Mar 30, 2011

Best daddy blogger on mommy site, huh?

This is slightly pathetic, but if you read this blog faithfully and are not too annoyed by my posts, please click and vote me as a "Top 25 Daddy Blogger" on the Circle of Moms site.  I stumbled across the contest by happenstance, and noticed the leaders already have thousands of votes.  The three votes I hope to secure (one so far, already voted for myself...shameless) should solidly slot me in the top 5,000 or so.

Also, if you are not yet a follower of this blog, please consider clicking the Follow button to the right to add yourself.  I'll be giving away a $50 gift card to a random follower once we hit 50.  I need your help, pass the word along!

Grazie!
-Beard

Mar 29, 2011

Spit bubbles and hydraulic horsie


For the most part, Pigtails is no different than any other 8-year-old.  A girly girl, she adores dolls and tea time, sparklin' nail polish and raspberry lipgloss.  

Okay, there might be one or two tiny differences.  Potentially attributed to influence from one hairy-faced father.  

She has an uncanny ability to make lifelike hydraulic sounds.

FRAAA!!  ZEEEEE!!  SHIIIRRRR!!  ZUUUMMM!! 

She may or may not know how to dance the sprinkler.  


































Rapid fire armpit farts with cupped hands are a gift she was born with. 

Quality time to her is having a spit bubble blowing contest with dad.


































She begs for airplane flights and horsie rides.  On special days, we combine and do hydraulic horsie with sound effects.

I'll take the blame, the little crabapple doesn't fall far from the tree.   Maybe manners do slip a little when a man raises the runt.  But we have fun and both cherish this homebound rudeness. 

I just hope she doesn't boot up as hydraulic horsie while blowing spit bubbles on the playground.  That one may have the school counselor pulling me in for a frank chat.

Mar 27, 2011

Pigtails' surprise wrap

Pigtails is old enough now to make her school lunch.  She's proud of the surprise wrap (her words) she slapped together for tomorrow's lunch.  Snagged her conversation with the mic', she's happy as a puppy:





Kitchen reboot - minimalism with maximum utilization

I'm happy to announce my upcoming weekly off-topic subject...a kitchen reboot!

Once the mountain trip has expired (several weeks remain, will resume next week), I'll blog about the slashing and sledgin' that will soon commence with a complete kitchen rip down and rebuild.  

My sturdy brick home was stacked up 50 years ago.  I've lived here 12 years and have been wanting to destroy and remake the kitchen for a decade.  My separation and divorce kind of put a hold on the remodel plans for, oh, 7 years or so.  I'm finally at a point where I can make this happen now.  Pretty pumped about this one.  

There are many good home renovation blogs out there, younghouselove.com is a fine example.  However, my writing style is a bit different than most, and I plan to approach it from the problem/solution angle.  Many of the reno' blogs I read make me roll the eyes just a little, paragraphs of clouds with heavy use of these words:  delightful, wonderful, sleek, fantastic, gorgeous, cuddling kittens, blah.  

Bah humbug, fluff, all of it!!  

While blogging 101 says to keep all your posts positive and upbeat, I seek to tell the truth.  Tell it how it is, even if you ruffle feathers.  I've bled through enough home projects to realize they are often expensive, messy, time consuming, ripe with unexpected problems, hidden asbestos and delays.  The finished product will hopefully include some of those furry words, but I'll not forsake scribing the pitfalls and dirt that accumulates before sleekness descends. 

My kitchen is the shape of a bowling lane and small.  135 square feet, 15' by 9'.  I don't have the option (or desire) to knock out walls or expand.  So I must make the best use of and fill the room I have.  Minimalism with maximum utilization is my motto.  Less is better, but don't waste space.  Throughout the project, I'll ask:  Do I really need this?  If not, give it the axe.  Is there space here that I could use in a better way?  If so, how?  Is there a way to add more without cluttering things up?  Do it.

Examples:  

Do I really need a double-wide stainless sink that takes up 33"?  
No.  A large single hole porcelain farm sink with a small plastic rinse basin will do the trick while freeing up 6" of counter space.  

