Firestarter

firestarterAs we were preparing dinner, oven roasted salmon with new potatoes, I turned on the amazing gas oven.  Cooking with gas somehow makes food much nicer, or perhaps it’s just us thinking it’s a nicer flavour than more conventional electric ovens.

The LED display on the oven shows the temperature and how it slowly climbs to the destination altitude, but for some reason the oven went from cold to warm very fast.  Much faster than usual, and  some smoke started to develop from the vent.

I opened the door, which most backdraft experienced people would warn you against, only to be greeted with a ginormeous ball of thick smoke, quickly covering the kitchen ceiling.  It was a nasty smell and clearly something was burning and I wondered if we had left an old pizza box in the oven or if food had dripped on oven floor.  Either way, I decided to quickly turn off the oven and cool it off so I could examine it.

To my utter surprise, the flames did not die.  On the contrary.  They kept going, but from below the oven floor, where the gas flames live!

I had to act quickly now and jumped to get the fire extinguisher, pointed it at the flames and let the dust/foam kill the flames.  Thankfully this killed the flames of Udun, and put the fire breather back in its cage.

BackdraftI can calmly say that our smoke detectors work.  They were screaming / beeping while I was frantically trying to get the smoke out of the house, using all the fans in the house and all windows/doors wide open.

After the oven had cooled off significantly, I decided to put on my daddy DIY hat and see if I could somehow fix the oven.  First step was clearly washing down the entire unit inside as the foam / powder had left a thin layer all over.

Please note, I'm not a natural born DIY genius!

As I had removed the worst of the dust, I gently unscrewed the vent fan cover and removed the oven floor tray to expose the gas pipes, trying to use my best fire investigator skills.  Low and behold, I found the cause of the unnatural fire.

Someone, who shall remain nameless, had carefully inserted ‘gold fish‘ crackers and dog food into the little vents in the oven floor tray, which in turn created small piles of perfectly stacked fire sources, and once they got hot enough they simply kept burning.

When I asked the potential fire starter, she blankly refuted the accusations and instead blamed her stuffed rabbit in a pink tutu dress.  She even rolled her eyes and seriously questioned my motive for asking her if she had done such a heinous crime.  Btw, she’s four years old!

I removed a large bowl full of burned ‘gold fresh’ and charcoal dog food, and spent the next two hours scrubbing down the oven.  To make it worse, the ben was still warm and it was probably early 80′s outside, so the sweat was starting to drip off my forehead and masculine chest.

The oven was shinning as if new.  I was actually proud of my cleaning skills, but it was time to see if the oven would even work.

I selected the oven temperature, clicked start and stepped back a few steps – just in case.

To my surprise, the oven seemed to work fine, although it was steaming a fair bit, but that was to be expected as I had just cleaned it with water.

Step 6 in my cleaning process was to do what I had never done before.  Use the self-clean function on the oven.   I had no idea what to expect or how long it would take, but it had to be done.

As I kicked off the automated process, the oven door locked and timer started.  Four hours!

What I didn’t know or expect was that the cleaning process actually involves extreme temperatures in the oven to convert old food into ashes, which in turn causes increased smoke … again!  And again my smoke detectors passed the test.

Now I just have to wait another 3 hours until the process is cleaning, so might as well put on Lord of the Rings.

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House hunting games

If you have ever gone Christmas shopping with your kids, or just normal grocery shopping, you will easily agree that it can be a most trying challenge, testing the boundaries of your sanity and many times the sanity of your fellow shoppers.

The most common scenario is when your kid drops to the ground screaming, just because you refuse to get another brand of cereal or ice creams.  All nearby shoppers are instantly froze, all staring at you to determine what your decisive super parent skill is to calm this bundle of horror down.  Many probably wishing you would just leave the shopping area, and you wishing you could hide in a box of Mac ‘n Cheese.

Now, imagine going shopping with three kids!  AND shopping for a house.

Well, that’s exactly what we did recently.

Like so many families, we want to make sure our kids participate in major family changing events, and choosing your future family homestead certainly qualifies for such an event.  So, we found a few tempting places on Trulia and Zillow, engaged a realtor and planned to meet the following weekend.

