Monday, August 29, 2016

The one less traveled by

Its been a month since we moved into our new home. There are still boxes everywhere, and I can't seem to find a minute to relax, but it feels good to finally have a place. The kids are loving their new school, the longer commute to work lets me catch up on listening to the backlog of podcasts that have built up, and we're starting to explore our new side of town. We've already discovered a few parks, Nat has cross country practice at a nice big one, and Godzilla is loving the RC park up the street where he can race the new remote control car he got for his birthday.
Earlier this week, Kate and I took E out for a bike ride in his new bike trailer (thanks granddad!). We no longer have to put up with broken glass on every corner like the last place had, and just outside the neighborhood is a nice paved bike path for us to enjoy. Before heading out that far from home though, we wanted to ease in to the ride by doing a lap of the neighborhood. Right around the corner from the house is a playground and a small nature park, and we planned our loop to end there to let E out to play for a while. As we're still getting to know the neighborhood, we had yet to explore the park and thought it might be fun to look around. When the Mrs. suggested we take our adventure into the trail we found leading into the woods, the decision was obvious.
We soon found ourselves following the boy as he blazed the trail in front of us. It was a perfect day. The weather was cool, the trees provided shade and even the bugs had decided to leave us alone for the most part. We talked as we walked, commenting that in a different time, a wood like this would be heaven for our boys. There were alcoves for setting up forts, mushrooms growing along the path, and there at the end of a fork in the trail, a tree root rutted hill leading to a perfect little ravine. A small creek ran along the bottom with a narrow sandy bank and we knew this was an adventure we needed to include the other kids on.
Visions of sword play and fairy houses, pants rolled up to the knees and shoes left on the waters edge as kids splash in search of frogs and minnows ran through my head. This wooded wonderland is in our very backyard, and even if I must provide more supervision than my grandfather did in his day, adventures will be had, and summers will be cherished. Here at our new home, we've found a hidden treasure. It's not one we expected or one we went looking for, but it is something we will cherish, and I expect it will be a cornerstone location for these kids to paint their imaginations upon, there in the woods behind their home, at the end of the path less traveled, a canvas for their memories.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Stormy Thursday

We had a big line of storms roll through town last night. In my TV job, that usually means a long night staying late to provide coverage and help make sure the public is safe. However, the timing of this storm meant I left on time and the morning crew got to do the heavy lifting when things got bad around 2:30. 

In the meantime, I was asleep in my bed while Kate had her early morning shift. Around 3am, E climbed in bed with me which meant I got to hug the edge of the bed until morning, while the rest of our queen sized bed sat empty. I sleep like a rock anyway, so at least it's not the end of the world. When the sun rose, so did we. And then we found there was no power. No lights. No clocks. No central air. No refrigerator. No coffee maker. 

Thankfully, I've raised Godzilla right, as his immediate reaction when finding out about the power was to freak about how I was going to get coffee in me. Also thankfully, I have a French press and no problem using it. So, we got a pot down and filled it with water, then used a lighter to light the burner on the stove so I could have hot water for my brew. A few minutes later, after much "help" from the boys, I had a perfect cup to drink while figuring out what to do with my day. 

After a little breakfast made with quick openings of the fridge door and "toasting" a bagel in a pan on the stove, we ventured outside to see if we had any limbs down. While we had a few small ones, our yard made it through the night mostly unscathed. However, the neighbor  two doors down (who just had their driveway repaved) had a large branch on their roof, their gutter showing sight of damage. The three of us made our way down the street to knock on their door to offer assistance with cleanup, but found no one answering our call. (I'm sure they'll want their insurance adjuster to see it, but I'll check back in later today)

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice, I grabbed my clippers and a pair of garden gloves and set the boys to gathering branches. We drug them all to the curb so I could start clipping them down to size and bundling them for pickup. But don't forget, I had the boys with me, and what 7yo won't ask to use a tool when he sees dad pull one out. After a short safety lesson, I handed over the clippers, and Godzilla set to clipping the branches, using all his considerable might. 

There comes a time in every child's life when their parents look at them and say, this kid is really growing up. It may not be a single moment, a solitary event that opens your eyes, but a period when you look back and say "when did this happen." It's a mixed feeling of pride and reminiscence. Of joy and sadness. You know the age of needing you is nearing an end, and they are on the precipice of independence. Their personalities are in full swing, and you know that your kids are not just your kids, but little versions of real people. 

This real little person is nearly there. He's actually able to help, and that personality is as strong as anyone's. 

When did that happen?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Stuff My Kids Say XVIII

"Do you want me to make your coffee this morning? I ask because if I don't have a drink in the morning I go out of sane sometimes!"

Godzilla, age 7. 

