Spring Weekend

This weekend was fantastic. The perfect weekend where we got to enjoy the warm temperatures and sunshine. I purposefully avoiding anything remotely close to work: regular work or house work. I’m consciously trying to enjoy a little bit of life and give some rationale as to why I work constantly.

We had a great time grilling out, and practicing golf with the boys. On Saturday hitting  balls in the front yard, and Sunday we went to the golf range. Golf is a fantastic game, probably the best game ever invented, and it’s nice to see our kids enjoying it. Hopefully we can all go golfing regularly in the future. Food wise we had two good meals this weekend. For about the last two months the wife’s been cooking pretty much a new meal every night to break of the rut we’d gotten into of pasta and chicken every night. Nothing too exotic, but we’ve been going through our Food Network magazines finding new recipes.

There are a lot of things I, we, want to do, so there is a method to my madness of working all the time. It’s nice to consciously take a weekend to not work. We won’t be entirely destitute if I take a day or two off, right?

In the yard we took the wraps off of hive No. 1 and checked the bees. The hive is extremely strong. And we survived without incident. We put an extra box on top, as well as sugar water to help supplement their feed for early spring. There are eggs and capped brood, so there’s a queen in there somewhere. We also set out our yellow jacket traps in hopes of killing a yellow jacket queen to minimize the chances that we’ll have any problems with them later in the year.

Yesterday we had our fist tick, so that’s started up again this year. In a few weeks we should be getting the ~17 year cicadas as well – create a ruckus of sound in the yard for a month.

The apples, serviceberries and gum trees are leafing. The peach trees are blossoming but they look horrible. One peach has two long branches sprouting from the ground with blossoms, and not much more. In time we’ll see what is surviving and what isn’t.

Earth Day on April 22 will mark our 4th anniversary since we moved in. Our plan is to buy and plant a nut tree to mark the occasion to encourage squirrels to come visit us more often.

-c

 

 

 

Smoochie

You’re right.

I didn’t write a single post in the month of July.

And August is almost half over.

So I’m turning over a new leaf and forcing myself to write again.

I actually enjoy writing. And working all the time has kind of jabbed a knife in the back of my desire to be creative or express myself. Well I’m making a conscious effort to focus on the things that bring me happiness. And make an effort to eliminate those things in my life that add no value to it. I need to go back to square one. I need to make my sphere smaller.

So hopefully this will equate to more writing. Though I can not guarantee any of it will be any good, my hope is that it will at least help ease my mind. And maybe you’ll learn something new along the way.

I’ll write three posts this week (actually write them all today, but post them on three different days) on three topics that you, my trusted reader, may find of interest.

One will update you on bees. Another will tell you what’s going on with the basement project.

But today I’ll tell you about our latest pet adventure: a fish tank.

Our youngest has wanted pet fish for some time now. Well we finally caved in a few weeks ago and got him, the whole family actually, a ten gallon fish tank. I had fish growing up as a kid so I sort of knew what we were getting into. With three cats successfully living for a number of years under our stewardship, we figured we could handle some tropical fish.

First off we went to Petsmart and bought an all-inclusive 10 gallon fish tank kit from Top Fin. It included tank, filter, heater and LED illuminated hood. Each family member picked out a fake plant, and we got a 10 lb. bag of gravel, as well as a kick ass looking rusted pipe looking decoration; it fits our industrial chic vibe we’ve got going on at the casa.

Now, before you write me letters on how awful the tropical fish industry is, let me just stop you there. Yes, it is horrific. But as you should know by now, I can’t save everything for everyone all the time. I happen to like pet fish and I think it’s a good teaching experience for the boys: animal appreciation, life, death, responsibility and more. Plus, we decided my office was the best place for the tank, so my mental health and blood pressure benefit from the calm hum of the filter and the swimming fish-ies. Here is a PETA article about how to responsibly do pet fish, if you must be irresponsible monsters such as yours truly.

We set up the tank according to the directions and a few YouTube videos. Treatment wise we used Seachem Prime and Stability to get the tap water whipped into shape for our future guests. We then let the tank sit for three weeks, running, since we had to a vacation to go on.

Our fish tank set up.

