Hugs

Shel Silversteen penned a poem called “Hug-O-War.” You’d probably remember it if I started it off for you:

I will not play tug-o-war.mar15

I’d rather play hug-o-war.

Where everyone hugs

Instead of tugs,

Where everyone giggles

and rolls on the rug…

I don’t do hugs. They’re just not my thing.

dtv-tommyboyKids hug parents. Girls hug puppies. Heavy-set people give bear hugs. Women hug women. Tommy Boy hugs.

But I, Andrew, do not hug. I’ll shake your hand, or even better, I’ll high-five or fist-bump you. (“Knucks!”) But the best of all is a head nod. “Hey. What’s up?”

“Nothing. You?”

“Not much. See ya.”

“See ya.”

But there’s a problem with all of this. I don’t like hugs, but

I’m married.

And my spouse is a woman.

And women hug.

My wife likes hugs.

The first time Sarabeth and I hung out together as a couple, we could have hugged when I said good night.handshake

But we didn’t. I shook her hand. No joke.

But here’s the thing. Sarabeth knows me and my needs. She knows that I need affirmation and compliments. And she doesn’t give out compliments freely. But she gives them generously to me because she knows I need them.

So it’s only fair that I hug her more than once a week.

Because I love her.

What does your spouse love? What do they need every day?

My wife needs hugs.

Bad Neighbor?

Every summer our neighbor – we’ll call her Paddington – tries to grow tomatoes on herIMG_8378 front porch. And every summer she only gets about two or three successful tomatoes because slugs and worms and critters vandalize her efforts.

Throughout the years you can see the evolution of her defensive tactics. One year she put a ring of salt around her pots. The next year she put eggshells in her soil. Then she started putting plastic bags of vinegar water in her pots.

But this year, she’s taking her tomato-preserving strategies to a whole new level.

havahartezsetracoonShe’s taken to setting up animal traps.

Now, if anybody is an advocate for more tomatoes in this world, it’s me. In fact, I say we don’t need any other fruit or root but tomatoes. Tomatoes are like cheese – they make everything better. (I think I inherited my unusual love of tomatoes from my father: he was a successful tomato planter and he would bring his own tomatoes with him when we went out to restaurants. I can’t blame him, to this day I’ve never had better tomatoes.)

Do you see this picture of the tomato? Just looking at it makes me salivate, and it’s only 8:40 in the morning!tumblr_mfsxqiD18k1re461do1_500

So my love of tomatoes is clear. But, thought I’m no tree hugger, I also love animals. Not in the way a twelve-year-old girl does. I don’t doodle glittery ponies on my notebooks or anything, but I get a sense of sadness if I see them in trouble.

I always pull my car over to check for tags if I see a lost dog. If it wouldn’t be so dangerous, I’d shoo deer off the side of the road so they don’t get hit.

But anyway, our neighbor, Paddington, set these traps out and every day since I’ve found squirrels trapped in the cages. They just look so scared and helpless; they just wanted a bite of that darn Fig Newton.

I don’t know. Maybe I still feel guilty for hitting a baby squirrel with my car a while ago, or shooting suirells with my BB gun in the backyard when I was a kid…

So I look all around to make sure the coast is clear and release the squirrels . Sarabeth told me that they’re going to see me as their savior now. (Maybe I’ll grow some tomatoes and they’ll leave them alone as a thank you, then I can give some to Paddington as a peace offering.)

PussInBoots1Today I went outside with the dogs and it wasn’t a squirrel, but a raccoon. The poor guy wasn’t even struggling, probably because he was exhausted from panicking all night. He didn’t even flinch when I approached. He just looked up at me with those big tear-filled eyes…

So of course I let the big guy out.

This probably makes me an incredibly bad neighbor, but there’s no proof that the squirrels and raccoons are the ones destroying Paddington’s tomato plants. Innocent until proven guilty, right?

So what do you think? Bad neighbor or rodent savior? Is growing a few tomatoes worth trapping animals for? You be the jury. You decide.

In the meantime, I’m going to run to the grocery store and pick up some produce.

 

Summer Smoothies! (Guest Post from My Wife)

SmoothiesIt’s summertime and that means smoothies and fruit drinks! We love blending things at our house when it’s 90+ degrees out and our dinners are usually fresh salads with fancy dressings.

