Saturday, May 13, 2006

Guest Blogger: City Mom Kim Strickland

Kim Strickland is a pilot for a major airline, a novelist, and a mother of twin boys. Her novel "Wish Club" is about a women's book group that reads a novel about witchcraft and tries one of the spells for fun, only to have the spell actually work. Nuttiness and mayhem ensue.

She is the yin (City Mom) to my yang (Suburban Man). In our dueling columns we've discovered that the only real difference between us is our area codes. Oh, and I think she's a chick, too. And a mom. And that's why I asked her to write another guest blog for Mother's Day weekend. Check out some of her other great columns. I have a link on the right--listed under Links to Rick's Picks (A City Mom).

Mothers Day
By Kim Strickland

Mother’s day is fast approaching, that marvelous day when we pay tribute to our mothers in the time-honored tradition of giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the Hallmark Corporation. Yes, Mother’s day is tons of fun, especially for us mothers. And who doesn’t need another bottle of Jean Naté?

My personal favorite part of Mother’s Day is breakfast in bed. My husband and the boys clatter around in the kitchen, then come clamoring up the stairs shushing each other, with the dog and cats expectantly in trail. When they enter the bedroom, I pretend I didn’t hear any of the ruckus and act surprised to see the breakfast tray. The experience is made all the more heartwarming if, before delivery, they’ve managed to take the foil wrapper off my Pop-Tart.

Two hours later, when I’m down in the kitchen cleaning up that very same breakfast tray, I ponder what Mother’s Day means to me. It’s supposed to be a day where we say thanks to Mom. Give her a day of rest. A day off. But I’ve never had a Mother’s Day off. I mean, a day off for a mom? What’s that? It would mean pretending you didn’t have children.

When a person makes the commitment to motherhood, a day off, for the rest of your life, is essentially out of the question. Sure, you can leave the kids at grandma’s for the weekend, but even then, although you’re children aren’t physically present, they’re still very much in your thoughts. Have you ever tried to see how long you could go without thinking about them? Worrying if they’re okay? Happy? Crying? Being stuffed full of too many cupcakes at Grandma’s house? I know I couldn’t make it for 24 hours.

This is the bond you make with the Universe when you bring a child into this world. You’ve created a link every bit as real as an umbilical cord. But here’s the thing: It’s more of a one-way cord. The love and concern and worry pours through to your child and sure, you get some of it back—but not all of it. And that’s okay. It has to be okay. It’s really the only way for the system to work. If you’ve done your job, your children will go out into the world with confidence and they’ll flourish, achieving all the goals and dreams they can dream and maybe even, occasionally on holidays, remembering to send you a Hallmark card.

That’s the reward. Not the card, but the happiness of your children. Nobody should decide to go into motherhood as a means of accumulating a collection of unopened bottles of Jean Naté. Being a mother isn’t about having or expecting the unconditional love of your children. It’s about giving your children unconditional love—without expectations.

I don’t think anyone who decides to become a parent really comprehends what it is they’re getting themselves into. I know I didn’t. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean that it’s a life experience that can barely, and only with very great difficulty, be put into words. When people tell you the tried and true phrase, “It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but the best thing you’ll ever do,” you can hear it, but you won’t really get it, until your kids are already here.

Earlier in life, my maternal urges were thin to non-existent. I was the fun-loving, party girl. I still don’t know what the hell happened. I never had any great affinity for children, especially not other people’s children. Sure I babysat when I was younger, and I did a good job, but pretty much those little munchkins were just a means for me to put myself into a new pair of Calvin Klein jeans.

I don’t remember all the driving factors that made my husband and I decide to become parents. Everyone else is doing it—seems to come to mind. Certainly listening to new parents didn’t help the case for parenthood. I remember my husband saying things like, “It would be fun,” and “Kids add the unexpected.” Then the next thing I knew, we ended up with these kids.

The best thing that ever happened to me.

My boys have brought me joy and laughter every single day they’ve been in my life.

While these are just my humble thoughts on what it means to be a mother, I know the jury’s still out for me in terms of my performance as a mom. My kids are only nine. I still have plenty of time to completely screw them up. But I do love them more than my own life, and I have only the best of intentions with regards to their upbringing. In this, I imagine I’m not alone.

All I know is, at least for now, if you love your kids and do your job to the best of your abilities, when that breakfast tray shows up on Mother’s day morning—your little angels will have, oh so lovingly, removed the foil wrapper from your Pop-Tart.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

From the Archives: Mother's Day Rap

When I was still working on the radio, my boys provided a constant stream of material. Every year on Mother's Day, we would go into the studio and produce an audio present for Bridget.

This one was probably my favorite Mother's Day present for Bridget. One long-time fan/listener of the show said it was her favorite bit we did in the ten years of the John Landecker Show on WJMK. It's a rap song starring all three boys. Tommy was seven. Johnny was five. Sean was nine months old. All three can be heard on this hilarious recording. Thank you to Vince Argento for his production magic (and artwork).

