Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Sucks for Grown Ups

The wife and I really spoiled ourselves this year for Christmas. We spent close to $1,000 on gifts for each other.

Anyone care to guess what we got each other? If you guessed an Xbox One, a Coach purse and designer boots, you’re dead wrong.

Nope, we lavished ourselves with a new set of tires for our Nissan Sentra. A gorgeous new garbage disposal. And, tomorrow, the overhead door repairman is coming to install a new spring so our garage door can raise and lower again! Merry Christmas indeed!

Four new Cooper tires! Merry Christmas to me. What's worst than having to put new tires on a car? Putting them on a car you want to get rid of.

In all seriousness, a good portion of our Christmas budget was eaten up by these unforeseen expenses. It adds up to this, Christmas sucks when you grow up.

Clark, that there is a Badger 1/2hp disposal. 
The icing on the cake was catching the 24-hour stomach bug on Dec. 23. That threw a huge monkey wrench in our plans. We spent hours preparing the house for a Christmas Day dinner for Tiffany’s family that never happened.

On a good note, Linus didn’t catch the bug. We considered that a huge win considering how much time we spent in the bathroom with fluids spilling forth from our various bodily orifices.

Ahh, to be young again. A week plus off of school, holiday parties with friends, gifts you didn’t have to pay for in reciprocal gifts, dinners you didn’t have to cook, turkeys and hams that didn’t need buying, cleaning that mom and dad took care of. All I want for Christmas next year is a time machine.

In all seriousness, Linus really enjoyed Christmas this year. Next year, the Santa frenzy will be amped up even more. I enjoyed watching him have fun this year. I was especially proud to hear him say “Tank you” after opening a gift.

I hope your holiday season was a little more relaxing. If not, take joy in the folks who are blissfully unaware as to how much work goes into Christmas.

Monday, December 16, 2013

What are Jomers?

It has been well documented on here that 1) I like pants and 2) we don't make any money with this blog. And this post will continue that theme. However, it's not really all about us here... except for most of the time when it is. Anyway, with the holidays fast approaching I wanted to drop a quick plug for a new up and coming company that's re-evaluating the fashion industry and the pretense that all articles of clothing should have a base price of $100 (or more). So, say "Hello" to Jomers.

Jomers Pants
Don't these pants look inviting?

Jomers is built on making quality American-Made pants without charging an arse-load to get in them. The business model is simple: Keep margins low and Customer Service high. Repeat. Seems pretty simple. So instead of just paying for a brand name, you are actually paying for the goods & service behind them. It's like  a 2 for one special.

Ok, so you are now assuming that I have been granted pants for life by writing this. You are incorrect. In fact I don't own a pair (yet). I'll be purchasing a pair with my own money here shortly and will be sure to report back on my findings. In the meantime, just go buy some.

Pants are fun.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Your Prostate Can Thank Me Later

If you've followed the blog for a while, you know we have some issues with our facial hair. We also have issues with our prostates. This makes a deep run into Movember (or even no-shave November for the uncultured among you) a forgone conclusion. John recently gave his status, so I thought I'd catch you up on my progress.

November 1 - It's the final countdown. 
Much like every month, I just let my beard grow until I start looking like a hobo (I do have a job after all, and the missus doesn't exactly have a drifter fantasy). Then I get a haircut, trim my beard all the way down, and start the vicious cycle all over. For this year's Movember I decided to have a little fun and actually cut down to an honest-to-goodness mustache.

Went with the goatee in between. 
About this time I realized I had a lot more neck/chins than the last time I fully shaved. The last time I went all skin-faced, my current wife and then girlfriend said, basically, that if I ever did that again I'd be staying in a motel until it grew back. So this time I decided to leave some handlebars.

You know, tastefully.

And just for the weekend.

Because - based on the wife's reaction - the next time I try this, I'll be staying in a motel until it grows back.

For all of your trucking needs.
C'mon people, let's not waste this disturbing opportunity. Get out there and sign up for info, donate to the cause, and encourage your doctor to go ahead and drop a digit to save your life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Turkey Rant

Every year about this time I get fed up... with Christmas. You mean the holiday that comes AFTER Thanksgiving and it's not even Thanksgiving yet? Yes, that one. What gets my gravy boiling is the opening of stores on Thanksgiving Day,the most family friendly day of the year. It pulls people away from their families and completely nullifies the entire spirit of the Holidays.

I was at my in-laws last night and the topic came up. See, my Mother-in-law works part-time at Barnes & Noble in a mall. She sees it every year and luckily B&N is closed on Thanksgiving. However, opening the next day at 5am isn't much of a consolation prize for the workers. So during our conversation last night a great point was made by my Mother-in-law. If the customers wouldn't fall for these limited time deals, stores wouldn't have to open. And that was just it... The stores can only be blamed so much for being open, having no morals, and not caring for their employees' families. If consumers wouldn't act like brainless neanderthals when trying to save an extra buck, would the stores be open? And God forbid, what if no one lined up outside a store?

