Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Joy

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Our church attendance has been a bit spotty this year (uh, just a bit of an understatement) but we decided last night we were going this morning no matter what (e.g., no matter how close to 0F the temp was). The sermon was great (the weather was 3F – not bad – it’s going to get A LOT colder the next few days) – all about joy and how we should laugh in church and life, and we need to find this happiness all around us all the time – this joy comes from deep within, is part of our being, and helps us feel connected and care for others in the world. Yes, it’s been a tough year but there are still happy moments and there will be many to come. Here is the joyful Affirmation of Faith from today’s service:

We believe in a God of joy, who shows up
In roasted marshmallows and chocolate cake and fresh fish;
In the feeling of sand between our toes, a kitten’s fur, the touch of another person;
In the sun that shines in our faces (even, inconveniently in this sanctuary);
In falling snow;
In the life-giving green of new life and in new birth.
We believe in the joy that God creates in our lives.
We believe in the joy that resides in each one of us.

Our minister told several stories about weddings that she has presided over and that after one wedding she got a comment from someone that they had “never laughed at a wedding”. I know I wrote about it before but I still have good memories of the whoopie cushion that Katherine gave to Christopher at her reception – I don’t know how many whoopie cushions make it to wedding receptions but I’m guessing it can’t be that many…it was a great moment of joy and having fun in the moment.

Here are some other moments of joy I captured from this week.

Megan and I were playing a game against each other on the computer and she named our teams. She kept her hand over her team’s name while I went first, and I could tell she was so proud of her team name…which…after the big reveal of removing her hand, was…team “aSOM”. Totally aSOM!!! 🙂

We got a late Christmas gift this week. 3 slingshots, 2 packs of paint balls, and magnetic toys that have been recalled. We had a good laugh over this one. Payback is a you-know-what 🙂

I’ve been pushing the kids to do more laundry. I caught them doing my and Beth’s laundry – as they were folding they were slingshotting our underwear and having a fun time (which Megan tried to blame on daddy – uh uh, I’m not taking the hit for this one) 🙂

I was reading a story about sperm donation (related to a sperm donor being involved in a paternity suit when the female couple split up who had the baby – bizarre). Anyway, Schipper used to donate plasma in college – he was limited to doing it to something like once a month and the first experience made him either pass out or puke or both…and as I was reading the story we temporarily got confused as to what he used to donate in college – oops. Our confusion got even funnier thinking about which substance would be limited to once a month and would make someone pass out 🙂

We had a scout pool party last weekend. Beth very clearly told Christopher and me to bring a towel and underwear for him. Those were our instructions…”bring a towel and underwear”. We’re no dummies…we don’t need to be told twice…we can remember two things…duh. So I drive him there, and we remembered the towel and underwear just like we were told. Like I said, we’re no dummies and we had it under control. So Beth shows up (she was taking over and I had to leave) and she asked where his clothes were. Clothes? We brought the towel, we brought the underwear…and of course he only wore his swimsuit & swim shirt there b/c it’s only early January in Minnesota. How Christopher and I get blamed for not bringing clothes still doesn’t make sense to either of us – we have been trained to turn off our brains and follow directions – and we’re pretty good at it! 🙂

Ok…switching topics just for a minute. Aaron Swartz was in the news recently. As described by Wikipedia he was an “American computer programmer, writer, political organizer and Internet activist.” Smart dude, who created some companies and contributions to the computer world, but…he committed suicide (hanging) on January 11th, 2013. In November 2007 he blogged about his illnesses. He was a good writer and I was drawn to how he described some things in that post here – http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/verysick.

Alright, switching back to joyful topics again. Check out the pictures. In hopefully not very random order…Christopher’s new pet Sammy; our beautiful children on Christmas morning posing with some of their new gifts which didn’t come as a packaged set; Christopher doing a combo skiing stop and Michael Jackson pose; the entire height of our ski MOUNTAIN (hill); Megan’s chair in the snow; Colleen’s Sammy Sosa outfit for a school report; Colleen and her friend at their science fair exhibit (on how tie dye stains different types of material); and finally, we had two visitors this morning who came to play with Orca – this picture is right off our patio – yikes coyotes are big up close!!!

We Need a Little Christmas

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

I had no idea Angela Lansbury had done anything besides Bedknobs & Broomsticks, Beauty & the Beast, and Murder, She Wrote – did you? 😉 Ok, maybe I knew a bit more but I really didn’t know much about Mame. I was listening to the Christmas station on the radio and was drawn to the words from We Need a Little Christmas. Maybe it had a different meaning in Mame but it sure seems to apply to how I’m feeling this year at Christmas…I really want to have a good, fun, meaningful, peaceful, reflective Christmas, and enjoy the times with family and friends – and I want that right now. It’s tough this year. But nothing is different for my kids – it’s just like any other year for them and we’ll have a fun Christmas – and I’m glad they will help pull me through it. Our tree is up, the stockings will be filled, I’ll have to buy a fruitcake to slice – and I’ll be sure to listen to this song a few more times (take time and read the words – I think they are just what many of us need right now):

We Need a Little Christmas

Mame:
Haul out the holly;
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry;
So climb down the chimney;
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen.
Slice up the fruitcake;
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.
For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
All:
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.
Mame:
Haul out the holly;
Well, once I taught you all to live each living day.
All:
Fill up the stocking,
Young Patrick:
But Auntie Man, it’s one week from Thanksgiving Day now.
All:
But we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.
Agnes:
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry;
Ito:
So climb down the chimney;
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen.
All:
Slice up the fruitcake;
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.
For we need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after,”
Need a little Christmas now.
Need a little Christmas now.

Alright, time to talk about the pics. Follow along the best you can. I took the kids to see Eden Prairie play in the state championship (to the semi-final and final games). Eden Prairie dominated and won their 8th state title!! Skol EP! Colleen and Christopher brought friends and we saw many people we knew – it was fun getting out and cheering and letting the kids run around a bit in a semi-empty stadium (the games were played at the Metrodome where the Vikings play). Skol Vikings!

