Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Unscheduled Sleep Positions VII

Corn on the cob

Ty Cobb

Thai Food

Tie your shoes

You snooze you lose

Win, Lose or Draw

Draw, Drew

Dr. Drew

Drew Brees

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Time for Mistletoe and Holly

No matter how far behind the 8-ball we seem to get this Christmas season, I just can't shake this good feeling. Perhaps it's the magic of Christmas, or maybe it's the delirium from lack of sleep with a newborn around, but I am thrilled about this holiday.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Waiting Game

As my wife is wheeled away, I am left to pace.

And worry.

Everything will be OK. After all, I've been here before. Twice. But that knowledge still doesn't make it any easier.

This singular experience is the most nerve-wracking one of my life. All the questions you never let yourself entertain. What if there are complications? Where would the kids go? How could I carry on? ..... The minutes drag on, feeling like hours, as I wait for word that I can see her again. I don't want to miss this. I don't want there to be any trouble. I want to see my wife.

And my child.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Unscheduled Sleep Positions VII

Unfortunately, Godzilla is curled up sick here. However, the eye mask, snake, bear, blanket combo is normal cuddle material for him.

You know this feeling. The one where your body is so sore that just the thought of taking another step seems like more than you can handle. When you know it's either pass out in bed, or like Godzilla here, fall down wherever you happen to be. This is my litmus test for how sick a kid is. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stuff My Wife Says V

"I don't want to kiss you."

This is a little deceiving, Kate likes kissing me. Its just during November that she frowns over the idea of it.

But if we're OK, and she still likes me 11 months of the year, what's so special about November that she would have such strong feelings against kissing? Well, I'm glad you asked. November is the one month of the year that I grow a mustache. It's not a good mustache. She would probably tell you it's actually kind of sad. But I do it every November, and have for the last three years. She puts up with it though, for these four weeks every year, because its for a good cause.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


If you can get past the pumpkin spiced lattes, this is a great holiday. There is something about the change of seasons, the falling leaves, the spooky themes and the idea of changing your identity, even if for only one night. Halloween doesn't have the pageantry of Christmas or the history of Thanksgiving, but it has it's own story. One of mystery, and terror, a story of superstition and respect, shrouded in the past. From the ancient Gaelic practice of dressing up to welcome and blend in with the dead around Samhain (the end of summer), comes the modern tradition of costumes. Likewise, carrying hollowed out gourds and turnips with ghoulishly carved faces acting as lanterns lit the way and warded off evil spirits.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Case Against Obstruction

2013 World Series, Game 3

The Boston Red Sox vs. the St. Louis Cardinals

Tie game, 4-4.

Ninth inning.

One out.

Runners on second and third.

By now, we all know the setup.

We all know the play.

We all know the outcome.

Was it the right call? The rule book is behind it. Let me play the devil's advocate and try to make a case for how it might have gone the other way.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Moving Day

As our normal, lazy Saturday morning came to a close and I was about to start giving the dog a much-needed bath, Nat burst into the bathroom in tears sobbing "It's today! It's today, Dad!"

I was up to my elbows in dog hair and had no idea what she was on about. Eventually I got it out of her that it was "today" that our neighbors were moving. The same ones who's dog passed away this past spring. The same ones who's children welcomed ours to the neighborhood four years ago. The same ones who's daughter and Nat are best friends (except when they're not, because *girls). Those neighbors are moving.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Raising Good Kids

Recently, I had an unfortunate professional interaction which left me scratching my head as to how the man I was talking with made it this far in life with the awful people skills he possessed. And its not as though he was 20 and in college, with youth and naivety to blame. No, this man is from the Boomer generation, and has a job where he is constantly interacting with people. Perhaps he got where he is by being a shrewd businessman, or maybe he knew all the right people at all the right times. It could be that he has just seen enough life that it has jaded him, but I think more likely he simply never knew any better, and no one's called him on it in a long time.

At really all came to a head when he attempted to deliver an apology. It went something like this:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Stuff My Wife Says IV

"He's going to have your sense of humor. Please wait to introduce him to Monty Python"

Never have I been so proud!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

USP - Unscheduled Sleep Positions VI

Now this is a sight I like to see. If he can pass out on the carpet, he must be playing hard.

The trouble with this though, lies in the timing. I'm sure he could get a good hour and a half in, and at 11 am, no problem. But at 6 pm? It's just too much sleep, too late in the day!

Just before Godzilla turned three, Kate and I would get into it about naps. I loved getting him down around 2 and letting him sleep for two hours, then going to work. It really eased up the end of my day at home. But every day he took a nap for me, he was up that much later for her at bedtime. He was so tired and cranky, he needed the nap, and I needed him to have the nap, but then he wasn't tired at night. Eventually, his bedtime routine won out and our daily midday naps ended. So, this is what we get now from him. And even these are falling away, becoming less frequent.

So, when I find him like this, I'm happy to snap a picture and let him sleep as long as he needs. If he's falling asleep while the dump trucks are still out, he probably shouldn't be operating heavy machinery anyway!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Questioning an Involved Parent

Lets just get this over with.

I'm a dad.

I'm involved with my kids.

I encourage them to be active, eat well, be polite, go to school, ride their bikes.

Sometimes, I even put two or three of those things together.

So imagine my surprise when I get a call from my son's speech therapist saying the school doesn't want me riding my bike to school with my son, because I might be a predator or my son could get hit by a car in the parking lot.


