News for the ‘family’ Category

Tow Truck And All

My 5 year old and I took off for the weekend in “Our Lady of Disrepair.” “Our Lady of Disrepair” is our 86 VW Vanagon Weekender. We love her. (Her actual name is Gomer as in Hosea 1:2,3. Not the most faithful vehicle and I’m convinced plenty of others lust for her.)

Our first stop was Maplewood State Park. We’d camped here once before and it is one of our favorite MN parks. We biked around a bit. Pondered this sign:

Identity Issues


And did a little wading:


It was perfect camping weather. Nice and cool. In the morning we went for a swim in Lake Lida. Still cool. Down right cold. Carpe Diem.

Onward to Walhalla ND and the Rendezvous Arts and Heritage Festival where I was playing and MC’ing.

We were poking along just fine. Then about 20 miles south of Grand Forks the gas pedal went loose and dropped down to the floor. Zero acceleration. Hazards on, I coasted to the side of the road. There’s a reason we refer to Gomer as “Our Lady of Disrepair.” Stranded on the side of the I-29 in ND with a 5 year old is not my dream situation. Unless of course that dream is a nightmare. I was a little stressed. Thankfully she took it all in stride:

Dad: “Looks like we need to call a tow truck honey.”

Daughter: “Oh goodie, I’ve never ridden in a tow truck before!”

I went ahead and bought her a pony.

If you need to wait for a tow truck, I recommend doing so in a Vanagon. We popped up the table, played Farkel, ate bing cherries, and chatted with State Troopers. There are worse ways to spend a summer afternoon.

In about 1/2 an hour Jason and his tow truck arrived and the folks at the Cenex on 32nd took fine care of us.

Thankfully no parts were needed. The accelerator cable had simply come loose and they were able to get us in right away, fix it fast, and barely charge us. I love ND.

We spent the next 24 hours in Walhalla. Not nearly enough time, but a wonderful time all the same. I got to play cards with my favorite mother in law, eat the best corn of the summer so far at the firefighters’ fund raiser, and the Art and Heritage Festival was great. Tons of local artists displaying their work, offering demonstrations, and inviting artists of all ages into hands on lessons.

As it wrapped up Saturday evening Elsa and I headed back to Fargo to spend the night. Sunday morning we headed east on 10 and I led music at Glyndon Lutheran where my friend Jeni is the pastor. One of the highlights was an infant baptism where they sat the naked baby right in the fount a la bath time. Apparently it’s a 3rd century tradition. Who knew? Jeni for one. And now we all do. I am a little curious how this translates into adult baptisms.

Back in the Vanagon again Elsa and I made the final leg of the journey. Stopping at Dunn Bros in Alec (Or as non-locals call it: Alexandria) the barista asked if I needed anything with my coffee. I asked for someone to drive me to St. Paul. She said no. I tipped her anyway.

The whole parenting-camping-driving-working-weekend thing is a bit exhausting, but we made it home safe and sound and all in all it was a great trip. Tow truck and all.


Posted: August 13th, 2012
Categories: family, music, travel
Comments: No Comments.

Nate Houge Unplugged

Today I’m bustin’ my kids out of school and heading to North Dakota via the MN State Park system.  Our Lady of Disrepair is all loaded up (almost).  I bought an extra tarp and bungee chords in case of bad weather.  I’ve got a guitar and a box of CD’s for Wednesday night’s concert in Walhalla.  And as of this morning I’ve decided to leave the lap top behind.  As much as I want to take advantage of the girls partying with Grandma while I get some work done, I’m realizing that everyday I get more attached to my digital world.  So in an attempted act of detachment I’m cutting myself off.  I’ll still have my phone (and my AAA card).  But for the most part I’ll stick to pen and paper and catch up on some letter writing.  If you’d like to get a postcard from ND e-mail me your address today (4-24-12) with Postcard in the subject line and I’ll see if I can’t get something in the mail to you.  A little Ephemera to brighten your day.

Posted: April 24th, 2012
Categories: family, song, travel
Comments: No Comments.

fo – sho – bud

And to think, some kids are stuck playing the piano.  Watch out Lloyd, Elsa’s on her way.

Posted: August 13th, 2010
Categories: edumacation, family, music
Comments: No Comments.

Elsa Armstrong

Elsa (recently turned three) learned to pedal a little bike like this about 10 days ago.   It has an 8 inch wheel and the crank is connected directly to it.  You could call it a fixed gear, but it doesn’t have any gears.  It’s just fixed.

