Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday, Target, and Idiots

On Thanksgiving morning, the paper was thick with "Black Friday" ads enticing recession-weary people to stores in hopes of grabbing a bargain for Christmas. For the Dunhams, that involves not just Christmas but planning for a trip to Disney World in March.

We need a new portable DVD player. Ethan has now gone through three or four in his brief four-plus years of life, and, despite admonishing him not to touch the "guts" of the DVD, he routinely does so. The last one lasted only a few months. So, I carefully went through every ad and considered the aggravation factor of heading out for 5:00 a.m. sales on Black Friday, a tradition that I consider idiotic at best. Yet, as a parent, I have succumbed to the idiocy by considering trekking out among the rabid crowds.

Not quite. At 7:15 this morning, I awoke and thought "What the hell. I'll head to Target for the $47.00 RCA product." I got there, found a parking space amid the madness, and walked in to find lines and lines and lines of people snaking up and down aisle after aisle just to get in line for checkout. I saw an acquaintance in line who sighed and said he'd been in line over an hour just to check out.

With visions of my son in my head, I thought I would suck it up, find my one product and stand in line. How bad could it really be? I had retrieved a basket in the parking lot on the off chance that I would find additional treasures to purchase, so I tried to maneuver the cart through the lines of shoppers. People much less visionary than I eyed my cart with envy at the empty cart stand, and I silently chuckled at their lack of foresight. As I slowly advanced through the melee, I discovered that deep in the store, there were actually rent-a-cops directing traffic...telling shoppers "you can proceed to that check out line."

My immediate reaction was "TSA rejects CAN find jobs" because these people, while annoyingly pleasant, seemed to enjoy the power of directing traffic in a store. As I tried to progress, the lines grew deeper along with my resentment. In addition, people oblivious to others, walked slowly, swerved in front of me, and generally pissed me off. "For the love of God! Have you no consideration? Have you no peripheral vision? Have you no decency?" I wanted to scream them all, but with a couple well placed "accidental" bumps of the cart and a mumbled "Sorry, excuse me" I finally made it to the electronic aisle which is conveniently nestled near the deodorant selection at Target.

I assume the proximity of hygiene products and electronics is designed to help people like me who tend to get heated by the indifference and stupidity of shoppers. As I bumped my way through shoppers who thought nothing of parking their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle barely leaving room for the potato-sack ass barely contained in their stained sweatpants gifted in a long ago festive Christmas season, I finally found my goal: Portable DVD's.

The $47.00 item was gone.

And so was my good humor and patience.

I left my cart in the aisle because, frankly, I didn't care about inconveniencing any of the people on whom I had just wished quick and uncomfortable bowel movements. Rather, I left in a hurry only to be blocked by one itinerant woman who seemed intent on swerving side-to-side like a 1965 Buick with a leaky tire on a two lane road. It took me what seemed like five minutes to pass her, and I found my friend had advanced five feet. After my half hour trek through the madness, I was at home intent on paying whatever premium price was required just so I didn't have to deal with "Black Friday" idiots.

Later, I ventured out to Fred Meyer, found my purchases at less than Target, and emerged from the store happy, content, and relieved to have completed half my shopping in less than 10 minutes which is every man's dream and as it should be.

Black Friday is evidently the description of a man's mood Christmas shopping.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stating the Obvious

Is it wrong to ground a little boy for stating the obvious? Ethan is very excited about Christmas this year. Being a four year old (two months shy of five), he is getting into the decorating, the excitement, and, of course, the speculative toys as we read newspaper toy inserts over and over.

He will say, "Oh Daddy. I want that and that and that and that! Oh, and Daddy? I'm REAAALLYYY gonna get that for Christmas!"

His excitement has translated into decorating earlier than normal. As we pulled out boxes from under the stairs, he said seriously, "Daddy, we've never started this early before." He has so much experience....

As I sat on the living room floor last night unpacking Christmas decorating treasures, he stood over my shoulder exclaiming, "Daddy! I remember that one!"

However, one exclamation gave Daddy pause. Ethan, during a lull, rubbed the top of my head, and said, "Hey Daddy. I can see your skin."

In the spirit of the holidays, I will not ground him for stating the bald truth.....

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I was in Washington DC for three days attending meetings for the College of Western Idaho along with Guy Hurlbutt, a fellow trustee. Guy is the quintessential Southern gentleman, and he visited family in South Carolina prior to our meeting.

Guy asked me during the session in an apologetic way if he could use my laptop to access flight arrangements. Almost as an aside, he told me he needed to head back to South Carolina after our meeting because his older brother had died. It was bittersweet that Guy had the opportunity to visit his 85 year old brother and was there when he passed. But, nevertheless, Guy lost his brother.

My oldest brother arrives tomorrow for the first visit with the family in about 18 months. Our mom and step-dad arrive tonight on the bus for the visit. My brother turned 59 a few weeks ago, and I'm 48. Our brothers are 57 and 54 respectively. I couldn't help but think of my brothers when Guy delivered his tough news in his typically gracious manner.

I simply cannot conceive of losing my brothers. Though months may go by without seeing each other, I suppose the knowledge of their presence is comforting. Certainly, we have had and have differences of opinion. We are all different people. The years have set us on different paths after so many years working unusually close together.

But we are still brothers after all.

I got my computer up and running for Guy and quietly left my hotel room out of respect for his loss and his privacy. As I shut the door I glanced at him sitting before the computer and wondered how I would react (note, I avoided the word "will") to the news of losing a brother.

