Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Cookies

*This post originally appeared on The Children's Museum of Indianapolis' blog.

On our most recent visit to the Children's Museum, we stopped into the new Gingerbread Cafe' for a snack, and it got us in the mood for some of our traditional Christmas cookies. Every year, we gather around with cookies in hand and carols on the radio to decorate our Christmas tree. It's a tradition as old as our family, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. So this year, we converged around the table to build gingerbread reindeer cookies. They are pretty simple to assemble and easy to get little hands involved with. The ingredients are few, and the instructions very straightforward.

- Begin with gingerbread dough (we used store bought because kids love helping mix any dough, but that can get a little messy, and I like projects with less cleanup)
- You'll also need a small bag of RedHots (also called cinnamon imperials if you look in the generic section)
- Next, pick up mini pretzels (these will be used as reindeer antlers, so don't think you'll get away with using those huge soft pretzels from the mall)
- Finally, a small bag of chocolate baking chips will make up your cookie's eyes (and if my family is any indication, more than a few will also line your stomachs before the baking is done)

After you assemble the ingredients (and the help) you begin by forming the dough into a rough prism shape. Then simply slice the log into thin triangles, and let the help lay them out on a cookie sheet. Bake per the dough instructions, and when you pull them out, immediately begin pressing two mini pretzels into two corners for the "antlers" a red hot into the third corner for "Rudolph's nose", and two chocolate chips in the middle for the "eyes". If you have really little ones helping, you can remove the cookies to a cooling plate before building your reindeer. Rudolph's nose provides a little spice to compliment the sweet molasses flavor inherent in the gingerbread.

Let your reindeer cool while you do a second pan, and then it's time to get the munchies! I'm sure Santa won't mind if you eat one (or two or three) of his reindeer, just don't name them before biting off their tasty little noses!

Monday, December 7, 2015

'Tis the Season

This is our first December in Indy, and so it's our first Jolly Days at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. We went down to the museum on Black Friday to see Santa's big arrival, and got our first taste of the Yule slide, as well as our first taste of the new Gingerbread cafe. Mmmm, gingerbread....

I'm going to be honest with you, the cookies are my favorite part of every Christmas season.

Like many homes, December is full of traditions in our house. We like to kick off the holiday season by decorating our Christmas tree near the beginning of the month, and it just doesn't feel like the holidays until we have Christmas cookies to munch while we hang ornaments and listen to Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, and Nat King Cole sing our favorites. In fact, Bing and Bowie are singing their Drummer Boy duet as I type.

This year, Godzilla helped set up the tree. He's at that age where he's just enough help to be adorable while not being a hindrance to the process. We go with a fake tree for many reasons, so he got to help fluff the branches first, then took lessons in winding the lights up and around our tannenbaum. After fighting to find enough working strands of lights to fill the tree, it was ready for to get the full Christmas treatment, but as there are five of us, and Kate and I each work, time is limited. So we put off the day of decorating until the next weekend, when we could do the cookies and cocoa and carols.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

New at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis: Me!

I'm so excited to be an ambassador for The Children's Museum. It is, honestly one of the coolest places for kids in the Midwest, and as someone who enjoys seeing my kids enjoy themselves, we spend a lot of time here. From the Dinosphere to the Playscape, the Chihuly sculpture to the rock wall, each of my kids is engaged on every visit.

I moved my family here from South Bend for a job in February, and the first thing I did to get my kids inspired about the move was call up The Children's Museum website and showed them what amazing things we would have access to after the move. On our first visit to look for a place to live, we took a few hours out of our day to scrape the surface of what TCM had to offer. The tease worked, and we had very little selling left to do as far as the kids were concerned.

"What amazing kids you must have" you might be saying. And you would be right.

My daughter, Nat, is 11. She loves the arts and is right at home playing "mom" to her two little brothers. When she sets her sights on something, you can count on her following through with unrelenting devotion to completing the task, if not to completing the steps she thinks will get her there. There is no denying her exploration of the world around her, and I would never dare to try.

My middle kid, Sean, 7, loves adventure. He’s at home in a cape, a tool belt, or a mud pit. Is there any more prototypical boy? He loves playing with trucks and dinosaurs or dressing up as a superhero. While his inner Indiana Jones is worn on his sleeve, his inner Einstein is seen in his eyes. Sean never tires of showing off his math skills, and will read books about science before just about any work of fiction.

Finally, there is my 2-year-old we affectionately call "Not-Sean" or "E". The Not-Sean name should be understood by any parent of more than one, and E is just a shortening of his actual name, because by the third kid, you barely have time to think, let alone pronounce your kid's full names. As a typical 2-year-old, E is the reason I drink coffee, but if there is one thing I can count on holding his attention long enough for me to do any simple task, it involves water. He will "wash" a sink full of dishes, or pour a river of water down the side of a tub. So if you every want to find us at the museum, check the water table in the Playscape first!