Go ahead, if you haven't already, read that again. I'll wait.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

USP - Unscheduled Sleep Positions V

An oldie but a goodie. I think I slept more in this chair the first two years of Nat's life than I did my own bed. She was such a hard one to get to sleep. Kate and I would spend hours at night or nap time with her on our lap, often asleep, just to get her to sleep as well. Of course, she's stubborn and would just yell for hours on end if left in her bed until she made herself sick. Then when we would hold her and she finally passed out, as soon as we tried to lay her down she would wake up, ready for round two.

Needless to say, I drank a lot of coffee and walked around in a haze everywhere I went those two years.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

#AskAwayFriday 5 Questions

One of my favorite Moms on Twitter, Mrs. Penny Chevalley invited me to do some blog-hopping this week with #AskAwayFriday. Little did she know when she asked, that I can't say no to a good blog-hop! After all  who doesn't enjoy meeting new people! If you're here reading this post, you probably already know Penny, if not, go check her out at her blog; The Real Housewife of Caroline County! If nothing else, click over to see my questions for her and the answers she had for them. Also, don't forget to take a look at the other entries found near the bottom of this page.

If you don't know what you're getting here, #AskAwayFriday is all about getting to know fellow bloggers by each asking 10 random questions. Penny went easy on me and only asked 5 of the regular 10, so without further adieu, I give you her questions and my answers...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Building a Kids Tool Box

See, just a little guy!
Ever since he was just a little guy, Godzilla has been in love with tools. It started when he was just walking, and he picked up my cordless drill (no bit in it of course) and carried it around with him, with the biggest grin on his face. We knew right then, what he would be getting for Christmas that year.

Fast forward four years to today. He got some money for his birthday, so we made a trip to Toys R Us. What did he find to buy, but a tool set. While we had looked at everything, from Lego to superheros to cars and trains, once we found a real tool set with a real tool belt, and a wooden dump truck he could build with it, the decision was made.

Then we came home and he let me know in no uncertain terms that he would not be building his truck until he had a tool box to keep his new tools in.

Friday, August 23, 2013

USP - Unscheduled Sleep Positions IV

If you take a toddler to the store, he'll be too tired to walk, so he'll ask to ride in the cart. And if he's riding in the cart because he's too tired to walk, he'll probably fall asleep. And if he falls asleep in the cart, you're likely to have a peaceful shopping trip.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Birthday Bash at Legoland Discovery Center, Chicago

We try to do something special for the kids birthdays each year. Last year we visited Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, MI. The kids loved the waterpark and all that goes along with it and begged to go back, and while we look forward to our next visit, we like to keep things fresh, so we planned something new this year.

Nat wanted to visit the American Girl store located in Watertower Place on Michigan Ave right in the heart of downtown Chicago, while Godzilla has been begging to go to Legoland D.C. just up the highway in lovely Schaumburg, IL. So, to make things easier, and to keep me from going crazy at the A.G. store (seriously, have you ever seen that place?) Kate took Nat for her special day, and after dropping them off on the Magnificent Mile, I took the boy on the short drive out to the 'burbs and the glory of a day full of a billion bricks.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Milk Planets

I opened the fridge today and found we had a ton of milk. Now, this is an odd occurrence, but I had an idea on how to make the most of it. We have been collecting bottle lids all summer, planning to use them to make milk planets. It doesn't take much, and it has a little science lesson to go along with it.

You start with a little milk (whole is better than skim - see the science below for why), three or four food colors, several lids, some dish soap and a few cotton swabs.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Stuff My Wife Says III

"I pulled a you."

Where'd he go, I can't find my son!
I'm a guy, so you know... I can never find anything. Its one of my gender's most endearing traits. (Of course, we just do it to make our wifes feel more useful.) Just yesterday I had gone to the store looking for a birthday gift for Godzilla, but left not able to find the item I was looking for. So, today Kate went in and found it right away. It was right where she told me it would be, and where I had been looking in vain. Then she went to look for soap, and could not find it for the life of her. Only when she talked to an employee did she find it... right where she had been looking.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stuff My Kids Say VIII

"Open your mouth Mom, I want to talk to the baby"
          - Godzilla, age 4

Kate is now about 5 months pregnant, and had mentioned to the kids that the baby can hear you talk to it. So naturally, Godzilla knows you talk through your mouth, so if the baby is in Mom's belly, you must need to talk to it through her mouth!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Reading Reviews with Nat - The Land of Stories, The Wishing Spell

Welcome to Nat's Book Nook. We've been reading for our library's summer reading program. It's a great program with prizes every 10 books, and a grand prize drawing at the end of the summer if you read 40 books. While some kids go for quantity, racking up over a hundred titles, Nat has decided to go for substance, reading mostly chapter books, some as many as 450 pages long, while still filling out her 40. She just finished this book and wanted to share.

Hi, I'm Natalie, and I am almost 9 years old. I found this book at the store and just knew I had to read it. Now I can't wait for the next one to come out!

The Land of Stories, The Wishing Spell is about a pair of boy and girl twins named Alex and Conner. In the beginning of the book they are just normal kids who's grandma gives them her old book, "The Land of Stories" for their 12th birthday after their father dies in a car crash. The first night they have it, they realize it wasn't your average book. While wishing with all her heart to travel inside the book they accidentally activate it and fall into the land of stories. And that's how it all begins.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dress Up

We have a large hamper full of dress up clothes at our house. It started when Nat was just a little thing. We would pick up princess costumes after Halloween on the clearance rack. And the collection grew. She was even given her very own pop-up "fashion show" tent. As far as costumes, we had a little of everything, from Cinderella to Belle, to renaissance, to flapper-girl. And jewelry, shoes and purses to match.

Oh the purses!