I will hug my brothers especially tight this weekend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Holidays and Laboratories

The Dunhams had a very busy Halloween weekend. The adults attended a neighbor's annual Halloween party where Mark dressed as a vampire at the urging (i.e., insistence) of Ethan while Heather wore her grandmother's signature polyester fur trimmed orange 70's outfit.

The next day, Mark again donned his vampire attire (and, sigh, the full face make up and black hair spray) to join Ethan "Eddie Munster" Dunham for a packed day of parties and trick or treating. After spending time with his cousins at cousin Zoey's 1st birthday party where everyone -- including Disco Heather -- was required to be in full costume, we headed home to trick or treat with the neighbor kids. After a rush around the neighborhood it was home to answer the door which Ethan insisted on doing alone in his vampire regalia.

The next day as we put away the Halloween decorations, Ethan asked, "Daddy, today is Thanksgiving isn't it?"

I replied, "No. Thanksgiving is in a few weeks and then Christmas is a few weeks after that."

Incredulous, Ethan sternly corrected me with an added twist seemingly derived from watching too many Scooby Doo Halloween specials with mad scientists: "No Daddy! It was Halloween yesterday, today is Thanksgiving, tomorrow is Christmas, and we need to clean out the attic to build my laboratory."

Everyday is an experiment of some sort with Ethan.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Randomness about Ethan

Randomness about Ethan! In an effort to somehow document the crazy things Ethan says, here's a list of recent funny things he has said:

1. He calls his mom a "silly bunion."

2. He calls me "silly underwear."

3. He has now decided to be a vampire for Halloween after starting out as a Transformer and moving to a pirate. "Vampires are COOL Daddy!"

4. In planning a family trip to Disney World in 2010, Ethan looked at me and said in his most earnest fashion, "Daddy. Do NOT forget a stroller. These little legs will get kinda tired walking too much."

5. Anything that is bad is a "rat." As in, "Daddy, he's a rat" or "That show is a rat" or "that food is a rat."

6. When he doesn't like something to eat, he will grasp his belly, moan, and act sick saying "My tummy hurts!" When we remind him that having a stomach ache means no ice cream, he replies "Well, I think that might make me feel a little better."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

McDonalds and Harry Chapin

I know a father who is a very busy construction executive. This hard-charging entrepreneur sets aside one night per week to spend with his son who is about 7 years old. It doesn't matter if a mogul or a politician calls. They spend that evening as father and son.

I've been meaning to do that with my son Ethan. It just seems too often that the days, weeks, and then years slip by. Before you know it, you' are a cliche straight from the old "Cats in the Cradle" weepy Harry Chapin song from the 70's.
Last night, I thought a lot about this as Ethan and I spent an evening together. While Heather played Florence Nightengale to the neighbors (dear friend who is widowed with a 6 year old and 2 year old rushed to hospital for an appendectomy on top of swine flu...count your blessings!), Ethan accompanied me to a parenting class. We then spent an hour at a McDonalds that was virtually deserted. He engaged in excited conversation, talked about school, Halloween, building projects we need to accomplish together, the weather, and his need for more McNuggets. He also spent an inordinate amount of time making goofy faces.

We went home, got into our "jammies," read books in Mom and Dad's bed, and he promptly fell asleep. When Heather returned home late from her good samaritan duties, Ethan was conked out in our room. In the middle of the night, he awoke to find his mommy, and he hugged her awake. He asked her in a rather loud whisper if she could hear me snore!

All in all, it was just a great night with my boy. One I will remember forever. It was so simple yet so special.

I need to make it a weekly appointment. I should never be too busy for this sort of meeting.

Invoking Grandpa

My son is named Ethan Stanford Dunham. My father was Stanford Arlen Dunham, and Ethan's middle name is a tribute to my dad who died in 1993. For me, my dad was almost more of a buddy because my mom married my beloved step-father, Karl Brown, when I was 8 years old. Karl was my day-to-day father.

Nevertheless, as I grew up, I spent a lot of time with my dad who we often called "Stan the Man." He was a great guy, a character whose irreverance and wit endeared him to many. I still think about him everyday and wonder what he would be doing had he not been taken from us when he was only 63.

It is inevitable I suppose that families on both sides of a child's parentage look at a kid and claim dominance in terms of genes. Ethan does look a lot like my wife Heather though I claim his eyebrows! I appreciate that many on Heather's side suggest he "looks just like David, or just like...." Alternatively, I have friends who say he looks just like my brother Steve. I also see my mother's face sometimes, and I see my brother Dirk at times. At different times, he looks like many people on "my side."

But in the sunlight, when a sun ray hits his hair, I think of my dad Stan the Man. Ethan's hair has a subtle reddish tint that my dad's hair had. In addition, as Ethan matures -- racing toward the ripe old age of 5 in a couple of months -- he is developing an enviable wit with an almost evil chuckle that is simply my dad, Stan.

As Ethan and I wandered through a Halloween store a while back, I noticed a mask that seemed appropriate...a merging of Ethan Stanford Dunham with his grandpa Stan the Man Dunham.

Makes me miss Dad even more. He would have adored his name sake.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Grandma's cookies revisited

I've already blogged about my mom's chocolate chip cookies, but we have now reached a crisis: We are out of them. Tonight, I told Ethan that we were out of Grandma's cookies but could eat Heather's. He said, "Disgusting!" Later, I sneaked him one of his mothers along with an ice cold milk. He ate part of it, and then said, "Daddy. Why don't you finish it. It just isn't very good."