Do I need a 30" wide electric range?  
No, plus cooking with gas is superior.  So I'll go with a small 24" wide built-in gas cooktop that gives me back another 6" of counter.  

Is there a way to use that empty space up there above the cabinets near the ceiling?  
Yep.  Install the new cabinets high up closer to the ceiling, which frees up space in the backsplash area to install metal shelves or a rail to hang crap from, like this:















Do I want to spend $3,000 on granite countertops?  
Nah.  My entire budget is $10K, and hard oak butcher block will only cost $150 for a stout slab (and I prefer the warm look of tree).

Do I want or need all that window trim in the kitchen?  
No.  Painting it is time consuming and sucks.  Rip the trim, subway tile it white with clean edges around the windows, like this:



















My plastic wrap drawer is a mess:

 Is there a better way to organize this disaster?  For sure:























You get the idea.  

I'm picking through everything from the floor to ceiling to rid clutter, be smart with space and rebuild in a way that enables easier cleanup and more efficient cooking. 

I'll continue this kitchen thread in a few weeks after completing the mountain trip.  Prepare to get dirty before that kitchen shines!

-Beard

Mar 26, 2011

Birdie beaver

** 3/26 Update **

Running bud Greg is a Hawkeye fan.  I wonder if his girls even know cartoons exist on the boob tube, as they are mostly exposed to college ball games.  One of his daughters has become a Hawk fan.  He said when they are playing on TV, she runs around shouting "COCKEYES, COCKEYES, GOOOOOO COCKEYES!!"  He shushes her when his family sees them playing on the screen when out in public.

Nibbling on garlic focaccia the other night, Pigtails' eyes swelled as she said "Yes!  I love potacho bread, it's the best!"

What have you heard your little one say recently that made you laugh?  Share in the comments below!

-Beard
_____________________________

3/23 

"Pigtails, stop being a party pooper."

She wrinkled her nose up and blurted, "Huh?  A birdie beaver?!  What's a birdie beaver?!"

I laughed, she looked very confused.

What funny things have spouted forth from the mouths of your kids, nieces, nephews or pets?  Leave a comment below and let us know!

-Beard

Mar 21, 2011

Spring break, now with bloody knees

Most normal people flock down the map towards warmth, not hundreds of miles north to tundra.  But tundra is less expensive than sand, and I'm a cheapskate.  So we rumbled up to the Wisconsin Dells to splash a couple days at an elephantine indoor waterpark.  If you reserve in January, the rate is $99 a night with free water passes.  A good deal in my book.

Wisconsin countryside is rolling, curvaceous and tidy, the farmsteads were immaculate.  The drive was easy on the eyes and gave zee whistlin' turbo a workout.


















Pigtails was suspiciously quiet in the backseat, so I tipped down the rear-view to investigate.  Laughed while shuttering the Nikon, I think she was a little excited to hit the slides:




100,000 square feet of aqua awesomeness, with the bigger slides spaghettiing down four stories from the ceiling.  Sheets of glass the size of Jumbotrons pumped in sunlight to the wave pool and deck, got a taste of warmth while bobbing along the lazy river in that Euro-cut Speedo.    


Pigtails wanted me to run the speed slide first to prove it wasn't scary and to give it my safety stamp of approval.  I mounted a foam mat and squirted down a slimy fiberglass tube fast enough to scream like a little girl.  It looped and fishtailed outside the building and back inside before cutting down for a steep finish.  Four tubes side-by-side let you race three others.  On that first ride down, my right knee left the mat at the bottom and sort of instinctively braced the side of the slide to slow down.  You finish fast with a short runout, sorta like a fighter jet trying to land on an aircraft carrier with a tailhook and a prayer.  The leg brake was enough friction to peel skin off the knee and bleed a little.  Jumped off the slide, smiled at Pigtails and said,  

"See, that was a blast and not scary at all.  I think you should give it a try, it's very safe." 

She looked down at my leg, "Um dad, why is your knee bleeding?" 

