Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Monday, December 28, 2015
JD's bed is a twin-over-full bunk with a trundle, so all three were able to sleep in the room with Bunny on the trundle and nephew on top.
About 30 minutes later, I passed by the room and heard them goofing around. I told them it was time to go to sleep. Almost immediately, I started thinking about that.
This was nephew's first time sleeping over. It's winter break.
Yesterday, we were at a Chanukah party (yes, it ended on the 14th, but sometimes you just can't get everyone together.) It was at a family friend's house and I've known them most of my life so that we are more family than friends. So when an aunt heard that nephew was sleeping over, she reminisced about how she still remembers those times with her cousins so many years ago. That made me remember how I still have memories with my cousins, how those memories are the foundation for our relationships that are still strong today.
A little while later, I heard them again, telling Bunny to be quiet. Going into the room, I told them that, if they wanted to, they could lay in bed with the lights off and talk quietly with a brief explanation of how I still remembered these times from when I was a kid, blah blah blah. I figured they would talk for a while and then pass out.
This morning, Wife sent me a text saying that there were notes left outside our bedroom door and that the kids were up very late. I wondered how she knew that they were up late. It turns out that the notes have the time written on them.
Bunny is shuving her way through the top bunk.
Bunny took JD's pencil and is eating it and the eraser and is sticking it at our bodies.
Bunny is ripping papers and shredding them then throwing them at us.
Bunny is randomly ripping papers out for no reason. She is also taking all of the covers on the upper bunk.
Bunny ripped JD's dino mask and is pulling off the mattres cover to "fool" JD.
"'JD's room stinks.' - Written by Bunny" (no time indicated)
Dear Mom & Dad 12-27-15
Mom and just so you know that Bunny was making fun of me and Nephew and lighing [lying] about what she shows and being meen [mean] so would you be kind have a tock [talk] with her.
Senserly, [sincerely] JD (no time indicated)
Apparently, Bunny was being annoying. They're going to remember how much fun they had :)
Monday, December 14, 2015
I got annoyed with liquid laundry detergent collecting and drying in the bottom of the cup.
Solution: put a tiny bit of water into the cup before dispensing. Then, after adding the detergent to the load, put a little more in, swirl it, and add that in, too.
Viola, clean cup.
I do that with fabric softener, too. Especially in the dispenser of my front loading machine, it got really gross. I add in some water and it always comes clean. The machine uses water in the process, so it's not like I'm changing the composition of the fabric softener.
Monday, November 2, 2015
When was it better?
Are you sure that you, or people you knew, didn't disrespect elders, haze youngsters, abuse property, or participate in some type of unfounded discrimination? It happened and happens. Even with people who are otherwise and typically "good." Whether they're kids or adults, humans sometimes behave in ways that make others wonder if certain actions and behaviors are representative of a community or society, rather than the acts of individuals that do not represent the local or generational culture.
Despite what we see on TV and in the news, studies show a couple of things. First, that the world is generally a safer place. Second, that today's youth is more tolerant and accepting of others than their forefathers. Those things are to be celebrated. Way to go, society! We aren't perfect, but we must be doing something right. As parents, teachers, and general members of society, I hope that we continue on this path toward an expectation of a safe society.
In some of the city neighborhoods near our house, there are so many kids out in costume on the quest for candy that there is no point in someone closing their front door - there is literally a line of kids coming and going from house to house and the line is continuously replenished with royalty and superheroes. Household representatives stand outside front doors or front gates with a bowl, allowing kids to take candy. Parents of trick-or-treaters walk along to ensure every one's safety. It's a nice system.
Being kids, thinking about the big picture is not always part of their process. They do not see that people have taken the time to decorate their houses, to buy candy, to spend their evening standing there to provide a nice experience. The kids have come to expect it because it's all they know. It is the world we have provided for them.
And thank goodness we are in a world where it's safe enough to have such a holiday!
In the mad dash of life, what is our role as parents? Are we to hover over them, listening to every word they utter, micromanaging their actions and behavior? On the other side, do we let them go and allow them to behave as they may, allowing trial-and-error and general life experience to guide them? They take the lessons they've been taught by family, education, and community with them and figure it out.
That is where I get stuck. Are children flawed individuals who need to be molded? Are children a blank slate (the "tabula rasa" theory)? Or are they young people who are going to make mistakes on their road toward adulthood? Which way will help us continue the trend toward a safer society? Do we need to "helicopter" over our kids, or is it better to give them, "free range?"
Here’s a perspective from the other side of the candy basket. A friend of mine lives on a block that is very popular for trick-or-treating - literally hundreds of kids walk through a single block stretch every October 31st. He said that he asked kids to only take two pieces. After many kids disregarded him (hey, if the boy in front of me took a handful then it must be okay) he’d had enough and supplies were running low. He told the next kid to only take one. The kid went to take a handful and my friend took the boy's wrist, said, “No, just one.” The dad with the kid apparently gave my friend a look like my friend did something wrong. The social contract was broken. The kids were not respecting the adult and the adult was overreaching his boundary.