On another Ethan note, over the weekend, he spent a couple days with his cousin who took him to a Vallivue High football game followed the next day with breakfast with the Vallivue Cross Country team. When I asked him if he was having fun (while we were in Vegas), over the phone in a plaintive little voice he replied, "Not very well. Last night I barfed like a chicken." He didn't "barf," but he is a bit under the weather.

He told me tonight that he just didn't feel well enough to help with the dishes. "My legs are just too tired Daddy."

Maybe one of Grandma's cookies would help....

Friday, October 9, 2009

The "Stockholm Syndrome" and the Nobel Peace Prize

Wikipedia defines “Stockholm Syndrome” as a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed.” Coincidentally, Nobel Peace prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden meaning President Barack Obama, less than one year on the job, will travel to Stockholm in December to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Apparently, his second trip to Scandinavia will be more fruitful than his unsuccessful trek to Copenhagen to get the Olympics in Chicago.

There is a certain irony that a psychological condition based on a cult of personality where prisoners become enamored of their captors is named for the same city where an award will be given to a person whose credentials for a Nobel Peace Prize are thin at best but seem based primarily on the fact that he is NOT George W. Bush.

Of course, this is the same group that awarded Jimmy Carter a peace prize in 2002 in recognition of his significant international peace efforts which, in my recollection, amount to the following:

1. Overseeing the fall of Iran and the resulting Iranian Hostage Crisis which was settled only upon the day of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration;
2. Inserting himself unannounced, unasked, and uninformed into various international situations;
3. Overseeing the Camp David Peace Accords, which in retrospect, seems to have been little more than a photo op because there has never been a lasting peace in that region; and,
4. Being an apologist for corrupt regimes as an election observer.

I have never been one of those who wish ill-will on President Obama, and I actually respect his political skills while most often disagreeing with his policies, goals and actions. More often than not, I find Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk to be repugnant demagogues who do not reflect the true Republican ideology I respect.

But awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to someone because he is eloquent, glamorous, and not his predecessor trivializes the Nobel Prizes awarded to so many other recipients throughout the years, in the future, and in all of the categories.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Grandma's Cookies

My mother makes amazing chocolate chip cookies. I'm probably biased having spent 48 years eating them; however, my college buddies also can attest to their quality. In fact, for years, my mom has baked chocolate chip cookies for them as well.

Ethan has inherited an affinity for "Grandma's Cookies." She bakes them for him, and we put them in the freezer. Ethan and I dole them out sparingly. When he is sick, he sometimes whines, rubs his belly, and says "I think one of Grandma's cookies may make me feel a little better."

Every once in a while, Heather decides to make chocolate chip cookies. Don't get me wrong, Heather's are great, but...well, they are just not my mom's. I know I run the risk of engaging in the old "Well, my mom's are better than my wife's." I don't want to do that, so I refrain from saying anything. But, the old adage "out of the mouths of babes" means Ethan isn't quite so restrained.

The other night, I was in Ethan's room when he said, "Daddy, do you think we should have one of Grandma's cookies?" I said, "Sure! That sounds great. I'll go get us one."

I went downstairs, poured him a glass of milk, and retrieved two cookies from the freezer. Heather asked what I was going, and I told her I was taking Ethan a cookie. She said, "I'll take it to him."

About 10 minutes later, she returned and said, "Ethan said the cookie tasted funny."

Surprised, I responded, "Really? I think they're OK. Mine tasted fine."

She grimaced, and said, "OK. I substituted one of MY cookies for your mom's. So MY cookie tastes funny."

I had to smile. Grandma's cookies are tough to beat.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Daddy's work

The other night, Ethan sat on my lap and said, "Daddy? You know my friend Gus? From school?"

I replied, "Yes. I know Gus." Ethan continued, "Well, Daddy, do you know Gus' dad?" I said, "Yes. I know his dad. He teaches school at Boise State." Gus' dad is a Geology professor.

Ethan nodded earnestly, and said, "Well, Daddy, Gus went to work with his daddy one day. All day. I think we should do that some time! What do you think?"

I said, "Ethan, I would love that."

He suddenly crossed his arms which is a non-verbal cue that he is serious, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "Daddy. If you have meetings that day, I don't want to do it. I don't have the clothes."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Biblical plagues!

I've been away from the blog for quite some time because August and now September seemed to just fly by. It is 2009 now. In addition, the Dunhams seemed to have been visited by the proverbial Biblical plagues including hornets! We've had bronchitis, pneumonia, going to the fair, emergency room visits while on vacation after almost dying (seriously) from an insect bite, allergy studies, sleep studies, school starting again, tailgating with friends, vacationing in the mountains, and learning about Epi Pins!

In the beginning was August! I spent time in Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, and Jackpot for work. In addition, there were some "fun" trips including an August 13th jaunt to Minneapolis to visit a college buddy and his wife. Unfortunately, that afternoon as we looked at the river down the hill from their house, I was stung by something. Within minutes, I had allergy symptoms prompting my buddy Ted to give me Benadryl before nonchalantly driving toward an emergency room. Our friend Tom who flew in with me felt a couple more Benadryl, a couple beers, and a nap would have sufficed. How wrong he was. I ended up with anaphylactic shock. The ER doctor in Minnesota and my personal doctor back in Boise indicated those initial Benadryl saved my life!