I remember how excited I would get to “paint” my dad’s face with shaving cream so I’ve let my kids do that from time to time. I love watching their eyes and expressions as they come at me with the shaving cream brush and lather up my face so carefully (ha!). They are so intent and focused – I love it. And Megan will soon outgrow it so I’d better let her do it a few more times!!

We got our first snow on Thanksgiving so the kids couldn’t help but run out and try to catch as many flakes as they could on their tongues. We had a good Thanksgiving – lots of great food and time to relax a bit. The kids have loved getting to smash ice on the pond again – the fun never ends. I’ve heard that’s bad on the fish (something about giving them horrible headaches – hee hee) but I hadn’t seen a fish in a while…until a week later I spied the fish in the photo at night swimming below the ice in the shallow part of my pond. Not sure what he was doing but glad he paused long enough for a photo op.

This is the time of the year when Colleen has several dances – we did the Gopher Women’s b-ball half-time, Gopher’s Men’s b-ball halftime, and then her recital at the high school. I do enjoy these programs now – her group is really good, plus I get to see some college hoops and walk around campus which is always fun. Can you find Colleen in the group photo? Hint – she’s the only one looking at me (not much help, huh). While we were taking photos a huge syringe walked by (the team the Gophers played were the Dayton Druggies and that was their mascot) and I found it funny watching it try to duck to get down the stairway.

I have always enjoyed traveling back to Rochester. Such ingrained memories from childhood of walking to the dam, hanging out at Grandma T’s and Aunt B’s, going to auctions, pizza parties with so many relatives, flag pole, etc etc etc. It’s always fun to see the kids asking to go the dam and then wanting to do the things that I always wanted to do. Mater was new to Rochester from what I remember – everytime I see a beat up old brown truck I always call them Mater so it was cool to finally see a real Mater. Loved it.

Miss you Grandma T. Yellow flowers will always bring up happy memories going forward. Driving home in Wisconsin the day of the funeral it was a clear night sky and I saw a shooting star right in front of me while I was driving. Thanks for saying hi Grandma 🙂

Check out the pictures of the cars. That was the day after we got a foot of snow. The snow covered the lines in the parking lot which apparently gave people permission to park however they wanted which included completely boxing people into parking spots with cars on all sides – the good news is that these same idiots can’t be out on the roads driving if I can see their cars all grouped together. Morons. And it’s crazy how one moron does it which immediately gives everyone else permission to turn off their brains too.

The picture of the snow falling in our driveway was the night after I hung up Christmas lights and cleaned out our gutters. Nice timing, huh?

December also brought us to a band concert for Colleen and Salvation Army bell ringing for Christopher’s scout pack (and Megan came too – she’s a great helper). We raised a lot of money – people seemed to be especially generous this year. Or maybe the boys got cuter? Or scarier? Whatever it was, it worked!

And here are some videos. The first one is the md-phd (Jakub) who is leading the lab that Beth is currently working in. He does amazing stuff for children with very serious genetic disorders. This video is one of his recent transplant patients for epidermolysis bullosa.

Jakub transplant patient

And here’s the video Beth’s team made for their final presentation for their cell biology class. You won’t quite get the full effect if you don’t watch it with Beth laughing the whole way through it. I must admit it’s still a bit hard for me to find quite as much humor in this as she does but I’m doing the best I can 🙂 Oh, don’t judge me until you’ve watched it! I’m not even sure that I’m smart enough to say that I’ve even learned anything by watching it more than once – I just hope her teacher lets her bring stuffed animals to her final test!

Beth’s cell biology final video

And finally, since I’m posting other videos…can’t remember if I’ve posted this one before or not but here’s another cake video that a friend posted. And yes, I know my own Grandma’s name 😉

Grandma T cake on fire

Turkey turkey turkey

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

The pies are made (dreamy high pumpkin pie, apple, and chocolate). The good china has been found. The special olive tray has been cleaned 🙂 The Macy’s parade is on right now (after all these years Al Roker still doesn’t look normal to me as a thin dude than as his former self). It’s tougher this year and although Thanksgiving is missing something this year everything else is coming together and moving forward as it always does. It’s on my dream list to hold a rope to a giant balloon in the Macy’s parade one of these years – I’ll have to actually look into that sometime – who’s with me???

Purdue actually won a basketball game last night. Amazing. I’m debating whether to send Aunt B $3 all at once to save me postage this year. Actually, the football game could be ok depending on which Purdue team shows up but basketball will be ugly for the good guys this year. It’s especially tough losing to a team that dresses up in clown pants for their warm-ups 🙂 But I should congratulate IU on making it into the top 5 of this one:

The question: Who is perceived by college coaches to be the biggest cheater in the sport?

•John Calipari (Kentucky): 36 percent
•Scott Drew (Baylor): 34 percent
•Ben Howland (UCLA): 12 percent
•Jim Calhoun (Connecticut): 7 percent
•Tom Crean (Indiana): 3 percent
•Dave Rice (UNLV): 3 percent

Heh, heh. Happy Thanksgivig Aunt Beth 😉

Christopher wrapped up football last month. He had a lot of fun playing this season. We’ve got him bulking up in the off-season so send him protein powder and Denny’s coupons for Christmas. In the last game of the season they waived the “striper” rule (kids over a certain weight have a black stripe on their helmet and aren’t allowed to carry the ball). So it was awesome to watch him line up in the backfield and break through the pack for about 5 yards. That was cool. It seemed ironic that this last game was dubbed the “Friendship Bowl” and it was in that game that all safety rules (e.g., stripers carrying the ball) were waived 🙂 Basketball has already started for Christopher – they should make all the tall kids wear stripes to give Thompson’s a chance!