So it got me thinking, Why do people act like complete idiots, disregarding family, budget, and (sometimes) physical well-being to get a "deal"?

  • Is it our innate hunter-gatherer make up? Doubtful, we are aren't getting a deal on a Turkey and our families typically have enough food in the pantry to get by. 
  • Do we actually need what we are buying? No. At the end of the day, and if your TV goes out in April, you'll just buy another TV. You won't wait until November.
So what is it? Well, I think it's a bunch of stuff that I'm sure a psychiatrist could better explain, but in lay terms, it comes to two things:
  1. Some people strive on competition. They have to be the best of the best when it comes to certain things. They live for the rush of beating someone to the finish line, or iPad in this scenario. If they could just get the same rush from hanging out with loved ones...
  2. People like to brag about how much more awesome they think they are than you. So, while you were schlepping it and playing cards with your family after Thanksgiving dinner, somebody way cooler than you was out getting a deal on a Kindle and will then have no problems posting it on Facebook to prove their awesomeness.
So there you have it. If I offended anyone by suggesting that spending time away from your family and in-turn making people work on your behalf is a bad thing, so be it and enjoy your new TV.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Justin Timberlake, Still Bringing It Back

Although I'm not what you'd call an avid concert goer (my last one was 2011), I do enjoy a good show, especially on the cheap. The missus was fortunate enough to win some concert tickets to the Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience tour, and wasted no time letting me know just how excited I was to get to go with her to it. I was a little skeptical, but I obliged.

I still miss you, Simba.
The first thing I noticed actually happened hours before the concert. Facebook was straight blowing up with almost every 25-45 year old woman I knew in St. Louis talking about going to the concert. This was promising to be a cougar convention for the record books, and it did not disappoint. I'd estimate that 80% of the attendees fit the Courtney Cox Arquette-type. It was like a wedding where every guest was a drunken, single bridesmaid.

And an hour after the concert was meant to start, JT took the stage and you could simultaneously feel all of them going through puberty all over again. And that was before he entered the audience.

You know, on a floating stage thing.

We're lucky more ladies didn't slip.
The most interesting thing about this show was that it was a concert that wasn't even remotely about music. Just about the only time people sang along was when he belted out Bel Biv Devoe's Poison. Every other time he encouraged St. Louis to carry the chorus, St. Louis just sort of looked at each other like "we didn't know there was gonna be a quiz." Every one there was there to watch him dance. And dance he did.

He went on for 3 full hours and miraculously didn't even pit out his "Suit and Tie S*it." Speaking of sh--, he tried really hard to be grown up. Some full frontal on the jumbo-tron (not him), a bunch of swearing (where he sounded like the sort of person who doesn't do a lot of swearing). I'm sure this thrilled all of the parents who brought their pre-teens. Regardless, it was a great show. He's an entertainer.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Movember Update

Where is this mustache taking me?
Great news everyone. I have a mustache. Not just some barely-there, fly by night, wispy hair thing. Its a fuzzy caterpillar below my nose. And I've noticed two things carrying it around with me. People will stare and people will ask questions. So far my favorite question has come from my boss. She was gone for the first week of growth and when I walked into her office, she said "Now this (pointing to her upper lip)... Is this on purpose?"

Now most self-conscious people would take this as an insult... However, I took that opportunity to explain to her the whole Movember movement, about how men's health isn't just a magazine, and why the cause is important to me. Since then, I've had similar questions and it felt great to explain why I'm doing this have chosen to look like Tom Selleck.

So now that we are fully engaged in the month, I'm gonna do something I've never done to the blog audience, sign up online and make yourself aware of some of the issues that face today's man. You can join my "sub-team" under the mothership of the Midwest Mustache Alliance (more on them later). If you want to donate money, great. Please do, but just signing up means a lot. It means you care enough about men's health issues and want to do something about it.

Now, as mentioned before, go check out the boys over at the Midwest Mustache Alliance. they've teamed up with a couple of organizations that are offering some Movember goodness.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Moustaches and Men's Health

It's Fall, there is a nip in the air, the leaves are changing, and urinating outdoors isn't as easy to do with gloves on. One way men acclimate to the plummeting temperatures is growing out a beard to cut the bite of the air. Well, to those men (and to the closely shorn too) I ask that you maybe you reconsider your faces for the Month of November and go all MOvember on it.

What is Movember? Its a month to raise awareness for Men's Issues.

Living with and Beyond Cancer
Men living with prostate or testicular cancer have the care needed to be physically and mentally well.

Staying Mentally Healthy, Living with and Beyond Mental Illness
    •   Men are mentally healthy and take action to remain well
    •   When men experience mental illness they take action early
    •   Men are not treated differently when they experience a mental illness

Men's Health Research
We will fund innovative research that builds powerful, collaborative teams that accelerate:
    •   Improved clinical tests and treatments for prostate and testicular cancer
    •   Improved physical and mental health outcomes for men

Its also an opportunity to grow a sweet lip sweater.

