Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kitchen Speed Cleaning: Parents' Version

I was reading this article about "How to speed clean your kitchen" on Yahoo.

It made me laugh.

Not because of what it said, but rather thinking about it from the context of a parent with young children.

I think that the author's proposals are reasonable, but I disagree with the time estimates if you have small children (and a pet).

The author suggests that the every day duties below would take 4.5 minutes.

Every Day Kitchen Duties:
• Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 seconds).
• Wipe down the stove top (one minute).
• Wipe down the counters (one minute).
• Sweep, Swiffer, or vacuum the floor (two minutes).

***Below, I have edited the times--with commentary and explanations--for the Parents' Version***

Every Day Kitchen Duties:

• Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 MINUTES).

*Please set aside a good 2 hours to get dinner dishes done/dishwater prior to cleaning the sink.*

-One child yells for help going potty the moment you start to clean.

-Before you get back to the sink, the dog barks, whines, and scratches to go out.

-You walk back to the sink only to hear the dog while to come back inside.

-Start to clean the sink, and the dog has to go out again.

-One wipe at the sink and there's a scream of "He took my toy!", which wakes up the baby.

-Rock baby back to sleep and resolve toy dispute, only to have another child call out to go to the potty.

• Wipe down the stove top (ONE HOUR).

-Start to wipe the stove, only to hear a request for vitamins and bath time.

-Allow 30 minutes to scrub the stove, because of all the stuff that splattered while you were cooking, owing to small children running wildly and bumping into you because the kitchen is their favorite place to play and having to hold a screaming baby, thereby tremendously decreasing your manual dexterity. Not to mention that about 2.5 hours have passed since you did dishes and wiped the sink, allowing plenty of time for that mess to really bake on good.

• Wipe down the counters (ONE HOUR).

- Take one look at the mess of school papers, bills, toys, coupons, silly bands (that have re-accumulated in only 1 day since you last cleaned), and spend the next 5-10 minutes having a panic attack about how messy and insurmountable the countertops look, how the whole house is a disaster, nothing will ever get clean, and it's only a matter of days before swarms of bacteria overwhelm the whole house.

- Recover from panic attack only to have small children call out that they need help with jammies, are tired, and ready for bedtime stories. Finish their nightly routine.

- Allow 29 minutes to pick up, sort, organize, and put away all of the "trash" that's accumlated on the countertops.

- 1 minute to actually clean the countertops once you can get to them.

• Sweep, Swiffer, or vacuum the floor (TWO HOURS).

- Small children call out that they need water, again waking up the baby with their screams.

- Rock the baby back to bed.

- 5 minutes after the baby is asleep, go back upstairs to comfort the toddler who screams that he's scared and doesn't want to sleep alone. Promise to stay with him for just a few minutes.

- Fall asleep on the toddler's bedroom floor for 1 hour due to sheer exhaustion.

- Sweep the floor (a good 20, not 2 minutes due to all of the accumulated debris)

- By now it's about midnight. Realize that you haven't packed lunches, there is an inch of papers to sign for school, and you have to make 20 personalized cupcakes with rolled fondant for school the next day.


Of course, you'll have to re-do all of the above steps after you make the cupcakes.


Pick your battles, fight the mess when you can, and let antibiotics take care of the bacteria.


Thursday, February 24, 2011


Big Brother's kindergarten class spent quite a bit of time talking about President's Day.

And all of the discussion and activities really piqued his interest in Abraham Lincoln.

It seems like everything he's been talking about lately has revolved around Lincoln: pennies, $5 bills, log cabins, his beard, his hat, his height, slavery, his execution. And he's been watching some YouTube clips about Lincoln, to boot.

And the questions...oh, the questions (particularly the part about Lincoln being shot):

"Why was Lincoln so tall? Was he taller than my friend's dad?"

"Why was his hat black?"

"What color was his beard?"

"Why did he live in a log cabin?"

"Why did they shoot Lincoln? Did he bleed?"

"Did the guy who shot Lincoln go to heaven?"

"Why is Lincoln on the penny?"

"What are pennies made of?" (just to mix it up)

"Mom-E and Dad-E, do you want to be President?"

"Why do you have to be 35 to be President?"

