Friday, June 29, 2012

A Person More Talented Than Me!

If you're like me, you probably read that title and started thinking of a very long list of people. Don't feel too bad for me; earlier this week I had someone tell me that my cakes are the BEST (they used all caps). I do things.

While you and your friends do a march madness style bracket of people I could possibly be referring to, I'm gonna move on.

I'm not sure how much insight into my personal character you are able to grasp as a reader. Obviously at this point I want people to enjoy my writing. I hope over time that more people will feel inclined to come back on a regular basis and tell their friends, but at the moment it's hard to tell where things are going and where I fit into the lives of what often feels like a very short list of people who stumble into my little world here. Am I just the handsome comedian to people? The super intelligent handsome humorist? Perhaps you think I'm a total jerk, who is handsome. Do I let the light shine on your heart the way Linus vows the Great Pumpkin will pave the way for the magical spirit of Halloween? I may never know, but I'll let you all in on a little secret.

I like nerdy, geeky stuff.

That's why I love James Hance.

Now before I go further I want to be clear that the following are my own opinions and while the timing of my post is certainly not a coincidence, I am getting nothing to plead with you to go spend lots and lots of money on his amazing work.

So enough delay, go right here.

The title at the top says it all for me. "Relentlessly Cheerful Art." Not just cheerful art, relentlessly cheerful art! Art so cheerful that it refuses to not cheerful at you. That alone is so awesome that you might forget that there's so much more to his site.

The perfect place to start is on his prints page where the magic of his mind becomes almost overwhelming. Look, I have my little nerd loves, so when I find a guy who takes things two things I enjoy in an obsessive kind of way like the movie "Shawn of the Dead" and the Muppets I am a pretty happy camper. I could sit here and link picture after picture, but seriously, just go look! There is something you'll love, and better yet, there's something you can share with your kids. For only 10 bucks you get an amazing, high-quality print, and look at the sizes! How am I so sure of the quality? We've purchased two prints and a very awesome shirt (which are also extremely well made and at $25 is certainly affordable). There's also kids size clothing, stickers, ipod and iphone cases, and hoodies. Don't you just want to hold hands with someone and hop around in a state of gleeful euphoria?!

Now the reason I have chosen to post about this fantastic dreamaginationer at this specific point in time is his latest book, which I'm so giddy for that every so often Melissa has to put me on my back and rub my belly to calm me down like a shark. Now Mr. Hance has already put out one book which I have sadly not purchased as of yet, but believe me, I plan on it. Both prints we own are from the "Wookie the Chew" series, and William loves them. I don't need to have a copy of his previous writing in my hand to know that a mash-up of "Winnie the Pooh" which is one of William's favorite things in the world, and "Star Wars" which I love, is going to be an instant hit in this household. That's exactly why I'm so very excited for his new book. "Goodnight, Pond" is a brilliant idea which again, seems taken from a list of most favorite things ever for William and myself. It combines "Goodnight, Moon" which I'm sure like many of you, I have read so many times that I not only know the words from memory, but I can point to every object in the room without so much as a glance, AND DOCTOR WHO!!! Seriously, my biggest dilemma with this book is how many to buy, because if it follows the lifespan of the other three "Goodnight, Moon" books that we have bought for William...this book will be eaten. Probably need a backup. Or 7.

Now, if you have lasted this long without just throwing in the towel to the idea that "Ev has a man-crush on this guy" I'd like to bring up one last thing - he's a dad. Better yet, he's a dad doing everything he can to take care of his little girl. Her story and information on how you can get involved can be found here. I've said it before, and it might always be true, within the blogging world I am no one. If you don't want to believe me that minivans are a great purchase for your family, then okay. However, James Hance is a person far more talented than me, and I'm certainly moved by his abilities and by the story of his daughter; I think you will be too.

So I urge you to go and find joy in his artwork, and if you can help with funds to his little girl then do! Having his artwork in the house for months now I can certainly attest to the fact that it will always be boldly in your face, unapologetically turning the corners of your mouth upward. You will find yourself relentlessly cheered.

Go! Tell him I sent you! He'll say, "Who?" That's just this thing we do...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Personal Touch

People hate shopping for me. Evidently I'm "difficult to shop for" though I think that's an unfair statement. I'm very easy to shop for, it's just difficult to afford the gifts that I want. Two very different things.

From early on in our relationship, Melissa learned that I am no fun when it comes to gifts. I often know what my gifts are (yay superpower!) and, at least in her opinion, my gifts to her seem to have a bit of an edge. I win at gifts. Congratulations to me.

This gift giving issue came up recently when we had a friend come to town. That's right! We had a real life visitor, and it was amazing. He's a close friend of mine that I've known since my high school days, and it's only fair that I bring up how much he hated me before he even met me. Me!! (ME!!) While it was far from an argument, we had opposing opinions on the validity of giving gift cards to people as presents.

His stance is basically that it's not very personal. He's one of those people who wants to not only give a gift that the person will enjoy, but shows a level of thought and personal insight. That's pretty nice, but I'd argue that those are things that a gift card can accomplish with ease!

What could be more personal than a gift that by it's very design is tailor-made for an individual person? Buying a gift card for someone means having the balls to admit that the person you are buying a gift for might have a better idea of what they want than you do. Buying a gift card means telling a person that you don't want them to feel obliged to keep a book that they'll never read. Plus! It gives people a reason to get an expensive item that they would otherwise avoid. Why? Because with the gift card it's basically on sale. Come on ladies, that argument should appeal to you.

Thoughtful? Insightful? When it comes to buying a gift card you must balance what you are willing to pay with what desirable items within that store might cost. Something you have to think about. It must be a little treasure nibblet for a store that your gift recipient would actually want to go to. You can't give a gift card to the local camping store to a person who hates camping, believe me, you'll see that look of disappointment on their face and you'll hate yourself for not remembering that incident with the snake when they were five. Something that requires insight to that person's life. Yes, most cards have a dollar amount imprinted on the face of the card and the person gets to see exactly what you are willing to spend on them. Get over yourself, it's not that big of a deal.

So please! Go out and get your friends and family a gift card when the need for a gift comes around. From restaurants to movie theaters to shoe stores...they really are better than you think.

If your giftee does not seem grateful, just send the card to me and I'll start an open-ended post of things I buy with rejected gift cards. So they see what they are missing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What Kind of Child are you Raising?

Earlier this week I was on the phone with a friend of mine. We were catching up as best we could; we're both stay-at-home-parents. At one point in our conversation I had mentioned that I had been awake quite a while since it was trash day and I had forgotten to set everything out the night before. Just a few minutes later William, my little non-talker, was proudly announcing, "I took out the trash!" He's been doing that 50 times a day ever since. It amazing what kids can pick up.

Years ago I was talking with a friend who had two kids in middle school. We had a very common conversation for people who are growing up, which was more or less how things have changed and what that means for our kids as they grow up.

Many reports indicate that overall, violence in schools has been on the rise since the 90's. I can't help but wonder if it is mere coincidence that the world wide web was introduced in this same time frame. It would make a lot of sense, wouldn't it? People love the heck out of statistics and when you talk about incidents of violence or bullying in schools across the country, you must also take into account that there are more ways to be violent or bully than ever before. Kids today have to deal with a level of controlled evil, that I just don't remember from my youth. I saw social exclusion and the types of mean acts that all kids I grew up with saw or experienced at some point in their lives, but that has nothing on kids today. Kids today are smarter about being mean; they have found ways to be hateful almost anonymously through places like facebook and twitter, and quite frankly this has led to adults becoming generally numb to something that truly is an issue. So it becomes a little difficult to talk about how different kids were "in my day" and not bear in mind that parents back then did not have to deal with these issues on these levels. My mom didn't need to worry about what horrible things were being posted on facebook by kids from my school. My dad didn't need to keep an eye on text messages I had been sending or receiving. Sadly, with all these great advances in technology, we've also invented cyber-bullying, because being a jerk in person just isn't enough some times. This is the world our kids are growing up in.

Now I'm not blind to the fact that things happened when I was in school. My sophomore year of high school alone we had two pregnancies, three fights large enough to require authorities, and an incident involving a girl who brought a gun to school...and ended up shooting herself in the leg on accident. I was a geeky, short kid with bright red hair...of course I had incidents of getting bullied. So while there seems to be a clear problem within our schools, what I don't understand is how little seems to really get done in an effort to fix the issues. It's not that schools are making no effort at all, but I've seen first hand how schools get their hands tied by the most minimal outside pushback.

The other day I think I stumbled on to what I think is really the foundation of this problem. Eventually the bully from your school, grows up and raises some kids.

Recently I got the whole family out of the house to a bit of a gathering. It was one of the first times we went somewhere that we knew there would be lots of other kids, and I was pretty excited about it. I know the boys love to go places where other kids are around, but honestly, it can turn into a bit of a nightmare. Now there was one particular family around who I really didn't know that well. I've seen the dad of the family various times over several years now. We have the type of relationship where I'd gladly say hello if I saw him at the grocery store, but our families won't be spending any Christmas dinners together. We may not be close because we don't find ourselves in enough situations to really get to know each other, or it may be because I've determined during each time I'm around him that he is in fact a jackass. It's not like he's unable to be a nice guy, and I've noticed that if you're on his good side that you tend to not be much of a target for his "funny" little comments and general attitude. Still, he's got this quality (particularly when you first meet him) of massive superiority. Hey, I'm all for self-confidence but that can certainly go too far. So perhaps it should have been no surprise that his children (who are still pretty young) were acting in a similar manner. One even went so far as to stop what he was actively doing to take a ball away from a little girl because it was his. Awsome McCooldad was a little too invested in his beer to bother correcting his son. I really hope that when William reaches this kid's age in another three years or so that he's no longer in the "that's mine" phase.

