The Sleep

We had it made for a while.  Although the boy didn't sleep through the night until he was about eight months old, the girl surprised us by starting after only three months.  So outside of the occasional illness or random awakening, most nights in our household have been fairly restful for the last couple of years.  Unfortunately as of late, the girl has been acting like a newborn, fussing at bedtime and often waking up a couple of times in the middle of the night.  And I'm pretty sure I have only myself to blame.

It started with an innocent trip to Target.  While walking past the DVD aisle, one happened to catch my eye - Ultraman: Series 1, Volume 1!!  For those of you not familiar with the show, it was produced in Japan in the 60's and featured the superhero Ultraman, who on a weekly basis battled monsters (such as Ragon and Gabora) terrorizing the citizens of Japan.  The show was made a whole decade after the original Godzilla (1954), but the special effects were still just as bad.  Regardless, I watched reruns as a kid and LOVED it.  So upon seeing the $5 DVD thirty-something years later, I had to buy it for the boy.  Although I wasn't sure if he too would love it or alternatively think it was terribly boring and outdated.  It turns out he loves it, as does the girl (ergo the problem).

Since making the video purchase, there has been pretty much non-stop discussion of Ultraman and monsters by both the boy and the girl.  The girl can even sing part of the theme song (as a matter of fact, she heard me testing the link just now and immediately ran over and asked "Is that Ultraman?!").  However, as much fun as the kids have during the day watching the show and pretending to chase and be chased around the house by monsters, at night it's a different story.  At first the girl started whining when being put to bed.  I say "Goodnight, Girl." and she happily responds "Goodnight, Dad. See you in the morning."  And after taking not three steps outside of her room, she begins whimpering.  So after heading back into the room, she says any of the following:
  • "I need a tissue."
  • "I need Bunny." (her favorite doll/blanket thing)
  • "Cover me please." (after kicking off the covers)
  • "Please sit in the chair and sing a song."
  • "Were soy bean futures down today?"
Unfortunately there isn't much I can do against the stall tactics, since I don't want the boy's sleep to be affected if I just let her cry.  So after much negotiating, I usually end up getting a tissue, singing a couple more songs in the chair, placing her back in the crib, covering her up all cozy-like, and checking the commodities exchange on the internet.  Then I try to leave, but after taking not three steps outside of her room, she begins whimpering again.  Sometimes I make it downstairs and then hear her on the monitor.  This goes on for up to an hour before she finally falls asleep (only to wake up at 2:00 a.m. and need to be kept company for 20 minutes before going back to sleep).

I'm certain this is all because of the monsters on the Ultraman show.  The girl is scared.  She points out shadows on the wall, asks about the causes of various noises in the house, and recently requested that her door be left open and the hall light left on.  As much as I resisted, I finally gave in and let her sleep with the door open and the light on.  Now she'll only sleep if I leave the door open and light on.  So I typically go into her room at 11:00 or midnight (whenever I happen to go to bed) to turn off the light.  Unfortunately she often wakes up later, sees that the light is off, and as a result, goes nuts and wakes me up.  Sigh...

Update:  I started this post a few weeks ago and am finally taking the time to finish it.  Thankfully, the girl is sleeping MUCH better now.  I did a couple of things to (I think - fingers crossed) resolve the issue.  First and foremost, Ultraman was banned from the house!  This didn't make the boy too happy, and I'm sure we'll let him watch on his own again soon, but it was just too much for the girl to handle.  Second, instead of putting the girl in her crib at bedtime, she goes straight to the double bed in her room (which also currently serves as our guest bedroom when visitors are in town).  Either the wife or I would end up in bed with the girl almost every night anyway, so I figured it would be better to just start her out there in the first place.  Finally, I bought a nightlight (Buzz Lightyear, at her request).  Now instead of 100 Watts of white light blazing all night, a tiny LED bulb provides enough illumination to confirm that no monsters are lurking in the room.

So the dread of ongoing sleepless nights has now mainly passed (don't jinx it - knock on wood).  During the first night in which the girl didn't give us trouble, there was a nice cool breeze outside and we decided to leave the windows open.  Of course I was awakened around 2:30 a.m. when a friggin' flock of Canadian geese flew by honking like crazy on their migration southward.  I was so pissed, but had I to laugh at the same time.