So, with that I (John of the SFA) am pledging to be on board with the MOvember movement. And furthermore, the SFA is teaming up with the Midwest Moustache Alliance to help spread the word here in the heartland of America.

So, in the next few days & weeks, we'll be doing some cool stuff. We hope you can follow along, get yourself educated about your junk, and possibly grow out the whiskers under your nose. We'll ask for your money later.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What's the Deal With Cartoons These Days?

We’ve been watching a lot of cartoons around here lately.

As my brain absorbs snippets of animated goodness here and there, I’ve noticed a few things. First off, where the crap did all these cartoons come from?

Growing up, we were lucky to catch the few hours of cartoons every Saturday morning. Even then, a 30-minute show was more like 10 minutes of actual show with all the commercial time. (Remember the animated X-Men show? That was the worst when it came to commercials.)

Ahh...the 90s X-Men cartoon was the best. Who cares you only got about 10 actual minutes of show time with all the commercials? We were learning an important lesson -- delayed gratification.

Tiffany informed me there’s some new law where networks aren’t allowed to inundate children with commercials during certain hours. Instead, there’s a PSA, like look at this good boy making his bed, every 20 minutes or so. Even then, the PSAs are about 30 seconds. Why didn’t my congressman care to protect me from rampant commercialism when I was a child?

With Charter, we have seven (SEVEN!!) channels that play cartoons/kids’ shows all day long. That’s not even counting on-demand and Netflix.

That said, I’ve noticed a few trends with today’s cartoons. I could be wrong, but things seem more outlandish. Here are a few examples.

Rolie Polie Olie

I'm not even sure what this show is about. All I know is "Winky Ball" sounds dirty.

I was checking email one morning when my subconscious picked up this little gem from “Rolie Polie Olie.” Apparently they play something called Winky Ball in this show. Olie was a bit distraught about the upcoming game. Here’s a direct quote.

“I’ve been winked the last 15 games straight. I don’t want mom and dad to see me wink out again.”During the exchange, Olie is speaking to his grandpa, who comforts him by revealing that Olie’s dad has the longest wink out slump ever.

Is it just me, or is there a bit of innuendo here? Couldn’t they have gone with a better name than Winky Ball? I’d assume baseball is the closest sport to Winky Ball. Still, in baseball, you don’t “base out.” Nor do you get “based.”

Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Clearly Jake uses a lot of hair gel. Wonder where pirates keep their gel? I'd keep mine by the barrel of oranges for scurvy prevention -- you know, in the "essentials" area of the ship's hold.

Ah, Disney’s Peter Pan spin-off. Though it’s been watered down significantly.

For starters, Captain Hook is less of an evil nemesis and more of a bumbling distraction. (More on the watering down of bad guys later.)

Next, Jake’s sword is wooden. C’mon! In one episode, he was singing a song about what all he could do with his sword. As he sung about cutting vines with it, my clever wife declared, “I doubt it, since it’s made of wood. Maybe you could start a campfire with it.” Kudos.

Throughout every episode, Jake and his crew get gold doubloons for doing good deeds. I have a few issues with this. First, the gold doubloons appear out of nowhere. More disconcerting though – are we teaching children every good deed should come with the expectation of monetary compensation?

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

And, there's Pete, looking all evil. In the cartoon, he's more of an inconsiderate friend.

Ah, our favorite. My biggest gripe involves Pete.

Pete used to be a bad guy. His Wikipedia entry includes Attila the Hun and Blackbeard as part of his ancestry.

In Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, he’s inconsiderate at best. In one episode, Pete steals some crystal statues from Mickey. When the gang catches up with him in a secret jungle temple, he deploys some fairly nefarious traps.After bypassing the traps, Mickey and the crew finally catches up with him. He has some terrible excuse about just wanting the see the crystal statues up close because they’re so pretty. Mickey seems to forget that he was nearly killed by his shenanigans. “Awww, shucks Pete.”

C’mon!! He’s a bad dude. Don’t let him off that easily. At the very least, stop inviting him to the costume parties, talent shows and other soirees. But, nope, there he is in every episode, doing clearly evil things that are shrugged off every time.

Oh, also what’s with the Toodles? Every time you have a serious problem, you should just hit the easy button and the perfect solution just appears?

All right, enough griping. "Sophia the First" is on and she appears to have a serious ice swan problem. I need to watch this.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Finally, A Cell Carrier That Delivers

Two years is a long time. 

In 24 months, you could have two more children. You could be almost halfway to owning a new car. Or, two years could solidly place you in your "mids" (30s, 40s, 50s).

Yet, if you want preferred pricing on a new cell phone, that's what the major carriers demand -- two years. My previous two-year contract seemed like an eternity. I won't mention the carrier's name. Let's just say their network speed is pretty well the antithesis of their namesake.

In March, we jumped to Verizon. They advertise the largest 4G LTE network (or something like that). It's no joke.
We both went with the iPhone 5 when we switched to Verizon. If you have an iPhone, you should check out Magpul's awesome line of cases. I got this one for around $10 on Amazon. They have a selection of colors.

