Well, that’s not MY dad

Just a little over a week ago was Father's Day. (Seriously? Then why the hell is my Hai Karate jug still on empty?)

And this Father's Day, as most Father's Days, I found myself questioning my adequacy as a father.

I went to church and it didn't get any better. Pastor Doug spoke pretty passionately about all the things a good father is and all the things a good father does. He quoted scripture and he wove in some great anecdotes and, with every word, I was more convinced that I have completely missed the boat on this fatherhood thing.

Then they played this video. 

Now I know Trevor a little bit and he's a wonderful guy. I really respect him. So, if you believe me when I tell you what a good guy Trevor is today, and you know the frame of mind I was in (see paragraphs above), then you would assume that this video would have sent me over the edge and left me wallowing in a depressing soup of guilt and parental inadequacy.

Actually though, I went a different direction with it. I'm not sure how or when during this video I shifted my point of view, but at some point I quit thinking about myself as a father and started thinking about my own father.

Every point Trevor would make, I would tick off on a mental tally sheet. "Nope. That doesn't sound like my dad." Pretty soon, that mental tally sheet was looking pretty messy.

And that's what made me feel better. See, Trevor has his criteria for what constitutes a great dad. And Doug has his. And the Bible has its take as well.

But none of them know my dad. My dad's grumpy. And he used profanity when I was young. And sometimes he would get frustrated (with Mom, or Christine, or the dog, or whatever) and raise his voice. He's pretty smart, but he certainly doesn't know everything (though you really can't tell him that). He wasn't always absolutely consistent in his discipline.

And through it all, he's been awesome. He had prepackaged little bits of wisdom that I never thought were applicable. He would try and tell stories from "when he was my age" and I never related to any of them in the least. But through all my eye rolling, I totally loved him (even at the time) for trying. I loved that he was in there swinging and doing his best.

Those are the things I catch myself doing. And those are the eye rolls I get. So maybe, just maybe, I'm not doing so badly after all?

What a weekend should be

I just had the kind of weekend that picks up your brutal, beat-down of a week, shakes it by its scrawny neck, and hollers "Suck it, bitch!"

It was the kind of weekend that God sends on rare occasions to some of His most weary and downtrodden little creations. The kind where the veils of stress and frustration flutter and part in a passing breeze of chance.

My weekend kicked ass.

Now, in order to truly grasp the scope of this weekend's awesomeness, you need to get your head around the profound suckfest that was "last week." Stuff was breaking, funds were dwindling, kids were crabbing, schedules were bursting…and I'm not even going to get into work (because anything honest I wrote would probably get me fired…and this blog doesn't pay ANY bills).

So Corinne and I limped into Friday evening. Fortunately, Molly and Claudia were both out of town for the early evening marching in a parade, because it gave us the last couple of hours it took to finish putting together the zebra room.

Family room by day, bedroom by 2 nights every 14.
It's a consistent challenge, fitting six kids into a three-bedroom house. It's gotten a little easier as they get older — Josie's more out than in (though her stuff still occupies what will one day be my workout room), and Erin doesn't sleep over anymore. But it's still crowded, and it leaves Molly with a family room as her bedroom.

That means we need to find ways to make it a dual-use space. It needs to be a functioning family room for 12 days…and then it needs to make Molly feel welcome and at home for two days. So we built a 5×8 foot platform at 4.5 feet high. The couch goes under that, and Molly's bed goes on top of that – on her own little mezzanine level. It came out awesome. And Corinne took Molly's request for a  "zebra-colored theme with bright-blue accents" and ran with it.

Zebra bed

Molly loved it. We actually got an, "It's more than I dreamed of" out of a 13-year-old. THAT is a statement.

So the weekend was off and running.

Claudia got to go spend the weekend at her friend's cabin, goofing around and tubing. Big, happy win there.

Josh got to sleep over at his friend's house on Saturday night. Win for him. (And Luke's parents are good about making them get some actual sleep. Win for us.)

After a few days of terror and panic induced by her new invisible-fence collar,

Please don't make me go out there!
Bijou finally got the hang of it and started discovering the joys of running around the yard without a chain. Huge, unfettered win there.


I took down some branches off the maple tree out front and managed to burn them on the same night — so they didn't add to the unsightly brush pile on Ty's side of our house. Nice little win for Ty there.

On Saturday, we managed to remove an imminent lawsuit from our backyard and replace it with a mere probable lawsuit. We tore down the 10-year-old trampoline and replaced it with a brand-new, much springier, much nettier trampoline. Very big win for all there.


I got a great little Sunday-morning ride in with my wife. (On bikes, you pervs.) And Corinne accomplished the geometric impossibility of charting a looped route that pretty much avoided wind for its entirety. Take THAT, south-easterly breeze.

Quinn got to go to the fly-in breakfast with his Grandpa Lloyd and catch pancakes from across the hanger. Good-time win for him.