Then along came Godzilla. And train conductors, firemen, knights and superheros all began appearing in the hamper. He has masks and belts and hoods and capes and even a pair of fireman boots. The two of them go through phases where dress-up is included in every day's play. Right now is one of those phases. They are forever wearing masks and crowns and "glass slippers" and capes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lists of Five, its an "Old School" Thing

Lets talk about tagging? If you thought that was only for Banksy-wannabes, either realign your expectations, or add me to your list, cause I just got tagged. Tracy over at Crazy As Normal tagged me for one of those "Old School" internet-meme-list-maker-get-to-know-you things. (I think she just knew I couldn't resist a dare, not that I've ever done anything embarrassing on a dare before. I haven't. So stop asking) So lets get to it!
A little disclaimer before I get started, these lists will be random, unless otherwise stated, cause what good is a list if you can't argue with yourself about which of your favorites is actually your favorite.

Five Things I Have a Passion For:
1. Family - if I change their diapers now, they'll have to change mine when I'm older
2. Coffee - the rich, bitter depth of a well roasted cup is my first and best motivation to get out of bed any given day 
3. Baseball - nothing I love doing outside more than swinging a bat, and no better way to spend a summer Sunday than with the Cubs on the TV
4. Television - I work in it, so I must like it. right?
5. Reading - if I had more hours in my day, I might actually get to enjoy this one

Five Things I Would Like to do Before I Die:
1. Travel through Europe - we're talking a full on summer abroad. I'd do all the tourist traps, but I would love to see the backroads of Ireland
2. Own a Corvette - nothing feels quite like the hug of soft leather at 100 mph
3. See the Grand Canyon - I hear its quite something
4. Go to a blues bar in Chicago - I know there are a few here I could never see, but these musicians move me. BB King, Muddy Watters, Eric Clapton, Son House, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Buddy Guy, Shemekia Copeland, Howlin' Wolf, Taj Mahal, John Mayall, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robert Cray... I could go on and on
5. Write a children's book - everyone has a story to tell

Five Things I Say A Lot:
1. "Stop trying to eat your sister"
2. "That's your boy"
3. "No"
4. "Whatever"
5. "Just let me drink my coffee first"

Five Books And/Or Magazines I Have Read Lately:
1. Broken Harbor, by Tana French - was a book club thing, a little disappointing at the end
2. Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson - a really good character story about a dystopian future where the Earth doesn't age at the same pace as the universe around it
3. Sports Illustrated - because what man doesn't read SI every so often
4. DC comics New 52 - assortment. I've covered the Justice League, the Flash, Earth 2, Justice League Dark and International, Superman, and Green Lantern Sinestro Corps in the last month or two. Just getting caught up.
5.All My Friends are Dead, by Avery Monsen - a short funny picture book where on each page you meet something else who's friends are dead, or bread, or Kentucky fried, or obsolete. You should check it out.

Five Favorite Movies (Maybe You've Seen Them Five Times...):
1. Office Space
2. Spaceballs
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
4. Marvel's Avengers
5. Lord of the Rings (take your pick, all 3 go together, so I'm counting them as one. If I had to pick just one to watch though I probably go with Fellowship of the Ring)
8. Princess Bride
9. Anchorman
10. Inception
was I supposed to stop somewhere up there?

Five Places I Would Love to Travel:
1. Ireland - the homeland. the green hills. the castles. the pubs. the history.
2. Venice - from churches to bridges to all the water, it all would be amazing to experience firsthand
3. The Grand Canyon - though I wouldn't tightrope walk over it, I'm not stupid
4. NYC - give me about a week, maybe more
5. The Louvre - so much beautiful art to see

People I Invite:
I've never been one to pass these things on, but in the spirit of the game... I really like these folks. I either ramble with them on twitter or get to know them via their blogs, either way I would love to hear their answers.

Amie driving her MinivanFullOKid
Chris of CanadianDad
Brad in ReadBradTheDad
Meg at DearCrazyKids

Finally, just the legal disclaimers and all. You know, the small print.

If you want to play, please do, even if I didn't tag you. If you just want to tell me what you think of my list, the comments are always open. If you like what you see here and want to dive deeper into the internet, check out our hosts Elaine and Alison. They don't know me. I don't know them, but their little corners of the web look like fun. If you want to count to 1,643,914 in French... please record it and post it to YouTube, then send me a link.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

USP - Unscheduled Sleep Positions III

At the table. Classic, right?

How is it that bedtime doesn't mean sleep, but dinnertime does? The number of pictures and videos we have of this guy falling asleep at the table is a little frightening. I guess it just means he's wearing himself out during the day. And if he's wearing himself out, that means I'm doing my job.

It also means I will probably fall asleep at the table too.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summertime Shouldn't be Bored Time

It happened today.

My daughter was lounging on the porch with her neighbor friend. I walked past her, getting ready for some yard work.

Me: Whatcha doin?

Nat: Nothing, we're bored.

Me: Huh, why don't you girls write some poems.

Friend: Why would we do that? Writing is school work.

Nat: yea Dad, I don't want to write. That's what school is for.

Me: Oh come on, don't tell me you guys couldn't think up a good poem? Like this.
"There once was a girl from South Bend, who sat on the porch with her friend. She pouted and whined, and wasted her time, unaware that soon summer would end."
Nat: DAD!

Me: What, coming up with a poem isn't hard when you have good source material.

I then got the eye roll to end all eye rolls. I walked away to get back to my work, and left her there to obviously talk with her friend about what an embarrassing dad she had.

