I need Doc Hudson too

emotionsIt is strange how some movies can make you think and seriously review your own situation.  These hidden and less than subtle messages hit you straight in the ticker.  They really make you ponder about life itself.

It happens rarely, probably because I mainly watch movies with less important or real-life connections. But when it happens, it occurs when you least expect it and during the less obvious movie titles.

For me it happened when watching the iTunes release of ‘Cars 3‘.  So, only a few days ago really, but might as well have walked into a glass-door as it hit me completely off-guard.

Spoiler alert for those of you who have not seen the movie, or might not even be familiar with the stories of ‘Cars‘.  Yes, it is a Pixar animated movie, with many laughs and overloaded with feel-good moments.  No spontaneous singing like most Disney movies, but a good family movie.

Nevertheless, Lightning McQueen has lost his driving mojo and seeks out the track where his great coach started his career.  There he meets Smokey, who tries to help Lightning, who really isn’t sure what he needs help with.  He’s looking for the reason he loved racing and how he gets his mojo back.

Suddenly I realised, when watching Smokey talk about how much Doc Hudson loved to train and mentor the younger Lightning McQueen.  It was as if he was talking about me and my life.

I need that father figure and mentor, to put a hand on my shoulder to tell me I’m doing a great job, or gently guide me into making a change.  These little conversations that helps me shape into becoming an even better father, husband, brother and friend.

Since my father passed away, I have had a void in my life.  Not that we were super close or hanging out daily, but just with him being there for me.  He listened, talked and guided me.  It may not have helped me getting a better career or make more money, but I became a better person.  It also motivated me to enjoy things in life.

It may sound like as if I do not enjoy life, but that is not the case.  I love my family and friends, but I need to get acknowledgement and support.  I need a mentor that will help me grow and take on the next obstacle head on, or perhaps even help guide another person through their life challenges.

Professionally, I think I have lost my way a bit, and simply needs that fatherly guidance to help me make the right decisions, and help get my confidence back. It’ll come back I know, but takes a little longer than I had hoped.

Life decisions are hard some times, and having a mentor and father figure really helps in those situations.  Job sucks at times, but it is how you deal with those situations that makes you a better and wiser person.  Look at Gandalf, he really had a tough time and yet looked positively at things 🙂

I often look to the sky, obviously imagining that God’s Kingdom is up there, smiling at my dad.  I silently whisper for his help and guidance, and often get some signs.  But, I would do anything for a hug from my dad.  I miss my Doc Hudson!

dochudson

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Not like in the movies

Morning y’all – it was the morning we have all been waiting for for the past 9 weeks.  Kids are returning to school.  Mums and dads will have all the time in the World to relax, do adult stuff, sit on sofa, and smile with freshly brewed coffee while kids are off to learn the common core … which by the way sucks!  There, I said it!

Reality couldn’t be further from the imaginary story TV ads and movies will all have us believe, which shows every morning as a magical experience.  Kids come flying down the stairs singing Mary Poppins, fully dressed in latest fashion, laughing at each other, hugging and kissing us (parents) and ready to take on the day; eager to jump on the yellow big bus to school and learn stuff.

To most new parents, I hate to burst your bubble, but that shit only happens in fairy tales!

welcome-back-to-schoolOur back to school “adventure” actually started the evening before, with a quiet family post Labor Day dinner.

Obviously it was rather chaotic dinner as we also tried to go through the endless check list for each of our three kids and planning a few trips to the local Walmart.  You can always trust Walmart to have everything needed for school start. But seriously, how many pencils, glue sticks, erasers, tissues, zip lock bags does a 2nd grader need?

The conspirator in me would state that the class teacher is stockpiling supplies and selling them on eBay to support some shady activities.  I do not have evidence of such a crime 🙂

Showers, clothes laid out, school bags packed and alarm clocks set.  We were ready … not!

Sure enough, on the day of days, the kids are not eager to get out of bed.  All summer they woke before the sun even got eyes, and now they can barely walk.  It’s like a small hoard of zombies walking/crawling down the stairs, uttering simple commands “fooooood”.  All while barely opening their eyes.

