Tag Archives: Family

Happy Belated Thanksgiving, and Happy Advent

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Since I don’t blog for a living, I will from time to time take extended breaks, since this isn’t my top priority.

That was the case over the last couple of weeks.    I started an extended vacation from work beginning November 17, and because I was trying to get everything in a place where it needed to be before I left, I haven’t submitted a blog post since a few days before that.

Today is just a check-in as I now begin the task of catching up from my time off!

A quick recap of my time off:

November 17 – My wife and I and a couple friends drove to Green Bay, Wisconsin and listened to Charlie Johnston speak.   I introduced myself as “The Diatribe Guy” after his talk and he was genuinely happy to see me.   It was nice to meet him in person.    He appreciated that I have a bit of a skeptical nature about the whole thing, while also keeping an open mind about it all.    I am respectful and try to provide a different view or insight when I comment on his blog and I think he recognizes that I am not a troll who is trying to play some game of “gotcha” but instead someone who is trying to understand, take it all in, keeping my wits about me, and maintaining prudence.    He didn’t say a whole lot I hadn’t heard him say or write before, but it’s always good to be in a small community with others.

November 18 – my birthday!   Yay me.    And as my birthday present I went to our garden an hour away to spread a mineral mix on it only for 50 mph winds to spring up out of nowhere and make spreading it impossible.   So I unloaded it and came back home.   While I was gone, our oven broke.   Since I have already paid for this oven twice because it keeps breaking down, we decide to get a new one.    My wife and I do a birthday dinner, shop for appliances, and go see a movie.   Jack Reacher.    It was OK – nothing special but a couple hours of mindless entertainment.   Lowe’s is on a two-week delivery schedule, and Thanksgiving is only 5 days away.   We pass.

November 19 – November 27:   Rifle deer hunting season in Wisconsin.    A time where the kids, the father-in-law, and me spend countless hours in the woods and see NOTHING.    Four year drought.   The only thing I got was a cold.

November 19: Appliance shopping – decide to go to a gas stove with a local dealer who can guarantee delivery by Thanksgiving.   but we are not set up for gas, so first need to find a plumber who can get to our house before Thanksgiving.     Vacation is stressful.   Wisconsin Badgers win in football, moving up to 6th in the national playoff rankings!

November 20 – Packers lost again.   Defense is horrible.

November 21:  While we are hunting in spurts throughout this whole week, this was the special day of triumph.   Spend all day at the father-in-law’s land a couple hours away, picking off huge Bucks!    Well, we spent all day there, froze our butts off and finally saw a doe about 200 yards away facing away from us with about 15 minutes left in the hunting day.    Too far to take the shot for my son, who was the only one allowed to shoot a doe in this county.   That’s as close as we got all season to shooting a deer.    My wife actually found a plumber who could come over the next day.

November 22: We have gas in the kitchen!   Well, I always have gas in the kitchen, but I mean the natural kind that runs appliances.

November 23 – Spent half the day in a dentist’s chair.    A crown in my mouth cracked.   That has been drilled out, my nub is now even a smaller nub, and a temporary crown is on. I texted my sister and said that I think my Purgatory will be continued dental work in a confined space with spiders crawling on me.   Her response was “If that is Purgatory, then Hell sounds better.”    I couldn’t even argue.   Our gas stove is delivered!   We can now make a Thanksgiving meal.

November 24:   Happy Thanksgiving!    Great meal with the whole family.   Very nice day, despite my mouth hurting from the dental work.   Despite my wife’s nervousness about getting used to gas and convection oven cooking, everything was awesome.

November 25 – 27: Lots of hunting.    My father-in-law has a habit of picking a spot to park on public land and then walking to the furthest possible point on that land from where we parked.

November 26: Badgers won again – Big Ten East Champions – will play in the Big Ten title game next week against Penn State.   Will likely remain 6th in the rankings, possibly moving to 5th.   Need to finish top four to make the playoff.

 

Looking at that recap is a synopsis of life.    A couple hurdles and unexpected irritations that need to be dealt with – so you deal with them.   You can let it get you down or you can just move forward.   Some things of highest value that bring you joy (God, family, thankfulness, time together), things you try to do but don’t succeed at and you learn from it and move on, some frivolous pursuits that bring some added color and entertainment to life…    If I recapped every week of my life it would probably look something like that.

