Friday, May 6, 2016

How to Enjoy a Monster Jam with Kids (even if you're not a motorsports family)

The quick and dirty about Monster Jam with kids:

1. Monster Jam is a loud monster truck rally. Bring ear protection. Your hearing is important, and while you may be able to handle the noise, small kid's ears are more sensitive, and you don't want to have to leave because they can't.

2. Monster Jam is at it's core, a "motorsport". There will be trucks crushing cars and making wild jumps, but there will also be racing. Tight circles, driven on a dirt track, by trucks with tires as tall as a grown man.

3. Monster Jam is family friendly. No, really, I promise. Except for the introduction, the house lights are always on - they want you to be able to see the trucks and the dirt, and the jumbotron, and the concessions. Vendors will sell everything from Grave Digger hats and Maxx D shirts to those headphones I told you to bring in point 1, and toy versions of the very trucks you're going to watch for the next few hours. Plan on being entertained.

4. The best is always saved for last. If there's a truck name you recognize, expect them to be the star of the show, and to get the prime slots in the competition. Plan bathroom breaks and concession visits for early in any segment of so you don't miss the grand finale.

5. The show is broken up into two segments: a regular bracket style racing tournament (first around the course twice), and freestyle. If trucks driving in circles isn't your thing, consider coming late for just the freestyle. This part of the competition often leaves a literal graveyard of trucks, as they try to push their jumps higher, and won't hold back on driving through or over another truck broken on the course. Skip the circles if you expect your kid to have a short attention span for the racing. 

Keep reading if you want a first hand experience from a dad who didn't consider point 5!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Real Strength

I may only be your average NCAA basketball fan; not a fanatic, while also not oblivious to the game either. That said, every March I go full on mad for March Madness. I fill out at least one bracket, play a few squares in my office pool, and this year sat down for the first time to help my son fill out his own tournament brackets. While both our brackets have been busted for a solid week now, it was still great fun.

Filling out our tournament brackets with my son was a great experience. We had the chance to talk about the teams, how the brackets are seeded, where the games are played, and what kind of tournament upsets to expect. We began following our selections, crossing off the losses, and high-fiveing after every correct pick. To make our March experience even better, I was contacted by Dove Men+Care and offered two tickets to take a friend to an Elite Eight game in Louisville, KY! A game in Louisville sounded perfect, as it's just a short two hour drive from Indy, and a Saturday would be really convenient for me to get out for a day trip. I could not have been more excited to hear from Dove Men+Care with this offer.

Dove Men+Care has a new campaign highlighting the relationship between basketball coaches Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie of UConn. It shows another side of what makes men heroes in each other’s eyes, and how caring for one another fosters real bonds of friendship. While I got to share the bracket experience with my son, I wanted to invite my brother to share the game with me. We live several hours apart, and Louisville was right in the middle, making it the perfect location to share the bond forged on the court in our youth. 

We each made it to Louisville a few hours before the game last Saturday, and met up at a sports bar downtown. I was impressed with the atmosphere everywhere we walked, and we quickly picked up our friendship where we last left off, sharing stories and laughs, and listened to the Villanova fans cheer every time some stranger also wearing Nova colors walked by. 

By the time the match-up between Kansas and Villanova started, we found our seats, and a few other dad friends I've made while living in Indianapolis. We watched as one of the best games of the 2016 NCAA March Madness Tournament played out in front of us. We cheered as Kansas drove the court for a slam, we clapped as Nova played stellar defense, we got wrapped up in the action as the game came down to the final minutes and Villanova sealed a victory and a trip to the Final Four. 

All through the game, we were adding another chapter to our lifelong friendship. From playing H-O-R-S-E in the driveway as kids, to one-on-one in high school, to watching college athletes at the top of their game, basketball has left its mark on this Hoosier family. I was excited to have the chance, and my brother was thrilled I accepted the offer from Dove and invited him to share in the experience. Real Strength is forged in shared experiences, and this was one we'll talk about for years to come. The game, the laughs, the drinks, the stadium hotdogs... it all plays a role in this memory.

