Wednesday, April 12, 2017

DIY Nerf Target Rig

Nerf: It's what's for dinner. wait, that isn't right.

Nerf: when you care enough to send the very best...

no, not that either.

Nerf: The happiest place on earth.

I feel like I'm getting closer. One last try:

Nerf: don't leave home without it.

hmmm, perhaps I'll get it figured out by the end of this. However it goes, what good is playing with Nerf guns if you have nothing to shoot at? Godzilla (he's 8 and doesn't care for the nickname much any more, we're going to have to come up with something new soon)loves his Nerf guns. We've amassed a small stockpile of arms over the last few years, and he keeps a small tactical bag full of empty TP rolls and water bottles to set on ledges for target practice. It works, well enough, but we usually end up with these "targets" littering the floor when he's done and he constantly has to stop to reset the range. So the time came when we had to step up our game. This is how we took Nerf target shooting to a whole new level.

It starts with PVC pipe, and it ends with cardboard. I know, it's a long parts list, but I have confidence you can keep up. Seriously, the whole thing came together for about $10.

The boys and I ran out to Lowes one morning and gathered the pipe we needed. It's a simple frame, with stabilizing legs on either side of the base. We started with 2, 10 foot 3/4 inch pipes, and enough 90 degree and "T" fittings to make all the joints. You could use a smaller diameter pipe, but you will lose some of the rigidity of the frame, so we stuck with 3/4 inch. You also need to pick up three 1 inch to 3/4 inch "T" fittings. These will slide loosely over the top bar of your frame and allow the targets to swing freely when hit with the Nerf dart. The smaller opening on these fittings will still fit snugly to your pipe and serve as the arm which will hold your eventual targets.

To assemble the Nerf target rig, measure and cut your PVC carefully. Our legs are about 3.5 feet tall, with a 3 foot gap, and 8 inch feet. Be sure when you are planning the lengths, to account for the target arms. We went a little taller than we should have, and ended up needing to use part of a third pipe we already had laying around the house to finish filling out the target arms. Once everything is cut to size, simply dry assemble the rig by sliding the pipes into the fittings, making sure to press them securely into place. You can use an adhesive if you don't want to ever take it apart, but we've found it's nice to be able to take the feet off to store the rig under a bed or at the back of a closet.

When it comes to the targets, you need some stiff corrugated cardboard and a child with the desire to draw or at least color in concentric circles. My daughter busted out some markers and a few coffee cans/tape rolls/paint cans to get the ball rolling on targets to hang, and eventually, we had a full range of targets to hang. I even knocked out a classic comic "BAM!" to add to the mix. To get the targets on your rig, slice tiny wedges into the PVC target arms. They need to be thick enough at the opening to slide the cardboard into, but thin enough up the pipe to hold it snugly.

All that is left now, is to set it up and load up your Nerf gun, then watch the darts fly! Oh, and I remember how the saying goes now:

Nerf: Mikey likes it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


How many terrible kids shows have you sat through in your life as a parent? How many times have you had to suspend disbelief in order to keep from pulling out your hair at the asinine stunts pulled off by animated animals? How often have you had to remind yourself that cartoons have their own laws of physics, and do not subscribe to Newton's big three? How many times have you wanted to reach through the screen to strangle some insufferable pest of a protagonist?

Now, have you ever had to describe the experience to someone who has never seen the show? I decided to give it a shot over on Twitter. You should too, I'm sure you'll find it cathartic. If not, please don't hate me for finding it so. I just can't take any more of that bad acting or that incredibly grating voice!

My kids have a few favorites that got the treatment. Can you guess what they are?

I also took submissions. Many of these we've watched, they all fit the theme.

The best one naturally pairs to possibly the worst cartoon of all time...

Did you get them all? Have more to add? Leave a comment, or head over to Twitter and don't forget to hashtag it!