Our fish tank set up.

Dixon approved.

Dixon approved.

Once we got back from vacation, we went to Petsmart for our own personal “Fish Day”. The rule of thumb is one inch of fish per gallon. Both boys would get to pick a fish out, as would the wife. Now you don’t want to get all your fish at once. For our little ten gallon tank, we would want to get them in two batches about two weeks apart. We selected neon tetras, 2-3 types of guppies and an algae eater. On this fish day we came home with the algae eater (Otocinclus) and five neon tetras. The tetras like to school, so you need to get a minimum of 3-6 of them. They alone account for five inches of fish. The algae eater another 2 inches. The guppies will push us up to 10.5 inches.

It’ll be fine.

Exciting! Getting our fish!

Exciting! Getting our fish!

Otocinclus are a type of algae eaters.

Otocinclus are a type of algae eaters.

Happily, as family, we introduced our new swimming pets to their new home.

We named the algae eater “Mr. Bloopy” aka “Smoochie” because he “bloops” around from place to place, and sucks on the aquarium glass. Every half hour the boys were in my office looking for him. He’s really good a camouflaging himself. Then filling the house with shouts and laughter they’d exclaim when they found him. Everyone was really getting into the fish tank.

Then it all went to crap.

Late that evening, day after we got the fish, I noticed Bloop swimming irregularly. Then he dashed down to the gravel and flopped on his side.

“Oh no! Smoochie!”

I poked him a little with the net to right up. He was still breathing, but looking lethargic.

Sadly I awoke this morning to find Mr. Bloop didn’t make it through the night. His little stomach no longer moved. Inquisitive searches for his whereabouts were no longer necessary.

Bloop was dead.

Mr. Bloopy "resting". (Sadly, I didn't get a picture of him before).

Mr. Bloopy “resting”. (Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of him before).

The boys took the news a lot better than their mother or father did. In less then 48 hours with us, he brought laughter and joy to our household. So much laughter, fun and excitement dashed.

I’m not sure what went wrong, though I know I didn’t do the one water treatment properly. I only put the Stability product in for one day instead of seven. I’m correcting that mistake this week. The tetras are doing fine, but just to be safe I got our water tested. The pH was off a little so I picked up some Tetra Easy Balance Plus and poured that in.

In two weeks we’ll get the water tested again and get the rest of the fish, including a new algae eater. And yes, we’ll probably call him Bloopy or Smoochie too.

I feel awful because it was basically my fault for not preparing the water correctly.

This afternoon we placed Mr. Bloopy’s little body in a tissue lined X-acto box and buried him beneath a maple tree back in the woods, just off of the nature trail. A small rock and bouquet of queen-anne’s lace marks his final resting spot. The sun filters down through the leaves and shines upon him warmly. I thought of burying him near the pond so he’d be near water, but we all decided that the woods up by the nature trail is a fine resting place for any critter.

It’s a nice place to rest.

I’d like my ashes spread there someday, god willing.

Then Bloop n me can swim whenever we want.

Stone marker before inscription

Stone marker before inscription

As written by a six year old: Mr Blope [Bloopy] The Fish XO XO [fish and hear emoji's] Love. I couldn't have said it better myself.

As written by a six year old: Mr Blope [Bloopy] The Fish XO XO [fish and hear emoji’s] Love. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

It’s nice to have been here at this home long enough to start building some memories, both good and bad.

And it’s nice to get back into writing.

Goodnight Mr. Bloopy. See you on the flip side.

A Xylophone and LED Light Bulbs

Snowy yard in January 2015

Snowy yard in January 2015

A mixed bag of whatnot for this post. We’ve been somewhat snowed in for a week or two as winter asserts itself in northeast Ohio. The ground has been covered in a blanket of white for the better part of four weeks or more. But the last week has found an accumulation of a few inches per day it seems.

We’re in full hibernation mode. Venturing out for school, provisions and not much more. I’ve been busy with work but have found some time here and there to dabble in various distractions.

As the original lightbulbs in the house burn out, I’m trying to replace them with energy efficient LED light bulbs. Because LED’s do cost a fair bit, I can’t just go out and replace them all. But this past week I replaced the four light bulbs in the upstairs studio. This space is used by the wife and kids everyday so it’s a good candidate for eco-friendly, cost saving bulbs.