Fortunately, there have been a few funny (albeit morbid) questions mixed in:

"What happens if you get shot in your leg pit (back of your knee)?"

"Why do tornadoes suck up babies?" (NO IDEA how we jumped from Lincoln being shot to a tornado baby vacuum)

And, of course, the mere mention of a tornado incites genuine concern from Little Brother:
"Is there a tornado in the sky right now (asked during dinner on a bright, sunny day)? Is it coming to our house?"

Ah, what a fun and interesting age, even if I do go to bed with the soundtrack of "Why? Why? Why?" looped on repeat in my head.

Have a good weekend,

"Why do you want everyone to have a good weekend?

"Did Lincoln have a good weekend?"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sweet Moments in Parenting

Big Brother presented Mom-E and I with these "valentines" tonight.

How sweet, loving, and pure.

We love you, Big Brother. You're a wonderful son.

Happy Wordless Wednesday,

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Piano Lessons

I started taking private piano lessons when I was 5.

Big Brother has shown some genuine interest in music. It's helped that we've always had a keyboard in our home.

And so recently the time seemed right for him o start taking lessons.

He had expressed some willingness, and a spot opened up with a teacher close to our home.

(Having learned from my experiences as his soccer coach (1) (2) (3) (4), I new that it would be best for him to take lessons from someone else.)

It also happens that Big Brother's piano teacher is my bosses' wife.

The day before his first lesson, we informed Big Brother that he would get to start piano tomorrow.

"I want to start next week," was his response.

This was our first clue as to how things might go.

The next day I picked up Big Brother from school and drove him to the lesson.

His lack of enthusiasm continued.

By the time we parked, he was refusing to get out of the car.

I carried him inside with mild whining and alternating kicks and limp limbs.

There in the foyer, mild oppositionality turned into an all out screaming, pouting, crying tantrum. "I don't want to take piano. I want to go home," as he tried to walk out.

You can imagine my embarassment and sheer horror. Although Big Brother had met his teacher before, here's my boy throwing an utter fit right in the middle of my bosses' house.


Fortunately after about 5 minutes--which felt like 5 hours--he calmed down. His teacher was artful and masterful in her handling of the situation. She initially kept her distance, and cautiously approached him with a soft, soothing tone only after he calmed down. We proceeded to meet their dogs, and only then sit down at the piano.

Big Brother sat in my lap at first, and calmly listened to and followed directions. A few minutes later, he needed to get off of my lap to be able to reach some of the keys.

At that point, I receded into the background as he became absorbed in the lesson.

Big Brother has a very logical, mathematical mind, in addition to being very creative, and the piano is the perfect melding of those two talents.

The lesson ended, and Big Brother and I departed, with a cookie in hand.

On the way to the car, he asked, "Do I get to come again for a piano lesson next week?"


In the car this escalated to "I love piano. I love it more than school."

At home, his excitement boiled over to the point of him saying "I need to get my homework done so that I can practice piano."

(Wow, I never practiced the same day after my lesson.)

And so, Big Brother is now very proud of playing the piano. He likes to "teach" Little Brother, and it doesn't take a lot of arm twisting to get him to practice.

He was, however, frustrated that after 1 lesson that he couldn't play "as well as Dad-E."

I wouldn't be surprised if one day he does play very well. Piano seems to be an intuitive language for him.

I'm just glad, that like his first gymnastics class, he decided to stick around.

No doubt we'll have a funny story to tell about his first piano lesson.

Have a good week,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pickle Juice and Little Bro

So earlier this week, Mom-E had to stop at the grocery store for a few sale items with the boys on the way home. It so happened that I was coming home at the same time.

And since with 3 boys age 6 and under you can't have too many hands, I told Mom-E I'd meet up with her at the store.

I parked and went in. I search up and down the aisles and couldn't find my crew. So I called Mom-E to ask "What aisle are you in?"

Turns out she was still trying to get the boys into the store, who were "helping" her with no less than 2 screaming/whining voices and 4 flailing limbs.

Apparently, Big and Little Brothers--who recently have been fairly obsessed with kids meal toys french fries--were quite frustrated that we would not be dining at McDonald's after the grocery store trip. So focused on dining out they were that they asked Mom-E what kind of food they had at a Bar&Grill in the same shopping center.

