Monday, March 30, 2009

Great Places to Take Your Kids

Inspired by the inauguration of the “Big Brother Explains” series last Fatherhood Friday, I’ve decided to start my own series: Great Places to Take Your Kids.

While I could easily include places like the neighborhood park and the ice cream store, this series is meant more for neat family-friendly vacation ideas.

This series is also not meant to be “exhaustive.” From time to time, I plan to share places that I’ve particularly enjoyed visiting with my family. This isn’t paid advertisements—it just represents my $0.02.

And so, without further ado, today’s destination: LEGOLAND!

If you have the occasion to travel to San Diego, I’d highly recommend taking your kids to Legoland. You can check it out at

My visit to Legoland reminded me of one of my favorite things about being a dad: I get to play, have fun, and act silly while interacting with my boys—and it’s considered completely appropriate, normal, and healthy parenting.

Simply put, I have not had as much fun at an amusement park, nor found one to one that as kid-friendly, as I did Legoland. There were a nice variety of rides, playground equipment, water activities, and things to see (a Lego factory tour, every character imaginable, and cityscapes (including the Vegas strip and Daytona) made entirely of Legos, as examples).

We went on a Saturday in the spring, and the wait times for all rides were less than 45 minutes, with some as little as 5 minutes. Some of the attractions with longer waits have it set up where the kids can play (in the shade) at lego tables while mom or dad holds the place in line. This was quite nice.

Many of the rides require the kids to be active (physically or mentally), such as pedaling a car along a “light-rail”-like system, digging for fossils in a giant sand pit, or driving a fire truck to put out a fire (with a real water hose).

A few potential negatives worth mentioning:
1. Tickets are rather expensive ($60-70 per person (kids over 3)) for daily admission.
2. There’s more to do and see than can possibly be completed in one day (the park is open 7 hours). I’d give consideration to upgrading to a 2nd day ticket for $15 more per person.
3. Most of the rides require the child to be 34 or 36 inches tall to ride with a parent. Although there are a few things for kids smaller than this to ride, they will definitely have fewer options than older children. That said, Little Brother played for hours at the playground and water activities.

Both Big Brother and Little Brother had a wonderful time. The day was filled with smiles and giggles. By the time we got back to the car, they had played so hard that both boys were asleep within minutes. I’m sure Mom-E and I will look back on our day at Legoland as one of our happiest memories of having a young family. If we have the occasion to return to San Diego, we’ll definitely take the boys again.

I’d love to hear from you about some of your favorite places that you’ve taken your kids, and I’m sure other followers of the blog (have you officially signed up yet?) would, too.

Have a good week,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Big Brother Explains House Fishing

Thanks for initiating Fatherhood Friday! Thanks as well to both new and returning visitors to my blog!

A quick, shameless plug for my entry post, “Quality Time”, for’s Big Spring Contest. Check out this contest--you should definitely submit an entry, and I look forward to reading them.

Albeit a little later than originally promised, this week marks the launch of a new series of posts called “Big Brother Explains”, where my precocious 4 year-old will teach us boring adults a little lesson in “how-to”.

This week, Big Brother has opted for a step-by-step photo description of “House Fishing.”

While Big Brother has enjoyed a few fishing trips with Grampap-E and I, sometimes he just wants to fish when 1) the weather’s bad, 2) there’s not enough daylight after work, 3) Dad-E and Mom-E are exhausted, or 4) any of a number of other reasons why he can’t.

And so, being a creative little dude, he came up with a way to fish anytime he wants.

“House Fishing” is exactly what it sounds like: it’s fishing without even leaving the comforts of your own home. You can fish in any room of the house you like (except the dining room/atop the china hutch or in Little Brother’s crib), or even take it on the road with you. It’s completely portable.

Here’s what you do:

1. Find a Melissa & Doug wooden “learn to tie shoes.”

2. Remove the shoelace,

and put the shoe aside,

being careful not to choke yourself or Little Brother with the lace.

(Note, no Harry Potter figurines were harmed in this photoshoot.)

3. Get a ruler (preferably one with a hole in it).

4. Tie the shoelace to the ruler to make your “pole/line”.

5. Tie 3 pencils to the non-ruler end of the shoelace, to serve as a “hook/bait.”

6. Find an EMPTY jewelry box for a “fish.”

7. Find a room in the house to fish (we prefer the kitchen while making dinner).

8. Cast your “line”—being careful not to hit Little Brother, parents, or anything else fragile/breakable—and dangle it over the “fish”.

9. Help the “jaw” of the “fish” take the “bait.”

10. Reel ‘em in!

11. Admire the “fish”, and then release back into the “water."

12. Disassemble fishing pole to complete conversion of the ruler into a “sword.”

(En garde, Mr. Potter!)

13. Chase Little Brother and Dog-E around the house with said “sword”, taking proper precaution not to break anything, of course.

(Who's your Dumbledore?! Say it, Potter!! Who's your Dumbledore?!?)


Thank you for explaining that to us today, Big Brother! You’re quite the fun teacher.

What are you going to explain next time?

Happy Fatherhood Friday,

P.S. Devoted fans of my blog may remember the saga of the "car bag". Sadly (or happily if you're Busy-Mom-E), Little Brother had fun throwing it away, unbeknowst to Big Brother, who amazingly forgot about it. However, before he could remember that it was gone...

Gramm-E to the rescue!! Both boys are now sporting the BMW of "car bags", thanks to her handiwork.

Dare I say, they're CARBAGALICIOUS?! I think yes. Perhaps she needs to change her screen name to Awesome-Gramm-E?