When we were debating carriers, I did a lot of research. AT&T and Verizon were the front runners. I travel quite a bit for my job. Nothing frustrates me more than being at a press event and not being able to Tweet a photo.

In St. Louis, we're spoiled. It's a fairly major market, so any major carrier should have pretty good data coverage. Once you leave this glowing metropolis by the river, you start to notice how good a network actually is.

When driving along interstates, LTE coverage is pretty well 99% with Big Red. That's great for streaming Pandora or Spotify. It will be even better when we road trip out to New York City next year and Linus is able to watch Netflix the entire way on a tethered iPad. By the way, tablet tethering is free on Verizon.

"But wait! Don't you have a data cap on Verizon? I've got unlimited data with Carrier XYZ."

Yes, I do -- 4GB. I had unlimited data with my last carrier. Unfortunately the 3G speed was so slow, it would have taken dogged determination to push past 2 GB in a month's time. Also, Verizon has a handy account manager app. You can add a couple gigs quite easily for the same price as the next-tier plan. So, no price gouging on extra data unless you run over accidentally.
Verizon's app makes it easy to manage your account and check data usage.

So, how fast is Verizon's LTE? If you've got an LTE signal, you should get a minimum of 5 MB/sec download speeds (though I've seen as fast as 31MB/s). That's in St. Louis, or anywhere else with LTE coverage. And like I said, unless you're in a fairly rural area, LTE is there. I even have a strong LTE signal in my hometown of Rolla, Mo.

Proof that I've seen LTE speeds of more than 31 MB/s. The WIFI indicator is in the upper left because I took the screen capture at home, while connected to the WIFI network.

Anyhow, the next time you're looking to lock yourself into a two-year contract, remember, that sweet new device will only perform as good as the network allows. Samsung, HTC, Apple or Blackberry (Seriously though, ditch the Blackberry. It's 2013, not 2005.) -- they all work well when your data is clicking along at WIFIesque speed.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hands-Free Compliance on a Budget

Living in Illinois comes with certain challenges.

Along with paying higher tax rates, we must frequently deal with whatever "progressive" laws Chicago politicians choose to foist upon us. Recently, our wonderful governor signed a law that, as of Jan. 1, 2014, makes it illegal to drive and talk on a cell phone. Hands-free Bluetooth devices are allowed, however.

Anyone with kids knows cell phones are pretty well a daily necessity. Should I get dinner? Are you picking up the boy? Don't forget, we have that thing on Saturday.

Lots of short conversations from moving vehicles are the grease in the wheel of life. So, the cell phoning must go on.

Problem is my car is a 2006 Nissan Sentra. Seven years is like a century in cell phone technology. Back then, Bluetooth was a slang term for the earpieces Wall Street types were wearing.

In the olden days, car stereos could be swapped with ease. The hole in the dash was pretty much standard across the board. Today, plastic has opened up a world of possibilities for designers. The right dash kit makes all the difference.

So, I needed a Bluetooth capable radio in the Sentra. I think the first violation for "cell phoning while driving" is around $75. At that rate, the payback would be snappy.

On previous cars, I've used Best Buy and Walmart for my car audio upgrades. This time I turned to Crutchfield at my uncle's recommendation.

If you’ve got an audio project in the works (and some inkling on how to wire an electronic device), you need to check out Crutchfield. At their site, tell them what kind of car you have, and they’ll tell you what will fit.

The total cost for the project was around $130. I paid for the radio and they tossed in the dash kit and the wiring harness. At Best Buy, those two add-ons were $20 apiece. A car audio specialty shop wanted $70 for the dash kit and wiring harness. (But, hey, they'd install it for $1!)

Crutchfield charged me $129 for the radio and tossed in the dash kit (black plastic piece) and the wiring harness. That's about a $50 value. 

Plus, Crutchfield tossed in install instructions and free 3-day shipping. If you’re on a budget, like most families are, you should definitely check it out. I saved at least $50 on the project.

Here's why you need a wiring harness. If you don't have the proper one, you can wire it by snipping the end off each wire and reconnecting it. Doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun, does it?
Oh, and one more thing. I ordered an extra wiring harness because I was paranoid the one they included wouldn’t work. When I went to return it, they sent an email saying they’ll refund me the $15, just keep the harness. Awesomeness on top of awesomeness!

My favorite part of the new radio: I can hit the phone button and Siri asks me what I want. No more touching my phone while driving. (And, yes, I waited for Nirvana to scroll by just so you could see how cool I am.)

Friday, August 23, 2013

A St. Louis Take on the Chicago Hot Dog

Next week, we have a Man's Guide to Hot Dogs coming your way. Here's one of my favorite hot dog recipes to get you pumped up for that.

This is my take on the Chicago-style hot dog. If you've ever been to the Windy City, you've surely noticed the ubiquitous presence of this culinary delight.

This thing is quite the upgrade from your typical hot dog. It can be a bit challenging to eat one of these. Don't worry, if you can handle a burrito from Qdoba or a decked out sub sandwich, you'll manage.