This doesn't have to be the end of the story. I actually have a list posted on my fridge for those kinds of moments, and am usually able to find something to catch their attention. The list ranges from drawing a flip book, to blowing bubbles. From building a ramp to drive Hot Wheels® over to hosting a tea party. I might have to go through a couple ideas to find one that sticks, but it's never failed me yet.

Today however, I let her activity be shaking her head at her nerd of a dad.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

6 Days in a 7x7 Room Never Looked so Good

So, my bathroom got renovated this past week. Not being the richest family in town however, I needed to stick to a budget and do the work myself. Thankfully my Father-in-Law, Dave came to help, and there's a Lowe's store just up the street.

To give you an idea of what we were working with before getting started, I took a page from all the home-reno shows on cable and took before, during, and after pictures. To give you an idea of what I was working with before, here is a shot of the sink and toilet. Please excuse the smiling child in front of both.

The walls were a pale purple and we had a flowery shower curtain. The toilet was known to rock when you sat on it and was stained beyond belief much to my wife's chagrin whenever we had company. The cabinet doors stuck if you ever tried to open them. The bathroom also serves as our laundry room, and the open shelves over the machines were simple planks of wood, that were forever dirty and disorganized.

Kate and I have been eyeing a remodel for several months and had fixtures picked out and budgeted for. We knew it was a small room, and that would help, plus we decided to wait on changing out the tub until next year.

Here is the vanity we wanted at first, but budget won out and we got this one instead, with matching mirror. I can't say we minded the downgrade, but are really happy with the results. We also quickly picked out a toilet, vinyl floor tiles, and paint.

That was the easy part!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I'm Going to Pump *Clap* You Up!

No, I'm not heading to the gym with Hans and Franz, I'm pumping up my bike tires. And you can too!

Every year as summer comes around, I think about the delicious Christmas ham and that bird we stuffed and gorged ourselves on in November. I think about the cold-weather climate I live in and how animals store up fat for their long winter hibernation. I also think about how I used to be a runner, and about 40 pounds lighter. To be fair, that was when I left high school - college happened (we all know how that goes), I've gotten married and started raising two kids, and about 15 years have gone by. Never-the-less, every summer I long to get back to fighting shape, but every year, something stands in my way.

  • Left-over Easter candy sits in the cupboard
  • Rotten weather sours my appetite for outdoor exercise
  • Unaccommodating work schedules mix with child-care needs
  • Gym memberships are expensive (then you add in child-care costs)
  • I'm 30-something and my knees are already starting to go
  • That third S'more and Porter at the weekend campfire look really good

Whatever it may be though, I struggle to get out and get healthy. Not this year.

This year I have a bike. And this year I am riding it. To this point, I have been riding for the last three weeks, about four days a week, and averaging about 5 miles a day. In fact, I'm feeling pretty good about it. To make things even better, I got a challenge. Publicly called out to put in 360 miles by the end of the year.

Seeing as I had already started riding, I thought: "What better way to stay committed than by bragging about how far I ride online?!" That's what the internet is for anyway, right? That and trolling... It doesn't take much to get out and work out if you're properly motivated. And right now, I'm motivated. The folks over at Dads Round Table got it started, and I'm committed to finishing it.

360 miles sounds like a lot, and if I trail off come winter, it might not happen.

But it only takes three months for something to become a habit.
That's a fact.
Don't ask me how I know.

Fine, I read it on the internet, but regardless... three months gets me into September, and the weather is still nice in September. As the weather does turn into fall and then winter, I'll be into the rhythm of going out every day, and if I can't ride the bike, I'll be up for a jog around the neighborhood.

Until the point I can't ride due to snow and ice, I'll just have to push myself to get ahead of the curve on mileage. You know, average 25 miles a week instead of 13. Ride five days instead of four. Skip that third s'more... but not the porter. I like my porters, leave them out of this.

Are you motivated? If not, why? What would it take for you to get out and get started? Why not join me in the DadsRT360 challenge?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Stuff My Kids Say VII

"Ooh good! This Superman has red underwear! It's just better Dad, when he has red underwear that he wears outside his pants, because its just the way I grew up with him."
          - Nat - 8 years

It seems the Man of Steel movie and DC's New 52 Superman don't impress her much.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

USP - Unscheduled Sleep Position II

Yes, that is a PEZ dispenser in his mouth.

From the time you bring your babies home from the hospital, the car can quickly become a favorite when its time to force a nap. When the kids were little, you could always count on a long car ride putting the kids to sleep. For long road trips, some parents even plan their trips at night to guarantee the kids get a nap and Dad has peace and quiet to drive. Somewhere along the line though, they stop sleeping but you don't stop expecting them to sleep. Those days are frustrating. Then you come to grips with the facts, and have to start planning activities for car rides. Once you hit that point, any sleep they get on a long trip is a welcome blessing.

From the day they stop sleeping in the car to the day they stop riding with you in the car, we plan ways to keep them happy and occupied for the length of the trip. In fact, we always have designated car backpacks for long trips which include coloring books (no sticker books, those stickers will rip every time a child tries to get them out), a movie for each of them (and their own travel DVD player), a selection of their favorite toys (no little accessories which would be guaranteed to get lost), my daughter's iPod and my son's LeapPad (with headphones), a few books each (she can read to him or to herself), and a snack (crackers, chex-mix, pretzels) that they are allowed to decide when to eat. Those things seem to cover all the bases, and keep them occupied regardless the length of the drive.

The one other item that will make the back seat for every single trip we take: pillows. Because you never know when they just might decide to take that nap you thought they had outgrown.

