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?