Merry Christmas! (Better late than never…)

 

From our family to yours!

Back row:  Father of five, #2 of 5, #1 of 5, #3 of 5, Mother of five
Front Row:  #5 of 5, #4 of 5.


IMG_0436

A Guest Writer

My sister and I were talking the other day about a little bit of this and about a little bit of that when our conversation led us to a particular topic.  Afterwards, I told my sister that her thoughts would made a great story, and that she should write down as a fond memory for her kids to one day enjoy.  Not surprisingly, she did just that, then sent it to me. 

It is with her kind permission that I am posting her story (complete with her photos) here as a “guest writer”.

Enjoy! 


Welcome Back Guys…Its Been Way Too Long!
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says.”   - Revelation 3:22

PART ONE:  The Mystery Friends

Who? In the last month or so, I have had some regular visits to my house from a couple of old “guy” friends.  We go “way back.”  The three of us used to spend a lot of time together, and it’s been a long-standing friendship spanning a lot of time throughout my life.  These old friends just turned up “on my doorstep” recently, and it was a wonderful, unexpected surprise.   It’s a good thing my husband is a trusting man because they hang around off and on throughout the day most days now, and sometimes even late at night.  My two boys even like them, and don’t mind them hanging around.  They have even been around for mealtime, most especially around suppertime…funny though... they never ask to eat, and I don’t think it’s because of my cooking.


These friends must be a couple of really special people that I feel very comfortable around, because both have seen me in my pajamas…and even without makeup or hair done!  Sometimes, if they visit late in the evening after the kids go to bed, I might even share a glass of wine with one or both of them.  My husband supports, and even promotes, this behavior believe it or not.   (Again…I write for a G-Rated audience…so read on… -wink-)  When my friends come over, I don’t really talk to them much, or even really at all.  It’s not that kind of relationship.  With these two friends, I just listen.  I have a history of being a VERY good listener to my two friends.  After being away from these guys for such a long time, I am really enjoying hearing what they have to say to me.  I find comfort and inspiration by their presence, and we have a lot of fun together.  The old saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder" certainly is true about my friends.  Good friends lift each other up, and that’s what they do for me.  That’s how really good friends are over the years.   I hope they keep coming around for a long, long time.   I have really missed these guys.    


PART TWO:  Let Me Introduce You….  (Drum roll please)

Piano KeysI guess I will stop speaking cryptically at this point…although it’s kind of fun to get my audience thinking and guessing.  The two friends that I speak of are figurative  friends.  They are the piano composers George Winston and Jim Brickman (and  others like them, but these are my most favorite).  Oh, how I love the music of these two composers…or rather, their style of music.

I am a piano player…not a tremendously GREAT piano player…but a piano player none-the-less.  I won’t get into the story of how I began to play, and how I have played on and off over the years…that will be for another post.  But, I will give enough information now to tell this story, and how it relates to my two figurative friends.

I took piano lessons as a child, and loved to play, but it was never easy for me.  Looking back now with the insight of an adult, I think I never really learned the notes well because I have such an unbelievably strong ear.  My greatest strength (by far) in playing is most definitely “by ear.”  I can read music, but it is definitely not a strength of mine.  The word "struggle" would be a better description of my ability to read written music.  I can play most songs I attempt (with enough repetition and listening practice) by ear fairly well.  Without being conscious of what I was doing, I recall repeating songs by hearing them, as young as maybe 8 or 9 years old. 

George Winston - Winter Into Spring By the time I was about 14 or 15 years old, I was actively trying to learn to play using only my ears to guide me. Around the same time, whole new world of musical style opened up to me when I started to listen to the music of George Winston.  His style is so soulful and expressive.  It was a new and different style at the time, and it touched something deep inside my musical heart.  The only way I can describe this style is that it is akin to heartbeat… how I hear my own heartbeat.  I so loved this music, and it was available at the time on audio cassette only.  My first “tape” of his was entitled “Winter Into Spring.”  One of my favorites on the album was a song entitled “February Sea.” I so loved the song, however, it was not available in print at the time.  None of his music was.  It was long before the time of internet, and easily attainable music at the click of a mouse.  My only option at the time was to learn by listening. 


With much determination, I set my goal to learn the piece.  After listening to the song probably more than 100 times, both in part and whole, I finally learned the song...or at least my version of it.  I am surprised that I did not wear out the buttons on my “boom box.”  (I am also thankful to my very patient mother who was always so happy to hear me play, even when my music was far from perfect.)  It was amazing both to listen to…and imagine… now to actually PLAY!!!  What was amazing to me is that because of the relative difficulty of the piece, I would NEVER have been able to play it had I had the sheet music in front of me.  It was a strange sensation to be able to play a piece of this complexity without reading any written music.  Another odd thing I noticed was that I would make mistakes if I looked at my hands while I played.  Somehow, the mistakes would stop if I either closed my eyes while I played or looked in another direction away from my fingers on the keyboard.  That is definitely not the case with written music for me!  

After I mastered “February Sea,” I played the song a few times at some special events and “talent shows” at the high school I was attending.  The music teacher always gave me accolades for playing without a single note in front of me.  Most people who can read music well have no concept of playing without the guidance of the written note.  I am in the other “camp.”  I play best using my ears as my guide.  I default to printed notes if I must.  I wish I could read notes more, but I feel it is a weakness I will probably always struggle with.  Over the years, though, I have found great satisfaction in struggling to learn a written piece and finally being able to play it well in that form.  It’s kind of a learned satisfaction that I have come to appreciate over time.  It’s the kind of joy that emerges after a long struggle.