What are some of your favorite/best trip activities to keep them occupied when they don't want to sleep?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stuff My Kids Say VI

"Nat, are you playing Barbie? Cause if you are. I am NOT playing."
          - Godzilla - 4 years

I'm all for gender equality, and as often as not, playing with his sisters toys is no problem for my son. But today apparently, he'd had enough of it and wanted some good old action heroes. See, the two of them got new Man of Steel action figures to play with on our trip to the Toledo Zoo last Friday. He got the Split Cycle ,Superman, and she got the Demolition Claw, General Zod. Nat was thrilled with the toy but wanted Zod to be a good guy, and they made that work for the trip. Today though, he kept asking her to play the bad guy and she wanted no part of it and decided to make some Barbies put on a musical instead.

So good job son, standing up for yourself and knowing what you wanted. Way to go son, keeping your cool and letting her know with emphasis where you draw the line. Thank you for being open to playing her way with her toys often enough, that this kind of fight is a rare occurrence.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Day at the Zoo - As Told by my Kids

Nat: We got up and got dressed was the first thing we did. Then we left on a two and a half hour drive for the Toledo Zoo. First we went and saw the Polar Bears, and they were awesome. We got to see the twin Polar Bear cubs play. They were having fun together. We saw the momma lie down, then one of the cubs tried to cuddle with her. Sometimes we would make up little words we thought they were saying by their actions and seeing what they were doing. They also had seals we got to see swimming around. They had two kinds, a Harbor Seal, and a Grey Seal. ( I almost forgot about that)

After that, we went on the train ride across the African Savannah. We saw the African Wild Dogs, (they are different than the Dingos) laying in the shade. We saw the Giraffes and the Zebras and many birds that I don't remember the names of. After we did the first part of the zoo, we got our food from our car so we could have lunch. After we finished our lunch at a shady picnic spot, we went across this bridge that went over the highway to the second part of the zoo.

Then we saw the Tigers and we sort of saw the Lion. Cause the only way we could see it was him as a big ball of fur over the ridge he was sleeping behind. So after we did that, I think we saw some more animals. We saw the Elephants and the Hippos. When we got to the Elephants, we got there just in time. We got to see the momma and her baby get cleaned and get washed and get a little drink. What was so cool was they trained the momma to lift up her feet whenever she saw this bamboo stick so the trainers could work with her. Every time she did a good job, they would feed her some carrots and sweet potatoes as a treat!

Then we went to the little fun place where they had a river walk to play in. They had a little table in this playhouse where you could paint your own face! I painted Godzilla's face as an orange tiger, and painted myself as a white tiger. We had to clean them off in the car at the end of the day because they were melting off our faces from the hot sun. Before we left the children's area, we also went through this secret passage for kids where you could get to this honeycomb climbing wall.

Once we were done with that, we went to see the monkeys. We saw these cute little monkeys with spiky hair called Langur Monkeys. One kept trying to climb up to the window on the door. It was trying to get in because there must have been something it wanted. It was so cute cause it kept falling, but kept trying. It was really fun! We also saw the Gorillas. We saw the Sliverback, the leader of the group come around to the front of the glass.where we were. First he stuck his butt in my face, then he started picking things from the ground to eat. We think they were sunflower seeds. We didn't know for sure. 

We didn't have time to see the birds, because it was time for the zoo to close but on our way back across the bridge, we saw the Bald Eagles again and we saw the wild dogs from Australia called Dingos. Before we left, we got a stuffed animal from the gift shop. I got a fluffy white polar bear cub and named it Blizzard. Godzilla got a really long snake and named it Venom, Vinny for short. Then we came back home and went to bed.

My impression of the whole day was it was AWESOME! The best day I've ever had in my entire life. Even better than Field Day at school. It was so cool and awesome! I can't wait to go back again.

Godzilla: This zoo was even better than my field trip that was the other zoo. My favorite thing was that we got to see the Polar Bears and the Lions. Some tigers almost look like lions! I also loved the Tigers and the Elephants and the Giraffes. I loved the train ride and seeing the Blowfish

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stuff My Kids Say V

After asking for a snack after having been told no three times already:

Godzilla: Nat, Mom said "GODZILLA!!!" so I think that's a no.

Its a good thing sometimes I think that they can read between the lines so well. I don't know if its learned, or if there is actually something about that tone of voice that says more than a long explanation could ever do, but there it is.

He gets it.

We've gotten through to him on something!

Now... does that mean our job is over?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Breakfast Buffet

Great DadsIn 2009 I had the amazing opportunity to have breakfast with my dad and grandpa every few weeks at a local diner. Dad and I would drive out to a small town near where Grandpa lived, about a half hour away. We picked him up and sat down for their Saturday breakfast buffet and bottomless coffee.  While it started out as bottomless coffee, Grandpa soon was on a liquid restriction diet, and even one cup was not good for him. See, his kidneys were failing as well as his eyesight and most of the rest of him. That will happen when you cross into your 90s. Grandpa ended up passing away in 2011, but it was these last meals with him that I hold dearest of all my memories of him.

And I have a few.

I grew up in a large family. Not that my immediate family was large but my extended family, Grandpa's 7 kids, 17 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren and 4 great-great grandchildren  plus spouses, spouses families, close friends, church friends, cousins, etc. were all a part of my family growing up. Truth-be-told, I have never been able to remember half the names of the people who show up to our family gatherings. And at the center of it all, was always Grandpa. With a smile on his face, a positive word, and joy in his voice grandpa was there. We would take over the church basement for a reunion, and no house could contain us for any given holiday.

