Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mary Christmas?

One snow day from school my son Alex, then about 3, and I decided to start decorating for Christmas. I decided that we would first put up the Nativity scene. As I was unpacking the stable and all the farm animals, Alex was taking each of them singing "Mary had a little lamb."

A few minutes later I looked up to see what he was doing. I was amazed to see the Virgin Mary totally surrounded by sheep. In Alex's mind she was the Mary who had the little lambs. Hey totally makes sense in a 3 year olds world!

And who's to say she wasn't the Mary who had a little lamb?!?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What Happens at Grandma's STAYS at Grandma's ...

Every summer, our kids spend one week with their grandparents in the quaint little town of Manson, Iowa. It’s kind of our way of exposing the kids to a simpler, more wholesome kind of life. As we dropped them off for their week-away-from-home, we had no way of knowing what they’d be exposed to this particular summer!

You see, Manson’s kind of like the “Mayberry” of Iowa. There’s one stoplight in town. A butterfly garden at the park. And one set of train tracks guiding several trains a day across the Midwest. My wife’s parents are wonderful. Our kids absolutely adore them, and they adore the kids. At the end of the week several summers ago, we picked up the kids and started our 2-hour journey home in the van. The kids were excited to tell us about how much fun they had, watching the trains go by the house, going to the pool, taking walks with Grandpa and the dogs.

And watching TV with Grandma.

My son Austin, who was about seven, said that Grandma sure does watch a lot of “Court TV”. He really enjoyed watching Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Judge this and Judge that…seeing all those people getting caught lying, fighting, cheating and stealing!

Then my four-year-old daughter asked her brother if they should "tell us" about that "other" show they watched. Before he could answer, Kelsey blurted out that her and Grandma’s FAVORITE show was “COPS”! She started singing the theme song, “Bad boy, bad boy, watcha gonna do – watcha gonna do when dey come for you”!

I turned to my wife and said, “Do you realize the kind of things the kids might have seen on that show? People getting arrested, running around all drunk and NAKED!”

Without missing a beat, my daughter, the little angel, said, “Don’t worry Daddy, the naked people were wearing BLURRIES. We couldn’t see anything.”

She was referring to the blurry editing patches added by the producers to block out any nudity on TV!

After we regained our composure from laughing so hard, my wife and I looked at each other, and at the same time said “BLURRIES?”

And now, thanks to Grandma, we totally crack up every time we're channel surfing and happen upon any episode of COPS!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Snowball Surprise

As a dad, I really try hard to make vacations memorable. I have so many great memories of my family vacations when I was growing up, and want to pass those same types of memories onto my kids.

Well, this is the story of one of those times when a dad tries a little too hard.

When Austin was about four years old, we drove the minivan from Iowa to Colorado for a summer getaway, visiting friends in Vail. We knew Austin would really get a kick out of taking the ski lift to the top of the mountain to see snow in the 80º summer weather. The ride on the lift was great, watching the green grass change to the snow-white covered mountain top. Austin couldn’t wait to get off the lift and play in the snow. We hopped off and I reached down to scoop up a handful of snow – and discovered it was the perfect consistency for making snowballs. I threw one down the mountain. Austin eagerly followed my lead, but instead of throwing his snowball down the mountain, he turned toward me, pulled his arm back, and launched the snowball – hitting me directly in the stomach. Laughing with the giggle that can only come from a tickled four-year old, he reached down to reload for another attempt. Like a scared jackrabbit, I sprinted away to take cover behind a snow bank. Austin took another shot. Being more prepared this time, I jumped to avoid taking a direct hit to the leg.

Before I continue, I must preface this part of the story with the fact that I really have no athletic skill or ability whatsoever. But I wasn’t going to let that little fact stand in the way of an awesome summertime snowball fight with my son.