 

So let’s move on.   It’s Advent.   Life will be busy, but when you look back at each week will you see a lot of pointless busyness at the expense of things that would have been more important, or do you see a good balance.     I look above and I like the balance overall.    In the woods, I even spent some of that time in prayer and contemplating God.

But I was on vacation – toss in my work schedule and suddenly the balance becomes harder to achieve.    I’m going to try my best to maintain a proper balance during Advent – and beyond.

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Team Hamstring

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So, on a completely different and personal note…

My son was part of a Flag Football League this year.   The last game was called off, and it was decided that it would be fun to have the team play against parents, coaches, and teachers.

My initial response was “This is not a good idea.”

My wife and son finally convinced me to play the game.

I am 48 years old, and I work at a desk.   I used to be a very good athlete.   Used to be.

Result:  Severely pulled hamstring.

But I was not alone.   Two other pulled hamstrings and a pulled calf muscle, and it was determined by more than just me that “maybe that was not a good idea.”

I’m on the mend, but it will be a few weeks before I can do any vigorous exercise.   Not that I did before.

Why Am I Annoyed by Happy People on Commercials?

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The little boy drops a bowl of cereal.   The bowl breaks and stuff is everywhere.   The boy cries.   The mom smiles and consoles him.  There is no anger or scolding.  There is only…  a Swiffer!   And joy abounds.

The man has heart pains.  But because of the magical pill he no longer has heart pains.  He now feels younger.   Now, all his time is spent laughing as he plays hide-and-seek or fishing with his grandchildren.

I hate these commercials.  But why do I hate them?   Do I not want people to love their kids and grand-kids?   Do I prefer that people lose their temper instead of being cool, steady, and joyful?

No, that’s not it.

The first reason i hate them is because I am not that perfect.   I’d have yelled at the kid and thrown him in the corner while grumbling about his clumsiness as I cleaned up his mess.    And when I retire, I look forward to spending time playing cards with my grandkids, but I’m probably not going to play hide and seek.   Too much work.   So, yes, I see my own imperfections in the perfect unreality of commercials.

The second reason I hate them is because I don’t believe they mirror most realities, and they’re trying to sell me something by lying to me about the fact that all my anger and imperfections can now magically be solved by this particular product.  That’s a lie.

But really, my dislike for all this goes much deeper.   I may be overthinking this, but I am utterly annoyed by the hypocrisy of our culture.   We sure love our kids in commercials.   They are our joy and our hope.   But in a society that has killed over 50 million kids in the womb and prevented however many other pregnancies because of the contraceptive mentality we have totally embraced, the idea that we really, really love our kids so much because they mean everything to us is simply a lie.  They don’t.

That may seem harsh, and I don’t mean it as a universal statement that applies to everyone.   But I do mean it as an overarching cultural statement.

Imagine the following sentiment from Mr. and Mrs. ABC:   “Oh, little Johnny and Jenna are just the joys of our lives.   We can’t imagine what life would be without them.   They are such blessings, and it’s so unreal watching them grow up!  The time flies by so quickly!”

“Oh, so are you planning on having any more children?”

“Good, God, no!   We can hardly handle the two we have!”

So… which is it?   The “money can’t put a price tag on the little darlings that bring the ultimate joy to our lives” parents, or the “I can’t handle this” parents.    Because saying you can’t handle something, to me, is not something you say about a blessing.    It’s something you say about a burden.

Now, don’t get me wrong.   I am not saying it isn’t normal to think that you can’t handle life at times, including the kids.   This is perfectly normal.   In fact, sometimes I think we need those times to allow us to refocus on God.   Because when we can’t handle something, we must humbly turn to God in our humanness and ask for help, and admit that we are not God, we are not in complete control, and we are imperfect.    The answers that God gives in these times may not be what we desire.   We get tested and refined and strengthened so that we can not only handle what we have, but a little bit more.    And to the extent we can’t, we need to lean on Him all the more.   This isn’t all about happy happy joy joy.

So, in our human ingenuity, we’ve turned to abortion and contraception as the answers to our burdens – children – all the while putting on a face of love and joy and happiness over the children we have, as long as we don’t have enough to disrupt our lifestyle.   And this somewhat peeves me.