MN State Fair



From a friend at the time, I heard about a talent competition at the Minnesota State Fair.  After discussing it with my parents, with their encouragement, I decided to give it a try.  It was kind of scary to think of doing this, but I was determined.  A few weeks after trying out, I foundout that I was accepted into  the competition. 

 

On a clear and beautiful, late summer night, I played my song, “February Sea” in the bandshell at the Minnesota State Fair.  The combination of darkness with the stage lights proved to be an incredible sensation to the young girl that I was.  This was a very new feeling for me… playing in front of an audience of this magnitude!  The bandshell seated up to 5,000 people.  While it wasn’t filled to capacity, I can definitely say that it was mostly full.  I recall my parents sitting very near the front right next to where the piano was located on the stage.  I was so thankful to feel their presence with me! 

My Sis on the piano

When I walked onto the stage, my nervousness subsided (with lots of prayer!) and I played without a single mistake.  I think that is part of what happens when you play by ear.  The music becomes muscle memory, and the mind becomes submissive to the hands.  As I played, I lost the audience.  The music and I were the only ones in company together.  It was an indescribable feeling, one I have never since felt, but one that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life.  


PART THREE:  Postscript - There’s Always A Lesson In The Story …

My Sis after the show
There were all kinds of “acts” performing that night.  I wasn’t really concerned about who would “win,” or who would come in what place. 

For me, it was about sharing the music I had worked so hard to learn in such an unconventional way. 

As it turns out, I did make 3rd place in over 25 varying acts.

In the last month or so, I have once again taken up regular practice on the piano.  With our sons out of the very young childhood age, I now feel like I have the time and energy to be able to devote to the piano once again.  While I will likely never be considered a “great” pianist, and will likely never be able to read music well, I am very much enjoying the talent that God intended me to have.  Recognizing the true value of this specific gift has helped me realize something...If I spend too much energy on wishing that I can do something that I likely may never be able to, I waste precious time in developing the talents either I do have, or have not even discovered yet.

As I look back at the joy and the gifts my ear has brought me, I don’t think I would exchange my “ear” for perfect music reading skills if given the choice.  It definitely is not an easy means of learning music, but maybe there is more to it than that.  Maybe God gave me my “ear” to really pay attention to “hear” things in my life, of my family and friends, and those around me.  After all, one has to be a good listener to play by ear!   I hope I can always (as the Revelation verse says) "hear what the Spirit says with my ear."  It’s an interesting thought to ponder…  I now choose to recognize, embrace, and fully claim the gift of “ear” that God gave me.  I see how it has added so much satisfaction and joy to my life.  What I initially thought was a weakness, I see now, has actually always been a strength.  How you look at something sometimes makes all the difference.    

Daytime view of MN State Fair Bandshell

 

 

 

Daytime View of the Bandshell

 

 

 

 

 

 


Muscle memory definitely is one that stands the test of time.  26 years later, I can still play “February Sea,” (even after not playing it for months, and even years!) and I still have to look away or close my eyes if I make mistakes!

Youtube link to "February Sea"  by George Winston

 


The piece that I am learning and working on now is called “If You Believe” by Jim Brickman.  Technology sure makes things easier today!  Instead of constantly rewinding my “tape,” I can keep my laptop adjacent to the piano, and play along during the difficult parts!!!  Its really the perfect marriage between ear and written music.  I have officially made it through the first page, and I can’t wait to master the rest… –smile-*

Youtube link to "If You Believe" by Jim Brickman


Christmas Preparation

Christmas preparation (among numerous other obligations) have really put a damper on the time I have available to update The Life of a Father of Five.  I have a couple of SIGNIFICANTLY overdue posts that I still need to complete, but I want to give them the attention they deserve – So they are on the back burner for a little bit.  (That’s ok.  After all, I just recently posted about not pressuring myself into blogging, and left some feedback for a new dad blogger who was dealing with similar feelings himself.)

One of the Christmas Preparation items I had on my To-Do list was to help the girls’ school set up the stage and risers for their Christmas program.  We started on Sunday, but had to finish up on Monday morning.  After starting bright and early Monday morning, we had to stop for a church service held by Deacon Gary.  I ran home completed a couple of other tasks, returned to St. John’s and we started back up.  Just as I was finishing the last of the connections on the risers, I heard the distinct sounds of a class on their way in to the church to practice for the program. 

I was delightfully surprised to see it was #5 of 5’s class!!  (The surprised look on her face and that little wave of her hand brightened my day like nothing else could have!!)

So I finished up the riser, gathered up my tools, and snapped a couple of pictures (snapped a couple of pictures is code for “got a sneak peek of the class’s contribution to the annual Christmas Program”).

#5 of 5 is in the front row – second from the right side – wearing white tights.  Sorry for the low quality photos, my camera phone is “adequate” at best. 

Christmas Program Prep  Christmas Program Prep Christmas Program Prep

I Had a Plan!

The two previous Thanksgivings, I had a plan.  Two years ago it was not much more than a thought in my head.  I never followed through.  I told myself I would try again “next year”. 

Last year I came even closer to implementing my plan.  I posted a couple of “teases” about it on FB.


“Trying to decide…  Is this the year???” (link)
(which was followed up with several witty comments by my friends)

“If it's going to be this year, I need to pull the trigger today! ("trigger", not "finger")” (link)
(which was also followed up with several witty comments by my friends)


I never did announce what the plan was.  (Truthfully, I wanted to document the experience here – and did not want to ruin the surprise) So, I told myself that I would try again “next year”.

So, here we are at “next year”.  I had a couple of precursory reminders of my plan.  First, in the form of a coupon and recipe that came in the newspaper – then in the form of a little “father / daughter time”. 

As a little extra inspiration, I sent another “ambiguous” facebook update..  


