Monday, April 29, 2013

Of Death and Taxes, but not so much of the Taxes

rays of sunshine

Godzilla had just turned three when his great-grandpa died. He was two when his Pepaw died. He was only a baby when his Great Uncle Don died. Now he is four and today, our neighbors dog passed away. He has never really been aware of death before now. True, we've seen people die on TV, had a melt-down when we brought a whole roasted (real-dead) chicken home from the store, and we've talked about the loved ones we've lost in the last four years, but he has never been in a place to actually deal with a loss. And thus, we've never had a real discussion with him about the subject.

I didn't think we would really deal with this issue at our house today either. After all, it was our neighbors dog, and I imagined they would have their own grieving period. However, after playing with their kids for a while today, he and I were in the kitchen as I packed my lunch for work and he said, "Dad, why did Tucker have to die?"

There it was. The question I wasn't prepared for, the one I didn't think to plan ahead for. I didn't have an answer for him. He looked at me with interest and curiosity in his big brown eyes. I don't know if he was connecting the death of a neighbors dog to the frailty of life for all God's creatures, or if it was a simpler question; simply what happened to the neighbor's dog? All I knew was I had thin ice to tread, that providing too much information could cause fear on his part, or by brushing off the question, I could encourage a flippant attitude about death. I would have to walk carefully to help him find the answers he was looking for.

After all, it's in our nature to ask questions. To seek out new ideas. To imagine great possibilities and endless wonder. Children are learning from their surroundings every day, and today we were going to learn about death. I crouched down to get on his level, and asked him what he though of it. "I don't know why he died, Dad." was his reply. So, I started by telling him that Tucker was old, and that when animals get old, they die. That all animals die (and then I broke out a little Lion King), it's a part of the circle of life. We are born to live a life and bring joy to this world. Then, when we've lived the best life we can, we die. And Tucker had done just that for our friends.

At this point, Nat joins the conversation. She has been sitting at the kitchen table doing her homework. "Everyone dies, Sean" she says. "Like Great-Papa, or Uncle Don." She has been through these loses, and remembers them, being four years older than him. "Its sad, but we just have to know we loved them and now they're gone."

I try to soften it down again, bring it back from people and onto pets, worrying that he will begin to worry that his mom and I, his sister, his grandparents: everyone he knows and loves, even himself, eventually will one day die and disappear forever. "That's right Godzilla, all things die, trees, and grass and pets... Nana's dog died, we had a pet fish who died." Nat of course chimes in again at this point with tears in her voice: "Don't talk about Nick-Happy the Fish, I really miss him." I say OK to her, and tell Godzilla its just the way God made things, and that its ok to be sad for Tucker and his family, but he doesn't have to worry about anything else right now.

Moving on, I didn't know what else to say. I guess we tend to generally avoid talking about death, particularly in front of our children. We all know it will happen, to our pets, to ourselves, and ultimately our children. Its one of those two things your dad told you were certain in life. But its much more pleasant to go on with life, the happy part of the circle I referred to before. That part where we live a life that brings joy to the world. That part where we laugh and play, sing and dance, drink coffee and blow bubbles, (or for those of us with four legs) play fetch and have our tummies rubbed.

That is life.

And I guess that, in the end, is what makes death OK.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stuff my wife says

"Do you want me to get the door?"

I'm carrying too many bags in from the car. "No thanks, I'm good!"

I do the old pinkie on the door handle / foot to hold the door / hop through the doorway move, only to have it fail on me. Twice.

"You know, you could have asked for help any time there"

I have a habit of taking on too much. Shocker, right?
The thing is, I think I can multi-task.
I can't.
No man can.

I couldn't have asked her for help though, cause as we all know, that would be me admitting I couldn't do it. And if there is one thing men are incapable of, its admitting they need help.

cut-out man of steelThat, and multi-tasking.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Morning Rush, or Why I Need Coffee

I'm not going to sit here and tell you what a great dad I am in the morning. I won't even try to convince you that I really want to run the gauntlet of alarm, clothes, breakfast, backpacks and carpool. I'm not a morning person. In fact, when I was young and in school, I was notorious for sleeping in and being exceptionally grumpy when I finally did get up.

So, what keeps me going now? I'd love to say its my dedication to taking care of my beautiful kids. I'd even be ok if it were the knowledge that I was helping them grow in some amazing way.

No. Its the coffee.

I have to brew a full pot most days. Only after a couple of cups am I patient and helpful with the midgets who run my house.

-Before coffee: "no you can't play outside today, it's raining"
-After coffee: "Play outside? In the rain? Sure, lets throw on some rainboots and go jump in puddles!"

- After coffee: " Whats going on guys? He took your Barbie and threw it at you? What? Only after she took your lightsaber and hit you with it? Lets have icecream and forget all about it."