Once food had been somewhat consumed, it was time to get dressed.  Suddenly the kids had to look at the weather, wind in the trees, mood rings, color matching, spider nests, migration of butterflies, just to make sure that they would send right impressions on this day, day of days.

T-10 min before the front of our house would look like Grand Central, with three buses stopping our three kids, going to three different schools.  I did consider calling the local cops to get them to direct traffic, but figured the bus company had the routine down to a fine art.

T-1 min and now my wife has gone from understanding Sound of Music nanny style, to female version of John Wick minus the dead dog and killings … but calm and assertive, shouting directions to the kids to get their a*** in gear and run to bus stop.

I calmly walked to the curb with my son, a few minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive.  15 minutes after the scheduled time, and still no bus, it started to rain.  But, it was first day of school and delays would be expected.

A further 15 minutes and I was not too sure I could blame it on back-to-school-traffic.  After a further 5 minutes I called the bus company, not to bite their incompetence heads off, but merely to state that I was patiently waiting, only to be told that the bus driver went on a road trip and forgot to swing his bus my way.  Thankfully he was sending a spare bus.

Low and behold, the spare bus came up the road, only to drive past our house, but the driver did waive.  at T+55 min, I rang the bus company again, explained that driver waived at me and never returned.  A few screams were heard in the background, as the guy on the phone shouted at the missing driver.  Magically, the bus arrived 3 mins later.

Day 1 of back-to-school was finally kicked off, now off to work 🙂

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Lost in the Wild

IMG_4851We are not the Robinson family, although we do like to explore. We try to experience something new on our new country, when we leave the house, ever since we moved here.  It has been an absolutely fantastic adventure, despite some minor less fantastic moments – but let’s not dwelve on the darker times.

In recent months, we have talked a lot about getting more familiar with the great outdoors.  We live in the mountains, next to a huge state park, and pride ourselves of having joined the great scouts organisations for both girls and boys.  As such, we must learn and explore!

Last week we finally build up the courage to face nature head on, and go into the great wilderness – well armed with bug sprays, water, pocket knife and of course iPhone.

We found what we thought would be a good beginner and family trail, in the majestic Bear Mountains which is over 5000 acres of trees, lakes, rivers, wild life that will kill you and of course animals.

For this virgin trek, we even brought our loco brown 2 year old Labrador.  She hates other dogs, gets extremely hyper when she meets people and pulls like a bull.  It would be good for her to burn some energy and at the same time train walking on a leash like a normal dog.

The family SUV took us to the starting point and we prepared ourselves for a “short” trek around in the woods.  My dear wife sprayed all of us with insect repellent.  With the amount she used, mosquitos quickly became an endangered species in a 5 mile radius.

Hi Ho Hi Ho – off we go … we are family … we will survive” were tunes that we spontaneously started singing while climbing our first little ledge.  I personally prefer the soundtrack from “Sound of Music” but perhaps not relevant at that very moment.

The girls climbed large rocks, ran into the wilderness, looked at all insects and screamed by the sight of most insects.  It was a true family bonding moment.  Our son was less impressed as her prefers so watch movies about outdoors, and not being inside it.

Marking a tree in case we don't make it back!

Marking a tree in case we don’t make it back!

I felt awesome.  Putting my scouting experience to use and explained random things to the girls, hoping they would pay somewhat attention.  I showed them the markers on the trees, showing the trail we were on (little did I know that these would become essential for our survival 2 hours later) and was skipping along the path in my trekking sandals.

In hindside, none of us had selected the best footwear for this outing, but we still managed and took our time as we scaled various cliffs and streams.  We had fun and that was important.

As we got deeper and deeper into the wilderness, we encountered less and less people.  They obviously knew something we didn’t or had better trial maps.

