Category Archives: Life in Wisconsin


Dinah thinks that I’m her personal complaint department. If he has a problem that needs to be solved, or a right wronged, I’m her first choice for resolution. Sometimes she’ll wait hours for me to get home to tell me about something that has gone wrong.

One day I got home and was taking my shoes off when she said “Garrison hit my arm.” I asked if this had just happened and she said no. Sarah chimed in that Dinah had been crying much earlier in the afternoon and yet wouldn’t tell Sarah what happened. Apparently, Dinah had been waiting for me to get home to spill the beans.

Yesterday I came home for lunch and Garrison had one of the neighborhood boys over to play. Dinah came found me right away and said, “I’m having trouble with my art project.” I asked her, “What kind of trouble are you having?” And she replied, with no small affect in her voice, “Boys.”

“My birthday all gone”

Dinah’s birthday has come and gone and she is very much a two year-old now. We threw a party for her at our house with friends, family, and neighbors invited. We ordered pizza for lunch and Sarah made cake and cupcakes for dessert. Dinah really loves pizza so she had no complaints about our choice of food. Her cake was shaped like a frog (one of Dinah’s favorite animals) and had plenty of frosting for all concerned. Dinah isn’t much for the cake itself but she always enjoys frosting.

Her party was on the Sunday before her birthday and then we had another very, very small party on her birthday itself where we sang Happy Birthday to her again and lit a couple of candles on a cupcake for her.

All those celebrations had a happy side effect—she still sings “Happy Birthday to Dinah” quietly to herself weeks later. It’s incredibly cute. Like Garrison at the same age, she is having a hard time letting go of being the birthday girl. She really wants it to be her birthday again any minute now.

The kids enjoyed going trick-or-treating on Halloween. Garrison was a butcher and Dinah was a frog; Sarah made both of their costumes. Garrison ended up with more candy than Dinah did, but that’s OK. She’s only two and wasn’t nearly as aggressive as her older brother when it came time to grab candy out of bowls.

Now that she’s two, Dinah also is trying to become more independent. You can’t be around her very long before you hear, “I do it” or “Me do it”. Sometimes, that’s fine. At other times, however, waiting for a two year-old to do something just isn’t practical or pleasant.

We had a parent teacher conference with Garrison’s 4K teacher last week and he got a glowing review. He was given extremely high marks for his good attitude—his teacher commented on how much she enjoys the way he says “Good Morning” to her every morning, completely unprompted. He also got high marks for his language and math skills, his symbolic reasoning, his imagination, his physical strength and his coordination. She did acknowledge that he has trouble with self control (which we already knew) and that he has the loudest voice in the classroom (which we didn’t know, but suspected).

I got the Christmas lights up on the house a couple of weeks ago when we had a stretch of nice weather on a Sunday and I’m glad that I did. The weather since then has included some snow, a weekend full of rain, and some very cold temperatures. With the lights up all I have to do on Thanksgiving is plug them in and turn them on.

Finally, there are some new photos in the photo gallery.

School beings

The title is obviously a misspelling. I wanted to type “School begins”, but after some reflection I like the seemingly erroneous title better. Both kids are now school “beings”.

Garrison started 4K this fall. We originally had him in an afternoon session at a local 4K that met in a church designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The school was highly recommended and not terribly far away. However, the afternoon sessions were just wildly unfair to Garrison. By the end of the day he vacillated between unable to hold his head up at the table and so tired that he had no emotional or physical self-control left. He was there for about two weeks before we pulled him out and enrolled him in a 4K class at a local school run by the school district. This particular setup has three advantages:

  1. He is now in a morning class.
  2. He rides the bus to and from school.
  3. This is his teacher’s last year before she retires.

The morning class is better for him in many ways. He has the most energy in the morning, so he doesn’t go to school in the afternoon during one of his lulls. His friends from our neighborhood are also in morning 4K and at the same school, so he can see them in the morning and occasionally in the afternoon. When he was in afternoon 4K is was difficult to impossible for them to get together.

The big downside to the morning classes for him is that he isn’t too fond of getting out of bed and getting dressed in the morning. To his credit, I haven’t yet had to put him on the bus in his pajamas (though I’ve threatened to do so), but he has cut it close a few times.

The bus ride is something of an adventure for him. He rides it with two other kids from our block, and the ride is short enough that he doesn’t get bored.

When I was a kid I hated riding the bus. I don’t remember much else about those school years, but I do remember how much I hated, hated riding the bus. We lived at the end of the route and in the morning when it picked me up my bus ride was maybe ten minutes long. However, the bus drove the same route in the same direction on the way home, so my afternoon bus ride was a full one hour long. It was one hour that alternated between utter boredom and complete disgust at the bodily fluids being expelled by my fellow bus riders. It was always the wrong temperature, the seats were wildly uncomfortable, and the ride of the bus itself was bone jarring.

So, I was apprehensive about putting Garrison through that. We live just two blocks from the school where he’ll attend 5K through eighth grade, so he’ll be walking to school for the next nine years and will be able to avoid the bus all that time and probably through high school. That makes this year a one-off. So far, he seems to really enjoy the ride and it saves us the trouble of driving him to school and back.

Garrison’s teacher this year is in her last year of teaching, so I’m confident that she can handle 18 four and five year olds in a classroom with just one other adult. It’s nice to know that he’s in veteran hands with his first foray into the public school system.

Dinah is spending two days a week at a local day care. I felt really strongly that she ought to spend some time at a day care because it seems to help kids socialize with other kids. There are other benefits to being in day care (learning to be under the care of other adults; getting over separation anxiety; missing fewer days of school later due to illness; etc.), but the socialization was my biggest worry. That’s not to imply that Dinah was in danger of becoming some sort of hermit if she stayed home with Sarah or a nanny. In reality, she seems to be less social than her brother by nature, but social enough to get along with the world. Regardless she is now attending what she calls her “new school”.