"Oh, that's just a little owie.  Yeah, just ignore the blood, keep your sticks on the mat and you'll be fine."

She did eventually give it a try.  I gave her a 5 second head start at the top to allow her 42 pounds time to gather steam. 

What's the deal with the tattoos?  They were everywhere.  Seemed like a requirement to have one to be allowed into the park.  Tough dudes, scrawny pale-skinned ones, young moms, wrinkly grandmas.  Hardly a person without one, only me and the newborns in poopy swim diapers.  With that kind of peer pressure, I was tempted to run up to the room and quick Sharpie MOM on my shoulder.  And the subject matter of said tattoos cracked me up.  I saw a middle aged lady with a smurf tat' on her ankle.  Really?  What series of events led her to adoring papa smurf to the point of saying, heck yes, I think it a good idea to permanently ink my skin with a make believe blue elf that lives in a mushroom village? 

Lunch and dinner, we gnawed mostly on soggy sandwiches from the cooler.  Pigtails was lickin' her chops, hoping to round her belly on these.  Apples underneath all that goo, they must be healthy.  My response to her: "no, eat your spit."
I'm a stubborn tightwad, my conversation with Pigtails down at the arcade went like this:

"Daddy, may I play one game?"

"No."

"Pretty please?"

"No."

"Just one game, pleaaassseee??!!"

"No, those games are a waste of money.  Press the buttons and pretend you are playing."

"But I..."

"No."

"Can..."

"No.  No no no no no no no no no no no.  No."

"Why..."

"I tell you what.  You pick out one game that you'd like to play, and I'll let you tomorrow."

I caved, she beamed.

Most of the games spit out tickets you could turn in for junky plastic toys or candy.  I explained that even if she did win, it would only be a few tickets, which wouldn't buy more than a glitter pencil or plastic yo-yo.  She thought that was a great deal.

I'm glad I held off, as my miserly tendencies paid off.  We found a glitch with the squirty clown water game where it would occasionally give us a free play and spit out 8 tickets at a time.  We also found a chain of tix on the floor.  We soon collected 40 tickets without spending a cent.  At this rate, we'd pick up a new car with those little paper stubs.  The next evening, she played her game and somehow won 100 tickets.  Overall, we ended up with 150 of them for $1.00.  It was a better return on investment than Netflix stock I picked up last year on the cheap.  And Pigtails is now convinced those games are a clear bargain.  Put in a buck, get back yards of tickets worth handfuls of cruddy toys.   


It was a fun trip, maybe we'll give it a go again sometime.  Would be even better if we could bring a group next time.  The more the merrier.

Mar 19, 2011

The assault on Bomber Mountain - 9, mooning Miss Marion

After breakfast, we filtered water, washed dishes, watched The Price is Right on the big screen, then grabbed our daypacks and headed out for a crisp five miler.  We wanted to run recon on Mistymoon Lake to find a spot for tomorrow's camp relocation.  A clean trail undulated past Lake Marion towards the moon.
 
Mistymoon's a small deep dish lake, so nicely rounded it appeared to have been dredged by a mega ice-cream scoop.  A moon crater filled with green glacier drink, lazy fog wafted into the chill like steam off hot coffee.

We scooped the loop and found a good camp spot squatting in a depression buffered from the wind.  Skipped flint atop the lake and basked in silence before U-turning back towards Lake Marion.
 
Fish snicked out his collapsible rod ‘n reel and ka-plunked a large aluminum spinner into Marion.  Watching him fish, I realized he was that rare impatient fisherman.  He ZINNNGGED!! the line in a high parabola with a flick, wound it in 8 seconds later with the reel spoolin' high RPMs, repeated seconds later and impatiently announced, “They aren’t bitin' in this spot, I’m moving down!” He never stayed put for more than a few minutes.

Power fishing, he hooked a meatless adolescent trout.  Tossed it back, fishy floated and bobbed like cork.  Gave him a tap, he got dead (that's how Pigtails says it, "got dead").  Darn, there was no toilet nearby to flush down Freckles the fish. 
 
