John Deere Experience

tractor1As I’m typing this blog, I’m sitting on my newest coolest toy, a John Deere sit-on mower.

My WIFI is strong enough to power my internet connection on my Gen1 iPad, although I have to be parked next to the wall of the living room to get a strong enough signal – outside of course.

It’s not easy to type while driving, chewing tobacco and spitting, and trying to avoid drooling into my beard or dripping spit on my iPad – all at the same time.

How much more American can this get?

We recently got our very first John Deere sit-on mower, in it’s traditional green and yellow colors.  The kids went absolutely bonkers as daddy started to mow the lawn, in record time … and even better, without breaking a sweat.

tractor2They all wanted to try the green ‘m yellow monster tractor, but as I had never driven such a beast before, I was a little apprehensive about getting behind the wheel.  And, even more apprehensive letting the kids have a go.

But, super-daddy lifted them up on to his lap, one by one, and we took turns cutting grass.  There was laughter and tears.  Even more when momma-bear jumped in the driver’s seat at went “flying” down the lawn – not even cutting straight lines.

In the end as the novelty started to wear off, I had the brightest of ideas and revelations.  My oldest daughter, now same height as my wonderful wife, would be able to cut the grass under supervision of course.  This allows me to teach her a few valuable life lessons about;

  • delegation
  • micromanagement
  • management styles
  • ownership
  • roles & responsibilities

homer… all very valuable skills that she would need in the future, and I could teach her all these while drinking a pint of Guinness responsibly from the safety of my deck.  It would also teach her that her father does not support drinking while operating heavy machinery :-)

All in all, getting our John Deere has been a real eye opener, both for me and my daughter.  She quickly realized that earning pocket money can be fun.  And, I get to relax on the deck again.

Only problem today is that the bloody thing doesn’t start!

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Happy Father’s Day

Fathers-Day21 June 2015 – woken up by my wonderful family, who surprised me with full Irish breakfast.  I could smell the wonderful favour of seared pig, freshly brewed coffee and of course my wife’s fantastic homemade scones.  Well, I had to get some of the key ingredients myself from the local supermarket; B&W pudding and beans.  No Irish breakfast is complete without these.

The sad thing about Irish breakfast is that it is devoured way to quick, considering the amount if time it takes to prepare the meal.  We had cleaned our plates within 10 minutes, and the dogs were begging for scraps.

Father’s Day is by tradition a celebration for all us awesome dads; living and past.  This day also reminds of me late father, who passed away all too soon five years ago.  I can’t believe time has gone so fast and I miss him dearly.

There are so many things that I wanted to experience with him, showing him our new life in the US, and play with his grandkids.  I know he’s watching over us from above, and my youngest daughter has said she wants to meet Farfar in person – she claims to have spoken with him in her dreams.  The scary thought is, she never met him.  He passed away two weeks after she was born!

Let’s celebrate our fathers, living and past.  Happy Father’s Day.

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Proud

Honestly, I’ve always cringed by the thought of having to watch a bunch of kids perform music or choir at my kids’ schools.  My internal fear is that they are completely out of tune and parents that proudly spring into action when their kid has a 2 second solo, or walks on stage.

Parents starts screaming proudly, probably embarrassing their kids even more, while pushing each other away from the isles just to tape these few moments on their high def cameras – and posting these recordings on Facebook or Instagram, for the entire World to see how amazing their kids were.

Now it’s my turn, as my daughter was preparing for her big moment on stage.

She had been working hard on the sax, honking away upstairs at all hours of the day, much to the nuisance of the local wild life.

Amazingly, I notice a significant improvement in her talent for the past few weeks, and may even may some resemblance to the late John Coltrane.  She was really turning a page in her talent.

daughter_concertFinally the evening of the big event had arrived, and the family traveled to the local school to watch her band perform.  It was a school event so most parents and kids were there, and plenty of excited kids.

As soon as we had dropped her off for band rehearsal / warm-up, I rushed to buy some flowers for my little artist.  I had to push aside a few fellow parents, and bought the last bunch for my special sax player.

We found our seats, a few rows from the stage, and had the cameras ready; taking pictures of an empty stage, the proud teachers, ceiling, decorations … anything that might resemble the event.

Suddenly the kids walked on stage.  First up the orchestra, then band (my daughter) and then chorus.  A tightly packed program was ahead … and I was dreading it.