2 hours in we finally met another family.  They asked us for direction and we joked that we were heading back to the car and pointed towards a wider trial.  It was only when their lead scout shared his map that I realised that we were slightly of course.  In fact, had we stayed on the trail, we would’ve ended up 10 miles from our starting point and car.

somewhere here

somewhere here

I tried not to panic in the presence of our kids, who all looked at me for guidance.  A nervous giggle emerged from my throat and I proudly pointed towards the path we just came from and exclaimed with a trembling voice “we are going back on the trial we just came from“.  Inside my head I as screaming “we are lost and will die!

Thankfully the kids did not argue and simply turned around.  They just turned, faced the path and started walking while humming.

The good thing was, we knew the path challenges already, and we could easily find our way back to the car as we followed the trial markers. I told you they were important!

Soon we could hear cars again and suddenly I spotted our car in the parking lot, and we had one bar coverage on cell network. It was a joyous and emotional moment being back in civilisation.

Part of me doubted my tracking skills, but my fatherly GPS senses kicked in and navigated us back to safety.  My wife actually kissed the car and hugged all of us with tears rolling down her face.

What did we learn from this family bonding adventure?

  • My youngest daughter knows how to pee in the wild
  • We need to wear better shoes
  • Would be ideal to have a trial map and compass
  • Bring more water and perhaps snacks
  • Prepare to be lost better!
  • Bring pen and paper to write letters home
  • The loco Labrador can actually work nicely (probably exhausted too)

All in all, it was a great afternoon spent with the family and we are absolutely returning to the wild in the near future.

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Winter is Coming with a Body Slam

signThe winter had been pretty mild.  We’ve had a fair share of freezing my butt of cold days and nights, and some days my eyes froze.  But, nothing severe like 2-3 feet of snow in 12 hours or a sudden avalanche from the nearby mountain.

Deep inside my rather shallow body, I had a suspecion that we would get absolutely creamed and dumped on.  We couldn’t just get a mild winter with a few inches of snow.  I needed to use my snow blower, and at least 100 lbs of road salt (from my 1000lbs stash), to proudly be able to say “winter is coming!“.

When they decided to consult with a rodent, the annual groundhog day, I was not surprised when the furry critter predicted another six weeks of winter.  He too knew winter was coming.  I must admit, asking a small furry dude to predict the weather is rather odd, but hey, stranger things happens.

It was rather pleasant when we had a 62F winter day, and I could drive with the windows down.  Little did I know that winter was indeed coming.  The weather guys did warn the population, but when you sit in a t-shirt, listening to Shakira, you can’t really take them seriously.  Surely winter is over!

Later that evening, snow did cover the night sky, and temperature dropped.  By 4.30am we received a call from the school, saying school would be closed – followed by a number of emails and text messages.  All stating “winter is coming!“.

dayaftertomorrowEarly morning and first light, showed how busy Mother Nature had been.  Everything was covered in a thick layer of snow, and it did not look like stopping.  It just kept coming and coming.  As if Mother Nature wanted to make a point “it ain’t over until I say so”.

Mid afternoon the snow finally stopped, although a rather brisk breeze kept blowing snow around.  Winds were howling and my eyeballs got frostbites when I peeked out the door.

I knew I had to deal with it.  I prefer not to engage in cardio exercises when it is this cold, but when you have a 200 feet driveway, and it is not electrical heated, someone has to clear it.  AND, that someone is obviously me.

All three kids had “sudden” symptoms of fever or coughing, and informed me they were unavailable for child labour.  My wife had to work (new job and trying to impress the boss) and my loyal brown Labrador was pretending to be paralysed.  All in all, a sorry bunch of heroes.

I dressed up for my arctic experience and started my 30″ snow blower.  This beast could take on anything; jaw crunching snow eaters and strong caterpillar track.  We were going to conquer this together.

clarkThe size of the task became apparent when I opened the garage door in best Clark Griswold style.  The snow was about a foot deep, and had completely erased my landscaped garden and driveway.  It was there somewhere.  I just had to find it. … mission accepted!

Snow was flying all over as my snow monster was eating through all the snow, trying to find the surface.  We were in this together.  The red paint was gradually being covered with snow and icicles, and so was my beard.