He spasti'-trouted for an hour until our stomachs growled for grub.  Trout for lunch?  No dice.  Although he caught five, they were all too spindly to fillet.  So it was the old standby of creamy chicken ramen.  There's nothing remotely creamy or chicken-like with the noodles, just slippery salted starch.  And pita bread! The wheat was no worse for wear after bludgeoning Fish in the back of the head with it yesterday.  He mixed up a batch of chicken salad to cram into the doughy pockets.  Must've been sneaking relish, mayonnaise and mustard packs from local eateries for months, as he had a giant freezer bag bulging with packets of condiments. We gobbled the sandwiches by the handful, they were excellent.

Let's take a minute to talk about the backcountry bathroom experience.  Peeing was great.  I could let 'er spray wherever and whenever the urge arose.  However, aisle two cleanup required careful planning coupled with solid leg strength to execute cleanly.  The first time I gave her a try, I nearly soiled myself.  Literally.  My quads quivered and nearly seized as I assumed the Roman Chair position for 6 strenuous minutes, while simultaneously tucking pants and shoes outta the drop zone.  There would be no reading of Car and Driver.  Full concentration and thighs of iron were summoned to carefully pinch logs into the cat hole.  Then the pleasure of burying it.  Maybe next time we'll bring plastic Piggly Wiggly sacks and bag it like my neighbor lady does for her high fibered mutt. 

Filtered gallons of 40 degree water, napped, then boiled dinner.  We sucked down freeze-dried chili mac, dried corn and apple cobbler.  “Beard, you make the apple crap!” demanded Fish.  I should have read the instructions before agreeing, it was a tedious 12 step process.  After 20 minutes of measuring, mixing, greasing, pouring, heating, stirring, watching, waiting, sampling and adding more ingredients, it was ready.   I divided and spooned it out, we each got a full 2 ounces.  Burned through a quarter canister of fuel for two dabs of sweets on the tongue. 

My straw hat blew off.

I shot a grainy vid' of camp at Lake Helen near dusk:

video

We held our nightly rally in Fish and Sherp's tent.  The temp was already down to 30 degrees.  This could be a problem, as it was early in the evening, but already colder than last night at this time. 


“Guys, the cold is killing me.  I experienced the early stages of hypothermia last night,” I said. 


“Oh really?  We were comfortable,” Fish said with a smirk. 


“Yeah,” I countered, “but you had an extra body in here generating heat."  We discussed and decided I should try wrapping my goose down bag with the aluminum space blanket. 


We did our best to work snake stories into our conversation that night to stir up Sherpa.  We planned tomorrow and shot the breeze until I departed to my tent.  Before I left, Fish said in a solemn tone: “Beard, that pita bread shot to the head yesterday really hurt.  Not amused, and was already close to passing out from altitude sickness.”  A pause, then we cracked up.

Two layers on the legs, four up top, hat and bag wrapped with the blanket.  I also figured out how to cinch the sleeping bag hood over my face without suffocating.  Read a couple chapters, then laughed as I remembered a parody I'd written for a friend before the trip:  

"Buffalo, Wyoming; Beard, 30, narrowly escaped death this week.  He was violently attacked by a mating season bighorn sheep, which is affectionately known by local rangers as "Bon Bon".  Beard and his two friends, all grossly inexperienced at mountaineering, attempted to summit the Big Horns this week, but were stopped short by this incident.  Beard used what appeared to be a blue ski boot and a loaf of bread to fend off the feral sheep, striking it frantically in the eyes and nads as Bon Bon repeatedly gored his spleen.  The boot was shredded to smithereens by those big curly horns, but Beard miraculously suffered only 23 open flesh wounds.  The loaf of bread was only slightly smooshed.  Our crack reporter is still trying to solve the mystery of why Beard had a single ski boot with him at 12,000 feet."

Mar 16, 2011

Hidden gems

Below is a blog post I put up at work about finding your hidden talents.  Still searching for mine.  Next on my list is breeding elite racing guinea pigs or trying my hand at competitive whistling.  There must be something I'm good at!