“Ooooo. I got a plan!!!” (link)
(which was followed up with several witty comments by my friends)


The parking lot of my White CastleSo as I woke for work (at 3am) on Wed. morning, I planned on grabbing my coupon / recipe on my way out the door.  It should be no surprise to many of you when you discover that when I arrived at work I realized that I forgot the coupon and recipe.  I did not care.  I was gong to fulfill the plan regardless.

By the end of the day I had almost forgotten about the plan – that was until a co-worker who I had spoken to about my plan reminded me!  As I left work, I called home to check which of the ingredients we had, and which ones we needed – stopped by and picked up all that we needed from the grocery store, and then – stopped for the main ingredient.

WHITE CASTLE STUFFING!!!

Ingredients for White Castle StuffingI arrived home with ingredients in hand.  Immediately #5 of 5 recognized the bag – and that brought #4 of 5 out to check what was going on too.  I told them of my plans, and asked if they would join me in my endeavor.     

The girls ate dinner, then we cleaned the kitchen and gathered the necessary ingredients and tools to get the job done!

We washed hands, and started digging in.  First step, cut, rip, tear, chop, slice, or disembowel 10 plain White Castle hamburgers (no ketchup, mustard or pickles).

 

 

 Cutting the burgers for White Castle Stuffing   Cutting the burgers for White Castle Stuffing

Be sure to check out the video too! 
(Am I doing this right?  As long as there are no chunks of fingers in there then you are!)

Once the burgers were all cut, ripped, torn, chopped, sliced, and disemboweled – it was time to add the rest of the ingredients.  1 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoon ground sage, 3/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper, and 1/4 cup chicken broth.  I had the girls “toss” the cut, ripped, torn, chopped, sliced, and disemboweled burgers while I sifted and poured in the other ingredients.

Mixing up some White Castle Stuffing

We spent about 30 minutes in total putting it together.  (I think it could have been done in much less time but we made it a fun little adventure – so it took a little longer.)

I gotta say (although, as a White Castle fan you could say I am biased) but by the time we were done, and it was all assembled – it was really looking (and smelling) quite intriguing!  By “intriguing” I mean good! 

I took only one very tiny “taste” before putting in the refrigerator – It tasted surprising a lot like a traditional stuffing!

White Castle Stuffing

Once we were finished, I sent out one last “ambigious” Facebook update…


“I love it when a "plan" comes together!!!” (link)
(which was followed up with several witty comments by my friends)


I’ll be sure to report back how it turns out!

If YOU want to try the White Castle Stuffing recipe yourself, I’d urge you to give it a try.  Click HERE!

Father, Daughters, and White Castle Stuffing

 

 

Many special thanks to my very talented and quite talented “kitchen staff” for helping make my (three years in the making) “plan” a “reality”. 

You guys (well, gals) are the best!

A Dying Breed?

I’ve noticed more than a couple of posts recently from “dad blogs” that I frequent (on an semi-infrequent basis) that have decided to call it quits. They cite several reasons for the demise (many which I myself have struggled with from time to time, and a few that I have not).

My observations is that there seems to be an informal threshold of somewhere in the four to six year lifespan on blogging. This frightens me a little bit. I am well through my fifth year, and quickly approaching my sixth year – and the quantity (and maybe even quality) of content on FOF is also waning.

I’d be lying if I were to tell you that I have not contemplated the idea a couple of times. I mean, after six years – how much more is there to talk about? When I do have a little moment of inspiration to write about something – the first thing that often pops up in my mind is… “Wait, didn’t you already write about that?” (And frequently, the answer is yes.)

I certainly cannot deny that my involvement, commitment, and interaction with FOF has changed over the years. I have gone from a almost 200 post per year rate down to (so far this year) only 51 posts. Many things contribute to this - my available time, my available energy, my available creativity. Yet, here I am – once again investing a little more of that precious time, energy, and creativity to share my thoughts with someone(?), anyone(?), no one(?) here on “The Life of a Father of Five”.

It also has to be said… Facebook has drastically changed (not only) the blogging community, but truthfully all social media and (I think one could argue) the internet as a whole.

I don’t vilify or regret my involvement with FB. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I have had wonderful experiences connecting with old friends, as well as enhancing new friendships (many which started through blogging) on FB. FB offers a different level of interaction and connection with people that blogging does not offer. Yet, let’s not forget the inverse sentiment. A blog offers something different (more) than FB offers.

I have found myself (like many others have) asking “why”. Why maintain this blog? I have numerous partial (unfinished) posts, numerous planned posts, and even more “missed opportunity” posts occupying space in my brain. It gets a bit overwhelming at times. So far I have been very careful (and to a certain point, succusful) in drawing a line in the sand, and have kept FOF an enjoyable outlet vs just another task to add to my already busy and hectic schedule. Maybe that is what keeps it working for me.

Here is what I know to be true. FOF is MY little slice of the internet. I control the content. I control the interaction. I control the privacy. I control the layout. The Life of a Father of Five is what I WANT IT TO BE, and that is what is important to me. If I choose to post once a day, or once a week, or once a month, or once a year, it does not matter. If I get a thousand hits a day or only one, it does not matter. If anyone actually reads my content or not, it doesn’t matter (goodness knows I am not winning any literary awards for my meaningless drivel) – and I am satisfied with it that way!

Life has a way of changing and so it would go without saying that FOF has and will continue to ebb and flow much in the same way. Even though I may not be present here as often as I may have in the past – I have no intentions of calling it quits. The feelings I have expressed, the experiences I have shared, the things I have learned, the friends I have made are and will continue to be an important part of who I am.

And as far as those that may still be here with me on this journey (and God willing, enjoying the ride), I thank you. Thank you for allowing me to express my feelings, share my experiences, and learn a little bit together. You all have become some of the best friends around – real or virtual. You all are the frosting on the cake of “The Life of a Father of Five”.