My version doesn't include a poppy-seed bun, relish, sport peppers or celery salt. But, it has the rest of the garden goodies.

I also grill my dogs, rather than boil them. I prefer a crispy casing.

So, grab a pack of your favorite hot dogs (don't worry, we'll tell you what you should be buying next week). Grill em, boil em, microwave em, drop em on the dash on a sunny day ... warm them up somehow.

For your toppings, slice a pickle and carve some wedges out of a tomato. You'll also need to finely chop an onion. (I prefer the Vidalia onion's mellow taste.)

Place the wiener on the bun, and arrange the tomato to one side with the pickle on the other side. Drop the onion down the middle and put some strips of mustard on that bad boy.

Ketchup is pretty much the only thing you're not supposed to put on a hot dog. But, my wife likes to live dangerously, so do whatever makes you happy.

Like I said, for a true Chicago dog, add sport peppers, relish and hit it with a sprinkle of celery salt. It's really an ingenious way to get a serving of veggies in with your tubular meat. Props to our northern neighbors for thinking this thing up.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gold Stars in Heaven

This weekend, due to circumstances beyond my control, we got some new roommates when 4 of my nieces and nephews moved in to our house.

This has led to some lifestyle changes. For one, we need to be more organized.

Not to mention the fact that this army marches on its stomach. These eight sandwiches, 6 mugs of soup, and several pounds of vegetation are now a lunch. For around half the people in our house. Seriously.

Fortunately the new kids are great. The oldest one even has OCD so he likes to help clean. But it's still obviously a lot. I can't decide if I'd rather be Dick Van Patton or funny Rick Majerus.

My biggest concern at present? When hearing about this new lot, everyone mentions that Becca and I have some how earned a reward in heaven. I'm just hoping this isn't going to send me upstairs sooner than I'm ready.

In the meantime, where did that whole bottle of wine suddenly go?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Stuck in My Own Seinfeld Episode

Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry is convinced his dry cleaner is wearing his clothes? 

Well, I have a strong suspicion that one of my suits has mysteriously disappeared at the hands of an unscrupulous dry cleaner. Allow me to explain.

Two weeks ago, my closet revealed it was minus one suit. Since I only own(ed) two, that's a 50% reduction in suitage.

I own a black suit and a gray suit. The gray suit is the one that's currently MIA.

Upon my closet's revelation, I backtracked to the local dry cleaner. According to their records, I last dropped off a suit on February. Since I failed to pick it up within the 90-day period, they got rid of it. (They didn't say if they sold it, took it home or donated it.)

That sounded fishy. I pulled up some work photos, and sure enough, there I am wearing the missing suit on March 13 of this year.
Here I am wearing the gray suit on March 13, 2013. That's my boss, Frank Holdmeyer, on the left. Based on his facial expression, I can tell he's thinking, "That is one good-looking suit."
So, what's with the February claim? Either way, I was over the 90-day time frame.

Digging further in the closet, I noticed the lone black suit still had the claim tag on it. Same cleaner, but it was dated February 2012. A call to the cleaner revealed the records indeed show a drop off on February 2012.

My wife and I called several other cleaners in the area. No one has a record of me dropping off the gray suit.

That's when my wife developed her own theory -- I left the suit in the hotel. It's a good theory. Over the years, I've forgotten a pair of flip flops, an iPad charger, contact lens cleaner and a shirt or two.

Nay, I said. Not this time.

We scoured every closet in the house. Nothing. So, where is my lonely charcoal suit? Good question.

I maintain the cleaners liked what they saw and made it their very own. My wife says there's a 50/50 chance I left it in a hotel room. Either way, it looks like suit shopping is in my near future.

Oh, one more thing. This was a $100 suit separate special at Kohl's. So, it's not like I've lost a $1,000 Armani gem. But, still, for a man who only owns two suits, it's devastating. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Nesting... Again

There are no shortage of children around the hallowed halls of the SFA. Among the 3 of us we have approximately 35 kids. Well, at times it feels like that. However you do the math, it makes for some great stories and some 180+ blog posts. This will not be a great story, but more of a brain dump on what happens to me when we are getting close to baby time.
Gonna need a wider lens for another kid.
So this will be my fourth and final kid. I've paid good money to a doctor to make sure of that. There's a lot going on around the house these days. We closed on our new house in January and we found out we were pregnant 2 days prior to closing. Since then its been a whirlwind of unpacking boxes and getting settled into the new house. What we didn't realize or even think about when moving in was that the two oldest (both girls) were going to room together and would need a larger room to fit all their clothes, beds, and emotions. So, instead of the typical "lets get the baby's room ready" it has turned into "lets move everyone's bedroom to accommodate the small pink room for the baby". So instead of 1 room to get ready, we've had 3 (we had to move my son out of his room). At least we are having a girl and the girls' room was pink to begin with. Hooray for no painting.
Seems quiet... Too quiet.