One of the three recessed ceiling cans had a burnt out bulb. I took the three working bulbs and transferred them to the kitchen where we have a half-dozen burned out cans. I then went to Lowe’s and picked up four Sylvania Ultra 11-Watt (65W Equivalent) BR30 Medium Base Soft White Dimmable Indoor LED Flood light bulbs. I normally prefer Home Depot for LED light bulb selection. But I get a discount at Lowe’s and there’s for the studio recess cans, you don’t see anything but light, so a sexy bulb design isn’t important. Though these Sylvania do look good.

 The smooth lines of a SYLVANIA Ultra 11-Watt (65W Equivalent) BR30 Medium Base Soft White Dimmable Indoor LED Flood Light Bulb from Lowe's


The smooth lines of a SYLVANIA Ultra 11-Watt (65W Equivalent) BR30 Medium Base Soft White Dimmable Indoor LED Flood Light Bulb from Lowe’s

Here’s a picture of the box with all the stats. For60Watt replacement bulbs you want to make sure you’re getting around 800 lumens, which is exactly what these65W equivalent bulbs get. At 11-watts, according to the packaging, the bulbs will each save us $1.32 per year over 22 years for a grand total of $29 per bulb (at 3/ hrs a day, at $0.11kWh).  Each bulb cost $15, so we’ll sort of “make money” in the form of long term cost avoidance.

Those four bulbs will keep 1,600 lbs (nearly a ton) of carbon from entering the atmosphere over 22 years (18.2 lbs per bulb per year). It feels pretty good.

Another fun fact I pointed out as my kid helped me install the bulbs, since they last 22 years, it could very well be my grandkids standing there the next time I have to get on the ladder and change those bulbs in the studio. Who knows, the bulbs may even outlast me.

Side of the box

Side of the box

front of the box

front of the box

The new bulbs doing their thing.

The new bulbs doing their thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xylophone

One fun thing we did this week was we made a real xylophone. Our oldest came home from school and told us how he played a xylophone that day, and he wanted to make one.

We didn’t have any sort of plan, but he drew up his own plan in book form. It was cute. He then directed me as I sawed and screwed together some scrap wood. The first one didn’t turn out too good so on Saturday we woke up early and picked up some 1×2’s at the store. I used this guide online (click here) to make our xylophone. I’ll let you look through the steps yourself.

Ours turned out okay and it does make the right sounds for the most part. It was a fun project and nice distraction for a snowy Saturday afternoon.

I used a file to tune the keys.

I used a file to tune the keys.

The assembled xylophone.

The assembled xylophone.

The xylophone in action.

The xylophone in action.

 

 

Trailer Happenings

No, we haven’t bought a trailer. We’re holding true to our game plan. But I continue to learn more and more about trailers, their prices and the best places to hunt for them. The last week has found me on eBay, which is turning out to be a good hunting spot. The site seems to get a steady stream of trailers, especially on Saturday and Sunday.

Other good sites include Tin Can Tourists, which has a decent classified section, that features a few new trailers every week or so. For Airstreams, the best site is Airstream Classifieds. 

The problem with Airstreams are two-fold. One, they are way too expensive. There was a damaged one on eBay that was a steal at $12,000 which, given the means, I would have rolled the dice on. Otherwise though you’re spending $10K minimum for anything in our 16′ range. The longer ones are actually less expensive. Which leads us to the second problem with Airstreams, they weigh too much. We could only pull a 16′ with our RAV4, and even so it’d have to be a vintage one. The newer ones are outfitted like Cadillacs with all sorts of heavy furniture and gear. This doesn’t keep me from looking, but you know how it goes. Wishful thinking.

Here are just of few of this week’s crop of new and used trailers I’ve been spying.

 

 

Autumn Scenes & Honey Bottle Label

Autumn is in full swing.

Today we labeled our honey bottles. The labels look okay. There are some design changes I’ll make but those can wait until the next batch. We needed to get them labeled for tomorrow’s community yard sale.