P.P.S. Because I enjoy exhausting myself, the family and I are headed out today for another (long) flight. So, while you're reading this post, please send us your prayers and good vibes for a smoother journey.

P.P.P.S. Check out Big Brother's self-portrait at the top right corner of the blog. Way to go, young artist! Please feel free to download it as a radio button for my blog. Thanks, Busy-Mom-E, for being my part-time web page designer!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Quality Time

This post is my entry for the Big Spring Contest at

Thank you in advance to Kid's Creations for donating the playset, and to for "kicking in" the digital camera. Such generosity, given the current state of the economy, is commendable.

I was 23 when my mother died. Not a day goes by that I don't miss her. After these many years that she's been gone, my memories of her that "stuck"--the ones I think about most often--make me chuckle. They include:
1. Staying up late eating homemade nachos and drinking Coke while "shooting the breeze."
2. Going to see the John Travolta movie "A Civil Action", just the two of us--the last movie we saw together in the theater.
3. Teaching me a "special" method for making golden-brown pancakes (it's all about the bubbles).
4. Driving to Wal-Mart after midnight to loiter and shop for absolutely nothing.

The summer after she died, my father and I took a month long coast-to-coast road trip together. By the trip's end, we'd gone about 8000 miles, covered 20 states, and put our feet in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. I was very fortunate that my life circumstances at the time allowed me to make this trip. (Certainly couldn't--and wouldn't--want to do it now with Big Brother and Little Brother. Thank you to Busy-Mom-E for being so understanding--we were engaged at the time). That said, it was some of the best times I'd ever had with my dad.

By now, you're probably wondering why I'm dusting off these skeletons, and more importantly, what the heck they have to do with outdoor playsets and digital cameras?

The answer is this:
My parents did so much for me over the years. They fostered opportunities, encouraged me to be involved in activities, sat through or helped coach all of those activities, drove my friends and I all over tarnation, paid for years of education, etc. In short, they did everything in their power to give me opportunities, some of which they didn't have.

And while I am thankful and grateful for all of the above, in the end, what I remember most is the "quality time" we spent together.

In short, it doesn't matter so much what we did, but rather that we did things together. During those late night conversations or 1000's of miles on the road with only fields to look at, we talked. We talked about dreams, goals, frustrations, fears. We laughed, we cried, we philosophized. Nothing was off limits.

I want the same thing for my relationship with my boys. When I'm playing with Legos or Thomas the Train or PlayDoh with Big Brother, for example, sure we're having fun, but I'm also laying the groundwork for that open communication with him. The same holds for Little Brother, but we're earlier in the process with him.

Right now we talk about Blues Clues, or that the PlayDoh is sick, or what kind of bridge we're going to build, or what shape track we'll make. But someday soon (that day is coming too soon), we'll talk about "big stuff."

"Dad-E, I think this girl in my class is cute." "Dad-E, some of my (soon not-to-be) friends talk about smoking and drinking." "Dad-E, I want to be an architect when I grow up." "Dad-E, it scares me when..." You get the idea. The key is that we'll talk.

If I'm so lucky as to win the contest, Big Brother (and Little Brother) and I will build the playset together, even if it takes 3 times as long as if I built it myself. Mom-E will supervise. We'll have fun spending time outside. We'll learn about tools and safety. We'll share a lemonade to cool off. We'll make about 8,000 trips to the potty while building it because of the lemonade. And when it's built, we'll play on it until it's too dark and it falls apart (though it sounds like Kid's Creations builds such high-quality products that the boys will head off to college before that happens).

More than anything, however, we'll just enjoy spending that quality time together. I'll (try) to forget about my job and yardwork and dishes and laundry and soccer practice (can I PLEASE forget soccer practice-I need an Arnold "Total Recall" memory wipe for that trauma) and all of the other hustles and bustles of daily life.

Instead, I'll concentrate on listening to my boys, and what they think and feel. And the boys, well at least Big Brother, will remember it forever, as the pictures of their facial expressions will reveal.

There's not a particularly special reason that I should win this playset above any other devoted dad. Father's want the best for their children. Even if I don't win, I'll still find ways to spend that time with my boys.

The opportunity is one that is too important to miss.

See you on Fatherhood Friday,

Monday, March 23, 2009


Mom-E and I have always believed the conventional wisdom that "a hyper toddler is a tired toddler."

More recently, someone told me (anectodally) that toddlers/preschoolers are much more oppositional during the 6 months before their birthday than they are for the 6 months after their birthday.

Why this would be the case I have no idea. I was pretty skeptical, as even the magic of Christmas and/or birthday presents (and parties) have an average shelf-life of about 2 weeks.

However, I'm coming to believe that there's at least an element of truth here.

For the past few weeks, Big Brother has been unbelievably polite and thankful (between just a few major outbursts), often without prompting. Maybe it just took 1,000,001 reminders to say "please" and "thank you" for this to finally sink in.

The funny part of this courteous behavior is that it is most pronounced at night when he's tired.

He's so been sweet, uttering statements such as, "Dad-E, thank you for my room." "Mom-E, I love my toys."

Just this weekend, Gramm-E bought him a DVD. Without ever having seen it, he announced, "Dad-E, I love this movie. It's great."

The best part is that he's just thankful. He asks for nothing in return, no new toys, no extra tv or computer time, etc.

We also had a just plain fun weekend. We celebrated Little Cousin's baptism on Saturday. On Sunday, we went for a ride on a bike path, and Big Brother had SO much fun. He was so proud of (and tired from) his bike riding.