Clothing and everything else baby... When we had our 3rd kid almost 2 years ago, we were done. No mas. So we did what every other couple would do, give everything away. All the standard baby stuff was not needed anymore: Changing table, High Chair, shoes the size of my ear... All gone. So there was a small freak out session of not knowing where the F we would get all this stuff. We really weren't up on the idea of buying all new baby stuff. Luckily we have been showered with people's leftovers. You know the people that said they were done with kids and actually meant it???? We have been very blessed to have almost 2 of everything now and we have to kind of turn stuff away. So, with this influx of new stuff, it adds some additional stress of "where are we gonna put it all?" This is slowly becoming a non-stress issue, but I am sure we are missing stuff. Like Diapers. We need small diapers!!! Damn it. I'll go to the store this week and get some.

Finally there's me. I usually do something kind of stupid and pointless before a child is born. I am waiting for it to happen. Usually it involves me, booze, a late night, and a bad decision to gamble or almost get my ear cut off . However, I think I have it mitigated that this time. I signed up for my first Olympic distance Triathlon. So, I've always been a runner and last year, I did my first Tri. It was fun. I did one earlier this year but the distance was pretty short. This will be a large test of energy to finish. So hopefully this goal will keep me from doing stupid stuff from here on in.

What I am still amazed with every time we have a baby is how my wife deals with it. The physical stress it has to put on the body is remarkable and how she hasn't disowned me with the first 3 is beyond comprehension.

Oh its a girl. BTW.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Blades of Glory

If there is one thing I wish I would have invested in 20 years ago (when I had no money to invest and lived with my parents) it would have been gold, Google or Apple. Because if I had, I would have so much money I would be able to buy disposable razor blades at will and use them carelessly.

All I want is an affordable close shave
But alas, I am poor and unfortunately I look better with a shorn face (unlike some of us). So, for the last 20 years or so I've been using your typical Gillette Mach Whatever system is out there. I've been buying my razors in Bulk at Sams or Costco. Yes I don't have to buy razors for a year or two but the cost is still pretty obnoxious. It seems that pricing on these blades (that are used 4-8 times) is around $4-5 per replacement. I love my face and all, but that's too expensive.

But who can blame Gillette. There's not much competition other than Schick. But Schick didn't send me a Mach 9 on my birthday so I have no loyalty.

This was all true until about 8 weeks ago. I saw a tweet somewhere offering a free razor to the first 450 people who signed up at some company called Dorco USA. Since I love free stuff (and since no one sponsors this website) I jumped on the opportunity. About 2 weeks later I had totally forgot about signing up, I got my very own Dorco Pace 6 in the mail. It had 6 Blades. S I X. I immediately thought someone had made a mistake:

1) I thought 5 was like the unwritten razor code for limit of blades on a razor head.
2) I was getting about $15 worth of shaving equipment (Handle plus 2 heads).

Well I looked online at this new Dorco company's razors and to my shock and utter disbelief, their razors, even the ones with 6 blades, were significantly cheaper than those of the big names. I wasn't screwing over anyone at those prices. Maybe I'm the one who was getting screwed the last 20 years... In fact, at the time of this post, you can get 24 blades for $30. That's some good 'ol cheap shavin' right there.

So how's the shave? As good as if not better than any other shave. The blades and heads last as long as other brands and I still nick my Adam's Apple weekly. However, I am bleeding happy blood knowing that my skin was cut by a company who doesn't gouge its customers. That last sentence was the best Pun I've ever written.

Ok, so just some house keeping on this article... The only thing I've received from Dorco was a free razor after I signed up online. There was no intent on writing a blog post. Also, I'm not being rewarded in any way for writing this. That's how we operate here at the SFA, for free.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

When the kids are away...

So the fates have intervened and my wife and I are childless until at least Thursday of this week. Which means "staycation."

Rather than waste the week blogging, I'm just going to enumerate the top 10 things I'd like to accomplish while I am sans kids. Some of these I've already done, some are still "to-do."

  1. Sleep totally nude. Even for naps.
  2. Nap.
  3. Work as late as I want to, practices (which are no longer relevant) be damned.
  4. Be as loud as I want to be during... Family Feud.
  5. Decant wine (which will be dinner) in things I wouldn't normally decant wine in.
  6. Watch Family Feud twice in a day.
  7. Grocery shop with my bride.
  8. Eat out every night, even though our pantry is full.
  9. Brush exactly one set of teeth before bed.
  10. Jury duty. Not exactly by choice, on the agenda nonetheless.
What you wild and crazy people do if you didn't have any kids lying around?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Crisis averted, safety assured, idiot left in wake

A long setup wouldn't do justice to my Sunday afternoon, so I'll go ahead and concede that I'm an idiot. Around 1pm I went to pick up my dog from the groomer's and was greeted with a packed up car full of kids and pool gear, let the dog in my house, and hopped in my wife's car to head out for an afternoon of fun and sun.

What I didn't do was turn off my car. I returned three hours later to a car that had stalled itself out on what I can only assume was its own fumes as it filled my garage with exhaust.