But, I guess a commercial about a dad with 9 kids doling out a punishment while pulling out an old dishrag he found for a quarter at a garage sale probably wouldn’t inspire consumerism.   So, I’ll just have to live with the fact that people on commercials love their kids.   At least the ones they kept.

 

Revisiting the Wood Tick Story

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When you embrace the idea of being a parent of a large family, you just accept that there will be plenty of stories to tell when it’s all over with.   Not all of these stories reflect well on you, but that’s usually what makes them funny.

This post was originally posted by me on a previous blog, but we are in the midst of tick season right now, and as a public service it is worth revisiting.   Don’t try this at home…

I am about to write a post that proves that a pair of college graduates – one of whom took his share of Chemistry, Physics, and other courses on the way to becoming an actuary – can do something so stupid that any reasonable person would ask “What were you thinking?” Believe me, if someone else had done it, I would be calling the other person an idiot. And therefore, for consistency’s sake, let me be the first to say to myself, “You are an idiot.”

With that out of the way, allow me to tell the true story of last Sunday evening. We had all had a long couple of days. Prayer time was finished and it was time for the tykes to get into bed. And then, the fateful words were uttered: “Alex has a wood tick in his head!”

Well, I have lived with ticks all my life, and it was not time to panic now. And so, my wife and I casually observed said wood tick. Sure enough, there it was, sucking the blood out of my eldest son’s head. Deep down, I was hoping it would suck out some of the thoughts that enter the kid’s brain from time to time, but I knew that was fantasy. I had to take care of the immediate problem at hand.

Well, my wife is generally proficient with the tweezers. Be it a sliver or a tick, when the tweezers come out, the kids scatter. But in the end, they are unable to escape the fate that belies them, and after a few screams along the lines of “You’re killing me!” my wife triumphantly raises the tweezers with the enemy foreign object, and screams her battle cry, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad!”

But this night would be different. The tick was in deep, and it had strategically burrowed itself in amongst numerous hair follicles. I believe the tick knew that this would cause immense pain to its victim when the victim’s mother would accidentally latch onto the surrounding follicles while trying to pull it out. In any case, the tweezers on this night were not doing the job.

It was time to explore the old wives tales.

My wife’s first suggestion was to light a match and hold it up to the tick. Apparently, the theory is that the tick is smart enough to feel the heat and try to escape by backing out. Now, we’re talking about an animal that burrows a hole into other living things, sucks blood until it’s so big it has to let go, and once it falls off it can’t move anywhere and lays around until it’s either crushed or eaten. Survival instinct just doesn’t appear to be high on the priority list.

I balked at the match idea, considering the fact that I would be holding a lit match near the head of my six year old son, who would most likely be diagnosed with ADHD if we ever concerned ourself with actually getting him looked at.

Instead, I moved onto the next brilliant wives tale. If you hold a bottle of alcohol over the tick, it will back out. I’ve been told it’s because it can’t breathe and the alcohol bothers them. Well, the first mistake was thinking that this kid would actually sit there and let me hold the bottle tight enough so it wouldn’t leak all over the place. After two minutes of hearing “You’re hurting me!” with a lot of corollary movement and rubbing alcohol having been sent flying everywhere, it was decided that this technique probably wouldn’t work anyway, but certainly wouldn’t work in our case.

Crying and doused in alchol, with wood-tick still engorged, the son is losing faith in his parents’ tick-fighting prowess.

All of our kids are witnessing this activity, save the four year old who fell asleep during prayer time, like he always does.

Now, here’s where the story gets ridiculous. And you will see it coming, and you’ll think, “Um… DUH!” or some variant thereof. As embarrassing as it is, I must go on.

My wife, frustrated at the stupidity in thinking this whole rubbing alcohol approach had any chance of working, and mad at herself for allowing me to talk her into the idea, says to me, “This is not working at all. Let’s try the match thing.” As a loving husband who wishes to please my wife, and desires to see my son tick-free, I eschew all sense of reason and all knowledge of all things science, and how one thing reacts with another, and I answer “Alright. Give me a match.”

Now, there was probably 10 seconds or so from the time I declared those words to the time that the lit match was approaching the tick. That should be enough time for someone who took two semesters of Organic Chemistry to remember that rubbing alcohol and fire are a great combination if you want to set your house on fire. They are not so great a combination if your desire is to not set your child on fire.

