Thursday, June 30, 2011

Of Mice and Men and the battle between

My daughter is a huge mouse fan. In particular, the legendary mouse going by the moniker “Mickey”. However, a recent family encounter with a mouse was not nearly as sweet and cute as the aforementioned cuddly cartoon critter. No, our story of mice begins with me sitting on the couch watching television one night when the little fellow stuck his head out from behind the television stand. Cautiously, he moved out into the open to check out his new neighborhood. Now this wasn’t the friendly theme park mascot that my daughter is so fond of, no, this was the mouse that eats into your cereal boxes and makes a nest out of your favorite sweater.

As I watched our little visitor scamper around the floor boards looking for crumbs, I was already drawing up my battle plans for the next day. This mouse had broken into my fortress and because of his trespass, I declared war. I planned on making quick work of this little rodent and claim my crown as the defender of my home.

The next morning I visited one of our local hardware stores and immediately went to the “pest” aisle. I couldn’t help but imagine my daughters disappointment if she could only get a peek inside my head at the plan I was devising for this little fellow, but like a good father, I shook that thought out of my head and purchased the old fashioned, tried-and-true, snap trap.

I entered the battleground and found his most likely route of travel considering the sighting I had the night before. I set the snap trap and started to place the bait in position. My bait of choice is peanut butter as I’ve actually had more success with it than using the traditional cheese. As I placed the peanut butter, I accidently triggered the trap, which immediately earned its name and reputation by snapping down on my thumb causing significant pain (and an equal amount of embarrassment) . . . mouse - 1, daddy – 0. My daughter would smile.

Finally the trap was successfully, if not painfully, set and positioned. Now all I had to do was wait patiently. The next day, anxious to see the bounty of my strategic planning and positioning, I took a quick look at the trap. Unfortunately, what I saw made me realize I was battling no ordinary mouse. This mouse was clearly battle tested and wise to the ways of the snap trap. But not only was the trap not triggered, the peanut butter had been licked clean. Finally, adding insult to injury, the little rodent left evidence that it was him that had stolen by the bait. I’ll spare you the details of the evidence, but let’s just say it rhymes with “house scoop”. Yes, he essentially took my bait and left a signed statement on how he felt about my battle plan . . . mouse – 2, daddy – 0. My daughter would now be laughing.

Unfortunately for our arrogant little visitor and two of his friends, a series of four traps, set with staggered bait of peanut butter, cheese, and honey was too much to resist and I was rewarded with the sound of victory late one night, a loud “SNAP” from behind the piano as I slowly slipped into a hazy dreamland of dancing mice with a smile on my face.

So what would I tell my daughter about this battle victory? Like most good daddy’s . . . nothing, of course, but if I am ever forced to tell this tale to my rodent-adoring daughter, I’ll tell her this, I’d be happy to go visit Mickey at his house, but he’d better not come looking for crumbs at ours. daddy – 3, mice – 2, FINAL score

Monday, June 27, 2011

Answering the tough questions

My wife and I just recently celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary. I hesitate to say this, for fear of losing my “Man’s Man Card”, but I still feel like I am on my honeymoon. I am not like many of the sitcoms we watch, I love my wife and every day is a joy and I am a blessed man.

Throughout our marriage, we’ve been intentional about explaining to our children the love associated with a healthy marriage. Our hope is that one day our children will grow up and find that perfect person that will make every day of the rest of their lives happy and fulfilled.

However, to children of a certain age, marriage is a foreign concept.

“Why are you and mommy married?” he recently asked me.

“ Because we love each other and wanted to spend every day with each other,” I responded, full of confidence.

“Every day with a girl?” he asked with a tone that suggested surprise and disgust.

After a little discussion, it was clear that he needed a timeline of how this all happened. My wife explained to him that I was born and then she was born. Now that I think about that conversation, she did put a fairly significant emphasis on the fact that I was born first, but I digress. Then she explained we went to school (a stage he is about to enter), went to college, met, fell in love and got married.

He continued to ask about when he and his sister came into the picture. In an effort to explain how we would prefer it happen, we communicated that you get married, and after you are married you can have children.

Now at this point I am getting a little nervous. Surely he is not going to ask the “How did I get here” question and if so, I am totally not prepared for it. I could feel my stomach tighten and little beads of sweat form on my brow.

To my relief, he went a completely different direction. Tucker, the family dog, and a part of our family, happened to be sitting on his lap during this conversation. And while my wife explained the process of getting married in order to have children, he asked the most obvious question in his little five year old mind, “When did Tucker’s mommy and daddy get married?”


Leave it to the five year old to ask the difficult questions. We went on to explain that only people get married and that children are born out of love. That is when he said the words that make my heart warm, “I love you.” The ideal ending to a potentially challenging conversation and it was navigated perfectly by my wife.

When I look over the last seven years of my life, it hasn’t been all easy, but it has been perfect and I have travelled it with my soul mate. And as a result, when those difficult questions do finally arrive, “Daddy, how did I get here?” I know exactly how to handle them . . . “Go ask you mommy.” Happy anniversary babe!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Think about it for a minute, then go do something.

As I lay in bed one recent evening, about to fall asleep, a piercing alarm shattered the quiet. Even though it was late, I shot out of bed, my feet barely touching the floor as I ran to see where this noise was coming from and turn it off before everyone was awake. Five ear piercing electronic blasts lasting nearly two seconds a piece came from the other end of the house.

Fortunately, the alarm did not wake the kids. Unfortunately, before I could get to the source, the house went silent again. The eardrum splitting alarm was gone. I sat still and quiet, holding my breath as if I could catch the perpetrator if it did not realize I was there; but to no avail, no beep, screech, or alarm was forthcoming.

Now, if you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, you know the dilemma we are now facing. We know that there is a malfunction in one of the many alarms we have in our home and we can probably guess it is a dead battery, but without being next to it, we can’t tell which one it is. We also know that this isn’t probably the last time this alarm wails, history tells us that we can expect more to follow. Going to bed now would be pointless, we need to formulate a plan to conquer this problem.

So my wife and I developed a strategic system to figure out which alarm was the culprit. She positioned herself in one room under an alarm and I was near another. I know this isn’t the most sophisticated system, but it was almost midnight, what do you expect? Five minutes went by, then ten, and soon I lost my focus and started wandering the house. Recognizing my wandering as weakness, it was then that the mystery alarm momentarily revealed itself. My wife rushed out of the room she was in and said, “It wasn’t that one, was it yours?”

Unfortunately, because I was out of position, I still could not tell which alarm was the culprit. I sheepishly shrugged.

“What do you mean you don’t know, you were sitting right next to it!?!?”

I explained that I had wandered and she said, “You left your post?” in a tone that sounded more like hurt astonishment than question.

I knew at this point that the mystery was now mine to own. I positioned myself near an alarm to continue the process of elimination. Another half hour passed before the squeal let loose and we were able to identify the exact alarm. I dutifully climbed up on a chair and changed out the battery. Now you may be asking yourself at this point, why didn’t you just change all the batteries? Well, good question, but my simple response is that I only had one new battery remaining and I didn’t want to run to the store at midnight to buy new nine volts. Unfortunately, this decision was moot as it turned out not to be a battery problem at all. In fact, when I was changing the battery, it set off all of the smoke alarms, including the one’s the children’s room. Our daughter, somehow, didn’t wake (oh, how we’d all love to sleep that heavy again, right?). Our son woke up and in a worried voice said, “Mommy, what’s happening?”

“The smoke alarms are going off and we’re trying to figure out how to turn them off,” she calmly responded.

As he drifted back off to sleep, he simply said, “Well, think about it for a minute and then go do something,” great advice for so many problems.

After more than an hour of wrestling with the mystery, we eventually just had to turn off the breaker to the alarms completely to fix the problem (before I get an inbox full of warnings, we went out and bought a battery operated smoke detector to use until we get this situation fixed, thanks for your concern). Our alarms still don’t work properly, but don’t worry, I am going to think about this problem for a minute and then I’ll go do something.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stumbling into responsibility . . . literally.

My wife and I recently decided to give my son more responsibility around the house, I mean seriously, the kid is five and bringing in absolutely zero income into our household, it’s about time he contributes something, right? All kidding aside, we have been kicking around the idea of giving him more chores in order to give him a sense of responsibility.

We started with some simple chores, picking up his room (a traditional childhood chore that I never seemed to fully grasp) and cleaning all the window sills once a week. He has been tremendously successful doing that, in fact, the windows have been looking wonderfully due to his diligence. Even better, he has done this work with minimal coercion on our part and minimal complaining on his.