When the game was over and the stands emptied, We found ourselves walking to two separate parking garages, saying our farewells and promising to pick things up right where we were leaving them the next time we got together. It's a friendship that will not break, and one I look forward to strengthening even more in the future. Maybe this summer we'll find ourselves at a baseball game together!

Disclosure: I was provided with free tickets and a fuel card for the NCAA game. However, I was not compensated for this post. Thank you to Dove Men+Care for continually supporting and fostering the growth of fatherhood and friendship between men.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Different Worlds

I was talking with a young single coworker Friday night as we left work. He asked if I had big plans for the weekend. I told him we were doing pinewood derby one day, finishing a school report on the Polio vaccine, and if the barley and hops gods smiled on me, I'd get a few beers in while watching the game on Sunday. His response was one of shock, and I could hear it in his voice as he said "we live very different lives, friend!"

His weekend was obviously going to be the one of a young bachelor in the city, I'll let you imagine the details, but it's safe to say Polio was not a disease he was worried about, and a beer or two wouldn't even cover the opening round. 

I wouldn't trade with him though, and while he's enjoying his youth, he has no idea how much he may one day enjoy the other side of the coin with a weekend like the one I had.

He has never experienced the joy of seeing his son's face light up as his pinewood derby car which he labored over in frantic half hour sessions with him crosses the finish line. He has never watched his daughter learn something new and come to him with the look of new knowledge in her eyes as she relays the facts about polio and the vaccine that changed the world. He has never sat down to watch a football game, and had his toddler climb into his lap, grab his face between his two tiny hands and give him a kiss, making all the noise of the stadium melt away and the beer in his hands a less important part of the experience. 

He doesn't know the joy of waking up every day to a person he shares every detail of his life with, the unique passion that is married love, the soothing effect of talking about his day with someone who knows about the day and the week and the year before. 

These are the things he doesn't know. These are the things that sound mundane until you live them. These are the things I traded my weekends single and partying for, and one day I hope he finds the dad life to be as fulfilling as I do. But how does one explain the wonder of parenting to someone who is not yet a parent?

We had a laugh about our different lives, and my closing words were "one day, you'll see..." We both smiled and waved as we climbed into our cars, he into his coupe', me, my four door sedan, and pulled out to enjoy our "very different lives".

Whatever they may contain, enjoy your weekends, and know I'll be enjoying mine as well, even if I am covered in school paste and sawdust.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dinosaurs at the Museum

The first place my kids always want to go when we visit the museum is the Dinosphere. The big flashy main attraction may be the T-Rex battle between two Tyrannosaurs and a Triceratops, but we have a special connection to Leonardo, the mummified dinosaur. Before ever visiting, he was the first thing we ever learned about what the Museum had to offer.
After reading up on Leonardo, we made our first visit and made a beeline past the giant croc, past the brilliant color changing sky above the battling dinos, past the sensory stations featuring fossils of various specimen and directly to the glass case displaying one of paleontology's greatest discoveries ever. I think my kids heard "mummy" and thought "Egyptian mummy." However, a dinosaur mummy couldn't be wrapped and artificially preserved, so we got to discuss how nature instead did the job of preserving Leonardo's skin, scales, tendons and even stomach contents for scientists to study today. 

After getting a good look behind the glass, we all moved on to the sensory stations to learn more about Leonardo. We found out about his diet, details of where he was found, and more about the process of natural mummification. While the kids were picking up all this information, I had to play the knowledgeable dad role and read the info panels much faster, so I could nod and say "I know, right?" and then provide a little more info when they shared their new wonder with me.

After an all-too-short visit, we headed home, to a waiting science fair project. And what does one do for a science fair project after seeing Leonardo the Mummified Dinosaur, but an epic presentation on mummified dinosaurs. Books and information were limited on other specimens, but through persistence and perseverance, we managed to find enough content to fill a complete tri-fold. Not only did the Dinosphere provide the inspiration for the project, but the excitement as well. And if my kids are excited and inspired when we walk out the doors of the Children's Museum, then I say mission accomplished! 