2 hours later and I had cleared the driveway.  Well, there was still a thin layer of snow on the tarmac, which at this point was starting to freeze.  A few times I almost lost my footing, but mostly recovered while letting out a few yelps.  It was manly yelps in case you wondered.

As I was preparing for one final turn, a small pivot with my snow blower, my legs literally disappeared underneath me.  It was like watching a movie in slow motion, and felt even slower.

I made a few graceful attempts to recover the inevitable, only to suddenly lift off the ground and body slam into the ground.  Not a hope of bracing the fall with my arms, as I for some reason decided to hold on to the bloody snow blower.

The wind was knocked out of my chest, and as I laid there looking at the tarmac, I melted the ice with my breath.  I couldn’t even call out in pain and was stuck for several seconds.  It was pretty clear that body slamming 200lbs of Scandinavian bacon does some impact, and the pain quickly shared that observation as I could feel a shooting pain in my chest.

I’m not a doctor or expert, but it was obvious that I had fractured or bruised a rib or two.  But, in true manly spirit, I got up, and continued my work … at least for a further 23 seconds.

At that point I did what all men does.  I walked to the porch, sat down and waiting for anybody in my family to notice me and give me some sympathy.  That failed, and after 12 minutes of self indulged suffering, I went back to spray salt on the fecking ice.  That’s how you deal with it.  You spray salt on that shit.

Now I’m praying and hoping that winter is truly over.  I’ve had enough of this white stuff.  Winter did come! Mother Nature kicked my arse, and big boys do cry.

wintercame

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Buying Bleach Like Heisenberg

Not too long ago, when the shitter was full, I had a somewhat interesting shopping experience at Walmart.  Not the usual People of Walmart experience, but a sense and purpose of criminal mastermind experience.  Perhaps inspired by Heisenberg.

acidcleanupAccording to CSI, you can clean up body fluids using bleach.  A lot of bleach.  It not only kills majority of the germs and bacteria, but clears the scent of a horrible crime … in my case it was killing the odour of human feces which had dripped and gushed over me and the floor in the basement.

Anyway, I had to clean up the basement, and needed cleaning supplies.  So, I ventured to the local Walmart to stock up; buckets, mops, bleach, bleach, bleach and air freshener. Didn’t meet many suspicious and interesting characters, but it is always a surreal journey down each isle – especially when you witness a Hasidic Jew inspecting the new line of hunting riffles.

Within a few minutes, my filled with 4 large bottles of bleach, a mop, 3-pack of air fresheners, disinfecting wipes family sized box and of course scented candles.  You can never go wrong with candles.

The cashier had an interesting look on her face, trying to perhaps understand why I would buy these quantities of bleach.  She was a little disturbed to say the least, especially when I paid in cash.  Perhaps she remember the scene in Breaking Bad where they try to dissolve a body in the bath tub with acid.  Everybody knows to use plastic containers for that!

All the way my car, I was looking over my shoulders, expecting to be tackled by the 7-ft armed security guard, while screaming in a fetal position due to the pain of the taser.  Was I going to be a victim of my shopping needs?

noseclipI made it home and started the cleaning process.  Hours later my basement was shining, smelling like a hospital, and my hands were smelling as if I had completed a few autopsies and bathed in bleach … I should’ve bought latex gloves.

Looks as good as new!

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School Lunches & Grey Hairs

Having three kids keeps you busy.  Very busy.  There’s always laundry, homework, showers, cleaning up toys and rooms.  And, then you of course have the other daily / weekly routines such as sports, friends and shopping.

It never was an easy adventure to be a parent, but it is amazing how much we can accomplish while sleep deprived. Whoever said having kids wouldn’t change you was completely disillusioned and I doubt he ever participated in the awesome responsibilities.

That brings me to my next topic – school lunches.