Trulia and Zillow are excellent property search engines

We had to inspect six potential houses that warm summer afternoon, and packed the car with snacks and plenty to drink, and set off on yet another family adventure in the trusty old family tank.

I had carefully planned the route with the realtor, preventing a zig zag tour de New York experience, as that would be absolutely killer on the kids’ mood.  The last thing we need in a confined space is a revolution.

HouseHuntingWe pulled in at the first house, and the kids were in shock – positive shock.  They thought it was absolutely stunning and immediately jumped out of the truck to explore (in their opinion) the new stomping ground.  They ran up/down the stairs.  I could hear voices in the attic and the basement.  Then suddenly all three kids had to use the bathroom.  All while the realtor stood silently with an awkward smile and not too what she had witnessed.

My wife and I had very little time to explore the houses as we were too busy running after the kids, making sure they didn’t jump into the pool, started to play with the house owner’s pet or picked up toys.

On to house two – a beautiful house that the kids fell in love with.  And, same strange wild behaviour from the kids; running around like if possessed, and insisting on using the bathroom.  We hadn’t even driven for more than 10 minutes, and no beverages, so how could their tiny bladder be full already?

Toilet Stories; shitter and in the wild

On to house three.  Again, this was the new dream house according to the gang of three.  They ran riots in the garden.  Up/down the stairs.  Suddenly I heard voices from the hallway closet, only to discover the two youngest laughing as I opened the closet.  They had been playing in the darkness.  And, the mandatory toilet visit.

House four and five were pretty much the same as the previous three houses, expect house five had no running water, so couldn’t visit the toilet.  I fully appreciate that a working toilet is essential for any household, but there’s no need to test every single toilet until we actually move in.

House six was a wash out – none of really liked it, so we didn’t even bother testing the toilet.  That said, the garden was phenomenal; massive potential for a personal maze, with  wilderness trails we could practice our survival skills.  Plenty to offer for the outdoor family and even more for the adventurous DIY dude … not us then!

All in all we saw six houses, but I have still very little recollection of what each house looked at, and have to visit Trulia or Zillow to see pictures.  Perhaps bringing the kids weren’t the best of ideas.  We do love exploring with the kids, but this is one of those adventures were kids might just make you buy something, just because it had an awesome pee experience.

The poor realtor never knew what actually happened.  She was completely bewildered as we left her standing at the last house, probably looking for a bottle of Jack D while downing a few Prozac’s and crying softly and yet anxiously.  Funnily enough, she hasn’t returned my calls or emails!

It’s safe to say that we’ll inspect the next future family homestead without kids :-)

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Balloon Wars

Summer just got serious with this amazing invention “Bunch O Balloons” over on Kickstarter.  From looking at the profile, it seems like we might be able to get our hands on these suckers in the coming weeks, just in time for the summer and before school ends.  Josh Malone was only asking for $10K, but clearly many people thought it is a fantastic idea and have pledged $250K.

Balloon fight was just brought to the next level – I can’t wait to dominate my block’s water balloon war.

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Not the Wilderness Family

Although we love being outside and walking in the forest, hiking with the kids has only been a quarterly event at best, with a few small treks into the wilderness with the family St Bernard.  We are not the most avid trekkers, but do our best to be one with nature … blend in with the wildlife and pretend we know how to survive.  We watch “Naked & Afraid“, “Bear Grylls” and of course the awesome “Dual Survival“.  The latter makes me laugh just looking at the dude pretending to be a native indian.  I’m sure he can survive any environment, but not sure he needs to have braids!

It has to be said, the family dog is rarely impressed being dragged through the wide forest paths, shrieking at any strange sound or movement from the forest.  A squirrel runs across the path and one would think the dog would be flying after it, but not our dog!  When doing her business, her lazy gaze scouts the perimeter making sure no evil chipmunk or other animal with teeth is ready to attack.

Now, let’s talk about the family and how we “blend in” and become one with Mother Nature.  Let’s be clear, we are not the Wilderness Family!

Pale Alien Toes

Pale Alien Toes

I for one is probably 30lbs overweight, pale as chalk, dehydrated within the first mile and tend to forget my actual walking shoes and end up walking the entire trek in my flip-flops, plus sweating a fair bit which makes my clothes look like patchwork.  I’m a true tourist in this wast scenic country that’s build for proper explorations and not the back garden of a Dublin (Ireland) estate where the meanest animal is a black crow.

