Perfección en Siete

Step 1: Spread sour cream into small soft taco shell

Step 2: Sprinkle on a layer of cheese

Step 3: Season with cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, and cumin

Step 4: add a spoonful of whole-grain brown rice, ground beef (seasoned with black pepper, garlic, oregano, and chili pepper), and sweet white corn - laid out in parallel (ish) rows

Step five: top with iceberg lettuce, cilantro, and walla-walla sweet onions

Step six: Cover with an additional layer of cheese.

Step seven: Fold over as best as possible and enjoy

(I'd recommend serving with a side of tortilla chips to scoop up whatever toppings spill while eating. Goes great with an ice cold mojito.)


A Desert of the Mind

I’ve been suffering from a severe inspirational drought. Motivation and I have not been friends.

The why and the how this started are unknown to me. It blindsided me and it’s affecting most aspects of my life. I don't want to wake up in the morning. I don't want to go to work. I don't want to enjoy the sunshine outside. I don't want to blog. I don't want to cook. I don't want to.... I still do all of those things (well most of them) but my reason to accomplish anything has more in common with what I must do rather than my own personal desires.

What I really want is to disappear.

It may be the summer heat. My body hates hot weather. It drains my energy and drives me to sit somewhere that is chilled with air conditioning.

It could be my job. The challenge of my new position has lost its degree of difficulty. It is more routine than anything else. And with 80% of the work I do is built on servers in our corporate office in Denver, I spend a large chunk of my day looking at this:

It could be that I'm finding less in life that inspires me. Which would be sad.

By the time I get home, eat dinner, and get the kids in bed, the last thing I have wanted to do was anything requiring any shred of creativity. And you may have noticed. The posts here have been limited to real life conversations with the kids and my fife for Friday posts. And I've missed the past two Five for Fridays. (I'll make it up - I promise. There is an epic one planned for this coming Friday.)

But it seems I may be snapping out of it. After spending Saturday afternoon at the beach and a couple of evening walks with the family, I'm starting to get a feel for the season. This is my sixth blog post in the past three days, so I'm starting to get back into the groove.

All that leaves me wondering. What inspires you? What motivates you?


Weekend Recipes: Cheesy Stuffed Burgers

It is a well known fact that if you come to our house for a barbecue, Bekah is the queen of the grill. Tonight, she (with much trepidation) entrusted the Weber - charcoal, flames, and all the accessories - into my care. I've been itching to try out something new that Bekah has previously poo-poohed (thinking the idea was preposterous). Good news: Bekah now approves. It turned out perfect.

Cheesy Stuffed Burgers

1 pound ground beef
1/3 cup bread crumbs
several slices of your choice of cheese (we used co-jack)
1 teaspoon oil
your favorite garnishments and condiments

Knead the bread crumbs into the meat until well mixed. Divide the pound of beef into eight approximately equal sections; roll each section into a ball.

Coat the surface of a plate with oil to prevent the meat from sticking while forming the burger patties. Take one ball, place it on the oiled plate and flatten it into a thin patty. Place one or two slices into the middle of the patty. Flatten out a second ball and place the second patty on top of the other, sandwiching the cheese between the two beef patties. Fold the edges of the two patties into each other to form one cohesive burger - trapping the cheese inside. Mold the joined patties into burger shape.

Repeat with the remaining six meatballs.

Grill until the burger is completely cooked. Top with your choice of condiments and garnishments (my favorite is a blend of BBQ sauce and ranch dressing). The cheese will be melted into the middle of your burger, but if you're the type (like my wife) who craves an abundance of cheese, you can add as much, either inside or on top, as your heart desires.

One pound of ground beef makes four burgers. They're meaty enough that you shouldn't need more than one burger.


Can't help myself

I must have social tourettes. Or some mild form of aspergers. Whenever I see some brand of social awkwardness, I can't help but blurt out the first thing that comes to my mind.


We stopped at KFC for dinner today. While pulling into the Triple Play/Holiday Inn/KFC parking lot, there was a man and woman waling out of Triple Play to their car parked next to KFC. The man was wearing cut-off faded camo cargo shorts, an over-sized t-shirt with beer brand insignia that was obviously converted into a tank-top by manually tearing off the sleeves, and fisherman's hat secured with string tied beneath the chin.