When I made it to high school and began participating in sports, there were two people I could count on to be there every baseball game, every cross-country meet, every track event: my dad, and Grandpa. Even with all that family, he would make the time to come see me run a 5K or play right field or attempt a long jump. Grandpa was there on the bleachers in the rain or the cold or the heat, cheering me on, letting me know I was important.

As a kid, my family would visit Grandpa and Grandma at their house in the country. It was an old house, the one my father grew up in. But it was everything a kid could want. They had a toy chest containing many of Dad's childhood toys in the upstairs bedroom that my brothers and I would empty and occupy ourselves with. Grandma would make a nice meal, Grandpa always had something awesome to show us. We would head out to his backyard and play in the trees, or pick apples from the crab apple tree to try to feed the neighbors horse, or if we were lucky, Grandpa would let us go through his garage to see what amazing tools and "junk" he had.

The breakfasts though were different. They were one of the first times I interacted with him as a grownup and as a dad. I heard stories of when my dad was young. He told tales of his time serving in the war. We talked about first cars and sports and summers past. We drank our bottomless coffee and I watched him innocently flirt with the waitress (Grandma passed away 20 years earlier, and he never remarried) who was younger than him, but not by much. After breakfast, we would head back to his place and talk about his coin collection, work still needing to be done on his house, the Cubs, his legacy or whatever else we might come up with any given day. These are the days I appreciate the most. This is the lasting memory I have of him. He was a great man, and a grat grandfather. This Father's Day, I am thankful to be able to call him my grandpa.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Stuff My Kids Say IV

Godzilla: Dad, Can I have another sandwich?
Me: I guess, are you still hungry?
Godzilla: No, Nat said she'd give me two quarters if I gave her the rest of my sandwich.
Me: So, you didn't eat your sandwich, and now you want to eat one?
Godzilla: (maniacally laughing) No, I want to see if I can get her to give me more MONEY!

I don't know where they get these ideas, but if he's this devious clever at 4, I think he has a long career in swindling marketing ahead of him

Monday, June 10, 2013

Foundations and Examples and the Man I am Today

We all have certain things in our lives that helped define us. Ultimately every day, every decision we make makes us who we are, but there are some events or periods of our lives that give us a foundation for the rest of it to build upon. How old were you when you realized what it meant to be a father? What were you doing when you decided to have children? What made you decide on the career path you are on? What about your music tastes, or humor or recreational activities?

So many of these things are set in place at a young age, influenced by your surroundings at home, school, church. If your dad for example plays the Beatles on the radio on the way to church on Sunday morning, you'll probably like good music, er, I mean rock 'n roll and the smell of ironing boards and aftershave. If you were encouraged to embrace who you are while trying to always make yourself better you will hold yourself to a higher standard and take pride in what you do.

For me, a child of the 80s, the things of influence in my youth are also things of the 80s. Now, I'm not still wearing "Hammer pants" or a mullet, nor am I walking around saying things like "radical", but I was influenced by them, and thus have a great appreciation for cartoons used to sell toys and hip hop sung by football teams. We could grab any year from my youth and find hundreds of influences that made me the man I am today. In 1989, the grass was green, the air was sweet, the Chicago Cubs were NL East champs. I had two parents who were involved, an older brother who I aspired to be like, and a little brother I got to be an example for (and push around a bit). I was confident in school. I knew how to get extra lives in Contra, and warp all the way to World 8 in Super Mario Bros. Life couldn't be better.

I had my parents to thank for the man I was becoming. My mom taught me about respect and how to tie my shoes. My dad gave me a love of sports and taught me how to build and fix things. They were there for me when I had trouble learning a new skill. They supported me as I found my voice and discovered my personality.

Dad knew he had a responsibility to his family.  He knew that he needed to work to earn money to support us, but he also knew he needed to be there physically to support us in many other ways. He worked endless hours at a steel mill, would come home and work on his "honey-do list" and then go out in the yard to have a catch with his three boys. He learned from watching his dad do the same things, and that dedication to my happiness and well-being is what carries me forward today. While I am more than just a dad, being a dad makes up a large part of what I do in my day-to-day life. If my dad could work 80 hour weeks and still make it to my baseball games, watch Star Wars with me, and introduce me to the Beatles on the way to Sunday services, I can be there for my kids. I can take that influence, that of a man who gives his all day-in and day-out and apply it to my family. I can look at 1989, and give it to my kids. I can give them the sports, the music in the car, the projects and the culture. The only thing I can't give them is the Cubs as champions. (maybe next year)

Thank you Dad for giving me that example.
Thank you for being there when I needed a man to look up to.
Thank you for showing me your strength.
Thank you for teaching me how to be a dad.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Summertime, and the Living is Easy (unless you're a parent)

Powerpuff Girls and Man of Steel nametagsSo, summer is here, and I like to kick things off right. And by right, I mean by sleeping in. With kids at 8 and 4 I can trust them to eat unsupervised, and so I left bowls of cereal with "nametags" out and cups of milk to add to them in the fridge before going to bed last night.

This process has worked before, and they get a kick out of finding out what their nametag will be.

Not this morning.

At 6:30 (half an hour before we get up for school), Godzilla climbed in bed with me and proceeded to talk to me for the next 45 minutes about how his sister's friend's mom wouldn't stop tickling him at their Girl Scout party the night before. Then at 7:15, Nat came in needing help with a bloody nose and announced she had been up playing a game for about half an hour herself. Once this was all taken care of, they were both up and ready to start their day.

I gave myself about an hour to try and get back to sleep, but when the kids weren't calling my name, Twitter was . So naturally, no sleep came.