- Before coffee: "Here, watch TV and be quiet, Daddy's going to go take a nap"
- After coffee: "TV off guys, we've got stuff to do! First, help me fix the electrical outlet the dog just broke, then I'll teach you about accoustics with a fun DIY soundsystem for your iPod!"

Looking at this track-record, you'd think they'd learn to start making my coffee for me before I get up...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cheap Labor

What do you do when you're on a budget and your clothes dryer breaks down?

Hire the cheepest labor you can get.

Amazingly, he seemed to know what he was doing. I think that thing he's using here is a multimeter. He was mumbling something about checking resistivity in ohms.

I think he ripped me off on parts expenses, but I couldn't beat the labor costs.

He insisted on documenting the whole process though. You think I should start worrying about OSHA getting involved?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Who Doesn't Love Bubbles?

     So its a nice spring day, yes a little chilly, but get off my back, I said it was a spring day. Anyway, we have two flowering bushes on the side of our house, and one cold day a few weeks ago, we trimmed some branches off of one of them. Being the busy (re: distracted) people we are, we left them in a pile on the side of the house. Of course they have been bugging me since, but I hadn't gotten out to bundle them for the curbside pickup yet. So, today around noon, I headed out to take care of them, and the kids naturally follow me right out. It didn't take long and so when done, they wanted to play. Godzilla went for his bike and Nat grabbed the bubble wand the Easter Bunny brought for her.

     The nice thing about bubbles is that they captivate anyone who dares pick up a wand. The bad thing; the bubble solution never lasts long enough. Thankfully, its easy enough to make though. A little dish soap and some water and you're off and blowing again. The other amazing thing about bubbles is that they can never be too big.

     Enter dad.

     A rolled up sheet of paper, a little Tupperware® and fresh bubble solution and the kids are back at it. I love encouraging them to think outside the box. To find new ways to look at things. To solve problems they may find around any corner. With the paper, they can get a bigger bubble, just by forcing less air through a bigger wand. Of course, Dad likes to overdo it a little as well. Don't tell anyone, but it may be my fatal flaw. Once I had them going with their bubble horns, I set to work improvising a giant wand (you know, one of those two sticks with a looped string between them thing).

     The giant wand worked well enough, but it was a little too windy to get really good sized bubbles that wouldn't pop right away. However, the point of it was to introduce a new idea, to challenge the standard and see just how much better we could make it on our own. Judging by their smiles and laughs, I'd say mission accomplished.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Stuff my kids say

As parents, we hear lots of sounds coming from little mouths. Like the old Art Linkletter show "Kids Say the Darndest Things", sometimes the sounds we hear are worth documenting, and sometimes those sounds require the control of a Royal Palace guard to keep from cracking up right in their faces.

The other morning, after running my morning routine of getting Natalie up and out the door for school after only 5 hours sleep myself, Godzilla turns to me and asks "Why are you always so lazy?" Let me tell you, the fire that burned in my eyes when he said it must have been evident, but I had to control myself. Obviously he doesn't see the work I do. Sacrificing sleep, feeding, clothing, cleaning, repairing, entertaining, teaching, ferrying, etc. and perhaps, the problem with his perception of what I do lies in how I present it to him.

As I've said, sometimes they teach us a thing or two.

I took the time that day to show him what I fill my day with, and included him in a lot of it. It took most of the day for him to stop accusing me of being lazy, but every day since, we've experienced a little less lazy, and a little more conversation. A little more interaction, and a little more cooperation.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lessons for (and from) our kids...

have a catch

We teach our kids all the time, and sometimes, they teach us a lesson or two.

  • you can never have too many McDonald's napkins in your glove compartment (a pack of wet wipes never hurts either)
  • never try to reason with a two-year-old, he'll never believe you
  • the best memories just happen, they'll remember a random romp in the rain before a planned trip to practically anywhere
  • a good book is nothing to a favorite book
  • superheros are necessary, they show us that good will overcome any evil.
  • wearing a favorite dress can make any day better
  • get your kids involved in everything, even holding a hammer while you tear down a wall will stick with them forever
  • you won't die if you try a new food.
  • apparently you may die if you try a new food you don't want to like
  • never give your kids the "I hope you have children like you someday" curse, it would be much better to wish an end to that vicious ugly cycle
  • ice cream can solve any problem
  • you can offer to record any TV show if it gets the kids to stop fighting you on bedtime / chores / lunch / etc., most kids will forget that deal by the next day
  • be ready with candy if you didn't record the aforementioned show and they do happen to remember
  • its never too soon to have a catch with your kids in the yard
  • take time for family game night, it teaches math and the importance of rules, and builds memories at the same time
  • bows makes everything prettier... including dad
  • flames make everything faster... especially dad