I bloody hate seeing all the these ridiculously perfect families on social media, who have oodles of time, and patience, to create the perfect lunch boxes.  Seriously, who have time to prepare mini sushi look-alike lunches, design cuddly sandwiches shaped like cute lions, serve small fried dish consistent of slightly fried vegetables, neatly sliced, mixed with fresh caught salmon.  Are you bloody serious!

Instagram, Facebook and other social networks are devil’s spawn.  How on earth can people find time to have these awesome creations?  I wish I could make my kids’ school lunches that fantastic, but I rarely find time to make my own.

My wife and I work 8.30 – 17.30 jobs.  We have to do the daily chores, play with our kids, do homework, and prepare the various meals.  There’s little or no energy left to spend designing next day’s lunch menu.  Kids will get the usual suspects; left-over food, peanut-butter jam, ham-cheese, chicken-cheese tortilla or other combinations.

We refuse to give them money for school lunches, as those are not healthy at all.  At least our lunches have fresh vegetables, meats, cheeses, and their snacks normally consist carrots, tomatoes, or pretzels.

That said, in recent weeks we have really made an effort making the school lunches more appealing.  It is important for the kids to open their lunch boxes, without fears of being laughed at or accused of eating items that looks like they are from another planet.

My latest creation was Lego shaped egg muffins.  Not the boring Eggos like in “Stranger Things‘, but little delicous egg muffins made with spinach, ham, cheese and eggs.

lunchI found our Lego baking shape and made a few awesome Lego shaped muffins.  And I must admit, and kids were not bribed, but they loved them.  It was probably the shapes, but I also hope they tasted nice.

These suckers were created out of normal parenting hours, after 10 pm, which is normally the time we start drooling on the sofa.  Actually, that happens around 9.13pm.

It’s tough being a parent, but I would not change it for anything in the World!

We parents do need to demand better school lunches on all schools.  It is not right that kids get pizza, fries, ice cream, sodas, chips etc.  This only encourages shitty food and increases the risk of childhood obesity.  Demand better food in schools!

Jamie, help us!  We need to start the food revolution … again.

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Shitter is full!

shitterfullWARNING – this is blog may cause some people to feel unwell – just I felt unwell during the events as they unfolded.

————————————————–

It happens!  Shit happens!  And sometimes things just happen in a household, as a direct outcome of a natural process.  But when it happens, it is utterly disgusting.

And, when living in a household with 5 people, 2 adults and 3 kids, you are bound to see more of these incidents.

I’m talking about clogged drain and sewage pipes.  Whether it is the kitchen/bath sink, or a toilet that has been fed too much paper.  Either will happen.  It is how you deal with it that defines your manhood.

The other evening, while doing the dishes, our kitchen sink started to show signs of perhaps slight overload, as water did not drain as quickly as usual.  This is obviously caused by a few variables; the amount of food pieces and grease that has been swallowed over time.  At some point it may get a little stuck.

In this case, I simple mixed a little baking soda and vinegar, poured it into the drain and flushed it with boiling water.  It should do the trick, but didn’t.  In fact.  I stopped the flow altogether.  So, I decided to empty the sink manually and poured the content into the toilet … perhaps a slight silly mistake in hind-sight. The result was that I now had clogged the toilet.  To make matters worse, the pipe was so full that some water from main water was pushed into the drain, and the water in my kitchen sink started to rise.  Not good!

I had to turn off the main water to avoid flooding, and this unfortunately also meant no more toilet visit anywhere in the house until problem was resolved.

redphoneTime to call a friend, like in best jeopardy style.  Thankfully, the friend answered the call, and was kind enough to pay us a visit within 20 minutes.

It was pretty obvious that we a significant blockage somewhere in the pipes.  We tried to ‘snake’ toilet, sink and washing machine drains, but not positive outcome.  To make matters worse, the dirty water was now dripping into the basement.  Thankfully we do not have fully furnished basement and no carpets.

I had to call for help!  We needed a professional to solve this, well knowing that it would cost us some silly money just in call out fees.  It was 11pm, but had to accept the extortion from local plumber.  By 12.30, the plumber had not called back, so my friend and I thought we should take matters into our own hands.  How hard could it be to clear the blockage?