My Daughter’s First

She’s seven years old, and as far as I can recall, this was the first time…

At White Castle with my daughterYup!  She has now officially been indoctrinated into the wonderful world of the White Castle!!

After work I had to drive home, pick up #4 of 5 and bring her back to the Mother of Five’s workplace so that they could go do some clothes shopping together.  With the boys home in full-on “Skyrim” mode I had my doubts that they would even know that#5 of 5 was in the house - So, I decided to take her with me, and after dropping #4 of 5 off, I would take #5 of 5 out for some Father/Daughter time!

After dropping #4 of 5 off, I told #5 of 5 I had a surprise for her.  She kept asking me what it was, but I wouldn’t tell her until we pulled into the parking lot.  I think I may have disappointed her just a little bit because I got a moderately un-enthusiastic “oh….” after telling her we were going to have dinner together at White Castle.

She said she had eaten there before, but it was so long ago that she does not remember it…

(Just try and wrap your head around that logic…  Indeed, she is a deep thinker!)

 

At White Castle with my daughterI ordered for us, let #5 of 5 pick out our booth, and we filled our sodas while we waited for our sliders.  (She mixed a “suicide soda” (where you mix a little bit of all the sodas from the fountain together in the same cup.))   We returned to the booth, and I explained what was about to come her way!

FOUR (yup, count them… 1, 2, 3, 4) burgers and an order of fries!! 

“Nuh-uh Daddy.  You did not order me four hamburgers.”
“Yup, I sure did sweetie!”
“Nuh-uh”
“Yup”
“Nuh-uh”
“Well, we will just have to wait and see then, won’t we?”

 

Maybe next time she will listen to her ‘ol man, eh?

 

Over the next ten minutes we ate our sliders together.  Then, after ten minutes, I was finished and got to spend the next thirty-five minutes watching her eat (did I mention she is a “putsy” eater) while we visited and were being silly together.  (Did you know that she can “double-fist” her french-fries – THREE in each hand?!?!  Did I mention that I have an AWESOME daughter!!)   After what seemed like an eternity of her uncanny ablity to eat at the speed of molasses, she (finally) announced that she was full.

I finished off what she had not eaten (I’m a good dad like that ya know) and we started packing up…   She then pointed out to me that the boxes could be arranged to form a “Castle” and that that is why they call the place “White Castle”  (again, with the deep thinking).

At White Castle with my daughter     At White Castle with my daughter  

I don’t know if it was the burgers, or the one-on-one company of her daddy, but she sure seemed to have a good time!  I know I sure did!

Madness at Midnight – Skyrim!

Skyrim Since June of this year #2 of 5 has been eagerly awaiting the release of a new video game.

Skyrim – the fifth game in The Elder Scrolls series… (Think “Dungeons and Dragons”)

He had saved money from his summer job – paid the reservation fee, kept track of the paperwork, and never lost focus (which is very unusual for him) as we slowly crept towards the (symbolic, or just slightly unique) release date of… 11-11-11.

Despite the much hyped “Midnight Release” of the game (that I secretly suspected he wished to partake in), #2 of 5’s “official plan” was to have me pick him up after school, take him to GameStop (where he had his game reservation), and then come home, where he and a friend (who is also an Elder Scrolls fan) would play until they, the television, or the Xbox360 dropped over in exhaustion.  I let him believe that was going to be the plan – that is, up until The Mother of Five was turning in for the night.

We had previously discussed it, and decided that (even though it was a school night and I had to be up early in the morning) I would (as a surprise) take the boys up and experience a “Midnight Video Game Release”.   (To be honest with you, I was a little curious myself.)

I was not disappointed.

I called the store ahead of time and got the “low down” on how this all works…

-  Store closes at 9pm.
-  Store reopens at 10pm.
-  Customers bring in their preorder receipt.
-  Customers pay their balance, and get their receipt stamped “Paid”.
-  Customers get in line waiting for midnight.
-  After midnight, customers present receipt stamped “paid” and receive their shiny new copy of Skyrim.

While not part of the “official” low down, based on my observations, I’d like to add one more bullet point.

- Customer takes their shiny new copy of Skyrim home, and begins an all night caffeine fueled video game bingefest until the collapse from exhaustion.

So, at the end of an already long day we headed out, arriving at the store just before 11pm where #2 of 5 fulfilled all his “pre-midnight” requirements.  There was close to 30 other customers in the store at this time.

 Skyrim Release Skyrim Release Skyrim Release

(Yeah, I do look pretty tired in that pic… Thanks for asking)

By 11:05pm the stream of customers entering the store to fulfill their “pre-midnight” requirements started growing and the line of customers who had their stamped receipt was overtaking the store – so the staff had to move the stamped receipt line outside the store.

Skyrim Release Skyrim Release


temps

 

 

For those of you who are not licensed math teachers….  Let me share a little equation with you…

November (+) Minnesota (x) 1 hour standing outside (=) Cold
(even for a “well insulated” native Minnesotan such as myself)

Thankfully, the neighboring coffee shop has free open WiFi that helped distract me from the cold by allowing me to pass the time on Facebook (As some of you may recall.)

 

 


#2 of 5 was the twelfth in line – ahead of him was a large group of what appeared to be friends.  Behind him the line stretched out along the strip mall.  I watched from the sideline as the line grew longer and longer by the minute.  There were some common themes among the attendees.  (Prepare for some sarcastic stereotyping ahead - Yet remember that humor often depends upon elements of truthfulness).  The group was…

 

- Predominantly male (while borderline crude, to call it a “sausage fest” would not be an exaggeration)

- 16-25 age demographic (Fitting)

- “I still live in my parent’s basement” (Need I say more?)