Here’s a second perspective. While we went out trick-or-treating, put candy in a big bowl with the note, “Take 2, please.” Wife witnessed a couple of kids loading their bags with the candy. Again, the social contract was broken.
Or, maybe I should loosen up. It's just candy, it's just kids, and if a kid comes and dumps the bowl of candy into his or her bag, that doesn't mean that the kid is "bad" or "inconsiderate." It means that, in that moment, in that situation, the kid took advantage of a situation.
My point in all of this ranting is that, as a parent, I am going to do my best to instill the values in my children that I would like to see them demonstrate. To look at people without prejudice, to be courteous for even the smallest gesture, and to forgive those who make mistakes, because we all have faults but, usually, we have many more qualities to celebrate.
So when we see the news, we hope that we are in our safer place. We hope that we are doing things worthy of celebration, though we will occasionally do something worthy of scolding or punishment. Even further - we will do things that require others to simply move on with their own life because of the insignificance of the action or behavior. Who enjoys being micromanaged?
This is revisionist history. As I sit here, I am rewriting a previous post. I am rewriting it because it called the wrong things into question. The post was supposed to be about how the world is not worse than it has ever been, that we see things that we don't like and try to correct them to continue a trend toward a more harmonious society.
I believe that the world is a better place than it has ever been, though there are many who suffer every day. Americans have less violence to deal with than most societies in world history. We should be grateful and continue our pursuit of happiness, both for ourselves but for our communities.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
At this moment, the kids are sleeping with mosquito bites all over them from our trip to a forest preserve. I yelled at Bunny because she wouldn't execute my morning workout with seriousness and vigor. And JD is already begging to be sent to day camp.
In fact, we have had a lot of fun so far. Our trip to the forest preserve was awesome. We trudged through mud and battled swarms of mosquitoes. We saw butterflies and dragonflies. We have worked out every morning, and have had fun doing it. By the end of the week, we will have seen both Grandmas. And, while things haven't been perfect every moment, I am not sick of it.
We have a lot to look forward to all summer and that is probable helping. There are constant outings and trips. I am flexible with the kids while maintaining a certain amount of structure. In short, I think the three of us have started summer in a really positive way. It's the way that could lead to a very fun, memorable summer.
Monday, June 29, 2015
In my head, the kids would be cooperative and excited to have lots of things to which they could look forward. At the same time, I rationally knew that there would be the typical arguments and challenges that come from having strong willed children.
Today, Bunny decided that she would challenge the whole plan before anything could start. She woke up at
That was not part of the plan.
My alarm was set for 6:00 A.M., which was pretty ambitious for me. I would get laundry and a fresh loaf of bread going, do some planning, then get the kids up. Instead, she woke me up extra early, then started complaining that her tummy hurt, then refused to go lie down. The confrontations have continued and it is no quite 1:00 P.M.
We have still managed to get a lot done and have fun, but every fifteen to thirty minutes I have to ask something of her and then get backlash.
We're going to the park now. Wish me luck.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
7:30/8:00 A.M. wake up
put away dirty clothes
dress in athletic clothing
exercise 15-30 minutes
5-15 minutes of math
have an adventure
Draw a picture and write about our adventure. Or whatever they want to draw and write.
I'm excited. Really, I'm excited about the whole summer. One thing about me, though, is that I have to make sure that I don't get caught up in the dream of the summer at the expense of planning the details. For example, I've been meaning to pick up a couple of workbooks to do some school work this summer, but that hasn't happened yet. I haven't put together a list of specific places to visit. What parks and when to go. For example, do some parks have live music or other shows? Are there special events and street festivals, farmers markets and other things we shouldn't miss out on?
Also, I need to get ready for all of my trips. For example, do I need any clothes, books, or toiletries for Barcelona?
Does the car need any work before I drive it over 3,000 miles?
What preparations do I need for when the kids stay with the Grandparents?
Doing this blog and having Wife helps keep my eye on the ball.
Monday, June 22, 2015
This is not as difficult a question as one might think. Some ambition and planning can result in a great summer. And, no, the answer isn't full-day camp.
I embrace the concept of, "You never get time back." Once it's over, it's over. So, while I still get frustrated and angry with my kids, I still love spending time with them and having some ability to shape their life experience. Soon enough, they'll be allowed to go off with their friends and get arrested for petty crimes.
Here's my rough draft. School ended last Friday. Starting this morning, the kids are at home. For the first week, they get to sleep in and be lazy. Going forward, Daddy camp begins. They do have three weeks of camp. One week is Lego Robotics camp and two weeks of day camp. They'll also spend a week split between our parents so that Wife and I can go to Barcelona. Finally, we have two road trips.