E & Wen came up at the end of October. It was a great trip. They zipped up and back so they didn’t bring kids on the trip, and we left our kids at home a few times (so nice to have Colleen old enough to keep some control in the house while we’re out), so it was finally nice for the “grown ups” to go out and talk and catch up on things. We did some nice meals (112 Eatery and Tilia) and also went to a football game at the Goofers new stadium. Purdue got destroyed in the game but it was an incredible stadium regardless and a beautiful day. Before the game we were taking a picture of Wendy outside of the stadium when a cop on a motorcycle stopped us. I didn’t think I had been acting that drunk but you never know (it would have been an impressive acting job b/c we were alcohol free). He told us that wasn’t how we should take a picture – so he propped his motorcycle up in front of the stadium and told Wendy to get on it – it made for a great picture! While on campus we got to see Beth’s labs and had her pose in front of a giant bubble-gum, lego-type structure – I think she said those were the planets but I didn’t have the heart to tell her they added a few too many (honey, I’m kidding, it was a joke, settle down, I know this science stuff is serious). Beth’s lab was cool – test tubes, and centrifuges, and microscopes, and pipettes everywhere. We got to spy on some cells too – fun.

We also went to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (after a fantastic brunch at Tilia – great crowd and atmosphere there). It’s always fun to see the Cherry on the Spoon. The kids got to play on a huge moving sculpture – and we walked a mile in the cold to ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s afterwards. Ice cream is awesome. Walk was cold. Wind was chilly. Conversation was great. Next to ice cream was one of those fun stores that has crafty stuff and witty gifts and something for everyone. We’re in that store in the pic where Megan is wearing the beard hat and it’s funny that behind her in the pic is a package that says “bitch slap those germs” – none of the kids have been saying that phrase around the house luckily!

Beth and I saw Jackson Browne in concert the same weekend E & Wendy were in town. They stayed home with our kids while we went out (we had the tickets before they planned their trip up). The concert was great – thanks again Wendy for helping me prep 😉 Jackson and Sara Watkins were amazing and powerful. We sat in the 3rd row and vowed always to sit up close to anything in the future – it completely changes your experience! I was worried as it got closer about how I would react to certain songs. I’ve definitely found meaning in lyrics to several of his songs since the time Katherine died and I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to hear some songs (e.g., For a Dancer). But it was all great and special and I think what I needed. Throughout his tour this year he’s only played For a Dancer a few times and I had told myself before the concert that maybe it was meant to be if he played it. A lady in the row behind us yelled for that song, but he didn’t play it (he played Something Fine instead). She yelled again, and he didn’t play it. And then, she yelled that request a third time but this time she yelled, “For a Dancer, remember the tattoo”. He played it then – and it was beautiful/meaningful/touching (Fountain of Sorry has some lyrics that really get to me too and hit me for a second in the concert). I had mentioned getting a tattoo to help me to remember to live a good life and take away positives from Katherine’s life – to force me to remember more frequently – so it was interesting that the request from the row behind us included the song I most relate to and a tickler about a tattoo. No decision yet on a tattoo – first I need to define what it is I would want that to remind me of. What am I chasing now? Who do I want to be? Where am I headed? What’s most important? I’m also not clear on what it is when I say things like “it was meant to be if he played For a Dancer”. What sign am I looking for? That Katherine’s ok? That she’s in a better spot? That she’s watching us? If so, when is she watching us – hopefully not all the time. That she hears my prayers and thoughts – again, hopefully not all of them. Do I get to pick and choose when she sees and hears me or does she? That we’ll all be ok and stick together as a family and keep talking and eventually be happy and strong? It’s tough. I go back an forth on what I want some of those answers to be. These holidays are especially tough. My thoughts are with everyone in NH and MA. I finally let off some steam last night – first by punching a tray of delicate dessert crackers (hey, Beth mentioned that she may want to crush them and try making a pie crust so this was my way of helping) – and then by talking. I think it was the combination of both methods that eventually made me feel a bit better – don’t keep it bottled in everybody – find ways to talk and share and let it out.

Ok, enough sharing, time to lighten things up again.

Halloween came and went to. Wendy helped the kids make disgusting finger cookies while we were at the concert. Yuk. But fun 🙂 Megan was Harry Potter. Christopher was Dark Vadar again (yes, “Dark” – he still prefers this over “Darth” but now recognizes that everyone else says it differently – and incorrectly). Colleen was an egg for Halloween. She went with a friend who was bacon. Kind of ironic since Colleen can’t stand eggs or bacon. They trick-or-treated in her friend’s neighborhood. Christopher went trick-or-treating with a friend of his (chasing the ever elusive neighborhood that gives out the huge candy bars!). So it was just Megan and me going through our neighborhood. We had a fun time. She thought it was a hoot and would come running back to me with a big grin on her face when someone would say “hey guy – great costume” – she found it funny when they couldn’t tell that she was a girl dressed up as Harry 🙂 After we went around our block she wanted to walk further so we went down a street that has some town houses and I asked if she was sure this is where she wanted to go. She was on a mission and wound around, skipped many doors, and finally, oddly went straight to a certain lit up house. I gave her a bit of a warning but she said that was exactly where she wanted to go for her last house. So…she rings the bell and a lady comes out. Then the lady sits down, and asks Megan to come closer. And then the lady starts calling her dogs from in the house one by one. And she starts telling Megan about the dogs – their names and special features. And when I say special features I mean things like “here is my dog pookie-wookie who has 5 legs” (named has been changed with equally silly name to protect the guilty). Seriously – this dog had 5 legs!!! Megan got up after a few minutes and walked back to me and said “that lady was weird and kept telling me about her dogs). I couldn’t stop laughing – see, that’s what happens when you don’t listen to your daddy 🙂 Although I never would have predicted it playing out quite like that. I think we’re going to hit scary dog lady’s house every year from now on!!! 🙂

And, finally, what would a post be without more dance pictures. Colleen and her team are getting really good. Those pictures are from the gopher’s women’s basketball game. We go to the gopher’s men’s game soon too. It’s fun getting out and going to the games. Colleen works on new moves all the time and continues to do things that my body will never ever come close to doing. It’s great to see her having so much fun with this. She has her sights set on the high school dance team in a few years. We also went to the Eden Prairie football team’s game last weekened, which they won – so now they are in the state championship game tomorrow night. They’ve been in it 8 times and have won 7 of those times – hopefully they make it 8 tomorrow night! Last weekend they beat a team that had beat them 16-0 just a few weeks ago so they have really turned it on now.