- A fair amount of acne. (Too busy gaming to worry about hygiene.)

- Goth, emo, skater, or just plain unkempt (hobo like) appearance.

- A large representation from extreme ends of the “body frame bell curve” (“emaciated” or “corpulent”)

- Black clothing (skinny jeans, trench coats, Converse All-Stars, etc)

- Body piercings

- Overly caffeinated bravado and machismo. (Not sure why, see first observation)

- Extreme braggardly, theatric and exaggerated stories, jokes, and tales told from their tremendous base of knowledge and life experiences.

Yeah, I joke a little there, but they were the typical gamer type…  Nothing to out of the ordinary.  Expected behaviors – a little profanity, bizarre humor (I’m pretty certain I heard more than one Monty Python quote), and lots of “gamer talk”…  Enough to make me quietly smile (and sometimes subtly shake my head in disbelief) as I listened in.  Nothing I would not expect to hear from any group of 16-25 year olds.  Yet, all seemingly pretty decent.


Skyrim Release

 

 

 

Although there was one customer there that deviated SIGNIFICANTLY from the standard demographic. 

Gaming Grandma or picking up a copy for her son / grandson. 

You make the call. 

(FYI – Pretty cool of her to be there either way in my opinion!!)

 

 

 


grape cigarsI do have one tip for the group at the head of the line though…  Take it from a seasoned cigar smoker.  Grape flavored cigarillos not only smell HORRIFIC (and I can only imagine how they would taste), they do NOTHING for your “manliness”…  If you are going to enjoy a cigar, it’s time put your big boy pants on, and smoke a REAL cigar. 

Suggestions include: Romeo y Julieta, H. Upman, Arturo Funte, or La Gloria Cubana. 

(A nice oily Maduro would give you extra manliness points!)  

As we waited and the line grew much longer, one car driving through the parking lot caught my attention.  It was driving with its windows down (slightly unusual for a November night in Minnesota).  I watched it as it slowly drove past the long line of customers.  From where I stood (away from the line) I could hear the passenger yell “Fags” with a volume that I could hear, but those standing in line (talking about all things video game related) did not hear.  I even turned to see if anyone noticed…  Only one person (besides myself) did.  Then from several lanes away, the driver and passenger started yelling much louder (enough to be noticed) – but they were so far away it was intelligible.   So much for the haters.

The time came – Midnight… The witching hour… 11-11-11… SKYRIM!!

   Skyrim Release

Staff popped out and started counting off.  They let the first ten in.  As quickly as they went in, they were heading out – game (or in one case a Skyrim themed Xbox system).  #2 of 5 was second or third in line in the next group.  I quickly snapped a photo, and before I could even switch from camera to video mode, he had his game in hand and was already heading (skipping?  You be the judge) out the door – game in hand.

I was a little worried at first… He was so excited that I contemplated putting plastic down over the car seats, just in case he was going to have an “accident” in the seat of the van… (Thankfully, he was able to hold his bladder…)

Once we are safely in the car #2 of 5 turns to me and says “Oh my gosh Dad, did you see all the “freaks” out there?”  I look over to him and simply shake my head.  I don’t think he fully understood the irony in his statement.  After all, wasn’t he (we) just a part of that circus?

I fully accept and embrace my freaky geeky self.  #2 of 5 has not yet come to terms with his…

Skyrim ReleaseWe made it home where #2 of 3 wanted me to picture text a couple of his friends with a photo of him and his newly obtained treasure (mocking them, I suspect).  After sending said text, I was able to snap one last picture before he headed off to bed - scurrying downstairs with the game curled tightly in his arm like Gollum and  his “precious”.

As I contemplated writing this post, it occurred to me…  Ya know, if Skyrim was came  out when I was 16 – I would have wanted to wait in line too!!

Question for my readers….

How long do you think before I’ll be able to squeak out a few minutes of Xbox time (that is not monopolized by the boys and Skyrim) to play ??   

Winning a Sentry Safe Giveaway!

Product reviews, offers and giveaways are (from my experience) a big part of blogging.  I get frequent requests to accept a free trial of some sort of product in exchange for my review of it.  Most times these offers come with the opportunity to host a contest, and give away a second item as a means of drawing in some additional web traffic, and advertising.  (Ya know, I really ought to take these offers up from time to time!

Several of the blogs I frequent host these giveaways.  Normally, I do not enter, but if I happen upon one with a product I have really wanted, needed, or could have use for - I have been known to drop my name in the hat once or twice.

Back in September another Dad Blogger I read (The Dad of Divas) hosted one of these product giveaways. 

It just so happened that he was reviewing and giving away a product that I truly had need for an upgrade, and something I had been frequently considering, but always fell short of actually purchasing.  (As a Father of Five, when isn’t there something that comes up to take away any extra money I may have?)

Dad of Divas hosted the Sentry Safe Big Bolts Hands Down Safety to All Review and Giveaway

Sentry Safes had recently developed a new product line they call their “Big Bolt” safes. (Aptly named after the 60% increase in the size of the bolts in the mechanism that locks the safe shut).

A few years back we found ourselves in the position of needed an area where we can securely lock up some of our more valuable items…

FYI – the term “Valuable” is subjective.  We do not own a lot of “expensive” items, but we do have some things that are “valuable” (as in irreplaceable), and a lot of “important” items.

We filled that need with a $9.99 Wal-Mart “fire safe” (seen below).  It is (effectively) a double walled tin box with some fiberglass insulation stuffed between the outside and inside walls. 

lockbox   lockbox

While the box served a purpose, it certainly had its limitations and “issues”. 