Anyway, my wife was kind enough to write a guest post for you all today about some of our favorite homemade smoothies. Feel free to share your own recipes below in the comments section so we can all have some new drinks to try this summer! Oh, and don’t forget to follow my wife’s awesome blog while you’re at it (you might find some more recipes from her later on): From Flats to Lofts.

I lived on Jamba Juice for about two months once. My wisdom teeth were coming in sideways,JambaLogo-PDFX-Prime-CMYK but I had to wait until I could take a week off of work to have them removed. (Plus I may have procrastinated going to the dentist for a couple of weeks after they started hurting because I’m a chicken.) It was cold, and didn’t require chewing, so it was the perfect lunch option – day after day after day…

But, then I didn’t eat for a week, and couldn’t drink out of a straw anyway, so I sort of stopped my daily trip to Jamba Juice. I was now $25 richer at the end of each work week. And really, once the pain went away I was pretty much grossed out by the thought of another smoothie. This lasted for several months, and when I finally wanted one again we were about to move from Seattle (Jamba Juice everywhere) to Louisville (Jamba Juice nowhere to be found).

So, I started to make my own. It is simple enough – just fruit and liquid. The two we make the most are blueberry and peanut butter.

 

Blueberry:SONY DSC

1 frozen banana (slice it before you freeze it)

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 milk

Blend ingredients together until smooth and enjoy!

 

Peanut butter:peanut butter

1 frozen banana (slice it before you freeze it)

½ – 1 cup chocolate soy milk

1 large scoop of peanut butter

Blend together – adding more banana or milk if needed until you get the consistency you want.

A Boy and His Tiger

squeezitIf you were a child of the 80s or 90s, many different things sum up your childhood.

Things like pigs and slammers, Squeezits, Raven’s Revenge, Rugrats, and Steve Urkel’s cloning machine.

To know these things is to be a part of a club, a very special and inclusive club. I say inclusive because most of us are now trying to introduce our won kids to dumbour generation’s favorites. The 80s and 90s are hard to let go of. Just look at all the reboots in Hollywood: the anticipated Dumb and Dumber To, to name one.

And on TV: Girl Meets World, Fargo, an upcoming Saved by the Bell movie.

Judy Bloom and Goosebumps are constantly getting makeovers. Ariel goosebumpsis still the most idolized princess in the Disney realm, and I would bet most kids could sing the Fresh Prince theme song.

But there’s one piece of nostalgic lore that holds a special place in all of our hearts. They were a couple of misfits, one a figment of the other’s imagination. They both had stripes, one with two feet, the other with four and a tail. They both loved adventure and sledding in the snow and building fortresses and people-eating snowmen.

Do the words Get Rid OSlimy Girlbring back any memories?

What about the adventures of Stupendous Man?

Or the third-grade teacher, who was everyone’s teacher, Mrs. Wormwood?

When you opened the newspaper on Sunday mornings you could find yourself in outer space SpacemanSpiff_Smallwith Spaceman Spiff or be caught up in a game of Calvinball. Or you might be turning a cardboard box into a “Cerebral Enhance 0-Tron.”

The possibilities were always endless with Calvin and Hobbes, the comic strip about a young boy and his stuffed tiger.

I remember the day it was announced that Bill Watterson would be drawing his last comic strip, and it was devastating, like the day John candyCandy died or I first heard the word “terrorist” in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Everyone had to have their dosage of Calvin and Hobbes. And if you return to them today, they’re just as endearing, hysterical, and thought-provoking as they were then.

There’s a documentary on Netflix instant watch called Dear Mr. Watterson posterwhere the filmmaker attempts to track down the beloved creator and mastermind of the comic strip.

My favorite thing about the film is that it showcases the impact Calvin and Hobbes had on the world, and continues to today. Our generation of readers are faithfully passing down Watterson’s legacy to our own kids, and I’ll certainly be sharing my collection with our daughter when she’s older.

What kind of impact did Calvin and Hobbes have on you as a kid?

 

o-GROWN-UP-CALVIN-AND-HOBBES-facebook

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HowItShouldBeCalvinGrowsUpAndHobbesIsStillAwesome-57931

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Calvin and Hobbes in Snow

 

Baby Music

If you have a baby or have raised one, you know the importance of music. And in this day and age, the importance of apps designed to lull your fussy babies to sleep.

We play a lot of Disney music for Baby A., but that can get kind of old after a while.

