Wednesday, September 30, 2015

And Now for the Main Event!

Parenting a stubborn daughter is like a heavyweight bout. I go twelve rounds with her, and she just won't stay down.

If there is one thing I've learned in my decade as a dad, it's that kids have a will all their own. It is paramount to hitting your head against a wall when trying to convince your child of something they don't want to believe. And I might as well, for all the good arguing with my kids does for me.

It is never as simple as "hey, you need to do this" and it gets done, and it's never "this is how it works because I've been around longer and know things"

Why would it ever be that easy?

That's just not how this parenting thing works. We've all heard the line about the relative ease of things worth doing, and there is no job more worthy of doing that raising a kid. We learn at every stage of development, and the straighter we can be directed as children, the better we can adjust to life after.

With Nat, it's always been "her way".

When she was two, she fought nap time until she could sleep her way; on the floor, mid play.

When she was six, she had her hair cut short because every day she fought having her hair brushed because she could do it her way, and do it herself. It ended up a tangled mess, and one day we finally had enough.

When she was nine, she sat in a college study where she was taught a geometry lesson about the relative strength of triangles to squares in bridge building, and then given a chance to build a bridge to test how well the lesson was taught. When she assembled a square bridge which failed immediately upon bearing a load, the instructors asked if she understood the lesson. She replied that she did, but wanted to build it her way anyway.

These stories continue on a daily basis, and every day we turn around and find her doing things "her way". Sometimes I find myself debating with her. Some days I find us arguing. Most days I hear the words "no negotiations" come across my lips, because honestly, why would I negotiate with an 11-year-old? Even that doesn't stop her from trying though. She's good, I'll give her that. She's the Ronda Rousey of stubborn kids.

As parents, we've discovered the importance of picking our fights, so at least I have her to thank for that. But when it comes down to entering the ring, I've got to be Cassius Clay. There's no backing down if you are going to teach your kids to respect authority. We like to encourage her independence, and we like to reward her creative thinking, but allowing her to use us as treadmills just won't fly.

Ultimately, we're in this for her, and some things are worth letting her fail on her own while others have to be lessons learned from our experience. So, we'll continue to climb in that ring until the day she's ready to take on other opponents, and one day teach the same lessons to her own mini prize fighter.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What I bring to the table...

As our kids' birthdays came close, my wife and I began talking about what we could do for them for gifts this year. Nat was turning 11, and Godzilla would be 7. Every year we take a family trip in leu of throwing a party, and the kids love it. We have done zoos and water parks and resorts and museums, all requiring a long drive, and most needing a night in a hotel (hello, pool!) This year would be no different, as we planned a day at Holiday World in southern Indiana. Apart from the trip, we wanted to give them something that would be fun and used daily around the house, and so we started looking at Lego tables.

Who doesn't love Lego? We have tubs of the little plastic bricks, and no real dedicated place to play with them. The best options are usually either the kitchen table, or the toddler height train table. Seeing as how we like to eat at the kitchen table, and our toddler height toddler likes to put things in his mouth, neither of those options are actually good options for a Lego table for our house.

So, we settled on making a table which would solve those two problems, Pinterest is full of ideas on how to create a table for use with Lego bricks. Unfortunately, most of them include this instruction: "Glue multiple base plates to a table." Have you priced Lego base plates? Have you counted how many you would need to cover a table large enough to actually give your growing kids room to play? The answers to those questions told me to find a better way. So here's my response. 

Why does a Lego table need to have plates glued down? Why turn a play scape into an expensive uni-tasker? Why does this table need to be a permanent fixture in any room in my house? I bought a resin folding banquet table and a few cans of spray paint, and now my kids can play Lego (or anything else they want) in their bedroom (or anywhere else in the house I want to let them). Take a look at how easy it was!

Drop $50 on a folding banquet table, and $3 a can on spray paint. Use old newspaper and that roll of painters tape you have laying around to make sure you get a clean edge. 

Start by taping off a shoreline. Make sure you cover anything you don't want blue in newspaper, then give it a good coat of blue.