Here are a few photos, including one of a frog that jumped out in front of the Rabbit the other day. It’s a northern green frog (Rana clamitans melanomawhich is can be found throughout Ohio. It’s fun discovering a “new to us” species on our land. Especially this large of an amphibian. One of these days I should do a book on all the animals we have on our land.

So many ideas, so little time.

Labor Day 2014

I have some form of undiagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder that requires me to get monkeys off my back. So I’ll throw out my “Happy Labor Day” post before I get back to working on a Sunday. (You’ll be reading on Monday (Labor Day in the U.S.) and suffice to say I’ll be working on Labor Day as well.)

My Exterior Doors Hate Me

Speaking of obsessive compulsive, I interrupted my work Friday with an hour fit of wanting to get my Therma-Tru doors fixed again. This saga has been ongoing since January and every time I see the air gap in my doors, and missing hinge screws it fills me with rage.

I bet most people who go postal had someone mis-install three grand worth of exterior doors in their house; only to find there is absolutely zero customer service after your doors are installed. I can’t go after the installer because we’re related, and it would make holiday parties difficult. I call the place every four weeks where we bought the doors from but they never call back. I send emails and check out the manufacturer website out – hoping I can order replacement parts but they say I have to contact the distributor.

See the problem is Therma-Tru makes the door slabs and then a distributor puts on the frames. You need to contact a distributor, but it has to be the one you got the doors from. I don’t know what you do if you buy the house new.

It’s a good example of how pathetic customer service is in this country. Specifically customer service in the building industry. It is horrific. From manufacturers, to sellers, to installers; my impression is they just want to take your money and never deal with you again. In this day and age I should be able to have an expert look at my door, order the parts, install them / fix the problem, and then give me a bill to pay.

I did have a distributor rep come out in January but he never followed through and I don’t have his contact info. The whole process defies logic and common sense.

I did purchase some long #12 screws for the hinges, where they neglected to install screws. They’re zinc plated which I don’t know if I like that from a corrosion perspective – I may still go out and find stainless screws just to suit my anal retentive nature.

The lack of air tightness isn’t the only door problem I’m having, the front door lock won’t accept the key all the way. So I called up Emtek and they’re going to send me a “tool” I can use to try to fix it. I suspect it’ll either do the trick or turn into another complete cluster. We shall see.

Air Show

We went to the air show this weekend. I had been wanting to go for the last 15 years but never found the time. It comes to Cleveland every Labor Day weekend, except last which was cancelled due to the government shutdown.

The best part of the show for us as a Harrier flying right over top of us as we got out of the car. It scared the entire family because we didn’t see it coming.

It was awesome!

The day was hot but the we had a really nice time. The kids got toy airplanes, and got to stand next to the actual planes to get their photos taken. We had some lemonade and settled down on our blanket to watch the Blue Angels. They were really awesome!

I know a lot of people who live in the USA hate the country, military and whatnot but I love going to the air show and seeing the jets. I’m no war monger by any means, unless maybe it has to do with my ill-fitting doors, but I’m really glad I live in the United States of America. We enjoy more freedom and opportunity than any other nation in my opinion and we have really awesome people protecting us. And those people get to use the best equipment available. Watching those planes and how powerful they are makes me glad I will never have to be on the business end of one of them.

Go off on your political rants all you want; but I really love this country and don’t mind one bit that we’ve got good people wielding capable weapons in defense of freedom across the globe. It’s a shame that the advent of drones and a changing world likely mean the need for jets will wane soon. I’m glad I grew up in an age where we could see them.

One environmental note, to me an air show is a great use of fossil fuels – it was great entertainment and made treasured memories for our family. And I don’t mind buying the foreign made plastic toy planes as  a token of the day – though it’d be nice if they were more eco-friendly and made here, it’s not a big deal.

Abstinence isn’t a viable option for this tree-hugger when it comes to the air show.

Apologies to my green loving, dove friends.

This B-25 is the last one that still flys and saw actual combat. It flew sorties into Italy during WW2. It's a beautiful machine. Hopefully it will be flying for generations to come.

This B-25 is the last one that still flys and saw actual combat. It flew sorties into Italy during WW2. It’s a beautiful machine. Hopefully it will be flying for generations to come.