We quickly found the clean-out plug, underneath the kitchen/toilet area, and proceed to prepare for the nastiest part of the evening.  We knew we would have to open the plug, to release water pressure and empty sink + toilet.  This would be rather unpleasant, both visually and smell factor.

poo-bucketMy job was holding the large bucket as close to the plug as possible.  Knowing that this is literally human faeces (bodily fluids in this case from humans), which contains bacterias and other less attractive features, we could not afford to spill anything.  It would not only be disgusting, but the cleanup afterwards would be intense.

I carefully balanced the bucket, while my friend gently unscrewed the plug. “Water” started dripping, then running, straight into the bucket.  A few more 1/4 turns and the pressure was being released.  Our plan was working … until my friend lost his grip on the plug and the darn thing fell off.  The direct consequence was that sewage was being forced out from the clean-out hole, causing the stream to miss the bucket I was holding, and providing me with a shower.  Yes, I got drenched by shit!

The problem was, I could not drop everything and run.  I had to stay calm and catch the water, while trying not to get any into my mouth.  It sounds disgusting, but it was worse in real life!

I had to remove my Dropkick Murphy t-shirt (sorry lads) as it was soaked with shit.

On the plus side, the pressure was being released quicker, water stopped dripping from pipes and we knew it was working.  The down side was that we were covered in shit, and the floor was also slightly affected with a small puddle of faeces.

Finally the sewage was cleared and we had to go to phase two.  Locate the blockage with the ‘snake‘.  Finding the blockage was incredible easy, except I was covered in faeces and the smell was unbearable.

It was my first time using a ‘snake’, and hopefully last.

As I start to work the blockage, using the ‘snake‘, I was also introduced to something called the ‘champagne bottle effect’.  My mate might have been lying or making this stuff up.  Anyway, I very quickly found out what he meant.

See, when you release pressure, it can come shooting out.  You release a cork on a champagne bottle and it comes out.  Same thing happened with this shit.

I gently yanked the ‘snake‘, to clear the blockage, and was obviously successful.  The next 2.8 seconds was the worst in my entire life.  Shit was literally spraying from the pipe right at me.  I had not bucket handy, and had to jump down from the ladder and drag the larger bucket underneath the stream of excrement. to my dismay some of it had already landed on the floor.

My friend came running down the stairs, from inspecting toilet and sink, only to find me covered in human faeces.  I had old paper and other unidentified pieces in my chest hairs.  Arms were covered with a brownish shine and pants + shoes soaked.

This was not pleasant!!

Then again, we had successfully cleared the blockage and saved $500+ just in call out fees.

After a small beer break and panick laughing as we were slightly worried about hepatitis, we had to tackle phase 3.  Inspect and clear the waste pipe all the way to the end.  Given we had cleared the major blockage, we were fairly confident nothing else would be found.  And we were right.

The two amigos, aka Beavis and Butthead, had fixed a major domestic waste drain problem. We have had no training, and it shows, but still managed to fix it.

By the time we had finished, and cleaned up the worst shit, it was 3am.  We still had work in the morning, so we put all the equipment outside and I mopped up the faeces.

I showered twice before going to bed.  I could still smell the faeces as it was probably stuck in my nose.  I knew Friday would be a long day and that buying bleach was top priority.

Lessons learned – avoid using too much toilet paper, educate kids on right amount of paper to use for each job and do not pour kitchen waste into the sink.  It all adds up and will slowly block the drain.

missionaccomplished

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While we wait

jesusmangerChristmas – the most family focused event in the Christian side of the World’s religions.

They wait in anticipation for the coming of Christ, and celebrate his birth in a small barn somewhere in the outskirts of Bethlehem.