BUT BUT BUT these kids blew me away.  I was expecting sounds from horror movies, pulling cat tails and stepping on ducks.  These kids played extremely well, and in tune and harmony.

The band came on stage and I was up there diving over parents, knocking over kids, just to get pictures of my little girl on stage.  She was so proud, and smiled from ear-to-ear.

They played four tunes and did excellent.  Again, the band played together as one, and I was utterly amazed.

Even the choir did a phenomenal job, and sang very well.

Well done to all the kids and I’m one proud dad who will go to their next gig!

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Paying Forward

It’s not every day that you manage to emotionally affect people while grocery shopping.

zombiesThese outings are mainly people walking like drones around the supermarket, surveying food, pondering on expiration dates and diving into ‘super sale’ basket to find the best deals.  There’s very little interaction with any fellow shoppers unless you accidentally knock into their trolley or run over their feet.

As you get to the check-out area shoppers queue up quietly, mostly waiting patiently for the the assistant to work their way through the conveyor belt – it’s a first world problem.

The other day while I was picking up a few items at the local ShopRite I had a wonderful experience.  I know it sounds bizarre, as ShopRite is just a supermarket, but it was truly a magical moment.

I joined the shortest line and waited for my turn.  I’m a law-abiding shopper and waited patiently while the customer in front was packing up.

Suddenly the guy, who had picked out a few items (no more than 7-10 items) for the Memorial Day weekend, was looking frantically at the check-out assistant.  The look in his eyes were off and I could tell he was short on funds.  I offered to covered the difference, assuming it was $1-2, but he kindly declined and removed items instead.

Next I saw him leave the check-out with-out his groceries, and I asked the assistant if he was ok.  He was not ok.

According to the shop assistant he had been in an accident months ago and was only now finding his feet.  He needed a few items to carry him through Memorial Day weekend, but didn’t have enough on his foot-stamp card.

I asked how much and was amazed when it was only $13.55.

boehnersobbingWithout hesitating, I told her I would pay for his groceries if someone could get him back to pick them up.  It was an older assistant and she was getting emotional for my kind gesture and asked if I knew the man, to which I answered no.

Everybody hits a low in their life, and it’s important that we help each other to move forward“.  At that point a small tear was forming in her eyes and the customer in front of me was also getting emotional.

Honestly, it felt normal to me to help a fellow man.

The man came back with a rather puzzled expression on his face and was humbled by my gesture.  At first he refused to take groceries, but I told him they had been paid and he couldn’t return them – it was my gift to him I said.

He left the shop with a new sense of hope.  That was evident from his posture and spring in he walk.  He was happy and relieved.

As I gather my groceries and started to walk out, the cashier smiled and thanked me.  She had not witnessed such a gesture in a long time and it made her month.

I walked outside and was greeted by the same man who had just received my grocery gift.

He wanted to shake the hand of the man who had given him the best Memorial Day weekend in over a year.  It was men like me that made the World special, and who made him proud to be an American.  He was ever so grateful for my gesture.  I told him to enjoy the weekend, and he hugged me.

The man had been in a bad accident 11 months ago and only just gotten a new job two weeks ago. He had not received his first pay check yet and was still on food stamp card, which was running very low.  Hospital bills had taken everything he had.

To say the least, he was extremely emotional about my help, and was close to tears.

As I sat into my car, I was suddenly filled with emotions.  It was a strange and wonderful experience, and I realized what I had just done.

pay-it-forwardWOW!  It was such an amazing feeling.  Helping a stranger or someone you know, with small gestures, will go such a long way.  The feelings you will experience afterwards are so rewarding, and I can only encourage you to pay it forward.

Little act of kindness goes a long way and touches people that needs help.  It’s only money and doesn’t have to be millions to make people happy.

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Nowhere Near-Death Experince

Backyard BBQ 2The joys of being a house owner comes hundred fold when sitting on the back porch smelling the BBQ aroma of frying meats and having a glass of home (almost) brewed moonshine. All while the kids are playing yard games, wife is standing in the sunbeams gloving of utter gorgeousness and Mumford & Sons‘ tunes are streaming from the bluetooth speaker.  Weather is of course fantastic, warm, but not flesh scorching.