Luckily, I was sufficiently recovered in about 5 hours to enjoy the rest of the trip which included a trip to their lake house and a Twins game. Of course, all the while I carried the fable Epi Pin just in case another Minnesota insect had it in for me.

Safely returning to Idaho, the Dunhams spent time at the Western Idaho Fair learning the painful lesson that Ethan's height of 44" now enables him to ride many more rides. That coupled with his inherent daredevil attitude cost us an unexpected $120 that day! But he had fun.

On the tails of the Minnesota mishap, I was also scheduled for a sleep study to determine if my daily exhaustion was more than simply being a 48 year old father of a 4 year old dare devil as well as a very intense career. I spent the night in a sleep clinic where I was wired up to resemble what Ethan called a "Decepticon from Transformers." Of course, those are the villains. Turns out I NEVER go into a deep sleep. Ever. That explains many things including acid reflux, exhaustion, etc. Not sure if it explains thinning hair though.....Now I get to experience a trial period of sleeping with an oxygen mask to see if it makes a difference. I also had allergy tests that determined I'm NOT allergic to bees but have a bad allergy to wasps and all sorts of hornets. I will now be starting a 5 year regimen of "desensitization shot therapy."

We also got to spend a great weekend in Donnelly with friends swimming in Lake Cascade and perhaps having a too few many beers. On the way home from the weekend, we all started to cough. Ethan was subsequently diagnosed with bronchitis, I was diagnosed with pneumonia, and Heather has simply powered through her own cough to take care of her boys.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Boys will be boys

Ethan continues to say things that cause laughter and amazement. In no particular order:

1. This morning he expressed frustration about having to go "#1" and then almost immediately "#2." He hurried back to the bathroom where he idled away sitting on the toilet frustrated "that is just won't come out." Heather laughed and offered him a magazine indicating that's what guys did. Ethan declined but did say "I'm gonna be here till tomorrow."

2. Ethan has picked up on some negative sayings at pre-school, but that is typical I suppose. When he gets frustrated he lashes out verbally indicating that we are not his parents. The other night when he was frustrated about going to bed, he said, "I'm not tired. I'm not hungry. I'm not going to bed. Ever." When I sternly put him to bed, he said, "You are NOT my dad. Dad." The irony was lost on him.

3. The other day, he was coloring in his Transformer's coloring book, and Heather complimented his improved coloring skills. He sighed, and said, "Yeah, I'm good at everything."

4. Ethan has recently become interested in exercize (mainly, I suspect because he expects to grow up and battle Decepticons from Transformers), and he routinely just drops down and does at least 10 push ups (real ones actually) followed by a couple sets of crunches. He then jumps up, pulls up his sleeve, and says "Wanna feel my guns?" (See the photo above!)

5. After working out, Ethan said recently, "I can't lift our house up, but I can lift up our TV."

6. His ideas on what he will be when he grows up vary with the day, but because he loves race cars, he often says "I'm gonna be a mechanic when I grow up."

7. Last weekend in McCall, he donned his Spiderman life jacket, and I swam with him out to a floating trampoline where he had a blast jumping and splashing. When we were swimming back, his teeth chattered, and he kept saying "Don't let go of me Daddy. You won't let go of me Daddy, will you?" Never buddy. Never.

8. Also last weekend, I was giving a speech outdoors, and in the middle of it, I felt a tug on my pants. Interrupted, I turned to find Ethan behind me at the podium. A bit irritated, I covered the microphone, leaned down, and said, "Ethan! I'm working. What do you need?" He looked up at me and said, "I just wanted to tell you that I love you Daddy." I returned to the speech and told the audience what he said. Doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reunions and ruminations

I haven't blogged in a long time it seems because I've been so busy...busy with life, with work, and with a 30 year high school class reunion. My class reunion held in Twin Falls, Idaho the weekend of July 10 had a profound impact on me for some reason. It may be because I got reacquainted with classmates I hadn't seen in years coupled with the realization that I had known many of these 47-48 years olds since the time I was my son Ethan's age. I found myself wondering if the friends and memories he is making today will resonate through the decades.

Of course, I was raised in a relatively small community with a handful of kindergartens, five grade schools, two junior highs, and one high school. We didn't get cable television for years. In other words, the class of 1979 grew up in a relatively cloistered environment with few outside influences. That is a double-edged sword I suppose, but the faces at the 30 year reunion were the same faces posted in grade school photos as if in a time warp. Though we've drifted apart over the years, the foundation of our lives was in some respects each other.

My son is growing up in Boise, Idaho in a different time and certainly a different place. Relationships are as transitory as school boundaries. It doesn't seem likely that he will experience starting kindergarten with a group of kids who will go through a university together. There is something special about such long term shared histories though we have all drifted apart. Friends in childhood reconnect at reunions and vow "to get together this time...really" yet we never do. Perhaps having a shared foundation is enough, and we have used that foundation -- both the good and bad of it -- to move to different places of our own.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Girls! Girls! Girls! and Faux Hawks....

Ethan, at 4, seems to be planning for his future. He has developed quite a crush on a girl at school meaning he now has at least three love interests. The other day, Ethan -- who actually hates to have his hair combed let alone washed -- asked his mother to style it in a "faux hawk" which is essentially a modified Mohawk with the hair combed toward the middle and gelled to a point. When she asked why, he replied that our 13 year old neighbor boy (who sports this hairstyle) said "it will help you get more girls." So, Heather did the style and Ethan left for school evidently scouting for prom dates.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Is it always so busy?

