Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Greatest Story Ever Told . . . although that might be an exaggeration.

My wife says I have a tendency to exaggerate, my response was, “What?!?! I have never exaggerated in my entire life!” I guess I proved her point. She actually created a word for what I do; to catastrophize – verb – creating a dramatic situation in a story where it did not originally exist. Although, I am not sure I fully agree with her assessment. I believe I simply highlight and emphasize the important issues of any story. I may occasionally play a little loose with my adjectives and adverbs, but that is done in an effort to bring attention to details that might otherwise be ignored. I can see that these subtle differences need an illustration to make clear. For demonstration purposes, I will give you a story and in this story, I will use an asterisk (*) beside any point in the story where I have allegedly exaggerated.

My wife is very involved in local ministry and having two small children requires one of us to be at home as the caretaker. Since during my incredibly long working hours* where I spend every available minute diligently focused on completing my work* and my wife is working at home raising the children, every* opportunity I get, I happily* embrace the role of active father that allows her to get out of the house and serve our community. Recently, in a selfless act* after an extraordinary long day at work*, I told my wife to head out and visit with her friends. This left me the incredible challenge* of preparing our children for bed that evening. As I diligently prepared dinner* my daughter managed to make a mess that put milk and cookies over every square inch of her body*. The house looked similar to a landfill* and after I wrestled the kids into bed*, it took me hours of my valuable time* to clean it up*.

Now we’ll look at the same situation from my wife’s point of view. On an evening where my wife had a regularly scheduled meeting that I knew about months in advance, she asked me to simply put the children to bed (after bathing them, preparing their dinner, and getting them into their pajama and ready for bed before I returned home). Against my wife’s advice, I gave the children a bedtime snack (in an effort to buy their love). My daughter managed to get a little bit of the snack on her face and on the floor which took me a few extra moments to get her cleaned and into bed (and could have been completely avoided had I followed her instructions) and cut into my time watching the opening kick-off of Monday Night Football. When my wife arrived home later that evening and found me comfortably positioned in the recliner and the snack mess still remaining on the floor, she asked what happened. This led me into to the story that begins in this column in paragraph #2.

In the end, I guess it is all a matter of how you look at it. I believe that the allegation that I embellish the facts of any story is completely overstated and possibly one of the greatest statements of misinformation in the history of mankind . . . although this entire column might be an exaggeration, you be the judge.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Extreme camping in the backyard

As you may have read in my previous columns, I used to (as in past tense) be an active outdoorsman — camping, backpacking and fishing.
However, in the past few years I have found a number of excellent excuses to avoid such an exercise in physical discomfort — such as, too tired, too busy, too hot, too cold, my kids are too young, I'm too old, etc. In an effort to regain my sense of adventure and share the experience of the outdoors with my 4-year-old son, I decided to take him camping.
For any of you who have made a foray into the wild outdoors, you know the amount of preparation that goes into the trip. Now, add a 4-year-old into your planning and things get interesting. Considering this was his first experience sleeping outside, it seemed wise to take our first trip into the wild outdoors to the backyard. It's not exactly Yellowstone, but there is this gang of squirrels that has a real nasty attitude that creates a unique sense of adventure and it is closer to home in case he gets “homesick.”
As I dusted off and started to set up our “new” tent from the garage (see previous column for that reference), I sent my son to his room to grab some “supplies” to take on our adventure. As you wilderness-savvy individuals know, the first rule in pitching a tent is to find a flat piece of land. This does not exist in my yard (our tent location would make a better slide than sleeping quarters). I knew this was going to make for an additional level of discomfort, but still no reason to kill a child's spirit of adventure (my back may argue this point, but my brain won the argument).
As I finished setting up our tent and started working on our campfire (for the traditional camping delicacy of S'mores) my son came out with his backpack full of his “supplies” from his room. His pack weighed nearly as much as he did.
When we opened his pack to see what “supplies” he was bringing to the campsite, I was immediately impressed by the fact that he grabbed a flashlight for both of us. As we dug deeper into the pack, he poured out approximately 20 Hot Wheels. When I asked him why he brought the Hot Wheels, he simply said, “We need something to play with Daddy.” Of course.
After a full evening of playing and talking, the young boy fell sound asleep, visions of our next adventure floating through his pleasant dreams. I, on the other hand, struggled to get comfortable. One rock, no matter where I moved, seemed on a mission to break my spine (making it difficult to stand up straight the next day). By morning, we had lost the battle against gravity. The hillside tent placement, all of our “supplies” and the two people inside the tent were crammed against the bottom of the tent.
Despite the sliding, the jabbing pain in my spine and the lack of sleep, once we were settled into our tent next to our fire with bellies full of marshmallows under a cloudless sky, my son turned to me and said, “Isn't this great Daddy? We're camping!” Yes it is buddy, yes it is.
Ultimately, camping with my son was one of the highlights of my summer and while camping in the backyard is not “extreme” adventure, it is a small step toward greater adventures.
As far as my son is concerned, when my wife asked him if he had fun, he said, “I want to go camping for nap time. I love camping so much I want to go every day.” Oh boy, my back is already hurting again.