To be absolutely honest, being a home owner can certainly suck at times.  There’s always something that has to be fixed and staff in the local Home Depot are becoming your only social life.  Water leakage, door handles sticking, shower head breaking off, toilet clogged due to excessive toilet paper usage by 5-year-old, shower door dropping off ledge and not to forget the outdoor areas.

You know you are in trouble socially when Home Depot staff are befriending you on Facebook, and greeting you at the local ShopRite.

The latter can be an adventure, especially if you own a small forest like we do.  We never know what we might find and if it is from an unsolved crime scene.

A few days ago I decided to put on my responsible house owner and father hats on, and do some manly stuff around the house – literally around the house, as I needed to cut the grass, blow some leaves, pull some weeds and pick up dog poop.

Two dogs equals a large amount of natural fertilizer kids step in!

The cool thing about this was that I got to play with all my man toys; lawn mower, weed wacker and backpack blower … all my favorite power tools that makes me feel masculine.

sweatingThis was the first time I was attempting to cut our lawn, and something that had not been done since last fall, when the previous owner vacated the premises.  It had grown a little wild to say the least, to a point where I had to empty the grass cutting collector after 2-3 runs.  The grass for thick and moist, blocking the flow at times, and it was physical labor my body was not use to, and I was sweating profoundly.

Suffering from acute dehydration, I knew I had to stay hydrated and emptied a few gallons of cold water, but it was still very hot out.

After my lawn adventures, I moved on to weed trimming, followed by clearing leaves and grass cuttings with my power backpack blower.

It was an awesome 3 hours of solid work, enjoying the great outdoors, and I was proud of my achievements as I sat on my deck look (and smelling) the newly cut lawn.

However, something was slightly off.  My body was tingling and I was a little dizzy.  It was a very strange feeling and something I haven’t felt since Shaun T hammered my body to smithereens.  Not a very pleasant feeling.

But, I got a deserved shower and we headed off for dinner out with the family.  Thankfully my wife insisted on driving and as we went on driving my poor body started to show further signs of exhaustion.

heatstrokeIt was probably a combination of exhaustion, dehydration and lack of food that caused my body to react this way.  Or, just the fact that I’m getting older and perhaps this was a near-death experience.  I was seeking comfort in my family, but at the same time attempting to hold up a strong appearance for my kids.  Dad is doing just fine!!

Knowing my body fairly well, which I should after 40+ years, I simply needed to replenish my batteries.  What better way than eating spicy Mexican food, flushing it down with full blown non-diet Coke?

Gradually my body was recovering, although it took much longer than anticipated and I have come to the realization that I’m not a a young man anymore.  It was pretty obvious that I had a nowhere near-death experience.  Any man in my age would suffer from 3 hours of heavy gardening work, despite a good friend of mine completed the Spartan Race as #10 in his (our) age group, which is a lot more demanding than gardening.

Gotta go!  Shaun T is calling me on my cell!

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Werewolf in the making

werewolAmidst a busy schedule with Eucharist, new school, moving house and work, we also welcomed Coco to our family – a little fiery chocolate Labrador.  She’s a little devil in disguise, but you cannot but help love her.  However, recent incidents have left me no way out but to put my creative mind thinking.

It’s not easy for three kids under the age of 11 to accept that a puppy this cute cannot play with them, without biting / scratching them with her small razor-sharp teeth.  As a result, we are now stockpiling bandages to cover finger and lower leg scratches.

Please understand, we are not condoning the dog biting the kids, but in the heat of the moment the dog may mistake a finger for ball, or attempt to tackle the kids from behind by attacking their legs.  It’s in her nature to hunt :-)

Yesterday my 5-year-old asked why the puppy is constantly attacking her, attempting to annihilate her stuffed animals and decapitate her dolls!

I was at first a little speechless.  I wasn’t ready to have this conversation.  Nevertheless, I owed an explanation to my little girl, since I was the one who brought this tiny monster into our loving home.

Probably a big parental fail, and something that I might pay for later when she attends shrink sessions to repair what I caused.  But, I decided to tell her that our cute little Labrador was in fact half a werewolf.

The horror on her faces was priceless, and as I started to elaborate about my werewolf theory, she did show early signs of fear or perhaps just utter disbelief.

I went on to explain that the scratch marks in her kennel are in fact from her transformation, and not Wolverine visiting.  Her ways of swallowing her food within seconds is a typical trademark of werewolves as they eat quickly not to get caught.