Knowing that uttering the words french fries, lemonade, or chocolate milk would spell "certain death", Mom-E carefully replied, "They have hamburgers and pickle juice."

"What's pickle juice?" queried Little Brother.

"Ask Dad-E." Mom-E deferred.

And so when I met up with my "Tantrum Bunch", the first words out of Little Brother's mouth were, "Dad-E, can I have some pickle juice?"

Sensing that this was a signal for an impending ambush, it was clear that Big Brother and Little Brother were HANGRY (Hungry + ANGRY), and that it was only a matter of time before their tantrum escalated to our family picture appearing on the store's "Do not let these people in" Wall of Shame.

So, to give Mom-E free arms with which to battle the tantruming duo, bab-E Brother and I slipped off to purchase a snack for the hangry boys. Two minutes later I had purchased two bottles of liquid medicine for oppositional behavior chocolate milk.

"What's that?" Little Brother asked upon my return.

"Pickle juice." I replied without hesitation.

Fortunately, the boys took well to the "liquid calm," and it exerted its desired effect.

We "survivied" the store and made it home.

Since then, Little Brother has been very attached to his bottle of "pickle juice". (He knows it's chocolate milk, but still likes to call it that.)

He was adamant that the bottle remain next to his bed while he sleeps (and then empited and washed out in the morning and filled with fresh pickle juice.)

A related tangent--next to his bottle of pickle juice, Little Brother keeps a plastic cup with a purple lid. Inside the cup are the treasures of a 3 year-old: a few pennies and a little stretchy rubber figure.

The funny part is that Little Brother has named the figure "Little Bro" after himself.

It's all Mom-E and I can do to not laugh when he goes around asking us, "Where's my Little Bro?"

The same night as the "Pickle Juice Incident", Little Brother had to go potty before bed. But prior to going into the bathroom, he was carfeul to seal his figure safely in his plastic cup.

"I don't want to get poop on my Little Bro," he delcared, rather nonchalantly.

Wise choice, my man. Wise choice.

So what's on your nightstand? I'm guessing it's not pickle juice and a rubber figure with your namesake.

Have a good weekend,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Boy Toys

So Mom-E and I had a very "romantic" Valentine's evening at Big and Little Brothers' gymnastics classes.

(Actually, I did bring Mom-E roses at the gym, which were not only pretty, but also fragrant enough to help mask some of the smell of the boys' socks.)

(And actually, the boys have such a great time, that it can't help but melt your heart a bit.)

But perhaps the most amusing moment of the evening belonged to Bab-E Brother.

The experts say that gender identity forms at about age 2-3.

Apparently Bab-E Brother is a little precocious, or just missed the memo.

In the area where families can watch their budding gymnasts, there is a small box filled with various toys for both boys and girls.

Bab-E Brother has a penchant for a particular car, which he enjoys zooming back and forth while he collects bacteria on his clothes from crawling around the floor.

With a grunt and a point, he informed us that he wanted to be put down so he could go play with the toys.

And he made a bee-line for his favorite car.

Unfortunately, there was a rainbow-haired My Little Pony parked in the drivers seat.

Bab-E Brother crawled up to the car, going from 0 to 60 (inches per second), and without hesitation, picked up an flung the My Little Pony across the floor by it's mane.

"What do you think you're doing, you GIRL toy! I'm a BOY and I've got a car to zoom zoom. Go pick on the Littlest Pet Shop!"

I couldn't help but laugh out loud at his instinctual response.

You might argue that he just wanted the car and would've flung anything out of it.

But I deg to biffer.

If a Transformer was driving the car, my guess is that it would've stayed in as "all-time driver". Bab-E Brother seemed to just "know" the My Little Pony wasn't for him. (The same way children can distinguish between dessert and anything green.)

And so, to conduct a (My) little (Pony) experiment, a while later, I put the My Little Pony back in the car, and directed Bab-E Brother's attention in that direction.

Same result: bee-line to the car, and the My Little Pony got tossed by the hair.

That's my boy!

Next week we'll have to see what happens when Barbie drives.