When the kids got out of school yesterday, we gave them a gift to congratulate them on a great year and to keep them busy this summer. It was a book called "The Big Book of Things to Make" and had been sitting in reserve since Christmas, just waiting for summer. I've since seen some other really cool books since picking this one up like: "Dad's Book of Awesome Projects" by Mike Adamick of "Cry it Out" blog fame, or "Made By Dad", either of which I would love to have as well.

Anyway, both kids were excited by the book and set to turning pages to decide which project they wanted to do first. They both quickly agreed on making slime, though my princess at first said she didn't want to touch it. And once that decision was made, this dad knew all his years of watching, playing with and imitating the Ninja Turtles had finally paid off. We grabbed some cold pizza and our ingredients and then set to work.

oozeA little corn starch and some water go a long way. The best thing about having the book as a guide was the science lesson it provided with the directions. The slime didn't turn out like the traditional Nickelodeon Gak (you need school glue for that) but turns out runny and sticky and solid depending on its state.

The corn starch doesn't dissolve in the water, letting you change the slime's state as you stir or handle it. the kids were amazed by how they could swish it around their bowls, but couldn't even break the plane with their spoons. Once we had it all mixed up, we went outside and had the real fun.

Don't worry, it all cleans up with warm water. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

USP - Unscheduled Sleep Positions

Unscheduled Sleep Position

While my son was good at taking naps, daily scheduled ones made bedtime a beast by the age of two. So now, we only nap when we fall down cause we just can't keep our eyes open any more. This may have been my favorite position of all time. Where is the best place your kids have had an unscheduled nap?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Anniversary Wishes

Ten years ago I couldn't comprehend ten years. I couldn't imagine being 32, a father of two-and-a-half, and in a job that keeps me working the nights I should have with my wife.

Ten years ago, I laid in bed not knowing what awaited me as a married man, not sure if I would be a good enough man for the woman I had fallen in love with. I knew so little of love, commitment and happiness.

Twenty-four hours later, I was married to my wife and was the happiest man alive. In the ten years that have followed, through our trials and triumphs I have remained that way: happier than any man I know. Happy to be married to the most wonderful woman I've ever met.

I don't know what will happen in the next ten years. I don't know where our journey will take us. I don't know what challenges or surprises or adventures or marvels await us. But I do know one thing.

I know that love is real, and I believe in it because of her. These ten years she has shown me what love is. I will love her as strongly and happily as that day ten years ago for the next ten years and beyond.

Happy Anniversary to my wife, the love of my life.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Taken for a Ride

This post is about scams.

No, I was not scammed, but I was taken on a ridealong. This serves as my warning. A public service announcement, if you will.

This past Memorial Day, as we were enjoying lunch with my parents, they got a call from Publisher's Clearing House! Mom answered the phone and quickly passed it off to Dad for him to tell the person on the other line they weren't interested in whatever he was trying to sell. But after years of sending in those postcards with the scratch-offs and stickers, Dad was excited at the prospect of a $750,000 prize. He listened to the pitch, reluctant to believe it, but wanting to be convinced it was legit.

The guy on the phone told him there was a driver about 45 minutes from his house with a certified check, and needed Dad to confirm he was himself by fulfilling a task at the service desk at Wal-Mart, keeping him on the line the entire time. Once there the scammer instructed him to purchase a "Green-Dot Moneypak Paper Card" for $500. If you're not familiar with the Green-Dot card, it basically works like a prepaid debit card. You buy it with cash, and then can use the 14 digit scratch-off number from the back of the card to pay for things online. They can be used for things like reloading a Pay-Pal account, or to pay phone or utility bills.

Wanting to be a sounding board for him (and secretly hoping it was legit myself, cause I know my dad is a very generous man and would share the wealth) I volunteered to ride along as he drove to the store, not knowing he would be asked to lay down his hard earned money. Once there, we explained the request to our customer service desk worker who voiced her concern about the affair and advised he not make the purchase.

But that payday was ever so enticing. And the man was still on the phone. This guy was a smooth talker as he just kept on working it. Saying it was imperative Dad keep his winnings confidential until the prize check was awarded and that the driver could not come to his door until he had that 14 digit claim code in hand. He suggested he go to his ATM and get cash, then go to a different store to purchase the card. The upside was just too good. $750,000 was on the line. Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand dollars. Three quarters of a million bucks. Through this, we knew all it could take to rake it in, even if he bought the card was to never give them the code should they ask for it, until he had cash in hand.

We never did buy the card. the charade had finally gone on long enough, the offer was just too good. And, Google is our friend. One quick search on the PCH site revealed the true nature of the scam, and we were able to walk away. Told the guy finally it wasn't going to work and wished him luck in his future illegal endeavers. See, that Green-Dot card is like cash for a thief. With that number from the back, he or his associates can transfer that $500 to another debit card before Dad would be able to even get anywhere to do it himself. We never got to the point where he was asked for the number, but its clear that it was the endgame.

So, how do you protect yourself or your parents or your kids from scams like this? The MoneyPak card has a warning on the back of it to treat it like money and state they are not responsible for any money you may lose. First thing to do is remember that your money is your money, and you should never have to spend money to win money. That is not a sweepstakes, its called gambling. The rest I think is best expressed in a monologue from the made-for-tv movie... ah, who am I kidding, lets do a list.

1. Never give out any personal information over the phone or online. A legit business will never ask you to confirm your password or account number.

2. .....

Nope, that pretty much sums it up. Never give out your personal information to anyone, especially if you did not initiate the conversation. Think about your finances and how hard you've worked to keep them above water, how hard you've worked to earn your money, how much your family depends on you to make smart decisions about your wealth. Think about your retirement, or your grandkids upcoming birthday. These are the things that matter, not the $750,000 you could have won at random. Don't be played the fool. You'll feel less the fool for missing out on a potential prizefall than you will for getting taken for a ride.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Where is Heaven, and What do we do When we get There?