I love this kid.

Once you get over the image of a seven year old saying sometimes he needs a drink in the morning, notice the thought that went into his offer. He's not just offering, he's offering because he empathizes with me.

He's been there, man!

And that means he's connecting with me. I know he won't drink coffee with me for a few years, and beer for a few years after that, but right now, he wants to be with me, doing what I'm doing and that makes me happy. It means we're making connections. He's paying attention to what is going on around him, and I need to be on my game.

He's always on his game though. And that is why I go out of sane sometimes.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Monster Jam with Kids (even if you're not a motorsports family)

The quick and dirty about Monster Jam with kids:

1. Monster Jam is a loud monster truck rally. Bring ear protection. Your hearing is important, and while you may be able to handle the noise, small kid's ears are more sensitive, and you don't want to have to leave because they can't.

2. Monster Jam is at it's core, a "motorsport". There will be trucks crushing cars and making wild jumps, but there will also be racing. Tight circles, driven on a dirt track, by trucks with tires as tall as a grown man.

3. Monster Jam is family friendly. No, really, I promise. Except for the introduction, the house lights are always on - they want you to be able to see the trucks and the dirt, and the jumbotron, and the concessions. Vendors will sell everything from Grave Digger hats and Maxx D shirts to those headphones I told you to bring in point 1, and toy versions of the very trucks you're going to watch for the next few hours. Plan on being entertained.

4. The best is always saved for last. If there's a truck name you recognize, expect them to be the star of the show, and to get the prime slots in the competition. Plan bathroom breaks and concession visits for early in any segment of so you don't miss the grand finale.

5. The show is broken up into two segments: a regular bracket style racing tournament (first around the course twice), and freestyle. If trucks driving in circles isn't your thing, consider coming late for just the freestyle. This part of the competition often leaves a literal graveyard of trucks, as they try to push their jumps higher, and won't hold back on driving through or over another truck broken on the course. Skip the circles if you expect your kid to have a short attention span for the racing. 

Keep reading if you want a first hand experience from a dad who didn't consider point 5!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Real Strength

I may only be your average NCAA basketball fan; not a fanatic, while also not oblivious to the game either. That said, every March I go full on mad for March Madness. I fill out at least one bracket, play a few squares in my office pool, and this year sat down for the first time to help my son fill out his own tournament brackets. While both our brackets have been busted for a solid week now, it was still great fun.

Filling out our tournament brackets with my son was a great experience. We had the chance to talk about the teams, how the brackets are seeded, where the games are played, and what kind of tournament upsets to expect. We began following our selections, crossing off the losses, and high-fiveing after every correct pick. To make our March experience even better, I was contacted by Dove Men+Care and offered two tickets to take a friend to an Elite Eight game in Louisville, KY! A game in Louisville sounded perfect, as it's just a short two hour drive from Indy, and a Saturday would be really convenient for me to get out for a day trip. I could not have been more excited to hear from Dove Men+Care with this offer.

Dove Men+Care has a new campaign highlighting the relationship between basketball coaches Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie of UConn. It shows another side of what makes men heroes in each other’s eyes, and how caring for one another fosters real bonds of friendship. While I got to share the bracket experience with my son, I wanted to invite my brother to share the game with me. We live several hours apart, and Louisville was right in the middle, making it the perfect location to share the bond forged on the court in our youth. 

We each made it to Louisville a few hours before the game last Saturday, and met up at a sports bar downtown. I was impressed with the atmosphere everywhere we walked, and we quickly picked up our friendship where we last left off, sharing stories and laughs, and listened to the Villanova fans cheer every time some stranger also wearing Nova colors walked by. 

By the time the match-up between Kansas and Villanova started, we found our seats, and a few other dad friends I've made while living in Indianapolis. We watched as one of the best games of the 2016 NCAA March Madness Tournament played out in front of us. We cheered as Kansas drove the court for a slam, we clapped as Nova played stellar defense, we got wrapped up in the action as the game came down to the final minutes and Villanova sealed a victory and a trip to the Final Four. 

All through the game, we were adding another chapter to our lifelong friendship. From playing H-O-R-S-E in the driveway as kids, to one-on-one in high school, to watching college athletes at the top of their game, basketball has left its mark on this Hoosier family. I was excited to have the chance, and my brother was thrilled I accepted the offer from Dove and invited him to share in the experience. Real Strength is forged in shared experiences, and this was one we'll talk about for years to come. The game, the laughs, the drinks, the stadium hotdogs... it all plays a role in this memory.

When the game was over and the stands emptied, We found ourselves walking to two separate parking garages, saying our farewells and promising to pick things up right where we were leaving them the next time we got together. It's a friendship that will not break, and one I look forward to strengthening even more in the future. Maybe this summer we'll find ourselves at a baseball game together!