My initial thought (and the phrase that popped out of my mouth) was: "Oh, my... what swamp did we just wade from?"

If God ever wanted to smite me for being a judgmental jerk, this would have been the perfect opportunity. And the grammar police could also lecture me for ending a sentence with a preposition. I know, shame on me for both counts.


An interesting fishing hole

I hope I'm not spoiling anybody's secret. Many sportsmen like to keep the exact location of their favorite fishing spots private and only speak of it with vague details. The fisher I spotted might feel the same way, but they were so publicly visible that I feel compelled to share. Two grown men on one side of the road, with their truck parked across the street. At first I thought is was my imagination - perhaps they were members of ACSM plotting out the lay of the land - but I watched (as I drove by) one of the guys cast his line into water that I did not know existed.


I was driving home from Hauser Lake. It was the same route I usually take - Prairie Avenue all the way back to civilization. At a barely noticeable culvert between Stimson Lumber and the county dump, the two men were awaiting their catch (one with the pole while the other observed).

If you look at the satellite view (link above) you'll see a strip of water that appears to drain north into Hauser Lake. However, it looks more like surface runoff than it does an official creek. The best part is the street view - barren ground, a dry stream bed.

First of all, I doubt they'll be successful. Even if they do catch a fish, I can't imagine that fish being safe to eat. And what would they tell their friends?

"You shoulda seen that fish! It was as big as my faithful border collie and it only had one eye. I caught it in a part-time stream over by the recycling center and that place that makes asphalt."

You can't get any more North Idaho than that.


Implicated by association

Zu had a bad day. How bad? It included squirting food coloring into and all over mommy and daddy's bedroom, stealing food, and being generally not nice to her siblings.

Before bed, Bekah wanted Zu to tell me about all of the naughty things that were done during the day. Problem: Zu couldn't remember everything and what she could remember she didn't want to admit.

Mommy resorted to prompting.

Bekah: "Did you steal the M&Ms?"
Zu: "No."
Bekah: "Did you eat them without permission?"
Zu: "No."
Bekah: "While hiding behind the couch?"
Zu: "No."
Bekah: "With your brother?"
Zu: "Yes."

My daughter is incapable of accept her share of wrongdoing unless she can in some fassion implicate her brother in an equal crime.


Five for Friday

I sing my kids lullabies. That shouldn't be much of a surprise - most parents sing songs to lull their wee ones into rest. But I think I'm strange for a couple of reasons. First - I'm not a great singer, so I'm just waiting for the day one of my kids asks me to stop in the name of all that's good and holy. Second - I have a distorted view of what makes or defines a lullaby.

While normal parents are singing Rockabye Baby (or in my wife's case, Amazing Grace) the songs I employ to sing my kids to sleep are weighted on the side of unconventional.

For Christian... He was easy. The first kid into our life and the first snuggling up to my shoulder. And for those of you who know the full story, his homecoming was not an gentle journey. I didn't have to think about what songs were his songs.

Zu's songs weren't given much forethought, and I stumbled into them more than I sought them out. Now, looking back, those songs seemed predestined for her life in our house.

J Funk's been the biggest challenge. With the amount of time that he's spent in the hospital, the surgeries, the feeding tube, and feeble health... I haven't had the same privilege to cuddle him to sleep like I did with the other two. I wanted to have at least one song for him but nothing seemed right until I was listening to one of my favorite albums this past Wednesday night. As the song began to play over the speakers, he climbed up into my lap and laid his head against my shoulder. Then I heard the words in the chorus as if I was listening for the first time and it clicked - this is JJ's song.

Here are the five songs I've used and/or currently use as lullabies.

1. Third Day - Love Song (For Christian) Google the lyrics. For a first time daddy, this makes sense.

2. R Kelly - The World's Greatest (For Christian) This is without a doubt my cheesy side that picked this song. I may have been attempting to brainwash into him the self-confidence I lacked throughout my younger days. Or maybe I wanted him to think I was the coolest dad ever... before he even knew how to walk or talk.

3. The Beatles - Hey Jude (For Zu) Granted, I've changed the lyrics in spots. In the version my daughter knows, it's "Hey Zu" instead of "Hey Jude." And I changed all the references of "her" to "him" or "it." This one has stuck with Zu, as she's busted out singing this at random while riding around in the car. And Zu singing the "na-na-nana-na-naaaaa" part is one of the most adorable things on the planet (the only thing cuter is the sneezing panda).