I've been married for a dozen years to my wonderful wife, and together we meet the daily challenges of raising a family. We love engaging their minds and watching them discover the world around them. Often, that adventure comes in the daily ups and downs of school runs, practices and such, but when we can break out of the routine and explore the different worlds places like the Children's Museum provide access to, that discovery is all the more enjoyable.

I have never wanted to miss any of my family’s adventures, so I started writing to keep the memories alive, because as they say: memories fade, but the internet is forever. The years have seen my family grow, and our experiences flourish. With the kids’ age difference, we get a taste of different stages all at the same time, and we get to enjoy the journey to discovery with each of them individually. 

I'm excited to share with you that journey and all the inspiration we find for it at The Children's Museum over the next six months. Just be sure to bring your poncho along for the ride, as inspiration this good is bound to get messy!

This post originally appeared on The Children's Museum of Indianapolis' blog. Take a look to see what amazing things are currently going on over at the worlds greatest children's museum!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Stuff My Kids Say XVII

"Why aren't you passed yet?"

Godzilla, 7

Hold on, that doesn't really do the line justice. Lets pour on some perspective.

We sat down to lunch this past weekend, and began talking about our day, our week, the projects we had to do, the things we just finished, what was going on at school, at work, at home... It was an ideal moment, gathered around the table, there were smiles and stories and good food filling our stomachs.

Kate and I then dropped a bombshell on the kids: We got together all the way back in 1998. Nineteen-ninety-eight! Practically the dark ages!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Stuff My Kids Say XVI

Dad, guess what? I was dreaming in my dream, and you woke me up in my dream too!

Godzilla, 7.

It was something of an Inception kind of moment for him (not that hes watched the movie yet... at least not in this layer of his dream life). The amazement in his voice was priceless though. He was so sure that his dream was real. He was certain that I had already woken him up.

It's not often that I have a dream which is so realistic, but I have had them, I've woken up disappointed to discover that the dream was just a dream. On the other hand, I've awakened in a cold sweat, relieved to find the events in dreamland were just in my head. The best ones, however, are the ones where you can wake with the amazement of a child.

Or, you know, the ones where you wake from a dream in a dream in a dream in a .....

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".

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.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bedtime Songs

Its true, we're creatures of habit. At least, I am a creature of habit. How else would you explain the fact that I've been singing the same lullabies to my kids for 10 years now? Not that I mind, I enjoy them, my kids enjoy them, and that's all that matters in the end, I suppose. And it's not just lullabies, it's songs in general.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Basketball Diaries

There are first times for everything, but what first is quite as exciting as the first game you catch with your kids? I'm a baseball guy, and a baseball game with my kids is the holy grail of firsts for me. However, when opportunity knocks, I'm more than happy to open the door.

And that was the case last night. After working so hard to raise money for Jump Rope for Heart, Godzilla was given a voucher for an Indiana Pacers game. He had a choice of a few different nights, and was really excited to get to go. Unfortunately, my work schedule got complicated, and we waited a little too long to find tickets and were unable to get to any of the games available with his voucher. He was so proud of his work and of earning the tickets that we weren't going to break his heart and not take him to a game, so instead of buying one ticket to go with his free one, we picked up two and made our plan to see the Pacers take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As the day approached, we talked about it more and more, until Sunday morning came and he was ready to go! Of course, if you're excited to go to a basketball game, you have to warm up for it, as he pointed out before lunch.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Jumping Rope for Ducks

Godzilla just started at a new school, after we uprooted the family and moved to a new city. One of the first things he came home with from his new class, was a donation kit for Jump Rope for Heart. He walked in to the house so very excited about getting on with the fundraising. No small part of his excitement stemmed from the fact that he could earn amazing prizes at different levels for funds raised. The biggest draw were these little rubber ducks. The joy on his face as he told me all about which ducks he wanted shone like the sun. "Look at this one Dad! It's called splatter duck, because it looks like he's all splattered with paint!" and "I really want this one, because it looks like he's a super spy!" Words spilled out of his mouth at a rate I rarely hear, and this kid can talk!

He also told me about how he was working out in gym class to learn about heart health and how important it is to stay active through the Jump Rope for Heart campagn. This is where I began to get impressed with his excitement for Jump Rope for Heart.

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's a Dog's Life

When Kate and I started dating we often talked of what our future life might hold, as young kids in love often do. Our daydreams included kids, and cars, and a house, and a dog... many of the normal things you plan to have when you're older and mature and free to do as you please. As we made our life together, we've slowly worked on each of those goals, meeting them with varying degrees of success.

Our first child arrived in 2004 and our lives were instantly changed forever. Our eyes were opened. Nat was adorable. She was our pride and joy. She was our little drama queen. She was a nightmare to put to sleep.

We worked through those issues, and in 2008 moved on to our second child. Godzilla was my handsome mister. He was my heir. He was the reason the world turned upside down as far as his sister was concerned.

Two kids down and we went looking for a house. 2009 brought it to us, and while it is not the house of our teenage dreams, we have made it our home.

And once we had our home... we could finally get the dog we always wanted.

Enter Aurora.

Isn't she sweet?