A modest proposal on play

I pick the boys up from school and hang out at the school while the kids play tether ball and run around. I play tag on the playground before gather all the lunch boxes, coats, and school work to head home. At home I play Angry birds and Mouse Trap, both high setup games before making breakfast for dinner. We chat about school and soccer and goofy faces over bacon, eggs, and hash browns. After dinner I sit down with Primo and help him read a book before reading another book that Segundo picked out. Needing to get back to some work I put on hold to spend some quality time with my kids I told them that I needed to finish up work. Immediately both kids started whining and complaining that I ALWAYS work and that I never PLAY with them. I stood there slack jawed just staring at them. Really? Really? I mean Seriously?

This makes me question the idea of playing and engaging with my kids at all. I’m not sure it’s as important as everyone makes out to be if they forget about it seconds after you stop playing. I mean if kids have such short term memories then maybe I’m wasting my time playing with them. This might be a better time to teach them to find their own way by ignoring them completely. If I focus on what I need to do instead of spending so much learning the animals of each Power Ranger or perfecting fort construction in the living room than I might be more successful at work. I could be moving my way up the corporate ladder with the extra time I would have to focus on finding the right silly voice for Skippy John Jones. I’m doing them a disservice by not teaching them that people will really disappoint you and you need to look out for yourself.

All this research on parent engagement is a crock. Kids don’t remember the times you played, only the times you did not. So I think that by never playing with the kids I will help them learn at an early age how to take care of themselves. I will be preparing them better for the world as it is instead of wasting their time with frivolity. I might be on to something here, I’ll need some more time to suss it out.

Foster Farms tries to make the Corn Dog Healthier

The fine folks at Foster Farms are trying to save the Corn Dog in school lunches as we try to find healthier ways of feeding our kids. They have come up with a 100% Whole Grain, Lower-Fat, Lower-Sodium Chicken Dog that aims to bring that same corn dog taste without that whole fattening up our kids thing. The boys and I were sent some of these corn dogs to try out ourselves and we liked them quite a bit. I’m not a dietician so I can’t speak to how healthy they are but as for their taste I can say they are great. Don’t take my word for it, listen to what the boys had to say:

The case of the ceiling fan and the stuck shirt

Last month the boys got to spend some time with their cousin and we got some quality time with him and his mom. We had a great time with them here but the best part was watching the three boys figure out how to get shirt off the ceiling fan. If you are wondering how the shirt got on the fan then you likely don’t have young kids. The only proof I need to know that I am teaching my kids well is found at the end of this video when Primo gives us some words to live by.

Showing versus telling in battle of getting dressed

I don't need no stinkin jacket, I got a tattoo

Here in Portland we have been in full on wintery mix for the last two weeks. Sometimes it snows, other times it rains, but it’s always cold. Each morning I have to get one or both of the boys to school so we have same discussion minutes before heading out the door: “Grab a coat boys, it’s cold out today” “But daddy I don’t want to wear a coat, I want freeze on my arms.” I know that as we walk from the car to Primo’s class room the boys are going to be whiny little punks because they are so cold so I fight the battle right there and make them put on a coat.

This morning I was thinking about it as we headed towards our lockers to bundle up for the trip. I told the boys it was cold out, opened the door to let them feel it, and then told them i thought they should put on a warm coat. Primo grabbed a sweater and a coat but Segundo ran outside to find his bike in his quarter sleeves. Without getting frustrated I reminded him that it was cold out and that I would not be giving up my jacket or toque so he needed to be sure. He’s four years old so he’s sure about everything until he changes his mind so off to school we went with no extra covering.

He was cold on the walk to school. He cried and whined and pleaded for my hat to put his hands in to keep warm. I didn’t let him have it. Lessons were being taught, impression being made for next time. I felt bad for him and thought I should have brought a bail out jacket stashed in the car for this kind of situation but the cold wasn’t going to kill him. We were only out in the elements for a couple of minutes, just long enough for the lesson to sink in I hope. We will see what happens tomorrow when it’s time to gather our things for the trip to school. Maybe four is too young for lessons like that to be taught and retained but when I think of the type of kids that I want to raise it seems important. I want boys who make good decisions on their own and not just because some one makes them do things. I try to always come back to that picture of the adults I hope my boys become when evaluating parenting decisions.

Is a snake edible?