My oldest brother lives in Reno and usually visits once a year during the summer. A couple of months ago, I sent him my summer schedule showing a hectic pace that seemed reasonable in e-mail but seems daunting as we live it. There is always so much going on, but we live a very busy lifestyle which can be fun but exhausting. Last week, I spent 3 days in Coeur d'Alene, one day in the office back in Boise, and then 4 days in Sun Valley attending the Governor's Cup. Heather and Ethan joined me in Sun Valley, and it was fun though the weather turned cold and rainy on the one day I had free time to bike ride with Ethan. As a result, the walls of our tiny studio condo started to close in on us. This weekend, we're off to New Meadows with Heather's sisters for the weekend followed next weekend by what I hope will be a relatively uneventful 4th of July holiday. Then, my 30th class reunion is upon us followed by our annual "We really will get rid of everything we don't need this time" garage sale which is followed by a work event for four days in McCall. Is it August yet?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Twin Falls Idaho Class of 79 Reunion

The 30th class reunion for Twin Falls High School is fast approaching, and the deadline to register is June 22. Below is the list of classmates still on the missing list. For more information or to give information on a missing person, e-mail

Monday, June 8, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes...and Ethan!

Ethan continues to entertain us with his perspective on life. A week ago, the neighborhood elementary school that he will attend in a couple of years had its year end carnival which we've taken him to since he was a baby. This year as in the past couple of years, we went with our 5 year old neighbor Elizabeth who is Ethan's closest friend though they can fight like a brother and sister. They had their faces painted, did a cake walk (Elizabeth won), played on the jumpies, and ended up on the standby monkey bars. Elizabeth fell off, and, over a week later, she is seeing an orthopedic surgeon to determine if the severe break she suffered in the fall will necessitate surgery. At the time, Ethan showed little sympathy and seemed exasperated that her fall might interrupt the carnival. He took my face in his little hands, looked me earnestly in the eyes, and said, "Daddy. Maybe they should just cut off her arm."

Over the course of the past few weeks, we had some close out of town friends visit. Ethan seemed somewhat cool toward the woman of the couple, and when I asked him why after they departed, he replied, "Because she kept calling me 'cute.' I am NOT cute!" When pressed about how he would describe himself that would make him happy, he said, "Well, I am just disgusting."

Today at his gymnastics class at The Little Gym, Ethan informed his mother that Caroline is his first girlfriend. He said she keeps trying to kiss him, and he stressed "on the mouth." He is certain he is going to marry Emily from school but is quite content to have Caroline as "my girlfriend." In his strained whisper he gets when he wants to be confidential, he hissed to his mother that "You need to go her phone number now Mommy."

I'm hopeful that these three examples of Ethan's prowess with girls will not be indicative of his future approach and success in the dating world.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memorial Day

One night prior to Memorial Day, Heather and I stopped at Cloverdale Cemetary because Ethan expressed interest in visiting where my dad is buried. Then on Memorial Day, he wanted to go with me to place flowers on Dad's grave. "Grave" is a stretch because it's a relatively small niche because Dad wanted to be cremated. Every once in a while, Ethan asks about death and this was no exception. Upon viewing the niche, he asked, "But how did you get him in there?" I asked what he meant, and he responded, "How did you fit him in?" I had to stop to think and quickly pointed to the screws holding the marble plates on indicating we had to unscrew those. He said, "Oh. Yeah." We then walked toward the graves of some dear friends including a woman who was like my second mom, Carolyn. We placed flowers on her grave, and then walked back to my dad's niche. As we walked, Ethan asked "If your daddy is in Heaven, how is he in the cementary (yes..."cementary")?" I tried to explain the body vs. the soul, but he didn't get it. As I talked to him, I got a bit teary eyed, and Ethan wiped a tear off my cheek and admonished me that "Big boys do NOT cry, Daddy." He hugged me and we left to visit the reindeer in the pond near the graves. I'll hide any tears next time.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Mothers Day was a great day! Ethan told his mom yesterday that he and Daddy would make her breakfast, "But, that's it. After that Dad and I are doing what we want." Of course, Ethan decided to sleep late today meaning Daddy went to get Mommy a mocha and cook her breakfast. When Ethan decided to get up and moving, "doing what we want" meant biking and walking the greenbelt, running through sprinklers, riding bikes some more, and tonight Heather drove him by the baby buffalo at her farm. All in all, it was a great day!

Thursday, April 30, 2009


I'm diverting from the primary purpose for the "Dunham Family Blog" today because I'm weary of the political spin about transportation funding in Idaho and Governor Otter in particular. Obviously, as the Executive Director of the Idaho Associated General Contractors, I have an interest in transportation funding.

However, though some legislators dismiss us as a "special interest" (until election time comes around), they should not and cannot escape the truth: Idaho must invest more in our transportation infrastructure for the sake of citizen safety and the state's economy.

What prompts me to divert from family news today is the latest round of Otter-bashing which is as unfair as it is duplicitous. Here's what I sent out to a large group of friends today:


I’m sending this to a group of friends in my contact list because I’m frustrated with the erroneous spin being put on Governor Otter’s transportation funding efforts -- in particular his visit to Midvale, Idaho a couple of days ago. I doubt you have the real story if you’ve followed the news.

You might have read the Idaho Statesman’s misleading headline yesterday about Governor Otter’s “Capital for a Day” visit to Midvale followed this morning by Dan Popkey’s Statesman column where he writes “House members took pleasure in the rough treatment Otter got Tuesday when he held Capitol for a Day in Midvale. He got an earful about federal matters largely beyond his control and heard little support for raising fuel taxes. ‘I think the governor got that message (Tuesday) when he was in Midvale,’ said House GOP Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts of McCall.”

