Archives for April 2011

Under Siege: The Adventures of a Stay at Home Dad

*Editor’s Note: As promised… I let Dave write again this week. I’ve been working in New York all week and if it wasn’t for my contributors, Cassandra and Dave… you’d have nothing to read! And besides… I really like his stories and the way he uses the phrase “salty language”. Ha! This week’s story is one that I’m sure most of us have dealt with: big kids in a height/age restricted play area. I know I’ve dealt with this before. I’ll save my feelings for the comment section. Will you join me?

Or “You Tell me, what would you have done?”

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a couple of moments that I walked away from wondering to myself, “Did I handle that right?” or “Could I have handled that better?”…Or even “Was that my business to try to handle in the first place?”

A couple of weeks ago, during a rare rainy day, I had taken my three daughters, Sydney (5yrs old) and twins Emma & Maddie (1 ½ yrs old) to a kid’s playground at a nearby mall – you know the place…everything is soft except for the heads of the kids running around crazy and colliding with each other, all within the padded walls of the play area. It was precisely the unpadded heads of my children I was concerned about when that obviously too-tall to be in the play area toe-headed kid came running around the end of the play area in which Emma & Maddie were playing.

When I noticed this kid causing havoc, I asked a couple of the other parents in the area if I was just imagining that this kid was being a bit of a hazard and before I could go any further, each one of them chimed in that he definitely was, One even mentioned how he’d knocked over a much younger child just before we’d arrived at the play area.

Meanwhile, the little guy continued his running around the play area. As he came running around one of the large padded climbing toys, narrowly missing collision with Emma, I said rather loudly “Hey, let’s slow it down, no running, ok?” which was flatly ignored, and in such a way that it might have appeared I had said it in French. When his next race around the playground brought him near me, got in front of him, and said, “Hey, we’ve got to slow down, ok…we’re gonna run over the little kids and someone’s gonna get hurt if we don’t slow down.” Again, he just looked at me like I was speaking some foreign language and continued running around at top speed.

By this time I was a bit more than annoyed that this kid was being so disrespectful, so, on his next go-round, I stopped him by getting in his way and asked him where his parents were. He looked around a bit and then pointed to a tall, surly looking guy who began to approach me, seeing his kid being stopped by another parent. I moved toward him, stuck my hand out to shake his, and introduced myself as the parent of those 3 little girls over there. He nodded as I spoke, but it was one of those nods that said he “didn’t give a crap”. I explained that I had asked his son to slow down a couple of times and was just ignored, so felt I needed to bring it to his attention. It’s at this point, as I’m reading his reaction to what I’m saying, the voice in my head asked me “So, Dave, do you think he looks like he’s about to take a swing at you, or am I just imagining it?”

Mr. Tall Surly then began to lecture me about how these were all kids and who was I to try and police the playground…I responded with an “I’m not looking for a problem with anyone, I’m looking for you to do something about this. He’s being a hazard to my children and to the other kids, and was disrespectful when asked to slow down…and if you don’t do something, I’ll have to ask security to come in, and I don’t want to do that.” The guy then began to berate me in front of all the other parents and children, tossing out some salty language, as if he had just been called out at 3rd base when he clearly thought he was safe at his Wednesday night beer league softball game. Then, to cap off this display, he made a big show of removing his son from the play area because of “this guy thinks he’s running this place” – making certain to point at me as he was loudly telling everyone I was the reason he was pulling his son out of the area. I wasn’t pleased at how that parent handled things, as a matter of fact, I was surprised, as I tried to approach it in a “hey, we’re the adults here” kind of way.

I walked away from that visit wondering if, in a case like this, would it have been better to have just removed my children from the area…or was it right to try to address the issue with the parent, even at the risk of the parent being jerky about it?

I think the majority of us parents are trying to instill respect and responsibility in our children. But I also think a lot of us are feeling our way through this ‘being a parent’ thing and hoping to come out on the other end as having made good decisions along the was. I can say that after I had my exchange with the father, I had a couple of parents give me an approving Thumbs Up, and one actually stopped back by to tell me that the guy looked like he might have been a bit hostile, and that he hung out and “had my back, just in case, ya know”….it was nice to get these affirmations from my parent-peers…. But I still wondered if I did the right thing.