Watching the Blue Angels is a Cleveland tradition. It makes me really happy to share the experience with my kids.

Watching the Blue Angels is a Cleveland tradition. It makes me really happy to share the experience with my kids.

F/A-18's from the Blue Angels naval air team.

F/A-18’s from the Blue Angels naval air team. I think flying a jet would be awesome.  These guys are lucky to get to do it as their job.

Grey Day Photos

I’ll leave you this Labor Day (and get back to work before I get in trouble) with some photos from our wild yard.

Peace everyone. Stay safe, love each other and find time to laugh today.

Rain barrel with black eyed susans

Rain barrel with black eyed susans

Front planting bed with wildflowers. A nice view of our rain water collection network and natural flowers managing rain water.

Front planting bed with wildflowers. A nice view of our rain water collection network and natural flowers managing rain water.

The bees working on Labor Day weekend too.

The bees working on Labor Day weekend too.

 

Apple Blossom

We went to the sold out John Prine concert last night at the Ohio, and it was awesome. I’m not a connoisseur of concerts, so I don’t know if they are all as great, but after seeing John live, I’m not sure there much need to go to any others.

To celebrate the wife and my wedding anniversary we started out the night with dinner at Michael Simon’s Lolita restaurant, where we enjoyed a delicious three course meal. First off were yummy mussels and an order of bruschetta. For dinner we both got the petite steak which was exquisitely fantastic. To top it off we shared a trifle. It’s a nice quaint restaurant and I’d recommend it to anyone.

We then traveled over to the historic Ohio Theater for the concert. It’s a great venue and the seats I got were the best, in the mezzanine, but right behind the aisle so no one was in front of us; I little tight on leg room but definitely the seats to get in my opinion.

Sarah Jarosz opened for John, and even played a few songs with him later in the night. We had never heard her before but we’re fans now. I liked the soulful country sound of her voice, her wonderful lyrics and guitar playing. Sarah entertained the crowd during her 35 minute set. During intermission we went out to the lobby and got her to autograph a copy of her latest CD.

John darted out on stage carrying his guitar, accompanied by his three band mates playing guitar, mandolin and (what I call a) bass cello, and launched right into ‘Spanish Pipedream’ which was a pure delight. It was the perfect song to start with, especially since the wife hadn’t even heard of John, let a lone his music. I wish I could have somehow bottled the moment….the whole night really.

The next two hours were spent listening to songs, ranging from sad to funny, slow to rocking. He hit upon virtually all the ones I know, including the encore ‘Paradise’ which Sarah came back out for and most of the band mates performed solos. John’s music is as authentic an experience as you’re likely to find that touches your heart and soul; it speaks to the human condition. He truly is a national treasure, a hidden gem. We are all better off for he and his music. I count myself extremely fortunate to have seen him perform live and would see him again in a heartbeat.

Here’s a review of the concert from the PD.

Back home today we cleaned up the house for a guest tour. I love having guests and showing off the house. It’s also a great excuse to clean up around here.

We had a beautiful day for it, sunny, though it wasn’t very warm.

As it turns out, we all took the day off. After we visited with our friends and showed them around, we ended up having an early dinner followed by just hanging around the family room watching movies on TV. At one point I even dozed off. As did the cats, and boys. Sometimes, despite the weight of the world squeezing the air out of your lungs, you need to say ‘it can wait til tomorrow’. I’m tired of it all really; and besides I love the escapism of a movie or two on a lazy Sunday.

Oh, and one of the best parts of today – as I was explaining to our friends that I doubted we’d get apple blossoms this year, I spied a white flower in the distance atop the one corner apple tree. Upon further inspection there are five flowers up there.

Who knows, maybe we will have apples this year.

Our first apple blossoms of the year. Better late than never.

Our first apple blossoms of the year. Better late than never.

Mama deer is about to squirt a baby out. Today I thought she was based on how she was walking in the south meadow. She walked the whole time tail up. I was going to video tape the birth but she rambled behind a hedge row.