A few words of explanation: The words Johnny says in the song ("Allerticott" and "Baga") are Johnny's made up words--inside family jokes. He said them in fits of anger (allerticott) and for comedy purposes (baga).

Click on this link to listen to the song: Mother's Day Rap

It's short, less than a minute long.

For the rest of the Rick Kaempfer archives, click here:

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Half Empty: Applying to co-host The View

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

As men in our 40s, we're due for a midlife crisis. This is the age that many men get a girlfriend or drastically alter their lives. Since we're not getting girlfriends (we would implode with self hate)--it looks like we'll have to drastically alter our lives. This is our first attempt...

A few weeks ago, just after Meredith Viera announced she was going to the Today Show, we sent the following e-mail to Barbara Walters at The View. Alas, she decided to go with a "name" and a "woman"--Rosie O'Donnell, and all we got back was a lousy form letter response. We'll break through one of these days...

Dear Ms. Walters:

Congratulations on the great success of The View.

We read with great interest about Meredith Viera’s impending departure from the show, and while we were grieved that she would no longer be one of the gals, we just know you and the producers will choose an excellent replacement.

We’re sure there have been hundreds if not thousands of applicants already, but we wanted to alert you to two candidates you might not know.

In our opinion, the perfect candidate for The View is well-educated, thoughtful, entertaining, intelligent, sexy, strong and feminine. We realize this is a little unorthodox, but we would like to nominate ourselves for this job, because both of us fit the bill so perfectly. In order to be a little less self-serving, we’ll nominate each other.

“I think Dave Stern would be the perfect replacement for Meredith Viera. I know, I know, he’s a man. However, he was nominated as ‘Fem of the Year’ by his classmates on the playground when he was young, and while he’s not attracted to men per se, he does have three daughters and will someday ‘closely examine’ the men who date them. He also throws like a girl. Dave is well-educated and intelligent—he has a masters degree in Advertising—and thoughtful. How many people do you know who call their mother every day to see if she’s OK? As for sexy, this man is a paper salesman. If that doesn’t ooze sex appeal, I don’t know what does.”
--Rick Kaempfer

“I think Rick Kaempfer would be the perfect replacement for Meredith Viera. Granted, he’s also a man. But you should feel how soft his hands are...they feel like a baby’s bottom. He’s also a stay at home Dad (three boys) who cooks and cleans. Isn’t that sexy? (Although just between you and me, the poor dear has kind of let himself go.) As for entertaining, he was in radio for twenty years. He even wrote a book called “The Radio Producer’s Handbook.” Think how great it would be to have a co-host that could help produce the show! As for intelligence, his sons are pretty smart, so even though his intelligence isn’t exactly ‘on the surface,’ it has to be in there somewhere or his boys wouldn’t be so smart.”
--Dave Stern

I know it will be difficult to choose between us, but please keep in mind that we aren’t competitive and won’t be offended if you choose only one of us. The other promises to remain a fan of the show.

Best regards,

Rick Kaempfer (choose me) & Dave Stern (choose me)

UPDATE: According to recent gossip, Star Jones may also be leaving the show soon. We have another letter ready to go--just in case.

Of course, another requirement of a mid-life crisis is complete and utter self-delusion. That's why we've decided to go ahead with the following plan: Please click here: and sign our petition to have our faces included on Mount Rushmore. We already have 3 signatures.

We have started accumulating our "Half Empty" columns here:

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Suburban Man: Emergency Rooms

By Rick Kaempfer

I always thought Emergency Rooms were supposed to be scary. They certainly seemed scary to me when I was a kid. We used to go there as a family to wait for my little brother while he was being stitched up every month or so. The waiting room was uncomfortable. Sick and injured people moaned in pain and dripped blood on the floor. Nurses and doctors came running in and out. Monitors beeped. Ambulance alarms whirred. And everyone waited for hours.

That’s what I was expecting the first time I accompanied my oldest son to the Emergency Room to get stitches. He was eight years old at the time and had a very deep cut in his chin. I tried to prepare him emotionally for the whole Emergency Room experience, but he looked at me like I was crazy. He had been there a few times before with his mother and wasn’t concerned in the slightest. I gave him a comforting hug.

“You are so brave,” I said. “I’m so proud of you.”

He actually rolled his eyes. That choked me up. This kid was like one of those cowboys in the old time Westerns. His eyes were saying…“It’s just a flesh wound, Hoss; let me dig out the bullet in peace. Now go out there and keep them rustlers away from our herd.”

He was still nonchalant when we walked into the Emergency Room and awaited our turn with the triage nurse. He made small talk with her, wincing only slightly when she looked at the gash on his chin.

“Does it hurt?” she asked.