As you can see, the handle had broken - We had somewhere along the line we needed to gain access to the box.  Having misplaced the key, I had used a screwdriver to bust apart the lock tumbler. – eliminating what little security the box provided – And frequently the box was stuffed to the brim, not allowing the (unlockable) lid to close tightly, eliminating what little fire protection the box provided.

As a Police and Fire Dispatcher, you would think I would know better, eh?  I could just as easily put all our items in a shoebox and had them just as protected.   

Dad of Diva’s product review was just what we needed!  I took all the steps I needed to do to enter the contest, (at least the ones I had not already done, having already networked with Dad of Divas through the blogging community), and waited.

The day after the contest was over, I did notice a couple of odd hits on my blog – hits that referred back to the Dad of Divas’ Sentry Safe Big Bolts Hands Down Safety to All Review and Giveaway – but there was no winner listed, and no email in my inbox.  I had assumed that someone else had been chosen.

Two days later I received an email from Dad of Divas.  He was congratulating me on being selected, and asked that I get back to him within 48 hours to confirm my win with him!!  (Actually, I had received the email the day before but never got around to checking my email to the next day.)  Worried about having lost almost 24 hours already, I quickly replied to Dad of Divas with my gratitude and excitement!!  He assured me I had reached him in time, and seemed equally excited for me!!

Late last week as I arrived home from work I noticed a HUGE box in my driveway!  I immediately recognized it for what it was.  I struggled to get the box inside the house (it weighs 100 lbs).  I decided to wait until the next day to open it since it had been sitting out in the cold all day. 


IMG_0505

 

 

The next morning was like Christmas for me!  I jumped out of bed, and began un-boxing my new safe!  It was BEAUTIFUL!  I started searching through all the paperwork (warrantee, instructions, etc) for the combination – and almost gave up before noticing that I had overlooked it a number of times.

 

 

 


IMG_0509

 

 

I ran through the combination once unsuccessfully, and a second time it would not open before my whirring mind reminded me that this was a COMBO safe!  I needed both the key and the combination!  A quick twist of the key and voilà – the safe door opened!

 

 

    

 


The first thing that struck me as I opened it was the massive feel of the door, and the size of the “big bolts”.   These are indeed some massive sized bolts that lock this safe shut!  

IMG_0508    IMG_0507


The safe came with a handy adjustable tray, hardware to permanently mount it to the floor, and all the necessary documentations, warrantee paperwork, and instructions.  (Not to mention a box big enough to be metamorphosed into a "toy” by the girls!)  

I had so much fun going through the old “tin box”, organizing the items, and helping them find a spot in their new home!  As you can see from the photo, my new Sentry Big Bolts Safe is so roomy, all the items that were STUFFED into the (overflowing) tin box can hardly be seen!  With everything I previously had in the box (and more) there is room to spare (although I do have more paperwork and photos I want to store).  This thing has TONS of room in it!!  I am thinking when I am all said and done, that I may even have extra safe space to “rent” out!! 

IMG_0506   IMG_0511

I am more than pleased with the quality of this safe!  If you are shopping for a safe and have any concerns, let me assure you that Sentry has done an amazing job of putting together something that not only looks beautiful, but is so roomy and functional as well! 

One point…  I have not tested one aspect of the functionality of this safe.  Even though Sentry has done extensive testing, and that I have no doubt that it will live up to it’s expectations -  Let’s hope that I never have to test or review the “fireproofness” of the safe! 

As a well known world class “worrier”, it will feel so good knowing that once I have all the items I want protected safely tucked away in the safe!  It will be one less thing adding to the “noise” in my already overactive head.  (But what if… But what if… But what if…)

I want to personally thank Dad of Divas for hosting the Sentry Safe Big Bolts Hands Down Safety to All Review and Giveaway – and thank Sentry Safes for the generous (and much needed) upgrade!      

“Family” (quotation marks intended)

As I grow older I am discovering something about myself.  I do not know if it is unique to me, or to my circumstances, but I did noticed a recent indication that this is something that it may not be so unique just to me.  


I attended a relatively small Catholic Elementary / Junior High school from Kindergarten through eighth grade.  Nativity of Mary in Bloomington, Minnesota (although I switched from St. Kevin’s to Nativity in 3rd grade). After 8thgrade, I attended the Academy of the Holy Angles in Richfield, Minnesota (a Catholic High School also considered small compared to the public school alternatives) along with a large number of the kids I grew up at Nativity with.

As with most kids, we all had our “groups” that we spent most of our time with, and groups we did not socialize with as much.  As we progressed on to  high school some of us went in different directions (attending different High Schools), but those that continued on together adjusted, expanded, and morphed our relationships with each other.

I fell into what I would consider the “leftover group”.  We did not fall into any of the typical categories (athletic, artistic, popular, etc) and so by default we bonded into our own makeshift “hobo-group”.  I found that even through High School these groups did not intermingle much but overall we got along pretty well.

As the saying goes…  Time and tide wait for no man.  We all graduated, and moved on – college, careers, family, jail, whatever.  Friendships and relationships again adjusted, expanded (or shrank), and morphed into something different.

Career and family followed college for me.  I am now a fully vested family man (ahem… “Father of Five).  My time is spent working, and maintaining my home and family.  Somewhere around ten years ago or so I came to the realization that that through this life as a father of five, I had lost contact with all but a few of the friends I have made through the years.  Admittedly, it was a little depressing to ponder, but it was my life.  I have since learned to accept it, and adjust.  Friendships are a luxury at this point – a luxury that comes at the cost of career or family.