Then today, we got some good news about Little Brother. He was born with a congential kidney abnormality that we've just been "watching" over time. He had his 6-month follow-up visit today, and everything is still looks good. His next follow-up won't be for a year, and if everything still looks good at that time, the peds urologist will "release" Little Brother from his care.

Thank you, Big Brother, for reminding us to appreciate the little things. That's what it's all about. I'm truly thankful for both of you, boys. It was a great weekend, and Mom-E and I are very happy (and tired :)


Friday, March 20, 2009


Thanks again to for hosting Fatherhood Friday, and thanks for visiting!

Sorry soccer fans, but if I posted about youth soccer today, it would probably earn an NC-17 rating, so I'd better pass.

Besides, this week, there's something special in the air!

That's right, we're going to tackle the topic of flying with kids!

If you've never heard about what this is like, that's because anyone who's ever flown with kids either:
1. Died of pure exhaustion and/or frustration (I'm writing this post on the ventilator).
2. Ended up in an insane asylum (still a possibility).

Busy-Mom-E had the opportunity to give a presentation at a conference this week, and we decided to bring the whole family for a mini-vacation, mixed with some work for her.

Let me take you through our itinerary on our travel day:

0000 We finish packing, loading the car (setting a world-record for earliest bedtime on a travel day).

0300 Big Brother awakens due to nocturnal incontinence (thank you, enuresis alarm!)

0305 Mom-E is doing one last load of laundry.

0310 Big Brother calls out, "Dad-E will you sleep with me?" (I stay with him for a few minutes, until he falls back asleep.)

0400 Alarm goes off (@#$! %^&! ^&*!) (also setting a world-record for earliest awakening on a travel day).

0515 The entire family is in the car ready to go (another world-record), and everyone is wide AWAKE! We're off!

0516 Both boys are STILL awake and eating breakfast.

0517 Busy-Dad-E starts nodding off at the wheel. (I've never felt so tired in my entire life.)

0625 We arrive at the airport (BOTH of them, because I had double-vision the entire way).

0640 Check-in/Security. We look like a circus with going through security with our double-wide stroller, diaper bag, laptop bag, Mom-E's bag, shoes, wallpaper, and kitchen sink. We need no less than 5 of those gray bins. Big Brother screams "I don't want to take my shoes off." "Neither do I, buddy, but we have to."

"Hey, can someone xray Little Brother's diaper, just in case he's eaten something metallic recently?"

0642 We put all of are stuff back on/together/etc. As this takes us at least 10 minutes, we cause a pile-up off all the bins going through xray. It looks like that episode of Saved by the Bell when they're making Screech's Secret Sauce and the assembly line backs up. PROPS RIGHT NOW TO ANY SINGLE PARENT WHO HAS GONE THROUGH SECURITY WITH MORE THAN ONE CHILD AND LIVED.

0700 Boarding. The gate agent asks us to "please hurry." "Thanks. We haven't been hurrying for the last 3 hours. I'll just fold up this double-wide stroller in one pocket, put both boys in the other pocket, and we'll waltz onto the plane."

0705 We walk on to the plane. All eyes in coach turn to us. My ESPN tells me that everyone is thinking "Oh $HYT, please don't let them have the seats near us." Yep, we're THAT family.

0715 We depart. Yay!

0845 We arrive at our connection. First flight goes relatively smoothly.

REMINDER THAT THE BOYS HAVE BEEN UP FOR 4 HOURS AT THIS POINT. Smoothness of first flight attributed to shock of being up that early.

0945 Lunch. That's right, lunch. Why not? We all ate 5 hours ago, and cereal and Pop Tarts don't hold you for that long. After all, we wouldn't want any hunger-related fussiness on a 2.5 hour flight, would we?

1015 Connecting flight pushes off. We taxi on the runway for at least 45 minutes. There is a back up of about 20 planes due to the downstream effects of a ground stop for fog earlier in the morning.

1100 Take-off! Both boys are still awake. LET THE FUN BEGIN!!

At this point, the boys have been up for 6.5 hours, plus they got up 2.5 hours early, which equals the equivalent of 9 hours without napping.

Big Brother cuddles in my lap and passes out, to our amazement. I thought for sure he'd have to go potty at least once during taxi, further delaying the flight. I guess the 97 times we took him potty during our layover helped.

Little Brother, on the other hand, does not.

He wants to take a nap, but only after snuggling with his favorite blankie, his "baby."

You mean, Busy-Dad-E, that amidst all of the chaos of getting ready and the 3.5 hours of sleep, you and Mom-E decided to pack the boys' blankets in the checked luggage, rather than the carry-on?

Apparently we did.

Apparently we did wrong. This is about to hurt.

And it did.

Little Brother, a quiet angel during taxi, starts screaming. He screams on and off for a good 90 minutes. He wants to cuddle with his blankie, and we don't have one.

That's okay, we ring our call light. "Yes, could we please get a blanket for him before somebody comes back here and starts beating on us?"

The flight attendant scours the plane, and returns empty-handed. "Sorry, we don't have blankets." "But you're an airplane. That's like McDonald's saying they don't have Happy Meals."


We try everything to calm Little Brother down. Standing. Sitting. Making silly faces. TIckling. Singing. Playing with toys. Mom-E's sweater (mama, you look GOOD in a tank top). Diaper changing. Taking Big Brother away to go potty (twice). Eating. Drinking. COOKIES! (Nope, not even cookies.)