Mama deer is about to squirt a baby out. Today I thought she was based on how she was walking in the south meadow. She walked the whole time tail up. At one point to relieve herself. I’d swear she was crowning (sorry if that’s not the right term, but I saw more of her privates than I care to admit). I was going to video tape the birth but she rambled behind a hedge row.

It's so rare to have the kitchen clean I just had to take a photo of it.

It’s so rare to have the kitchen clean I just had to take a photo of it.

 

Lavender Honey Beer

We’ve got a cookout coming up for Memorial Day. I laid claim to Memorial Day weekend for a friend / family cookout because I’m always jones-ing for a cookout after the long winter, plus it’s the unofficial kick off of nice weather in Northeast Ohio, and it reminds me that I have to buy my wife an anniversary present.

My friend brews beer as a hobby so I put in a special request to have a beer made specifically for the cookout. I like the idea of creating special beers – coming up with a name, creating cool labels, perfecting the recipe year after. Well I know nothing about brewing and have enough hobbies as it is, so best to let the pro take care of the technical beer stuff, and I can glam onto the arty bits.

The thought I have is to come up with four seasonal beers and try to use ingredients that we grow here on the “farm”. We have so many potentially great flavors to choose from: honey, apple, peach, blueberry, raspberry, black berry, choke and service berries, even lavender, sunflower and peppers, just to name a few. Unfortunately nothing other than honey is growing on the farm any time soon. My blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes took a huge hit this winter. The peaches won’t be read til Fall, if at all. And I’m not even sure we’ll get apple blossoms this year. The honey is ready but we won’t extract any until late May or June.

So for this first batch of Memorial Day beer I selected two flavors that we at least could have in theory, someday: lavender and honey. They sell these ingredients in stores so we just went that route. I’m calling our Spring beer ‘Lavender Honey Spring Ale. Here is my sketch for the label (full disclosure, I traced the lady for my first sketch from another artist, but will try my hand at drawing my own for the final).

My preliminary sketch for the "Lavender Honey Spring Ale" label

My preliminary sketch for the “Lavender Honey Spring Ale” label

So you get the idea. I’ll steal some mat board from the wife and pull out my pen and ink for the final. It’s actually a fun art project; will be nice to get into the studio for a change.

Tonight was bottling night so I trekked (i.e. drove) on over to my buddy’s house and got to help bottle our first beer (well “my” first beer).

We started out by counting out 50 bottles. The batch was about 5 gallons almost.

bottles and caps waiting to be cleaned. My OCD in action.

bottles and caps waiting to be cleaned. My OCD in action.

We cleaned all the bottle in some sort of fancy solution in the sink and let them dry and a cool drying rack. We reused beer bottles by the way though I suppose you could buy new ones.

Bottles drying, ready to be filled up.

Bottles drying, ready to be filled up.

Then we emptied the bucket that the beer was brewing in, into another bucket, leaving behind all the nasty yeasty bits.

The gunk left behind as the bucket drains out into another.

The gunk left behind as the bucket drains out into another.

Transferring beer from one bucket to another.

Transferring beer from one bucket to another.

From there my friend tossed the bucket up on the fridge to let gravity help us fill all the bottles. There’s a cool pipet thingy that allows you to fill up the bottles 12 oz. at a time. I then capped each bottle.  He let me fill a few too. It was a pretty cool experience.

Finished beer, just needs a week to carbonate.

Finished beer, just needs a week to carbonate.

The flat beer will now carbonate for a week. Then we can open one and see how it tastes, carbonated. We actually tasted it tonight and it did not taste like soap, which is good. You can definitely smell the lavender. The beer has a nice color to it as well. It’s just that right now it’s warm and flat so you don’t want to drink a lot of it.

The beer looks good and tastes good.

The beer looks good and tastes good.

I’ll have to find some me time this week to ink the label by hand. Like I said it should be fun.

I’ll have to come up with a few more ideas for Summer, Autumn and Winter.

Beyond the beer, I worked on the sandbox this afternoon. I was playing Mr. Mom watching the boys. It was a nice afternoon outside so we went out, they played and I worked. Soon they were back inside though so I didn’t get much done. I’m trying to get the box done by Memorial Day if possible, which shouldn’t be a problem.

I got exactly 20 mins. in today on the sandbox.