Unfortunately, all we could think of was getting that tick out. It blocked all other thoughts that were attempting to leap from synapse to synapse in a frenzy, attempting to pull back my hand and say “You fool! Don’t do this!” But they were too late. The match approached the tick. And then…

Poof! The entire back of my son’s head was in flames. Now, let me be clear here… within two seconds we had that flame out and it all happened so quick that there were no burns. But man, he freaked out – and rightly so. Screaming at the top of his lungs, he dove to the ground. The other kids also freaked. I lost track of my two daughters until they came charging towards Alex and doused him with water, which only freaked him out more. We yelled “What are you doing?” and they’re all like “He was on fire!”

Meanwhile, the tick was still enjoying its meal.

In the end, I called a nurse’s line, and explained about the tick and asked how best to get it out. I, um, forgot to relay the part about dousing my kid with rubbing alcohol and setting him on fire. Oops.

Anyway, she basically said you can forget about all these old wives tales. Just pull the thing out and hope for the best. Well, we did, and the head stayed behind. So, now we keep an eye on it and if we are unable to dig it out after the swelling goes down a bit, we’ll have to take him in and get it removed so it doesn’t get infected. [Edit: we never had to do that] It’s possible it will work out on its own, but we’ve heard that they often don’t. Yay. Unfortunately, we were unable to get it out without squeezing the body of it, which means some blood probably squirted into the wound. Now we have to watch for any indication of Lyme’s disease, as well, and get him treated if symptoms occur. [Edit:  Thankfully, no Lyme’s – though another child would contract it later on]

So let this be a lesson to you all. Not that you needed it, but never underestimate the stupid things you can do if the situation is just right. I’m still whacking myself in the head and asking how I could possibly have done such a stupid thing.

I guess it’s clear… I’m an idiot.

[Note: I now highly recommend a simple little device called a “Tick Twister.”   It works wonderfully, and has kept our children blaze-free for almost 9 years now.]

I Hope You All Had a Wonderful Independence Day

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At least in the U.S. we are fresh off a major holiday where we celebrate our Independence.  Between celebrating as a family and getting caught up on some much needed work around the house, it was a nice reprieve from everything else that has been going on both on a personal basis and in our country.

As always, family, friends, food, and fireworks go a long way towards putting one’s mood where it should be.

Working outside this weekend, I did my best to put a lot of things in perspective.   On a personal basis, I have been doing a lot of reflection on the direction of our country.   But more important than even the direction of our country, in my view, is the direction that many Catholics and other Christians are taking in opposition of the direction of our Bishops and Priests.   A lot of the time I find myself dealing with a sadness that this is so, and wondering what – if anything – can be done to stem this strong tide.

A lot of things bounce through my head, but in the end I am settling on a major line of thinking:   only God can stem the tide.    I think we, as Christians, have a challenge ahead of us that we are being called to focus on:   take care of your own soul, and fight for the souls of family and friends.    This is not to imply there is not and should not be a missionary spirit in the Church, and on an individual basis.   But we must first defend our own territory, and it may be the case that this takes most, or even all, our time and energy.    And if it doesn’t, then we can reach out to others.

The other thought that seemed to suddenly get reinforced is that our joy is in the Lord.   Our ultimate goal is salvation.   And no matter how bad things get here, we can’t lose sight of that.   This is what makes us happy and joyful.

I do not want everything going on in the world to detract from that.   My sadness is not for myself.   I have some sadness for my family – that my kids now need to fight against things in the culture beyond what I needed to fight when I was growing up.  My sadness is for those around me who are capitulating and accepting the secular world’s morals above God’s Law.   I’d like to think this is a “productive sadness.”   Something to motivate actions that help the fight and make us stronger in our faith.  It certainly isn’t despair, nor is it a lack of hope.

God will ultimately prevail.   He’ll just do it on His time frame, and we are generally less patient than He is.

South Dakota Does Exist

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Nothing fancy here, but I will provide a little update here…

1) Thank you so much for well-wishes and prayers. So far our guardian angels and patron saints have been very kind to us on the trip – safe travel so far and no serious injury or death to report, which can be a small miracle with 6 boys 11 and under…

2) Day 1 was a drive day

3) Day 2 was a Laura Ingalls Wilder tour. My two daughters and my wife loved it. The boys enjoyed it to varying degrees. I managed to tolerate it… not exactly my thing. But that’s what you do on vacation as the husband and father. Then, on to our house that we are renting to Piedmont.