Beyond the benefits of day care itself, it’s good that Dinah is attending daycare because otherwise she would be extremely jealous that her brother got to go to a new school and she didn’t. She feels special when she gets out her backpack and sweatshirt and heads off to her “new school” just like her big brother does.

Dinah’s language proficiency is progressing well. She is now forming simple three word sentences (“Daddy do it.” “Pick me up.” “Mommy walk Dalla?”) and is using more new words all the time. One of my favorite words of hers is “Dine-up!” which is is a contraction of Dinah and up that she uses to mean, “I’m going to pull myself up here.” She seems to be able to keep more of her internal monologue actually internal, so at this point she isn’t prone to the stream-of-consciousness rambling that Garrison indulges in on a daily basis.

Dinah seems to have inherited my palate, as she’s still pretty much on the Bear Diet. She enjoys corn on the cob, and will tolerate the occasional small taste of carrots and peas, but for veggies that’s about it. She really enjoys raspberries and is in for a harsh awakening now that the local raspberry season is ending. She will eat most other fruits as well, so her diet isn’t entirely meats and carbs. She enjoys cheese curds, parmesan cheese, feta cheese, sharp cheddar, and some mozzarella cheeses. Clearly she was born in America’s Dairyland. She still won’t drink milk with a meal (preferring water), but we have successfully gotten her off of bottles for her milk which both Sarah and I viewed as a major victory.

Garrison seems to share Sarah’s like for veggies as he’s willing to eat green beans, brussel sprouts, carrots, peas, broccoli, and cauliflower. Both kids will eat potatoes in french fry form, and I’ve managed to sneak some butternut squash into Dinah by combining it with meatloaf.

One phrase that Dinah knows (“‘ssert now.”) is an original creation on her part. That’s “Dessert now” to a nearly two year-old. She loves marshmallows, chocolate, and whipped cream and isn’t shy about asking for them at the end of a meal.

Both kids grew like weeds during the summer, with Dinah growing several inches and Garrison growing more than an inch. We’ve been marking their progress on a board and the difference between the marks is startling.

Dalla celebrated her 11th birthday in September. She’s getting grayer around the muzzle and wider around the hips (that’s probably as much our fault as hers) but she’s still spry. She killed a shrew last weekend, to add to her lifetime tally of rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and other rodents.

Last December I started working out at the local YMCA to get the exercise that I wasn’t getting with the commute to my (then new) job. It took a month or so, but I finally figured out an exercise program that works well for me. Surprisingly, it was weightlifting.

When I was in high school, I worked out regularly with a couple of friends, but none of us really had any idea of what we were doing and I wasn’t very serious about it. Predictably, my gains were limited. So, I felt like I had tried it, but it didn’t stick and I never really had much interest in trying it again. Then I found my way to Mark Rippetoe’s book, “Starting Strength” and after reading through it suddenly understood just how much I didn’t know. I started lifting weights again and now I’m hooked.

Three times a week for an hour each time, I’m at the gym lifting weights. I don’t run on the treadmill. I don’t use any stretching anything. I don’t use any weight machines. I use a barbell, weights, dumbells, and a power rack. Using just that equipment, I’m able to put 275 pounds on my back and squat all the way up and down fifteen times. And those aren’t half-squats, either. Those are honest, below-parallel squats. You can undoubtedly find people who squat more (even much, much more in big-time football and professional powerlifters), but the average adult male at my weight squats around 130 pounds so I feel pretty good about that number. I’m able to pick up over 300 pounds off the floor in a deadlift, which is almost three times more than when I started. My overhead press and bench press numbers aren’t terribly impressive but they’re slowly getting stronger, too.

That probably sounds like bragging, and maybe it is. But I’m proud of the work that I’ve put in. It isn’t always fun or desirable to get up well before dawn and do unpleasant things at the gym by myself. But I like where the journey is taking me so I keep going back. Even though I haven’t lost any weight, my body composition is changing. My core muscles are by far the strongest they’ve ever been and I can do things I could only dream about previously. For instance, both kids (who together weigh about 70 pounds) sat on my back while I did push-ups in the living room the other day. Earlier this summer I carried both kids up a long, steep grade with loose gravel underfoot while hiking. Those feats probably aren’t terribly impressive to everyone, but unless you’ve tried them you don’t understand the amount of work you need to do to get to that point. I don’t want to be the Dad who gets winded easily and has to wear size XXL shirts to fit over his beer belly. I want to be the Dad who can keep up with his kids during their athletic pursuits as both they and I get older. They have the benefit of age, so I have to work twice as hard to keep up.

Summer Finally Arrives

Now that we’ve inched past the summer solstice the hot weather has finally arrived here in Wisconsin. We’ve had a prolonged and generally cold spring which has meant that many plants are a week or two behind usual. Our basil is doing poorly and some of our other heat-loving plants are struggling as well. On the other hand, my old nemesis, lettuce, is doing just fine this year.

We had a large silver maple taken out over the past couple of weeks, which has radically changed our yard. The tree had a trunk with a diameter of four feet or more, so it was a very sizable tree. However, it was planted almost directly underneath the power lines that run through our back yard, so when the electric utility contractors came through to trim it, they tended to lop off all the limbs on that side of the tree making it uneven. In addition, apparently silver maples don’t heal, they just rot. So everywhere that a limb fell off or was cut off, the tree just started rotting backwards. Finally, the tree was reaching the end of its life cycle. We’ve had several good sized limbs fall off in weather events over the past couple of years, so it seemed like we could watch and wait with our fingers crossed while the tree slowly fell apart (and hope that it didn’t fall on anyone or any structures) or we could take it out all at once in a controlled fashion. In the end it wasn’t an easy decision but we decided to take the whole thing out this year. It will be interesting to see how our yard changes over the next few years with the additional sunlight in that corner of the yard.