Mining gems

Hide not your talents, they for use were made.  What’s a sundial in the shade? – Benjamin Franklin















Every person is born with golden nuggets of natural talent.  A special skill, ability or quality that enables regular people to accomplish great things.  But some have yet to unearth their talent.  It remains buried, like a gem, waiting to be discovered.

Excavating gems is simple in theory, but requires bravery and diligence in execution.  It mostly involves trying new exploits until you brush off the corner of a submerged jewel. 
  
Attend a class, volunteer to help build a home, acquire a skill, try something that’s been on your mind for a long time.  You must be willing to step into the ring and tolerate failure.  It’s worth it.

Fear of flopping, self doubt, indifference, hankering to hover in the comfort zone, excuses, embarrassment and an unwillingness to try new things.  Each of these has caused me to drop the shovel and slow the dig.   

It may take years to uproot the bounty, but continue dredging.

Kurt Warner was nearly 30 when he entered the NFL.
Rodney Dangerfield 40 when he started acting.
Mary Fontenot 50 when she wrote her first of 30 children’s books.
Colonel Sanders 60 when he franchised fried breasts.
Oscar Swahn 70 when he silvered in Olympic shooting.
Ronald Reagan nearly 80 when he wound down his presidency. 

Once you’ve pulled up a prized chunk, don’t neglect…

Polishing gems

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.  – Steve Prefontaine






















Sometimes we are good at something, but not great.  Perhaps a confidence shot – a realization that a tough barrier can be cracked – is enough to help us step up to the next level.

Running records have been tracked since the 1850s.  A legion of sinewy legs labored in vain to bust the 4-minute mile barrier for a century.  Some thought it could never be done, that humans lacked the lung capacity to hold a 15 mph pace for that distance. 

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister kicked through the world’s first 3:59 mile. 

It took 100 years to run that first sub 4-minute mile.    

Just 46 days later, John Landy clipped a 3:58 mile to better the world record.  The floodgates lifted; once athletes realized the impossible was possible, clumps of runners broke the 4-minute barrier.

Have you invested the time to hone your talents?  It’s difficult.  Dishes need washed and oil changed and kids with sore ears taken to the doctor.  Life gets in the way.  But do your best to carve out quiet time to optimize your talents. 
  
Once a gem is polished, the fun part is…

Sharing gems

Use what talents you possess.  The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best. – Henry Van Dyke















Talent may be burnished to crystal, yet we’ve been unable to find an outlet to share or sell the gem. 

A shift in approach, change of audience or minor tweak might be enough to sell it.  Other times, stubbornness and brute repetition gets the job done.

A gifted young scribe had not yet hit it big.  He sought a company to publish his book, sending query letters to 25 literary agents to snag a representative.  Agent rejection letters piled; they’d never heard of this writer and felt his work missed the mark.  A no-name agent inadvertently came across his submission mixed among her rejection slush pile.  She liked his novel and sprayed the manuscript to a couple dozen publishers.  Time Warner offered Nicholas Sparks $1 million.  The Notebook was published and climbed to the New York Times best seller list within a week.

Everybody possesses hidden gems.  Tucked away is a gifted mentor, cook, singer, knitter, mechanic, fencer, writer, comedian, musician, teacher, bull rider, gardener, coach, dancer, sandwich artist, runner, handyman or volunteer. 

Are you willing to get dirty and begin the dig?  Do you have the patience to polish the gem?  Are you persistent in sharing the prize?

What hidden gems have you dug up?  Have you tackled fear, taken a chance, accidentally discovered a knack or tried something new and smiled at the outcome?  If so, please share by leaving a Comment.

Mar 13, 2011

The assault on Bomber Mountain - 8, needle foot, asteroids and elk at Lake Helen

Monday, August 28
I've been nursing a recalcitrant foot injury for 18 months, plantar fasciitis.  Maybe "fasciitis" is Latin for "cry like baby in morning", as steel pins needled my heel-to-arch ligament those first few steps each daybreak.  The foot gets loosened up and feels much better after I get moving and stretch, but that initial pain at sunrise is nasty.  