Even Delta's pillow--er, I mean burlap bag filled with sawdust--could calm him down. Nothing would work, except for the blankie we didn't have. This had nothing to do with his ears being congested.

Whether real (probably) or imagined, Mom-E and I feel like everyone on the plane has been staring at us simultaneously for the last 90 minutes, the contempt pouring from their eyes like a white-hot laser beam.

Every second feels like an eternity. 5400 eternities to be exact.

There is no escape. We're sitting in the very last row and can't even turn around and pretend not to notice.

Thoughts of "you were a baby once, too, offer little comfort."

The flight attendants tried to help, but no avail.

One asks if we need a pacifier. NO WAY! WEANING HIM OFF OF THE BINKIE ONCE WAS ENOUGH.

Another gets in his face and asks him "What's your name? Do you like SpongeBob?" Two-words: STRANGER ANXIETY. This only elicits more screaming.

The overhead voice comes on, "Ladies and gentleman, we're beginning our initial descent into..." (the ground? Please, anything to stop the screaming.)

Like magic, Little Brother finally gives up and falls asleep in my arms. (Murphy's Law)

1400 We de-plane, battle-weary and exhausted. Little Brother wakes up. (Murphy's Law)

Can we just take a nap in the terminal? That's better than thinking about the multitude of steps to follow: baggage claim, shuttle, hotel check-in, unpacking. My whole body is going to explode.

And so, kids, what did we learn today about flying with children.
1. BYOB: Bring Your Own Blankets.
2. Drive.

And remember, this was just the outbound flight!

We'll save the return flight adventure for next Friday!

And, because the world has a great sense of irony, while you're reading that post next Friday, we'll be flying...AGAIN! No joke, and this flight will be even LONGER.

Note to self to bring blankets IN carry-on luggage.

Have a good weekend,

Monday, March 16, 2009


Sometimes (this week in particular) I think fatherhood is God's way of telling me I missed my calling in life and should've been a stand-up comedian.

The ability to improvise, to be able to rapidly change the plan and "make-up stuff on the spot", is a CRITICAL skill for parents and stand-ups alike.

The past 3 days have reminded me of this fact, and how sometimes I improvise well, and other times not so well--all within the same day (or hour, or 5 minutes).

I'm writing this post from our hotel room. Busy-Mom-E is giving a presentation at a conference, and we decided to bring the entire family. I was able to arrange a few days off from work, and it's nice to have some extra time to spend with the boys (and Mom-E).

Internet access is $10 per day (plus tax)--apparently the hotel doesn't cost enough per night--so this post has to count for both Monday and Wednesday of this week. I'll be back for Fatherhood Friday.

I had originally intended to start the "Big Brother Explains" series this week, but since I don't have all the pictures together for that post--and as the title of this post alludes--I'm improvising here.

The trip from home to the conference warrants it's own post, and I will say no more until Friday.

And so, below is a smattering of the attempts of Busy-Mom-E and I at improv over the last 72 hours or so:

1. GETTING KIDS TO EAT. I've outlined before the picky eating exploits of both boys. This trip has brought out the WORST eating habits in both boys. They've been subsisting entirely on milk, pop tarts, granola bars, crackers/goldfish, and smoothies. To get anything else in their bellies would require tools and/or chemical restraint. Even usual cornerstones of their diet--yogurt, pudding, fruit, and applesauce--have suddenly become repulsive.

You can imagine how "pleasant" the boys are on the above diet, mostly because they're (relatively) hungry. We finally got Big Brother to eat some pudding and mandarin oranges tonight before bed, following a major meltdown, but it's still touch-and-go. Hopefully no heads will start spinning around.

2. WATCHING TV. We don't let the boys, especially Little Brother, watch much tv. But Big Brother has come to associate staying in a hotel with getting to watch some extra tv (sometimes it's just necessary when you're on the road). We enter the room, and he says "I want to watch SpongeBob." The only problem is that the hotel doesn't have Nickelodeon. What makes it worse is that the advent of "tv on-demand" makes it even harder for Big Brother to grasp why I can't just press a button and make SpongeBob appear.

At least the hotel has the Disney channel, but the inability to make Handy Manny appear on-demand is still a source of frustration for Big Brother. And so, we resorted to watching the Disney feature film "Ice Princess." Twice. Okay, it's not Oscar-worthy, but the theme was good. (I'll be working on my essay on character development in the film when I get home.)

3. GETTING KIDS TO SLEEP. I've discussed before the challenges of staying in a hotel room as a family. In summary, staying in a hotel has a stimulant effect on kids that rivals drinking about a gallon of Coke or smoking some crack. The recent switch to Daylight savings time, coupled with the 1-hour time change during this trip (not to mention the restricted diet), has put sleep at a premium. And that goes for nap time, too.

We'd fallen asleep for a few hours tonight before I woke up to write this post. I was in one bed keeping Big Brother company. Busy-Mom-E woke up to find Little Brother next to her in the other bed and has NO MEMORY of how he got there. I certainly don't remember him fussing, or anyone getting up. Maybe the hotel room brings out his super powers to long jump from his crib to our bed?

4. "SUNSCREEN". I somehow managed to leave without packing a hat. This is a problem because we're someplace sunny and warm, and both boys had more hair at birth compared to what presently adorns my scalp. On the way to the park yesterday, I decided I'd better buy a hat, which provides the spf 100 that I desperately need. Of course, almost all of the stores were still closed. Dollar General was open, but they don't take Master Card, and Busy-Mom-E had the only non-expired Visa. That left me with $7 cash to buy a hat (note to self to remember to visit the ATM prior to travel).