So, you tell me…

What would you do in a situation like this?

Have you ever experienced this sort of thing yourself?

I’m curious.

Updating the Baby Books–a Reflection

I’m updating the twins’ baby books–or what I like to call, “sentimentally catching up on three years of life in one night”.  Page 1: How do I want my children to see me? How do I want them to be when they grow up?  Oh, that’s all you want to know, Baby Book?  Ah, this shouldn’t require any thought or self-reflection at 10pm when I’m already drained from mothering three small children.  Let’s see, where to start…?

Let’s be honest–I want my kids to be like me.  Or how I think I am.   Or how I want me to be, anyway.

I want them to be independent. Deep down, I’d love to coddle them, but they need to know how to pick up after themselves, how to wash a load of their laundry, and how to think for themselves and prioritize.

I want them to understand the Big Picture–their Big Picture. What today’s events mean in the great scheme of things. To have perspective. The most important time in life, I think, to have a concept of “the big picture” would be middle and high school. These are probably the most challenging times to teach this concept, though…so must start early on this one. Is age three to early to explain “The Big Picture”? I’m not sure, but I can let you know later.

I want them to not be afraid. The world can be a scary place, and there are some bad people and some bad governments on this earth, but if you focus on your own community and the positive impact you can have, that’s powerful stuff.  I tend to lead by example on this one, but better to wait to explain certain things until they understand what all those words on the nightly news mean. There’s no use in explaining what a terrorist is to children too young to have figured it out on their own.

I want them to understand and really embrace the concepts of teamwork, being a good sport, and “it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game”.  Being competitive can be a positive thing–or at least that’s what I hear, since I don’t have a competitive bone in my body–but being the best or first or the winner isn’t everything.  But how to teach such abstract concepts?  If it were easy, there would be more adults out here in the Real World who are put the greater good over their own interests and are good sports.

I want them to have a sense of humor. For crying out loud, this can get you through almost anything. If there’s nothing else I’ve learned from having twins, it’s that a sense of humor is almost always your greatest asset.  Having three or four arms would be an even better asset, but I personally haven’t been provided with these yet, so a sense of humor it is! And the best way to teach humor, so far as I can tell, is to keep laughing. All through the day. And we’re pretty good at this at our house. Nothing is so sacred to not be a punchline.

I also would like them to love to read, to be interested in cooking and in photography, to love music with their very souls, and also to watch less TV.  Maybe if we had a cheap, crappy TV that lesson would be easier to instill in them.  Fine–if cutting edge technology is my one downfall, I’ll take the flack.

But my babies are growing up.  I’m trying to remember to refer to them as “twins” instead of “babies”.  I read somewhere that your children are like pieces of your heart, wandering around outside of your body.  If that’s true, have a great day tomorrow, wee little pieces of my heart.


Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl. Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for muscular dystrophy at Byrds for a Cure.

Under Siege: The Adventures of a Stay at Home Dad

*Note from the Editor: I’ve had a crazy busy week! If it weren’t for my amazing friends and contributors… you’d have nothing to read. I also forgot that this month had 5 weeks in it. My friend, Dave, stepped up to the plate for me on the condition that he still gets to write next week… Who does he think he is? Oh, yeah, one of the most supportive, funny, and best listeners I know. I have amazing friends. For reals. So without further rambling from me… I bring you:

Or “Mean Girls, the Home Edition”

I’m sitting on the couch, a little while ago, downloading a collection of Disney Princess, Hello Kitty and various other puzzle applications for my new smart phone. These aren’t for myself, of course… they’re for Sydney, my 5yr old daughter. She wants to use my phone in place of the iPod that’s been beaten up pretty good and is no longer working, to her displeasure. She insists she needs something to do during our frequent travels around town and says that it will help keep her quiet in the back seat, which she says is important because she knows how she can be noisy and bother daddy while he’s driving…she stops just short of delivering a “and it’s for safety, Daddy…for safety” capper. Being able to use the new phone for that purpose is a “no-brainer”, she would probably insist, if she only knew what “no-brainer” meant.