For my previously blogged-about birthday, my in-laws gave me a large selection of various California micro brews.  So in addition to the (seems like) barrels of wine we consumed last month, we did our best on the suds as well.  Among the beers gifted to me were those produced by The Lagunita Brewing Company, Bear Republic Brewing Company, Moylan's Brewing Company, and Anderson Valley Brewing Company.  I've forgotten which ones we drank while still in CA (along with almost everything else we did out there as well), but the remaining bottles are various styles of ale, all very hoppy and flavorful and nice to drink on autumn Saturday afternoons while watching college football.  My birthday celebration continues as I enjoy the few remaining brewskis.  Thanks BIL and SIL!

Bottoms Up!

The 40th Birthday

I turn 40 at the end of the week, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  Up until now I haven't really felt much, certainly nothing like a mid-life crisis.  So maybe it's time for some soulful introspection.  Lots of my friends recently hit this milestone (or are about to), and there has been much discussion and many birthday wishes posted on various Facebook pages.  It sounds like a big number.  I'm probably supposed to feel old (or at least older).  But things are pretty much the same as they've been for as long as I can remember.  My knee aches on occasion, but I can still hit a golf ball and still remember my home phone number.

I recall sitting in a locker room getting ready for one of my hockey games when I was 12 or 13.  Prince's song "1999" was playing on the boom box.  Don't ask me why we were listening to Prince - typically it was Ozzy or J. Geils.  It must have been on Casey Kasem's American Top 40.  Or maybe someone's sister left her tape in there the day before.  Anyway, I was thinking that the year 1999 sounded so far off.  I would be almost 30!  I would have a job.  I would probably be married and have kids, although at the age of 12 the thought of actually finding someone to marry was inconceivable (as it would still be at 28).  However, the chance of any of these things coming to fruition seemed infinitely remote as I was certain we would all be annihilated during World War III based on predictions made in that movie about Nostradamus that scared the shit out of me.

So here I find myself some 27 years displaced from that locker room scene, with the year 1999 more than a decade in the rearview mirror.  Time really does fly.  My 20th high school reunion was 2 years ago!  My parents are both retired.  I don't get asked to show my identification when ordering a drink at a bar (not very often anyway).  Surprisingly I did end up getting a job, got married, and had a couple of kids.  And even more astoundingly, the nuclear holocaust didn't happen (yet) - stinkin' Nostradamus.

To celebrate my birthday, the wife and I are heading to California sans kids.  We'll spend a few days in San Francisco and then a few more in Sonoma.  The trip will revolve around eating and drinking (it's pretty ridiculous, but I think we already know where we'll be having each meal), with some sightseeing on the side and plenty of time by the fire pit.  A San Francisco Giants game is also on the docket, as well as zip-lining in the Redwoods (Note to self: check insurance policy before going on trip).  And because I'm not a kid anymore, we'll be going on a wine tour instead of bar-hopping (thankfully I don't expect anyone to buy me Dirty Old Shoe shots like on my 21st birthday).

The question often comes up whether or not you would do things the same way if you could go back and start over.  Would you want to go through childhood again?  Pick a different college or job?  Live in a different city/country?  I was discussing this with friends last weekend, and it sounded strange to say out loud, but deep down (subconsciously/innately?) I've always felt like I'll experience high school again, or be 25 again, or whatever age (and no, I'm not Buddhist).  It's difficult to explain.  Obviously it's not true, and now that I'm getting a bit older I guess it's starting to sink in.  Therefore I'm going to try to better appreciate my day-to-day existence from now on and enjoy the present.  Don't get me wrong, I've had a great life and don't regret where I've been or where I'm going.  In the words of Twin Cities rapper Brother Ali, "I'm the luckiest son of a bitch who ever lived."

With all that said, it's time to go to the Chevy dealer to check out the new 'Vettes...


I've always thought the "fill-to" lines on German beer glasses are cool.  Although I've never really understood their purpose, I do have a few theories:
  • They're used to ensure a precise pour every time.
  • They serve as an alert for uncoordinated/drunk bartenders to signal when to stop filling the glass to avoid pouring beer over the rim.
  • In order to become more profitable, German beer companies have conspired to make people think the glasses hold more beer than they actually do by mislabeling them, e.g. a 0.25 liter glass only contains 0.20 liters of beer.
I have a feeling the conspiracy theory is correct.  During my time in Germany and Belgium I managed to "collect" 15-20 of these glasses, and they somehow ended up in my suitcase.  One of these years when we finally have a finished basement, I plan to have my own bar and will use the glasses to confuse guests regarding the amount they're drinking.  Using this tactic I foresee myself coming out ahead when I visit their homes and they reciprocate my hospitality, i.e. more beer for me.

Op Uw Gezondheid!