Knowing that his success offered us an opportunity to expand his responsibilities even further, we decided to offer a more serious chore – taking care of the family dog, Tucker. Now, this was potentially tricky, you see, his failure to complete this daily task would result in more work for me. For example, forgetting to take the dog out one day would inevitably lead to Tucker having an “accident” on our bed which would result in major cleaning in the Ryerson household. So you can imagine my trepidation on this next step, although his track record with new chores was excellent.

I pondered this increased work load as I cleaned out the barn. From our barn, I could see the front door of the house and at about that time, I heard the front door slam shut. I looked up and watched my growing boy step down from the front porch and slowly make his way toward the barn. He crossed the yard and came to the small kiddie pool that we had filled earlier in the day as a cool treat for the children. As he passed the pool, he reached down to dip his hand into the water. Somehow, this pushed his little frame off balance; he stumbled, tripped, and started falling in the opposite direction, away from the pool until he was almost ten feet from his original position of stooping to reach the water.

As I watched, I was tickled by the fact that this all seemed to be happening in slow motion. However, this wasn’t the end of the entertainment. In an effort to regain his balance, he overcompensated and started stumbling back toward the pool. Trying to get his feet back under him, he moved his legs quicker as his head moved further forward. By the time he closed the distance back toward the pool, he was in what appeared to be a swan dive position and he went right over the lip of the pool head first into it. Despite the pool being only inches deep, our son seemed to completely submerge himself into the water. Standing up completely soaked and not realizing I was watching he muttered, “Awww man!” and then started laughing at himself.

This is when I realized that we had done something right. Despite the fact he was soaked, he was humble enough to get a chuckle out of the ridiculous situation. When he saw me laughing in the barn, he laughed even harder. Taking care of the dog should be no problem and if he fails from time to time, I should take a lesson from my son and be humble enough to clean up the mess.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The voice of an angel and a voice that is not.

My daughter has the voice of an angel. Of course I say that because she is my daughter. However, she is two years old and any two year old singing, “Jesus Loves Me”, sounds like an angel. She sings all the time and when she doesn’t know a song, she makes up her own. She seems to be developing into a little song bird. I believe she gets this skill and interest from my wife. My wife also has a beautiful voice. Now I know what you are thinking, “Matt, you have to say that because she is your wife.” True. However, others have confirmed this fact as she has been in church choirs for many years, so half of our family of four is musically gifted.

The other half of the family . . . well, let’s just say we have “other” gifts. In fairness, my son doesn’t have a bad singing voice, he just seems disinterested. Every night, we read a book, sing a song, and say our prayers and he seems least interested in singing a song. My hope is that he did not receive the ear for music that his father has. You see, I am not a good singer. To be completely candid, that statement is not completely accurate, it is actually an overstatement of my skills.

To show you just how bad I am, I’ll share a story. When I was in high school, I tried out for the school choir. I was a senior and had enough credits to graduate and I didn’t want to take an additional study hall, so I signed up. Although, deep in the recesses of my mind I believed that it was possible I had some untapped talent that could be released in this class. Once I joined the class, I sang my heart out, I held nothing back. Apparently, holding back is exactly what I should have been doing.

After about three days in the choir, the instructor asked me to stay after class. I thought for certain she was going to offer me my first breakout role and give me a solo in the upcoming school musical. So you can imagine my surprise when she said, “Matt, we are glad you joined choir, but we are going to ask you to . . . well . . . we’d prefer it if you didn’t sing.”

“But this is choir, that’s what you do in choir, SING!” I said in astonishment.

“Yes, that is what makes this so hard,” the instructor responded sheepishly, and she walked away.

I remember storming out of the choir loft believing that she was nuts. I even went home and tape recorded myself and played it back to hear what she was listening to in order to confirm my beliefs. However, after some time I started to realize, wow, I am really not a very good singer. In fact, the more I listened, the worse it got. How had I become so disillusioned?

As you might imagine, I have become hypersensitive to this issue and probably fall on the Simon Cowell side of critical when listening to those around me. So rest assured, if you have the opportunity to hear my wife or daughter sing, you will be blessed, they have voices of angels. On the flip side, don’t sit in front of me at church, praise and worship might just be painful.