It’s soon after I begin the process of loading some of these apps that Syd notices me over here, messing with the new toy and decides to hop up on the couch to see what I’m doing. She sits on the arm of the couch, the one that I’m leaning back against. She’s just over my shoulder, watching, ordering up which puzzles she wants and putting the kibosh on those she doesn’t. As we sit there, she begins to very sweetly start playing with my hair…Now, the funny thing about this is that she’s always done this, from the earliest age and as a matter of fact, it’s one of her most endearing little quirks.

It’s actually become a very effective device we employ if we want her to take a nap. If she needs to take a nap, but is resisting, all I have to do is lay down next to her on the couch, or on her bed, tell her to cuddle up to me and demand softly that she “play with my hair”. She’ll reach up, and start sweetly running her fingers through my hair and like magic, she’s soon fast asleep. It works well!

The problem here is that it feels really relaxing and is beginning to make me think of napping myself…I say to her “That feels so relaxing, Boog {that’s my nickname for her}, you’re gonna make daddy fall asleep.” Without missing a beat, she responds with “Well, let me play with the puzzles on the phone and get me some apple juice, or I’ll stop playing with your hair!”

At that moment, incredulous at what she’s just said to me, I look over at one of her sisters, Emma, who is sitting next to the other twin sister, Maddie and is playing with Maddie’s hair just as Syd’s playing with mine….then Emma shoots me this look like she’d say if not for the binky in her mouth that “You had better get used to it, Old Man…’cus there’s more where that came from!”

Wow. The power that these sweet little girls wield over me, and the rate at which they’re discovering and utilizing this power is shocking and nervous-making ….I’m scared.

Later, after having let her use the phone for puzzles as we ran an errand, Sydney lectures “What did I tell you about singing in the car, Daddy?” in response to my listening to and singing along with a song on the radio.

“I don’t know, Boog, what did you tell me?” I replied

“To not do it!”

I think I am right to be scared. I feel it’s justified.

Pool Safety Season. Already?

This weekend here in Phoenix, two children tragically drowned. Meanwhile, two others are lucky to still be alive after they were pulled from their family pools. This all happened in four separate incidents. And it could happen to anyone–your kid, your family, your neighbors. Tragedies like this don’t just happen to irresponsible, low-income, or jerky parents. This stuff happens to families like yours and mine, all the time, and it must be a living nightmare for all parties involved.

Water safety is a big deal with me, as I’m sure it is for all of you. We don’t have a swimming pool at our home right now, but I am hyper-vigilant with kids around water. Letting your kids take a swim means that the supervising parent does nothing except sit at the pool and watch those kids until they are snugly wrapped in beach towels in the living room. You don’t leave the pool side. You don’t get up to grab your phone. You ignore the doorbell. Of all the hats we wear as parents, the lifeguard hat is the single most critical one.  I mentioned another water safety tip here a few weeks ago.

Three decades ago, a toddler drowned in her family pool in west Phoenix. It was an incredible, heartbreaking tragedy, and deeply affected everyone involved. In fact, the cop who answered that drowning call cried with the surviving family members, went home, and convinced his pregnant wife to name their first child after her. My dad felt so compelled by this tragedy that he honored that baby girl by giving me her name.

Watch. Those. Kids. Around. Water. There is no replacement for adult supervision at all times.  Period.


Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl. Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for muscular dystrophy at Byrds for a Cure.

Getting Preschooled

*Note from the editor: This week… we’re stalking one of my favorite Dad writers, Alan Kercinik. He writes at Always Jacked about life with his son, Jack. Alan’s writing honestly captivates me. I laugh, I cry, I am often transported, as if I’m watching a scene in a movie. Isn’t that what good writing is about? So sit back and read as he unravels a tale of preschool enrollment.

Now that Jack is two years old, it’s high time for us to start focusing on his academic career.