4) Beautiful home and location. Love love love it.

5) Day 3 – always enjoy goin to Mass in different places, and always appreciate the universality of the Mass. It’s a wonderful piece of wisdom that the Church has the same readings throughout the world and the same basic Liturgy is celebrated, so that we knew we were still in prayerful union with those from home, as well as everywhere else. I don’t often reflect on that, but when somewhere distant I always remember it. Got a tip from the Priest on a hiking rail in the area, too! Met a nice family with 4 young children who loved seeing our “large” family. I find that having all these kids around us and actually seeming happy is a witness all by itself. After a lazy afternoon at the house, we decided we needed to “do” something, so we went to the nearby Petrified Forest. Not the most spectacular thing in the world, but interesting nonetheless. We are in the Black Hills, and we have hiked to the top of the nearest “mountain.” This is where I thought I’d lose a son or two… lot’s of rocky, cliffy areas and steep slopes. Somehow, we managed to make it back alive. It was also a reminder of my woeful state of physical conditioning.

6) Day 4 – Mount Rushmore. We loved it, but probably don’t have to say much about it. Ice Cream in Keystone (a family rule that cannot be broken: we must eat ice cream every day. It’s my rule. Everyone complies.) We toured a Gold Mine in Keystone and panned for gold.

7) Day 5 – Mammoth site – saw lots of bones. Pretty cool. Went to Wind Cave and explored a cave. Also pretty cool. (Literally- 53 degrees) Ice cream in Hill City.

8) Day 6 – Scenic Drive – Spearfish Canyone. Wonderful scenery. Did some hiking and saw a couple falls. Did lunch in the city of Lead, at Lewie’s. My wife read they had world-famous burgers there, so that’s what we had. Half-pounders. Sweet. I got mine with bacon. I don’t apologize for it. After that we went to Deadwood, which we suspected and then confirmed doesn’t have a whole lot to offer for children. Summary of Deadwood: Gambling, Food, Gambling, Saloons, Gambling, Old People, Gambling, Wild Bill Hickok, Gambling, Bikers, and Gambling. We did manage to find a museum that really wasn’t my thing, but my wife really enjoyed. Also, we had a round of Sarsparillas at the #10 Saloon, and saw a re-enactment of Wild Bill getting shot. This appears to be like the most amzingly historical event in history if all you had to go on was Deadwood. Ice Cream at the house.

9) Day 7 – Today – Badlands. One word: Awesome. We all hiked up in a few spots, saw some mule deer, and just really enjoyed the view. Then we felt obligated to go to the city of Wall and visit – you guessed it – Wall Drug. Yes, we allowed the signs to work. It’s a huge tourist trap and generally too expensive, and has all the elements that would usually lead me to want to put a bullet in my head rather than spend another minute there… but… we actually really enjoyed it! I wouldn’t spend a whole day there or anything, but I appreciated that they had a few things set up for little kids. They had good ice cream that wasn’t outrageous (yes, ice cream in Wall) and we did buy a few touristy things, but it wasn’t too bad. We all agreed that the Badlands/Wall day was a day well spent.

10) Tomorrow is Jewel Cave, Crazy Horse, and National Woodcarving Museum. Saturday is Rapid City, where we will go to Bear Country and a couple other things, and head back for Mass. Sunday we are driving all the way back to Wisconsin and expect to get home at about 1 am Monday morning, so please offer up another 5 second prayer for us.

Assessment at the moment is a thumbs up on SD! We know we are unable to see everything we want to see here, but we’re trying to get a taste of a lot of different things. So far, so good!

On to South Dakota

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Hoping you all celebrated the Feast of the Assumption with Mass and contemplation…

I have put posting here as a lower priority lately, but will be picking it up more in September. Just so you do not think I have gone away forever, I thought I’d submit a quick post to let you know that we are embarking on a family vacation to South Dakota. The bus leaves tomorrow.

If (a very BIG if) I am bored and have some extra time I may post an update or two, but in all likelihood that won’t happen.

Anyone who is reading this, even a little 5-second prayer for safe travel for our family is appreciated.

God, our Father, through the intercession of our guardian angels, patron saints, St. Christopher, and our mother Mary, please grant that we may have safe travel and a blessed time as a family as we take in many wonders of your creation. Amen.

God bless all of you.