My wife, aka Amazing Gordita, tend to wear her runners, jeans and a designer t-shirt … you gotta look sharp in the wilderness.  She will often start humming and singing, pretending she’s in some sort of Disney movie, explore the berry bushes, snap some cool pictures and help our song along.

Our oldest daughter who one would think that, based on her eager involvement with the Girl Scouts, she would be naturalist in the family … and she is, but only through her obsessive iPhone photo lens or surfing National Geographic.  Well, most times she might be watching some strange Disney show.

My son hates walking in the forest, especially because the roads are uneven, there are way too many flying buzzers of all sorts, he dislikes the shrubs, sweats profoundly and he is determined to find the quickest way back to the starting point.

Then you have Xena the Warrior, our youngest girl, who is natural-born predator.  She hunts around in the forest, with stealth like tactics, sneaking up on wild life and various berries, exploring the undergrowth of the forest – and ninja punches mosquitos.  I’m sure if she got stung by any insect, she would pee on it to reduce the itching.

brixwitch projectDespite our in abilities to blend in with nature, we love exploring the wild.  At least from the safety of the Costa Rican tour bus or Six Flags Safari tour.  We do love spending time in the camp where we are members and have plenty of battles with the aggressive mosquitos when trying to visit the outhouse.  Any bug that might swoosh by will send shivers down our spines and cause uncontrollable arm movements, while trying to get the spray or zapper.

We are NOT the Wilderness Family, but we enjoy life :-)

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The evolution of cave drawings

cave drawingsIn the beginning there were walls that looked innocent and clean.  Man (and women I presume) decided to use these blank canvasses to express emotions and tell stories.  Bingo, we have wonderful ancient graffiti sharing their daily adventures, from killing animals, chatting with aliens, hands, animals and many more amazing drawings.

Just to be clear, this is not an archeology lecture or some other elaborate tale to explain how cave drawings appeared and what they might mean.  No, this is to illustrate that even in today’s technology driven society, cave drawings still haunts us – especially us parents as our kids evolve.

As you know, we have three beautiful kids; two girls and one boy.  Each child have unique skills and various levels of energy, and we fully support our kids in growing their skills further – unless it’s their ability to watch endless TV shows on Netflix about annoying ponies or playing ‘Temple Run‘.

But one of the kids is much more creative than her siblings.  And, she has hell of a lot more energy than the others which is most likely because she’s the youngest and wants to keep up with the older siblings.

The older siblings also expressed their artistic skills, but only on the paper they we using.  Yes, it did happen that they drew on the table, but nothing remotely as severe as the tiny artist.

She has taken drawing to a new level, which includes selecting new canvasses and expressing her emotions on walls and furniture.  Nothing beats coming home seeing a new creation on the family sofa, bathroom wall, dinning table or stairs.  Most times these can be “easily” removed with water and soap, but since she has moved from water colours to permanent markers, it has become increasingly impossible.

She has also taken her skills on the road, and we have now some drawings in the car and on her clothes.

When I catch her in the act, and demands she stops, I get the 1000 yards stare and being told that she hasn’t done anything.  It was her brother!  That is despite her standing with the marker, on the wall, drawing a long line.  Even the CSI team would support my accusations!

Although it is rather frustrating, it can be covered up with wall paint, which we will do once she stops using the walls as her canvas – if she stops!

From an artistic perspective, you have to applaud her skills and if you study her drawings in more detail, you can see how she is enhancing her abilities.  The earlier stages are simple lines, then X’s, faces and people.  I would perhaps go as far to state that some of her art works are more impressive than some of the new modern artists who pains a black dot on a white canvas … or nothing on the white canvas!

Michelangelo, Raphael, Da Vinci, and other artists of the ancient World would most likely look at my daughters paintings and discover her hidden talents.  In the eyes of (in my opinion) VERY suprematism artists, our kids are completely wasting their time actually learning the craft of painting or splash paint about like the great Pollock, or painting three stripes endlessly like Rothko.