I got exactly 20 mins. in today on the sandbox. I used my favorite screws to mount 2×10’s to my posts. Everything is fairly level.

The only issue I have with the box is, the sand. Normal sand you buy in the store, like at Home Depot or Lowes is silicate made from crushed quartz which causes cancer. So I’m looking for natural safe sand, like you’d find at the beach (presumably made from limestone sea shell like material). The only place I found so far is in California and the cost is astronomical to have it shipped to Ohio. I could make my own, but I need like 2,000 lbs. There is a “natural” sand made by Sakrete that they claim is safe, but really it’s not. I think that’s the route I’ll go and just make sure the sand is “wet” whenever the kids play with it and make sure their hands are clean after. Or the kids may just get dirt and rocks to play in the sand box.

I don’t understand how these companies can market this stuff to kids with a cancer warning label on it.

Anyway, there always seems to be something to worry about. Most people would say “Oh you worry too much”, but then how many people do each of us know who have gotten cancer inexplicably in their lifetime? And it’s not like it’s a mystery, the labels tell you right out of the gate: this causes cancer.

Right now the boys are playing in the mud I created in the sandbox area and are happy enough. Maybe we over think things.

Maybe everyone who comes to the cookout could bring 80 lbs of beach sand as an offering.

Do you have any ideas for what to do with the sand box? Or where to find safe sand?

 

Mother’s Day

I was going to write something grand and epic for Mother’s Day, starting like this:

The world can be a pretty awful place. But it’s not nearly as bad as it would be if it weren’t for a mother’s love.

 

I don’t know what my plans were but I do know that at some point I looked at the woman who is now my wife and thought to myself, she will be a great mother.

 

See, we were together for sometime before we had kids. I guess no thought is worth a damn until it plays out. I couldn’t tell you if she thought she would be or not. I guess it’s not something that ever came up in conversation. I suspect like anything, when faced with an unknown variable, one could say there’s no proof until you see it,. No reason to practically think such things. But a life isn’t made of proofs, it’s crafted from the unknown.

 

When we were blessed with our boys, she took to it like a fish to water.

 

Her strength and love for her children leaves one in awe.

 

But I wrote these words last night and then I got tired. And I spent all day with the family, and walking the land this afternoon. And you know what, it doesn’t matter how I write in celebration of the mother that my wife has become; being grand about it may even miss the point. Life pretty much wears you down, but despite all the grinding, there she is being the best mom in the world to our kids.

She is the best mom.

I asked my kids.

They told me so.

I see no reason to argue.

She is everything to them. She does it all and they adore her rightfully so. There is a laundry list of things she does: cleans bathrooms, makes meals, acts as their chauffeur, fixes ’em up when they get hurt, is the chief snuggle buddy when they need a hug…does laundry…she gives every bit of her energy and heart openly to raising our children.

It’s a thankless job, save for seeing the joy on our kids’ faces when they are happy, and the comfort she provides when they are sad. On top of it all she works multiple jobs at all hours of the day and well into the night. (She’s working on her art as I write this, in fact. Tomorrow she’ll bake cookies before school. I’m tired just trying to keep track. She does this every day, of every week.)

She has built this home that we enjoy, with patience and a bottomless supply of energy. I don’t even think she sleeps at night. Maybe she’s a robot or something. All I know is that those kids, and me too, are lucky to have her. So Happy Mother’s Day to my wife. I don’t say it enough, but we appreciate the heck out of you.

We did spend much of the day outside, so here are today’s Spring pics to share. I love that our land has a ton of flowering trees. Today was peak I think in terms of flowers. It’s amazing to come up the drive, over the rise and “poof” see all the flowering trees. Presumably the seeds were carried by the wind from surrounding properties over the years. Like some sort of suburban landscaping fallout. The result is absolutely stunning. The photographs do it no justice. I think today, or the week of the bloom, is my favorite time of year on the property.  Enjoy!

 

 

Ranking Movies My Kids Watch – Part 2

Lorax. photo from IMDB.com screenshot.

Lorax. photo from IMDB.com screenshot.