And so, I ended up with a beautiful hat with the logo of a major beer company (and with a "pre-worn" bill for that authentic look), the only one in the store under $7. This is particularly funny because:

4a. I don't drink beer. (But I do need a glass of vino right about now.)
4b. I'm about to take my kids to the park, and the hat makes me look particularly qualified to do so, not to mention is great advertising for all of the kids there. "And how old is your son? Does he drink the same kind of beer that is on my hat?"

5. TRANSPORTATION. We opted not to rent a car for this trip, which is fine because there's plenty to do in the downtown area of this city, plus a pool at the hotel. We brought our stroller with us, and walking around has been good exercise. The only problem is that we use a "double-wide" stroller, with the two seats side-by-side. Although we like it (it folds up to about the same size as a regular stroller, we can slap either kid on the head easily if they misbehave (just kidding), and the boys like to ride together (for the most part)), the world was NOT designed with this type of stroller in mind. We often find that we can barely squeeze through most doors, after bumping into them at least 10 times. The boys have both learned to keep all appendages inside the stroller, lest they get sheared off. Once inside, the spacing of aisles/tables in most stores and restaurants is so narrow that navigating the stroller is like a manuverability/obstacle course. But we still manage to improvise

Alright, better get back to sleep, lest I have to improvise on being awake tomorrow.

See you on Friday (please pray that we all get home in one piece),

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Game On

Thanks in advance to everyone who visited last week for Fatherhood Friday, and to everyone visiting this week!

Disclaimer: This is NOT a blog about youth soccer.

That said, today's topic: youth soccer.

(I can't help it. It's just too funny. I promise to write about something else next week. Unless I don't.)

As you may remember from last week's adventures of soccer coach Busy-Dad-E, we left Big Brother's team of 3 and 4 year-olds at their first practice.

Perhaps we should've stayed there.

Fast foward to Thursday night and our first game.

I won't reveal the final score, but let me tell you that when I was a kid, my team lost EVERY sporting event that my dad ever videoed.

I'll just say that Busy-Mom-E videoed the game, and some things apparently run in families.

All 6 players on the team were excited about the game, except for 1) Big Brother, who was hungry, 2) Athletic Girl, who was tired and wanted to sit on her mom's lap, 3) Little Girl, who did not want to play but also preferred to sit on her mom's lap, 4) Big Brother's friend, who wanted to see his dad, who showed up at the game before going to work, 5) Boy #1, and 6) Boy #2, both of whom preferred to sit IN the goal.

Their excitement was apparently a testament to my coaching prowess.

Okay, so in an effort to keep the kids relatively "corralled" on the field, somebody at the YMCA thought it would be wise to line one end of the field (our goal) with about five, big, fence-like nets. The only problem was that it made the entire end of our field look like one BIG goal.

I mean, that wouldn't confuse 3 and 4 year-olds.

Of course, they were a little confused to begin with about which direction to go with the ball.

That is, IF anyone felt like kicking the ball or running after it.

Good standing around, everyone! Good standing! (We're supposed to be positive with them at this age.)

Picture it: we're playing 3 on 3. We kick the ball out of bounds. The other team gets the ball. They start to play again. Suddenly, Athletic Girl has returned to mom's lap, Big Brother has sat down to pick some weeds, and all of our other players have disappeared.

Now we're playing 3 on 0. I'm grabbing any child with a red shirt, including Little Brother, to put them IN to play.

At other times, we're playing 4 or 5 on 3, and I'm grabbing any child to take them OUT of play. Moms? Dads? Anyone related to anyone on our team, can you throw me a bone here? I don't multitask well (coach, cheer, and make substitutions while carrying around someone else's child)--I'm not a woman.

Meanwhile, the other team has a RINGER. I mean this kid couldn't have been more than 2 feet tall, but he could dribble down the field like a hot knife through butter. He lit us up for a hat trick. I wanted to ask the other coach to see his birth certificate, in the hopes that he was too YOUNG to play in our league.

We did manage to kick the ball into the other team's half of the field, more than once, I think.

We finally make it to halftime. I'm exhausted already. Please note that exactly TWELVE minutes have passed since the start of the game (two 5-minute quarters and a 2-minute "break").

We try to regroup. The operative word here is TRY.

At halftime, we find out that we were using the WRONG sized goals. Our youth-sized goals (maybe 5 x 3.5 feet) are replaced with "baby"-sized goals the size of my laundry hamper.

Thanks. We were doing good to kick the ball NEAR the "big" goals. It'll be much easier now that the goal is 4 times smaller.
Don't worry kids, we're still building self-confidence here, even if there is now less of a soccer goal to build it with.

The second half goes much like the first. I'm amazed at how fast our players dribble and move once they go OUT of bounds. Seriously. Apparently the lines on the field are holding us back.

We do manage to score 1 goal...for the other team.

At the end of the game, the coaches try to get the teams to form a line to shake hands. This was quite amusing to observe. You'd think we asked the kids to teach each other how to speak German.

We huddle up after the game. To my surprise, we NAIL our team cheer, I mean LOUD and in unison! It was great.

And at that moment, any dark clouds that were forming in my mind lifted. The kids had fun and got some exercise. The weather was beautiful. The parents cheered and laughed. They're learning about teamwork and sportsmanship, and they're doing pretty good with that. They look ridiculously cute in their uniforms. I laughed and smiled.

Everyone was a winner just by being there.

I feel very lucky and blessed to be a dad. It was a good day.