Disclosure: I was provided with free tickets and a fuel card for the NCAA game. However, I was not compensated for this post. Thank you to Dove Men+Care for continually supporting and fostering the growth of fatherhood and friendship between men.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Different Worlds

I was talking with a young single coworker Friday night as we left work. He asked if I had big plans for the weekend. I told him we were doing pinewood derby one day, finishing a school report on the Polio vaccine, and if the barley and hops gods smiled on me, I'd get a few beers in while watching the game on Sunday. His response was one of shock, and I could hear it in his voice as he said "we live very different lives, friend!"

His weekend was obviously going to be the one of a young bachelor in the city, I'll let you imagine the details, but it's safe to say Polio was not a disease he was worried about, and a beer or two wouldn't even cover the opening round. 

I wouldn't trade with him though, and while he's enjoying his youth, he has no idea how much he may one day enjoy the other side of the coin with a weekend like the one I had.

He has never experienced the joy of seeing his son's face light up as his pinewood derby car which he labored over in frantic half hour sessions with him crosses the finish line. He has never watched his daughter learn something new and come to him with the look of new knowledge in her eyes as she relays the facts about polio and the vaccine that changed the world. He has never sat down to watch a football game, and had his toddler climb into his lap, grab his face between his two tiny hands and give him a kiss, making all the noise of the stadium melt away and the beer in his hands a less important part of the experience. 

He doesn't know the joy of waking up every day to a person he shares every detail of his life with, the unique passion that is married love, the soothing effect of talking about his day with someone who knows about the day and the week and the year before. 

These are the things he doesn't know. These are the things that sound mundane until you live them. These are the things I traded my weekends single and partying for, and one day I hope he finds the dad life to be as fulfilling as I do. But how does one explain the wonder of parenting to someone who is not yet a parent?

We had a laugh about our different lives, and my closing words were "one day, you'll see..." We both smiled and waved as we climbed into our cars, he into his coupe', me, my four door sedan, and pulled out to enjoy our "very different lives".

Whatever they may contain, enjoy your weekends, and know I'll be enjoying mine as well, even if I am covered in school paste and sawdust.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dinosaurs at the Museum

The first place my kids always want to go when we visit the museum is the Dinosphere. The big flashy main attraction may be the T-Rex battle between two Tyrannosaurs and a Triceratops, but we have a special connection to Leonardo, the mummified dinosaur. Before ever visiting, he was the first thing we ever learned about what the Museum had to offer.
After reading up on Leonardo, we made our first visit and made a beeline past the giant croc, past the brilliant color changing sky above the battling dinos, past the sensory stations featuring fossils of various specimen and directly to the glass case displaying one of paleontology's greatest discoveries ever. I think my kids heard "mummy" and thought "Egyptian mummy." However, a dinosaur mummy couldn't be wrapped and artificially preserved, so we got to discuss how nature instead did the job of preserving Leonardo's skin, scales, tendons and even stomach contents for scientists to study today. 

After getting a good look behind the glass, we all moved on to the sensory stations to learn more about Leonardo. We found out about his diet, details of where he was found, and more about the process of natural mummification. While the kids were picking up all this information, I had to play the knowledgeable dad role and read the info panels much faster, so I could nod and say "I know, right?" and then provide a little more info when they shared their new wonder with me.

After an all-too-short visit, we headed home, to a waiting science fair project. And what does one do for a science fair project after seeing Leonardo the Mummified Dinosaur, but an epic presentation on mummified dinosaurs. Books and information were limited on other specimens, but through persistence and perseverance, we managed to find enough content to fill a complete tri-fold. Not only did the Dinosphere provide the inspiration for the project, but the excitement as well. And if my kids are excited and inspired when we walk out the doors of the Children's Museum, then I say mission accomplished! 

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!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Unscheduled Sleep Positions X

Ok, so I'm a pushover. But he's our last kid, and how many more times will I get the chance to let a youngin sleep on my lap? Daily naps are beginning to fall by the wayside to the point that if E naps, it's most likely to be because he falls asleep in the car as we run daily errands.

Once we arrive back at the house, I can usually bring him in and transfer him right into his bed. Other times, that transfer doesn't go so smoothly. This just happened to be one of those times. Instead of staying asleep when I laid him down, he shot bolt upright and stuck his arms out for me again. Only when I picked him up, he cuddled right into my shoulder again. 

It's at that point that I can say "I tried", and then go recline in my La-Z-Boy, and let him rest until he wakes on his own. 

It's really not such a bad afternoon, cuddles with my second son. Maybe I can even catch up on an episode of The Walking Dead. I'm only a season behind...