Archive for November, 2009

Election Day

Election Day is a personal favorite of mine. It is a holiday like any other around the Ranchero Deluxe. This probably stems from the fact that when I was a young college student, I was a Political Science major (still am, come to think of it, due to Metro State’s crazy do-it-yourself major, but the classes are long over with) and would volunteer to drive other students to the polls. We go every year – even the off years. I remember taking Chloë with us just after she turned three, in her little red overalls.

Last year was a banner election year. Not only was the man, Barack Obama, elected, but we learned that morning that little Xavier was on the way. To celebrate the election, we went to breakfast after voting. We also had a little party that evening while watching the results come in.

Team Wonderful, back when we were young:


We were into that election. We spent the first night of our honeymoon watching the Presidential debate and eating french fries from room service.

This year was a bit more relaxed. We took the kids before Chloë had school. The only thing on the ballot were a couple of school referendums. I took Chloë up with me when I voted and showed her how to do it. Although by the time she is of voting age, you’ll probably just think about who you want to vote for and some supercomputer will scan your brain and count your vote.


At first we were a bit hesitant to ask someone to take our picture, but then we realized that anyone actually voting on the off year of off years would be exactly the type of person that would appreciate a family picture at the polls.

Everyone got a sticker, but Xavier thought that his was a snack, so I had to confiscate it eventually.


The fun continued after the voting – Dan gave Rex-Goliath his first driving lesson. Yep. We are totally the type of responsible citizens that you want determining the fate of our society. Good thing we remember to vote.



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Halloween was a lovely evening this year. We have a tradition. It works nicely. We share Halloween with Lauri (Chloë’s mom). This year was our year to host and provide a Hot Adult Beverage (Buttered Rum Apple Cider!). She was to provide pizza and Chloë’s costume. Next year, we will switch responsibilities. Halloween occurring on a Saturday made things particularly laid-back – we were able to get started early and everyone could sleep in the next day. Normally Elizabeth joins us, but alas, she is growing up and chose to spend the evening with her boyfriend instead of us. Pout. We knew it would happen eventually. True love is much more important than family merriment.

We started off by carving pumpkins, which we also do every year. The kids are still at the point where carving pumpkins is a better idea in theory than in practice – there is some frustration involved. To keep Rex-Goliath away from knives, I purchased a little set that allowed him to hammer pegs into his pumpkin and stick little bats and stars on it. He found this somewhat interesting. Chloë made a skull pumpkin. Once she got over the initial squeamishness about pumpkin guts, she carved a quite professional-looking pumpkin. She is quite the perfectionist, and it showed in her product.
I wish I had pictures of the actual carving process (it involved a nice series of everyone, including the baby, balancing a small pumpkin on their head). Our house has a small Halloween curse – our camera often malfunctions on the 31st of October. Compared to all of the curses that one could have (eternal sleep until being kissed by a prince, for example), camera death on Halloween seems somewhat mild. Dan was able to fix the camera by talking to it encouragingly and offering it one of the Hot Adult Beverages. It agreed to take pictures, but it still refused to give up the first twenty or so pictures of the day. But you didn’t really want to see a series of pictures of all of us with a pumpkin on our head anyway.
This year, after an inspired trip to the thrift store, Chloë decided to be an angel.

Rex-Goliath, due to the Thomas the Tank Engine obsession, was a train conductor.


Xavier was a Halloween Baby. He was a little tuckered out by the time Trick-or-Treating was about to get underway, but still agreed to pose for a picture.


Okay… Here we go.


The best thing about our building is that Bill and Carol (who have 15 or 16 kids between them) are in charge of handing out candy. Bill has an amazing costume that he dons every year. We were lucky enough to capture it on film and share it with the world:


We are lucky in the fact that the kids are young, and one go around the block is good enough for them. This year, Rex-Goliath actually participated in the candy gathering. He enjoyed himself, but was a bit apprehensive about going to the house with zombies coming out of the front lawn. I couldn’t fault him too much, I often avoid zombies when given the option.


Princess Pug came along for the walk about the hood as well. Thanks to my friend Ashlee, queen of thrifting, she had many costumes to select from. Although I was partial to Elvis or the pirate, the Lovely Lady dress stayed on the best (by “the best,” I mean it needed adjusting only every five minutes or so). Next year I might dress her in something a little more fierce, however. One of the neighborhood dogs seemed to think that just because P. Puggs was dressed as a Lovely Lady, she was a dog that could be messed with. Puggy thinks she is much tougher than her fourteen or so pounds will allow her, however. She barked very loud and sure showed that dog. That and was saved by the dog’s owner who grabbed him right before he disemboweled her.