“A little,” he said.

“A little?” I thought to myself. “That thing is going to need ten stitches.”

“It’s a pretty big cut,” she said, “but we’ll take care of it for you.”

“Are we going back there?” he asked, pointing to the door behind her.

She nodded.

Uh oh, I thought. Here it comes. Now he’s going to remember what happens behind those doors; the needles, the prodding, the pain. I prepared for the hysterical reaction. I saw how he behaved when some small thing went wrong, like his macaroni touching the vegetables on his dinner plate, and could only imagine what was coming. I hunkered down for the fit of all fits.

“Follow me,” she said.

We followed her through the door to the kid’s section of the Emergency Room. Suffice it to say, it has changed a little over the past thirty years. The colorful walls were painted with cartoon fish. The gigantic fish tank contained a rainbow of tropical fish worthy of the Shedd Aquarium. It was like walking onto the set of “Finding Nemo.”

When they opened the curtain to his room, he was actually excited. He jumped onto the bed, pressed the buttons to raise it to the level he preferred, adjusted the television to the proper angle, and began changing channels. While the nurse put the numbing agent on his chin, he was watching a Tom & Jerry cartoon on the Cartoon Network.

“Do you have any video games?” he asked.

I was about to chastise him for his prima-donna demands when the nurse surprised me.

“Sure,” she said. “What kind of video games do you like?”

“Do you have Super Mario Brothers?” he asked.

“I’ll go get it,” she said, and walked out of the room before I could even utter a response. My boy looked up at me and smiled.

“Dad,” he said, “You’re gonna love this one.”

I’ll admit it. I found myself watching him progress through the levels of the video game instead of watching the doctor stitch up his chin. When the stitching was done, and the doctor told us it was OK to leave, we both had the same reaction.

“After this next level,” we said.

She smiled and said, “I’m sorry, but we need the bed.”

My son started to get upset, so I put my hand on his shoulder to comfort him.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “I’m sure you’ll injure yourself again. We’ll be back.”

“You promise, Dad?” he asked.

“I promise,” I said.

This article was originally written as a Suburban Man, but it can found in the current issue of "Get Healthy Magazine", a publication of the Times.

For the rest of the Suburban Man columns, click here:

Sunday, May 07, 2006


By Rick Kaempfer

(From the May 2006 Issue)

“The biggest trouble-maker you'll probably ever have to deal with watches you shave his face in the mirror every morning."
-- Unknown Cowboy Philosopher

When a typical day consists of rushing from one place to the next, hurrying to pick up kids here, or drop them off there, or sprinting to catch the train to and from work, or eating in the car because you don’t have time to prepare a meal, or squeezing in a trip to the store to get your shopping done before coming home to collapse in a heap at the end of a frenzied frazzled day, it’s no wonder that when vacation time rolls around the last thing you want to do is the same a different location.

Sometimes you just want to mosey. When it’s time to mosey, there’s no better place to do it than a Dude Ranch.

What is a Dude Ranch Vacation?

“Don’t squat with your spurs on”
--Unknown cowboy philosopher

A Dude Ranch vacation is everything that our world isn’t. In a world of deafening noise, a dude ranch is quiet and peaceful. In a world of deadlines, a dude ranch is a place where a clock doesn’t dictate your day. In a world of high speed internet access, a dude ranch is a place where things move at a much slower pace.

A typical week at a dude ranch includes campfires, horseback orientation and training, horseback riding through the countryside, and lots of time spent in the great outdoors. Most dude ranches are geared to families, and offer activities like nature hikes, visits to local artisans, swimming, rafting, skeet shooting, archery, mountain biking, rock climbing, hot air ballooning, and fishing. For the less adventurous, many of them also have pools and hammocks and lounge chairs. “Vittles” at dude ranches range from the traditional cowboy campfire fare to gourmet dining, and most of the prices quoted by dude ranches include the cost of meals. It’s like a land-locked all-inclusive resort.

You can make a dude ranch vacation into anything you want it to be, provided you want to get away from the rat race.

Where do you find dude ranches?

"The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket."
-- Unknown Cowboy Philosopher

There are more than five hundred dude ranches in America, and most of them are listed at That website has more than 470 listings of dude ranches in thirty-three states and Canada. The listings are pretty bare-bones in terms of information (address, phone number, etc.), but many of them include links directly to the websites of the dude ranches themselves.

If you really want the full dude ranch experience, you’ll probably want to head out West. Most of the Western States have a bevy of dude ranches, but there are a few states who really take pride in their cowboy heritage. Colorado, for instance, has over a hundred dude ranches. Wyoming, Texas, Montana, Arizona, and California also have quite a few. Think of what it would be like to experience the traditional cowboy lifestyle surrounded by some of this country’s most breathtaking scenery. The beautiful mountains and wide open spaces of these states are a perfect setting for riding. It really is very much like going back in time...without having to give up essential modern conveniences like beds, bathrooms, and showers.