Then along came Facebook.  Suddenly, I started noticing old friends and classmates that I had not spoken to for years – some even decades – popping up here and there.  Facebook has made searching and finding old friends easy, and made connecting with those old friends even easier!  Sure, there are those folks that I did not have a lot of interaction with, and that I still don’t – but it’s still nice getting a little snapshot of what life is like outside the walls of my work and family, and with old friends I would not normally hear from.


Very recently, one of those friends (from both Nativity and Holy Angels) experienced a tragedy.  She unexpectedly lost a parent.  This friend is one of the classmates that I was a little more closer with, and have kept in touch with from time to time throughout the years.  Besides our shared scholarly tenure, we have an extended connection through church and my work  (her family had a significant involvement in the Bloomington Volunteer Rescue Squad, along with having taught several police officers, firefighters and EMTs.)

This classmate shared her loss on Facebook.  As I read through the sympathetic comments left for her, I noticed a large number of classmates from both Nativity and Holy Angels.  It was there that I stumbled upon one comment in particular that truly caught my attention.

 

“…I feel like all my Nativity friends are more like close cousins.  Therefore, I’m sure your collective family feels this and sends you a virtual hug…”

                                                                                -Mike Burns

That was it!  Wise words indeed Mike!

Nativity of Mary Bloomington Minnesota 1983 There have been many people in my life.  Yet, as I travel backwards, I see that “pool” get smaller and smaller.  From the thousands of industry, peer, and co-workers I deal with now, to the anonymity of College, to my high school class of less than 150, down to the roughly 50 kids I went to elementary and junior high with.  Many whom I still have contact with.

I don’t know how many other (or if any) of my classmates from Nativity feel the same way, but from my perspective - good, bad, or otherwise, this small group of people were such a big part of so many of my formative developmental years and we shared so many experiences that even now (28 years later) that whenever I have contact with one of my old classmates, I DO feel a different sort of connection and bond with them.  It DOES feel almost like a small family.

If you are one of my old Nativity classmates, I’d like to wrap this up with a special message for each and every one of you.  Whether you were one of my closest friends, part of the other groups I had less contact with, or somewhere in between - I look back at my time with you and at Nativity with great fondness.  Sure, growing up is not without its ups and downs, but what life experience isn’t?  

So… I am sending out my most sincere “thank you” to each and every one of you for being part of that family.

Sometimes I Disappoint Myself

It was the end of a long day.

I had worked a fourteen hour shift. The Mother of Five worked also. My shift ended at 9pm, hers ended at 9:30pm. She had texted me earlier that day saying she had to do some last minute grocery shopping after work. Since I pass her workplace on my way home I decided to stop and help her out.

We did our grocery shopping at the Wal-Mart next door to her workplace. Afterwards we headed back out to the parking lot and began loading up our trunks. It was late. Late, dark, and cold.

As I was loading my trunk I thought I heard a very fait (almost mousy) voice saying "excuse me sir". I looked behind me and saw nothing. I went back to loading up my trunk, and again heard a faint "excuse me sir". I looked up over the trunk lid and noticed a small woman (I suspect she was Somali). She was dressed in traditional hijab. She was quite petite and appeared young,. I noticed she had her diverted her gaze downwards as she tried to get my attention.

I asked her if she was talking to me. Again, in a very timid voice (while not looking me directly in the eye) she asked if I had "cables" to help her start her car. (I had assumed she referred to "jumper cables" and that her car's battery was dead.) She pointed over to a vehicle that had another woman (also dressed in hijab) one row away from where I was parked. Unfortunately, I did not. I had taken them out to make room in my trunk a couple of weeks back and have since forgotten to return them. I apologized and said I did not. I explained to her that I normally do, but I had removed them a few days prior, and had not returned them. I could see the disappointment in her face. I watched her plight as I finished loading up my groceries, and finally headed out. She asked one other man who appeared to ignore her as he kept walking past her - and another woman who did briefly stop, but continued to her car and left without helping her.

I could not help but wonder…

I wondered what this young woman was thinking. I wondered if she was afraid to approach me for help. I wondered if she thought I was lying to her to avoid helping her. I wondered if she thought I may have been "stereotyping" her as a woman - as a person of a different race - as a person of a different faith. I wondered if she thought of me as just another "westerner", as someone would not help her because I may have stereotyped her. (Now am I stereotyping her for stereotyping me?) I also wondered if it is possible that I am reading way more into this. It may be just as likely that they thought nothing more of my inability to help them as just that… An honest answer.

I have to admit… This morning I am feeling badly. I realized that I drove off leaving these poor women standing alone in the parking lot of Wal-Mart (which in itself can be frightening), in the cold, in the dark, dressed in a manner that (I suspect) would cause some people to not want to help them, and with a disabled car. I witnessed at least two other people (at best) unable to help them or (at worst) ignore their plea for help.

Looking back, I regret not having done more. If nothing else, even though I did not have the cables, I could have (SHOULD HAVE) stayed with them and tried to help them locate someone who would have been willing and able to assist them.

Jake

Today, Best Bud Ed and his family had to make the very difficult, yet ultimate selfless act of sending their beloved four legged family member Jake to a better place. 

JakeMy heart aches for the pain they are going through, while at the same time I commend them for having the courage and fortitude to make the most difficult decision to put Jake's needs before their own pain and sorrow.  It is the ultimate gift.

I am comforted in knowing that Jake is free from the pain that he had been experiencing, and is now running the eternal trails - chasing squirrels, flushing up pheasants and grouse, and eating the occasional ice cream cone.

Jake became a constant companion for my Best Bud Ed.  Wherever you saw one, there was the other.  Hiking, picnicking, hunting, camping, fishing, hanging out by the fire, heck Jake even has his own GeoCaching handle!