All and all, Halloween was good times for Team Wonderful. We’ll probably do it again sometime.


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Not Working is the New Working

As of last Friday, October 30th, my employment as the chef of the Minnesota Humanities Center came to an end.

I was informed of the decision to eliminate my position on the Tuesday of the previous week, and my emotional ride pretty much ran a full course in the week and a half I had to fill out my job duties, and help in the limited way I could transition the remaining staff to life with no chef at the helm running a full service conference center with now only two people in the kitchen and… well, it was a pretty big surprise to take in. Shock, bitterness, melancholy, ennui – all the standards. On this first Monday of unemployment, I’m sitting here feeling pretty okay about the whole thing.

As to the why – to make a long story short, the organization was dealing with a budget shortfall, and my job was a casualty of filling the gap. The meeting/conference industry has been down 40% the last year, and our place followed that trend. The board of directors wouldn’t approve next year’s budget without zeroing out the income and expense equation, and, well, here we are. My chunk of the expense pie was a pretty big piece, and the simplest one (on paper) to cut out of the conference center budget. The more time I’ve had to think about, the more I think this explanation is the real one. No rational mind makes this decision unless forced to – they acknowledged to me that nobody knew how it was going to work without me there. I have some idea, but, enough said.

All in all it’s not a complete surprise – I’ve known that things were shaky for some time, but still… it’s always a bit of a shock when things like this happen. I’ve got some severance, and my health insurance will be affordable for the next 6 months, so there is no looming disaster on the home front. We’ve got plans B, and C, and we here at Team Wonderful are pro at making lemonade out of lemons, so everything will work out for the best – that much is pretty well assured.

Besides this, all in all, I’ve got little negative to harp on about in life. My kids are attractive and healthy, my wife is beautiful and good to me, and I’ve a few dollars in the bank to help us transition to whatever we’ve got coming around the bend. Also Dragon Age: Origins comes out tomorrow. Little blessings yaknow.

On to the future I guess.

– Mr. Wonderful

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7th Annual Celebration of Chloë’s Birth

On October 7th, 2002, Chloë dropped through the ceiling of the home of her mother and I, and we like to celebrate that occasion once a year. I don’t think that it’s a unique practice, so everybody reading this is probably familiar with the idea, if nothing else. Maybe you even do it yourself, in fact, and if not, maybe you could give it a shot – it’s kind of fun!

You get to do things like make fun notes to send to people, inviting them to bring their own little selves to the jamboree.

You can invite anybody you’d like, too. For a beginner, I’d think about sticking to people you know, and maybe the people you know that you think might like to come. An advanced strategy is to invite people you don’t know, but would like to; for example, say, Carla Bruni. This might not work as well.

We kept it simple and invited family, and friends. Even so, sometimes you can be surprised by who shows up.

Usually when you have a celebration, especially if there are people at it, it’s a good idea to have something to do. A good strategy is to do a thing that people enjoy. For instance, instead of sitting down and trying to be very quiet try making a shitload of noise and jumping like a space ape.

Well, woo. Dang that’s a pretty good workout. Maybe it’d be a good idea to have a nice snack. Like cake, a cake is a nice idea for a get-together of this sort. Also you could try: a big cracker, a vat of oatmeal, or even a large piece of ice. Whatever you serve for your snack, don’t forget to start it on fire! Now we’re having a fricken party!

Pro-tip: Put out the fire before you eat your snack.

Here is a kicker, and pretty much the best part of trying out a birthday celebration. Most people are so happy to be there that they actually bring you something, something that they think you might like. A gift of sorts. And you might notice that people come prepared to offer an activity of their own – a lot of times the thing people bring for you will be wrapped in paper that you, get this, TEAR OFF. God bless it, that is a fun idea.

By this point, you’ve probably had enough fun. In fact, you probably want nothing more than to exile your guests and crash. Don’t get crabby though, and above all, don’t start a fight.

I hope these suggestions help you if you want to try your own celebration. We here at Team Wonderful have a lot of good ideas.

– Mr. Wonderful

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