I'd tried a number of remedies to combat the pain, but options were dwindling.  Down to medical Mary J. or lobbing the foot clean off.  Custom orthotics in the shoes helped a little, but mostly just lightened the wallet by $350.  Ready to replace the foot with a wooden pirate peg, I finally came across the right fix:  the night splint.  The splint, or ski boot, stretches the plantar to quicken healing and reduce morning misery.  I’d been wearing it every night for months and didn’t want to let it slip for the trip.  So I clipped it to the pack to come along for the hike.

That first day at Helen, I drank bags of water to rehydrate from the heavy hike and to slay headaches that might try to sneak in with the altitude.  Overdid it on the liquids (I drank approximately the same amount a Shetland Pony would) and visited the men’s room four times that night.  The dehydration process went like this: wake up in a fog sucking my thumb, thinking I’m still back at home, remove my head from the bag, unzip bag, put on coat, unbuckle night splint, unzip tent, unzip frosty vestibule, put on sandals, take care of business while cringing at winky-shrink from 23 degree exposure.  Return to tent, remove sandals, zip vestibule, zip tent, reattach night splint, remove coat, zip bag, bury head inside the bag and attempt to sleep.  Repeat, repeat again.  


Decided to only wear the ski boot that first night, it was too much work.


The frost answered my earlier question about the missing birds and bees.  They were probably all dead, stiff as boards from the refreshing nighttime plunge.


4:30 am, up for my fourth and final pee pit, I joined my two pals for an astronomy lesson.  The throng of stars was ridiculous.  No moon, but the starlight was bright enough to torch the ground and lake like dim LED lamps.  Fish is literate in the constellations and spends a fair amount of time studying galaxies.  He flipped on the geek switch: 


“The third star in Orion’s belt is not a star at all, but a nebula. Grab the binoculars and you’ll see what I’m talking about,” he said. 


I brought the third star closer with the Minolta's, sure enough, I could see cloudy nebula through them. We spotted the Pleiades star cluster in the constellation Taurus (not a Ford Taurus), something we couldn't do back home with city lights muffling the sky.  This constellation is the six-star tattoo on the Subaru auto symbol. 


The Milky Way was creamy white, like God wiped a thick strip of 2% across the sky.  


Venus torched with white intensity, could almost feel its rays.


Space dust and asteroid chunks burned through atmosphere at 100,000 miles an hour as shooting stars.  We saw multiples a minute screaming from different angles like attack missiles.  Unblinking satellites cruised 300 miles above.  Words are weak at describing the intensity of the night.  The sky was violent. 

Awoke at 6:45 am to ghostly barks from the ridgeline.  Decided it was best to cower in the tent a few minutes longer to wait it out, wasn’t entirely sure what species of rage was blurting the call.  Fish and Sherpa whispered next door, "Elk, a large herd."  We watched them for the next couple days and noticed they grazed on the bluff above camp before sunrise.  As the sun lifted at 7:00 am, the horned leader called the herd together with an echoing bark.  I think he was saying "Sun's up, let's grab some scones and tea".  The elk basked in heated light, following the line of sun as it crawled down the ridge.  It was a simple routine that failed to fascinate us each dawn.  We checked the map, the area where they congregate is called Elk Ridge. 

Fish gased filtered mountain water for hot chocolate, it hit the spot.  We watched the temp gauge work as the sun launched, it warmed from 25 degrees to 55 in 45 minutes.  The twiggy atmosphere and low humidity roll the temp  up and cool down quickly.  During the day, the gauge read 75 degrees.  If a cloud blocked the sun, within two minutes the temp fell 10 degrees to 65. 




Camp was only a few miles from Cloud Peak and Bomber Mountain, two of the tallest mountains in the Big Horns range.   Plan A was to summit Bomber Mountain today.  However, no prodding was needed to go with Plan B, which was to sit around and scratch ourselves, a lazy day. We'd tackle Bomber tomorrow.