See you on Fatherhood Friday,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Best wishes for a Happy Valentine's Day for you and yours!

And special valentine's wishes for Mom-E, Big Brother, Little Brother, and Bab-E Brother, the four greatest loves of my life.

This day, and always, I love and cherish you,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

Are you a night owl or a morning person?

As a parent, I often feel like I'm both!

I don't mind staying up on the late side (midnight to 1am). In fact, I have fond memories of occasional midnight trips to Walmart with my mom just to browse and chit-chat.

Parenthood has also necessitated that I'm a morning person, too. I remember my college days, when an 8am class was "too early". Ha!

My typical wake-up time these days is about 5:30am. I can "do" 5:30am and be awake right away, but the same doesn't apply for 5am. I feel better waking up at 6 am, but immediately feel worse because sadly we run "late" getting the boys out the door when we "sleep-in" until 6am.

Of my 3 boys, Big Brother is definitely our morning person. It isn't altogether uncommon for him to visit our room in the 6 o'clock hour--even on weekends--awake and raring to go (usually wanting to have breakfast, build something with legos, or play a game.)

Sure, 6am is early, especially on a weekend. But on the flip side, it also affords me some 1on 1 time with him, which is worth it's weight in gold. Even a 15 minute breakfast "date" before anyone else is up seems to make him quite happy and the rest of the morning go much more smoothly. I know it's hard for him being the oldest, because his two younger brothers naturally need more "help" from Mom-E and I.

Recently, we discovered that Big Brother has a penchant for french toast sticks from Sonic. (I can remember loving the ones from Burger King as a boy.)

So on his birthday this year, we started a new traidtion. Big Brother and I got up in the 6 o'clock hour and went to Sonic for a special birthday breaakfast, complete with french toast sticks. We had a really nice time, just chatting and laughing it up while keeping warm chilling in the car. Of course, getting there before 7am, we were the first customers of the day. We never noticed the extra long wait for our food because we were having such a good time.

As early as it was, it was so nice to be able to just slow down and enjoy each others' company with absolutely no sense of needing to rush.

And so, I look forward to many more birthday breakfast dates. I just hope that Big Brother is still a morning person when he's a teenager.

Have a good weekend,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One Slip Away

One Slip Away

Last week, my father was leaving the gym after a workout, when slipped and fell, hitting his head on the ice.

He was spotted quickly, and the first-responder, his trainer, arrived in under 4 minutes. His head in a pool of blood, he had a pulse, but was ghostly white and not breathing.

Within 15 seconds of CPR, he started breathing again.

EMS was dispatched. He was completely unresponsive. A medical helicopter was requested, but not available due to the winter weather. He was taken by squad to the local hospital.

His trainer called me from the ER. He remained comatose, and was not even responding to pain. This lead the emergency physician to suspect that my dad was bleeding into his brain.

600 miles away, I was paralyzed with fear, driving a van with 3 fussy boys. We made an emergency bathroom stop at our church, which was of course locked. While my dad’s trainer informed me of my dad’s critical condition, I had no choice but to let one of my boys pee on a tree in the church parking lot.

For a period of about 2 hours, I prepared myself that my father was going to die—or at least never be himself again. I wore grooves in the floor from pacing. I couldn’t get a flight home that night owing to the recent blizzard.

Then, a phone call to the ER. He was intubated and on a ventilator. Still not moving or responding to pain. But the head CT scan was normal—no bleed.

Normal? Even the emergency physician was baffled.

My dad was “stabilized”, then transported to a nearby trauma center.

The evaluation continued. A second head CT scan was also normal. He had fractured a vertebrae in his back. He started to follow some simple commands, and was moving all extremities.

I talked to my cousin who lives about minutes from the hospital. The forecast was for a “break” in the storm overnight. I booked a medical flight at 5:40 am the next morning. I have to guess about my return—5 days.

Mom-E and I get the boys to bed. They sense my fear and restleness. Big Brother says a sincere prayer for Pa-Pa. Little Brother asks if they can give Pa-Pa a band-aid. Bab-E Brother smiles and babbles. All 3 of my boys are beautifully kind creatures.

I pack for blizzard-like weather. We continue to pray; the black suit stays in the closet. I trust that it won’t be needed. Mom-E prepares mentally—as best as possible given the circumstances—for my absence.