I'm not some weirdo home-schooler who can't get enough of his kids (see Red Dirt Girl.) I'm also not above summer day camp. JD and Bunny have gone to camp the last couple of summers. I realize that I do not want to spend all of that money on day care, that we can spend a lot of time doing really cool things. Shit, if I wanted to be really selfish, I could add up what day camp would have cost and get babysitters a few days a week and golf the very best courses in Chicagoland!
Daddy camp. That is when all of the dreams of spending quality time are fulfilled. Again, rough draft:
8am get up, make their beds, get dressed in athletic apparel
8:15 downstairs, exercise (I'll start with 5 minutes the couple of days, then increase to 15 then 30 minutes.)
5-30 minutes per day each of math, reading, writing, and art
Fill the day with adventures in and outside of the city (Maggie Daley park, parks around Chicago we've never been to, forest preserves, museums.)
Playdates or meet with other families at local parks
Lunch with Mommy
So, it will be some structure and some adventure and imagination. There will be days when we don't get out of our pajamas and watch tv while figuring which bags of cookies and chips to open next.
Lego Robotics camp looks awesome. Here is the course description:
If you enjoy computers and tinkering then come use LEGO Robotic kits to unleash your creative powers. Complete real-world engineering and computer science challenges as you build and command robots that walk, talk, think and do anything you can imagine. The basic programming concepts will prepare you to write your own programs at home.
In ages 6-7, you will use the LEGO WeDo system to build your robots.In ages 8-12, you will start with the LEGO simple machines and mechanisms system as well as using hydraulic and the renewable energy system and eventually move onto the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 system.
Just before school starts up again, they will go to day camp for two weeks. That way, they get some structure and have to listen to non-parental authority but it's not quite school intensive.
Our road trips are going to be awesome. The first is one I've been dreaming about for months, maybe a year. Our end destination is Kennebunkport, ME. I am fortunate to have a close-knit extended family. One cousin was married a couple of years ago and I'm finally getting around to celebrating with them. On the way there and back, the kids and I will stay with friends and family who we rarely see. Wife cannot make the road trip but will fly in and out of Boston so she can spend the weekend with us in Maine.
The second road trip is to Grand Marais, MI. Grand Marais is a tiny town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, right on Lake Superior. I have been going there almost every summer since I was 8 months old and the place and the people there are very special to me. Whenever I round the last bend and decend the hill, I get a chill and think, I'm home. Kind of a silly sentiment, considering I've never been there more than two weeks in any year.
Finally, this August commemorates the best wedding I've ever been to. Mine. August 20, 2005. It was a drunk fest. There was a massive hora. I mean, four or five rings deep. We had wedding crashers. We had a piano in our suite. To commemorate such awesomeness, Wife and I are going to Barcelona, Spain. Beaches, Wine Country, cooking class, strolling, eating, drinking.
So, yeah, this summer looks pretty awesome at the outset. Again, a little planning will go a long way. I look forward to updating you and updating these pictures. I mean, that running one was from a half-marathon two years ago. What a phony!
Thursday, May 7, 2015
This critical nature manifests in a couple of ways. First, I am critical of my kids when they continue to fail to adhere to routines and behaviors that I have tried to implement and establish for months (or years.) Second, I criticize people when they do something that I think is the "wrong" way or a "less efficient" way. The rationalization is that it is not just criticism, but constructive criticism - I have a suggestion for how to do it better.
When I think about these thoughts and comments in hindsight, I chastise myself and ask, "Am I so perfect?"
Do I forget to unpack bags and put things away?
Do I forget to clean up after myself when I have to leave a project that hasn't been completed?
Do I always return to that project in a reasonable amount of time to complete it?
Do I remember to do the things that need to get done instead of turning to preferred activities?
Do I always do things the "best" way?
To focus this contemplation, I am going to stick to how it effects my parenting.
Let's examine the beginning of the day: Waking up and waking the kids up.
I should wake up, jump out of bed, do yoga, throw in a load of laundry, look at the plan for the day that I should have created the night before, make lunches, make breakfast, and do any other preparations for the tasks to come throughout the day, such as have my shopping bags and store returns ready to go.
That doesn't happen very often, like, ever.
Even if I do get up on time (6:00,) I will ususally check my phone, then turn on the TV for the weather. But the weather doesn't come on right away so I get stuck watching the local news for five or ten minutes. I do that while sitting in bed, rather than getting dressed while it's on in the background. (I mean, I have DVR, so I could go through my routine, then rewind back to the weather report. But, no, my bed feels too comfy.) Then it's already 6:30 or 6:45 by the time I get downstairs which is barely enough time to get breakfast going and unload the dishwasher before having to wake the kids up.