Ok, time to put the turkey in the oven!!! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Back to School

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Can’t figure out why my head won’t stop spinning. Maybe it has something to do with…the kids are back to school. Beth is back to school. Retiring from the fire departmnent after 10 years (tough but the right decision as this point in my life after this crazy year). Soccer, football, dance, and scouts have all started back up. Pulled off organizing another successful scout rocket launch. Plus coaching soccer for Megan’s team. Wrapping up being a confirmation mentor this past year (yahoo Parker!). Working with another wish child (we reveal what her wish will be to her this coming Tuesday – with the help of a real life princess 🙂 ). Work is as crazy as always. Katherine and everyone else still on my mind a lot. Yah, maybe all that has something to do with my head spinning, huh?

We wrapped up July and August with a trip to Grand Marais with E & Wen (and family), visits from both sets of parents to MN, and then a quick visit by Kristin & Tom (and Big A) to MN for the state fair. Yummy cheese curds, buckets of fries, Sweet Martha’s cookies, cotton candy, juicy turkey sandwiches, milk, shakes, you name it – ugh, I’m still stuffed!

Grand Marais was cool. It was nice to go up with some good friends. It has been great to have people caring and looking out for us. It was supposed to be a different trip this year – that part of it was tough but part of the journey now. We had some great experiences with nature and I got up alone one morning to take in a beautiful, peaceful sunrise. That was E’s hope for the trip but the weather didn’t cooperate with him – the day after they left the sky was crystal clear and I enjoyed the sunrise and being alone at 5:30 a.m. on a huge lava formation by the great lake.

Beth and I are going to see Jackson Browne in concert next month. I really connected to some of his songs especially since March. “For a Dancer” is one such song that is hard but good for me to listen too. Come to find out that Jackson Browne’s wife committed suicide about the time this song came out many, many years ago (although I read that the song was written first). Crazy world. Here are those lyrics:

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must’ve always thought you’d be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found

I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening

I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
Cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(There’s nothing you can do about it anyway)

Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
And let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know will be coming down

Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive but you’ll never know

INMANHNYCMO (IN-MA-NH-NYC-MO)

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Whew! We’re back. Three weeks on the road! Amazing trip. We started the trip by stopping for an hour or so in Rochester, IN to see Grandma T. Actually, our first stop was to pick up Giordanno’s pizza to-go outside of Chicago. We do that frequently on these trips – and then the fun part is trying to eat a slice of Chicago-style stuffed pizza while driving in Chicago traffic! Whil we were with Grandma T we went through pictures that we brought and then I tried to turn on the auto-photo frame on her desk. It wasn’t going through pictures so after pushing lots of buttons it started showing pictures. And of course it started with pictures of Katherine mixed in with our family. The pictures were great, just sometimes I’m caught off guard seeing Katherine. A month or two ago Eric posted pictures on Facebook that had come from Katherine’s phone. The pictures were great and the kids were always laughing and smiling, but then all of a sudden a picture popped up with Katherine in it – totally caught me off guard. Starting in northern Indiana there was no power to the traffic lights (I would argue that there shouldn’t be traffic lights on a HIGHWAY anyway but Indiana doesn’t quite understand that yet). As we pulled into Rochester we noticed huge trees down or uprooted and branches & leaves everywhere. Found out we just missed a huge storm. The plan was to stay the night in Fort Wayne…we got there a few hours later and our hotel there didn’t have power (so we found a hotel that did!). From Rochester all the way into Ohio as we drove through small towns there were huge trees down everywhere and no Burger King or McDonald with power (amazing we survived). I’ve always loved driving through small town Indiana while listening to John Cougar Mellencamp…seeing everyone out and working on cleaning up their small towns while JC was playing added to that ambiance.

Next stop on the way to MA was Howe Caverns. We did Mammoth Cave in KY the year before and the kids really liked it. These caves were cool too for a quick stop – neat that first you take an elevator way down into the ground. A stream follows you throughout the path and you even take a boat ride 200’ underground. In KY the year before they were very concerned about bats dying from white nose syndrome (you had to walk through this soapy mixture before/after going into the caves). At Howe Caverns they said all the bats were already dead and they weren’t taking any precautions anymore – bummer.

So…next stop was Eric’s place. We stayed there a few nights and got to play with Sara and Rose and hang out with Eric. It was a great stop and was nice to catch up on stuff. The girls are awesome and fun and full of energy and never stop and are chatty and creative and we enjoyed mini-golfing and hippo-tubbing and zip-lining (now my kids really want one!) and bouncy-castling and fort making and arting it up and playing all sorts of games and toys. At the same time it was tough being there – memories everywhere…pictures, her car in the drive, picturing her looking out the window in their kitchen, the memory box on the wall, etc – good memories but that’s the most time we’ve spent in their house and like I said – it was tough at times. But good. So glad we went there and spent time there with Eric and the girls and getting to know the area better and talk. And maybe next trip we’ll even figure out ways to capture Sara in pictures too (she runs as soon as that camera comes up – grrrrrr! 🙂 ).

And the next stop was NH. We spent a few days there with just my parent’s and then a few days later Sara and Rose joined us. We sure kept busy…ice cream and bumper boats and ice cream and Rockport, MA and ice cream and a clam bake with one of Beth’s high school friends and ice cream and blue berry picking and ice cream and moving mulch in the yard and building a wall and edging and ice cream and playing badminton and ice cream and a Revolution game and ice cream and bopping each other with the inflatable hammer and ice cream and candlepin bowling and ice cream and King Kone and ice cream and riding in the cougar and ice cream and celebrated birthdays and ice cream and pie and veggie lasagna and found the secret room and ice cream and played ping pong and ice cream and raced cars in basement and ice cream and watched tv and watched tv and watched tv and ice cream. It was a great trip – lots of fun with the kids and seeing mom & dad, and Dan & Jackie with the kids (and congratulations again!!!), and lots of time to talk and catch up on things. Very glad we came out and saw everybody and could stay a bit longer. It wasn’t always easy but we’re doing ok. Things seemed to work out great and fall into place right when we needed them too. Great weather and an amazing trip. It’s so hard to sum up all our feelings and emotions in a mini blog post (so I didn’t really try ) – love you all and always thinking of you.

After NH we headed to St. Louis with a quick detour in NYC. I hadn’t been there since before 9-11 so it had been a LONG time. I love the city – and the people and the sites and the energy and the pace. We only spent 1 night there but somehow the stars aligned and we saw everything (and more) than we had planned – everything was fantastic about the trip – Empire State Building, FAO (kids loved the candy section of the store), M&M store, Times Square, just walking around, seeing street performers doing music and also street dancing, subway singers got on our subway car, 9-11 memorial, pretzels from street vendors, Sony store (kids had a blast playing and experimenting (amazing that this was free!),great food everywhere we stopped, riding a train, the Statue of Liberty and ferry ride, and of course zooming through Beautiful Bayonne and seeing what’s left of the old army base and eating a real Italian ice. We stayed at a friend/coworker’s house the night before NYC and the night after NYC (and then got up at 5:00 a.m. and hit the road early the next morning and drove 16 hours straight to St. Louis. It was also great to see them and just hang out a bit and unwind. A whirlwind of a trip but it worked out perfectly. We are blessed to have such a strong family and support network. We are getting through all this – still have our days and will for a long time but it’s so important to have each other and keep talking and sharing.

No more homework, no more books…

Monday, June 11th, 2012

School’s out – hooray! Beth quit her job and is looking forward to August – hooray! We’ll be out in NH in a few weeks – hooray!

I don’t think I posted this yet…but maybe I did…oh well, shut up and watch it again 🙂 It’s going viral! All you really need to watch are the first 10 seconds!

EPFD Video

I hit 10 years with the department in August – crazy it’s been that long. Lots of great experiences. Last week I did a presentation at school for both Christopher’s and Colleen’s classes – it was a ton of fun. I always really enjoy that and the kids are great & have many good & interesting questions.

Ok – here’s some more Katherine stuff for a bit…ready? Is it too much that I built a reflecting pool in our backyard in her memory? Is that normal? Did you all build one too? It looks nice, huh?

Christopher seems to be getting the most use out of it – he spends hours at a time reflecting. Anybody buying that? So I spent a day leveling the spot for our pool – and I got it all ready…and then it rained for like 3 days straight, and then it took a week for the mud to dry up, so finally 2 weeks later we got the pool set up. But it’s up now, and no support beams have bent this year so I’m somehow getting better 🙂

So I wrote this phrase down probably in February and was going to see if Katherine could use this to communicate better with Erik’s family. I never got around to sending it to her – probably an old one everybody has heard before anyway and it just took this long for it to get to the midwest. Mom, maybe you can still use this when talking to Erik or his family: WHALE OIL BEEF HOOKED. You’re welcome – always happy to help.

So…I thought maybe I could bank up some brownie points and I brought Beth to the Princess Diana exhibit at the Mall of America. Wow – I still can’t quite find the words to describe how I felt about all the dresses on display. And I’m still wondering why they let me into that place but somehow managed to pull every other guy out of line (it didn’t help that Hooters was right across the hallway from the entrance to this exhibit). Oh well – I made the most of it. One room focused on her funeral and had a speech on the wall that was written by her brother – maybe eulogies are just like reading a horoscope in that somehow it applies to most anyone but I still found comfort in many parts of Charles Spencer’s tribute to his sister Diana and that I could relate portions of a speech about a greatly admired princess to Katherine.

Ok…moving on to other topics. Can anybody guess what this is?

Bizarre food crime scene? Bizarre fantasy food scene? Give up? This is what happens when you let boy scouts create devices to try to protect an egg as it is dropped off a 90′ fire truck ladder. Some boys tried to protect their eggs, while others decided to put their eggs in jello, or peanut butter, or bags of flour for the splat effect! And my boy was the former 🙂

Speaking of my good boy. Here’s the day he was initiated into his new “Grease” gang.

That was crazy hair day, and that’s as crazy as he was going to get this year. No colors and no hair out of place. Absolutely crazy!

And here’s Colleen stopped on the bridge as she contemplates whether or not to advance to the next level in girl scouts. Not sure what she decided – guess you’ll have to ask her.

Schooner days was here again for mommy’s birthday. This is the little fair that is staged about a mile from our house. They bring in all sorts of rides and deep fried foods and of course a gigantic bingo tent. It’s always a fun time and holds us over until the state fair arrives.

And then for Beth’s birthday we went and ate outside on a dock by a huge lake and got our kids all liquored up. Nothing says party like a 6 year old drinking beer.

The flowers are starting to wake up in our yard. The poppies only bloom for a day before a light breeze blows their petals everywhere. Crazy how fast they bloom and are gone. But if you catch them on that day they are beautiful. I call this one “Here doggie, here doggie”:

And of course I call this one “Poppy and killer whale”

So maybe it’s my fault for not bringing in the flag before it got dark. But I went to get the flag the other night and about crapped my pants when something fairly big moved at my hand in the darkness. Turns out it was a friendly neighborhood tree frog way up high on the drainspout. He almost got smooshed just like I did to his buddy accidentally last year 🙁

And finally, here’s Megan’s new trick…

I remember

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Katherine.

I remember your smile, your laughter, your love of life.

You seemed so content and happy and enjoying the life that you had made, and focused on the future.