I sleep for 3.5 hours, but it feels like 3.5 minutes. I make my flights without incident. The winter storm tracks just north of my destination.

My cousin and her husband pick me up at the airport. 16 hours later, I’m in the ICU visiting my dad. He’s off the ventilator. He’s sitting up, moving, and talking. He’s trying to piece together what happened. He’s a little loopy from all of the sedative medication. For the first time in my life, I get a glimpse of what my dad is like “drunk”—cheerful, perseverative, and spouting off random phrases like “shoot the juice through me Bruce” when asked if he wants pain medication.

Fast forward 4 more days. Dad has been discharged home from the hospital. He has “escaped” with only a nasty concussion and a non-surgical fracture of one vertebrae in his back. He’ll have to wear a protective brace for about 3 weeks and use a walker for a little while, but that’s it. He’s very sore, and a little dizzy and uncoordinated at times, but otherwise he’s pretty much back to himself.

My mind and heart have run the gamut of emotions over the past week.

It was a very strange feeling to have thought (for at least a few hours) that my father was going to die, only to “get him back”. It is rare in life to get such a “second chance.” I know we will both make the most of this opportunity.

I leave you with several thoughts regarding this “event”. Some are new to me, others were reaffirmed.

--Take nothing in life for granted. We’re all “One Slip Away” from a life-changing event. Be mindful of that, but don’t live in fear.

--Miracles happen every day. My father was found within minutes of his fall, and attended to by someone who knew CPR. His fall didn’t cause him to bleed into his brain, he wasn’t paralyzed, and he suffered no other internal injuries. An inch to the left or right, or a different parking spot hidden from view, and the outcome could’ve been completely different. I was able to get a flight to be with him in between blasts of the winter storms. If God can move mountains and part the sea, he can certainly alter the trajectory of a blizzard.

--Pray. Pray together. Pray every day. Countless people prayed for my father and for my travels. I know that this made a difference for us both.

--In times of crisis, family comes together and your true friends reveal themselves. You’ll be surprised both by who willingly comes to your aid, as well as who doesn’t.

--Trials and tribulations may bear unexpected fruit. The “fruit” can mean many different things to different people. I am grateful for some unexpected bright spots during this ordeal.

--Always end phone calls to family with “I love you”, and visits with hugs. I had talked to my dad just over an hour before his fall. I’m glad this wasn’t our last conversation, but had it been, I’m glad I told him I loved him.

--Life is too short and too fragile to sweat the details. Yeah, yeah, this is much easier said than done. I for one, agree. But it’s true. Many (but not all) things are not worth our time, frustration, and worry. Let them go. They’ll pass. Pray about it and move on. Don’t hold grudges.

--Set priorities for work. Work will always be there—even when you’re hundreds miles away in the midst of a crisis. You’ll never get everything you want to accomplish done in a given day—accept that and move on. When it’s time for family, forget about work. Work can wait.

--Change is possible, at any age. But the desire to change must come from within. Family can pray and plead and encourage change, but it won’t stick until the individual decides to do it for themselves, and make it part of a lifestyle change. My father is in his 70’s. The past 10 years since my mother’s death have been very hard for him. He admits that in many ways he has been “going through the motions” and passively “preparing to die.” Then, six months ago, he finally decided to “live” again. He started decorating the house again for holidays. He started remodeling his house room-by-room. And he decided he wants to live to see all of his grandchildren graduate. He started working out regularly with a trainer. In 6 months, he’s lost about 25 pounds and over 20 total inches, with the help of a personal trainer (who incidentally was the first-responder who performed CPR). He’s a very different person. I feel like I got my “old dad” back (twice now).

--Decide what you want to do in/get out of life, and DO IT. We waste too much time talking, complaining, and Facebook-ing. Set goals and then figure out a plan to accomplish them. Whether it’s kicking a bad habit, something you’d like to learn about/to-do, a personal or professional goal, or a place to visit, DO IT. The time is now. The clock is ticking.

Remember, you’re only “One Slip Away”.