Monday, August 29, 2016

The one less traveled by

Its been a month since we moved into our new home. There are still boxes everywhere, and I can't seem to find a minute to relax, but it feels good to finally have a place. The kids are loving their new school, the longer commute to work lets me catch up on listening to the backlog of podcasts that have built up, and we're starting to explore our new side of town. We've already discovered a few parks, Nat has cross country practice at a nice big one, and Godzilla is loving the RC park up the street where he can race the new remote control car he got for his birthday.
Earlier this week, Kate and I took E out for a bike ride in his new bike trailer (thanks granddad!). We no longer have to put up with broken glass on every corner like the last place had, and just outside the neighborhood is a nice paved bike path for us to enjoy. Before heading out that far from home though, we wanted to ease in to the ride by doing a lap of the neighborhood. Right around the corner from the house is a playground and a small nature park, and we planned our loop to end there to let E out to play for a while. As we're still getting to know the neighborhood, we had yet to explore the park and thought it might be fun to look around. When the Mrs. suggested we take our adventure into the trail we found leading into the woods, the decision was obvious.
We soon found ourselves following the boy as he blazed the trail in front of us. It was a perfect day. The weather was cool, the trees provided shade and even the bugs had decided to leave us alone for the most part. We talked as we walked, commenting that in a different time, a wood like this would be heaven for our boys. There were alcoves for setting up forts, mushrooms growing along the path, and there at the end of a fork in the trail, a tree root rutted hill leading to a perfect little ravine. A small creek ran along the bottom with a narrow sandy bank and we knew this was an adventure we needed to include the other kids on.
Visions of sword play and fairy houses, pants rolled up to the knees and shoes left on the waters edge as kids splash in search of frogs and minnows ran through my head. This wooded wonderland is in our very backyard, and even if I must provide more supervision than my grandfather did in his day, adventures will be had, and summers will be cherished. Here at our new home, we've found a hidden treasure. It's not one we expected or one we went looking for, but it is something we will cherish, and I expect it will be a cornerstone location for these kids to paint their imaginations upon, there in the woods behind their home, at the end of the path less traveled, a canvas for their memories.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Stormy Thursday

We had a big line of storms roll through town last night. In my TV job, that usually means a long night staying late to provide coverage and help make sure the public is safe. However, the timing of this storm meant I left on time and the morning crew got to do the heavy lifting when things got bad around 2:30. 

In the meantime, I was asleep in my bed while Kate had her early morning shift. Around 3am, E climbed in bed with me which meant I got to hug the edge of the bed until morning, while the rest of our queen sized bed sat empty. I sleep like a rock anyway, so at least it's not the end of the world. When the sun rose, so did we. And then we found there was no power. No lights. No clocks. No central air. No refrigerator. No coffee maker. 

Thankfully, I've raised Godzilla right, as his immediate reaction when finding out about the power was to freak about how I was going to get coffee in me. Also thankfully, I have a French press and no problem using it. So, we got a pot down and filled it with water, then used a lighter to light the burner on the stove so I could have hot water for my brew. A few minutes later, after much "help" from the boys, I had a perfect cup to drink while figuring out what to do with my day. 

After a little breakfast made with quick openings of the fridge door and "toasting" a bagel in a pan on the stove, we ventured outside to see if we had any limbs down. While we had a few small ones, our yard made it through the night mostly unscathed. However, the neighbor  two doors down (who just had their driveway repaved) had a large branch on their roof, their gutter showing sight of damage. The three of us made our way down the street to knock on their door to offer assistance with cleanup, but found no one answering our call. (I'm sure they'll want their insurance adjuster to see it, but I'll check back in later today)

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice, I grabbed my clippers and a pair of garden gloves and set the boys to gathering branches. We drug them all to the curb so I could start clipping them down to size and bundling them for pickup. But don't forget, I had the boys with me, and what 7yo won't ask to use a tool when he sees dad pull one out. After a short safety lesson, I handed over the clippers, and Godzilla set to clipping the branches, using all his considerable might. 

There comes a time in every child's life when their parents look at them and say, this kid is really growing up. It may not be a single moment, a solitary event that opens your eyes, but a period when you look back and say "when did this happen." It's a mixed feeling of pride and reminiscence. Of joy and sadness. You know the age of needing you is nearing an end, and they are on the precipice of independence. Their personalities are in full swing, and you know that your kids are not just your kids, but little versions of real people. 

This real little person is nearly there. He's actually able to help, and that personality is as strong as anyone's. 

When did that happen?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Stuff My Kids Say XVIII

"Do you want me to make your coffee this morning? I ask because if I don't have a drink in the morning I go out of sane sometimes!"

Godzilla, age 7. 

I love this kid.

Once you get over the image of a seven year old saying sometimes he needs a drink in the morning, notice the thought that went into his offer. He's not just offering, he's offering because he empathizes with me.

He's been there, man!

And that means he's connecting with me. I know he won't drink coffee with me for a few years, and beer for a few years after that, but right now, he wants to be with me, doing what I'm doing and that makes me happy. It means we're making connections. He's paying attention to what is going on around him, and I need to be on my game.

He's always on his game though. And that is why I go out of sane sometimes.

Friday, May 6, 2016

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.