Directly behind our tents rose a 700 foot cliff.  I muttered to Fish yesterday I wanted to climb up and snap some bird's eye shots of camp. “You go right ahead, by yourself,” he cracked.  Sherpa was game, so before breakfast and still in PJ's, we clawed up the face.  


We slid back down the hill (wish we had a snow saucer), then gagged down a breakfast of freeze-dried eggs and apple breakfast bars.  I think the “eggs” were Styrofoam based, looked like soggy chunks of breadcrumbs artificially nuked taxicab yellow.  

Last night, Fish and I discussed whether we should try and top Cloud Peak today.  He was still feeling wobbly from altitude sickness, and the 12 mile out-and-back hike sounded aggressive.  We decided to forgo Cloud Peak altogether and only focus on Bomber Mountain.  Tomorrow, we'd move camp two miles up to Mistymoon Lake,  shortening the round trip to Bomber to eight miles. We hated to give up the stunning beauty of Lake Helen, but we needed to migrate to improve our odds of successfully summiting the beast.

topo map of the lakes we visited

Mar 10, 2011

D3 (Daddy Daughter Dance)

The Daddy Daughter Dance is an annual Valentine favorite of ours.  We've been jiving the night away each February since kindergarten.  A dad from her school snaps up 60 tickets for this city-organized shindig, then bundles them into a superb appetizer/dance/dinner combo that makes for a special tradition.  The daughters range in age from 5 to 13, clothed in their finest dresses, with dads escorting them in tie.  They all go to the same school, so it's a good chance to meet other dads and tease her friends. 

Hair curled and nails painted (Pigtails, not mine), we cracked open the evening at a classy restaurant sippin' Shirley Temples and plating up fried ravioli.  The girls were more wound up than a bucket of snakes.  Slipped on her pink wrist corsage, then POOF! Pigtails vanished to join her BFFs.  I shook hands with other fathers while trying to prevent the entrails of marinara coated cheese sticks from exploding down my silk tie with each bite.  Sat down at a white linen table and felt a tug on my pant cuff.  One of Pigtails' friends was under there randomly tapping legs of strangers as they scarfed appetizers.  

Group picture, 100 grins smooshed together as cameras clacked pretty faces.

The electric slide was waiting, we carpooled to the city zoo with a van load of Fancy Nancys.  100% smiles with a heavy mix of jabber jaws.

Patent leather shoes and ribbons, cufflinks and wool jackets, spiffed and ready to get down!

We walked the red carpet towards the dance beats.  Like before, the instant we crossed the threshold inside, she vanished to join friends.

Men are mostly uncomfortable fast dancing unless they've first swallowed a couple libations and nobody is watching them flail.  No brew this night and everyone was watching.  I look like an uncoordinated cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation when trying to put down the moves.  So relief when Pigtails wanted to break from the hoedown and drown marshmallows in liquefied chocolate.

I could write pages on the chocolate fountain.  Girls filling cups with the brown stuff and guzzling it like ice water.  Saturating fingers in goo up to the third knuckle, then licking hands like muddy popsicles.  Sticky lava dripping from cookies to lacy white dresses.  It was a cocoa disaster, but I must admit, those choc' dunked 'nanas were worth the pounds of stain stick we'd need to smear on later at home.






We hopped through the zoo's indoor butterfly garden and across the baby crocodile pond to the photo booth.  Picture taken, she wanted to check out the jellyfish and boa constrictors before returning to dance.

is this my kid?
Didn't realize the chicken dance had lyrics, Pigtails joined in with the girly gang and sang:

I DON'T WANT TO BE A CHICKEN!
I DON'T WANT TO BE A DUCK!
SO I SHAKE MY BUTT!!  (with a waggle of the tush)

I lifted her into my arms for a slow dance.  We fast danced with limbs waving around like hissing geese.  She beamed, I was sweaty hot in the suit. 

The DJ announced 10 minutes of tunes remained.  Dads bolted to action.  Almost time to go, we needed to HURRY UP AND MAKE A MEMORY, RIGHT NOW!!  Nearly every father was on the floor cutting loose, no time left to worry about looking silly.