We most often bike to church and when we do my eldest rides her bike and Elsa rides in the trailer.  Elsa’s recent ability to pedal her own bike coupled with her recent coming of 3 years of age has given her a new found sense of power and determination.  So yesterday she told me she wanted to ride her bike to church too.  Why not?  Worse case scenario she hops in the trailer.  So Lydia rode her scooter, Elsa rode her fixie, and I walked behind with my bike and trailer.

Turns out I didn’t need the trailer.

Elsa biked the entire way to and from church, for a grand total of one mile on her wee little bike powered by wee little legs and a great big determination.

I know it was mother’s day, but still I couldn’t be more proud as a father.

Posted: May 10th, 2010
Categories: bike, family
Comments: 2 Comments.

annunciation, resignation

listening to bottle rockets brand new year.  back home from ringing in the new year with wife, brother, kjel, amy, and a lot of neighbors at skinners… one time my brother in law said you know you’ve had too much to drink when you lose your ations – innunciations, pronunciations, etc… so driving home a song came on the radio and i say, ‘is this death cab for cutie?’ and my brother says, ‘i was wondering the same thing with all of that over innunciation.’ and being still headlong into this joyous christmas tide i thought he said over-annunciation which lead to the two of us yelling with perfect innunciation things like, ‘an angel came to the town of nazareth, to a woman whose name was mary…’ and so on and soon it led to the converse and we pondered under annunciation.  ‘so some celestial being came to this lady and was like a kid will be born, god, probably you’re going to be the mom, but whatev, city of dave, blah blah blah…’no in 2010 i will be fitter, thinner, eat less crap, drink less booze, play more guitar, finish the basement, set up my pedal steel, be a patient dad, supportive husband, role model to underprivileged kids everywhere,  do more laundry, don’t do more laundry (my wife hates it when i dry stuff that’s not supposed to be dried and she has to buy it again – though i say if you can’t dry it don’t buy it – but no one listens to me), be more listened to, write more letters, cuddle more kittens, be nice to the nice guys and mean to the mean in my dreams, stand up to the evil el guapo, tell my family i love them, (i just told my family i love them so i can check that off pronto) celebrate my accomplishments, appreciate my brother for not being a dj but rather for being an electronic musician (not that he’s electronic but his music often depends on alternating current) (but that doesn’t make it alternative, that makes it electronic), use moisturizing lotion to get rid of the obnoxious dry skin back itch that i often have in mn during the winter of my discontent (are you wearing a doily?) make shorter more manageable lists, keep it chill, keep it tight, keep it real, keep it real tight and chill, give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now, blog more, spend less time blogging, buy sensible shoes, spend more time logging, log less, unless it’s sustainable logging, help someone who needs help by finding a helpful person to help them in a helpful sustainable way, go on vacation and not feel like the most relaxing and fulfilling thing i can do is work, cop out on vacation and do relaxing and fulfilling things that i love and sometimes get paid for (work for instance), stop contradicting myself in my futile underread blogs, congratulate those who actually make it through my nonsensical rantings, stop basing my self worth on the basis of comments, come to grips with the fact that my mom e-mails me with the preface, ‘i was going to comment on your blog, but it’s probably not cool that you’re mom comments on your blog more than anyone else so i thought i’d just e-mail you,’ write my mom more often so that my blog is not our number one means of communication, write shorter blogs, know when a good ending line is present and claim it, listen to more bottle rockets, and of course there’s more but i’m already intimidated and giving up at the monstrosity of this list, and chances are you quit reading lines and lines ago because it’s boring and chances are you didn’t even read that line because you gave up lines and lines ago because it’s boring and chances are…

Posted: January 1st, 2010
Categories: family, friendship
Comments: 4 Comments.



Posted: December 22nd, 2009
Categories: family
Comments: No Comments.