Another giveaway is the way she hunts down stuffed animals and dolls, practicing the early kill, and her tackling my daughter is to perfect her skill of bringing down running prey.

I honestly thought it was a good explanation, and went on to explain that the dog was cheaper than her siblings because she was half werewolf.

Needless to say, my daughter was terrified for a few seconds, until the little adorable chocolate Labrador laid down by her feet, looking to be scratched on her stomach.  And, I did allude to the fact that werewolves don’t harm family, and she’s family so will protect us from the evil monsters lurking in the night.

Amazingly, she did not have nightmares, but respects the puppy’s teeth a little more now.

werewolf puppies

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Taco Sunday

Our oldest daughter had her 1st communion a couple of years ago, and it was a fantastic joyful day with laughs, friends and plenty of food.  She was dressed like a princess looking amazing and I was standing on the porch with a shotgun fending off all the potential boyfriends – A dad has to take the necessary precautions!

Being the proud father of three, it was just a matter of time until the next in line had to go through the 1st communion as well.  Behold, my little man was getting ready and preparations started 18 months ago for his big day.

Beside the mandatory church teachings where kids learn about Big J, Heffe, prayers and important scriptures, they also need to be comfortable with wine and unleavened wafers (or tacos as I call them).

This is where we the parents come in.  Every Friday for several weeks before the big day, we practiced getting wafer and wine, ensuring he would a) spit it out or b)make funny faces and then spit it out.

tacowaferAfter the first attempt at the VERY small taste of wine (5-10ml), it was clear that he enjoyed the taste of wine.  So, no need to practice that step any further and we replaced the wine with Fanta.

However, the wafers are not exactly a delicacy among food critiques and are not my son’s favorite food source.  To encourage some involvement by my son with this process, I initially swapped the wafers with Doritos, and that seemed to do the trick.  Unfortunately he was utterly disappointed as I re-introduced these dried up wafers, which caused a few gagging moments and wafers were hitting the ceiling, windows and floor :-)

The big day finally arrived!

Sunday was his moment to shine.  He knew something was up that morning, probably because I was ironing his pink shirt and hanging up his new awesome suit.  He would be dressed like a true Kingsman.  And, the fact that I was wearing a suit too was probably a give-away + rest of the family was wearing fancy dresses.

Deep inside, I was fearing that he would walk off in the middle of the ceremony, when standing in front of the parish, or simply spit out the wafer as he did so many times at home.

Taco_TuesdayI kept reminding him it was Taco Sunday, so just be cool and do the stuff he learned.

Beside the fact he refused to join the line of kids before entering the church, it was a flawless performance.  He bowed as he walked in.  He held his hands up for prayers. He sang along (mimed more accurately) and did superb when getting wafer + wine.  All-in-all an outstanding achievement.

gangThe most magical part of the day was when he discovered that his aid had come to witness his big.  They hadn’t seen each other since my son moved school, but they have developed a very tight relationship.  My son’s eye lit up like Christmas lights, and he ran to give him a big hug.  It was true love and admiration for his best friend.

My wife started to tear up and people walked up to them to comment on how much their bond was shinning out.  Smiles on both their faces and big hugs proved that they are brothers.

I’m so proud of my son.  He did an amazing job in church, and we had a great day with close friends … and plenty of food as always.

Congratulations my son!

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Coffee Greed – busted

old-starbucks-logoI normally don’t write blogs about news events or other media related activities, as I don’t want to get into lengthy debates with people.  But when something occurs that makes my pee boil, then I simply have to share my thoughts.  This discussion may perhaps be a little heated and biased at times, but it’s a way for me to debate this topic with my evil twin (in my head).

This latest attempt to seek easy money is making me disappointed in people’s greed.  How bloody stupid is this law suit!?  Starbucks Lawsuit – hot tamales.  A cop suing Starbucks for spilling coffee on himself.

And a cop of all people, who I deeply respect for their bravery and protecting people, should know that coffee is hot, given many cops drink it with their doughnuts (just a silly stereotype statement :-) )

OK.  Coffee is hot, although it is not necessarily hot enough to cause severe burns, unless you order it ‘extra hot’ at the counter.  If that’s the case, then the coffee is about 180 Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius), which is not the actual boiling point of water.