Speaking of message, after reading all of that in the Statesman, I have one as well because, I was in Midvale at the same meeting the entire day. Here’s the real story:

• There wasn’t even one legislator in Midvale on Tuesday so recounting what happened that day is hearsay at best;
• The Governor was there before 9:00 a.m. until about 2:45 p.m. fielding a host of questions;
• There were some heated questions in the morning mainly focused on sheep, wolves, the federal government, the federal stimulus package and a long discussion about fire codes thrown in for good measure;
• At about 1:45 the very first transportation related question was asked when a citizen asked the Governor why the Midvale rest area was being refurbished (The answer? Complying with the American’s with Disabilities Act, a crumbling foundation, and safety to alleviate trucks parking on the highway due to inadequate parking);
• There followed a candid – and sometimes light hearted -- discussion about transportation and taxes. For about 45 minutes. NOT ONE citizen suggested there wasn’t a need for additional revenue. Citizens were actually complimentary about the improvements to Highway 95, and people laughed with the Governor as he recounted how treacherous Highway 95 was over 40 years ago when he drove back and forth from Boise Junior College to visit his folks in Council. There were certainly a couple of citizens expressing frustration with taxes but even they acknowledged the need for more revenue;
• There was less than a handful of protestors outside wielding signs such as “Otter’s Folly” (about the rest area though they weren’t in the room to hear the explanation), big horn sheep, taxes, etc. Evidently, none of them felt the need or courage to come into the building to voice their opinion;
• So, out of about 6 hours, the Governor spent about 45 minutes totally focused on transportation. While a few people expressed frustration about raising taxes, not one person disagreed with the Governor about the need;
• That was it. Hardly a “message” to the Governor about his transportation goals.

Throughout the day, the Governor was on-point, informed, engaged, understanding, compassionate, and dedicated. In return, even those most frustrated by sheep, taxes, Obama, and fire codes seemed genuinely affectionate toward the Governor. If this was a battle of ideas between the Governor and legislators among the “folks back home,” Governor Otter was the clear winner.

Oh, by the way, he got a standing ovation at the end.

I went to Midvale because I had heard some legislators suggest the Governor is “out of touch with the people.” I wanted to see for myself. I sat in the back of the room all day. I never once spoke to the Governor. I doubt he even knows I was there. But I wanted to understand the truth rather than rely on misleading headlines and political spin back in Boise.

I’m glad I was there because the reality of the day seems to have been lost in the reporting and in the Capitol Annex.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring is finally here!

Months ago I blogged that the Dunhams had cabin fever, but this was the first really nice weekend in a long time with temperatures reaching the 70's. Ethan and I mowed the lawn for the first time, and Heather cleaned up the yard. We biked to the Boise Train Depot where "Big Mike" the locomotive was dedicated and took an elevator to the top of the tower. The weekend was also filled with gratefulness about what we have as some neighbors packed to move away. The 6 year old boy spent most of his time with us, and it was tough to hear about the difficulties experienced in a house next door. It makes you wonder what decisions made in life send some people down one path and others down another. The things we are teaching Ethan now will last a lifetime, and as the neighbors drive off in their U-Haul -- a mom and two boys with different dads headed to a house bought by the grandparents where the littlest boy says "we can finally live somewhere forever" -- we can only hope their lives will be better than they have been. We wish them well....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Furry Eyes

Awhile back, Ethan's teachers recommended he be tested through the Boise School District, and, surprisingly, they suggested he might need glasses. Both Heather and I have vision problems, and I first started to wear glasses when I was in 7th grade. Today, Ethan had his eyes tested which included dilation. He told his mom that the drops made everything "look furry." The result? He has perfect vision! Now they are off to PoJo's to celebrate.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Easter is a fun time for the Dunhams mainly because we get to go to Heather's sister Laurie's house for the annual family event. This was the 32nd annual event (well, not for Ethan and I because we're relatively recent additions to the family), and the weather was simply wonderful as was the company and food (had to make sure I got that in the proper order....). However, this wasn't our only event. Yesterday morning, we were invited to a wonderful brunch at our friend Elina's house where Ethan participated in what was the first of three Easter egg hunts this weekend. Ethan and Mom then colored eggs. Last night the adults got to play as Heather and I laughed through our montly "Supper Club" which was hosted by our friend Elizabeth in her new house. The theme was French, and I even tried a snail. It was....well, I didn't vomit. It's apparent that my father's Norwegian roots take precedent over my mother's quarter French roots. However, because I surrendered and ate a snail, perhaps I am more French than expected....Today, Ethan awoke to find the Easter Bunny had delivered the goods which included a stuffed dinosaur ("I don't like chocolate bunnies Mom) and an Optimus Prime Transformer Kite. His excitement was palpable. He came downstairs and found even more Easter eggs, and decided the ones too high for the Easter Bunny to plant must have been put there by the Easter Bunny's boss. Later, as we drove to Aunt Laurie's, he commented on how pretty the mountains were. Heather told him they were the "Owyhees" which he now calls the "High Why Hees." He spent the day running with cousins, getting wet in the sprinkler, showing dad the new kittens (who were born this morning on the deck -- blessedly prior to our arrival), teeter-tottering (not sure if that's an official verb), and avoiding eating as much as possible. The drive home included a trip past "Mommy's farm to see the buffalo," and then a well deserved snooze on the way back home. Yawn.....