Rare and treasured is the sight of a 13 year old dancing with dad, rather than rolling eyes and chucking her iPhone at him.  I hope Pigtails will still dance with me at that age.

We flew back to the restaurant for Caesar salad, chicken Parmesan in white sauce and garlic cheese bread.  The batteries in the girls tanked as we neared the 9:30 pm mark.

Dads that invest the time and attention their girls crave will help set the example of the type of man she'll want to date later on.  For me, this dance is more than just a dance.   It's about the chocolate fountain, too.

Mar 6, 2011

The assault on Bomber Mountain - 7, tossing cookies and pita at Lake Helen

 
My ticker rat-a-tats a couple hard beats as eyes absorb Lake Helen. 

A treasure tucked miles from harsh-life.
Water calm as slate.
Coned with rock walls shedding boulders like two ton dander.  
Only touched by a few hundred hikers each year. 





Fish led the charge around Helen to secure a campsite. 

click pic for high def


We walked a quarter mile to the west side of the pond and set camp on a flat above the trail. 

Fish was toast, Sherpa looked wobbly.  The altitude was kicking them in the stones.  They could use a smile, so I stealthily removed the pita bread from my pack and yelled "Incoming!!” while chucking the sack of whole grain at Fish.  It was supposed to gently glance off his back, but my bad aim whacked him squarely in the back of the noggin.

“Ouch” he said with iced monotone.

Sherpa snickered.
 
Popped ripstop tents, then collapsed.  The cove of pines behind us would serve toilet duty. 

Perfect weather, 70 and breeze.



The tree line cutoff is 10,000 feet.  The only thing surviving up here in thin air is krummholz, or “crooked wood”.  An evergreen sapling takes root, as cold temps and dry, abrasive wind twists the shrubs into gnarled bones.  

<---- This krummholz is likely  > 50 years old, despite the stubby stature.  Explains why they don’t allow fires up here.  Chopping down crooked wood for flame would have long-term impacts, and the downed, rotting brush needs to stay untouched to feed the anemic soil.




"Blah, I feel terrible" Fish bemoaned, color drained from his face.  Sherpa was mute.

I grabbed Fish's filtered water pump and slipped down to Helen to bottle up her glacier-fed drink.  The pump was inefficient, nearly caught carpel tunnel on the 150 stokes to fill a 32 ounce Nalgene bottle.  If the altitude or alpine rats didn’t get me, elbow lock would, courtesy of that blasted pump.

Returned to camp after 40 minutes of pulling water with that horrid snail pump.  We napped for a
couple hours and adjusted to less oxygen.  

“I feel horrible, but the books say the best way to beat altitude sickness is to drink fluids and stay active.  Let’s go for a walk,” Fish suggested.  We stepped a mile north along Helen, Fish was ferreting out good trout fishing spots for tomorrow.

“Nearly tossed my cookies, was this close to barfing when we arrived at the lake,” said Fish, pinching his fingers together.  “If I got sick, probably would have headed back down the trail to the car", he said. 




Altitude sickness was also poking Sherpa with a headache and dizziness while draining the energy tank.   

My hat blew off.

We explored Helen for two hours, then returned to camp for dinner.  On the menu was chicken and noodles, rice and freeze dried corn.  Whoops, I spilled most of the corn on the ground while preparing it.  No worries, invoked the ten second rule and quickly scooped it from dirt directly to pot.  After we finished eating, I casually mentioned the corn was filthy and the specs were dirt, not black pepper.  They were too beat to care. 

The mountain tops surrounding Helen blocked the falling sun by 7:15 pm.  I watched the digital temperature gauge on the compass spin from 72 to 37 in 30 minutes.   

sun failed early, dropping down a shadow wall and the temp with it

We piled into Fish and Sherpa's tent for our nightly Pow Wow.  Warmed up the dome and planned out tomorrow.  "Beard, our tent's warm, you can leave now" said Sherpa. 

Headed back to my tent, hit the sack with two layers on the legs, three up top.