Perhaps not the most sanitary surroundings, but this is how Mary and Big Joe were rolling.  In fact, clean healthy environments were probably very hard to find, as indoor plumbing was still fairly basic during the rise of the Roman empire.  But I’m impressed Mary kept the sheets so white.

santa-stuckToday kids are eager with suspense as they wait for a fat dude to drop off a load of presents.  Somehow the simple science that a obese old man can fit into a small chimney does not not deter kids from believing – and rightfully so.  Santa is awesome and he loves to make kids happy (and some adults including me!).

How do you entertain kids from when school closes for the holidays, and how do you prevent them from searching the house in best Indiana Jones style, looking for the hidden presents?  Do you actually admit that Santa does not exist?  Although that would be lying to yourself too.  Of course he exist 🙂

Our little family really enjoy the festive season.  Every weekend is Christmas baking, thanks to my awesome wife, and spending time with the kids for Advent.  They get a small Advent present, which they look forward to.

On the day itself, 24 December, which is day when we celebrate Christmas, the kids wake up super early.  I mean ridiculously early.  Much earlier and easier than on school days.

The day starts with movies, breakfast, and then more movies. It is the old classical movies such as ‘Jingle All the Way‘, ‘Home Alone 1+2‘, ‘Santa Clause‘, ‘Elf‘, ‘Sound of Music‘ and of course ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation‘ … the shitter is full.

It’s all about total relaxation, doing as little as possible and simply spend time with the family. All while eating 🙂

cookiesThis year we introduced family board games.  We wanted to encourage the kids to play board games instead of Xbox games.  The beauty is that we can all participate, and nothing wrong with teaching kids competitiveness. Probably too early to introduce Risk to teach them World domination –  maybe next year.

Later in the morning, we start making cookies while I prepare the traditional Christmas dinner. Kids get the chance to help, but they seem more interested in playing games.

It’s not that hard entertaining the kids. You just need to participate and have fun. Not rocket science really.  Merry Christmas y’all!

What do you do while we wait for Christmas dinner and the imminent arrival of Santa?

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Christ back in Christmas

When we moved to the US more than five years ago, I was honestly a little surprised with a few cultural differences.  I guess that is what to be expected and all people talk about cultural shock.  It was not a shock where I went into seizure or panic crying, but more like “W-T-F?”.

I fully support political correctness, but we also have to be realistic and not overdue it.

keepchristWhen I first saw some adds for Christmas, or should I say festive holidays, I was surprised when I read “Bring Christ back in Christmas.  In my head I was like “oh no, another Christian fanatic message trying to preach about Jesus.” But as I’ve lived and worked in the US for a few years, I can start to relate to that message.

Not necessarily the religious message about Christ and waiting for his second coming.  But the fact that we cannot say Christmas any longer.  That is starting to worry me, and the political correctness has stepped over the line.

Why is it that we cannot say ‘Merry Christmas’ to our colleagues?

We are being told that we offend people who do not celebrate Christmas.  I understand that some people may be celebrating HanukkahKwanzaa, or other holidays like Diwali or Mawlid … or nothing at all.  And by using the political correct phrase “Happy Holidays” we apparently avoid discriminating or offending anybody.

I’m calling BS on that way of thinking.  Why is it that we should (and must) express our well wishes to other special holidays, but cannot share the same courtesy for Christmas?

I have friends from many different religions, and none of them seem offended when Christmas is mentioned, and they wish me a Merry Christmas.  I’m just as respectful for their holidays and will offer them my well wishes for their special days.

Some shops are even banning Christmas decorations such as Nativity scene, but will happily put up the Menorah.  I don’t see a problem showing baby Jesus in the manger, while the wise men are holding a Menorah.

For many, saying Merry Christmas may not even be a religious statement, but rather a celebration for the family, and admiration for Santa Claus.

Treat people the way you want to be treated.  This also means respect other religious holidays, without blocking out Christmas.  It does not give you the right to send a Merry Christmas card to people who do not believe in your holiday, but I may send a card to my Jewish friends wishing them Happy Hanukkah.

If this trend continues, then one day we are going to be a sanitised country, where we don’t celebrate any holidays in public.  We have to show that we are proud of being Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and other cool religions.  We have to be able to celebrate and respect our holidays – that does not mean blocking them out with saying ‘Happy Holidays’.