Monday, April 6, 2009


I’ve been thinking a lot about songs lately and how hearing one can instantly send you back in time. The very first song I can remember is “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles. I remember being in our kitchen in Montana listening to it on the radio, and we moved to Twin Falls when I was 3. “You Are My Sunshine” is my brother Steve playing the guitar and encouraging his toddler brother to sing along. I wasn’t good then either.

“Walking After Midnight” by Patsy Cline puts me on Falls Avenue East in Twin Falls listening to my mom sing along as she cleans house. I must have been about 4 years old at the time because I was not in school, yet I remember it vividly. Tammy Wynette had two hits which remind me of Mom, and they seem at odds with each other: “Stand By Your Man” and “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” She sang a lot when I was a kid, and I remember being on icy Falls Avenue in Twin Falls in her red Buick station wagon hearing her sing those country songs. 40+ years later, I understand that she sang both those songs as she grappled with the tough decision to divorce my father – a decision that saved all of us including him.

“Eight Days a Week” or “Honey Don’t” by the Beatles brings a memory of my brother Steve teaching my mom to dance to rock and roll in our dining room. She was wearing black Capri pants and a white dress blouse. He was wearing a paisley shirt. She must have been about 34 or 35 years old which seems really young now! “Who Wants to Buy This Diamond Ring” is my brothers Steve and Dirk’s junior high school band playing at Bass Lake at the Blue Lakes Country Club. "Killing Me Softly With His Song" is my beloved late friend Carolyn who babysat me when I was little and explained the importance of taking it easy, laying in the sun, reading a good book, and putting your beach blanket near a larger person so you looked better in comparison.

“Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd is the summer after high school graduation which seems distant yet recent at the same time. “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC puts me back on a highway between Twin Falls and Kalispell, Montana in my brother Dan’s green Datson 240Z when he was letting his teenage brother (me) drive before I had a license as we headed home after visiting our grandparents. “The Long and Winding Road” from the Beatles “Abbey Road” reminds me of my brother Dirk who bought that album when we lived in a little rental on Monroe Street in Twin Falls after our parents divorced. He threatened me with my 3rd grade life if I scratched it, and I was so careful with his album. The song “She Came In Through the Bathroom” window from that same album reminds me of Dirk and Steve because they snuck into the Monroe house one night through the bathroom window, and Dirk fell into the tub when the towel bar gave way. At least I think that happened. Memories like songs can evolve through the years!

“Green Eyed Lady” is my stepsister Nancy. “Saturday In The Park” by the Doobie Brothers sends me back to perfect Twin Falls’ afternoons headed to swim somewhere. “Love Story” from the movie puts me in the passenger seat of a Cutlass 442 late on a Friday night as my brother’s friend headed to Boise for Marine Reserve Training and, on a monthly basis, took his buddy’s little kid brother back and forth so I could visit my dad. “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer is Senior year in high school.

Any song by ABBA reminds me of Heather and makes me smile.

“Dust in the Wind” reminds me of a middle of the night trip to San Francisco with my friend Chap as we followed our buddy Joe who was moving there after college but had packed every cassette other than “Kansas’ Greatest Hits.” Frank Sinatra singing “Fly Me To the Moon” reminds me of Charles Manson because the summer I discovered Sinatra through my incredible stepfather/mentor, I was also reading the terrifying “Helter Skelter.”

Separate Ways” by Journey used to remind me of college days….seeing Journey at the BSU Pavilion (pre-Taco Bell days) in the 4th row on the floor using tickets my roommate and BSU bookstore employee Jeff had obtained. We thought that night was just perfect. Now? That song reminds me of Ethan because he loves it! He also loves hard rock, and our recent monster truck experience has made AC/DC a particular favorite of his. He hears it on the radio – or George Thorogood – and he says with excitement “Dad! That’s our monster truck song!”

Every song on the radio has the potential of a memory. As Ethan drives along with Mom and Dad during our travels, I wonder what memories he will take away that will drift into his consciousness in 44 years when he is my age? I want them to be good memories. And good music….

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What is it about toots and boys?

I think it is a gender thing. My 4 year old son cannot stop laughing when he toots. "Toots" is the only word allowed in our household to describe the "f" word which, in this case for those of you with dirty minds is "flatulence" or the more common "fart." Ethan almost cries when laughing when he is...well...engaged in this behavior. I try to limit this....activity....cautioning him that he can NEVER do it at school, in front of Grandma (speaking from 48 years of personal experience, this is doomed to failure), or his mother. He will giggle, turn around, wiggle his "bum" (we also cannot use "butt" in our home), and either really....well...let one go or pretend to do so. Then he collapses in fits of laughter saying "Did you hear that one Daddy!" If it is particularly....well....smelly, he covers his nose amidst giggles and roars "Oh, that one stinks!" On the off chance he performs this typical male act in front of Mom, she admonishes him, looks at me and says "it must be a boy thing." Of course, sometimes she laughs as well though she doesn't like to admit it. It really IS a boy thing I suppose. Growing up with three older brothers, this simple natural act took on an art form, and evidently Ethan is an artist. Perhaps it was inappropriate for me to put a Whoopee Cushion in his Christmas stocking. Oh well. Here he comes again!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Birthday, monsters, and aliens

