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.

When we finally got to tree day, everything just fell into place. Our tree gets filled with an eclectic collection of ornaments from Kate's and my childhoods all the way up through today. Much of our tree is covered in paper crafts made in school, and then the kids get an ornament to reflect their interests of the past year each Christmas from us as well as from their grandparents, and so our tree is something of a time capsule looking back over every stage of our lives. From my school days, through our days as newlyweds, to E's infatuation with superheros, you can find a slice of it on our tree. Needless to say, we will never have that "perfect" tree.

Everyone gets involved as we each take our own ornaments out of their protective boxes and find just the perfect places on the tree for each one. We relive the memories from each ornament as we munch on our cookies and sing along with Ella. It really is a magical time.

The cookies though? Now that takes some inspiration!

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!

Godzilla had the thought that perhaps we were really really old, if we were old enough to get together in the nineteen hundreds. We didn't quite understand his meaning at first, so when he uttered those words, I had no clue what he meant by passed. I don't know about you, but 34 doesn't seem that old to me, and 1998 feels like yesterday. Perhaps he thinks Kate and I should have moved on from each other by now, after all, 17 years is a long time to be with someone, especially when you're just 7?

So, we asked him to explain what he meant by "passed".

"You know, (insert cartoonish death mask face here) that kind of passed" he replied.

It went by in a flash, but you couldn't miss it. He thought we should be dead by now! 1998 was before the 2000s. 1998 had a 19 at the start! Things happened in the 1900s like the invention of cars and the moving picture shows, two world wars, the great depression, women's suffrage, JFK, the space race, desegregation, the moon landing, disco, the smallpox vaccine, the cold war, MTV, Chernobyl, the Berlin wall, the personal computer, email, OJ Simpson... all of it is ancient history to a kid born this side of Y2K. Naturally, it's amazing that we, his parents who got together in 1998, are still alive and kicking.

Oh, one more thing, that face he made? Priceless.

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".

When she was two, she fought nap time until she could sleep her way; on the floor, mid play.

When she was six, she had her hair cut short because every day she fought having her hair brushed because she could do it her way, and do it herself. It ended up a tangled mess, and one day we finally had enough.

When she was nine, she sat in a college study where she was taught a geometry lesson about the relative strength of triangles to squares in bridge building, and then given a chance to build a bridge to test how well the lesson was taught. When she assembled a square bridge which failed immediately upon bearing a load, the instructors asked if she understood the lesson. She replied that she did, but wanted to build it her way anyway.

These stories continue on a daily basis, and every day we turn around and find her doing things "her way". Sometimes I find myself debating with her. Some days I find us arguing. Most days I hear the words "no negotiations" come across my lips, because honestly, why would I negotiate with an 11-year-old? Even that doesn't stop her from trying though. She's good, I'll give her that. She's the Ronda Rousey of stubborn kids.

As parents, we've discovered the importance of picking our fights, so at least I have her to thank for that. But when it comes down to entering the ring, I've got to be Cassius Clay. There's no backing down if you are going to teach your kids to respect authority. We like to encourage her independence, and we like to reward her creative thinking, but allowing her to use us as treadmills just won't fly.

Ultimately, we're in this for her, and some things are worth letting her fail on her own while others have to be lessons learned from our experience. So, we'll continue to climb in that ring until the day she's ready to take on other opponents, and one day teach the same lessons to her own mini prize fighter.

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. 

Why does a Lego table need to have plates glued down? Why turn a play scape into an expensive uni-tasker? Why does this table need to be a permanent fixture in any room in my house? I bought a resin folding banquet table and a few cans of spray paint, and now my kids can play Lego (or anything else they want) in their bedroom (or anywhere else in the house I want to let them). Take a look at how easy it was!

Drop $50 on a folding banquet table, and $3 a can on spray paint. Use old newspaper and that roll of painters tape you have laying around to make sure you get a clean edge. 

Start by taping off a shoreline. Make sure you cover anything you don't want blue in newspaper, then give it a good coat of blue.

Spray paint dries pretty quickly as long as each coat isn't too thick. Leave just a little space beyond your blue water line and tape off the area you want to  become your grassland. Don't forget the newspaper, and paint it green, like those crazy Californians do in a drought!

Spray painting can be messy and your finger may cramp up with excessive coverage if you do it the old fashioned way. Instead, try this tool made by Krylon. It's a trigger handle for your paint cans, and it makes painting a snap. You simply slip it on the top of your can and go. 

Once both sides have been painted, you're left with a narrow strip for your beach. Pick up some yellow craft paint and a brush, and start filling in the white space.

This table didn't have a sharp edge to end the color at, so I just wrapped it right down the side for a clean finish.

Before setting your kids loose on your new piece of environmental art, add a few coats of clear enamel to protect your finish. The last thing you want, is for your kids' Lego masterpieces to scrape away all your hard (not that hard!) work.

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.