Don’t get me wrong, it hurts like hell to spill coffee (or tea) over yourself and can give you some nasty + painful burn blisters.  Here’s a little Mythbuster-like review of burns … not tried at home, but found on Google:

  • Most adults will suffer 3rd degree burns if exposed to 150 degree water for 2 seconds
  • Burns may occur with a 6 second exposure to 140 degree water
  • Burns may occur with a 30 second exposure to 130 degree water
  • A temperature of 120 degrees, and a 5 minute exposure may cause 3rd degree burns

In my humble opinion, this is just an attempt to get money from a large corporation for your own stupidities.

To state that it has impacted intimacy with his wife, resulted in surgery, flare-up of his Crohn’s Disease, affected his kids and caused him from not being able to do his job as a police supervisor is stretching the power of coffee a little too far.

And, do they really think it sounds realistic and generous that they reduced their original claim from $10 million to “only” $750K.  How do you even calculate that number?  …. DUMB ASS!!  Let’s break this down, another Mythbuster-like analysis:

  • $15 for dry-cleaning
  • Coffee purchase $2.45 (this would most likely be refunded by Starbucks on the day)
  • Embarrassing moment when dropping pants (Kodak selfie moment) – priceless
  • $2 for petrol to drive 5 miles round trip to get new clothes from the house (based on fuel consumption on my El Camino)
  • $10 for the ointment to rub on the affected area
  • $35 co-pay for doctor’s visit
  • Total possible compensation = $64.45

Shit happens. You spill coffee, you take off the clothing and put on cold water.  Why did he need surgery?

No wonder so many products and companies have weird disclaimers – it’s to prevent dumb ass people to make stupid claims.

starbucks troopersA similar case made the news a few years back and the judge threw out the case.  Just Because Tea is Hot!

Europeans laugh at the Americans when they read such articles and it does not serve well for the reputation of a great Nation and its awesome people.

Now, had the waiter throw the boiling coffee on him, by accident or intentionally, then that changes the game entirely.  Still not a $10 million claim.  But that was not the case.

Long story short, I fully support valid claims and lawsuits to help people who are truly affected by actions or events outside their control. They need to be compensated, especially considering the insane health costs that comes with even the smallest injury.

Lawyers need to review cases more realistically and not encourage outrages claims.  Would it hurt to perhaps challenge the “victim” by discussing logic with them first.  If the coffee is steaming and ordered hot, then be careful.  Once you take the cup, you are responsible for your own actions.

Unfortunately we have people who try their luck and who have equally greedy lawyers.  As such, judges need to take a stance against these claims.  It affects us all in the long-run (conspiracy theory) as prices and insurances will simply go up to recover the legal charges companies are fined with.

Be safe – Be honest – Be positive

(disclaimer – this post is not sponsored by Starbucks and I have not been offered payments to support the Starbucks engine – although I could use a nice tall Latte!)

Barista Moments

A few barista statements that I found while searching for coffee temperatures, based on an interview with a Starbucks barista; Extra Hot Coffee – why?

1. When it’s cold outside. “When I worked at Starbucks in North Dakota, the temperatures would reach -30F plus wind chill, so drinks cooled down QUICKLY if taken outside/ordered in a drive thru,” Morgan wrote.

2. When you are ordering a milk-based drinks. Creamers, even when steamed, can cool down the temperature of a coffee. Tell the barista you want the milk steamed to 180 degrees, and it won’t negatively affect the taste of the espresso or coffee.

3. When you don’t plan to drink the coffee right away. If you want to enjoy your coffee at work but there’s a convenient Starbucks location closer to home, ordering it extra hot will keep it warm during the commute.

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Brief History of Cinco de Mayo

Thanks to George Stephanopolous and ABC News, they have created a short movie explaining the history behind Cinco de Mayo and what a massive business this has turned into.  In essence, it’s a celebration of the Mexican beating the French army … who wouldn’t celebrate such a victory over the frogleg eating, brie producing and wine drinking French republic who attempted to Second French Empire.

To me it’s a Mexican version of the Irish Paddy Day, with a single purpose – drink, eat and party.  Many people suddenly develop Mexican heritage, the same group of people who only a few months ago claim to be Irish.  I have no doubt this is an important day in the Mexican history, but many of these celebration are turning into tourist traps and drinking parties.

Viva Mexico!

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Games of Lip Reading

I simply had to share this awesome creation from the cool Bad Lip Reading team – well done guys!

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