Well the wife and I never connected to arrive at a consensus on the top ten list, so I’ll take a stab at it with my thoughts. I’m not sure I can rank them in order, so consider this our top ten (plus some more) animated movies that our kids (and we watch) but not necessarily in this order. Because they’re all kind of different, I’m not sure we could rank them anyway; sort of like comparing apples and oranges. Besides, even if we’re on a deserted island, we could grab more than one DVD for entertainment, I bet.

Drum roll please….

The Lorax – We saw this gem at the theater while on vacation with our oldest. I believe I liked it then but the wife luke-warm. For whatever reason we bought it on DVD and it grew on us. I love the environmental message. For the non-tree hugging crew there are plenty of great songs and the Dr. Suess inspired story line is fast paced, cohesive and illustrated very nicely. If it’s not our number one, it’s definitely in the top five.

Despicable Me – I didn’t know what to expect when we first saw the movie, but turns out it’s one of our favorites. It’s hilarious, heart warming and there are plenty of one-liners, memorable moments and subtle distractions to keep you coming back for repeat viewings. The animation is artfully fantastic.

Despicable Me 2 – The sequel is nearly as good as the original, and in our top ten regardless. New characters, new story but the same great animation, humor and action to keep the whole family engaged.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – I suspect this might be Christine’s favorite set of movies. Cloudy does a nice job, despite a departed mom, of keeping things upbeat. The movie is a cornucopia of visual delights and requite subtle dialogue details that we seemingly see or hear something new every time we watch.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 – Another sequel makes our list. It’s more of what we love, including all of our favorite characters. Probably the only reason I might like this one less than the first is a couple of the new characters, but all in all the movie comes through with more visual delights and snappy one-liners.

Tangled – This newer classic is my favorite Disney movie of all time. ‘I’ve Got A Dream’ is the best song in any animated movie, ever. Bar none. There’s more to love than just one song though: a good story, funny characters and even a cute little chameleon make for a wonderfully good time.

Turbo – We had no interest in ‘Turbo when we saw the previews. I’m not even sure what prompted us to rent it. But we’re glad we did. It’s a really cute upbeat movie, which is important with any kid movie that you’re likely to watch over and over again. The action is non-stop.

Hotel Transylvania – Another movie that we didn’t pay much attention to. And another one that delights the whole way through, from start to finish. Once again there’s a missing mom, but that doesn’t bring us down as the movie is humorous and the animation is fantastic. Well worth checking out.

Ratatouille – Who would have thought a movie about rats would be good? Well turns out this one is more than just good. A Disney / Pixar combo means the animation is top-notch. The story line stands out and is heart warming. One of my personal favorites.

Cars – I have a love hate relationship with cars. The animation is great and our one son watches Cars…..actually Cars 2, all the time, so it deserves a showing in our top ten. It’s an emotional roller coaster with funny moments, sad moments and heart-felt moments. At some point I probably well up every time I watch, even to this day. I have issue with the fact that cars don’t have arms and hands so how do they take care of themselves in a decidedly human centric world, devoid of actual humans. Regardless, ‘Cars’ earns it’s spot.

Honorable mentions (or the movies beyond the top ten)

Rio – we just saw this gem about a blue parrot a few weeks ago when it was on TV for free. For me, I have it a 9 right out of the gate, in fact I’d put it in my top 5 quite possibly. It’s upbeat, cute, and has a fun story. And it stays away from being too annoying at times, when it easily could have been. After ten minutes, I was smitten.

How To Train Your Dragon – I don’t know how this isn’t in the top ten. It’s a delightful movie. Though yet again, the mom is missing – what the hell is it with people who write these kids movies. Anyway, the main dragon reminds me of my black kitty which that alone earns it extra points. The animation is good, and the story packs plenty of interest and top-notch animation.

Cars 2 – It’s been on almost every day for the year. I’ve never actually watched it start to finish, but have seen it all. Same great animation, car crashes, and some new characters.

Ice Age 1 & 2 – The first two installments, of this four part series are likely the best in terms of music and one-liners. The other two are okay, but the return on investment dwindles with every subsequent installment.

There you have it, our top ten plus list of animated movies for our kids.

What movies would you add to the list?

What’s your favorite?

Share in the comments below.