Molly and Anngel got to make a trip to the mall on Sunday afternoon and waste a whole lot of time (though not a lot of money). Jasmine got to take a trip to the beauty salon and, since she's so fat and happy, didn't have to get shaved down all the way bald. Quinn, Josh, Ben, Tommy and I all got to go catch a Sunday matinee of Green Lantern. Win for us.

And while all THAT was going on, Corinne was home making serrano-infused homemade salsa, marinating chicken in a fantastic green curry sauce, and cooking up a double batch of cheesy potatoes. Gigantic-sized win and a great way to wrap up the weekend.

Not sure why Corinne photographs a lot of the food we make.

Weekends should all be like that.

(And I'm already in need of another one, because today kicked off Suck Week, Part Deux.)

Worth every penny

Bikes against garage
That bright-yellow behemoth in the front of this photo is sort of a summer project of mine.

I found it last fall at a house down the street, sitting forelornly at the end of a driveway with a hand-scrawled "free" sign hanging from the top tube. I gave it a thorough, cautious, up-close look and, since I'm an idiot who has no idea what he's looking for/at, it looked salvageable to me.

It's a Browning. As in the firearms manufacturer. I didn't even know they'd ever made bikes. (Though I don't know why I'm surprised, since my mother-in-law gave me a Browning barbecue tong set not so long ago.) But, evidently, for a few years in the '70s, they dabbled.

I did a whole lot of scrubbing and a fair bit of lubing. I had Eric run some new cables and a couple of other things. I went and found the crazy-old tire/tube sizes and threw on some new grip tape. That's about the extent of the repairs I did before flippantly determining this thing (I haven't yet settled on a nickname for it. Given the shotgun angle to it, I'm leaning toward Ol' Betsy.) "road worthy."

Corinne and I went out for a ride. Aside from the fact that, no matter what gear I put it in, it's going to find its way back to its "favorite", it went pretty well. So a few days later, we tried it again. Nothing ambitious, just a 9-mile loop.

Action photo
Beautiful night. Glorious, relaxing ride (as illustrated by the rolling, action photo above). Until…

Flat tire Crap. Flat tire. And, of course, if you were to geometrically bisect our 9-mile loop, that tire blew at the exact mid-way point. So Corinne took off to finish the ride and come back with the truck to pick me up. Here she is taking her phone and stuffing it into her sports bra. (That jersey's hot, and I don't care that it doesn't have pockets.) Lucky phone.

Phone in bra Away she went. And there I was. Hoofin' it.

500 miles
Oh well. It was a perfect evening and I got to take a nice, peaceful walk (until Corinne caught back up to me). Can't complain about that! Yep, that bike's worth every penny I paid for it.

Pushing by hand

Them kids is smart

Erin and the quilt that Corinne's mom made for her. Pretty flippin' fantastic.

Huge kudos to Erin – the second of our collective brood and my first biological offspring to graduate high school.

(SIDETRACK: That "huge kudos" intro was totally my subconscious mind crying out. I just finished lunch, my sweet tooth is screaming at me, and all I have in my desk drawer is a couple of those tiny little 100 calorie Kudos bars. Tasty, but not nearly substantial enough. Evidently, somewhere in the uncharted recesses of my brain, there's a part of me that would like to mush about 8 of those things together into a huge Kudos bar. Yum.)

Erin's graduation party was this past Saturday. And, as we celebrated Erin's maturation and her educational accomplishments, it was only fitting that Erin, in her own way, managed to teach the grownups a lesson.

See, Erin's mom and I both care deeply about making sure the kids are loved, valued and cared for. Great goal. Problem is we don't exactly travel the same roads to get there. And the result is that I don't think either of us ends up doing as good a job as we'd like.

The kids are aware of the tension, and it shows – to the point where they get visibly agitated when they're faced with a situation that they know is going to bring the two of us face to face. (And God forbid we throw in any circumstances that might bring their mom face to face with their step-mom.)

So this winter I started asking Erin what she wanted to do for a graduation party. My first thought was to spare her (and, yes, spare myself) that face-to-face tension.

Did Erin want to have two separate grad parties? That's what Josie did two years ago (for totally different reasons). At first Erin said yes, but then rethought. That sounded like a hassle.

How about a party at a neutral, third-party site? We rented a park pavilion. Surely both families could coexist peacefully when no one was defending turf, right? At first Erin said yes, but then rethought.

She just wanted to have the party celebrating her graduation in the home she's lived in since kindergarten.

We were going to have to be mature.

And, leading up to The Event, there were some touch-and-go moments. Erin's mom didn't trust that I wouldn't steal or defile her photo albums. I didn't trust her enough to agree to go halvsies on the budget.