Neither Sarabeth nor I are into VeggieTales, and I like all the old hokey country children’s songs like “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and “You Are My Sunshine,” but Sarabeth doesn’t, so I can only play that sparingly.

Anyway, I want to start a discussion where you all share your favorite children’s songs and music. Please indicate whether they’re songs for playtime or for bedtime. Also, some good Bible songs would be good, too.

Here’s a few of my favorites so far.

For Playtime

Raffi_-_Baby_Beluga_cover_artRaffi – Far as I can tell, this guy wrote “Baby Beluga” (come on, who doesn’t like that song?). He’s got a couple of CDs up on iTunes and I’ve picked a few songs to go on Baby A.’s playlist.

Disney Pixar CD SOundtrack createstDisney/Pixar’s Greatest Hits – The great thing about this CD is that it’s just plain awesome for everyone. Plus, most of it is Randy Newman music, and you can’t go wrong, there!

julie-fowlis-1Julie Fowlis – I don’t speak Scottish, and most likely Baby A. isn’t going to either, but she’s certainly going to have an appreciation for foreign music. Julie Fowlis isn’t a children’s singer, but she sang all those enchanting songs in Brave, and it turns out, the rest of her CD’s are just gorgeous and very soothing. A great play/sleep transition.

For Bedtime

sound sleeperSound Sleeper app – This app has been a lifesaver for us and I believe has gained us a few extra minutes of sleep. You can set the sound to play “Rain” or “Ocean waves” or a few other soothing settings. And yes, including “Womb.”

A_Beautiful_Mind_cdA Beautiful Mind soundtrack – If you can only handle so much Baby Einstein, the great composer Howard Shore is the way to go.

finding neverlandFinding Neverland soundtrack – The only soundtrack that’s better than A Beautiful Mind

shireShire music – Because I want to prepare her for the greatest epic adventure of her life. And really, our little girl is still in the Shire of her own life.

Journey Into America’s Pastime

img_0042_2Summer is well under way, and many of you are probably planning vacations and road trips across the country.

If you find yourself, for any reason, traveling down Interstate 65 through downtown Louisville, Kentucky, you’ll notice the handle of a giant baseball bat peaking above the buildings. Nestled in the northwest corner of Louisville’s downtown area, the Louisville Slugger Museum is just a few pitches distance from the great Ohio River, and close enough to Slugger Stadium to walk. The bat is a replica of Babe Ruth’s own, and leans against a five story brick building engraved with the name Hillerich & Bradsby Co. Just across the street is the genealogical research library, America’s Heritage: Sons of the American Revolution. It seems fitting that a library preserving our country’s history would neighbor one dedicated to America’s favorite pastime.

Sometimes it seems we’ve forgotten the charm that baseball once brought to our country. But an afternoon spent in the modestly priced museum at the north end of Museum Row will reinstate one’s faith in the game that many baseball loyalists recall with fond memories from their visits to Fenway, Wrigley, Yankee, Slugger…

Come with me and discover why attendance records have been broken in the short span of 2013 alone (January, 6,000 visitors; February, over 13,000; March, 25,000 – all during the off-season!). Let’s take a peak behind the tinted glass doors and see what has been drawing people through them since 1996 (and, based on the length of their lease, will continue to draw people in for the next 183 years).

You are greeted by a gift shop on your left that baseball naysayers will be drawn to after completing the museum’s tour. If that’s you, rest assured that sites like Trip Advisor are filled with positive reviews from even baseball cynics. (As of this writing, it is currently ranked #1 of 58 attractions in Louisville.)

If you’re lucky, you just might get a glimpse, like I did, of the company’s president, Jack Hillerich, grandson of the founder John A. “Bud” Hillerich (b.1866-d.1946). Or maybe you’ll run into Dale Murphy or Ben Revere, just a couple of the major league players who have made their way through the museum in the last six months alone. I missed him, but Chuck Harmon, the Cincinnati Red’s first African American player, stopped in the day I was there.

Baseball lovers of all ages will appreciate the up-close view of the production line. Here, tourists are brought through the step-by-step process of the conception of a Louisville Slugger at eye level.

Tour groups are lead through the process by a knowledgeable guide. At the start of the tour, you are greeted by stacks and rows of billets, cylindrical pieces of wood, shipped in from Pennsylvania and New York mills. Some are destined for the shelf of a retail store, and others will shine under stadium lights in the hands of major league greats.