Listen, if the atheists would have some sort of special day, then they are welcome to celebrate it too. They seem to be busy blocking everyone else.  I guess if they don’t have a special day, then other people can’t enjoy their days.  To me that is just rude and inconsiderate.

Anyway, Merry Christmas my friends … and Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Mawlid, and enjoy all the other special holidays. Don’t hold back celebrating your special days.

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Kung Fu Panda not included

pandaThe joys of being a house owner, amongst many cool and not-so-cool duties, is that we get to decide how wild the garden should be.  Are we going for the ‘garden of the year’ award or do we take a more relaxed attitude, believing in reinstating the natural ecosystem.

I’m probably torn between the two choices, and the only in-between option is called concrete. An option, but not a fan of concrete. My choice is unfortunately natural ecosystem, with some sprinkles of garden award.  Probably a fair 97-3 split.

However, on one of my gardening adventures, I decided to kill what to some is known as garden cancer.  It spreads like an evil network of underground roots, tightly intertwined with roots and tiles.  Literally impossible to get rid.  It also happens to be the favourite dish for the overly obese and cuddly panda bear.

Yes, you guessed it.  It is the fecking bamboo. It looks great at times, but a pain in the behind to prune or remove.

My bamboo bush had taken over parts of the garden and was slowly moving across the garden pathway, finding little openings between the tiles and slowly expanding.  So began the battle of the bamboo.

Only minor problems.  I do not have access to koala bears, pandas or sloths.  And, it was close to 95F/35C during the past summer.  It was a battle I was destined to lose.

There are a few ways to kill or get rid of bamboo.  They mostly require a lot of patience, plenty of time and interesting chemicals.  None of which I poses.

But, I discovered the best trick in the book, which came to me in a dream.  A dream that involved my old biology teacher, who was laughing through his Santa beard.  Freaky I know.  It was basic schoolboy knowledge that proved to be the trick to break the neck of the overly enthusiastic bamboo bush.

What was it?  Well, I will give you this DIY trick for free, and also share that you will lose weight while killing your friendly neighborhood bamboo bush.  It is simply photosynthesis!

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms’ activities (energy transformation).

Bamboo bushes uses all it’s leaves to regenerate and expand.  You can cut away at the edges, pull up roots, but you will lose unless you remove the opportunity for generating photosynthesis.

The trick is, which reminds of the old Metallica song ‘fight fire with fire’.  You have to fight photosynthesis with photosynthesis.  It’s simple my friends.

Step by step instructions in your photosynthesis battle.  Something that Syn Tzu forgot to mention in his ‘Art of War’.

  1. Find your garden handsaw
  2. Put on work gloves
  3. Put on long-sleeved shirt
  4. With one hand, grab a bundles of bamboo, and cut it about 5 inches from the soil
  5. Repeat step 4 until you have eradicated the bamboo bush
  6. Inspect the bamboo patch for ridiculous amount of sprouts
  7. Remove all small bamboo sprouts and leaves you find
  8. Repeat step 7 every other day for two weeks
  9. Take a shovel and start to dig up roots

Step 9 is a very tiresome exercise, which is excellent cardio and fat burning.  I spent several hours a day, over the course of three weeks, and honestly believe I lost 6-7lbs.

I’m sure you can use chemicals to do the killing faster, but I do not like to pollute my garden, and is a strong supporter of hard labour – except when I have to do the work!

In the end, it was my awesome and creepy biology teacher who in my dream taught me to fight photosynthesis with my knowledge in biology :-).  Sometimes you can actually achieve a lot with stuff you learned in school.

Other options include inventing recipes for eating bamboo, building a bamboo raft, build a bamboo shed, design cool pens with bamboo casings, weave baskets, create matts, design furniture … the options are endless.  Only your imagination sets the limitation, and of course your ability to do it.

(btw, my old biology teacher was actually a pretty alright dude, and he did not do anything to freak me out)

killbamboo

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