And this is what separates us from the worms

beetsRespect your elders. That’s what Mom and Dad always taught me. My family and my ancestors have worked hard for years – nay, hundreds of thousands of years – to put me in the position I’m in today, with the advantages I have today. And I thank them for that.

So, as a proud member of species homo sapiens, why the hell would I eat dirt – except maybe once as a dare on the playground in North Carolina? My ancestors worked like hell to evolve and give me a delightfully omnivorous diet. Why would I add dirt to that? What am I, homo erectus? (I don’t have anywhere to go with that. I was just looking for a way to work in the words “homo erectus” so I could giggle like an 11-year-old. Mission accomplished.)

That’s why I don’t like beets. Because I respect my elders too much. Mom, I know it may have looked just the opposite when I was a kid and stared defiantly at that cold, red pile on my plate, leaking its colorfully toxic seepage out across every other part of my dinner. But that’s just you taking the short-sighted view, Mom. Get over yourself and look at the big picture. Our ancestors didn’t climb down from the trees to shovel down a fistful of dirt. They climbed down looking for Doritos or Funyuns or Laffy Taffy or something good.

Corinne and I tried beets today with lunch, just to see if age and wisdom may have tempered our palates. Maybe we’ve both been wrong on this one all these years…

Nope. This just in: beets still suck.

They’re nasty, they taste like dirt, and they stain anything with which they come in contact. Sure, they’re healthy as hell, but that doesn’t make them good.

So we’ll stick to juicing them. They still taste nasty that way, but at least you can cover it up a bit with ginger and apples and berries and honey and God-knows-what-other-ingredients.

Worms eat dirt. Despite several accusations to the contrary, I am not a worm.

However, if you just need to have beets, here’s a recipe just for you. Yes, I’m now a recipe blog. You’re welcome.

The Only Way To Eat Beets
What you’ll need: A juicer and a blender
Ingredients:
• 1/2 – 1 beet
• 1-2 apples
• 2-3 carrots
• 1/2-inch slice of fresh ginger root
• 1 cup frozen berries
• 1-2 cups coconut milk (the kind in a milk carton, not canned)

Juice the beets, apples, carrots and ginger root. Place the frozen berries and coconut milk in your blender and start mixing. Add juiced fruits and vegetables and mix again. Makes 3-4 servings. Want to con kids into trying it? Add some whip cream to the top.

Humps & Hills (tee, hee)

I was taking requests this morning for breakfast. So today was bacon (of course), and a traditional favorite from Corinne’s side of the family: Norwegian Oven Pancakes (aka: Humps & Hills).

Humps and Hills

(Insert Butt-Head laugh here.)

The breakfast part was a fantastic success in spite of Corinne’s derisive laughter at my inability to use her great-grandma’s mixer. (My Mom didn’t love me enough to teach me to use a hand mixer correctly.)

The mixer

All four of the still-at-home kids go nuts for Humps & Hills, and it’s great to see something that gets teenagers excited and engaged.

photo 1[1] photo 2[1]

But the sophomoric giggling part of breakfast was even better than usual this morning because last night, Molly and I (and Josh and Quinn at various times) watched most of Beavis & Butt-Head Do America. (It’s 1 hour, 20 minutes. I made it through 1 hour, which, I’m quite certain is a new record for anyone over 40.)

So Molly and I spent this morning sharing good food and breathy, stoner chuckles at quasi-dirty jokes. Family bonding is in the eye of the beholder.

Rising to the challenge



A man with no goal is a rudderless ship, subject to the whims of fickle Neptune's fathomless fancies…


No, wait, that's not right. (Well, it is right, but it's not going to get me to the point I want to make. Lemme start over.)


A man with no goal is a ship safe at port. He hath access to all he might need, but knoweth not how strong the stuff of his sails may be.


Stand by for actual example intended to double as allegory in 3… 2… 1:


Years ago almost everything I ate was bland. There was no garlic in my life. No curries. No peppers. It was, in part, a result of the company I kept but, in truth, I didn't even really aspire to spicy.


I had dabbled before and felt the heady rush of the flavorful fire. But mostly I played it safe. Nothing ventured, nothing lost, and I wasn't willing to risk the cost.


I won't go into what made my tastes change, but they did. And suddenly spicy sounded pretty damned good. Some peppers here, some salsa there. Shake a little Tabasco on that, wouldja? I bounced around, trying this and that, but eventually I had to admit I was getting nowhere. I decided I needed to test myself – to stretch my boundaries. I needed a plan. I needed a goal.


Now, let's be honest, spicy food goals are limited in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Thankfully, there is BW3. I set my sights on the Blazin' Challenge.


Blazin Challenge


This was a worthy goal. It scared me (though I certainly wasn't going to let anyone know). There was going to be nothing comfortable about this zone.


Here's the thing you need to know about the Blazin' Challenge: The spiciness of the Blazin' sauce is no higher than third on your list of worries.


Problem number one is the temperature of the wings. See, the waitress brings your wings straight out from the kitchen, accompanied by a Wing Nazi. The Wing Nazi is equipped with a stopwatch. And when she hits that button, your six minutes start. Those wings are hot. That's problem number one.


Problem number two is more of a timed-release problem that I won't go into in this venue.


And yes, the Blazin' sauce is problem number three. It's pretty darned hot. And they slather a whole lot more of it onto your Blazin' Challenge order than they do when you place a regular ol' lunchtime order for a dozen Blazin' wings.


It made me sweat. It made me drool. It cut loose viscous strands of runny snot that issued forth from my nostrils in just about the least attractive way possible. But I did it. I did it in about four and a half minutes. I set the highest goal I could imagine and did what I needed to do to reach that goal.


That's what we should do more of, don't you think? I'm not very good at challenging myself, but I do pretty well at facing up to challenges when they're put before me. Corinne's awesome like that. She has a bold-but-delicate way of challenging me to try new things. To reach farther. To do something bigger and better. (No, she hasn't gotten me to write a book yet. But she'll never stop trying. Guess it's a goal of hers!)




I am one-eighth bohemian. Not nearly enough to be interesting.


These aren't real Bohemians. This is, of course, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. Which made me laugh. I don't know if I'll ever be quirky. I just know what I know.

My mother is half German, one quarter Swiss and one quarter Bohemian. And aside from a rampant, swarthy eyebrow, those crazy gypsy roots have given me… (sigh) Just about nothing.


For the most part, I'm okay with that. But every once in awhile, I really wish I had a little more of a bohemian edge to me. Just every once in awhile I'd like to be able to sit in a darkly lit coffee shop, sipping organic espresso, wearing something that looks truly ridiculous but is still cool (because it was hand-woven by the grandmother of an Ecuadoran freedom fighter who was executed by a death squad of jack-booted thugs and died in my arms, breathing out his last wish – that I take this poncho back to America so that some part of his grandmother could at least touch freedom), and opining in detached, world-weary tones about the collective works of Franz Kafka or David Sedaris or whoever it is that's really cool and not a phony.


But that will never be me. First off, I don't even like coffee. But it's more than that. I'll never be tragically hip because I'm too conservative in my politics, too aesthetically unaware in my fashion sense and too slothful in my reading habits.


I have a degree in government, and the closest I ever came to "politically active" in college was driving into town when Bob Dole came to the St. Cloud Holiday Inn. (Actually, I'm not even sure I drove. I think my car was broken down at the time.)


The only time I was ever "fashion-forward" was my senior year in high school. Moving from a big school to a small one, I was at the vanguard of the boxer rebellion. And I was the first to wear indoor soccer shoes to class.


I think the biggest part of my problem is plain old apathy. It takes work to be quirky. And I just don't have enough want-to in me. There are just these passing whims. That's not, however, to say that I am and will always be a blind conformist. (That takes work too. Keeping up with all the trends I'm supposed to follow? Come on. That's not me either.)


I guess I'll just be who I am. I'll embrace the eighth of myself that actually IS bohemian. And I'll sleep well in the knowledge that, while my percentage isn't high enough to get me free tickets to the poetry slam, it IS high enough to get me a cut if they ever open up a casino in Greenwich Village.




She’s my little rock and roll


 



On Saturday, Corinne and I did the MS Mud Run – Twin Cities. (Tell me again, exactly which city is Dresser, Wisconsin's twin?) It was a fantastically kick-ass time, with a ton of great stories to tell. For shorthand versions of some of those, see below.* The thing I want to talk about though is the positively equalizing effect of thick, full-coverage mud.


We live in a world wracked with body image issues and flagging self esteem. Fortunately, what was true in Akron in 1938 is just as true today. Everyone looks great when they're covered head-to-toe in mud. There's something undeniably sexy about a woman willing to sabotage her manicure to support MS research.


Slathered on, monochromatic mud, obtained in the charitable pursuit of a goal, just does something that highlighted streaks and smoky eye-shadow never could.


Complete mud immersion therapy can balance out imagined flaws. Insecure a-cup girls? I'm going to guess you could pack on at least a cup size worth of muck after crawling through 6+ miles of it. And c-cup girls? Oh, who the hell am I kidding? You all looked great right from the start.


I want to be perfectly clear that my point isn't anything lurid or crude. Seriously. (I climbed a lot of steep hills on Saturday with my face mere feet away from Rachel's or Jodi's ass [or Justin's ass, too, I suppose]. And, since both Isaac and Chad could swiftly and easily beat me senseless [as, I suppose, could both Corinne and Reba], I want the record straight that my mind was always exactly where it belonged – on the searing pain in my left calf and the jabbing rocks in my right boot.


I'm talking about the pure, wholesome beauty that every person possesses when glistening in the glorious filth of human kindness. And that's straight-up hot.


 


*Shorthand versions of Mud Run stories


• We signed up two teams. My Curmudgeons ran in the competitive-coed-teams-of-five division. Corinne's Angels With Dirty Faces ran in the DGAP division. (Don't Give a Poop. No, seriously. That's what they call it.)

• After much shuffling and more who's in / who's out than an MLB all-star game, the rosters that lined up to face the starting gun were:


Curmudgeons
    • Justin Gauerke
    • Jodi Rohe
    • Rachel Watkins
    • Rachel's fellow-phy-ed-teacher buddy, Mark (a.k.a., Grambo)
    • Me
Angels With Dirty Faces
    • The always angelic Corinne
    • Corinne's sister, Annette (who must have some angel in her, genetically speaking, given Corinne's angelic status)
    • The must-be-angelic-because-everyone-seems-to-like-her Gina Nacey
    • Honorary angel and much better sport than he gets credit for, Eric Nacey

• Gina had a plane to catch that evening, but she wanted to get all the way to the end of that course, just to jump off the tower into the 7-foot "mud pool".


So she and Eric sprinted off from the beginning (they ended up running a faster time than our competitive team) and left Corinne and Annette to spend some quality bonding time that they don't get much of. I think that was really cool. There's a gap in age between Corinne and Annette. I'm not going to get into how big a gap it is, but suffice it to say that Corinne's Barbie clothes were out of style by the time they got handed down to Annette. This was one of very few times that they've gotten to spend a few hours together without kids or spouses or anyone, just working together toward a goal. Worth the price of admission, right there.


• No one got seriously hurt. That's a legitimate concern here. I'm not sure how we managed to get 9 of us through that course with nothing more than some truly nasty looking blisters. I think I was the most wounded of anyone and my greatest injury occurred when I pulled a muscle making the always-dangerous parking lot run from the gas station to the ATM before we even left Sartell.


• Chad Gertken has the patience of a saint. He showed up with us, waited through the Angels' wave, then continued waiting while the Curmudgeons ran, and never complained at all. Not even an eye roll. Chad – and I say this in the most reverent tone possible – you are the consummate bag bitch.


• Sure, just about everyone enjoyed the post-race beer. But how many racers were as dedicated to their hops as Justin and I were with our pre-race beer? Suck on that, spaghetti feed.


 


 




  • Corinne annette gina

  • Gina and corinne

  • Mud brain

  • Pre race


Pre race



 


 




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.
Wow.


Weekends should all be like that.


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




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.