So this brings me to what I'd really like to talk about. and it was best described to me like this, "bullies raise bullies."

I like the big picture idea there which is more along the lines of "you raise yourself."

Read the little bit at the top again. Kids are perceptive beyond what we give them credit for, and it's easy for someone like me with a child that is not talking every second of every day, to dismiss the idea that he's paying attention to what I'm saying; all based on the fact that he doesn't repeat every little thing he hears me say. Likewise it's stupid to think that Carter, my sweet little man, doesn't take note of the times I get angry versus the times I keep calm and correct whatever might be wrong. The problem is that we as parents spend a huge part of our lives learning to be who we think we "are" or who we "want to be" and then kids come along. Too many parents do nothing or wait too long to adjust who they are around their kids. Kids get their influence from everything around them, but despite this overwhelming stance by parents to point fingers at everyone else in their children's lives, it always starts at home.

So is it wrong to do things like drink, use bad language, smoke, eat unhealthy things, or show forms of aggression around our kids? Is it wrong to partake in anything that might contradict the perfect little angels we are trying to raise? It's probably not wrong, but the question I'm asking here is can't we take some responsibility in how our children react to that exposure? There was a recent video that went at least semi-viral that showed a father driving his kids to school. They all sang along to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and comment after comment was made about how great of a dad he clearly was due to nothing more than his kids knowing the words to a song from a past generation. You know what? He might be a great dad, but isn't it a little dumb to make that decision based on song selection? Would we have seen the same reaction if it was a Marilyn Manson song? Bob Marley? Justin Bieber? Shouldn't the discussion deal with having a great time with your kids during the short drive to school? Perhaps the look of joy on the kids' faces as the sang along with dad during what was clearly not the first time? I hope my kids will judge my parenting abilities by more than amount of classic rock played for them as they grow up.

Psychologists, when dealing with cases of abuse or teen pregnancy, often talk about "breaking the cycle." This idea that these types of situations are genetically handed down seems like total crap, but the truth is that kids learn from their parents. You can hardly make it through the door of a doctor's office before someone is asking about your family history. You can't outrun your family, and your children will never outrun their family. So the most we can do for our kids is to give them a little more "role model" and a little less "idol." Try to be the person that you want your children to grow up to be, not just the cool guy.

So if we are just raising ourselves...

What kind of child are you raising?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I miss you, stuff.

I've talked about this a little bit before, but Melissa and I (like most people I know of) went through a phase where money wasn't something we really paid too much attention. I was never willing to say, buy the brand name ice cream while the store brand was 30 cents cheaper...but you get the idea. When people asked if we wanted to go out to dinner, we did (pending the people asking) and with little thought for stupid things like...we ate out yesterday or...we're eating out tomorrow or...I think we've eaten out every day this week. Our birthday/anniversary/Christmas/Valentine gifts to each other were always spendy and that special kind of selfish that you deserve on a holiday. One of our most crowning achievements is our DVD collection. If you are not aware, DVDs come out on Tuesdays. So our ritual on Tuesdays was to go to work, come home and change, head to Best Buy and purchase 1-3 DVDs, have dinner somewhere in the area, go home and watch new movies. Every Tuesday. It got pretty epic...I'll throw a picture up here.

Now, this is not a sob story about how I wish we had more money so we could do more things and buy more of those "want not need" items. Kids or no kids, I think we'd all agree that we'd love more money around. This is far more simple than even wanting to go buy the occasional DVD.


Another great bit of information that you really don't read about in those books that get you ready for parenting is how quickly your children are willing to destroy everything you own. It's probably not malicious, but as the parent or more importantly as the person who spent all the money on all that stuff, you really have to start making some tough choices.

Now obviously I've brought this concern up with other parents and they seem to tell a similar story. Child locks on everything, secret stashes of everything from jewelry to candy bars, and my personal favorite...everything moved up to the higher shelves. I had two pictures go through my mind when talking about this stuff.

There's a very common selling technique used in grocery stores. You put the items that are popular or bring in the most money, at eye level. It's interesting that you have to employ a similar, though perhaps more extreme technique with young kids. In our house we've gone to great lengths to protect what we would like to keep in the long term. That includes a certain amount of controlled destruction. Giving up old cell phones to save the new ones, allowing the older books to get the bends, rips, and teeth marks to save those precious hard-bound books or ones we'd like to read again at some point. It's all about directing the eyes of your children to the place you want them to go and away from the places you want them to avoid.

I also thought a great deal about hotels, and it really goes further than that, but one step at a time. Thinking about it, I've stayed at a pretty large number of hotels/cabins/condos. I guess I've done my fair share of traveling. The common factor in every place I've ever been is how bare they all are. Now there's obvious reasons for this like the cost associated with decorating each room. Clearly as the owner you would want to make each room as cheap to furnish/decorate as possible while still giving a patron an enjoyable experience. In short, it's nice that we get free soap, but it's also understandable that every room doesn't have a private study. I can also see the benefit in keeping things a little underdone to limit the number of things you set out for people to steal. I don't have big enough luggage to steal more than soap and toilet paper.


Someone, at sometime, had to have brought up that keeping the decor of hotel rooms on that fine line between empty and boring, was a great way to limit the dollar amount of possible destruction by toddlers and rock musicians. We stopped at many different hotels on our recent trip to Florida, and I can say that the two things in any real danger of getting toddlered were the tissues in the bathrooms and the "Guest Manuals" on the dressers. That's pretty darn good! It carries over to other areas as well! Look at homes that are featured in magazines. They don't have anything in them! I think that's what people find attractive. The homes of people who have kids are filled with 15 overflowing toy boxes and baskets to "organize" where things go at the end of the day. The pictures we are shown as examples of a "stylish" or "beautiful" home are pictures where rooms are devoid of anything that would indicate that a person actually lives there. I feel fancy if I get all the toys picked up at the end of the night. I was unaware that what we really need is a large room containing only two expensive chairs and a sconce. Sorry parents, we have too much stuff in our homes for them to be considered elegant, and none of it belongs to us.

I have to wonder if there's really a way to balance the child-proofing that goes on in a home, and making any attempt to have an elegant home. Maybe I'm just hanging with the crowd that, like me, offers one or two rooms up to the lords of mess in order to have a kitchen table that can actually be used for eating.

Moral of the story:

From my own experience, and listening to stories from other parents, there comes a day when you have two choices when it comes to your stuff.

Hide it or watch it get destroyed.

P.S. In order to take the picture I had to get a chair from the table and use it to reach the camera bag on top of the fridge. It did at one point take pretty decent pictures. William took it mostly apart a few months ago so now it lives up there with the bread. So in addition to Porsche, I am willing to be sponsored by a camera company.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The ManVan

My Mom once told me that another in the long list of things you give up as a parent is the right to get that car you "want." She assured me that when the kids are older, there's a chance that I'll have a shot at that dream car again, but you never know.

I have friends who would say that I've owned a lot of vehicles. They might be right, but it really doesn't feel that way. I've had 4 total vehicles at 32 years old. 3 of the 4 were used.

My first car was a 1990 Dodge Shadow. It had a ton of miles, no air conditioning (in Florida), and the interior was really rough. I loved that car. It was probably that first car brainwash, but there really was something about it for me. Between help from my Dad and those crazy Pizza Hut paychecks I was getting, it turned into something I was proud to drive around.

The second car originally belonged to my sister. I took her 1996 Honda Civic hatchback, and she traded in the Shadow for her newest ride. I never quite settled into it. It was a great car, and I really can't say enough positive things about Honda vehicles, but the trade occurred at a time when I needed a bit more space. I was playing guitar in my high school's jazz band and between my guitar, giant amplifier, clarinet(that's right, I can trill like a badass), percussion stuff, and school books...well I tested out every cubic inch of possible storage that's for sure. I wasn't sad to see it go.

Third on the list will always get me a little choked up. My glorious Honda CR-V. The way I see it, there's two ways to shop for a vehicle. You can shop for the looks, which seems to end with that familiar buyer's remorse, or you can buy for needs. I think if you get a vehicle that has everything you need, you'll end up happier for a longer period of time. This of course extends the length you'll own your vehicle before getting bored with it. I never got tired of the CR-V, but it did get tired of running. After almost 12 years of fighting the good fight, it just couldn't keep going without the need for some heavier repairs. I'll put it this way, the trade in value of it by the end, mostly due to high mileage, was almost the same as the cost to fix it.

Which brings me to September of last year, and that's 2011 for you future mega-fans who are going back through the posting history.

We took a trip to Medford, Oregon. A very beautiful 10 hour drive in which we'd be transporting the following: Wife, Boys, my Mom, Me, luggage to cover 5 people for 4 days including lots of diaper related gear, additional fancy clothes for the wedding/dress rehearsal, double stroller, AND since I was doing the wedding cake I had an arsenal of mixers and decorating supplies. Now you might look at that list and say to yourself, "I wonder if he made little premixes of the cakes so he didn't have to buy everything in a town he wasn't familiar with." Well I did, and I'm happy to never try to bake/decorate a cake out of state ever again. I spent so much of the time feeling stressed that I don't know if I really said much of a "congratulations" to the bride and groom.

*pause for you to do a whiny impersonation of me in your head*

On the other hand, the minivan we rented to accommodate ourselves and what seemed like enough random items to fill an IKEA, was simply amazing...and less embarrassing to drive than you might think.

So this is sort of a review, and a story that lead me to the purchase of the ManVan. I am not being paid for my opinions on this vehicle and I was not asked by any person from any car companies to give a review, but here it is anyway.


I've honestly liked minivans since I was very young. From the perspective of a little kid, there's just something really cool about having enough room to have little adventures in your own little world (while being safely buckled into your seat...I always wore a seat belt *wink*). On longer family trips the back seat was used as a bed for my siblings and I, in sort of a rotation system. There was always room for everyone to bring just about everything they owned, and yet somehow you still had access to at least two cup-holders. Minivans are a magical land, not unlike a T.A.R.D.I.S. (you're welcome, Dr. Who fans), in that they are bigger on the inside then you can believe.

Of course, the way the minivan handled or comfort to the driver; anything that might be important to the person who owned the van was never something I gave any interest. I could lay down in the back row with 5 sodas and the biggest walkman the world had ever seen, jamming out to The Boys, what did I care if the driver had no lumbar support?

When we first hopped into the rental, I was very impressed. I guess I really hadn't been in a minivan in quite some time, and without really taking note of changes being made in the minivan world over the years, I was pleasently surprised at how nice it was. It was a 2012 Chrysler Town and Country, and it was in about as perfect shape as you could ever hope for from a rental company. The first thing I noticed was that the interior space didn't feel like it had changed drastically over the years, but don't mistake that for a criticism, you'll have all the space you could ever ask for in a minivan. The second thing I noticed was that, thanks in no small part to the amazing technology we have nowadays, everything was very high tech. Touch-screen radio with navigation, power everything, and dual-zone air conditioning at the front that worked by specific temperature! Not that crappy blue to red zone junk that you can never get to just the right setting. There was also rear A/C controls for people in the back, as well as a special lighting strip down the middle of the ceiling to be used at night for that perfect little touch of light. It looked like the kind of lighting people would have installed in a limo. For the people up front, there was a total of 6 cup-holders, though two were designed to be accessible by the middle row of seats. The driver's seat had a 6 way electric adjustable setting, to get yourself as cozy as possible. Tons of controls at your fingertips, but not so many as to clutter the steering wheel. Then, my favorite part - "Stow 'n Go" seating. If you are not familiar with it, go here. What an amazing addition of space to something that really doesn't have any issues with space! 3 total power outlets, one of which was an actual plug (!!!) which was designated to the DVD player for the kids..0

Other, quicker things: The ride was...okay, and so was the feel of that power to weight ratio trying desperately to get the van going. The thing is, if you're looking for a vehicle that has enough storage for a small house and drives like a sports car...I can't help you, and I doubt anyone else can either. The looks have improved vastly over the models of my childhood, and perhaps most importantly, you can find 1-2 year old models that are incredibly priced. Lastly, the middle "Stow 'n Go" panels feel very flimsy as you walk on them. They seem to support people's weight as they step on them, just fine even, I'm just saying be sure to avoid using them as a trampoline. Kid proof? If there is a type of vehicle that tries to think of kids first, it is a minivan. I can't imagine how much time we spent in our rental throughout the trip, but by the end it would have taken nothing more then a good vacuuming to get the interior looking amazing. Gas mileage? Averaged between 30-34 in a minivan carrying more stuff than most moving vans. I was sold.

Within three months of our trip to Oregon, I purchased the ManVan. A 2010 Town and Country, with a little less on the features, but otherwise the same.

So. Minivans are stylish. They have all the tech gear we can't seem to live without. There's roughly enough space to store the Grand Canyon, and there are vans that fit any budget. Especially if you are willing to check out even the most slightly used models. So leave the stigma at home because quite frankly, if you have young kids, a minivan is about the best decision you can make for your family.

Want my shopping rundown? Here it is:

Honda Odyssey - Nicest. Most Comfortable. Great Interior/Storage. Crazy Expensive. If money was no object I would have bought one in a second.

Chrysler Town and Country - Same storage as the Honda, but a little less luxury in the interior. Very comfortable and affordable. (Great used selection available from various rental companies)

Dodge Caravan - It's literally a Town and Country that doesn't have that "fancy" "wood" trim on the dashboard or on the doors. Little less on the price than the Town and Country. (Also lots of used available - had a tendency to be beat up a bit more or perhaps just show it easier)

Nissan Quest - Very pricey again, but not as bad as the Honda. Very comfortable, and had the best seating area for those in the back, which sadly killed a lot of the storage that the others had.

Chevy Uplander - Felt cramped in the back (and we are very short people), and very little storage capacity compared to the vans with "Stow 'n Go" however, by far the most affordable. They are not made anymore, so there are only used models around, but the most interesting was that some are 4 wheel drive. Nice feature for those of us who face the occasional ice-covered road or even a little dirt on the way to that perfect camping spot.

This year we took the kids from Idaho to Florida and back in the ManVan. I'd find it hard to name another type of vehicle that would have provided us with the ability to take that type of trip and get home with some level of sanity. I never thought I'd end up driving the vehicle that seems to scream, "We are parents! We have given up trying to be cool!" All the same, we are very happy to be minivan owners, and I'll be very happy to someday not be one as well.

Friday, June 22, 2012

People love signing things!

Go here!

Right from the site:

The Census Bureau states, "Deciding which child care arrangement to use has become an increasingly important family issue as maternal employment has become the norm, rather than the exception." However, the Census contradicts itself by assuming in the SIPP (Survey of Income and Program Participation) that moms are the designated parent and dads are a childcare arrangement.
If this is the norm, and decisions about child care arrangements are increasingly important, then it is increasingly important to accurately portray such arrangements. To equate father-provided care with grandparent, or sibling provided care, as something functionally different from mother-provided care, does not accurately portray the arrangement, or the social, economic, and policy consequences of it.

In short, according to their policy, I am not a stay at home Dad to my kids. I'm currently employed (without pay) as a full time babysitter to two children (doesn't matter that they are my own).

This will be going to the House and Senate in addition to the Census Bureau. Real quick and easy. Take a minute if you can.

Thanks folks.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Brave New World

For those who have not been bombarded on the various Disney channels by the constant reminders, Disney/Pixar's - "Brave" arrives in theaters tomorrow. As someone who celebrates my Scottish heritage with great pride, I need little other reason to see this movie than the promise of delightful accents woven into a movie that will undoubted have a scene that jokes about what males wear under their kilts.

Because I am "no one" in the blogging world, I get to be part of an elite group of parental bloggers who have not already been to see this movie. However, as I am an increasingly avid reader of a variety of these other blogs, I've certainly seen a great deal of little snippets in regard to the movie's content.

Now I have no intention of trying to sell people on a movie that I have not seen. Even the things I've read about it doesn't get me very far because people take different aspects of the movie home with them. It just depends on what really stands out to them personally as they watch it. Heck, if I tried to pull off a review based on my reading, I'd end up with a write-up about the story of a bow and some arrows that a mother and daughter talk to using extremely random Celtic words that seem to summon bears. I'm 64% sure that's not the plot of "Brave" (in theaters tomorrow).

So what do I have to say about this movie besides the likelihood of wearing a kilt to the theater when/if I get the chance to go? Well, it has to do with another Pixar movie, and my deepest hope that I can spark some level of conversation in the comments section.

William, who is several months into the 3 year old territory, loves Disney/Pixar movies. His other interests seem to generally be running and screaming. That's where my issue comes into play. Something Melissa and I have really had to learn as parents is that we're not alone in our fear that every time we're out with the kids, they are bothering everyone. The truth is, when we feel that William is "acting up" in a restaurant, there's probably a parent somewhere close by remarking at how he is so well behaved. We're both getting better about understanding that a great deal of people around us when we're out [INSERT LAME ACTIVITY THAT SUDDENLY BECOMES COOL WHEN YOU HAVE KIDS] know how it works, and they really don't care about a little noise.

However, a movie theater is a different situation and that brings me to the basis of my question. I know William will love "Brave" enough that if we were to buy it for him, it would be yet another movie he asks to watch by name. He will learn who the characters are, and he will learn where to laugh, scream, or be sad. He will enjoy it over...and over. Also, it has been announced that in September they will be releasing "Finding Nemo" in 3D, which is a huge favorite for him. My point is, there are great chances this year to take him to his first ever in theater experience, but it scares the crap out of me.

So, after this fantastically long-winded ramble, my question is: When did you guys first take your kids to the movies? Or if you're like us with kids in that younger age bracket, what are you waiting for that would you feel comfortable making an attempt?

Specifically for "Finding Nemo" I'm well aware that William will gladly watch it at any time. He's probably dreaming the entire movie as I'm sitting here writing this! I suppose it's obvious that my concerns are that we'll get a little bit into the movie and he just won't be able to watch it without the freedom to run around this crazy new place that has the biggest Nemo ever. I'm super excited to be able to do this stuff with my boys at some point, but I wonder when it's gonna be "right."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Communication is Everything.

There must have been a point growing up when a switch occurred within me. I really can't narrow it down, but needless to say there was a point in time when I went from being too shy to say hello to someone passing by on the street, to being too polite to ignore them.

Communication is something I've tried to get better at over the years.


People seem really fascinated by the noises that animals like whales and dolphins make in the water, while sharks make virtually no noise at all...and they get an entire week of TV.

The most early whale recordings are said to have been made by Navy ships back in the late 50s. I love three things about that. One, it was completely accidental. Evidently they were monitoring the water for "other things" and that just happened to get caught on tape. Two, you know some guy went nuts because he was convinced that it was "other things" and three, it allows for clear proof that whales are some of the nicest creatures on the planet. Cher releases "Believe" some 40 years after the first recording of the "songs" of whales and they have never tried to press charges. It's pretty clear to me that she ripped-off every whale noise every recorded to make her song. Pretty generous of the whales.


I know this may seem a little disjointed, but here's where I tie it up nice and pretty for you.

William and Carter have been slowly learning to actually play together for around 6 months. It was simply a collision of interests. It was bound to happen at some point. Since they are both still so young, sharing is a bit of an issue. William likes to do things like line up all the matchbox cars in the house and really doesn't want anyone to get too close, just in case they bump something out of place. Carter believes that anything in/near his hand belongs to him and is thereby stolen if it's removed. They need to grow up and understand that everything is actually mine and I'll do whatever I want with all of it.

Now as I've mentioned before one of the best and worst things about being at home with the kids is the overexposure we have to each other. It seems to have led to them getting overly clingy with Melissa whenever she's home, which in turn makes me jealous and I end up doing drastic things like only playing the episodes of "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" that I like. I can definitely say that if I was not Lord MeckDaddy of AtHomeia, I would not have been a witness to the evolution of their conversations.

It all started as you might guess. Carter would be in the same room as William and have the audacity to look in the direction of "his" toys. William would scream as a territorial warning, scaring the heck out of Carter who would then join in the screaming out of panic. I find that I get very tempted to join in with the screaming, but acting on this impulse seems to just cause more screaming. It seems a little unfair that I'm excluded.

After the unconditional screaming phase came the physical altercations. William would sharply turn as Carter entered the 10 foot danger radius around whatever William was playing with at the time. The two would stare quietly at each other while dust began to settle all around them (I need to vacuum). The tension would build to an almost unbearable level, as the two remained motionless like two adorable gunslingers about to face off. Finally ready to make his move, Carter masterfully goes  in toward the toys and William follows in to defend! He turns to his brother in both blood and battle, and keeps turning till his back faces his opponent. Ah! The classic butt defense! He backs that thing up like the ladies at an Usher concert, pushing Carter further and further away from his precious treasures. Carter, not to be so easily outdone, pushes back with the force of ten tiny fingers that possess virtually no strength at all. Finally Carter retreats, seemingly defeated, but with the slightest hint of a smile. What could cause that almost unnoticeable upturn of the lips? He made it out with one of the cars! What a duel!

That was pretty tense folks, take a deep breath and we'll move on.

Most recent in the progression of their communication with each other is the whale phase. This has been amazing to watch. Now, I haven't been able to pinpoint any similarities so as to decipher what the noises mean. I'm also not completely certain that they know what they're saying. It's possible that this really isn't communication that I'm seeing so much as controlled screaming, and that's perhaps the best way to describe it. They scream at each other, but not nearly as loud as a actual scream. It's a bit more reserved. In addition, they take turns instead of this unison glob of headache inducing sound. It really is this sort of high-pitched echo of call and answer to each other. What I think is real communication, and while at the moment there are no actual words, that's got to be the next step toward talking to each other, in my opinion.

Studies will be done to see if I can learn this new language and join in with their conversation.

So till next time....


Monday, June 18, 2012

My best friend and me.

My kids and I are friends.

I've heard this statement from a lot of different parents. Some I know well, others not so well. Some seem to make everything look so easy (though I'm sure they'd tell me otherwise), others seems to struggle their way through each day.

I'll get the basics of my opinions out of the way so you can get all crankypants, and then I'll go into my reasoning.

So. I think it's a really dumb idea to try and place the term "friends" on a relationship with your children. I think it opens doors to problems, not just between the parents and their children, but in a much larger circle. I think the lines of communication parents think are opened as the result of being buddies with their kids are closed a lot more than they realize. It's just dangerous.

So now that over zero of you are reading this going, "That's total crap. My kids and I are best friends and we always will be. I'm so mad that I'm gonna share this blog with everyone I know so they can gang up on this idiot with me." I'd like to first, thank you for sharing the blog with people! Second, please take a good long look at your kids and your relationship with them and try to really ask yourself if that's true. I think you'll find it isn't, and if you really believe I'm full of it maybe this will be some food for thought.

-"I want them to trust me and tell me about every aspect of their life."

I'm putting this first since that seems to be the first thing people mention when it comes to why they need to be friends with their kids. So I ask the question, does a friendship make this a reality? Trust, real trust, between a parent and child doesn't come from friendship. I'll go into this more in a bit, but let me put it this way, don't you trust certain friends more than others? Ask yourself why you feel that way. Don't let me turn your world upside down, but someone out there trusts you less than someone else they know, too. It's a totally natural thing, so to hang the hopes of having your child "trust" you by trying desperately to be their friend accomplishes nothing. Okay, so you also want your child to tell you all the things that are going on in their life. When people say that, I think they really mean they want their kids to feel comfortable telling them about anything. That's the dream, and I really want that with my kids. Still, I have to ask again, does a friendship make that a reality? See, this just implies an unrealistic expectation of friendship. All your friends know all your secrets? Of course not, but lots of your friends know lots of your secrets. So being their friend might allow you access to certain information, but far from all of it.

My thoughts on this: Wanting the trust of your child and subsequently wanting to put your trust in your child is a universal desire for parents. Believing that being the "cool" Mom or Dad gets you unlimited access to their life is just narrow-minded. Trusting your kids means putting enough faith in them to believe that they'll come to you when they need you, and however sad it might be to think about, they won't always need you. It might be easy for me to say now with my boys so young, but not telling me about every new girlfriend/crush right off the bat is okay, however, I don't want to find out they've decided to make the "big step" by cleaning up condom wrappers. What I hope to do with the boys is designate an atmosphere that is sort of a safe zone. Anything goes and any topic can be discussed. Not this expectation that everything will always be out in the open, but simply that there's no need to shy away from the uncomfortable topics. What I'd rather not do is talk about their latest conquest at the Chic-Fil-A (IF IT EVER OPENS! LET'S GO BOISE! THE COUNTRY IS LAUGHING AT US!) while we high-five and drink milkshakes. If your kids are coming to you to brag about something fairly stupid that they've already done instead of looking for direction before making the dumb decision, your dynamic might be a little off. Create a comfort zone for real conversation, not a time to "Holla at cha boy, dawg." Please, don't ever make me try and write something like that again.

-"I wasn't that close to my parents and I want to change that for my kids."

Once again, does a friendship make this a reality? Truthfully, I can really relate to this. I don't feel I'm particularly close with anyone in my family. That's why I just recently, at age 32, had my first conversation with my Dad about our family's move from Pennsylvania to Florida (which happened when I was 2 years old) and what he did at his job. I like my Dad, hell, I love my Dad but being close is another matter. Friends certainly do not always have a close relationship, and friends, even the best of friends, can fall apart from one another. The problem, to elaborate from earlier, is that the term "friend" can have so many meanings and so many implications. It is such a broad term to attempt as labeling the kind of relationship you want with your child. With all those meanings and with all those implications, "friend" may be as close as you can really get to the relationship we'd all want with our children. Still, I don't think it's right to try and use the same terminology with William and Carter that I use with people I only talk with via facebook. Isn't it easier to disrespect a friend as opposed to a parent? Would you worry about being out too late because your "friend" might get mad? That's the problem, and I'm really struggling to put this into the right words (maybe that's obvious, BACK OFF!). The space between friend and parental figure is far too big to really believe it's possible to have a hold on both sides...I feel like there's a setup for an Octomom joke there.

So I guess, in my opinion, the big problem is digging a hole so deep, you can't get back out. I have seen situations with my friends who try so hard to connect with their kids on this idea of friendship that they forget to be their parents as well. There has to be a line somewhere. There has to be boundaries, and as parents, if we fail to set them, we give up the right to be upset with the outcome. You can't give your child a beer at a party with all your friends around and then be surprised that they go back for more without telling you. Drawing a line in the sand has to be part of the parent-child relationship and there has to be some form of punishment without the threat of hurting the feelings of your "bud."

"Ev? You said something about the problems created in a larger circle? Do you mean the people I've shared your blog with?"

Well, a little bit, and I'll try and wrap this up. You have to know who your kids are hanging around with, cause here's the dirty little secret: If you think your kid's other friends (the ones who are not you) are idiots and a bad influence, they probably are! Know them, know their parents, and in a very self-centered way you need to decide if these people are worthy of your kid. It's another reason there must be that line between parent and friend. It's not my job to judge the people my friends hang out with. They are adults and not my responsibility. Also! If your kids decide that their best friends are your best friends, put a stop to it. Seriously, cause I'm shy as it is and I don't want to have explain that I just don't like them in...that way.

I'm just a little nugget of irresistible.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Doorway Paradox

Ever gone into a room and realized you have no idea why you went in there? There's actually a slang term for it: Destinesia. I like that.

We're lucky that we live in a time when all the important questions have already been long since answered. Of course, this leaves scientists and medical professionals with lots of time for figuring out how it's possible to enter a room and have no idea what led you there in the first place. It's good that there's enough money floating around to fund such important research.

Two big theories have emerged from the various studies which I'm sure were tested to every possible detail. The less popular of the two can be explained fairly easy. In the effort to create a "to do" list, your mind is constantly updating your personal schedule. The idea is, that when attempting to complete a task, your mind is instantly jumping to the next thing on the list as well as running through the other objectives even further down. Thus, your brain gets so far ahead of you that when you arrive at the location for task A to be completed, your brain says, "Don't look at me dude, I'm 14 steps ahead of that one."

The other, which is actually all over various websites (look it up!), boils down to your memory. The best way I can explain it is to think of your mind as a camera. When you're in a room, it's constantly taking photos of everything to update you as to where you are. That's pretty stupid. When I'm in the kitchen, I don't need my mindbrain to remind me of my whereabouts by iBraining me a photo of my oven. The process begins again when you enter a new area. So their theory is that doorways create a sort of transitional memory block. Thinking, "Hey I need a fork for my dinner" while in the dining room, might not make it to the kitchen where your brain goes into photo overload (photoverload - that's a good one), causing so much havoc in your memory that you are unable to remember your original task. The experts say that stating your task aloud while you move between rooms can actually help you fight the memory issue. That's why I always announce what I need to do in the bathroom while entering. I don't have time to sit on the toilet for 20 minutes only to remember that I just needed to comb my hair.

My personal fight on this topic has led me to become a big fan of the actual "to do" list. I keep my stuff on a white board in the kitchen. As the boys have grown, I find that I accomplish less and less, but the organization of it really helps me. There's still those moments though....


It's hard to start this story without giving away the ending, so I'm just going to say that through various events I found myself holding Carter. I love my Carter time. William is in a phase where he's not interested in snuggling or things that don't involve screaming. So I guess it's not uncommon for me to wind up holding Carter so I can get my affection fix. Still, he's not exactly my little, tiny, baby boy anymore, so holding him for too long becomes less enjoyable and more workout. Which is why it really bothered me when I was at the top of the stairs holding him for what seemed like no reason at all. He was very content with it all. He smiled and rested his head on my shoulder while I walked from room to room in a desperate search for that magic visual key that would cause the memory to flood back. Perhaps it involved William? I searched his room, which as always was in a state of destruction, but none of the "important" toys were around that couldn't be it. I gave up hope for the upstairs, while Carter remained happy and patted my chest with what I felt was a sense of encouragement. I would figure this out. Downstairs there was nothing new. William was playing in his pile of couch cushions and there was nothing in particular to suggest a reason why I would have found my way upstairs.

I was defeated.

I walked into the family room as best as I could, dodging William's mess which I'm not allowed to clean until nap time. Assuming there would be a nap time. As I went to sit down, Carter got a little fidgety. He had been in my arms for a while by that point and obviously needed a break to just run around. No sooner did his feet hit the ground, then the wave of reasoning crashed around me with a gust of wind that completely enveloped my whole body. I felt like I was given a gentle air hug filled with the sweet scent of.....


I picked Carter back up, who was a little less smiley about round two of the journey upstairs. When his diaper was changed I felt at ease, because that was definitely why I was upstairs.

I think.

All that searching, and the answer was right under my nose.

(I'll be giving out free high-fives to all you pun fans later)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What Do You Get The Man Who Wants Nothing?

Oh my deary goodness, it's so close that I can the sour disappointment of Dads across the nation opening that tiny flat box that they know is going to have yet another tie, sadly waiting for a new neck to call home.

You may have read on Mother's Day, my plea of sorts saying that while you certainly should take time to remember all the wonderful Moms out there on their special day, you must not forget that plenty of Dads are now very much ingrained in the lifestyle that historically is the very reason we place so much emphasis on Mother's Day. Therefore, celebrate Mom, but please don't forget to actually celebrate Dad.

I felt it would be really unfair for me to make a big deal about "don't forget Dad" and then leave it at that. Obviously I should be kind enough to follow up a statement like, "Don't buy me a tie. Ever. I will deep fry all your shoes," with some suggestions to alternative gift ideas.

Now, from what I've seen out there in interweb land, every Mom/Dad blog has given their own list of ideas on gifts that get away from the mundane. I hope I can add my own little unique twist, with a little outside the box thinking. I should also add that this is a list totally from my head. I hope that these would be great gifts for any Dad, but they may tip the scale slightly to the Stay-at-Home-Dad side of things, or perhaps just my personal taste. However, my actual personal taste is most often very spendy. I generally don't want anything, but when I do, it's something big. So I've set the personal goal for this list to try and keep the price down for most of these.

Enjoy these 10 ideas for Dad:

1. A Pillow - Kinda weak start? Don't be so sure. When Melissa and I got married we had been living together for a while (Ohhh! Sinners!). So when it came time to register for wedding gifts there wasn't much in the way of necessities that we really needed. So we went random! Our registry included things like outdoor solar-powered garden lights, his and her electric scooters (which NO ONE BOUGHT US!), and yes...really awesome pillows. We got one, which went to Melissa because I'm sugary-sweet. It's super soft and comfortable, and when she leaves for work in the morning the first thing I do is grab that bad boy and go back to sleep. That was almost 8 years ago! Do you understand how amazing pillows are now? For me, sleep is such a precious thing, and I want it to be perfect every single time. So if I can sleep on a very comfortable mattress and pillow, and have nice, soft sheets, that's a big deal! Examples! Yeah, yeah, an infomercial product, but intriguing nonetheless! 60-day money-back guarantee, with a 10 year warranty for $30? Worth a shot I'd say. For you big spenders there's the folks at Tempur-Pedic: These all get dangerously close to the $100 range (which seems like a lot for a pillow). However, the reviews simply can't be ignored. It's going to be comfortable to most people and with a design for all types of sleeping styles, you can pick the one that fits you and ensure those good nights of sleep. Of course there are lots of great pillows, at a variety of prices, with everything from down to microfoam beads inside. Test them, find a comfortable one but don't sacrifice comfort for price. Letting Dad rest with an extra bit of comfort will be great for everyone's mood.

2. Headphones - Again this might seem odd, but if done right these are quite the handy thing for Dad. I'm going on the assumption that Dad already has an iPod or something along those lines, if he doesn't, there's your gift. However, the headphones that come with all these devices are amazingly uncomfortable. Now again, get what works from a comfort/practical standpoint.;jsessionid=46C32A72D011CCF7B7D8EB79F7D9B229.bbolsp-app03-46?id=1218401499291&skuId=3425097 Those are a great set of earbuds with interchangeable sizes for the best fit. Great for the Dad who rides a motorcycle and wants some helmet music or even just for mowing the lawn since it's very small, lightweight and yet cancels out a decent amount of background noise. Speaking of background noise, a good set of noise-cancelling headphones are a great way to give Dad some time to tune out the world and check the latest hulu/netflix shows or just listen to some good tunes while taking a little mental break. A great way to go about it is start with Bose and work your way down into your price range.

3. Shoes - Yes indeed! For the Dad on the go, a good set of shoes that are comfortable all day are an absolute must. My personal idea on this would be along the lines of something breathable, lightweight, and lots of support. For several years now I've been sporting the Nike Shox made famous in the early seasons of House, and I would not make it through the day in less of a shoe. Note: Shoes not slippers (certainly a popular Father's Day gift). I find that slippers are great if you're going to sit around doing nothing, but seriously, how often does that really happen? Trying to doing anything remotely active in slippers seems to lead to a great deal of sliding around and/or falling. If I wanted to get the sensation of water skiing, I would go water skiing.

4. Coupon Books - "Huh? Like those ones you have to buy from kids for $10?" Nope! Here's your chance to be a little crafty and a little creative. Homemade coupon books are actually quite popular. This can go anywhere from totally practical to very naughty. A great way to approach this is to go for what you're absolutely willing to commit to. Ideas outside the obvious intimate cash-ins: Give Dad permission to buy an item, guilt-free, up to a certain dollar amount. Lots of guys have trouble buying that selfish item without a quick consult, this actually puts the power in his hands. Have coupons for "free time" in various amounts. Give Dad that chance to go do whatever he wants for a few minutes, without interruption. Be creative and as long as you lay some ground rules as to when they can be used (which really should be any time at all) you'll find this is a fun way to give Dad lots of little things that really add up to a great gift. Very simple to make, here's a little example of how:

5. A Smartphone - In February, Melissa and I's cell phones died at the same time while we were on our trip to Florida. We have Sprint service, and they offer an upgrade plan every two years. Basically you get pretty amazing deals on a new phone, right down to free if you're willing to get something on the lower end. When talking with the salesperson, it became very clear that the market was all heading to smartphones, something we really didn't think we wanted or needed. All the same we ended up getting iPhones. Four months later I can honestly say it's something that, particularly as an at-home-Dad, you need. So often you are stuck watching Cars 2 again. To be able to ignore the 15,000th viewing and have the world at your fingers, all while staying in the room with the kids, is an amazing thing. Find one that you like, and get it. I would caution against the obvious obsession capabilities, but overall, it's a great thing to have. Just get your head up out of the screen from time to time.

6. Lawn/Garden Service - I understand that in this day and age, women are perfectly able to mow the lawn, but at my house that job is mine. I actually enjoy it most of the time. There are certainly times that getting outside is just a problem, and I end up annoyed by the whole process. So, get Dad a week (or more) off from lawn duty. You can go as big or small with this as you want. Have a bad flower bed that he keeps "meaning to get to"? Hire someone! Believe me, he will not take it personal, and if he does then he doesn't realize he's been given the gift of time. A most precious gift. Want to go smaller? Look for someone in your area that has a lawn service. Go up to the service guys and see if they'd stop by your place afterward. You'll be surprised at how cheap they'll be willing to agree to swing by when they're already right there. $20 can go a long way toward some extra relaxation.

7. A Camera - I've mentioned before that William dismantled our camera and the pictures haven't been the same since. In this day and age with photoshop and seemingly endless people who are "photographers" because they bought an expensive camera, having high quality photos of your kids around is almost expected. The days of running down to Sears to have some portraits done is a thing of the past. Now you're expected to have retouched photos of the whole family wearing suits and fancy dresses, laughing casually while you dine with Seth MacFarlane who is about to sing his rendition of "Singin' in the Rain" as Kermit the Frog. The big problem here is cost (and I know I said I would try to keep my suggestions to a reasonable area) as most decent digital cameras will cost you several hundred dollars. Keep an eye out for places like Fred Meyer or better yet, online retailers like who will have amazing deals from time to time. The point is, Dad may stay current with photos of the kids if he's using a camera he really loves.

8. A Distraction - This can be tricky depending on the personality of the Dad in your life. One new golf club. A game for the computer/game console/smartphone. Something that he can spend a little time with and have fun with every so often. Lots of popular Father's Day gifts like getting steak for dinner or a bad tie, are single use items. Find something that Dad can use lots of times throughout several years. Give Dad the gift and turn him loose.

9. Tickets - Sporting event, movies, musical, bus...whatever it may be. Want to go the extra mile? Set up a man-date with a friend and let them go to hit town. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to go off and see a hockey game or a movie that is not animated. It is just rejuvenating. It's amazing to see the transformation from "I can't wait to get out of the house" to "I can't wait to go home and hug the boys." It only takes a few hours. Believe me, lots of times the kids need Dad to take a break too.

10. Nothing - The gift of nothing can be a wonderful gift. A time to simply have the "day off" from the kids. Everyone says that on Mother's/Father's Day that should be a bit of a given, but I really don't see that happen in real life. Eventually Mom/Dad asks for one small thing...then another...and so on. Keep Dad off things like diaper duty, feedings, and clean up. This is a gift that allows Dad to just spend time with his family without that need to drop everything when there's an odd smell in the air. Spend time as a family with no pressure on him. I know I would personally love more time with my boys that didn't require a hand washing afterwards. The truth is, we Dads really do want more quality time with the whole family. The problem for us in the at-home crowd is we fight constantly for the quality while being overloaded with quantity. It's a tough thing to balance. Please note, not every Dad is going to see a "day off" as a "gift." Use your judgement. Many people, not just Dads, find that as they get order they feel less and less inclined to celebrate the more "manufactured" holidays. Personally I don't remember the last time I made a big fuss over my birthday. There are people who see things they want and just go get them, so a gift of some "thing" is relatively pointless. It's true that in some cases, less is more, and nothing is about as "less" as you can get.

There you have it, hopefully this gets you thinking outside the box a little.

A very Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

William Copperfield.

Your kid helped clean up their toys today? Oh how sweet, mine can do flip-frackin MAGIC! BOOM!

You know, I feel a little bad that I've been on a bit of a "Stories from William" kick. Carter's just so damn young and mostly there's nothing new going on with him from day to day. If you ever want to know how Carter's doing, just say, "He's so adorable" to yourself. That's the day to day goings on of Carter. Oh! Furthermore Carter almost never kicks me in the crotch packet, what a nice boy. I'd love to write more stories about him. He just needs to give me a little more subject matter. I'll talk to him about that.

Ah, William. I've been reaching my limit with him as of late. One of these days, Melissa is going to come home to see me screaming into the recycle bin. I'm very eco-friendly. However, I stand by the fact that one of the greatest things ever about children is their ability to catch you off guard with something cute, funny, or  just gross. I file this particular story under the funny category.

When I was in Elementary school, David Copperfield came to town. I went for my birthday. I think all kids are fans of magic because when you're a kid, it's pretty easy to get swept up in the idea that it's all real. Now many years, and lots of episodes of "Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Revealed" later, I understand that it's all trickery, though I still enjoy a good magic show. Not like David Blaine standing on a pole type of magic, but you understand what I mean. I like magic, not standing.

Fast forward to high school. A friend of mine knew a bunch of magic tricks and so I started learning a few from him. Looking back, I have no aptitude for this type of performing, but on occasion I would do different tricks around school. Oh how the ladies flocked to me. People say that knowing the secret of how it's done, ruins the enjoyment. I tend to disagree, which brings me back to William.

We took a trip down to Florida in February. William being right on the edge of turning 3 and being so in love in Mickey Mouse, I thought he would flip-out to go to Disney. That really didn't happen. Even a little. On the other hand, he did get a little bonding time with our friend's little boy, but mostly in the toy department. I found it pretty amusing honestly, here was William decked out in Handy Manny clothes with Handy Manny toys, and their little boy in his Cars clothing and Cars toys. They had to switch toys right away, and it was a pretty big deal to get them to switch back. Of course this means we had to buy William a set of the Cars toys...well done Disney.

Ever since that trip, the matchbox Lightening McQueen has been extremely important to William. He's also 3 years old which means his toys end up in all manner of places. Including places unknown to us. That's why we now own a total of 3 of the Lightening McQueen matchbox cars....well done Disney. On average I see one of the three every day, and who knows where they are otherwise. Sometimes though, William has two out at once, which he thinks is just super cool.

So several days ago I was sitting on the couch with Carter watching cartoons while William was at the end of the couch crashing two of his Lightening McQueen cars together. Normal day. Out of nowhere he waltzes over with one hand behind his back, and shows me one of the McQueen cars. Then! He put that hand behind his back and showed me the other McQueen car, in his other hand,  with an enormous smile on his face. It was like he really wanted to amaze me with his new ability to somehow make a car disappear from one hand and reappear in the other. He knew exactly what he was doing, and did the trick a few more times. I kept waiting for him to say, "Ta-da!" but he just sat there smiling at me.

What age does he need to be before I buy him the Aztec Tomb and play "The Final Countdown" while he does illusions for dozen of people?

Also, do I buy him the sequin shirt that opens down to mid-chest now, or does that get issued when he's actually in Vegas?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thoughts from the Walks

WARNING: The following post will contain a large amount of references to the male reproductive organ. It is meant to be a humorous and informative post, not just juvenile or offensive. While I am happy to use cheeky nicknames in order to stay slightly more inside the boundaries of politeness, I will need to borrow some terminology from our friends in the UK whose slang offers a whole new world of possibilities. Should you choose to continue reading, and I should hope you do, I would encourage you to look past the obvious subject matter and really get to the balls of what I'm saying. Enjoy.


It's a tough time to be a fan of the arts.

I really think a huge problem involving schools and the way they are being funded currently is when you do just the smallest amount of digging, you realize that a vast majority of people "in charge" have a business background. Now you could argue that there's a place for that kind of thinking within our schools, and as far as I'm concerned, you'd be a point. To some extent, there are parallels you could draw between running a business and running a school. I would think in the sense of budgetary needs and dealings with direct employees, following a "business" plan has some merit. Here's where I have the problem though. The people who work so hard to complete all the college level courses deemed necessary to prove their ability to teach children and is therefore required BY STATE OFFICIALS, are being told BY THOSE STATE OFFICIALS that they have no clue what's right for their students. We've come to a place where Administrators have become "Corporate", the teachers are some kind of "Middle Management" which leaves the students as the lowly "hourly employees." We've all had some job or another where the way this breaks down is like this: The Corporate folks think they know everything that's best for the company and they have all the power to make their way, the way. The middle management folks actually have a good sense of what needs to be done to make things successful but lack the actual power to make the changes or convince corporate to make them. This leaves the lowly hourly folks taking crap from everyone and getting punished for a broken system.

When School Board members and the higher administration talk about budget cuts, the arts is always at the top of the list. Having worked behind the scenes enough to know the answer to "why" I'd like to let you all in on it. Programs within band, art, and theater are considered non-essential programs because Commissioner Online van Businessdegree decided that years ago that english, science, and math were all the youth of America needs in their lives. Why not sports programs? Well ya know, that's actually a touchy subject because what they really want to do is keep football and cut the majority of other things, but that's a difficult deal to swing. Yep, football, because that's what makes the most money. Are english, science, and math the essential classes for our youth in preparation for college? Doesn't that drastically depend on their intended path of life? You can certainly call attention to the fact that those subjects make their way into everything in life, but to what degree? I agree that we all use math daily, but I'm not sure we use it to a sense of long equations in which we solve for "x."

Now I could say things like, imagine a football game without the music being played after a touchdown (band programs). Imagine no logos or artwork on the field or uniforms (art programs). Heck, imagine no uniforms at all (Hey ladies, I try to throw in the occasional bit just for you...oh and guys...thank the theater people who went from costume design to making pro sportswear). However, if the last World Cup showed the world anything, it's that you don't need years of training to make a noise at a sporting event that lots of people will end up hating. Thanks vuvuzela inventors.

I could also argue the merits of being involved in those types of programs. How kids involved in the arts tend to have overall higher GPAs, get into trouble less, and have higher potential for scholarships. The problem is, all those studies have been done over and over, and the people in opposition of the arts still find their way into positions of power which tells me that no one cares. At least not enough.

These are somewhat obvious arguments and this is "Thoughts from the Walks" - the obvious is not welcome here. It's the time when I go out into the world and see where my mind decides to take me. Which is why this posting has everything to do with a "Man's Eggs and Sausage."

For two days last week on our walk we stumbled upon a sidewalk-chalk art exhibit. It was a pretty limited gallery, three pictures...all of "The Captain's Plank and First Mates." It really made me think about the lack of funding in the education system, but particularly within the arts. It wasn't because it was drawn in chalk and I thought our kids should have access to better art supplies, and it wasn't because one drawing of "Tinkywinkleton and the Clock Weights" was so close to a middle school that most of the classrooms near the entrance had a view. It was how bad the drawings were done.

This is the fallout from an already depleted art program that is in a constant state of threat for further cuts to be made. Our children don't even understand what a "Spam Javelin and Potato Sacks" should look like in artistic form.

Let me explain what I saw on the ground, and I'd like to note that there was three total drawings of "St. Valentine's Arrow and Quivers" which were all drawn the same way. While I don't think I deserve bragging rights on this or anything, I spent many years in various musical groups that often involved public/group showering facilities. If there's anything in this life that I'll ever see too much of, it's "The Marble Pouch and Giggle Stick." If there is such a thing, and I think there is, I know what "normal" looks like between the legs of men.

Have you ever seen a professional twist up dough for a soft pretzel? It looks amazingly simple. For someone who is very practiced it can be done in one quick motion using a small flick of the wrists. It's really very difficult though, so when someone less experienced attempts to form one it often ends up looking more like a poorly drawn thought bubble. That's about as good of a description as I can get for what Middle-School-Picasso had on the ground representing  "The Sargent's Gunny Sack." A misshapen soft pretzel.

For the "Shafty" portion of the drawings, which is certainly the most difficult to mess up, all was well save for the extremely small proportion of grip area to everything else. I'm not sure if he was using any specific inspiration, but that's how it turned out.

Then we get to "Caesar's Helmet" which again, is pretty "Hard" to mess up. Again, in proportion to the "Shaft Which Was Given the Shaft" the "Apple in the Baby's Arm" was just too big and more so was an almost perfect circle. I feel it's my medical duty as someone who has watched every season of "Scrubs" to tell the men in the audience that if your "Bedknob" is a circle, you really need to get it looked at by a medical professional in your area. Seriously, stop reading and go right now if you must, but bring your phone so you can finish up this last little bit while you're in the waiting room.

So this is where we've landed people. Not everyone needs to be a world class artist, but our children should have access to enough art education that they are able to "Reproduce" a rough sketch of a part of their own body (Yes, I'm going on the assumption that this was a guy. I don't think a girl would draw "Man's Merry Maypole and the Under Boulders" on the sidewalk. Come to think of it, I'm not sure a girl would even draw her "Jag's Private Garage" on the sidewalk. Art is a little sexist.). As parents, we need to get a little more involved in what are children are learning and more importantly, what they are not learning.

Otherwise you may find this drawing on some random paper as you're cleaning up your child's desk:

"Nature's Towel Rack and the Fuzzy Acorns"

"Pisstronaut and the Space Rangers"


Friday, June 8, 2012

She said "Don't Worry" and we just laughed.

Pregnancy is a stressful time.

"Hey! Thanks for the brand new info, Ev!"

It's just a blur of time filled with lots of confusion. It's a bit like sex I guess, which of course leads to pregnancy (see above statement), and the cycle continues. I remember lots of odd little moments from both births down to eating pancakes that were as thin and hard as crackers. I guess it's possible that they were crackers, I was pretty out of it. I also remember the nights when we'd finally get a chance to send the baby off the nursery and the nurses shut the door and would tell us to get some rest. Being so tired from the day, we fell right to sleep.

For five minutes.

That's when there was a knock on the door, as the same nurse, WHO JUST TOLD US TO GET SOME REST (!!!!!!!), comes marching in to check on Mom and make sure everyone has everything they need.

"Dad, there's coffee by the nurse's station."

"Hey thanks! That terrible slop juice is just what I need to help me get to sleep. Do you know where I can get some candy bars? I mean, like the fun sized ones cause...I'm trying to get to sleep. Maybe some energy bars? Red Bull?"

I was tired, and I "never said that." I am a nice man with happy feelings. All the time.

The doctors had one concern with William when he was born. He was born with a skin tag by his right ear. For those who have no idea what a skin tag is, please don't feel bad. It's a small grouping of excess skin. Almost half of all Americans have them, even if they are unaware (as they can just fall off before you even notice). They're most common among obese I said, almost half of Americans have them. It is, however, not that common with newborns and because it was so close to his ear, the doctors were concerned that his ear had not developed properly which had caused the skin tag. Follow that with failing his initial hearing test (passed a second one with flying colors) and there were concerns. We were told to take him in for further a few months.

I have seen probably 5 or 100 commercials for Grey's Anatomy, so clearly I know a little about all medical professions. That seemed like a real dumb process. "Your kid may have a serious hearing issue, but don't worry. Just sit and think about it for a long time and we'll chat more once you've built up a couple nervous ticks."

Between the time we got out of the hospital and the time we were able to get William in to see the hearing specialist, I had become convinced that he was completely deaf, that it was my fault, and that Handy Manny was the only hope in fixing the Sheetrock Hills town clock. The hearing test itself was pretty interesting. They put headphones on the child (William really enjoyed having a strange object on his head that he wasn't allowed to touch) and play a sound on the left or right earpiece. The child is supposed to hear the noise on that side and look to the left or right at which point they'd flash some lights and toys would start to wave or move around as a sort of prize for looking in the right direction. I'm pretty sure I've had a nightmare with that very type of scene, but whatever works for the kids. William had a hard time sitting still, so I was sent in to sit with him and casually feed him cheerios while a nice lady figured out if he had a hearing problem. No big deal. I may have tried to give him subtle clues as to which side the noise was coming from, and by subtle I might mean frantic hand waving, and by clues I might mean blatant pointing in the direction the noise was coming from.

When all the testing was done the very nice lady sat down with us to explain that William's hearing was completely normal. The skin tags were just skin tags, nothing was wrong. When I explained that I may have been helping him, she assured me that she was very aware of what I was doing (clearly she was saving face, I'm stealthy like a ninja) and I had nothing to do with the results. When I explained that over the past couple months I had observed him not reacting to sound or his name being called, she assured me that children learn to ignore their parents from a very early age. What the heck, William? I should add, Handy Manny did get that clock fixed.


There's been one other time that William has made me that level of worried and frightened for him.

As shy as William is around adults, he is much more open around kids. I get that. Adults are pretty upsetting and they have hair in strange places. We had some friends over one evening and it was time for bed. William was having such a great time running around with their little boy that I just went up with Melissa to take care of Carter and give William another couple minutes to have fun. Moments into Carter's diaper change I heard an awful scream. I rush downstairs and see William crying a type of cry that just made me panic. I notice something small on his forehead, and as I go to wipe it away I notice he had quite the deep cut. Really small, but as deep as the internet. As I continued to check on William, the other boy was interrogated on what happened to make sure it wasn't something he did. We were fortunate that of all the friends who could have been over, we were with some serious emergency room pros. Their little boy had a similar accident, and they explained that the problem with the cut was that it's just too small to stitch properly. We let him stay up a bit and calm down, cleaned his head and put on a bandaid (which William thinks are stickers). Yes! It was looked at by an actual doctor, and all is well. Yes! I know about mederma, and it is applied every night. My lack of concern for potential problems in my own body doesn't apply to my kids. He really is totally fine, and sometimes puts his hand where the scar is and says, "It's gone! It's gone!" though he'll probably have a bit of a visible mark forever.


Believe it or not, I am actually going somewhere with all this. I understand that a scar on the forehead and a little bump of skin that most people miss unless it's pointed out, is getting off pretty lucky. I'm well aware that many parents deal with far worse issues when it comes to their kids. I even know a few. What I'm trying to get to is, no matter how tough or stressful parenting becomes, you're probably doing an amazing job. Being upstairs when your kid has a complete and total accident does NOT make it your fault. Just like you don't get to take credit for them not crawling into the dryer just because you were with them as they walked by it. My Dad once told me, honestly, that I was having pain from a kidney stone because I wasn't at his house with him. He really believed that. It's the same logic that made him invite over all his kids, their girlfriends/boyfriends, and everyone's pets, 7 people (Odd number? Fine! Okay? I wasn't involved with anyone at the time. No one wanted to hold me through the terrible hurricane winds.)  and like 10 pets jammed into his house because of the threat of a hurricane one year. P.S. Almost no wind and it barely even rained.

I suppose I'm doing my best to learn that there's no reason to always hover over my kids in some creepy way just because I consider it being "protective." I can only hope to teach them both some common sense, and perhaps not give them the matchbox cars with the crazy sharp edges. I'm looking at you Francesco Bernoulli!

Accidents can and will happen, so while with my man-sized logic that seems in perfect order, as a parent it's tricky sometimes to not try and blame...something. I'm working on it.