Happy Fatherhood Friday,
Have a good weekend,

P.S. Coming on Monday, the first of a new series of posts: "Big Brother Explains"

That's right, we'll turn to Busy-Dad-E's favorite 4 year-old for "how-to" and "where'd-that-come-from" advice. From fishing to babies, he'll cover it all. I'm not promising it'll be pretty (or pretty accurate), but it will be, as is my writing about fatherhood: uncensored.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Great Things About Fatherhood

This blog has served several important purposes for me, including:

1. A nice online journal that will function as a detailed remembrance of the many antics of life and parenting with young children. It captures what I think and feel at that moment. I will enjoy sharing it with my kids in the future.

2. A way to vent some frustration about above-said antics, and to "laugh it off" by poking fun at myself, hopefully making others laugh in the process.

3. A way to connect with other dads and dad bloggers (and to get reassurance that my experiences, triumphs, and fears are not unique).

Just like the news media has a tendency to focus on "negative" stories, so too am I prone to take a more venting, sarcastic bent at times.

I should clarify by saying that it's just that--venting.

The fact is, I love being a Dad-E. It's my favorite and most important job. Although before Big Brother (and then Little Brother) came along, I had no idea how hectic, chaotic, and tiring fatherhood would (and is and will be), I wouldn't want it any other way. My life will never be the same as it was before we had children, and I couldn't imagine going back to that point.

And so, I thought today I'd compile a short-list of some of my favorite things about being a Dad-E:

1. I get to play with TOYS, which is encouraged and not frowned upon! Not only am I bonding and interacting with my boys, but let's face it--it's fun, too. I mean, I've never played with the boys' toys after they've gone to bed. No, never. I could build stuff with Legos, put together puzzles, and make new train tracks with them for hours without getting bored (and sometimes we do).

2. I love to tuck my boys into bed after they've fallen asleep in the car. There's nothing quite like the feeling of a tired child melting in your arms, completely trusting.

3. My children keep me honest. I've had a few times where Big Brother has called me out something I've done that he is reprimanded for. I distinctly remember referring to some inanimate object as stupid, and being told "Dad-E, we don't say that word." "Do as I say, not as I do," does NOT work for children.

4. My children inspire me to take care of myself. (Okay, we're not going to include getting enough sleep for now, which is sometimes just plain hard to do.) If it weren't for them, I think that it'd be much harder for me to do things like get out of bed at 6am to run three days a week. I want to be around to harass them for as long as possible, and this gives me the "activation energy" I need to get up and going when I'd rather hit the snooze button.

5. When I get home from work, no matter what kind of day it's been, I know that I can expect to be mobbed at the door with little smiles and hugs. I cherish that moment, which is the best one of the day.

6. Uncontrolled belly laughter. (This is my motto #4 about fatherhood.) There really is no sweeter sound that this laughter, which is so raw and full of pure emotion. It can't help but bring a smile to your heart.

7. My boys think I'm a hilarious stand up comedian. Whether it's being just plain silly, ticking, jumping on the bed (yes, Mom-E knows about this, I'm guilty of encouraging a few bad habits), or trying to make someone forget why they're grumpy, I think it's a dad's job to make his kids laugh. I consider myself to be an introvert who makes an occasional witty comment, but I check being "reserved" at the door when it comes to my kids.

8. (Busy-Mom-E and )I are our childrens' teachers. Simply put. My children observe (and imitate and repeat) everything I say and do. Especially since we have boys, my children will learn about what it means to be a man, a father, and a husband from me. That's a HUGE responsibility, arguably the most important one of parenthood. When Big Brother asks the "big" questions, like "What did God make me for?", I want to be the one answering.

9. I have a built-in "excuse" for stains on my clothes. I really don't worry if I spill something on my shirt or pants, because if there isn't already another stain, there will be one soon.

10. I love, and I am loved, more than I ever thought possible.

See you on Fatherhood Friday!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What are the Cookies Doing?

They say that English is the hardest language to learn.

Over the past couple of years, since moving beyond 2-word phrases, I've been intrigued by many a sentence that Big Brother has uttered. As he continues to "learn how to talk", his syntax and phrasing (particularly for requests) seems to reflect his personality--observant, imaginative, and reserved (well, mostly).

I'll share two of my recent favorite phrases:

1. "What is _____ doing?"

Yesterday we bought some Girl Scout cookies, and he spotted them on the kitchen counter at lunch. With a bashful grin and batting of eyelashes, he asked,

"What are the cookies doing?"

Enjoying a party in the box about which I am unaware? Trying to run away from the hand that's about to grab and eat them? Deciding which of my coronary arteries to lodge into?

Of course, this is his convoluted way of asking, "Can a cookie come out of the box and disappear into my belly?"

Nope, that's still convoluted, I mean "Can I have a cookie, please?"

He repeats this mantra for many things that he wants (but suspects that he probably won't get) or thinks about, breathing life and vigor into inanimate objects and philisophy alike.

"What's that lollipop doing?", "What's Mount Rushmore doing?", "What's evil doing?", "What's Christmas doing", "What's my birthday party when I'm 5 doing?"

Of course, each of these requires very carefully thought out answers.

2. "My Playdoh is sick with a fever. I have to play with it so that it feels better."

I guess we got a batch of Playdoh with a bad immune system?

He loves to ask to do this about 5 minutes before we have to leave for church. I guess Big Brother has picked up on our empathy towards him when he gets a "bug", and is "using" it against us. How could Mom-E or I refuse to let him care for a sick toy?

Again, his creativity in the way he phrases this request makes me chuckle.