technically speaking

I’m not anti technology but it drives me nuts all the same.  I hate being advertised to.  I hate commercials.  I hate billboards blocking my view of farmland and trees and blue sky.  My obvious bias is that technology is just one big marketing tool. A distraction.  A couple weeks ago a Sunday ad for blackberries or netbooks or some such appendage boasted, €œTotal Freedom!  Always Be Connected!€  And I thought to myself, €œHow is that freedom?€  If a prisoner is shackled securely the only person free is the guard.  Sorry that was a bit overstated, but really, who wants to be connected all the time? 
1,2,3, Not it. 
I have a habit of disconnecting.  Maybe too much so.  For practical and economic reasons my wife and I have cell phones and no land line.  I turn mine off at the point in the day that I don’t want to be bothered.  Usually between 6 or 7.  I don’t think this is unreasonable.  The (perceived) problem is that I sometimes forget to turn it back on.  Usually I remember by mid afternoon the next day, but on occasion it’s been 2 or 3 days. 
And I have yet to miss an important call. 
A few months ago we moved into a new house.  We haven’t decided what to do about cable/internet stuff.  We used to have basic cable because it made our internet package cheaper.  And since our TV is older than our children (by about 10 years) cable allowed us to watch TV post digital broadcasting.  So now, in this new house, we are internet and TV free.  Actually, my wife picks up our old signal still (an advantage of only moving across the alley) and we still bust out DVD’s for Saturday morning cartoons, so it’s not like we’ve gone 100% hippy, but still it’s been a change.  For the better.  Generally I’ve found that quality of life increases in the absence of technology. 
I grew up with bed time stories.  I have great memories of laying in bed and my Mom reading Chronicles of Narnia to me and my brother while I fought to stay awake.  I don’t remember watching TV as a kid.  I mean, I watched it, but there are no memories attached to it.  And in fact now that I think about the only TV memory I have is falling in love with MacGyver as a fifth grader, which is funny considering the thing I loved about MacGyver was his instinct to eschew technology in favor of a knife and duct tape.  So even as a fifth grader my use of TV was a bit subversive.
Granted, most of my formative viewing years were spent in a village in Liberia West Africa, so even though I was the desired audience I was a hard to reach target.  Towards the end of our time in Liberia we had solar panels and 12 volt lights that we could use at night.  Until that point we had kerosene lamps and candles at night.  And that’s what we read our stories by. 

Here in St. Paul we generally read stories by the light of a two foot christmas tree that our eldest rediscovered in the move.  By putting it up in October Lydia actually beat Menards to the season, but only by a week.  Anyway, Jodi or I lay next to the girls and read stories at night.  We’re on book six of the Little House series, the Long Winter.  I was never a big Little House fan, but I’ve kind of gotten into it.  In fact, we all have to the point that even when only one parent is necessary for the bed time routine we generally both end up there for the story.  I’ve even been tempted to read ahead during the day while Lydia’s at school.
During the long winter the Ingalls run out of kerosene for their lantern.  It’s the part in the story where they’re existing in Minnesota in February in a wood shack with nothing but wheat flour to live on and hay to burn for fuel.  I say ‘existing’ because it hardly seems like living.  Were I the Pa at this point I would’ve wandered off into the snow never to be seen again.  But what does fiddle playing Pa Ingalls do?  Bemoans the fact that they had become so dependent on kerosene lamps and reminisces how much easier life was when they weren’t burdened by such technologies.  Something tell me Pa rolled over in his grave when he found out his life was being made into a TV show. 
These thoughts on technology have been on mind a lot lately.  I’m thankful for technology €“ it’s not that I want to get all Amish on the world (okay, secretly I do, but let’s keep that a secret) €“ I’m thankful for this computer that I’m typing on that allows me to make a living as a writer and musician.  I’m thankful for cars and electricity and power tools and paint sprayers and even on occasion cell phones.  But I’m also wary.  Not to be the eternal wet blanket but I can’t help but wonder how much of technology has become a distraction for me.  How many times I’ve ignored my family to check out a new guitar pedal on line or all the time I spend coming up with blog ideas while my daughter wants me to make play-do cookies with her.  Not an entirely hypothetical question.

There are broader distractions also.  I’m reading What is the What by Dave Eggers.  It’s the biography of a ‘Lost Boy’ from Sudan.  I can’t help but wonder where the rest of the world was while this kid was wandering across the desert watching his friends die of starvation and disease as they fled their home for Ethiopia.  Probably watching sit coms.  Changing the oil on an ATV.  Putting new pedals on a bike.  Mowing the lawn.  Updating their status.  Writing a blog.  I told you I was a wet blanket.
We could all turn off our TV’s.  And our crackberries and our gps’s and whoknowswhatsits.  It might not make a hill of beans difference.  Or it might slow us down enough to see what’s going on around us.  It might not stop a war, but it might make our homes more peaceful.  It may not increase our world view, but maybe in a small hopeful way it will allow us to live in solidarity with our neighbors, past, present, and future. 

Posted: November 16th, 2009
Categories: family, friendship
Comments: 3 Comments.



The Houge family recently returned from a week in the black hills of SD.  In true Nate & Jodi fashion we remembered to bring out the camera at one of the stops – Old MacDonalds petting zoo.  Unfortunately that’s the only stop we remembered to bust it out at.  If you only knew how many unphotographed trips and travels we’ve been on…

So here’s what we were up to on the 2009 Houge tour/family vacation.