Spray paint dries pretty quickly as long as each coat isn't too thick. Leave just a little space beyond your blue water line and tape off the area you want to  become your grassland. Don't forget the newspaper, and paint it green, like those crazy Californians do in a drought!

Spray painting can be messy and your finger may cramp up with excessive coverage if you do it the old fashioned way. Instead, try this tool made by Krylon. It's a trigger handle for your paint cans, and it makes painting a snap. You simply slip it on the top of your can and go. 

Once both sides have been painted, you're left with a narrow strip for your beach. Pick up some yellow craft paint and a brush, and start filling in the white space.

This table didn't have a sharp edge to end the color at, so I just wrapped it right down the side for a clean finish.

Before setting your kids loose on your new piece of environmental art, add a few coats of clear enamel to protect your finish. The last thing you want, is for your kids' Lego masterpieces to scrape away all your hard (not that hard!) work.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Unscheduled Sleep Positions IX

Sometimes sleep comes when you need it most, but when you expect it least. E was all set to go for a walk today, but I wasn't ready to leave the house. Instead, we walked circles in the kitchen for about five minutes, and he passed out. I don't expect this to be a long nap, but even 20 minutes will get him back in shape to finish the day without excess meltdowns. This kid has been the best sleeper of the three so far, and I really hope the trend continues.

This particular trick, we learned with Nat, who flat out refused to take naps in her crib. Or sleep at night in her crib. Or sleep at night at all. And so, the stroller nap was invented to help us retain our sanity. Here's hoping this doesn't become a trend with E, as it did with Nat. 

Literally holding my breath...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Stuff My Kids Say XV

"Where do they come up with these ideas? I try to write and all I think up is foxes and dragons!"

Nat - age 10, after watching yet another new creature in Doctor Who. 

Nat started writing stories in fourth grade. She was not a fan of writing until her teacher used her aversion to pen and paper as the impetus to starting a writing club. Nat and her teacher would take turns writing a story, each writing a paragraph or a page and then handing the story to the other to write the next part. This personal attention and enthusiasm about writing sparked her creative nerve and she hasn't stopped writing since.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Boys of Summer

Last week, I took Little E to his first minor league baseball game for a dad meetup. We had fun, sitting on the left field lawn. It was sunny and hot, and the kid was tired before the game was over, but the ballpark was nice and so was the company. I took just a couple of photos, and am planning to take the rest of the family back later this summer, once school lets out. I've been a baseball fan since I was little, and remember going to games with my dad. After sharing the pics of our trip with Nana, she dug out a shot of me as a kid attending a game with my dad. Baseball really is the game that transcends generations.

Friday, May 1, 2015

girl power

Recently, DC Comics announced they were launching a new line of books and products called "Super Hero Girls" aimed at girls age 6-12. It's really kind of exciting, as the comic industry has done a poor job of engaging women throughout their history. Finding a strong heroine who is not over-sexualized or who doesn't simply play a supporting role is not easy.

I can't say I gave it much thought before having a daughter, when as a boy, I had all the heroes I could ask for. When Nat came along though, I began looking for a heroine who could play the roll in her life that Superman and He-Man did for me in my youth. We have enjoyed She-Ra and Supergirl through the years, but the one that my daughter loves the most is Wonder Woman.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Slug Life

Mornings have always been slow for me. I fact, I can't think of a time where I wanted to get up and move right away in the morning. This has not caused too many problems in the last 12 years, as I've worked nights since college. Before that however, I missed more than a coupe classes in college, and chased the bus in high school more than I care to admit.

Today, this slow morning syndrome is only a problem when I am trying to get the kids up for school. Godzilla takes two to three wake-up calls before he will roll out of bed, and then it's instantly the groans of a man 59 years his elder. How can a six-year-old wake up with a sore back? Once he finally gets dressed, its a trudging shuffle out to breakfast where he supports his head on his hand as he lazily munches on his food.

I cant really get upset at his morning pace, not when it took hitting the snooze twice to get out of bed myself. Add to that the fact that he doesn't even have coffee to crutch himself up, and I have major sympathy for him.

So, we work our way through breakfast and out the door to school and turn to his brother