Long story short, as a parent and house owner, I dread seeing my house covered in cave drawings, but I cannot spend too much time getting upset about it.  It’s only a few lines and we’ll be pairing the walls soon.  Anyway, judge for yourself :-)

How are your kids expressing themselves?

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Celebrating Independence

4 july small…or properly more accurately, the US is celebrating kicking out the British while holding hands with the Irish who also kicked out the British.  In reality, the British are most likely not too happy about being reminded about this every year, but tough!

Normally 4th of July is celebrated across the US using amazing fireworks, mouth dripping BBQ, loud music and family reunions.  It’s a time were neighbours reach out and get together for food and kids playing.

And this year would be no different if it hadn’t been for the arrival of Hurricane Arthur, who decided to kick off the hurricane season a little early by battering the East Coast.

We use 4th of July to celebrate our arrival to the US three years ago and a new chapter in our family adventures.  We still have many more chapters to write, but it has been a wonderful journey to date.

We can proudly say “Happy 4th of July” to all of our American friends, family, brothers and colleagues.  It has truly been a pleasure to get to know you and thank you for greeting us with open arms … especially after a few sips of the local moonshine :-)

Every good citizen makes his country’s honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defence and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it” – Andrew Jackson (American 7th US President1767-1845)

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Little Pony Nightmare

I’m not too sure how to even approach this topic, as I really don’t want to offend any known fans, and I’m certainly not interested in being bombarded by thousands of angry tweets about my attitude towards these creatures.

They obviously inspire millions around the World.  They have their own TV show, clothe range, toy selection, books, etc.  Deep inside I envy their success, but at the same time I curse them for making my time as a parent a living nightmare.  Thankfully the interest in them is only a few years, so I just have to bide my time a little longer, until my youngest daughter has outgrown these monster.

I know these characters are rather innocent and perhaps even funny at times.  It’s the obsession with the TV show (on Netflix) and the unrealistic expectation that I can remember all the names.

Seriously, I sometimes forget the name of the family pets and I can’t even remember birthdays and anniversaries of my immediate family.  The pressure on us parents is immense.

Let me introduce the characters I’m expected to love and know.  It’s of course the gang of ponies, known as My Little Ponies;

Honestly, who came up with the names?  The story line of the shows are rather dubious and celebrates (IMHO) some lesser qualities of our kids.  They portray these characters as less clever and some even as air heads.  Anyway, I know it’s futile to even attempt to justify the existence of these characters.  It’s a show and I just need to accept it!

But, try to dress a 4-year-old with the clothes she wants, and then get the stare of utter disgust when I get the name wrong.  Like, the other day when getting her ready for her school, she wanted to wear Rainbow dash undies.  OK, I gave her a pair with a horse on.

She grabbed the pair with both hands, exerted immense force and started to pull the undies apart.  Her anger was similar to the Hulk and she yelled “this is Rarity!  I want Rainbow Dash!”

The fear in me took over and i started to twitch my left eye.  What had I done wrong?  How could I ever live up to my daughter’s expectations?

I ran to the drawer and grabbed a few more options, but started to panic.  What would happen if I could  not find her beloved Rainbow Dash?  Would the local Kohl’s be open this early so I could get her the pair of undies she wanted?

Thankfully my 10-year-old daughter walked into the room.  She calmly picked up a pair of horse undies and gave them to the 4-year-old – who in return smiled, nodded and showed me.  “See dad, this is Rainbow Dash!”

Crisis had been averted, but I never know when the next apocalyptic event might happen.

You might sit there and laugh, or worse, shake your head because I even write about My Little Ponies.  Well, it’s very important to share my life experiences with other parents, and warn them that they need to know the characters and role models in our kids’ life – or even protect them from the wrong choices.

… btw, I hate Barney too :-)

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Camp Gyno

I had to follow up my previous post about the Full Moon Party – I’m a responsible parent who supports my daughters and will share good advice like this with them.  Although they don’t care much for my openness and believe it might be a better discussion to have with their mother!

Again, enjoy another funny ad from our friends over at Always!

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First Moon Party

I came across this ad some days ago, like about a million other people around the Globe (15 million people ±), and pissed my pants laughing.  So, like a loving and caring dad, I shared this video with my wife and 10-year-old daughter.  It was amazing, their reaction to this video were completely opposite of each other!