What I didn't know was all of that. So when I pulled into my garage and smelled gas and then went into my home and heard the carbon monoxide detector going off, I went outside and called the gas company who called the fire department. I went back inside to let the dog out (he's fine, by the way) and open some windows. Then I went to grab something out of my car and realized what had happened.

On the bright side, even though it was my own stupidity that caused this issue, I still had done all of the right things, like having one of these and calling the gas company at the first sign of trouble (and quite frankly I don't know how long it would have taken to clear my house of enough carbon monoxide to be safe it we didn't have super fireman fans).

Also on the bright side? I warranted at least three extra vehicles on my street.
Sure it was taxpayer money, but it's gotta be my turn, right? 
On the super bright side? Hallie (the only kid home at the time) got a super cute hat and a pretty pimp ride.
Bonus? Hunky local firemen.

Obviously this post is mostly about me being stupid, but please do get a carbon monoxide detector. They are cheap, easy to install, and provide a lot of piece of mind.

Especially if you're a dumbass.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Guide to Monetizing Super Powers

Men of all ages rejoice. Superhero movie season is upon us!

Superheros are great. They have tremendous power. Really cool costumes. And never have to worry about getting mugged if they feel like walking a few blocks off the beaten path to a nearby White Castle.

Yet, I often spend a great deal of time wondering how these tremendous super humans do something that takes up the better half of a dad’s life – make that money and support those kids.

Here’s a critical analysis of how I would monetize a superhero existence. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Yeah, like how to make a boatload of money without being a huge jerk.

The Hulk: The most obvious way would be as a literal weapon of mass destruction. But, how do you ensure the Hulk's rage is directed at this country's enemies? Would the recent NSA revelation be enough to send the green rage monster to Washington? (Did I just move up on NSA's list for writing that?) Since the Hulk's rage is difficult to focus on specific targets, I'd say he's doomed to live a penniless existence. His only hope is he can make enough money as Dr. Banner to support a family.

Batman: You're Bruce Wayne, nuff said.

Superman: I briefly kicked around the idea of staying incognito and playing in the MLB or NFL. They may notice something is up when every at bat results in a baseball-sized satellite. At the very least, they'll test extensively for PEDs. So sports star is out.

Perhaps you could get work as the world's most expensive security guard. No more fooling with Air Force One. "Superman dropped him off," says the dejected secret service detail head. Ah, but maybe the taxpayers wouldn't see the need to pay for the World's Best Security Guard. Or, since you are Superman, maybe your altruistic motives prevent you from taking payment for doing your civic duty.

Maybe you'd end up just like Clark Kent -- working diligently at a daily newspaper office. This may explain why Lois didn't wait for Superman in "Superman Returns."

Iron Man: You’re Tony Stark. Shut up.

Thor: With his ability to conjure lightning bolts, I’d say lightning rod salesman is a no-brainer. Senior citizen balks at the pitch? You never know when or where lightning will….STRIKE!

If that fails, how about the world’s best pawn broker. If he has access to his father’s treasure room, he’d really only need to sell maybe two things to make $1 trillion. I’d sell a set of overly ornate intergalactic dueling pistols. Maybe one to Tony Stark and one to Bruce Wayne. (Yeah, I just mixed Marvel and DC. Deal with it.)

Wolverine: Here's a real potential for making money. Aside from the on-demand adamantium claws, you're a normal looking dude, albeit one that recovers from massive trauma in 0.4 seconds. The obvious route to endless riches is prize fighter. Find a partner in crime to bet on your behalf, toss in a loss every few years and you've got a foolproof path to Manny Pacquiao riches. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Father's Day that wasn't

I would like a do-over... Some might think I am being selfish, but it was Father's Day. The day started off like any other awesome day. I was showered with presents from my children. I got a tie that anyone would be proud to wear in public, a Manchester United Jersey, some fantastic Chocolate covered walnuts, and these two books (which seem worthy of a review at a later date).

These are pretty high quality gifts. I mean one would think it was my birthday or something.

I was about to take my youngest on a walk that morning. This is kind of becoming a morning ritual where we walk for about a quarter mile and then I carry him back a quarter mile. It's fun and I enjoy it thoroughly. Well before set out for our jaunt, we all decided to try the chocolate walnuts...

The boy didn't like them. He spit most of it out after a bite or two and wasn't having it. Then he started coughing, and having trouble breathing, and vomiting, and pretty much freaking out all together.

A side note that this happened last weekend after eating a bite LUNA bar. We went to Urgent Care and then were directed to the ER.

At 20 months old he's the size
of a small European country
Well, this weekend was no different. After a briefing from our neighbor, an RN, we headed off to the ER... again. They did a similar procedure this week and took some x-rays. After seeing a small area of concern, they then sent us to Cardinal Glennon (another Hospital with an other ER) to go see a Pediatric ENT. We got all registered again to make a long story short, everyone int he hospital listened to my little guy's breathing  and they all said he sounded great. Nevertheless we were concerned parents and weren't sure what was going on.