About a week after our neighbor's dog died, Godzilla and I were sitting on the front porch taking a break from our street-ball game when he asked me "Where is Heaven? I don't think its underground." That's his little mind still working through this new concept of death. We had driven past several graveyards in the preceding week and talked about how people are buried there so their families have a place to go and remember them.

He knew though that those graves just couldn't be where Heaven was. So, we talked about it. Threw some ideas out there. Had a laugh and pondered God and Great Grandpa chillin' up in the clouds. I had to ask him what he would do if he could just be floating around up in Heaven with anyone he liked. Perhaps sharing a smoothie with Superman? Baseball with the angels? Nope, he wants to go mountain climbing with me.

So, now the question is do they sell "Mountain Climbing for Dummies" in Heaven, or should I start reading up on it now?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Best Friends

zoo trainRecently, through a conference with his speech therapist, I found out my son likes me. I had a pretty good idea beforehand, but when his "teacher" relayed a conversation they had in which he said "I know my dad so well, it's like we're best friends!" I knew for certain. And why shouldn't he? After all, I'm his primary caregiver in the morning. I ride bikes and play ball with him. I cut his sandwiches in special shapes on occasion. I have even been spotted wearing a cape as we zoom around our little cul-de-sac saving the city from vicious invaders. So, I'm glad he likes me.

But this can't last.

I want to be his friend until the end of my days, but I know that the days of being his best friend are numbered. He will get older. He will make friends at school who know all the names of the Skylanders characters. He will listen to whatever hipster music men of my generation just don't get. He will have a camp out with his buddies from boy scouts. He will have a first crush, a first love and a first kiss. And somewhere along the way, he will have moved on from me.

But I hope he knows me even better by that point. I need him to know not only what I like, but what I don't like. Its my job to make sure he knows how I trust him, what I expect of him, where to make a stand. (This goes for my daughter as well.) My job as parent is to prepare them for life. That doesn't happen as their best friend. That comes by teaching life skills so that when they no longer count me as their best friend, they can handle the new relationships they build and feel confident making their own decisions. If I do my job, I can trust them with those new relationships, and they can have the freedom every child wants. While I know they most likely will not tell me everything as they get older. I want them to know by the relationship I build with them that they can.

And so, in the time I have left as my son's best friend, I will continue to build Lego cities with him, and talk about death when it is needed, and point out when I see things that disappoint me. I will teach him how to build a sandbox and how to treat a girl and how to spike his hair just right. For my daughter, I will show her what to expect in a gentleman when *gulp* she begins to date. I will listen as she sings me songs or reads a story she wrote herself. I will encourage her to be strong and confident in herself and I will teach her modesty in her dress. I will wear a crown as we have high tea, and I will listen whenever she wants to talk.

I am their best friend, and I am their Dad, and while I will forever be their Dad, my time as their best friend is limited, so I will make the most of the time they give me.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stuff My Kids Say III

"I'm never going to have babies. I'm going to adopt. I don't want to have a baby come out of here, or for the doctor to cut me open and rip it out of me."
          - Nat, 8 years

What dad isn't thrilled to hear his daughter say she won't be having kids. But its really the end of the statement that perked my ears this time. "Rip it out of me." It seems Kate and I may have talked about her deliveries a little too candidly in front of the kids.

I promise though, Leatherface does not perform c-sections.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Stuff My Wife Says II

"Oh yea, and I'm pregnant."

Wait, what? I thought we were done. Afterall, kid2 is 4 and will be 5 by the time january comes around. Kid1 is 8 (will be 9). Who knew that after all this time, we'd have another one?

Kate had gone to the doctor for a routine visit, and when I picked her up after the appointment, started with something about needing to pick up a prescription. I think I asked her if everything else was ok and she came back with that.

Talk about burying the lead.

To be honest, I'm excited as can be. I love the idea of having a third child. For a long time, I think our family has been missing something. But for an equally long time, I haven't felt like we were ready to have another child. And now here we are. Ready or not.

Oh yea, and happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Stuff My Kids Say II

"Girls have girl babies. Boys have boy babies."
          - Godzilla, 4 years

Thank God we were not created this way. I have the utmost respect for women in general, and the childbearing process in particular, but I never want the responsibility of childbirth. What pregnant mom hasn't muttered the words "you try carrying this thing around inside you for nine months"? We've all seen men try on the prego-bellies and recently through the magic of the internet, we were able to see two dutch men hook themselves up to electrodes to "experience labor".

 I have a feeling, if men were tasked with carrying babies, we as a species would have died out long long ago. Between the cravings, the cramping, and the hormone changes, I know I want no part of it. But that doesn't mean we don't have our roll to play. Men should be there for their children, and that means being there for their children's mothers from the beginning. We should help pregnant mothers through the difficult times of ther pregnancy. We need to be willing to run across town for that highly specific and wildly irrational craving. We need to know how to give a back rub, or a foot rub or whatever other rub she needs.

Amazingly enough, it can't stop there. Dads need to help their kids through their mom's pregnancy as well. It can be a terribly confusing time for young children who, up until this time only knew their family one way. Whether they ask them or not, your kids have questions about pregnancy and about having a sibling and about what that new baby will mean to their relationship with you.

Your family needs a whole lot from "Dad" and this usually means "Dad" will get less sleep, less leasure time, less social activities and an increased dependance on caffeine. Thank God we don't also grow people!