4. Ben Folds - Gracie (For Zu.) There's a line in the song that says "You nodded off in my arms watching TV. I won't move you an inch even thought my arm's asleep." This was perfect. One of Zu's favorite things (when she was little) was to curl up in my arms while I kicked back in the recliner where she clung to my side like a koala; she'd fall asleep within minutes. I'd keep her there for an hour even if my arm was numb. Much like Hey Jude, I've substituted Zu's real name in place of the name Gracie. It works. And there's one more line that makes this song true for me and Zu. It's the line where Ben sings, "you will always have a part of me nobody else is ever going to see." Those are the moments in fatherhood that defies any description or explanation.

5. Our Lady Peace - Clumsy (For J Funk) Like I said, I happened to be listening to the record while J was up and ambling around the house. The two older kids were in bed and I was trying to tire J out before I laid him down for the night. When he climbed up into my lap, the chorus started to play: "And maybe you should sleep. And maybe you just need a friend. As clumsy as you've been, there's no one laughing. You will be safe in here." I looked down at JJ as he was rubbing his eyes against my chest and knew this was his song. Clumsy fit's him. He's our only kid that has needed stitches (so far), and his gait is far from graceful. As he grows, he's going to have the biggest challenges out of the three. Sometimes, he's just going to need a friend. He'll need to know - beyond anything - whether it's in my arms or his momma's, he's safe.

Out of the three, J Funk's lullaby is the most up-tempo song. However, up until now, the only song Bekah or I have sung to him (with any regularity) is a modified version of Parliament's Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker). Not a night time song in any way, shape, or form.


And the bombs bursting in air...

We are back from our night of barbecue, friends, and explosives.

The kids threw pop-its, and played with sparklers.

And they watched the grown-ups shoot off grown up fireworks.
Of all the kids, Zu had the most excellent reactions.
Simply priceless.

I managed to snap a few shots of the aerials. You can see them HERE.




Christian was bursting with uncontainable excitement as I climbed into the car this afternoon.

"I have a surprise for you at home. I made a puzzle, but I'm not going to tell you what kind because it's a surprise."

He makes things. His projects include abstract coloring with a hodgepodge assortment of crayons, pens, and markers. Scissors are also involved with the majority of his projects, but the purpose they serve is more to experience the sensation than a specific artistic design. However, making a puzzle is the first functional application in which he's applied his cutting skills, so I'm impressed. However, I all ready know what kind of puzzle he made for me. It's a solar system.

My wife and I think Christian has aspergers and one of the symptoms is a vivid creative engine that appears wholly original to all but close family members, yet it is actually a mimicry of the aspie's common influencers. We have a giant floor puzzle of the solar system that he's been assembling and deconstructing for the past couple of days. He's also been coloring pictures of the planets once the puzzle has been put together.

But as far as he knows, I am clueless to the contents of his surprise.

After work, we had some errands to run so Christian rode along in the car with me. After our first stop, he had some more surprise to share with me.

"My surprise is a good surprise, Daddy," he said. "I'm going to give you some clues so that you can try to guess what it is. Then you can see it when we get home."

"OK," I replied.

"It has Pluto in it. Can you guess what it is?"

I can, but I still answer, "No."

"Oh. Well, it also has Neptune and Mars and Jupiter and Saturn in it. And Venus and Mercury and Uranus. It has Earth too. Can you guess what it is?"

"Hmmmm. Nope"

"The sun is in it. What do you think it is?"

"I don't know."

"Oh. It also has stars and an asteroid belt. Do you know what kind of puzzle I made?"


"It's a solar system!"

"It is? Wow." I gave him the full excitement of a properly surprised father. "But I thought you wanted it to be a surprise." I said.

"I did," Christian said, "until now."

Again, most would think a kid drawing a picture of our solar system and cutting it up into a puzzle would be an intelligent and creative activity for any five year old. I don't want to discount the brainy side of that activity, as he is able to recall all of the planets and he picked the correct colors to draw his masterpiece. But the creativity is a replicate.

A beautiful copy, but still a copy.