But how do you know which dude ranch to pick? There are so many choices, it’s almost overwhelming. One way to help narrow the search is by checking with the various state dude ranch associations. Most of them provide “grids” which are easy to use and really helpful in the selection process. For instance, they can help you find which dude ranches are better for expert riders or beginners, which ones have the most additional activities, or which ones are rated the highest by visitors. Once you narrow down your search, a simple call to the dude ranch itself will help you learn more.

Most of these places are family run, and when you speak with the owner, you’re really getting a feel for what the experience will be like. Keep in mind that a ranch’s main focus is the riding program, so ask specifics about their instruction (What do you learn? How much time does it take to learn it? What sort of instructors do you have?), and the types of rides (all-day, 2-hour, unguided, guided, children’s, etc.). If there’s another part of the dude ranch lifestyle that you absolutely want to (or don’t want to) experience, this is the time to ask. Don’t settle for one that doesn’t have everything you want. With over 500 dude ranches in this country, you’re bound to find one that is absolutely perfect for you and/or your family.

What should you pack if you’re going to a dude ranch out west? If you’re going to the mountains remember that the temperatures fluctuate wildly from day to night. All of the dude ranches out there suggest you wear layers, and that you ride with long sleeve shirts, cowboy boots, a cowboy hat (with a hat string—that’s important so it doesn’t fly off), leather gloves, a bandana to keep the dust out of your mouth, jeans (no need to bring fancy stuff), and don’t forget sunscreen and insect repellant.

Local Dude Ranches

"Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment."
-- Unknown Cowboy Philosopher

While the Midwest isn’t exactly known for its dude ranches, there are a few that come highly rated in our area: In Michigan, the Rockin R in Bear’s Lake (45 miles southwest of Traverse City), in Illinois, the White Pines Ranch in Oregon (near Rockford) and in Wisconsin, the Woodside Ranch Resort in Mauston (15 miles northwest of Wisconsin Dells).

Rockin R Stables, 9061 Thirteen Mile Road, Bear Lake, Michigan, 616-864-3539,

The Rockin R Stables is a throwback to the old cowboy experience. The lodging ranges from bunkhouses for groups, to campsites, to teepees (you read that right), to old fashioned log cabins, to a romantic honeymoon log cabin with a hot tub. They have a saloon, a general store, a stagecoach, rodeos on the weekend, and of course, riding stables. They say they can handle any level of rider, from the novice to the pro, and the Rockin R does have the advantage of riding trails that will take you to a point overlooking Bear Lake.

White Pines Ranch, 3581 Pines Road, Oregon, IL 61061, 815-732-7923,

White Pines is a dude ranch just for kids, although they do occasionally have adults-only weekends. This ranch is a favorite destination for summer camps (during July & August) and school groups (the rest of the year). It’s more than just a fun place to visit, it’s educational. Several school districts in Illinois have actually made a weekend trip to White Pines a requirement for their students. That’s because in addition to the traditional dude ranch activities (horseback riding, hiking, campfires), White Pines also has outdoor education programs for students and teachers to study fossils, wildlife, vegetation, natural springs, and more. The kids stay in dormitories and are served buffet style in a cafeteria. Each kid is assigned a job and has to help with clean up after every meal.

Woodside Ranch, Highway 82, Mauston, Wisconsin 53948, 608-847-4275,

Woodside Ranch has been attracting visitors since the 1920s. In the past few years it has been expanded to include a conference, business, and fitness center, but the main attraction here is, and always will be, the dude ranch. The riding stable has over a hundred horses for riders of just about any level, but they also have ponies for the youngsters so that the parents can hit the trail. Is there a bar? Is this Wisconsin? You bet, although Woodside calls it a watering hole (read—adult watering hole). They also have a private pool and sauna, and a private fishing pond stocked with bass. You can choose to stay in a one, two or three bedroom cabin, or in one of the main lodge ranch house rooms (which sleeps two to six people), and the food is served family-style in the main dining room every night.

It’s Not Just a Vacation, It’s a Philosophy

“Don't worry about bitin' off more'n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger'n you think.”

---Unknown Cowboy Philosopher

The one sure thing about visiting a dude ranch is that you’ll run across one of these unknown cowboy philosophers offering a little homespun wisdom. It may make you chuckle a bit as you sit around the campfire, but after you return to your life, when you least expect it (during rush hour traffic, or waiting for your kid’s soccer practice to end), it will pop back in your head. And at that moment, you’ll know precisely what he meant by; “Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction."

This is just one of my three pieces in this month's SHORE MAGAZINE. I'm really proud of this magazine. You should get a copy of it if you can--it's available in the tri-state area (Michigan, Indiana, Illinois). If you want to check out the on-line edition of the magazine, go here: