Channeling Seth Godin

I always read about people "hoping for the best and preparing for the worst." Lately it's the government shutdown that has folks worried, but next week will bring some new disaster to plan for. It got me thinking: how much time do we spend preparing for the best? If you're focused on planning for the worst case scenario, when does your best work happen?

Garage Sale Report

Good pickings at the St. Louis Park neighborhood sales yesterday. We got all but three of these books from one family. Average cost: fifteen cents. (Lately I've become kind of obsessed with the idea of covering one of our bedroom walls with bookshelves. Floor to ceiling, complete with a rolling ladder. Like living in a library! Now it's my goal to acquire enough books to make this a necessity.)

Quercetti Rami the binary teacher. That's right fellow nerds, I got a toy that teaches the binary system, and it only cost me fifty cents. What I love best is that it's all levers and pushbuttons, totally mechanical, except for the analog three-minute timer. This is a gem of a find.

Yakima Grasshopper child carrier, barely used. Riding along on hikes is Natalie's new favorite activity. We went once Saturday, again on Sunday morning by request, and by afternoon she was ready for more. During our first hike in the woods we had so much fun that she told me, "I never want to go home, daddy."

Swimming Lessons

"I did it!!!"

Three magical words coming from a three-year-old girl. One thing I never understood about parenthood was how people get so wrapped up in their childrens' accomplishments. Now I get it. The vicarious thrill of watching my progeny, wide-eyed and ecstatic, as she masters a new skill. There's nothing in the world quite like it.

Natalie began swimming lessons at the Community Center last week. After two classes, she is beginning to feel comfortable in the water. Walking in up to her neck, floating with her head on my shoulder and "swimming" while I carry her in a football hold, jumping into the pool, blowing bubbles underwater. Yelling with pure amazement after each fresh accomplishment.

I'm proud of her. Not only because learning to enjoy playing in the water and being splashed and even getting dunked now and then is a good thing for Natalie; but also because I hate doing all of those things. It is especially satisfying to watch her overcome one of my personal weaknesses. I am even making some progress in this department myself.

Next step: teaching myself to swim at the lake over 4th of July weekend. If only someone could tuck me in a football hold while I learn the strokes! But the next best thing would be having Natalie nearby to cheer me on. I know she can fully appreciate when I smile and say, "I did it!"

Around the Farm

Natalie doing a magic show for the chickens. The young birds are very playful with each other and easily eat out of my hand, but they did not appreciate how she was swinging her wand. After the first swat, they all hid under the coop.

Peppers. I picked out a mixture of differently-colored bell peppers and chili peppers. Gonna make some salsa! If the tomato plants survive!

I am pretty sure that these must be cucumber plants. They're growing nicely. It's been hit-and-miss with the other plants. Next year these beds should do better; now they're mostly black dirt.

Natalie's cherry tree is fruiting! I did not know if this would happen in the first year or with no tree nearby to cross-pollinate. This reminds me it is time to pick out another tree for our second child.

I've eaten three homegrown strawberries so far and each one is a little flavor grenade. Soooo delicious. The trick is to get them before the local wildlife does!

Animal crossing

We've gone from spring, with its evidence of animals passing--deer tracks in mud, rabbit trails, trees felled by beavers--to a summer surrounded by actual wildlife. We've always heard turkeys in the woods and suddenly one flew across the road right overhead! Last year our garden was nibbled by unseen deer but this year I'm actually encountering them on my morning runs! And my mother-in-law had an even closer encounter with her car yesterday :(

The captive caterpillars in our garage have begun to spin cocoons (two so far). Our backyard is full of fireflies at night and the forest margin twinkles like a Christmas light display. The wasps were successfully exterminated back in April, in case you were wondering, and now we're just dealing with the usual ants... and this little tree frog who somehow got into our bedroom!

I try to share everything with Natalie and pass along our excitement with animal sightings. "Look, a bunny," I'll point out, or pick up toads and bugs for her to pet and examine. On our walk the other day we found two frogs so tiny--about a centimeter long--that I thought they were bugs at first. Or I overturn a rock in our garden and we watch the ant colony beneath as they scramble to relocate their exposed eggs. "Int'resting," Natalie concludes as she walks away.

Turning three

We have been preparing Natalie for several weeks for the idea that three-year-olds do not use pacifiers (or "fuddits," as she calls them). After everyone had gone home we packed them all in a box, put the box in the stroller she was pushing, and formed a procession down the driveway. She put the box in the mailbox for "all the kids." So, we will see how that goes.

Like the seasons in Minnesota, developments with Natalie are less often gradual transitions, and usually dramatic overnight changes. The day after her party I asked if she wanted to go up by herself for the children's message at church. She has always insisted that I accompany her, with tears if necessary. But this time she just traipsed up by herself like it was no big deal.

Of course Sunday was also Father's Day so I was reflecting on my three years of fatherhood. Natalie is the star of my life. This is the year we double down and add a co-star to the cast of our family and won't that be a trip. All I know is if I can come home from work in a few years and have two little girls shouting "daddy!" and running into my arms... I will be a very happy man.

Natalie's 3rd Birthday Party

Natalie turned three years old this weekend! All her cousins came over! She flipped out! It was a very exciting time for all the kids. I inflated maybe two dozen balloons and she helped me "throw" them up to the ceiling. Jenna went all out on decorations for the party. The theme was Fairy Garden.

"What was your favorite thing today?" I asked Natalie when it was all over. "CAKE!" she said. Her auntie Holly made this incredible cake with a Rice Crispy Treat base layer and fondant toppings. There was far too much food for everyone! This morning I am taking about 85% of this cake into work with me and I will be eating leftovers all week.

Rare photo of dancing in a magickal faerie ring.

All the girls got nets and played butterfly-catching game. Uncle Kevin and I tossed paper cutouts from the second story bedroom windows and the fluttered down to earth. I was impressed that Natalie was coordinated enough to nab several of these. This is when the kids started breaking down. It was time for everyone to take a nap (I slept for two and a half hours).

Upcoming public appearance: Creative Connection

I will be a panelist at The Creative Connection conference, speaking about "Creating an Event." A weekend pass to this event costs $531, so I had better bring my A game! You can read my bio for free.

Around the Farm

Work in the garden continues. We discovered a nursery down the road that was closing for the season in a week so everything was half off. Jenna ripped out our dead plants and put in peppers, beans, pumpkin... um, I don't remember what else. We got a Hydrangea too. I shoveled out a trailer-load of mulch around our bushes and perennials.

The most exciting thing about this week: Caterpillar House! One of our trees is infested with Eastern Tent Caterpillars. I thought I had burned all the nests earlier in the season but a few more popped up. Rather than exterminate them all I put some dirt in a 20-gallon aquarium, cut the inhabited branches, and stuck them right in there.

So now we've got about half a dozen pets plus one Forest Tent Caterpillar we found at my in-laws' house. That one got an oak branch to munch on. Natalie was moderately interested by the gathering and she likes to check on them every day. I hope we'll get to watch them spin cocoons and turn into moths (or as Natalie says, "a beautiful butterfly")!

Around the Farm

Saturday was my cousin's wedding, so half the weekend was shot, from a gardening perspective. Sunday was a beautiful sunny day to work on my blisters. I hauled dirt up hill all morning to fill the raised beds we built earlier. Jenna mixed in fertilizer and manure and we planted a bunch of new vegetables plus the shoots from our strawberry and raspberry garden. Then we had two days of record heat that scorched everything to a crisp.

Jenna planted a garden near our front door with donations from her mom's yard. Big improvement over the dirt and weeds we used to have there. Those are just weeds in the path in the foreground; need more mulch.

Wedding Candles bearded iris. These flowers were a wedding gift to us from my mom, and we transplanted them when we moved. So happy to see them blooming again in the new location!

I put up a trellis for our raspberry plants and thinned out the strawberries. We're breaking up this garden to become the playground area, but not until we harvest all the fruit!

Chicken Run

Our chicks are now five weeks old. Last week they outgrew the bigger box that I moved them into after they outgrew their first box. One day while I was at work they all escaped and pooped all over our garage. That night I gathered them up (not too difficult since they were perched directly underneath the table) and Jenna held them while I clipped their flight feathers.

I was nervous about moving them into our newly-fenced chicken run because I was not sure how Prinny, the last surviving hen, would react to them. Ever since her friends were killed she has been mopey and broody and never leaves her nesting box. She pecked at the chicks for a bit but after a weekend together they are BFFs. Prinny even returned to her roost for the first time since the murders. I am hopeful she will start laying again.

I'm glad I built a fence though. Sure enough that bad dog was standing outside today, staring in at my tasty birds and licking its chops. We think we found where it lives and we are trying to decide an appropriate response. I am advocating the Old Yeller solution but Jenna is opposed for some reason. Go figure.

Ride the barrel and get pitted

Last summer was all about the double rainbow song. In 2011, we got the best barrels ever, dude. WAPAHH!

Memorial Day Weekend 2011

We spent Memorial Day weekend at my parents' lake home in Alexandria, according to tradition. Natalie was so excited and so good in the car all the way there (she was a holy terror on the way back, but let's focus on the positive). It was rainy on Friday when we drove up and there was a minor fiasco with the keys but eventually we did get inside and dried off and straight to bed.

Saturday was our big day. I started out by sleeping in and watching a loon go fishing just off the dock in the morning. The city's big Awake the Lakes festival was duly disappointing when Natalie refused to go in the bouncy house and paid $1 for a sad face painting. However, she did enjoy seeing ponies and the animals in the petting cage. Jenna and I spent the afternoon garage sailing and hit the jackpot of baby girl clothes.

The highlight of our day was inheriting my parents' riding mower. Jerry drove up just to load it into his van and bring it home for us. I took him and my dad out to lunch at a truly depressing new "brewery" restaurant. They can't brew on the premises for a year, so in the meantime they serve a dismal five tap beers, and the most outré offering is Stella Artois. I weep. Anyway that evening we went out for ice cream at a place where you can mix your own soft serve flavors and that was awesome.

On Sunday I went for a run. Natalie dropped a golf ball in the lake and I went in after it, which made me the biggest hero of all time to her little two-year-old eyes. Also the cows ate grass out of her hands and she loved that. After a drizzly boat ride and fire-roasting marshmallows and working in the garden we retired for the day, and drove home on Monday afternoon. Then we cleaned our garage all evening. THE END

Sunday morning run

Gravel road at the lake. Full trip report coming soon!