This post originally appeared on The Children's Museum of Indianapolis' blog. Take a look to see what amazing things are currently going on over at the worlds greatest children's museum!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Unscheduled Sleep Positions X

Ok, so I'm a pushover. But he's our last kid, and how many more times will I get the chance to let a youngin sleep on my lap? Daily naps are beginning to fall by the wayside to the point that if E naps, it's most likely to be because he falls asleep in the car as we run daily errands.

Once we arrive back at the house, I can usually bring him in and transfer him right into his bed. Other times, that transfer doesn't go so smoothly. This just happened to be one of those times. Instead of staying asleep when I laid him down, he shot bolt upright and stuck his arms out for me again. Only when I picked him up, he cuddled right into my shoulder again. 

It's at that point that I can say "I tried", and then go recline in my La-Z-Boy, and let him rest until he wakes on his own. 

It's really not such a bad afternoon, cuddles with my second son. Maybe I can even catch up on an episode of The Walking Dead. I'm only a season behind...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Cookies

*This post originally appeared on The Children's Museum of Indianapolis' blog.

On our most recent visit to the Children's Museum, we stopped into the new Gingerbread Cafe' for a snack, and it got us in the mood for some of our traditional Christmas cookies. Every year, we gather around with cookies in hand and carols on the radio to decorate our Christmas tree. It's a tradition as old as our family, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. So this year, we converged around the table to build gingerbread reindeer cookies. They are pretty simple to assemble and easy to get little hands involved with. The ingredients are few, and the instructions very straightforward.

- Begin with gingerbread dough (we used store bought because kids love helping mix any dough, but that can get a little messy, and I like projects with less cleanup)
- You'll also need a small bag of RedHots (also called cinnamon imperials if you look in the generic section)
- Next, pick up mini pretzels (these will be used as reindeer antlers, so don't think you'll get away with using those huge soft pretzels from the mall)
- Finally, a small bag of chocolate baking chips will make up your cookie's eyes (and if my family is any indication, more than a few will also line your stomachs before the baking is done)

After you assemble the ingredients (and the help) you begin by forming the dough into a rough prism shape. Then simply slice the log into thin triangles, and let the help lay them out on a cookie sheet. Bake per the dough instructions, and when you pull them out, immediately begin pressing two mini pretzels into two corners for the "antlers" a red hot into the third corner for "Rudolph's nose", and two chocolate chips in the middle for the "eyes". If you have really little ones helping, you can remove the cookies to a cooling plate before building your reindeer. Rudolph's nose provides a little spice to compliment the sweet molasses flavor inherent in the gingerbread.

Let your reindeer cool while you do a second pan, and then it's time to get the munchies! I'm sure Santa won't mind if you eat one (or two or three) of his reindeer, just don't name them before biting off their tasty little noses!

Monday, December 7, 2015

'Tis the Season

This is our first December in Indy, and so it's our first Jolly Days at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. We went down to the museum on Black Friday to see Santa's big arrival, and got our first taste of the Yule slide, as well as our first taste of the new Gingerbread cafe. Mmmm, gingerbread....

I'm going to be honest with you, the cookies are my favorite part of every Christmas season.

Like many homes, December is full of traditions in our house. We like to kick off the holiday season by decorating our Christmas tree near the beginning of the month, and it just doesn't feel like the holidays until we have Christmas cookies to munch while we hang ornaments and listen to Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, and Nat King Cole sing our favorites. In fact, Bing and Bowie are singing their Drummer Boy duet as I type.

This year, Godzilla helped set up the tree. He's at that age where he's just enough help to be adorable while not being a hindrance to the process. We go with a fake tree for many reasons, so he got to help fluff the branches first, then took lessons in winding the lights up and around our tannenbaum. After fighting to find enough working strands of lights to fill the tree, it was ready for to get the full Christmas treatment, but as there are five of us, and Kate and I each work, time is limited. So we put off the day of decorating until the next weekend, when we could do the cookies and cocoa and carols.