I grabbed a handful of snow, packed it into the perfect baseball shaped snowball. In an instant, Austin knew what was coming. The sheepish smile on his face faded away as he realized he was now MY target. He turned to run away. I took aim, and fired a shot directly at the center of his back. To this day, I can still see what happened next in my mind—it plays over and over like a slow motion movie. As Austin is running, he looked back over his shoulder, to see the speeding snowball grow larger and larger as it sped toward him. But instead of hitting him in the back, the tightly-packed ball of ice nailed him squarely in the face! Yep. A direct hit, knocking him off his little size three shoes and onto the ground. At that moment, I really don’t know who was more stunned – Austin – myself – or my wife who conveniently saw the whole thing. There was the obligatory two seconds of silence before the screaming. And I mean SCREAMING (it’s amazing how loud sounds actually do echo when you’re on the top of a mountain!) Austin’s screaming continued as his reddened face started to swell. My wife was screaming at me, as in “what-the-hell-were-you-thinking-you-know-can’t-throw-to-save-your-life” screaming. And my two-year old daughter was screaming – well because she’s two, and that’s what two-year olds do when they hear other people screaming. As I ran to Austin, he looked at me in complete and absolute FEAR. He started to run away from me, fearing I was going to nail him again! He hid behind his mother, seeking protection from this monster that his daddy had turned into. After a few minutes – and promises of an ice cream cone, a ride on REAL train and my commitment that I would never hit him in the face with a snowball again, Austin was able to pull himself together to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

So, ultimately, my mission was fulfilled – we did make a vacation memory that will last a lifetime.

I know my son will never let me forget it!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Out Cold!

Several years ago, my husband took our 2 boys ice skating for a Cub Scout activity. I stayed home with our daughter, thinking what a great dad he is spending quality time with his sons.

Two hours later, I heard the car pull up. I was looking forward to hearing all about their fun afternoon. Instead, I'm greeted with, "Mom!! Dad fainted at the hospital!!" WHAT?!?!

I ran to the door to see Andy (our 6 yr old) with several blue stitches in his chin, and my husband with a hospital ice pack tied around his head (much like an Easter bonnet).Then I hear the story. Andy, being Andy, tripped (or more likely dove) onto the ice cutting his chin. My husband realizes that a band-aid won't do, and takes him (and Brian, our 8 yr old) to the hospital. Andy was a trooper and survived the stitches just fine. Just as the doctor was cleaning up, my husband said he looked up at the clock and suddenly felt very hungry. Then he dropped like a ton of bricks. First he hit the silver tray holding the medical equipment, then he hit the floor hard. When he hit the tray, he sent all those sharp objects flying across the room. We think that's what sent Brian (our older son) running for cover. Luckily, as he ran out of the hospital room, he ran right into a police officer who calmed him down and stayed with him until his dad was attended to.To this day, my husband blames it on skipping breakfast. But, the nurses in the ER (who asked how Dad was doing when I took Andy back in to get his stitches removed) say it happens more than you know!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Corki's Quandary

Before we were married, before we had kids, we had Corki -- our beautiful, buff Cocker Spaniel. That little girl was our baby.

Neither of us could have imagined the shock we were in for after her first visit to the vet.

Connie had taken Corki in for shots and some routine blood work, and scheduled her to be groomed at the same visit. As new "parents," we were a little concerned that Corki wasn't acting herself after the vet visit. We'd throw her favorite ball into the air, waiting for her to leap and catch it like she always did. Instead, she just sat there, watching the ball go up, and then bounce down right beside her. No reaction. Her chew-bones didn't interest her. She wouldn't come when we called her, and she wouldn't even jump up on the couch to watch TV with us. Something was definitely not right. We called the vet, and they told us that she could be having a reaction to the shots or the blood work. The wanted us to keep an eye on her, and call them back in the morning.

So, we thought we'd take her outside for some fresh air. She didn't want to play, run around, or do anything. Frustrated, I picked her up under her front legs and held her outstretched to Connie, and said, "I really don't know what's wrong with her!" But in an instant, Connie knew. The look on Connie's face turned to total shock as she screamed," OH MY GOD -- she's got a penis!

I quickly set the dog down (OK, Connie says I dropped her), and backed up, paused, and the picked "her" up, turned "her" over, and declared, "Yep. It's a penis."

We called the vet back and quickly discovered there was a "mix-up," as they called it. Apparently, we had "Desert," a male, buff Cocker Spaniel, who was apparently a trained show-dog. And apparently Desert's owners had been given Corki. But instead of letting us swap dogs that evening, we had to wait until the next morning. So, we "tucked" little Desert in for bed, and made our way to the vet's office in the morning. We learned that when Desert's owners were called and informed they had the wrong dog, they didn't believe it. "No way, we have Desert," they replied. They insisted they had the right dog. It wasn't until they were told to check for the right "parts" that they believed it. Their response was almost exactly the same as ours, "Oh my God, he's missing his penis!"

What kind of parents were we? We couldn't even tell that we had the wrong baby!

So, a few years later, when our son Austin was born, let's just say a thorough inspection took place before we left the hospital. With all parts accounted for, we took Austin home to meet his big sis, Corki, who became his best friend for life!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sorority Sitter Surprise

My wife Connie works at the university, so we usually have a lot of college girls available for babysitting our kids. We're always more comfortable using these older, more experienced girls, knowing they are better equipped to handle any unexpected challenges that might occur while we are out. So, when we needed a sitter so we could see our niece perform in the musical production of "A Chorus Line" at the University, Connie called Sarah, a great girl from a Sorority on campus. Sarah had never sat for us before, but she was available, and agreed to watch our 10-year old daughter Kelsey. When we got home, we walked through the door and were greeted with the aroma of fresh baked cookies. Kelsey was excited to tell us about all the fun things they did together, including baking the cookies. We each grabbed a cookie, and started enjoying them as Kelsey explained how they had a slight problem when they were mixing up the dough. You see, we had celebrated Easter recently, and apparently the only eggs we had in the refrigerator were hard boiled eggs. Kelsey asked Sarah what they should do. Sarah thought about it, and figured eggs were eggs, so they just mashed up two of the hard boiled eggs and added them to the dough, popped them in the oven, and baked them.

At this point, we stopped chewing.

I turned my cookie upside down, and sure enough, saw little chunks of white egg pieces baked into the cookie. It didn't seem to bother Kelsey or Sarah. They thought nothing of it, and continued eating their cookies.

After getting past the fact of what I had just actually consumed, I realized I had just learned one of life's important lessons -- and from all people, that lesson came from a sorority girl and a 10-year old:

"When life hands you hard boiled eggs, go ahead, and just bake some cookies!"

Monday, April 9, 2007

The easiest way to keep our 2-year old daughter quiet through church service was to break out the buffet from the diaper bag. We kept it fully stocked with Cheerios, gummies, juice and crackers. Honestly, our pew often looked like a toddler-friendly salad bar! We'll never forget the quiet, candle-light Christmas Eve service when our little angel, Kelsey, decided she was hungry, and wanted some crackers. Her demands were simple and clear. She needed Cheez-Its, and she needed them bad. However, when a 2-year old yells "I NEED CHEEZ-ITS," it sounds exactly like, "I NEED JESUS!" She began screaming that phrase over and over and over. As we were tearing through the diaper bag, desperately searching for even one little toasted yellow-orange square, we noticed the approving nods and smiles from those around us. Then, we overheard the couple behind us say, "Now isn't that sweet -- that baby needs Jesus -- she knows the true meaning of Christmas!" We smiled back at them, stuffed some crackers into Kelsey's mouth, and joined the congregation in a very special rendition of "Silent Night."


Those six words pierced my state of unconsciousness at 4 a.m., and jolted me awake in an instant. Those were the words that my wife used to awake me during our Minneapolis Spring Break getaway. We were in a big city hotel, and Connie had awoken abruptly when she heard the door in our room open and shut. We both jumped out of bed to discover that our eight year old son, Austin was not in his bed.

We feared the worst -- Austin had walked out of the room in his sleep and was wandering through the hotel. Connie rushed to the door, undid the chain lock & deadbolt, and rushed into the hall -- there was no sight of Austin. She took off down the hall frantically searching for him and yelling his name. As she approached the elevators, her heart sunk. Could he have gotten on the elevator? What floor did he get off on? Where could he be?

I was back in the room trying to figure out what to do next. Seconds later, Austin walked out of the bathroom from our hotel room. The door Connie heard open and shut was not our room door that led to the hall -- it was the bathroom door! The little guy just had to go! As we got back into bed, I asked Connie, “When you were unlocking the chain and deadbolt on our door, did it not occur to you that there was no way that Austin could have made it out into the hall, and then re-locked the door from inside our room?” She thought about it for a second, and replied, "Oh, I guess that would have been difficult to do!"

We then laughed ourselves to sleep!