Jake the über Geo-Dog

I spoke briefly with Ed after work today.  I called him to see how he and his family was holding up, and to let him know I was with him in thought, and in spirit.  While speaking to him, I could perceive his heavy heart, but could also sense a feeling of relief, knowing that Jake was free from his suffering.  I don’t know if he could tell from his end of the phone, but I shed tears for him.     

Ed only spoke with me a few minutes.  He was packing his family up and heading to a specially chosen resting place for Jake.

Ed, rest well my friend.  You and your wonderful family have given Jake the best thing a dog so deserving could ever receive – thanks to you, he lived a full and amazing life and will be forever honored in our memories.     

FOF Observation #23

Tonight's tempsI had a "glass is half full" moment tonight.

I realized that scoring "husband points" just got a heckuva lot easier now that I have a kid with a Learner's Permit!

I can drag #2 of 5 with me under the pretence that "he needs practice" when I go to gas up the Mother of Five's van. Once at the gas station I “get to” send the kid out to fill the tank while I get to stay in the nice warm van!

This is even more "glass is half full" as we quickly approach another Minnesota winter!

Now, if only I could find a way to get #2 of 5 to use HIS debit card instead of MINE when it comes to paying for the gas!  I could score husband points, while staying warm, and keeping a little extra green in my wallet! 

 


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.

Off to a Great Start?

I was running just slightly on “this side” of being late.

I had made a PB & J sandwich for breakfast, and since I suffer with Schatzki Ring sensitivity (even though it’s one of my favorite things in the world) I cannot eat PB & J without something to drink, so (as I often do) I took an open glass of apple juice with me.

In the darkness of my garage at 6am (and with my dome light inside my car turned off) I climbed in, set my sandwich, lunch, and other “stuff” down in the passenger seat, set the glass of apple juice on the dashboard then proceeded to remove the Taco Bell soda cup (the size of a small town’s water reservoir) that was occupying the cup holder. As fate would have it, this “cistern” of soda just happened to be full (nearly to the brim), and just as I picked it up the snap on lid popped off. Without the lid to hold the integrity of the cup, the cup lost its shape, causing me to lose my grip on the cup.

As the cup slipped from my grip, it fell between the center console and my leg, allowing the ENTIRE contents (32 oz, or a full U.S. quart) to spill out along my leg and under my (quite ample) derriere.

I quickly jumped up, but alas, it was not in time. I was soaked between my belt and the bend in my knee all along my right side butt cheek. My wallet was dripping wet, and to make things worse, once I turned on the dome light in my car, I gazed upon a preverbal “holding pond” of soda that had pooled in the driver’s seat of my car (aided by the waterproof characteristics of my car seat cover).

I needed something to absorb the standing pool of pop on my seat.

Like a chicken with its head cut off, I scrambled around the garage until I located a large comforter that we keep in the garage to lay on the ground for picnics, fireworks, etc. I tossed it onto the seat of my car (covering and hoping to absorb the pool of soda). First problem solved.

I contemplated changing my pants, but in my agitated state (and with my better judgment misplaced somewhere in all the confusion) I decided I did not have time to change my pants. I decided to take the chance that as I sat upon it, the comforter would absorb much of the soda from my pants. I jumped in the car (on top of the piled up comforter) and headed out. As I drove to work, it almost seemed as if the comforter trick was actually working!

Folks… I am a big guy. Even with my recent weight loss, I am both tall and “big boned”. Sitting atop the comforter caused my head to rub the roof of the car (even while slouching).

When I arrived at work, I stepped out of my car and the cool air made me immediately aware that the “comforter trick” did not work. Not at all. I was worried what this looked like as I walked into my office. As luck would have it, my coworkers immediately noticed (and commented) on… my hair.

ON MY HAIR?!?!? What was wrong with my hair??

It would seem that as my head rubbed the roof of the car in it’s “still wet” and freshly hair sprayed state, it styled itself and dried into a Mohawk!

Thankfully, I had enough time to re-wet and brush it back down before roll call. Although my hair was normalized, I still had to try and hide my wet butt from all the officers who would (undoubtedly) have had a good laugh (at my expense).

It worked, and somewhere around 1pm I finally stopped noticing that “pee’d your pants” feeling.

A Little GeoCaching with #5

Just a quick note about a wonderful afternoon I had with #5 of 5.

GeoCaching with #5#2 and #3 of 5 were out shopping for pants with the Mother of Five#4 of 5 was not feeling well and sacked out on the couch watching TV.  I had a few hours before I had to head into work, so I loaded up the GPS with a couple of new caches that recently popped up in town, and several on the far outskirts of town that I had yet to find – and we headed out.

Our first two finds were very easy.  The first one was located in the Minnesota River Valley.  It was also opening weekend of the 2011 Duck Hunting season so when we arrived in an area that I would not expect to see cars parked, there were quite a few!  Trucks, trailers, canoes and a few guys pulling out from the river bottom area.  (You can see a few of their trucks off in the background)

From there we went into town and located one of the newest caches – located at the Historic Log Cabin!

GeoCaching with #5 GeoCaching with #5

Off to an abandoned barn cache.

GeoCaching with #5 GeoCaching with #5

Then to monument cache.

GeoCaching with #5

After we finished these, we were going to head another 5 miles out of town for another three caches grouped in the same area, but found the access to that road blocked due to construction.    With the only other access to those caches requiring me to drive 12 miles out of my way and then 12 miles back – we decided to save those caches for later – and instead, we stopped at Carasim Coffee Shop for a little treat! 

(Carasim does not have their own website, but the provided link comes courtesy of the fine folks at the Nicolin Inn (our local B&B) did a nice job writing up a little article about them.)

Carasim Coffe Shop Ice Cream  Carasim Coffe Shop Ice Cream

We went 4 for 4 this afternoon, and had a great time doing it!

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