Garrison has been having a blast in the area where the stump was ground out. He takes out his spade, fills his Tonka dump truck, and runs around the yard making engine noises depositing ground up stump on the various garden beds. He usually goes out with shoes on, but is barefoot within minutes. He seems completely unfazed by any sort of summer weather. Hot or cold, he always wants to be in motion.

He’s also been playing more with one of the neighbor boys who was born within weeks of when Garrison was. The two boys live one house apart, so they yell across the yard to each other to set up impromptu play dates. Generally speaking, they play very well together with minimal supervision.

Garrison also started playing T-ball this year. He’s had one game so far with another scheduled for tomorrow night. He’s a bit mystified by the rules (like all kids his age) so there is lots of coaching on the field and during the game. They don’t play with outs and every hit is a single so everyone gets to bat on the team and then the teams switch between hitting and fielding. When the ball is hit, kids rush the ball and it looks like an NFL fumble drill. There is usually a brief scrum between the fielders and one comes up with the ball. The coaches then remind them to throw to first where the first baseman (or basegirl?) usually drops the throw if it is on target or chases it down if the throw is errant. Garrison has a great throwing arm for a kid his age, and is working on batting. We bought him an aluminum T-ball bat recently and he’s been eagerly practicing hitting live pitching (from an adult). Regardless, his favorite part of the game are the fielding scrums, probably because that’s where the action is.

Dinah continues to grow and mature, as well. She seems to learn multiple new words every day and is staring to put together simple sentences (“Dry it,” was one she used tonight). She sometimes has trouble pronouncing a word (common for kids her age) and her mis-pronunciations are often incredibly endearing. My favorite recently was “pockey” (pronounced like “hockey”, but with a p); that was her pronunciation of “pocket”. She also struggles with “cookie” which Sarah hears as “dookie”. However these pronunciations are often short-lived so if you don’t get it tape shortly after it starts you may never do so. I’m afraid that I never got “pockey” on tape, much to my chagrin. She still calls Garrison “Ba-Ba” and only rarely makes an attempt at her name. Usually, she just calls herself, “Me.” If she wants to get out of the car she’ll say, “Me out; me out”. And if there is any possibility of wearing out the word “mine” she is going to give it an honest try. We must hear “mine” a couple of hundred times a day.

She’s still pretty much on the bear diet (meat, fruit, carbs, junk food when she can get it). She will occasionally eat a bit of carrot or a green bean but that’s not common. She enjoys ketchup, and Annie’s Natural Goddess dressing. She likes to “dippa-dippa” which is how she describes dipping food in some sort of condiment.

Dinah is getting taller by the day it seems. Garrison is still noticeably bigger, but Dinah is a tall girl for her age. She sometimes towers over kids a full year older than her. She’s getting more coordinated as well. She’s been running more of late, often for extended stretches. She is starting swimming lessons at the YMCA this Saturday with either Sarah or I joining her in the pool. She loves the pool so that shouldn’t be a problem.

We got back last weekend from a trip to the Cleveland area to visit Sarah’s family. It was a really long drive in both directions (particularly on the way back), but the kids were troopers in both directions and there was little to no complaining. In fact, I probably complained more about the length of the drive than they did. They both enjoyed seeing their family in Ohio and Garrison really enjoyed playing with his cousin, Kyle. I posted some photos I took during the trip in the photo gallery.

Ride the Drive Photos

We took the kids out for a spin on our bikes during Ride the Drive here in Madison. Ride the Drive is an event where a major car travel route (John Nolen Drive, in this case) is closed to cars and all traffic lanes and the shoulders are opened to bikes, roller skaters, walkers, joggers, etc. It was inspired by similar events in Chicago that close Lakeshore Drive to cars.

During the even today we took some photos of the kids. Garrison is over the moon about the fact that he can ride a trailer bike now. He spent the whole ride enthusiastically whooping it up, and since he was right behind me, I can attest to that fact. Sarah towed Dinah in the trailer, and while Dinah wasn’t enthused in the same way Garrison was, she enjoyed herself nonetheless.

The day prior I hooked up the trailer bike to my bike, and then connected the bike trailer to the trailer bike. It’s a bit like being at the head of the freight train, especially since my bike only has one gear. Getting going from a stop isn’t exactly a quick process. When we’re in that configuration, Garrison likes to talk about how he’s towing Dinah because she’s behind him.

We’re going to Spring Training…Eventually

Every year about mid-February, Sarah gets really antsy for winter to end. At a minimum, she wants a week long trip to somewhere warm. This year is no exception, and probably because we haven’t gone on a mid-winter trip for a few years, she’s got the itch pretty badly this year. Normally, she’s a rock of optimism but when it comes to February and winter she definitely has trouble turning the other cheek. I’ve been saying how winter is just about over and even if we go somewhere warm we’ll just come back to the same cold weather that we left but she won’t hear any of it.

Today she declared, “Next year we’re going to Spring Training. It’s our last chance to take a week-long trip before one of our kids is in public school.” So, I guess I can block out some time in February, 2014 for a trip to Florida to see the Minnesota Twins in Spring Training.

Dinah continues to grow apace. She seems to learn something new every day. She’s gotten a few more words now. Her inventory includes “off”, “on”, “wa-wa” (water), “dis” (this), “ello” (yellow), “oof” (woof), and “mrow” (meow). She knows what all of those words symbolize or mean, with the exception of yellow. That’s one she can say, but doesn’t understand yet. All of the others have discrete meanings. We year “dis” about ten thousand times a day when she’s somewhere with plenty of new things to see. It’s her way of asking what something is called and what it does. “Off” also gets plenty of usage as she wants to take off her jacket, hat, shoes, bib, playdough lid, or just about anything else. It’s a multipurpose word that she uses to cover any all removal scenarios.