Your family is so beautiful. You were doing such a great job with your family and career and navigating your way through life as we all do. It isn’t always easy but we all were making it.

Just a few weeks prior you told me that summer was getting closer and that we needed to plan our Grand Marais, MN trip – and we did. And we were just starting to talk about your plans for a Disney trip with all of our families in the summer of 2014. I was so excited to have a week of hanging out up in Grand Marais – talking and taking it easy – getting away from the rest of the world for a bit – especially given how serious last year was at times with dad’s health.

I look at the photos of us as children and wonder what I should have done differently as a big brother to protect you and help you. I wish you would have shared more and given so many of us a chance to help you.

I will miss sharing my stories with you. I was always so happy to get your blog responses – I will miss that and swapping stories as we raised our children. I am so glad I started my blog when I did and that I do have so many comments from you. I was always so proud to get your “approval” of all the happenings in my life and that we shared an appreciation of “simple” values and memories from our childhood. Maybe I never said it enough, but I was so thankful for all that you did to help out mom and dad last year. Your trips up to help dad (and mom) were so important – that’s what families are all about and now I’m especially glad you got to spend that time with them. I’m glad I made a special trip to New Hampshire last year – the intent was to see dad but if his health hadn’t been an issue then I likely wouldn’t have seen you either. You tried to get to MN every few years – I always so looked forward to seeing you and just getting to hang out and catch up on things and show off our kids to each other. It was always so great to see how excited you were to get out here and see and hold and play with and have fun with my kids – I loved that about you.

I often thought about how you, Dan, and I would grow closer and find time for trips way down the road – just like what mom and dad have done with their siblings. But first we had to get through diapers, grade school, dating, college, and moving our kids back out of our house – and then this would happen. It was going to be the three of us laughing and crying and sharing as we got older and bonding over memories of our parents and our childhood and our family history.

You had some great friends from childhood – you stuck together and shared so much over the years. Your friend Trish summed up some things about you that I absolutely agree with, “You were capable, reliable, efficient, independent, creative, determined, devoted, loyal, honest, loving, and kind. Your smile and laugh will remain with me forever. I can’t remember a time when you didn’t see the humor in life. Your friendship was a gift to me and to all who were blessed to have you in their lives.” And Stacie added this one too, “I will always remember her one of a kind smile and laughter with an occasional snort mixed in for the really funny moments that life brought.” This was you – we all saw it and felt it.

I have fun, silly memories of you. I won’t forget them.

I loved that you said “wicked”, and “awesome”, and “wicked awesome”. I’m sure I told you that every other phone call.

I remember at our place when we were having corn for dinner and you started singing “shuck a corn, shuck a corn”, just like Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan. I’ve said that with a smile ever since. I still will.

I remember you bought me a rabbit wine opener. You were so excited to show me what it was and how it worked. You opened the box fast, we got a bottle of wine, and you immediately started cranking on the lever to push the corkscrew down into the cork of a bottle of red wine I chose. In your hurried excitement you didn’t notice that there was a rubber stopper on the end of the corkscrew – so as you cranked down on the lever the rabbit ended up pushing the cork into the bottle…which proceeded to shoot a high pressure stream of red wine straight up at my ceiling. Hee hee. We laughed and laughed at that one. It made me think of the time mom and her sisters decided to open a bag of potato chips by having one of them hold the top and bottom of the bag while the other one slammed it with both hands coming together in the middle of the bag…not sure what they thought would happen but I remember chips flying in every direction. I laughed that you got some of their common sense genes 🙂

I remember watching “The Dream Team” (1986, Michael Keaton) and how you laughed and laughed at a scene with them singing in the back of the bus. Your love of life and laughter were contagious. It was always a goal to say something funny enough to get to see that sparkle in your eyes and hear your genuine laughter.

I remember when you came out to Minnesota and we went to the Children’s museum. There were a bunch of hand puppets…and you found the momma and baby possum puppets. But you hadn’t quite realized that they were puppets…so you were doing some sort of odd birthing show that traumatized all the kids around us. The look on your face (followed by that crazy laughter) that resulted from me explaining to you that they were puppets and not reproductive props was priceless. I’m still not sure if we ever decided if they are possums or opossums.

I remember on another trip to Minnesota that you and Heather got fake nose piercings at the Mall of America and tried to scare Beth and me into thinking they were real. And that you got pulled over in Beth’s car and you both were in pajamas and you didn’t have your driver’s license with you. Hee hee.

And the memories of you buying Christopher a whoopee cushion for the rehearsal dinner at your wedding. You wanted it done your way…you made sure they each had gifts waiting for them ahead of that long night…you wanted them to have fun…and boy did he have a blast with that. We all did. You loved watching him go to practically everybody that night and making them act the part and feign surprise. That’s the magic you brought to a room – you trusted your instinct and it always worked out and made us enjoy life even more.

You were the best present buyer for me ever. You knew exactly what I liked – and you put thought into your gifts. I knew anything you bought me for clothing would be perfect for me – you just knew. I remember when I was a consultant working in Pittsburgh that you sent me a shirt for my birthday and that I was so excited to get it from you that I wore it the next day to work. I remember one of the ladies asking me if the wrinkly look was the new style on the east coast – it didn’t seem that bad to me but I never gave it a second thought not to wear it (guess I could have given some thought to ironing it though).

I wear your “Katherine’s Movement” t-shirts all the time (mostly to the fire station on calls). Every time I have worn those over the years I always thought about you – every single time. I tried to put one on again last week – I couldn’t quite do it yet – but I will again in time. I always found it odd that I didn’t get more comments from my fellow fire fighters when I was wearing a bright orange Crohn’s shirt (from a Crohn’s walk I did out here), or the Katherine’s Movement shirt with the guy & girl restroom-ish sign on back. But I wore those proudly and welcomed any questions/comments.