How I would like the kids' morning routine to go:
at 6:50, tell the kids it's time to wake up, perhaps with a soft voice while sitting on the side of the bed, gently stroking their hair or back. They begin to rouse, then, after five or ten minutes, get up, go to the bathroom and get dressed, come downstairs, eat their breakfast promptly, brush their hair and teeth, pack their bags, and be ready for school in plenty of time so that they can cheerfully review their math facts and recite memorized poetry or favorite scenes from Shakespeare.
How it happens: I realize that time has gotten away from me and it's 7:04. I try to gently wake the kids up. One or more complain. I try to let it go, but sometimes that complaint manifests itself as yelling at me. If I'm not fully rested or simply irritable, I may match that yelling. Either way, I give the kids a few minutes to wake, then actually get up and get dressed.
At 7:17 wonder what the hell they're doing, then walk to the bottom of the stairs and ask them how it's going. One or both of them are still in bed. I may yell from the bottom of the stairs or I may actually climb the stairs to do my yelling.
By 7:30 at least one of them has come downstairs. Eating breakfast is painfully slow, meaning a bite is taken, then deep thought overtakes one of them and the other engages in a long monologue that JUST CAN'T WAIT. Then they get up in the middle of eating to do something like get a toy. That is not met with my greatest patience and empathy. They finally eat and may or may not have time to pack their bags themselves.
In the meantime, I have been working on their lunches and will inevitably find that one or both of them have failed to unpack their backpack the day before, meaning there is old, uneaten lunch from the day before inside of much needed reusable containers. There may also be homework that needs to be completed. This is met with my disapproval because, as I remind them, I have been telling them to unpack their backpacks as soon as they come home from school EVERY DAY THIS SCHOOL YEAR and that means it's been 8 months and they STILL DON'T GET IT. I want to shoot myself in the face or punch the wall or throw a glass through a window. Instead, I angrily empty their lunch boxes, fill them with fresh food for them to take two bites then leave in their backpacks overnight and repeat the process in the morning. At this point, I firmly believe that yelling will evoke their intelligence and efficiency to get homework done in record time. Unfortunately, panic and uncertainty take over and I have to say, Forget it! and it goes back into the folder.
Now it's 8:03 and the school bell rings at 8:13 and while it only takes three minutes to walk to school, they still have neither brushed their teeth nor hair nor put shoes on. In this case my yelling is enough to motivate them to accomplish these tasks with amazing speed.
We get to school in time to get in line as the bell rings and things are finally okay.
I could go on and on about what I find they've left behind when I get home from drop-off, how they leave their underwear attached to their inside-out pants and tights, yell at me when I pick them up from school, refuse to unpack their backpacks, and complain about their extracurricular activities.
Right now, I can look around - literally as I sit here typing - and see several things that I keep meaning to get to but just can't find the time. Unfortunately, I will instead work on things in an inefficient manner, forget that I needed to do a few things which will cause panic and stress, pick the kids up in a hurry and have things to accomplish at the house rather than be ready to spend time with them or let them play with their friends after school. I will go to Costco and look at prices of TVs and storage containers, filing it away for the time when I actually need to shop for those things. I will shop at five stores because doing so will save me $10-20. I will walk right by the garbage bags I set on the deck, put there for the purpose of taking them on the way to the garage. When I get back, there will be a rough hole in the bag and garbage strewn about. There will be a load of laundry left in the washing machine overnight so that it must be washed again, only to be left there all day.
I believe I have identified the problem: the kids are about as perfect and efficient as I am. Yet, I hold them to a higher standard. My frustration emerges because I am here reminding them to do these things, yet they still complain and fail. What does this say about my teaching methods? Perhaps, if they still don't get it after nearly the entire school year, either I am not teaching them properly or they simply aren't developmentally ready to do it themselves. I may actually have to do it for them for the time being until such time arrives that they are ready and "willing" to make the leap.
The next step, which is challenging for me, is creating a plan and implementing it. To what degree am I willing to do things for the kids? How can I actually change my wiring, or thought process, to change my expectations?
Or, am I right that the kids should be doing these things independently and I'm not being hard enough on them, that I would be more efficient in my life if the others would do their part as they should?
No, that is the old thinking. Reality: we all learn at our own pace and we all have unique skill sets. I have to find out what motivates each individual child to accomplish an undesirable task and tap into that. All I have to do is make the time.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
JD just turned 8 last month so I wondered, does he still need to be in a booster?
The answer is not cut-and-dry. It's a matter of size and fit.
Here's the verbage from Illinois's website:
Children should stay in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are tall enough to properly fit in an adult lap/shoulder belt.
- The vehicle lap belt must lie low across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should rest snugly across the shoulder and chest, not across the neck or face.
- The child’s back and hips should be against the back of the vehicle seat, without slouching.
- Knees should bend easily over the front edge of the vehicle seat with the feet flat on the floor.