The T-Ball League

The boy's first t-ball season ended a couple weeks ago. Along with another dad, I "coached" his team. I've decided that a term other than "coach" should be used for adults who volunteer to manage sports teams comprised of 6-year old boys. I think "herder" or "huddler" or "goader" would be more appropriate. Anyway, our team was the Red Sox, and we had official-looking caps just like the major leaguers. When I played t-ball as a kid, we weren't lucky enough to have pro team names and caps. While we did have teams named Red Sox and White Sox, the league also was home to Blue Sox, Purple Sox, etc. My team was, no joke, the Maroon Sox. Maroon! The ironic thing is that our Red Sox t-shirts this season were, you guessed it, maroon.

We started practicing back in May. Due to the typically-unpredictable Minnesota springtime weather (cold and rainy days mixed in with hot and sweaty ones), we had to cancel a couple of practices. Turns out that was probably a good thing. While the other coach and I attempted to provide instruction and impart our knowledge of the game to the boys, the majority of the time we were lucky to simply hold their interest. For those of you who don't know or have forgotten how a pack of 6-year old boys behaves, their attention spans are about as long as the duration of a sneeze.  In my estimation, over the last 2 1/2 months I've said "Pay attention, Kid X.", "Quit playing in the dirt, Kid X!", "Wake up, Kid X!", and "Hey, Kid X!" about a million times.  Often times the boy was Kid X, and I'd holler at him from across the field as he seemingly could never get the infield surface sufficiently groomed to his liking.

As could be expected, the skill levels of the kids was all over the board. Most could hit the ball off the tee on day one, although I think one boy held on to the wrong end of the bat at first. A couple could throw pretty well. Not surprisingly, catching the ball was the major hurdle that plagued us throughout the season. I'm shocked that we made it through the entire schedule without anybody sustaining a black eye or bloody nose as a result of using their face to catch the ball instead of their glove.  Side note: I'm pretty sure that when I was 6 and played shortstop I could dive to catch a line drive, hop up quickly, and throw a seed to first base to double off the base runner (and the first baseman could catch too).  On second thought, I could just be remembering playing games of Intellivision baseball at a buddy's house when we were in middle school.

Despite any apprehensions we coaches had during the first practice, everything went quite smoothly and the season was over before we knew it.  We played 12 games or so, missing one week in the middle while on vacation.  At least for me, it really was a lot of fun, and I think the boys enjoyed the experience too.  They all improved in pretty much every aspect of the game, although I think it will be a couple seasons before they fully get the catching part down.  There were also many smiles, chuckles, and genuine laugh-out-loud moments.  Here's an assortment of things said to or overheard by me during the season:

When playing catch during practice - "Take it easy on me."

After being told by a player that he's thirsty and suggesting he take a drink from a teammate's water bottle (he forgot his own) - "Eeewwwww - germs!"

An opposing first baseman to our player standing on first base upon seeing who was next at bat - "Hey! Did you know that Hayden is on your team? That's so cool!"

"How much longer is the game?"

"How many more innings?"

"When do we get treats?"

"Who brought the treats?"

"Can I have another treat?"

"Let's dog pile on Coach Eric!"

Finally, when I said that it was the last game of the season - "Yay!!!"

Of course all the kids received trophies on the last night of play, despite not winning any games (nobody ever won as every player batted every inning and no scores were kept).  Not sure how I feel about that.  Yeah, they were really excited to get them, and the boy has been eagerly waiting to get his first trophy to begin his attempt to accumulate more than I did when I was a kid (36, count 'em Beyotches!).  I agree with those who say giving everybody trophies to make them all feel like winners is wrong, and I think it's a major contributor to the ongoing sissification of America.  Who wants to display a trophy that just says "Participant" on it anyway??  I guess it's one thing if you participated in an All-Star game or something, but in my opinion just showing up does not a trophy warrant (an ice cream cone or maybe an 8 1/2 by 11 certificate on the other hand...).  I say you should actually have to win something (or at least pay for it yourself) to get a trophy.  Whatever - the boy can put his trophy on the shelf, but as far as I'm concerned it doesn't count in his campaign to surpass my "accomplishments" as a youth.


I just figured out what I want to do for my next job.  For years I thought I'd write childrens' books or go back to school to become a chef or even an accountant.  Forget those ideas - I want to be a cicerone.  So what is a cicerone?  You're probably familiar with sommeliers, or wine experts.  Well, a cicerone is the beer version of a sommelier.  According to this website, there is actually a certification program one can study to become a Certified Cicerone or even a Master Cicerone.  I'm not sure what all is involved other than drinking (and probably serving) a lot of beer, and I don't know about potential job advantages for a Master Cicerone over a typical, everyday bartender, but it's worth looking into!

Cin Cin!

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!