  • My wife also laughed hysterically and shared the ad on her Facebook page
  • My 10-year-old daughter rolled her eyes and left the room at a fast pace

Anyway, I thought you should have the chance too, of laughing at this.  Judge for yourself :-)

The person who thought up this brilliant ad should get a big bonus … and he or she has excellent sense of humor.  Fair play to Always!

Enjoy!

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Wind Power

I recently got my hands on my first true dad gadget – a backpack blower!  It’s the ultimate tool for any dad out there and will help you get your yard in top shape.  In fairness it also give you some extra benefits, if you are looking for some alone-time.

  • earmuffs on a warm day keeps excessive noise out of your head while looking awesome
  • the noise of the blower blocks out screaming kids, barking dogs and phones
  • your wife will not have a chance in hell of getting you to do other stuff

wind makerWell, this was my first experience with such a powerful piece of equipment, and it happened to be a proper professional item.  Not one of these tolls you get in a general hardware store, but a miniature wind turbine strapped into a harness.  The crazy thing is, I was meant to tie this contraption on my back and be strong enough to withstand the awesome gale for winds it would produce.

Naive and with a schoolboy attitude, I prepared to start the backpack blower while it was of course sitting on the garage floor. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 pulls before I realised I had to open the fuel line!  Then I adjusted the choke and pulled my shoulder out of joint, or at least it felt like that.

The engine spluttered and finally came to life, and I let it breathe a little before I lifted the 12lbs sucker up and swung t around to be on my back.  So far, so good!

As I accelerated the wind turbine, the garage floor started to move.  It was obviously not the floor itself, but all the stuff that was carefully placed there; leaves, papers, shovels, small bikes and kids.  The room was filled with dust and leaves, so I quickly placed a mask and goggles on my face – starting to look like a mad scientist.

It took a few minutes for me to get then hang of the controls, and I carefully started to blow out the garage, starting in one corner and managing the wind speeds to avoid items to become lethal projectiles … I obviously didn’t want to scratch my El Camino.

It wasn’t long and the garage was spotless.  Only problem, all the crap was now outside in my driveway and I’m certain neither my wife nor our neighbours would appreciate the post-nuclear war landscape I had created, so I had to clear that up too.

Now, this is probably where my personal-windturbine skills were lacking.  It started out well and I managed to gather most of the stuff next to the now closed garage doors.  As I slowly moved the pile into a corner, a few smaller things refused to move.  To encourage the items to move, I accelerated the wind power a little … then a little more … and then … f**k it!

tornadoI released the full power of the blower and unleashed a personal tornado in my driveway, full of debris, paper, leaves, small rocks, etc.  I was mesmerised that this was even possible, and stood there like an idiot looking at the man-made wall of dust that was rising before me – and not turning of the blower, so it kept getting bigger.  I suddenly realised that I should turn off the blower only to get caught in a shower of debris.

My head and shoulders were being barraged by thousands of small objects, and thick layer of dirt dust-covered me.  I was dumb enough not to move an inch, despite have front row seats to what was coming down at me.  The damn adrenaline got the better of me!

Oh well, had to start over again, and this time I was a little more careful.

After having proudly cleared garage and drive way, I stood at the top of the driveway with a silly grin on my face.  “I had achieved utterly manliness level #5 that morning”.  Next challenge will be clearing the gutters, but I’m not sure I how I’ll fare in that challenge; me, personal-windtunnel-created and on a ladder?  Not great odds!

Anyway, the next 12 minutes were spent pushing my 4-year-old daughter around on the street with the power blower, while she was on her tricycle.  I air-dried my 10-year-old daughters wet hair and tested the capability of rolling a golf ball into the hose and then full power air ejecting it out.

I did receive a few interesting looks rom our more mature neighbour fathers, who could clearly see that it was my first time … and they smiled while giving me thumbs up.  They had obviously been at this stage already and tried what I tried.  BUT, I could also sense that they told me telepathically (it must be some father-to-father rays) that this was a once off day – next time it’s serious.

It was an awesome day!  I can’t wait to try that sucker again.  And, imagine what it can do with snow :-)

What is your coolest daddy garden/DIY toy?

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