And so, now I'd love to hear from YOU! Tell me about the fun ways your children have asked for or phrase things. These should be fun to share.

Gotta go for now. Time to go eat my cookie.


Friday, March 6, 2009

I Manipulate Therefore I Control

For those of you who are new to the blog (thanks Fatherhood Fridays!), I recently discussed the exploits of Big Brother as a picky eater.

Little Brother definitely eats a little more variety of foods than does Big Brother, but nonetheless may follow in Big Brother's picky-eating footsteps simply because he adores him and copies his every move. So, if Big Brother wants to subsist exclusively on toaster waffles and granola bars, then so may Little Brother.

However, it came to our attention this week that both boys, particularly Little Brother, have been "pulling the wool over our (Mom-E and I) eyes" when it comes to their eating.

On those days that Mom-E works outside the home, the boys go to an in-home daycare. This is a relatively new arrangement, with which we've been quite pleased. The "nanny" has good rapport with the boys (and us), and they respond well to her.

Apparently, however, they may respond "too well."

We learned that once this past week Big Brother ATE A CHICKEN NUGGET at daycare! "He what?!?" I exclaimed. This is MONUMENTAL for our little no-meat-granolbar-chocolatejuice-yogurtarian, and the source of a "well-intended bribe gone afoul" .

Big Brother cried "fowl", of course, and denied having ever let chicken touch his lips.

Not to be outdone, we learned that Little Brother enjoys mac & cheese, spaghetti with meat sauce, green vegetables, etc., etc., etc...

Of course, at home, we're luck to get just a tight-lipped scowl when such things are offered (and they continue to be offered).

And so, this got me thinking...

The boys' (particularly Big Brother's) "picky eating" really is not about eating at all. Rather, it's about two fairly precocious children manipulating their environment for purposes of increasing their control over it. (And I don't refer to manipulative here in the derrogatory sense).

As I've said on numerous occasions, young children are a lot smarter than we often give them credit for.

In the grand scheme, parents do (and rightly should) dictate much of a child's schedule: when to get up and go to bed, when to nap, when to eat, what not to play with, and so on. It only makes sense, however, that the secure child will resist and "fight back" in order to increase their level of control as they grow in their autonomy.

Keeping one's lips sealed at the table is certainly one way to do that. "You can tell me when it's time to eat, but not what I eat."

Since the nanny is perceived by them as less authoritarian (in many ways) than Mom-E and Dad-E, there's less incentive to "fight back" when it comes to food.

I realize there are a multitude of reasons for picky eating (speaking as a reformed picky eater myself), but this one is often overlooked.

That their eating is about control and not eating is supported by other experiences with Big Brother:
-He was a "closet walker." That is, even when he was able to walk, he wouldn't (especially at daycare). The daycare workers would say they'd turn their back on him to help another child, and when they turned around, he'd be on the other side of the room. The control here is "if you think I can't walk, you'll pick me up more, and I like being carried."
-Also at another daycare, Big Brother would occasionally eat something, like a biscuit, he wouldn't eat at home.
-For quite a while, the nightly routine was all about manipulation in attempt to delay bedtime (i.e., control). After he was tucked in and the lights off, there were the serial questions/protests, spaced minutes apart: "Can we read one more story?" "I have to go potty." "I'm hungry." "Can I have some water?" "Will you sleep with me?"

Fortunately, experience has been a good teacher for Mom-E and Dad-E. We've learned from Big Brother that trying to "push" a child into something they don't want to do only makes them tighten the reins of control. In the meantime, we'll just be supportive and encouraging.

When they protest, in an attempt to increase control, we'll just smile, unfazed, and continue to offer the [chicken nuggets] [green vegetables] [etc.] with pleasant indifference. They may not realize that Mom-E and Dad-E know how to manipulate, too.

The boys will come around, eventually.

Have a good weekend,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Soccer "Practice"

Big Brother had his first (loosely-termed) soccer "practice" on Monday. It was quite fun (and eventful).

As you may remember, Busy-Dad-E was quickly promoted to the rank of coach by volunteering to "help" with the team. Or, as defined by the YMCA dictionary, help = you get to do it all yourself, at least until you can con, I mean "recruit", another parent to be your assistant.

Things started off on the wrong foot (literally) as I managed to bring two mismatched tennis shoes to change into at work. (Note to self, turn on lights when picking out shoes for soccer practice).

Many thanks to Mom-E for bringing the correct shoe before the start of practice. Congratulations, you're the grand prize winner of about a bazillion "wife points" for saving me from a great first impression on all of the parents:

"Hi, I'll be teaching your child how to play soccer, even though I haven't played organized soccer in about 20 years, and I can't seem to even match my own shoes."

I imagine at that moment the YMCA's lawyers were already drafting a memo to change their definition of "help."

Big Brother arrives to the practice field and is VERY excited about playing soccer. So excited, in fact, that--yeah, you guessed it--he has to go potty. I query the YMCA soccer coordinator about the whereabouts of the potty (I mean, surely you didn't assume that 25 3 and 4 year-olds who just mobbed the soccer fields wouldn't have to pee at some point?!?)

With a smile, he points to a tipped-over port-o-potty in the distance and says, "That port-o-potty blew over recently, and "they" were supposed to pick it back up. Maybe the church (where the fields are located) is open?"

Huh?!? Who's "they"? Even if "they" did put the port-o-potty up on it's proper side, would I really want my son to go in there, lest the flesh-eating bacteria consume him like those scarabs from "The Mummy"?