After some discussions with the doctor on staff, he decided that we should go all Innerspace on him and check out his lungs with a little camera. They knocked him out and then went on in to find nothing wrong with him. Phew... kind of.

We were really hoping we could find something to nail down as the source of these issues. However, after doing some investigative research on out own, we found out there were walnuts in that LUNA bar he ate last week. So, we are going with a nut free diet. I feel this will not hurt his chances at a scholarship in a sport.

So, what did you do with your Father's Day?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Date Night Double Dipping

The missus and I have been pretty busy lately. Two full-time jobs, four kids, and lord only knows how many practices and games and oil changes and dentists appointments and everything else we've got to account for. Suffice it to say, but it's been a LONG time since we've gone on a vacation with the family and a very LONG time since just the wife and I have gotten to do anything with just us.

Last weekend, we double-dipped. On both outstanding needs.

First up, we took the whole family "on a vacation" which masqueraded as a soccer tournament for our oldest. His team was good enough to win that weekend and ended up placing second overall.

Unfortunately when it came time to double dip in some hanging out time with just us, our room had been taken over.
I don't even know where to start with this. Or step, for that matter.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and the mother of all those kids had a great idea. Rather than stay in the room and wake the kids up, or head out and risk something going wrong, we just kicked in the bathroom, hotel par-tay style. An extra chair, an iPad with Trivial Pursuit loaded on it, and a hotel ice bucket full of beverages were all we needed to have a great time.

This is not quite 40.
In the end, great weekend, great sporting event, great vacation, AND great date night.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Man's Fishing Trip ... Sort Of

Hot sauce, pork rinds, hot sauce mixed with pork rinds – it started off as a manly camping trip. 

Then the rains came. The same storm that produced three tornadoes in the St. Louis area hit Rend Lake about three hours later.

Here was the scene: eight men were huddled around a campfire trading jokes, farts and fart jokes. Every 10 minutes or so, someone would pull out their phone and check the weather map, which was followed by 5 minutes of intense meteorological debate.

The phrase “pop-up shower” was tossed around. Another similarly unqualified mind discussed the trending jet stream and how this storm was sure to blow northeast of us. But for one, riding it out in the tents was deemed the manly thing to do. The lone ranger was right.

Around 1 a.m. it started. We scurried to our shelters of nylon, tent poles and metal stakes. After about 5 minutes of sheltering in tent, we started to get wet. Grabbing my sleeping bag and pillow, the first step outside was into a shallow creek. Water Runoff 101: don’t pitch a tent on the bottom of a hillside.

That morning, all eight of us awoke in a cabin that was built for three adults and two children – maximum. Ron Swanson would have been disappointed.

The gravity of the storm began to set in as we examined the damage rendered to one of our vehicles. Though I won’t mention names, it was a rough weekend for BEMM in terms of personal property damage. He suffered another blow when a campfire ember made a nickel-sized hole in his fleece.

Tree: 1    Acadia: 0

If a tree falls in the woods, is there an Acadia around to cushion said fall? 

As the rain continued to pour, we decided to head down the road for a bit of breakfast. It was here we invested 75 cents for a prize from the Good Stuff Mix. Upon further examination, we realized we’d been had. Despite overpaying a quarter for our Domo, we came to love him…for the time being.

As you can see, nowhere on the 75-cent prize card is Domo a viable option.
Yet, for only 50 cents, you're guaranteed one of eight Domos.
Not being able to fish, as originally intended, we decided to head to the shooting range and relieve some of our frustration in the manliest way possible. It was here that Domo got his.

After an hour of paper target practice, we hung Domo from a tree limb about 25 yards out. Using a scoped .22, we took potshots at a quarter-sized piece of Chinese plastic. After about 10 rounds, Domo flew from the limb and was never seen again. (We think he met his fate in a watery grave as the range was littered with massive pools of water.)

The last picture of Domo before he was blown to bits.

About 400 rounds later, we headed back to the campsite to clean up the damage. To our surprise, all of the tents were still on the hillside. I’m not sure if it was the metal stakes or the 50 gallons of water in the bottom of each that held them in place.

Joe later won the "cleanest camper" award, as proclaimed by BEMM. He took two showers during the weekend, which was two more than anyone else.

We made one last go at fishing. After a few (small) victories, we made for the cabin and ate another 10+ pounds of red meat.

It was about now that loading up on burgers and brats looked liked a terrific decision.

Before shoving off the next morning, we made a breakfast that would have made Ron Swanson proud. After cooking 3 pounds of bacon, we fried eggs in the resulting two-inch deep vat of bacon grease. Wrapped in a tortilla shell, the bacon, egg and bacon-grease burritos were culinary nirvana.

Words cannot describe how delicious eggs deep-fried in bacon grease are.

Even though the actual fishing portion of the fishing trip was short-lived, it was a good weekend. I highly recommend a testosterone fueled fishing trip every so often. Between the boasts, farts and jokes, we got to catch up on life. For eight guys who used to see each other every day, it was a welcome reprieve from the daily grind.