I admit it. Leading up to this Saturday, I was scared shitless – to the point where I was probably feeling more sorry for myself than I was feeling excited for Erin. So I did what I needed to do to brace myself (demanded that my parents attend and stay for the whole event, begged my sister and a couple of good friends to make appearances…) and I forcibly realigned my perspective. I was doing this for Erin.

(NOTE: It should be pointed out that the true icon of selflessness in this scenario was Corinne. She did NOT sign up for this degree of BS, but she was there – for Erin and for me – helping out and enduring the death stare with patience and understanding. Heroic performance. No question.)

And it went wonderfully well. Erin floated between camps graciously. Her mom (and, probably just as accurately, her brother) did a great job getting the garage and the lawn all cleaned up and ready for a party. And everyone was, at the very least, civil! I won't say it was without awkwardness (Corinne being stalked on her way to the bathroom – presumably to make sure she didn't steal the silverware?), but everyone came. And everyone came for Erin.

It was her day. Her achievement. Her party. And the rest of us can just grow up.

Little Duplex on the Prairie

Settle the hell down, breath deeply, and take comfort in this simple fact: there's someone lazier than you. There's always someone lazier than you.

I coasted through school based on that knowledge. I finish races fueled by that knowledge. And, occasionally, I sit comfortably on my back patio with a beer – at peace in the glow of that knowledge.

I'm aware that I will never win an award at any lawn and garden show. In fact, in your neighborhood, I'd probably be that guy. The guy you shake your head and grumble about at the annual block party. The next-door neighbor whose weeds make you take that extra pass along the border with the weed 'n' feed. The guy you not-so-secretly wish would join the circus, move out, and sell the house to a nice young assistant greenskeeper from Kentucky. (Those are some of the many reasons I don't live in your neighborhood.)

In my neighborhood we've got the guy who lives behind me. Terrible, disastrous lawn. Ridiculous. Hideous. Birds won't crap on it. Makes you wonder how, as a homeowner, he can find inner peace enough to even enjoy his Harley.

You wanna know how? Re-examine paragraph 1.

See, the guy who lives behind me – with his rock-hard, dandelion-strewn, post-apocalyptic wasteland of a lawn can relax and take comfort. Because two blocks down the street, we've got this guy:

Long grass better

See. There's always someone lazier than you.

Dick Van Fatten my dog up

Are you sure you're a dog?
Genetic testing would confirm that Jasmine is a dog. But she's nobody's Balto.

There is no proud, regal wolf ancestor peering down from the heaven to which all dogs go and nodding thoughtfully as if to say, "Yes. THAT is my bloodline."

For years I've given Kirby the guinea pig more dog cred than Jasmine.

She was skinny. Her hair would get tragically matted way too quickly. She was whiney and a fantastically conflicted combination of timid and aggressive that may have made sense to Cesar but always just left me shaking my head.

That's just who she was. She was one of us and we pretty much loved her. But she sure wasn't going to win many favorite pet contests in a house currently occupied by personalities like Shouko and Bijou. Such is life.

Then our dogs got the runs.

In the process of trying to firm that situation up, one thing we did was throw out their current bag of food. For a few days I was actually fixing boiled chicken and rice for three dogs twice a day. But anyone who knows me knows THAT shit ain't gonna fly for very long, so we needed to get some dog food.

Partly in the interest of making sure our dogs were happy and comfortable (but mostly just because I didn't want to go back to cleaning up runny dog crap several times a day) we opted to temporarily switch from our regular super-premium brand of dog food up to some sort of insanely expensive ultra-mondo-uber-premium dog food.

At least for a little while, Iams was out. And Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance was in.

As '70s quasi-celebrity endorsements go, this seems to be among the more random. Suzanne Somers for the Thighmaster? That made sense because her claim to fame was that she was allegedly hot. (I was always more of a Janet guy than a Chrissy guy.) Sally Struthers for the Christian Children's Fund? That was totally in character.

But this? Seriously. Did the Bradfords even HAVE a dog?

Well, whatever. As Tom Bradford, he may not have known anything about birth control, but as Dick Van Patten he's totally got dog food figured out.

Jasmine's so happy now she can't hold still for a picture.
Shouko and Bijou are fine. But, with the exception of that brief intestinal episode, they were fine before. Jasmine, on the other hand, has officially flourished. She's put on at least 40 percent additional body weight. Her hair's calmed down. She's just generally happier. She's even started doing DOG things like finding smelly stuff and rolling around in it.

Jasmine, why the heck are you pink?
Who knew we were starving our dog by buying Iams? (For real. That stuff's not cheap. It's not like we were shoveling Atta Boy down their throats or something.) So, while the two bigger dogs are migrating back to regular dog food, I think we're going to keep spending some extra extra money to keep Jasmine under Dick Van Patten's watchful eye.

Now. Where do I go for a bottle of that Gavin MacLeod Kitchen & Bathroom Cleanser? (Just kidding. No way Gavin could come up with anything to top simplyneutral!)