We all have Dinah-assigned names. Sarah is still “mama” and I’m “dada”. Dalla is “alla”. Garrison is “baba”. Garrison, meanwhile, has assigned himself the name “Big Bubba” when he talks to this sister. I’ve contemplated telling him that “Big Bubba” is a name that he may not want when he gets older, but I’m guessing that he’ll outgrow it long before that name becomes a problem.

Dinah is still very much on the bear diet. Her ability to go days without even sniffing a vegetable is legendary. She can detect and eject from her mouth a single pea from a mouthful of fried rice without any difficulty. She seems to enjoy sour foods more than Garrison does. She really enjoys unsweetened yogurt with her cereal in the morning and even enjoys fresh-squeezed unsweetened grapefruit juice, something I wouldn’t eat to save my life when I was younger.

The kids got crayons and coloring books for Valentine’s Day and Dinah has really been into coloring since then. She can rarely be found without a crayon (or three) grasped in her tiny fists as she wanders the house.

Garrison is four now and still as physically active as ever. His current interest is basketball. We’ve been taking the kids with us to the YMCA and he loves going into the open gym sessions and throwing around a basketball. He can’t even hope to throw the ball into the hoop on a standard 10′ basket, but on a lower basket like the use for smaller kids to play in leagues, he can occasionally toss one in there underhanded. Regardless, he seems to love just running around in the gym with the basketball.

He has also been expanding his digital entertainment a bit more. We still don’t let him spend much time in front of glowing rectangles (TVs, smart phones, computers, etc.), but he’s learned how to do a few things on those devices to bend them to his will. For instance, he knows how to use the mouse to click on the Sesame Street bookmark on Sarah’s computer if he gets to watch Sesame Street.

He’s also been picking up words and letters fairly rapidly over the past few months. He’s learning more and more words all the time. He seems to have figured out that words are the key to deciphering much of the world around him. He still has trouble with lower-case letters (and cursive is a complete mystery) but he has a very solid understanding of all the upper-case letters.

Garrison’s birthday party was held at the local YMCA again this year. Instead of holding the entire party in just a couple of rooms we started the party in one of the gyms where they had inflated big bouncy house/obstacle course. That gave the kids an opportunity to run around for an hour in a warm setting before we moved them upstairs to eat cake and snacks. Sarah and Garrison made the cake for the gathering this year and it was very good.

I put a few photos of kids in the photo gallery. For whatever reason we haven’t taken too many photos over the past six weeks to the pickins’ were a bit slim.

Walking, Talking, and Swimming

Dinah is past her one year birthday now and she’s beginning to show more and more individuality. She’s a bit more physically cautious than Garrison was at the same age so it’s taken her a couple of weeks longer than him to get her mind around the idea of walking. The past couple of days, however, she’s been walking up a storm. She still holds her arms over her head or in front of her when she walks, I supposed to catch herself when she falls. Fortunately, she’s a tough one and she doesn’t cry when she falls while walking.

She’s also come up with names for everyone in the family. Sarah is “ma-ma”; I’m “da-da”. Garrison is “ba-ba” which we think is her word for “brother”. Dalla is “al-la”, which is curious because she used to go on and on with “da-la-la-la-la” when she was younger. Dinah isn’t nearly as vocal as Garrison is, so it’s something of an event when she goes on one of her long rambling speeches. We have no idea what she’s saying but she’s not going to be denied the saying of it.

We had Dinah’s birthday party on the Sunday before her birthday due to numerous conflicts on Monday (curling for Sarah and a day care potluck for the rest of us), Tuesday (curling for me), and Wednesday (Halloween) nights. My mom, and my sister were able to attend. For dessert Sarah had made a cake (by herself) and decorated it (with Garrison’s assistance). Dinah seemed ambivalent about the cake. She ate some but didn’t seem blown away by it.

We served pasta with garlic and oil for her birthday which seems to be one of her favorite dishes. She’s still very much a top predator when it comes to food selection. She prefers chicken, fish, sausage, pork, and beef over vegetables. She’ll eat some steamed broccoli or a carrot stick occasionally, but that’s about it for veggies. We keep presenting them and she keeps trying them, but she always spits the offending vegetable out almost as soon as it hits her tongue. Fortunately she does enjoy fruit so we don’t have to worry about regularity.

Dinah’s birthday was an interesting day. I had to get up early to get into work early so that I could get to a 16:30 curling match. As soon as the game was over I left to get home and try and spend some time with Dinah on her birthday. I got home, and ate a quick snack for dinner. Both kids were really tired (neither had slept well at day care) so we started to herd them to bed a bit earlier than usual. Dinah seemed particularly done as she was a crying, wailing mess. I got her to drink a bottle and into her PJs. Then I rocked her and sang to her and she started to calm down. As we were rocking in her room I noticed that her chest muscles were doing some sort of weird spasming. I doubted that she could sleep with all that going on but at least she had calmed down and stopped crying. We rocked back and forth for about ten minutes like that, me singing, her silent but with weird muscle spasms. All of a sudden she sat up and vomited all over me. That was certainly a surprise but it did explain the chest muscle spasms. After she vomited she certainly felt better, so that was good, but the nasty mess all over the chair, the rug, the floor, and me was a bit unfortunate.

So, I’ve got one parenting achievement unlocked: both my offspring have vomited on me at one time or another. Good times, let me assure you.

Garrison is still three and one-half going on four. It seems like he’s been that age forever. He’s also been really interested in testing when the rules might or might not apply. All. The. Time. Some days are noticeably worse than others and the last couple of have been full of lowlights.

On the plus side, he’s a great eater. For some reason he’s been fantastically interested in eating brussel sprouts this fall. I can’t stand them so I don’t make or eat them, but Garrison will eat a huge serving and ask for more. He’s decided that he doesn’t like peppers, tomatoes, or onions (and I can’t blame him because I didn’t like those as a kid either and I still don’t like onions and peppers much) but he’ll eat most other vegetables. He’s got no problems with squash, carrots, kohlrabi, corn, potatoes, beets, and sweet potatoes which gives us a nice range of things we can serve to him.

He’s still super active physically. He is always on the go. He’s also super loud most of the time. You can’t get him to stop talking for five minutes to save his life. There is no filter between his brain and his mouth. To the introverts among us, living with an extremely active and loud extrovert can be trying at times, but he’s not likely to change any time soon and neither am I so I just try to go along to get along. Sometimes that strategy is more successful than others.

Garrison has been taking swimming lessons for the past year or so and he’s getting pretty good at that, too. He can backfloat for a respectable amount of time and he’s definitely mastered the cannonball dive.

For Halloween, Sarah made Garrison a clown costume. She sewed him a suit and made him a hat to go with it. Garrison loves Halloween, or maybe more precisely, he loves getting candy on Halloween. He got a pretty decent haul this year and when he got home he poured it out onto the floor and proceeded to roll around in it. He had no idea what more than half the stuff he got was, but he was still glad to have it. For the next couple of days he made a game out of dumping out his candy all over the floor while pretending that he was breaking open a pinata. Like I said earlier, he’s already super active so he certainly didn’t need a whole bunch of candy to fuel his twitchy little self, so I made him an offer I was hoping he couldn’t refuse. I’d buy him a brand-new digger from the toy store in exchange for all his candy. He thought about it for a minute and agreed to the deal. We went to the toy store that night. He doesn’t seem to miss his candy as he’s never mentioned it and he was super excited to get the digger at the time.

We don’t let Garrison watch all that much TV so when he does get to watch it he’s always excited to do so. One of his favorites is “Road Construction 2″. It’s a movie where the building of a road is documented from start to finish. He got it last year from his Grandma Bogen for Christmas and he’s already managed to watch it so many times I can’t even be in the room when it’s on. I’ve tried watching some football games with him, but the game itself seems to be beyond him so he’s mainly watching for the commercials. In fact, he’s even said, “When are more commercials going to be on, Daddy?” So, since he’s so interested in construction I’ve tried to get into the habit of watching This Old House on PBS with him. He seems interested in that, I enjoy watching the show, and it isn’t laden start-to-finish with advertising so we’ll see how that works.

Sarah had to take a year off of curling because of Dinah’s pregnancy but she’s back on the ice this year. I’m in my tenth year (hard to believe we’ve lived here that long already) on the ice and am now the vice skip for my team. Garrison has seen some curling and in his vague understanding of the game there are people who yell and point, people who slide the stones, and people who sweep. So, as a vice skip, I sweep four stones, deliver two, and stand in the house and yell and point for two.

Better Babysitter

Today I stayed home to take care of Dinah because she’s battling a particularly stubborn illness that’s given her a rash on her face, spots all over her body, and a fever. Sarah couldn’t help today because she had to give a training seminar for work in another town.

The plan was for me to take care of Dinah all day and for Amy to take Garrison to swimming lessons and out to lunch.

As I was shoveling in my cereal with a fussy Dinah on my lap (I needed to eat and she wanted to take her nap) Garrison said to me, “You’re a bad babysitter. Maybe Amy can do a better job.” Then he declared that he was going outside because he was tired of “hearing that baby cry.”

Fast forward to this evening when he was helping me in the yard after spending most of the morning and all of the afternoon with Amy. I asked Garrison if Amy was, in fact, a better babysitter than I am.

“Yes. She does fun things all day,” he said.

“What do I do,” I asked.

“You do angry things”, he said.

“What do you mean, angry things?”

“You send me to my room when I do bad things. She didn’t send me to my room one minute today,” he said.

“What am I supposed to do when you do bad things?”

“Leave me alone when I do bad things,” he said.

“Garrison, I can’t just let you do whatever you want. It’s one of my jobs as the Dad to teach you right from wrong,” I said.

“I don’t care. You should stop sending me to my room,” he declared.

There you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. Amy is a better babysitter than I am.

June has been an eventful month for us.

We started off the month with Free Fishing Weekend here in Wisconsin. Every year, the DNR makes one weekend in June available for everyone to go fishing without a license. Since we don’t buy licenses that’s our big chance to do our level best to catch a fish. Every year so far we’ve successfully avoided catching any fish and this year was no exception. The big difference this year was that Garrison wanted to do some fishing. So we found some local ponds that are stocked with fish. Of course, because one person had to watch Dinah and the other person had to help Garrison neither Sarah or I did any fishing and Garrison did it all. He didn’t know how to cast and he wanted to use an open-faced reel so we did the casting for him while he reeled in the line.

It’s fortunate that no fish ever tried taking his bait because he didn’t have the slightest idea of how to set the hook and we weren’t telling him because we were worried about him ripping the hook backwards out of the water in his typical extremely enthusiastic way. Even though he didn’t catch any fish Garrison did catch some sticks, a couple of logs, and a cloth bag. So I guess we did our part to remove some trash from the ponds.

We did teach Garrison how to cast a line the next day with a closed-face reel and a weight at the end (no hook). He spent the morning casting the weight back and forth across the yard. A couple of times he got close to casting from our patio and over the fence into the neighbors yard. That’s a pretty good distance for the three year-old on his first day of casting.

Dinah now has two bottom teeth and her two top front teeth have cut through the gum though they haven’t completely emerged yet. She completely rejects being fed with a spoon so we’ve completely given up on buying or making baby food, which saves us plenty of money. Dinah is more than happy to feed herself fruits, veggies, carbs (rice, toast, cereals, noodles), and meat. In fact, she’s quite the little carnivore. She devours chicken, ground bison, ham, and just about every other meat we’ve put in front of her. In contrast to Garrison, who would occasionally take entire days off of eating, she’s hungry at every meal. In fact, we’ve often pondered where she puts all the food she eats.

Dalla, of course, loves the fact that Dinah now feeds herself. Babies aren’t the neatest of eaters and what falls out of Dinah’s hands usually goes directly into the dog’s belly. Dalla will be ten years old in September and her age is starting to show. Her muzzle is getting much whiter and she’s starting to get stiff in the shoulders, especially near the end of the day.

We visited Cleveland this month to see Sarah’s family. To break up the trip, we took the Lake Express ferry across Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to Muskegon, MI. That took Chicago out of the picture on the eastbound leg of the trip and also gave Dinah (who does not enjoy time in the car) a chance to get out of the car for three or four hours while we still moved closer to our goal. We spent a night in Ann Arbor, MI, before getting to Cleveland the next day. While there Garrison got to spend some time with his cousin Kyle, who is just a couple of months shy of two years old. It took them some time to get acquainted, but on the last night there the two of them were wrestling together like little boys do.

Garrison’s big news is that he’s now riding a bicycle with pedals and without training wheels. He’s been riding a balance bike (his “tippy bike” as he calls it) for a couple of months now and it had become obvious that he had balancing on a bike figured out when we’d see him on a downhill hold his legs behind him and just coast for long stretches. Saturday he and I bought a second-hand bike off craigslist in the late afternoon. We didn’t have much time to try it on Saturday so on Sunday we took it out to ride it on the sidewalk. I ran along with him for a couple of minutes until he was comfortable using the coaster brake; starting from a stop; and steering the heavier bike from a higher riding position. Then it was showtime as he showed us just how quickly he can pick up a new skill. He was soon zipping back and forth down the sidewalk saying things like, “This is a speed bike, Mommy!” and “See? I told you I don’t need training wheels!” Both Sarah and I were impressed with and proud of just how quickly he adapted to a real bike. Now he wants to ride the bike to day care and all over town.

Everything is really dry here since we’ve only had 0.20″ of rain this month. Normally we have several inches of rain by this time in June so we’ve spent plenty of time outside holding a hose so far this month. Some of the landscaping we did last year in the wake of our addition/remodel project is definitely suffering due to immature and/or inadequate root systems for this kind of weather.

Finally, there are some pictures in the photo gallery.

Back seat driver

I was driving Garrison and Dinah to Garrison’s swimming lessons yesterday. For whatever reason, traffic around Madison seemed a bit worse than usual. As we were waiting for traffic to start moving at a light, I heard the following from the back seat:

“Just honk at the guy, Daddy!”

I explained to Garrison how that wouldn’t do any good because the guy in front of us was just waiting for the guy in front of him to move and how that guy is waiting for the guy in front of him to move, etc., etc.

We drove on a bit farther and we stopped at another light. Again, traffic started to move slowly after the light changed to green.

“Just honk at the guy, Daddy!”

Once again I explained how that wasn’t necessary in this instance and once again the vocal populace of the second-row car seats was quieted.

After swimming was over we were running some errands. We got stopped at another light. The light changed to green, and it didn’t take long for the familiar chorus to start.

“Just honk at the guy, Daddy!”

He may not yet be able to tell me how to change lanes, parallel park, or get him where he wants to go, but Garrison clearly thinks that he’s got the car horn figured out.

Never ask guys about shoes

This morning Dinah went with me to drop off Garrison at day care.

I was helping Garrison get settled there when Meredith, one of his day care buddies about his age, came up to Dinah (who was still in her car seat) and said in all earnestness, “I love your shoes. Where did you get them?”

Dinah looked at me. I looked at Garrison and said, “I don’t know. Garrison, do you know where Dinah got these shoes?”

Garrison shook his head sadly as though I had asked him the dumbest of all possible questions and said, “From a drawer in her room.”

Yet another important life lesson learned at day care: never ask two guys where a girl got her shoes.

Garrison’s Journal Entries

Some more of Garrison’s journal entries from day care. The first is from their circus unit. The second is from their farm unit. These are usually dictated to the teachers after reading a particular book.

The circus ring got damaged by a storm.
A worked fixed the edge before the last show.
The audience wanted to watch the clowns do their act.
The snake looked in the crystal ball and saw a baby.
She telled the audience that it was their baby.
It turned out to be the snake’s baby.
The End

Charlie sleeps in the crade.
Charlie goes inside the gate with his mommy, daddy, sister, and dog and cat.
His dad sheared the sheep. He does it every day and every night.
Charlie was going to make a sweater and a cloak with the wool.
He put log bark in the water to make color.
Then the bark made it black.

Memorial Day Weekend

Another Memorial Day weekend has come and gone. It seems like we just got started with 2012 and we’re already almost halfway through it.

We had a very busy weeekend. The weather was hot all weekend. Sunday was our first day to turn the air conditioning on this year but fortunately Saturday and Monday were just run-of-the-mill (for July) hot.

We started our weekend by going to the Farmer’s Market. The weather was pretty nasty with spitting rain and strong winds, so there weren’t too many other people at the market. As a result of the light turnout, we got our first basket of local strawberries for the season even though we were later than usual. Normally those strawberries would have been gone by the time we got there since just one vendor had them for sale. We also got our first kohlrabi and sugar snap peas of the season. The market is definitely underway for real now.

After breakfast we stopped by a garage sale in town. While we bought Dinah a nice little pile of clothes, Garrison played with two kids from the family holding the sale. They had fun climbing in, out, and on top of a dog-loo (a dog house shaped like an igloo) that the family was selling.

Next on the agenda was some lawn mower shopping. The Craftsman mower we bought five or so years ago needed a ring job to stay alive and since that would cost almost twice as much as a new mower, we found ourselves in the market for a mower again. The new mower would be our fourth in a little less than nine years of home ownership. Clearly we haven’t had good luck with mowers.

The reel mower we bought initially was sold after we discovered that it worked best on small, perfectly manicured, homogeneous lawns (three concepts that will never be applied to our lawn). We then bought a Yard Machines or an MTD-branded mower (they’re made by the same company but I don’t remember which brand was on the mower) from Menards. That was a mistake as it was the typical junk you find at Menards. That one didn’t even last one season. We then bought the Craftsman from Sears. With regular maintenance it lasted until late last season. I gave it an oil change to start the season and sharpened the blade but after just one mowing the oil was already black and the engine was chugging. A trip to a small engine repair business confirmed the worst.

Earlier in the week we had borrowed a rechargeable, cordless electric mower from a neighbor to see how it would do on our lawn. It did OK, though it wasn’t quite able to cut the whole thing in one charge. We did like the easy, no-pull start and the relative quiet of the mower when it was running. We also liked the zero-maintenance nature of the device.

After visiting Home Depot where we found nothing interesting, we stopped by a local power equipment dealer. As Sarah later said, “That was a real lawn mower store.” While there we found a good price on a Toro cordless, rechargeable mower so we bought it. We haven’t done a complete lawn mowing with it yet, but we did finish up the job that we had started with the neighbor’s mower. If anything, the Toro is even quieter than the Black & Decker we borrowed. It will be interesting to see if the Toro mower can do the whole lawn in one charge or not.

With the new mower settled in the back of van it was off to Bratfest.

Brat Fest is always held over Memorial Day weekend, and we try to make it a point to stop by and have a few brats once during the festival. Garrison always enjoys the brats there, while Sarah and I enjoy the brats and the roasted corn. Dinah enjoyed a nap this year. I was impressed that Garrison ate a complete brat, with bun. That’s a lot of sausage for one little guy. While there we all had milk from a local dairy. They were out of chocolate, so we got one bottle of strawberry and two bottles of plain 2%. Garrison was initially skeptical of the strawberry (especially because he was still bitter that they were out of chocolate milk), but once he tried it he was a convert. We ended up bringing the remainder home where he nursed it along through two more meals.

After Brat Fest it was home for naps for the kids. While they were sleeping (or not) we got some meatloaf made on the grill.

Sunday was a hot and humid day. Garrison and I visited a local store in the morning to purchase a GPS unit that I’d been eyeing for sixth months or so. When it went on a good sale we finally decided to buy it. After that, we stopped at a garden center where Garrison wanted to buy a Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) while I wanted to get some cocoa mulch, potting soil, and marigolds.

We spent most of the day after that around the house putting in our vegetable gardens for the year. This year we’re growing tomatoes (several varieties), broccoli, parsley, basil, cucumbers, eggplant, dill, green peppers, pumpkins, and carrots. The carrots were Garrison’s special request. We haven’t had good luck growing them in the past so it will be interesting to see how we do this time around. Garrison and Sarah planted the Jack-in-the-Pulpit in our backyard where it will get plenty of shade.

Garrison did play in a kiddie pool with one of the neighbor kids once it got really hot out. We had take-out pizza for dinner because we didn’t feel like cooking or heating up the kitchen.

Monday we decided to get out of town and try to take a road trip. We packed a picnic lunch, swimsuits, beach toys, sunscreen, towels, water, and the fourteen-hundred other things you need to take two kids to the beach and drove forty-five minutes to the north shore of Devil’s Lake State Park. Garrison was really excited to get into the water and show off how much he’s learned from going to swimming lessons every week. The only problem was that the water was, predictably, cold this early in the season.

While Garrison and Sarah went into the water, Dinah and I sat on the picnic blanket along the shore. About the time that Sarah and I switched kids, I noticed that Garrison’s teeth were chattering, so I encouraged him to join us on the shore for a warm-up. Once he was out of the water, the strong wind coming off the lake made him even colder so we wrapped him in a towel and held him for a few minutes. Then, the skies started to rain on us. We were in the midst of changing Garrison back into dry clothes (to warm up) when the rain started coming down, of course. We quickly finished that job, but by the time we were done the rain had stopped. Regardless, it was time for lunch. We took our blanket to an area sheltered from the wind and ate our picnic lunch. Garrison and I went into the general store to see if they had any popcorn (something he and I both remembered getting the last time we visited Devil’s Lake) while Sarah nursed Dinah. The popcorn shack hadn’t opened yet for the season (bad) so we ended up with a bag of cheese popcorn (good). That led to very orange hands and a cheese popcorn mustache and beard on Garrison.

After lunch, and a few more threats of rain, Garrison and I played “football” with a small vinyl football while Sarah and Dinah watched. Then the winds came up, some more rain came down, and we headed for the van. Along the way, the rain stopped and Garrison played “soccer” with another toddler until they ran face-first into each other and both broke down crying.

Once we had everyone in the van, we made the decision to take the Merrimac Ferry home instead of using a bridge to cross the Wisconsin River. There is usually a wait when traveling southbound, but you can watch the ferry, the river, and the other passengers so we weren’t too worried about how we might spend the time waiting. As it turned out, a local church was having a brat sale next to the ferry landing (smart people), so we bought three brats and ate them while waiting for our turn to take the ferry. Garrison was fascinated by the ferry and he enjoyed telling everyone who would stand still long enough what the cables that guide the ferry were for (even if he wasn’t completely clear on the concept himself).