It was fun to get you a little mad. When you made up your mind, you stuck by it. I didn’t always understand why you got so attached to some things or how you made your decisions (and you probably thought the same about things that I have done) – but I admired your dedication & ready defense. Your cars are a great example of something you made up your decision on and defended to no end – which made it all the more fun to pick on 🙂 Buying a house that was built two centuries ago (not something I would ever, ever, ever have the stomach for). Anything racial was another taboo topic that made it all the more fun for me to get you going on, and your choice of some of your old neighborhoods was another easy button to push. But you stuck by these things, and held to your values, and stood by your decisions, and everything always seemed to work out for you.

And I have some very random memories of you. That Alice in Wonderland Syndrome or bizarre case of some form of mononucleosis that you had. I was away from home at the time (college or working by then) but I remember mom and dad saying you were in some other world – for instance, sitting in the car sideways in a seat with your feet hanging out the door and telling them they could drive away. And that when you finally snapped out of it, it was something like 3:00 a.m. and you asked for eggs so they made you a big bowl of them. Not sure if any of that is true – but that’s what I remember 🙂 And us dancing to a Monster Mash record (yes, record) on the hardwood floors in our NJ apartment. And you getting some sort of Indian name from one of our cousins (and hearing Erik’s self-proclaimed Indian name after that). And how Erik could make you laugh and laugh. And you loving River Phoenix as a kid. And sharing that back bedroom at Grandma and Grandpa T’s house and playing with the same toys there year after year (that week or two each summer seemed soooooo loooooong). And that you threw up in the same city in Indiana two or three years in a row less than an hour into our 16+ hour drive back home (mom said it was because you were so excited to see your friends – I could never figure out why they still gave you orange juice again before we got in the car that 2nd and 3rd year). Or that you went on some kind of crazy shopping spree with an old friend after their CDs and other things were stolen and you had the entire insurance check to spend.

And you had some obsessions. You were a jigsaw puzzle savant. A jigsaw puzzling fool. No puzzle was impossible with you around. I have to stare at the puzzle and the picture and the pieces…I don’t think you even liked to have the picture visible, and you could pretty much just walk past the scattered pieces on the table and almost instantly grab a piece and put it where it belonged in one try. And you loved books – not necessarily reading them, but possessing a hard-cover of your favorites sitting on a shelf seemed to make you happy. And you were a dancer – as a little girl and as you got older. I remember you laughing talking about getting to be in a recital while over 30. And the Nutcracker – don’t mess with the Nutcracker – that was your special ballet and time of the year. And it’s so easy to picture you sitting on the floor in flannel pajamas, with a jigsaw puzzle on the table, and kids crawling around. This was you – loving the simple things in life and loving your family.

I loved some of the silly things you and Erik did that brought out the fun in life. Things I probably never would have done, but that part of my envies. Owning chickens…having a boat and going lobster fishing…getting tattoos/piercings (I still stick with my story that I pierced one of your ears in our upstairs bathroom – wonder if anyone else knew about that??). Part of me wants some of these things and I loved hearing about your latest antics. I still laugh at the fact that you complained so much when I worked at the fish market (the smell when I got home, and you couldn’t stand to eat seafood – and I could bring it home every night to eat) – and then later in life you changed your mind/tastes and liked seafood – that was an ironic twist that made me laugh over the years.

I loved that you clung to an old-fashioned view of the world at times and aligned your values with that. You were the one to have Grandma and Grandpa T fill out memory books. You were the one who went to Indiana and sat for hours while Grandpa T went through all the slides from the trip to Alaska. You were the only one who got dubbed as anybody’s favorite cousin. Your pressure of hanging your memory box on your wall (albeit empty!) helped push me to get mine done. You had a professional photographer take so many pictures of your kids and family – she was such a good find on your part.

You never wanted a fancy life – but to be content with your family and friends. I always loved that about you. Family (and friends – new & old) is important and that’s how you lived your life. I always felt the love – through your visits, and cards, and responses on my blog post. You used to talk about wanting to be a mom when you grew up. And having kids. That’s what you wanted. That’s it. And you did it – and you were great at it. You were so caring and thoughtful and kind and giving. I’ll remember. And I’ll miss all these things about you.

Good things happen to good people

Friday, February 17th, 2012

This entire week has been amazing. Incredible how many good things can fit into one week.

Saw Grandma T. Nice that it was split over several days with multiple visits. She was doing great.

Saw Dad. Ditto.

Got to light a birthday cake with 100 candles in it (well…99 candles in it…we found one later; and we only could get about 80 of them lit before it turned into a massive fireball) and no one got hurt. I was so looking forward to doing this. It was great but next year Grandma gets “1” “0” “1” – not 101 individual candles.

Saw several roommates. It’s great to have such great friends.

Went to a Purdue basketball game. Sat in 3rd row. Got to be on tv throughout game so Beth & kids could watch me from home (can you find me in the pic below?). Good guys won.

Got some great food in Chicago (Ed Debevic’s and Giordanos pizza). Just so happened to be there on a Thursday night which is the night that Navy Pier is free – sweet. Got to jog in Chicago and watch the city wake up – I love that. We both still miss a lot about Chicago.

Thought I was doing a fire presentation to just 20 kids in Megan’s class on Wednesday but was surprised with a request to do 3 classes at once and talked to 75 kids. The kids were so cool and kept calling out “Hey firefighter Dave” for the next 30 minutes as I saw them in the lunch room and at recess. They fought over who would get to sit with me – Megan moved tables in the lunch room 3 times. Each time she would get up to switch tables we would have all the tables around us also get up and run over to our new location. Finally we got it so Megan got to sit with who she wanted 🙂 They sent me awesome Thank You cards to Senor Thompson that night. So cool.

Beth got some GREAT news this week. I’m keeping it on the DL (that’s down low mom) on the Internet. Never know who reads this stuff 🙂

We became the official 2012 who-kept-the-Christmas-lights-up-in-the-neighborhood-the-longest champions! Common – it’s only mid-February and everybody else gave up, not even a real competition this year.