Not all of times William kicked me in the gentleman's fruit were accidental.

I know it.

I really am working on it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dr. Meck, Home Scientist.

If there's anything I've learned from watching the movie "Young Einstein" (Not to be confused with Young Frankenstein), it's that science is basically just sitting around talking about beer atoms to a Chuck Berry cover. I never cared for beer or it's atoms, which might be why I never got into science in school. In fact, my most memorable moments from the science classes I took have to do with one teacher losing it during class and throwing a large number of glass beakers around the room, and getting a 69 on my biology test about reproduction. My friend got that grade too (and we didn't even copy each other) and our teacher refused to agree that while our grades were not the highest in the class, they were certainly the best.

Since high school, the extent of my scientific knowledge has basically dwindled down to knowing the chemical reactions made during baking and how they can be altered. That might be why I was not consulted when William decided to perform a little experiment.

When Melissa and I moved into our townhouse in Florida, I knew I wanted a la-z-boy chair that would be all for me. I got it. You bet I did. When we moved here and finally had the boys, the chair was a little less mine and a little more breastfeeding hub/baby rocking station. I wasn't really mad about it, the only thing I could really have been mad about is the fact that my chair was constantly being taken from me and getting all manner of baby stains on it. No big deal. All those stains came right out. Totally.

When William got big enough to climb up by himself, he'd often kick me out so he could watch his cartoons from..."my" chair. Which brings me to his little experiment. We keep lots of hand sanitizer in the house. There's one at the diaper changing station, one at the kitchen sink, and one on the pass through counter in between the kitchen and family room...which used to be located on the little end table by "my" chair. William is a fan of lotion and even likes to wash his hands, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I found him leaning off the side of...."MY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" chair where he had reached the hand sanitizer bottle on the end table. It was obviously open and he had squeezed out, well not a lot, but let's call it a dollop because that's an awesome word. He had decided not to use it on himself, but in order to bring knowledge to the people, he left the dollop on the table to see what would happen.

So the research results are in. If you leave hand sanitizer on a wood surface for about 30 seconds, it will eat off the finish! You're all welcome. My son the scientist would like me to assure you that when he feels the need to answer other important questions of this nature, he will certainly make it happen. As a tip, if this does happen to you, I've found that the area where the finish is ruined makes a lovely permanent spot for a coaster.

Side note: I am fascinated and terrified by the results here and the fact that I put this stuff on my hands. Not to be too graphic, but remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Arc where the Nazis open the arc and those two guys just full on melt? I'm worried that I might be doing this at a pace that is just too slow to realize. Never look directly at your bottle of hand sanitizer.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I don't even like this store.

I have more patience than I know what to do with. You have to with kids, because everything they do is a test of patience. You'll never know how long you can sit in one place with a spoonful of something till you have kids, and for the record, it's a pretty long time. Like...a stupid amount of time. However, when it comes to other people, I find it hard to just take my deep breaths and go to my happy place. There is no place that I find it tested more, than the grocery store.

I used to drive a Honda CR-V. I loved it. When I got it there was 2 miles on the gauge, and when I sold it last December there was about 150,000. I was told by a salesman once (who had no idea what I was driving) that people don't really keep vehicles long enough to make a full purchase worth it. It's "so much better to lease." I find that if the decision is all mine, I'm happy to drive my vehicle till it just can't be driven anymore. As I've mentioned before, one of the major reasons for getting the ManVan and not staying a one car family, was just being able to get out during the day, and grocery shopping has become our most regular outing.

It's interesting that when I tell my friends with kids, especially the stay at home parents, that I take the boys grocery shopping, the reaction is so often the same. "You what? How? Why? Love the blog! Even though I keep forgetting to share the page, I promise I will tonight." I have only minor magical powers, and my technique is nothing I keep secret. So here's how I grocery all it's glory.

First, you can't be prepared without preparation. That's deep stuff right there. So I pick a day. It has everything to do with maximizing the amount of stuff purchased. What this means is my grocery bills are quite high, but I shop much less often than I used to. I try to go weekly and in that week to week I want certain items to almost deplete fully. I want the need to go to the store to be at its absolute peak. Which is where the list comes in. Before we had the boys, Melissa and I had very general lists. There was stuff we always needed like milk or soda or bread or WD-40, but we left the specifics to whatever struck us in the moment of seeing it on the shelf. For a young couple without a care, it was a great way to shop. Not so much a safe system for the kids. That's why our lists now are terribly specific. We don't say "oatmeal" when we mean "2 boxes of oatmeal." That's way too much of a difference. We even do our best to meal plan. I cook on average 3 times a week during the work week, so everything needed to make those meals must make it to the list, because emergency trips to the store just don't work well for us and our schedule. The other two nights are YOYO nights (Term we learned from our friends Dave and Andy - You're On Your Own), which still need a certain level of planning. You can't eat cereal, if it isn't in the house.

Second, you must know your store. I'm talking where anything you might need is located by exact isle. Melissa is way better at this than I am, but I'm getting there. Wandering up and down each isle is a great use of time and certainly a great way to see the world, but when I'm alone with the kids in the store, it's like a timer is set the moment we walk in the door. Number of minutes on the timer? I haven't the slightest clue, but if they start to get antsy, it's already too late. So you must shave off time where ever you can. Skipping the isle with the toilet paper cause the week before you bought the 72 pack (a purchase I would have needed to explain 15 years ago, damn...old) is a big deal.

Third, commit! Grocery day means I need to wake up and get dressed in clothes that I feel okay to wear in a public setting. I'm fine to wear my soccer shorts with the hole in the crotch to go on our daily walks, heck, that's why I get so many smiles from the ladies (Hey there ladies), but Wal Mart is far too classy for such attire. That carries over to the kiddos. I get them in their outfits and get socks and shoes on right with the morning's diaper changes. I find that when we're all in that state of being completely ready, I'm less likely to get sucked in to the morning's episode of Octonauts (I had never heard of the Spookfish before seeing it on the Octonauts. Look it up and enjoy the crazy deep water sea life). If needed I'll play some, "GET PUMPED" music on youtube during breakfast, which based on my song selection process almost always ends in The Carpenters or like...Lionel Richie. You need to figure out the time of day that works best for the kids pre-lunch. Why pre-lunch? Because the 9-5 work day is a myth. There are always people going to work and going home from work. So there are always going to be people in the store. In movies when they show grocery stores, you'll get those scenes where two characters are walking down an isle completely alone. Yeah, that just doesn't happen in real life. I really hope you have all seen "My Blue Heaven" with Steve Martin and Rick (Please Rick, come back to movies) Moranis. There's a scene where he meets a girl in the frozen food section, and there's no one even remotely around. Yeah, he happened to time it at the one moment where people stopped wanting frozen pizzas and ice cream. Well done, Todd Wilkinson. Point: you can cut down the amount of people in the store by going early in the day.

Fourth, stuff your pockets. Extra toys, goldfish crackers or whatever your kid likes, sippy cup of whatever they drink, a picture of Mommy (or Daddy for you lady types), Carter is entertained by the car keys from time to time. Always have a back up plan. Never assume the toy they can't live without when you leave the house is going to be the toy they can't live without when they're being pushed around the store.

Last, GO GO GO! There's a reason so many stores have the double seat carts that look like race cars. Speed is the name of the game. Like I said, I feel like the timer starts when I enter the door. So everything needs to be set to 11. Motorcycle trick! Keep your head up! You can better plan your route around obstacles (people) if you see them ahead of time. Stick to your list, and bring out the pocket crap as necessary to avoid boredom. Don't indulge the old women shopping who want to gush over your kids, the fact that her children don't bring the grandkids over enough is not your fault. "Yes, my kids are cute, nope they didn't get Daddy's red hair, yes it is too time lady!" Tick tick goes the clock. Now, when you've got the items on your list you can get in line, check out and go home. Try your best to not get stuck behind the coupon folks....SIDE RANT!

I don't hate people who are currently taking after this trend of super savings, where they walk around the store with their failure folder of coupons kept in those baseball card protector sleeves like it's a clever new use for them (!!!!),  buying 40 boxes of Cheerios and 5,000 feet of duct tape. Honestly, I kind of like Cheerios and duct tape has so many different uses that it's almost suspicious. Go nuts I guess, but I really think they should all get together, agree on a day that they'll all go shopping, and let the rest of us know so we can schedule our own trips around that day. You want me to believe that you're saving money by getting 200 things of Oreos, you bet I will. I believe you real bad, but just like you have the right to give me that look of, "Can't you shut your kid up? I'm only on hour 2 of checking out here!" I have the right to give you the look of, "Nope. I love that this is bothering you. In fact, I might take William's rock away (I'd give it right back) just to annoy you even more! *air kiss*"

So there it is, and it looks pretty darn simple typed out. Maybe it is. I'll say this for my own experience, and again I'm dealing with a 3 year old and a 1 year old. It's not easy and it will always be a bit of a headache, but taking a day off of our walk (yes we cancel our walk on grocery day) to get this done really gives us time elsewhere as a family. If you're on the fence about trying to tackle the outside world with just you and your kids, do it! Know that it's gonna suck at least a little bit and embrace it. Over time is does get better, of course over time your kids also grow up and can get with the program a little better. Don't sweat the looks from other people. Those looks come from people who's kids are too old for them to remember those times or people who don't have kids and think that would never happen with them and their children. It's fun to grow up and be wrong!

Get out there, and good luck.