Long road trips were a family tradition while I was growing up and our family would play “My Grandfather’s Store” whenever we were out on the open road. The game is a variation of 20 questions where someone while start by saying “there’s something in my grandfather’s store that starts with an S” and then everyone else in the car starts asking yes or no questions until someone correctly guess the mystery S word. We have started playing the game with our boys on longer drives and they are quickly learning the questions to ask. You can almost guarantee that if Segundo is them one coming up with the mystery word then it’s a superhero. Primo will go back and forth between superheros and fruit so you have to think a little more. Most of the time My Grandfather’s store is a grocery store so the first question is always “Is it Edible?” Primo knows what edible means but apparently Segundo does not. Last week while my brother was here he started the game on a drive to pick up Primo from school and Segundo excitedly joined in:

M: “There’s something in my grandfather’s store that starts with an s”

S: “Is it Edible?”

M: “Yes”

S: “It’s a snake isn’t it?”

M:(laughing) “No it’s not a snake, I don’t think a snake is edible.”

S: “Is it a slug?”

M:(laughing harder) “You don’t eat a slug Segundo, do you know what edible means?”

S: “Is it Super Man!”

The game went on with me narrowing it down to a fruit, that was red, that was a berry, that started with straw. Segundo still didn’t know what it was and had my brother and I cracking up as he went through the clues out loud.

S: “It’s a fruit, that’s a berry, and it starts with straw”

Dad: “Say that again but switch the words”

S: “It’s a straw that starts with berry?”

D: “ok now just say the two words”

S: “straw  …….berry, STRAWBERRY! I did it!”

It took Segundo about 10 minutes to finally get strawberry, but it was 10 minutes of pure comedy for Mark and I. We told him what that edible means you can eat it but the next time we played the game that information didn’t seem to stick.

First in toughness, second in birth order

This picture above shows the faint scratch that Segundo had under his right eye. The filter from Instagram lightened bright red line that I first noticed some 30 minutes after he had hurt himself. If Primo had done this the whole neighborhood would have known instantly as he screamed and writhed on the ground as if he had been harpooned from a Japanese whaling ship. It takes a lot more to get Segundo to even cry, let alone scream in pain. I’ve seen him walk into a table, fall off our tall bed, flip over the steamer trunk in our living room, and take a header while running on the sidewalk outside. He pauses, asses the situation, and then usually says “I’m ok, it’s ok, I’m ok.” There are plenty of times where he gets hurt enough to cry but his threshold for pain is much higher than his older brother. It might be because Segundo falls, runs into, trips, and crashes far more than his brother does. He seems to have a wider stream of data to draw from when it comes to gauging pain. Primo, on the other hand, has a smaller sample and therefore no measurable difference between a bump and having his leg severed above the knee. While I try not to let their difference threshold affect me I have used the phrase “Sack up” a time or two for Primo. once in a while I get in a better response of “take a second to figure out how hurt you are, and what the reaction should be …..” so that I don’t come running every time I hear an anguished scream. One of these days he will be eaten by a wolf because I didn’t respond, or at least I think that’s how the story goes.

Like chess, only different

During quiet time yesterday Primo came up with a game. He lined up various small pieces in two lines across from each other with a canon and gold chest in the middle. After playing a few rounds himself he came out of his room and asked if I wanted to play his new game. It’s like chess he said, but not really like chess at all. I asked how you play the game and he said its easier to just get started. So we lined up our pieces with no real rhyme or reason for who went where. He told me I was team two and he was team one and team one went first, naturally.

“The guys can move forward or ‘dee-oganally’ like this” he told me as he moved the Flash figure in front of my Mater. I moved The Penguin forward and he told me that was a great move. “How do you win?” I asked, and he told me that “you have to capture the canon and the gold and who ever has both of them wins. If you get one and someone else gets the other then no one wins and no one ties and no one is good” This sounds like tough game but I push forward. Hawkman captures The Penguin on his next move so I counter with Mater taking out Flash. He tells me we have a really good game going and I am proud of myself for some reason. He is clearly making this up as we go but it feels good to be doing well in his imagination.

After a few more piece swaps he uses Professor Z to knock the canon over and declares that he has now captured the canon. I use Superman to knock over the gold and he tells me that no one wins and no one ties and no one is good. Where I felt pride before I now had a troubling feeling. “No one is good?” I asked. “That just means we play again.” So we set the pieces up again and I got to go first. I tried using Superman to block him from the canon and I had once again made a great move. He even had Beautiful come in the room to see what I just did. She had questions about the game that had no answers so she was quickly sent away again. He captured the canon with a ‘dee-oganal’ move and when I used Superman to capture one of his pieces he let out a loud AHA! and captured the gold too. The bad news is I had lost the game, but the good news was that everyone was good.

I still don’t understand the game but I love playing with the little man. He even told me that it would be hard for me to win since he can change the rules when ever he wants because it was his game. I’m fine with never winning this game, as long as I get to see his eyes light up when I make a great move, or hear him explain how to move ‘dee-oganally’