Both of our alma maters are in the mix, which is good because blue and orange look good on him. (University of Illinois for me, Bucknell for her.) Stanford has some good programs. And, despite it’s ridiculous price tag, we have to consider Harvard.

This is all nonsense, of course. But it feels that way, a little, as we enroll the boy into preschool.

One of the reasons that we recently migrated to the northern suburbs of Chicago was for schooling. As we looked at programs in the city, we were shocked by the cost. We could buy a small car for the price of dropping Jack off to shove crayons up his nose three days a week.

It’s considerably easier to find a suitable preschool where we live now. We toured our top choice last week. There is no three year waiting list. Tuition is far from five figures. But it’s still a little stressful.

Stressful. That’s probably the wrong word.

Stress isn’t quite I was felt when we walked into each class to watch a group of young and happy children, playing or painting or digging into dirt and pretending to garden. Stress wasn’t what I felt when I held Jack up to a wall so he could touch the small ceramic squares that had been painted by the school’s students. Stress isn’t what I felt while we talked to the principal about curriculum and theories on discipline and what a typical day looks like.

I felt wistful. The boy, on the other hand …

Our first stop was the four-year old classroom. There was no hiding behind a parental pant leg or asking to be held. He immediately bolted to a table of four little artists and slapped his hands onto a plate of finger paint. He played well in every class. On our last stop, to see his fellow two-year olds, he offered a toy to a crying little girl. “Sad. Sad.” he said, looking at me, then looking back at the kid in question, car extended.

I’m sad, too, that I’m saying the first of my many good-byes to him. That my position, as one of the twin centers of his little world, is so quickly about to end.

But I’m so proud of him. How could I not be? He’s running, literally running, toward the potential of a larger world with a smile on his face. How often do you see that, a person so happy while confronting change and new challenge and uncertainty?

I’m probably reading into this. He’s two. It’s preschool. There were new toys. I get it.

Even so. I’m hopeful that it’s an indicator of how he’ll live. That he’ll take that attitude with him everywhere he goes. Even if it makes me a little sad to watch him leave.

Tips For Traveling With Children

Summer is almost here… it’s time to start planning our annual summer family vacation! It’s one of my favorite times of year. I love packing the suitcases. I love jumping in the car and heading off on a journey. I even love food on the road! The thing I love most is the smiles on the faces of my girls as they realize that the day has come.

The one thing that’s most difficult for me when it comes to vacation is the planning time. It really takes time to find the best deal on hotel, airfare, rental car, event tickets… I also like to have something new and fun to wear! So there is some shopping time involved! If we’re driving… the car needs maintenance before we head out onto the open road. And the snacks… I have to pack the snacks!

I try not to let all of those details get me down though. I try to focus on what’s really important. I know that we’ll arrive and we’ll have an amazing time.. even if there are a few snags along the way.

Here are my best travel tips for parents:

1. Be sure to pack snacks. This is one of the first things I do when packing for a trip. Not only will it keep a case of the crabbies away… It will keep your kids fueled for the day to come. And… if there was an unexpected emergency (like the time the police closed the highway and we were trapped for 6 hours) … You’ll have something to munch on!

2. Bring along some entertainment! There’s nothing worse than hearing the dreaded “are we there yet?” or the ever so cliche “don’t make me turn this car around!”. For the sanity of both parent and child… be sure to bring along something to pass the time with. Portable DVD players aren’t as expensive as they used to be and travel board games are in abundance! My girls love to color… just don’t leave the crayons in the car!

3. Driving? Ride comfortably. Nothing makes a road trip more uncomfortable than a cramped car. There are tons of rental deals out there… especially during non-peak travel times. Take advantage and rent your family a sweet ride. Comfort will help little ones to doze off during a long trip.

4. Plan ahead. Using a travel agent or a travel website can help get you a smokin’ deal. These websites will often let you compare deals on competitor sites, check out seasonal specials, and book last minute deals. Dealing directly with a friendly travel agent can also get you exclusive access to special events just by asking. Really! It’s happened to us before!

So get out there and start planning your most amazing summer vacation ever!

This post was sponsored by FunJet and For a chance to win a family vacation for 4… RSVP HERE!