March 27th was my 48th birthday which I find difficult to believe -- let alone accept! Talk about being the oldest dad at the preschool! One day as I walked down the long hall in the Boise State Children's Center to pick up Ethan, two little kids leaned out the window to their classroom and exclaimed "Hey, that looks like my grandpa!" The other said, "Yeah! It does look like your grandpa." Refraining from knocking them into their room, I picked up Ethan. Yesterday, I picked him up immediately after his nap, and we headed to the movie theater to meet his mom for an opening day viewing of "Monsters vs. Aliens." Ethan's been very excited about the movie, and, knowing it opened on my birthday, he counted down the days to my birthday. Every morning, he'd ask "Is it your birthday today Daddy?" That was kid code for "we get to go see my movie on your birthday." We had a great afternoon at the show (which had enough obscure adult humor to make all the parents laugh a lot), and another boy from his school -- Noah -- coincidentally sat behind us. Ethan was excited and asked what color our house is. I replied "Gray and white," and, as we were leaving, he ran up to Noah and said "Hey, if you want to come to my house to play, it's the gray and white one." Even though I graduated from high school when my mom was 48, having a pre-schooler at 48 in my case is OK. Especially because I'll remember this birthday forever!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Frank Stein

Garage sale season is beginning which means Heather is out and about on Saturday morning finding treasures. She loves finding deals, and she comes home with some amazing things. And some not so amazing things. But, 95% of the time, they're great. Ethan too is developing a love for garage sales because he's realized it's likely he will get some sort of treasure. Today, a woman was selling Halloween stuff, and Ethan bought a hanging skeleton as well as a Frankenstein set complete with a head and hands. Tonight as he was getting ready for bed, he told his mom to set something "over by Frank Stein."

Basketball, puddles and paint!

Yesterday was 70 degrees in Boise, and today...well, the weather alternated being beautiful to pouring rain to thunder and lightening which is unusual for Boise. Ethan was a bit nervous about the lightening and made sure he was in the house safe after stowing his bikes in the garage. It's "bikes" because he's thiiiisssss close to giving up his reliable red "motorcycle" in favor of a bike given to him by his cousin. It has hand brakes, and he rode it today for the first time. He spent most of the time riding in puddles and getting soaked. He also played basketball with neighbor Nick though their definition of playing basketball involves Nick jumping over Ethan's head and dunking the ball. As Ethan gets taller, Nick had better jump a bit higher. In between puddles and basketball, Ethan helped Daddy with what is the third remodel of the guest bathroom in 10 years. Dad shouldn't be allowed to watch HGTV. Ethan told his mom that she wasn't allowed to help "because painting is for boys and girls aren't good at it." As she watched how both her boys painted, it was obvious she disagreed with Ethan's assertion.

That's a poopy job

The other day, Heather was driving with Ethan who saw a sewer truck doing its duty. Ethan asked his mom what it was and she explained. He said, "That's a poopy job!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Boys' Day: Monster trucks and black eyes

March 14, 2009 was a "boys' day, Daddy!" I had arranged for the Dunham boys to join friends who also have 4 year old boys to attend the Monster Truck Jam at the Idaho Center. Heather was appalled at the prospect of getting in touch with your inner Mullet and declined to participate; however, Ethan looked forward to the event for weeks. He would say things like "I think the trucks are there already, Daddy. Let's go check!" This was two weeks before the show.

Yesterday, he was up early for a Saturday because he was so excited. Daddy and Ethan enjoyed tacos for breakfast. It was, afterall, a boys' day. We ignored his mother's carefully chosen and ironed fashion selection for Ethan. What boy in his right mind would wear ironed cords to a Monster Truck Jam? Ethan said, "sheesh" and chose Levi's. Secure in our wrinkled Levi's, we departed at 11:30 to meet AJ LaBeau, Joe Kreizenbeck, and Zach Eaton at Wings near the Center.

All was well in the private back room with the free Wii game until we were booted to a smaller table due to a scheduling conflict. The four boys decided to play Foos Ball, and Ethan suffered the indignity of a younger girl slamming one of the Foos Ball rods into his eye causing an instant black eye and cut which is darkening today. As we left the place to head to the Monster Truck Jam, Ethan told me "we're never coming back to this place. I don't like that girl." We assured him this wasn't likely his last black eye in a bar from a girl. The picture at the top of this post shows the immediate aftermath.

Arriving at the Monster Truck Jam, we settled into our seats, and the boys' eyes were almost as big as the wheels on the monster trucks. We plugged our ears though I had to hold my hands over Ethan's until we purchased the $20 earphones shaped like monster truck tires. The show was OK, but the highpoint for each generation in our group was the motocross dudes whose jumps and stunts were amazing. As we left, Ethan assured me he needed a "ramp and a red motorcycle" so he could "go higher and higher." Later that night, he confirmed to his mother and me that he intends to produce a "motorcycle show every night -- but not school nights -- and every morning in the church parking lot" behind our house. With that future in mind, I fear the black eye will be the least of the residual ailments stemming from what was really a perfect boys' day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two More Weeks Grandma

We visited Grandpa and Grandma over the weekend in Twin Falls to celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary and his 84th birthday.

Heather and Grandpa celebrated in Jackpot...both days. Both losers...both days and both people.

Grandma, Ethan, and I hung out in Twin, visited the Herritt's Planetarium and Museum and CSI and checked out Candy Cane Park's "heavy equipment" as Ethan calls playground equipment. Grandma also got to cut Ethan's hair.

On Sunday morning, Ethan told us he wanted to stay there for two more weeks. It made his grandparents smile.