I played a gig in downtown Rapid City.  Wonderful albeit sparcely populated.  Before I went on there was a demo by a local hair salon.  Lydia got a free hair cut.  I was up next and had fun playing some kids and family stuff.  Halfway through the set I noticed my harmonica was covored in hair.  I haven’t played it since…

The next morning I played at Custer Lutheran Fellowship which was a great gig.  All the music was from my upcoming release “Becoming Liturgy” (available August 2009).  A first for me was leading the singing of the Psalm.  We used Psalm Tone 1 from the ELW.  Everything went really well thanks to CLF being a singing congregation.  Some are, some arent’.  CLF are.

Then we are off to Outlaw Ranch for a week where I was the artist in residence and my family vacationed.  (I got plenty of rest and hiking in too.)  I did this gig three years ago and was very excited to do it again.  I spent the morning writing songs with kids – we wrote everything from songs about the creation account to Helga’s Hamburger Helper Hairball.  And there was a rock/reggae/talking blues opera recounting Samuel’s call.  I love writing songs and what a great group to do it with!  One night I headed over to a sister camp and did a concert for middle schoolers and an elderhostel group.  Kind of an odd combination but it went really well.  Then on Wednesday night I did a concert for the adults at family camp.  Spending a few days with folks, getting all relaxed, creating some common ground, and then doing a concert in a beautful old barn is about as perfect set up as you can find for giving a concert.  It was an incredible encouragement to me as a performing songwriter.  I can’t thank the folks at outlaw enough for the experience.

Throughout the week we hiked and horse backed, crafted and canoed.  My folks got to come along too which was great as far as parent/grandparent time is concerned – you can’t beat having them in the room next door! 

On Friday we hoofed it back via a night in Sioux Falls.  Home on Saturday in time to watch our neighbors blow up the ‘hood.  Not that we didn’t help.  C’mon, firework stands in South Dakota, how could I resist?

So a huge thanks to Rapid City, Custer Lutheran Fellowship, and Outlaw Ranch!  Now we’ll lay low for a week or so before the next camp adventure begins!

And if any of you folks I met along the way would like to have me visit your church/college/coffeeshop contact me!  nate at natehouge dot com.  I’d love to see you again and play some more!

Peace and more,


Posted: July 7th, 2009
Categories: family, music, travel
Comments: 4 Comments.

Two Shall Become One

It is official.  We are now a one car/toaster family.

Posted: June 22nd, 2009
Categories: family, transportation, travel
Comments: No Comments.

Definition of A Good Day

sho bud

Friday morning I woke up at 5:30 am.  I put on my jeans, pearl snaps, and boots and drove to WI.  The first song to come on the radio was Lucinda Williams Car Wheels on a Gravel Road featuring Buddy Miller.  I pulled into Super America to get some cash.  They were out of cash, but I got free coffee because I brought my mug from home.  Note to travelers:  Always travel with a ceramic mug.  You may get stopped by airport security, but that’s a small price to pay when everybody starts giving you free coffee.

I made it to a gas station off of 23 in WI where I met up with a guy from the Chippewa Falls area.  I bought a pedal steel from him.  And I got a freakin’ great deal on it!  Then I drove back to St. Paul and got home around the time Lydia got on the bus for school.

Mid morning I took off to finish a writing project that I had started back in… October?  It was a large project that I had admittedly grown a bit weary of, though I will say I was happy with the work I was turning in all along the way.  Well at about 2pm I came home and sent in the final manuscript.  It felt great.

Then I checked the mail and I had recieved comp copies of an earlier project I had been a part of.  The Bible.  That’s right kids, I wrote the Bible.  (Are you starting to see why this was such a good day?)  Actually the Bible that I had been a small part of was the new Spark Bible from Augsburg Fortress.  I’ve done a lot of writing for Augsburg Fortress and I must say that this is the thing project I am most proud to be a part of so far.  It’s an aesthetically pleasing, reader engaging format that every third – sixth grader should have. 

For supper I made pizza.  I love pizza. 

After supper I put my guitar in the bike trailer and headed up the road to play at the Bean Factory with Jason, his djembe and his smile.  It’s not everyday you get to play a gig with the president of Drummers for a Brighter America.  We played songs we haven’t played in 7+ years!  Including hits like ‘Our Better Days’ and TV’s and SUV’s (a song written before we owned a mini-van and I got hooked on LOST). 

After the show Jason and Erin took my guitar and I raced them home.  I love riding my bike and one of the best riding scenarios is a warm summer night and Friday’s unseasonable warmth hit the spot.  Back at home Jodi had put the girls to bed and the four of us stayed up late with the finest Milwaukee, Chippewa Falls, and Ft. Collins has to offer.

Yep.  It was a good day.

Posted: April 21st, 2009
Categories: bike, family, friendship, music
Comments: No Comments.

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