The Toys

There are way too many toys in our house.  They have taken over.  I don't know where they all came from, but our living room looks like Toys 'R Us.  Cars, trucks, trains, wooden blocks, plastic blocks, 3 types of Legos (duplo, quatro, and the regular ones), Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, musical instruments, remote control cars and helicoptors, board games, card games, puzzles, bowling pins, light sabers, dolls, balls, spinning tops, fake (and sometimes real) fruit, army men, whistles, kazoos, plastic animals, stuffed animals (including Pablo, Tyrone, Tasha, Austin, and Uniqua).  And the list goes on.  By the way, other than a Tonka truck I bought the boy when he was about 2 years old, a set of various Nerf balls, and the Tyrone doll I picked up for the girl last Friday, I don't believe I'm responsible for introducing any of these items into our home.

Over time as we have accumulated more and more toys, I've learned that it's not possible to maintain any semblance of order.  Every day it's the same story.  The North Mankato FAO Schwarz store, i.e. our living room, is clean and tidy in the morning with toys nicely nestled in the giant wicker basket we use as a toy box.  Puzzles and board games are neatly stacked in cabinets.  But over the course of the day, every single toy and game somehow ends up in a chaotic jumble on the floor.  Hungry Hungry Hippo marbles and Yatzee dice get lost all the time.  I have no idea where the Cootee ears end up.  Puzzle pieces get lost in couch cushions.  And don't get me started again on the tiny LEGO bricks buried in the carpeting.  So at the end of the day, in a mad rush to clean up before bedtime, I, the wife, the boy, and the girl all scramble to put everything in the appropriate box or container to be filed away until Hurricanes "The Boy" and "The Girl" strike again the next day.

Speaking of toys, why is it that 90% of all toys make some kind of sound or noise, including playing songs, reciting the alphabet, and mimicking the sounds of a garbage truck crushing trash at 120 decibels.  I'm convinced that all toys that produce sounds were developed either by a) evil people who don't have children and want their friends with children to suffer or b) grandparents seeking vengeance against their own children for all the suffering they endured years before.  And poor newborn babies - after being expelled from their warm, cozy, muffled cocoons, they're immediately given squawking stuffed animals and placed in bouncy chairs that play "It's A Small World" over and over and over.  No wonder they cry all the time. 

I think it's time to take charge and begin purging some of the kids' lesser-used playthings.  I'm certain they wouldn't even notice anything missing.  Since I haven't yet found a bulldozer small enough to fit through the front door that I can use to shove everything to the curb on garbage day (including the 120 dB toy garbage truck), we'll probably end up donating most of the stuff.  We could have a garage sale and make a few bucks, but I'd sooner listen to "It's A Small World" over and over and over than expend one ounce of energy organizing a garage sale.  Placing ads in the newspaper and online websites, posting signs around the neighborhood, clearing space in the garage, borrowing and setting up tables, figuring out what to charge for each item, praying for nice weather, sitting in the garage for 3 days hoping to sell a singing caterpillar for $3.  No thanks.

I'm tempted to leave trails of cotton candy leading from various parts of the neighborhood to our front door to lure kids to the house.  Upon arrival they would find a mountain of free toys and could take as many as they could carry.  However, I don't want to end up on the wrong list, so I suppose donations to charitable organizations are the way to go.  It'll probably take a couple weeks to track down the correct people and get stuff ready for donation.  In the meantime I'll start scheduling weekly play dates for the girl and fill with toys the minivans and car trunks of unsuspecting visiting parents while they're in a trance-like state from listening to "It's A Small World" over and over and over.


On many occasions I've driven by a building in town that formerly housed the Bandana Brewery.  It hasn't been open since we moved to town (appears to have been in business from 2003 to 2008), so I have no idea what it was like, but I've always been intrigued by the place.  And I've never taken the time to do any online research until now.  Well, it appears to be closed for good reason.  One website that rates microbreweries had several entries saying the beer was "So So" or "Lousy".  Here's an interesting review:
Where to begin. The waitress knew NOTHING about beer, it was served too warm in dirty glasses, it was not mature and tasted like crap. I was with a party of four, and we each had something different -- all sucked, and one was undrinkable. The table was dirty, and the food was mediocre at best. I have been to > 100 brewpubs all over the country, and this joint has to be damn close to the bottom of my list. No redeeming features whatsoever. Located in the middle of a parking lot; even the building looks like crap. The previous reviewer must be one of the owners.
Either this guy is a former disgruntled employee or I didn't miss much.  At least Schell's isn't too far down the road.

Chúc sức khoẻ!

The Tears

Pretty much every day in our house somebody ends up crying.  I suppose that shouldn't be totally unexpected when the household includes a 2-year old girl, a 6-year old boy, and a woman married to me.  However, it still amazes me how regularly tears are shed.  And as you might guess, the wailing occurs for many reasons:
  • illnesses
  • nightmares
  • the television was turned off
  • somebody is told to do his homework
  • somebody hit or pushed somebody else
  • somebody took the toy that somebody else was playing with
  • somebody is sitting on somebody else
  • somebody fell down (mainly the wife)
  • somebody doesn't want to eat the dinner provided for them
  • Michigan State football lost yet again in gut-wrenching fashion
The worst is the middle-of-the-night crying.  I'm a very light sleeper, and therefore I'm the one who hears the first whimper.  So, wonderful husband that I am, I get out of bed and stumble to the appropriate child's room to discover the reason for the wake-up call.  Sometimes the solution to the problem is to simply sit with the girl for a few minutes to calm her down until she goes back to sleep after a bad dream.  Other times I end up arriving just in time to catch projectile vomit in my hands and on my shirt (the goal here is to prevent any from getting on the bedding, which necessitates a trip downstairs for an early-morning laundry run - not fun, so I attempt to take one for the team), and I then try to get the boy or girl to the bathroom before the next round of retching.  After 6 years the boy is finally (I think) able to predict when he will throw up and can manage to get to the bathroom on his own. The girl not so much.

And admittedly I'm not exempt from the weeping either.  Most people who know me would say I'm generally pretty reserved (and maybe even cynical) and probably can't imagine me crying (unless they've watched MSU football with me).  I don't know how or when it happened (although I suspect that becoming a parent had a lot to do with it), but somewhere along the way part of me turned into a giant pile of mush.  I wasn't always like this.  MSU sports aside, before kids I hadn't done a lot of crying since my childhood days (except for the times when I sat down to take Theoretical Elasticity exams in grad school).  Now it's like I've become Bizarro Eric.  I tear up at almost anything these days - books, movies, TV news segments, chain gangs working on the side of the highway, etc.

Seriously, I've become very sensitive, particularly when it comes to the kids.  I'm already reminiscing about the days when the boy was only 5 and in preschool.  When looking at our favorite book the other day, the girl asked "Where are you, Goldbug?" instead of "Are you, Goldbug?", and I almost broke down.  I'm such a marshmallow (no comments on my appearance please).  I dropped off the boy at school a couple weeks ago, and after walking the 150 feet or so to the door, he turned around and waved goodbye to me.  Thankfully I was wearing my sunglasses.  What's happening to me?!

I guess it's not such a bad thing that I'm softening with age.  Although in a couple years I'll probably start crying during episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm.  I just have to accept that a little crying (not to be confused with whining, which will be discussed in a future post) now and then is no big deal.  Preferably this crying will be more because of my sentimentality than the kids howling for the reasons I listed above.  However, even that is worth putting up with in exchange for all the other experiences that are part and parcel of raising kids.  I'm grateful that I get to be home with the boy and girl to help suffer through the tears.


Last month the 2010 World Beer Cup, the "Olympics" of beer, was held in Boulder, CO.  Now that's my kind of Olympics!  In attendance were representatives from 642 breweries in 44 countries supplying 3,330 beer entries in 90 beer style categories.  I was happy to learn that one of the local beers produced in St. Paul, Summit Extra Pale Ale, won for best Classic English-Style Pale Ale.  Check the list for some new beers to try.

Here's mud in your eye!