that I am to navigate around the one finger with a band-aid on it.

In the end, I was successfully able to paint her nails - without any previous training or experiences!

Father of Five in the news!

Well, more specifically, the "Father of Five" BLOG was recently in the news. 
I was contacted by Justin Piehowski a couple of days ago.  Mr. Piehowski is starting a new column on a local news website called MinnPost - A Thoughtful Approach to the News.
The Column is called the Minnesota Blog Cabin, (get it... A play on "Log Cabin") and today's inaugural post "Keeping an eye on the state's blogosphere" discusses what Mr. Piehowski is planning on doing in the future with, and what we can expect from his new column.  Mr. Piehowski writes...
"So, what can you expect to read about in my posts?

Stories of real Minnesotans who aren't afraid to use this new technology in an interesting and personal way.

You'll meet Minnesotans who are joining the global conversation, simply because they can. Should a Minnesota angle crop up on a national blog, we'll try point you there as well."
He goes on to list a few examples of what types of blogs he is talking about, and there...  Low and behold... lies the mention of The Life of a Father of Five!
I am both honored and humbled to be included in this list, and would like to personally thank Mr. Piehowski, and MinnPost for the mention.
If you landed here because of the article, I'd like to invite you to hang out for a wee bit.  There is nearly three years with of material (some good, some bad, and some ugly) here for you to peruse..  If you like what you see, leave me a comment(s) - and feel free to come on back anytime. 
If, on the other hand, you find FOF boring and monotonous (which is more likely the scenario) - I thank you.  I enjoy a life of (and wish I could have more) boredom and monotony.  That is who I am.  If that's not for you - I'm A.O.K. with that.  No hard feelings, I promise!  Thanks for stopping by, and may I suggest that you keep checking the Minnesota Blog Cabin for something that does tickle your fancy!  I feel Mr. Piehowski is onto something interesting here!

1,000 Socks

#4 of 5's "Multi-age Classroom" (2nd and 3rd grades were combined as a cost savings measure... Which, by the way, I am VERY pleased with the results of...) decided to do a service project for Christmas.
They chose the Sharing and Caring Hands organization, operated by Mary Jo Copeland.
For those of you who live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, you are very likely to know who Mary Jo Copeland is. For those of you who do not, (in a nut shell) she is considered a "Street Mother", a "Extraordinary Leader" and an "Urban Saint" for the poverty stricken and homeless of our community.
Back to #4 of 5's classroom. They chose to support Mary Jo Copeland's Caring and Sharing hands organization. The Sharing and Caring Hands Center provides for the needs of the homeless in our community. One of the needs that is provided, is clothing. They provides clothing (including shoes and socks) to those that are in need.
The Multi-Age classroom decided to start a "Sock Drive" for Caring and Sharing Hands. They set a goal of 1,000 pairs of socks by today.
I know they not only reached, but have exceeded their goal, and as of the last count that I heard, they were over 1,050.
But when you include our (yet to be delivered) contribution of 90 pairs... (30 from Grandma, 30 from Aunt Mary, and 30 from us) the total will be 1,140.
Nothing like waiting till the last minute, huh FOF? Well, that's what comes with trying to keep up with a herd like ours... Once and a while things get done at the last minute...
I say "better late than never"
Well, since I am confident that we were not the only "last minute" contributors (collections continued throughout mass this weekend) I am very anxious to find out what the total number socks collected will be.
I'm going to guess somewhere in the 1,400 range... But maybe I'm being optimistic...
I'll be sure to let you know when the final count comes in!

UPDATE: As of 12-09-08, #4 of 5's class raised a total of 1,222 pairs of socks!! WAY TO GO!!

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