While waiting for the ferry we watched some fishermen pull in some small bluegills and now Garrison really wants to go fishing during Wisconsin’s free fishing weekend. He might be disappointed in just how unsuccessful Sarah and I are as fishermen.

After getting across the river, we were quietly shocked when both kids fell asleep in the back of the van! We found a new Dunkin’ Donuts along our route home (the world’s slowest Dunkin’ Donuts is in Waunakee; nice people, but slow, slow service) so Sarah and I enjoyed some peace and quiet for twenty-five minutes along with our coffee.

All in all, we had a very full but fun Memorial Day weekend.

There are some new photos up in the photo gallery for those of you who are interested.

Dinah’s Nicknames

Dinah has accumulated a number of nicknames so far. Some of them are more widely used within the family than others.

Garrison insists on calling her “Boze”. We’re not sure how to spell it, nor where it came from, but he uses it two hundred times a day or more. We’ll be lucky if she doesn’t grow up with that name. Sarah will occasionally use it while she’s talking to Garrison about Dinah but I’ve so far been refusing because I don’t like it.

Dinah’s other nicknames include:

Cranky Baby
We haven’t used this one for a while. When she was much younger she was often inconsolable for anyone who wasn’t Sarah. At those times she was definitely Cranky Baby.
Little D
This one gets some play around the house. She is the littlest member of the family whose name starts with the letter D so it’s not even terribly inaccurate.
Baby Time
This is her newest nickname. It came about from people wanting to spend time with the baby and since has evolved into a nickname. Garrison even used it the other day, which I wasn’t expecting, since it doesn’t quite lend itself to extended verbal mangling like the word “Boze” does.

First Tooth!

Dinah’s first tooth made its appearance today. She was fairly cranky last night and rather than sleep from 21:00-05:00, as had become her custom, she was up several times during the night. Now that the tooth is out we know why. We can’t see much of the tooth yet (only the edge of it has come through the gum) but the sharp edge can definitely be felt when you put a finger in her mouth.

On another note, I finally copied some photos off our camera, so I’ve got pictures of our backyard play set below. Click on the photos for a larger view.

Finally, there are some new photos in the photo gallery of the kids.

Pictures, Happy Baby, Play Set

After a long dry spell, I finally got a number of new photos uploaded to the photo gallery.

Dinah is still her extremely happy baby self. She loves to smile at people and she’s still pretty quiet (probably because it’s hard to get a word in edgewise with her brother around). She’s starting to sit up on her own for longer periods though she’s still prone to falling over and bonking her head if she’s left alone for too long. She has been sleeping through the night more often than not of late which is great for Sarah and I. She goes to sleep around 21:00 or so every night and usually doesn’t wake up until 05:00-06:00 in the morning. We’ve started her on some solid foods but she hasn’t really shown a real appreciation of them yet.

In looking back at some old photos it’s clear that she’s getting a different experience than Garrison did at the same age. We did more stuff and went more places with Garrison when he was an infant because we didn’t have a toddler along with us to suck up all available time and energy. She’s spending more time at home and probably getting to do a few less interesting things.

Garrison is still his rambunctious, boundary-testing, three year-old self. He’s doing well with his swimming lessons and he’s been zipping all over the neighborhood on his balance bike that Santa got him for Christmas. He routinely rides his balance bike (what he calls his “tippy bike”) to day care and bike which is probably a half-mile or more each way. In fact, he’s doing so well with his bike that we’ve been considering getting him a bike with pedals and no training wheels to see how he does.

He’s also been eating more foods of late. In fact, he often surprises me when we go out to eat with what he’ll order. He’s ordered fish fry in the past, and pulled off the fried breading in order to eat the cod inside. He ordered grilled cheese the last time we went out which both Sarah and I were concerned that he wouldn’t eat since he usually doesn’t eat cheese at home. However, he promptly gobbled it down when it arrived. And, in all honesty, he’s been eating more cheese at home. He enjoyed some pepperjack cheese that we had recently, as well as some Colby cheese. All of that is a real change since even a couple of months ago he wouldn’t touch white cheese at all and would only occasionally eat “orange cheese”.

Last weekend, Garrison and I spent most of Saturday building a large play set in our back yard. It had become obvious to both Sarah and I that he needed a better outlet for his energy in the backyard and after seeing him exert himself freely on other play sets in the neighborhood we started searching for one of our own. We looked at used play sets and new play sets before deciding to buy a new one and put it together ourselves. It was delivered by a large lift truck and one guy, despite weighing over seven hundred pounds. Sarah did an extensive inventory and labeling of the parts (with Dinah’s help) once I got them all out of the shipping crate. All that labeling really helped once the assembly process started because it meant that I could look for the properly labeled part instead of having to spend time comparing similar parts to find the right one.

It probably took twelve-fourteen man-hours to uncrate, label, assemble, and clean-up but now the thing is complete. Garrison has already spent a good deal of time climbing all over it, pretending that it is a ship, and generally enjoying himself immensely, despite the fact that it’s been somewhat rainy, windy, and cold since we set it up.

This year was the first year that Garrison really got any sort of Easter experience (probably because it’s the first year that he’s been old enough to understand it). My mom was out for the week of the holiday and she helped get Garrison into the mood by practicing hiding eggs with him during the week. They also dyed eggs together the night before Easter, along with my sister, which Garrison really enjoyed. Since then, we’ve been trying to keep his overall Easter candy consumption down to a readable amount since he gets hyped on sugar pretty easily. So far, he’s managed to eat all of his chocolate bunny, some of his jelly beans, all of his Peeps, and a few of his chocolate eggs. Fortunately there isn’t another candy-centric holiday coming up for quite a while.