On the tour, you’ll witness the work of lathes – wood carving machines – that cut and shape each billet to exactness (precise down to 1/100th of an inch), specific to the needs of the players. But these machines didn’t become the go-to for crafting bats as far back in history as one might think. Slugger bats have been hand-turned up until a shockingly recent date. (Hint: It’s very likely Johnny Bench and Rod Carew hit with hand-spun bats.)

Next, the bats are carted to the sanders, on the very carts that once carried Gehrig’s, Cobbs’, and Lazzeri’s bats. Here, they are sanded down to a smooth, silky texture. These sanders produce up to 15,000 lbs of sawdust a day.

Once the sanded bats are dipped in a water-based lacquer – 400 bats per hour – they’re taken over to be foil-branded, where the brand new Louisville Slugger’s shiny gold logo is meticulously placed on each bat. This year is the first time in 33 years the logo has been updated. There’s another brander, a century old, for unpolished bats where they are branded the old-fashioned way, by an iron. Be sure to smell it for that old-fashioned campfire smell.

At the end of the factory tour, you’ll be given a mini Louisville slugger bat to take home with you. And don’t forget to pay the $1 fee to hit your choice of ten fastballs or ten softballs with your favorite player’s bat. (I was only able to just barely skim the ball once with Hank Aaron’s anvil of a bat.)

Who knows who’s bat you’ll see brought to life when you tour the factory. It’s possible that when you watch David Wright crouching over home plate (another recent visitor), that might be the very bat you saw take its first breath of air in the bat factory in downtown Louisville at the Slugger Museum.

Bet You Never Thought of These Five Ways to Prepare for a Baby

babd-baby-names-crying-baby-e1333102292894Jim Halpert on The Office said it best: “Having a baby is exhausting.”

So for you people who haven’t had a baby yet, here is a list of things I wish I’d done to prepare before bringing Baby A. home:

1) Practice smiling. A lot. When you’re changing a diaper at 3 in the morning, the last thing you feel like doing is smiling. But think about it, if you’re a baby stuck on your back and some person comes up and starts tampering with your personal space, you’re already going to be a little uncomfortable. So practice smiling in unusual or stressful situations (I don’t recommend doing this when you’re arguing with your spouse). A little smile could go a long way while your baby’s helplessly looking up at you while his southern region is flooding.

2) Learn to do things one-handed. I write and edit books. And Baby A. needs to be held a lot. So I’ve had to quickly master the art of typing with one hand. Move over, Mavis Beacon, I’m getting up to 35-wpm! (Really, it’s like texting on Zack Morris’s phone.) You’ve got to learn to do other things with one hand as well. As soon as we brought Baby A. home, I coined a phrase, “Gain a baby, lose an arm.”

3) Learn the lyrics to songs. I’m awful – absolutely awful - at remembering the lyrics to songs. I sound like this in the car: “Let it go, let it go. Bum-dum-dee-dum-anymore…” So when I’m trying to sing Carolina on My Mind to Baby A., and I reach the verses I don’t know the words to, I start making up ridiculous lyrics that can tend to be offensive or just plain nonsensical. Baby’s don’t need to hear that stuff. And I refuse to do nursery songs because once you start down that road, I know it could take years to get them out of your head.

4) Watch all your R-rated movies before the baby comes home. I’ve always got to be either working, watching something, eating, or reading. And, living the the 21st century, you’re probably the same way. While feeding the baby, watching something is the only realistic thing I can do without making a stinky, formulaic mess all over the couch (“Feed a baby, lose both arms”). It’s generally not a good idea to have John McCane yelling, “Yippee Ki-yay, mother —-er” with the baby nearby. So baby proof your home by getting the R-rated movies out of your system before she comes home.

5) If possible, take a stealth class. When it’s midnight and the baby is finally falling asleep in your arms, you don’t want to be jostling him around while standing up from the couch and walking him to his crib. Learn to move with poise and grace. Learn to open the refrigerator without making any noise. Get good at tiptoeing. Be okay with not flushing until later (just kidding). And, if applicable, learn to craft anonymous notes with cut-up letters to tape to your neighbor’s door telling them to keep the noise down or you’ll set their poodle on fire and leave the remains in their pantry.

That’s all I’ve got for now. If you think of any more, share them in the comment section below.

*Note: The picture above is not our baby (ours is much, much cuter – no offense,  baby in the picture). I just googled “crying baby” and choose the funniest one.

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