Guess what? Surprise! The church isn't open. Again, I don't know why they wouldn't want a tribe of 3 and 4 year-olds roaming around inside after business hours?

By this time, poor Big Brother has had an accident, being unable to hold it any longer, and lacking an inconspicuous place to "water the grass." Fortunately, we have a spare pair of underwear. Unfortunately, the only pair of sweats we have are now mildly soaked (and it's an uncharacteristically chilly day). Of course, Big Brother refuses to wear the hooded sweatshirt that would at least cover-up some of his pee-soaked pants.

Again, I imagine the impression I'm about to make on the parents:

"Hi, I'm your child's soccer coach. This is my son, Big Brother. He, uh, spilled some water on his pants because he was so excited about meeting everyone. Yeah, that's it."

Amazingly, everyone on the team has arrived within 5 minutes of the start time. Even some people who weren't on our team tried to practice with us. Apparently, either we looked very official and organized (doubtful), or they didn't know what the heck they were doing (much more likely).

We shoo off the "spies" from the other teams, and start out with some "circle time" to do introductions. I try to get everyone "pumped up" about having fun playing soccer. The parents do a nice job of introducing their children, who appear too struck with fear to speak, and cling all the more tightly to their parents.

And so, we move on to do some "drills", which are basically games that covertly teach some soccer skills. I had planned to do 3 different drills for about 5 minutes each.

If only I'd remembered that the attention span of the average 3 or 4 year-old is about 0.02 seconds.

So we've finished the drills, and I'm 14.94 minutes ahead of schedule. (Okay, not really.)

Everyone's favorite drill was "road trip." The idea is we go jog to one corner of the field, pretending that we're going on a vacation, and the kids are supposed to dribble their ball with them to our destination. The team did a good job of carrying their soccer balls with them. One boy just kept going, and didn't want to return when it was time to "come back home." Fortunately, we didn't have to call for search-and -rescue, but instead just used a lasso.

The drills are livened up by at least 1 child at a time (they took turns) crying about not wanting to participate, unable to tell anyone what they were upset about.

After the drills, we attempt to scrimmage. The team's first game is in 10 days, and so I'm trying to give them an idea of how a game might go (or not go, whichever the case may be).

We pick teams. Our league is 3 on 3 (no goalies), so we divide our 6 players evenly. The highlight is the boy who I will forever call in my mind "The Ladies' Man", who picks the 2 girls as his teammates without blinking. Even the parents laugh.

The scrimmage pretty much consists of Big Brother's team running off the field to get their soccer balls, and the other team standing around not knowing what to do, and then following Big Brother's lead. (It became readily apparent that each child must have their own ball at all times, or practice will consist of everyone crying).

Can we play a game with six soccer balls on the field simultaneously?

Did I mention that through most of practice I ended up carrying Little Brother, who was screaming his head off, inconsolably, because he hasn't seen Dad-E all day (who drove straight from work to practice)? Poor Busy-Mom-E.

It's okay, though. You use your feet, not your hands, when playing soccer.

Anyway, we get to try it again at our next practice on Thursday.

If my life were a reality tv show right now, I imagine it'd look a lot like the the Little League scenes from the movie "Parenthood".

See you on Friday,

Monday, March 2, 2009

Car Bag

I think that most people, whether or not they have children, have heard of the following scenario:
A young child gets a present for Christmas/Birthday/Other and is more interested in playing with the box than the toy that was inside it.

Now, couple a child's intuitive response to packaging with watching new episodes of Bob The Builder, which emphasizes the environmentally-friendly theme "reduce, re-use, recycle."

And what do you get?

Big Brother's new "Car Bag."

Anyone still scratching their heads? Here's the scoop:

Big Brother is a fan of the Disney/Pixar movie Cars, and has accumulated a modest collection of die-cast vehicles from the movie. He used to carry them around in a small, Cars-themed lunch box. That lunch box went by-the-way-side after it was played with so much that the hinges broke off, rendering the box unusable.

Out of the blue, Big Brother recently transformed an empty, individual-sized bag of Baked Lays from his favorite restaurant, Subway, into a replacement for this Cars lunch box.

In Big Brother's own words, "it used to be a Chip Bag, but now it's a Car Bag."

Okay, who am I to argue with him?

For the past 10 days or so, he takes his Car Bag with him EVERYWHERE (including in the car. Should it be called just a Bag at that point?)

Granted, it's not the flashiest way to tote your cars around, but he has learned something about reducing waste and reusing things. In fact, he's quite happy and proud about his Car Bag. I don't think we could've bought him anything he'd like better.

Secretly, I know that Mom-E would like to throw away the Car Bag. (It's okay, Mom-E, I know you well and I understand you.) Even though the chips were Baked Lays, I wonder about how greasy the cars are getting in there, and all of the places in the magic Land of Home to where that grease might travel?

(Right now, Mom-E is thinking "my desire to throw away the Car Bag has nothing to do with the grease. I have a bag of Baked Lays that pretty much lives in my kitchen that I can't throw away.")

I think we're both resisting throwing it away at this point out of fear of trampling on Big Brother's ego. My guess is that he would be devastated to the point of "crocodile tears" were he to discover that it'd been throw away.

And so, yet again, I find myself amazed by my child's ability to think creatively and use his imagination. It's reminded me to think about all of the excesses in my life (the "things" we have but really don't add value to our lives), and to see possibility and utility where others see "waste." Both are good reminders during this Lenten season.

Pass me a chip--I mean car--please, Big Brother. Thanks, buddy.

Here's to a new week. Enjoy the adventure,