I love you, Pa-Pa,

P.S. The next time you want me to come visit, please just call and ask.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gymnastics Buddies

So, after the better part of year spent in the balcony watching his older brother “play” at gymnastics every week, Little Brother, having turned 3, is old enough to take gymnastics, too.

We were fortunate to find out that a class for his age group is offered on the same day and with the same instructor as Big Brother’s class.

We were less fortunate to find out that there is exactly 1 hour between classes.

1 hour, which is just about enough time to load up in the car, drive home, unload, go potty, reload, drive back, and re-unload.

1 hour, enough time to drive Mom-E (mostly) batt-E, especially depending on how early Dad-E is able to arrive from work to provide reinforcements.

So, with some fear and trepidation, we signed Little Brother up for a trial class, with a plan to have a picnic dinner (in the minivan) in between their classes.

Overall, we did “okay”. And by “okay”, I mean Mom-E still had at least 1 (but not more than 3) nerves left by the time I arrived.

Then it came time for Little Brother’s class to start.

I was very pleased when he went right off with the coach without so much as a single scream (I wondered if he’d cling to me with a super glue-style death grip) OR fear of having to wear at leotard.

We returned to the balcony to watch the class.

It was so cute as they started warming up by running some laps around the foam pit. Little Brother, who was probably the smallest child out there owing to his age, was just trucking along, as quickly as he could motor. Every so often, however, he’d slow WAY DOWN to wave to us in the stands.

He appeared to very much enjoy himself throughout the class, high 5-ing the coach after a somersault, or proudly carrying his “carpet square” on his head as the boys marched from area to area in the gym.

At one point, Little Brother’s class and coach completely disappeared. Turns out they went for a potty break (to be expected with a group of 3-4 year olds, although we’ll never know who “instigated” the bathroom break.)

When the class was over, we met up with Little Brother, who was grinning from ear to ear, with matching gymnastics hand-stamps.

“You did so well, Little Brother!” we exclaimed. “Did you have fun?”

“Yes!” he beamed.

“Would you like to do gymnastics every week?”


So we proceeded, to sign him up.

However, as we were finishing the paper work, Little Brother blurted out, in a concerned voice, “But I want to take another class!”

“Don’t worry buddy. You will. We’ll come back again next week.”

Suddenly, sobs and sobs and streaming tears.

Apparently, he thought he was going to get to do another class RIGHT THEN AND THERE.

Well, I guess that gave us a pretty good idea how much he liked the class. That will make the ensuing chaos of the weekly picnic dinners at the gym well worth it for our two gymnastics boys.

Have a good week,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

To Sleep Or Not To Sleep

A soliloquy for parents of small children

To sleep or not to sleep—that is the parents’ dilemma:
Whether 'tis better for the body to suffer
The fatigue and exhaustion a of folding laundry past midnight
Or to pick up the toys of a sea of small men
And by morning they’re out again. To rest, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we get
To relax, but the thousand nocturnal interruptions
That parents are heir to. 'Tis a longing
Devoutly to be wished. To sleep, to just lay down--
To lay down--perchance to rest uninterrupted: ay, there's a wish,
For in that sleep of parenthood what dreams may come
When we remember all the things we’ve forgotten to do,
Must wake us up again. There's still laundry to put away!
That makes for so long a night.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of sleep deprivation,
The parents’ minds, the toy-eating dog,
The child who wet the bed, the nightmare’s scream,
The baby’s hunger, and the confusion
When parents wake-up dazed,
When they themselves quietly make way into the baby’s room
Without bumping into walls in the dark? Who else then will wake up,
To scream and scream and wake up the baby again,
But that the dread of something after uninterrupted sleep,
The undiscovered country, from whose bliss
No parent returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those tribulations we have
That people without children know not of?
Thus parenthood does make tired, bumbling idiots of us all,
And thus the native hue of dark circles under the eyes
Is sicklied o'er with the pale skin of exhaustion,
And a mind that is too tired to remember anything
With this regard their longing to sleep turns awry
And lose the name of well-rested. -- Soft you now,
The fair Nyx! – Goddess of sleep and dreams
Can we just get some freakin’ rest!

Have a good weekend,
Get some sleep,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Please Pray for Busy-Dad-E's Dad-E

And our family.

Thank you,