Tonight we did the wish “reveal” for my Make-A-Wish child. Absolutely fantastic. His family is incredible. His smile lights up the room. They had tons of friends and family over for a huge catered party (lettuce wraps with PF Chang’s recipe, ribs, clam & scallop chowder, crab cakes, pot stickers, creme brule, molten chocolate cakes – my kind of dinner) and we opened up a big gift wrapped box and balloons popped up that were tied to Mickey Mouse’s arm. He was so excited. This organization and the connections it creates is so powerful and the wishes are magical. The entire night was filled with very uplifting conversations. Be thankful for what you have and give back.

It will be hard to top this week but you never know.

Two funny things this week.

#1. We got home from our trip and Orca had escaped from the confines of the kitchen (we had a boy up the street watching her who has watched her before). I knew the only reason she would do that is if she had to go to the bathroom. So I start searching all over the house. In the upstairs kid’s bathroom she had gone #2 but she did it on the linoleum floor. Smart doggie 🙂

#2. Christpher was telling me that I was the best daddy ever. I forget what he had done or was trying to get out of but he was being sincere about it. Our button pusher child #3 decided she needed to cause some trouble so she snottily says…”well that means that when you get older and you’re a daddy you can’t be the best daddy ever. What will you be?” I loved the logic. Too funny. They eventually decided that I could be the best grand daddy ever and that Christopher could be the best daddy at that point. I see a button – let’s push it!

Here’s a video: Granda T cake

I’m trying a new format with the pics – let me know how you like this. I think you can keep clicking a few times to get bigger pictures. But maybe you’ll have to use the Back button in your browser to get to the blog text again – seems a bit awkward but it’s faster for me so let me know what you think.

Weirdness – video edition

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

GO PATRIOTS!!!

Just got a letter in the mail today from Paul Dean about Sean Neary’s child porn charges. Is this the guy whose house I would go to (alone) to work on my draftsmanship badge while in scouts? Yep, just the two of us, working side-by-side, in his house. I’ll have to contact Nashua police to see if they recognize me in any of those videos (I at least want my royalties!)? Between him and Brother Frank (and wasn’t there someone else?) we sure had a high ratio of complete sickos in that troop.

So, unrelated to sickos, I was cleaning up my email account today and ran across a few funny videos of people I work with. It’s people like this that are the secret to our continued success year after year!!!

1. Scroll down to see the video and then send money to this guy.

2. And here’s somebody I hired last year (here’s his 2nd video too)…going forward I’ve asked all applicants to share any videos with me during the interview process 🙂

3. And of course all of the “Old Man Parkour” videos that inspired millions of couch potatoes around the world to get up and jump, jump, jump around.

Old Man Parkour Vol. 1

Old Man Parkour Vol. 2

Old Man Parkour Vol. 3

Old Man Parkour Vol. 4

Old Man Parkour Vol. 5

Old Man Parkour Vol. 6

Old Man Parkour Vol. 7

Old Man Parkour Vol. 8

GO PATRIOTS!!!

Where’s the snow I ordered?

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

It seems like we’ve been blessed with white Christmas’ for a long, long time. We got a dusting of snow tonight but there isn’t much chance it will stay on the ground another few days. The kids are certainly ready for Christmas regardless. We love getting packages and tons of Christmas cards each day, and racing to see who can find Cookie (our Elf on the Shelf) first each morning – this is a fun time of the year. The kids have all been earning crazy days at school for being on good behavior. Christopher’s class won the read-a-thon so they got a pajama and movie day. Megan’s class has a pajama and stuffed animal day tomorrow. Colleen’s class wins the overall craziness award – Monday was jersey day, Tuesday was duct tape day, today was mismatched clothes day, and tomorrow is pajama day. What fun! And then we get a week off to be mellow for a bit. Colleen’s teacher obviously forgot that just a week ago she sent home a note saying she had to talk to the kids about putting “Kick me” and “Kick me in the shins” signs on student’s backs and chairs. Can you believe that one year ago we were all happy & healthy, and now a year later we’re back to being happy & healthy, with so much craziness in between. I’m sure we’re all counting additional blessings throughout the holiday season this year – I know I am. And keep sending us good news!!!

Here’s Colleen’s “duck” tape day pic:

Be safe over the holidays. Here’s a video the Eden Prairie Fire Department made – crazy how fast the dry tree goes up!

http://vimeo.com/32971079

We had an awesome progressive dinner in the neighborhood this past weekend. We hosted Spain this year and had 18 people at our house at one time chowing on paella, patatas bravas, jamon Y queso, olives, tortilla espana, and of course sangria. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture beforehand so all I have to show for Beth’s crazy hard work is empty dishes!!! We had a really fun time – great food and great company. We all started at one house for appetizers, then split into two groups (Spain or Mexico), then went to France or Brazil (we drew France out of the bag), and then all ended up back at one house for dessert, drinks and funky shots that seemed to keep coming & coming. The last thing we remember as we strolled home after midnight was a drunken serenade of Sesame Street’s “The people in my neighborhood…”. Fun times 🙂

This past Saturday both Christopher and Megan tested for their next belts in kung-fu. They both passed – barely 😉 Christopher is now a blue belt and Megan is an orange belt. Right after that we rushed to the Eden Prairie Fire Department’s annual kid’s Christmas party which is just for the firefighter families. It’s a low key event that is always fun and we get to see santa! After that I took Christopher and Megan to ring bells for the cub scouts. Luckily it wasn’t super cold this year – the kids (with Megan leading) sang Jingle Bells about 200 times in a row!!!

Just like last year, here are a few previews of pics from our Christmas card – hope you enjoy them!

And this time of year wouldn’t be complete without several dance shows – either at basketball games or the high school.

Remember how I took the scouts to the police station last month? I asked them all to write thank-you letters. I can’t stop laughing at this one (for the record, I didn’t see it happen – hee hee).

Have a very Merry Christmas everybody!