Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014


"Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
- Star Spangled Banner

   Two nights ago, our little ones asked what Veteran's Day was. They knew it was a blissful day off from school for sure, but not what the occasion marked. The conversation continued through yesterday when both our 8YO and 4YO asked more about it while we were in the car. We explained, they nodded, and then our 4YOU blurted out, "I see a white van!" (sigh.....)

   My last Veteran's Day post was from 2012, which was short and sweet. This year I say a quiet thank you to my two grandfathers for their service in the Army Air Corp.
Everett Howard Swann (left) 1918-1975     -     Arthur Wayne Schofield (right) 1922-2013

   Recently, my aunt discovered some letters from my great uncle to his parents, sent home during WWII in 1942. This was a beloved brother, son, and husband, who joined the service in an answer to his country's call. It was a terrible time of war (and is reflected in some of his language). I consider the time and circumstance of a nation at war. My great uncle Fred was killed while in service,  and never made it home. That makes it hard to read the line, "I can't say where I have been but will tell you one of these days when I get back." I stumbled across the article to the right some time ago that features both brothers AND their father enlisted at the same time. As my grandfather put it, "It's just something we all felt that we needed to do." I admire the snapshot we get from great uncle Fred's letter. Love for his wife, respect for his father, and a love for his country. Below is the letter transcribed from the letter photocopied and sent to me. I never knew my great uncle, but this little piece of him survived and ties me to him, even if a little bit more. 

June 20, 1942

Dear Mother and Dad,

    Gosh it sure was swell to hear from you. I received your Christmas card and letter and was sure happy to receive them. It gets so darn lonesome over here without my adorable wife. I sure do miss her. But I guess a fellow would miss a person a awful lot if he loved his wife as much as I do.

    Well pop I guess I have seen some of the places you have seen. At the present time I am in Australia, + I am now in non-combat zone and so things are pretty quiet. I can't say where I have been but will tell you one of these days when I get back.

    You know those Japs are sure poor shots. They never did hit anything when they did their bombing. I think I could do better with my eyes closed than those slant-eyed so & so can with their eyes open. The good old U.S. Air Force are sure raising hell --- with the Japs though. The boys fly over their targets then come back and tell us how they sure made things hot for all Nipon [Nippon]. You know I don't see why those Japs don't quit because they sure bit off more than they can chew when they picked on the good old U.S.A.

   Gosh I never in my whole life realized what the United States meant to me until I left to come over here. It is the most wonderful place in the whole world. I heard the National Anthem played the other day and it reminded me of the States and sent chills up + down my spine I thought what a wonderful country I live in. I imagine you can understand how I feel pop being you were away from the States.

   You know Australia is somewhat like the States even though it is 20 years behind us. The climate is a lot the same though they haven't the snow like we have in the States.

   Well it is 11:30 so I guess it is time to go to bed so will close now till my next letter.

    Well good night,

    Fred

   So celebrate Veteran's Day by having some time off if you're able, and remember those who serve and have served our country to defend our freedoms.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Days When I Feel Like An Island



"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent." - John Donne

   Every once in a while, we all feel like an island. Cut off from our family, friends, and peers, it can appear that it's us against the world. There are a million reasons to be left feeling like an island, so I won't bother with a list. My most recent has been another round of unemployment. As one of my last interviewers said, "It looks like you've just had a run of bad luck." Er....uh.....yup, that's it. While layoffs, empty nest syndrome, and the like are all fair reasons to be left feeling like that proverbial "island", I've come to rely on the fact that it just isn't true.

   I am blessed and lucky to have a wealth of people in my corner. Friends and family abound, and help to make hardships easier. At the very, VERY least, I have a wonderful wife, and kids who still think I'm a rock star (circa 2014, so we'll see what the future holds). I've seen Internet threads of people who feel they have next to no support in their life, and in response they get a barrage of total strangers answering their plea. Lesson learned? You're never alone, and you're never and island. It just feels like that.

   I most recently realized it has a lot to do with pride, and letting others in. If you don't allow others to help, then you will ultimately receive no help. Seems simple, but there's nothing more aggravating than someone moaning about no one caring after getting multiple offers to be of assistance. I've tried to strip away my pride, and allow people into my life who are there out of love and compassion. They would be unable to offer assistance, unless I provide a bridge. It's a simple concept, but can feel like a mountain to overcome.

I'm not an island. It just feels like it sometimes. You're never alone. Remember that.

And so,...I leave you with Disney/Pixar's "Someone To Lava" from an upcoming animated short in 2015.


All my best,

J.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Friday Flush #14

The Friday Flush #14
   The Friday Flush was intended to be a place where I dropped little nuggets of goodness from the net on my fellow man. There will be days where it is all very relevant, and other days where it is mindless dribble with links to support my brain doodling. Whether it is to inspire, show off, or anything in between, I love to share. Today is more inspiration. I stumbled across some good stuff and present to you cellos with a vengance, craftsman paint, and a sweet white noise maker for online or your smartphone.


2Cellos
I've always had a love for the cello. I played the violin as a boy for a year or two, and have always been moved by the stirring vibration of the low strings. I also have a love for metal. When I stumbled across the 2Cellos, I was blown away. The Wife and I love the old English period movies, so when I saw the still picture of this YouTube video, I was intrigued,....and then blown away. Once these guys were discovered by Sir Elton John, the rest has become history. I watched several videos from their channel on YouTube, and we were both entranced. I encourage you to do that same.

Milk Paint
If you love DYI projects of any kind, you've gotten your hands dirty with paint at some point or another. In the past two years, the wife and I have gravitated away from turn key furniture purchases, and have now come to enjoy re-purposing pieces into something we envision and then turn into a reality. One of the materials we've come to love is milk paint. This is a artisan paint that comes in powder form. It can certainly scare people off, as we've become accustomed to fast food ready-made paint from our local hardware store. The Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint that we use allows for more control over what you're putting on the piece, and flakes in a way that gives each piece its own unique aged look. An example of the result on a bench piece can be found on our craft website here. It's worth reading up on and trying out if you want to push the envelope of what you can do with paint. Miss Mustard Seed's Milk paint is a great place to start, and her site has a wealth of information to get you started.

A Soft Murmur
I was never a person who needed white noise to fall asleep. Until we had children, and now we use them for home and travel. It's a way to knock down all the little noises that occur during a nap at home, or when the teenagers are sprinting down the hall of a hotel. My little ones can sleep soundly with some decent white noise. We've used an app here and there, until the day I stumbled across A Soft Murmur. Just take a look at the options to fiddle with. The volume sliders allow you to custom tailor your sounds, and there are plenty of them to choose from. I had them all up at once thinking it'd be too much, until my eyes got heavy. so the jokes on me. As of this post, you can use it from any browser, and through Google Play store. It's free, so why not take it for a spin? I was thrilled to find it, so I'm sure you will too. 

Alas, another Friday Flush has come and gone. We've rocked out to some smooth cello rock, discovered some new painting materials, and found yet another way to become sleepy through sound aids. Enjoy your weekend, and until next time!

J.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chef - Movie Review Of Inspiration


"I may not do everything great in my life, but I'm good at this. I manage to touch people's lives with what I do and I want to share this with you." - Carl Casper, Chef
  
The Wife and I sat down to relax with Chef, written/directed/starring Jon Favreau. It ended with us staying up WAY to late, planning our next several projects. The movie was that inspiring. While you can certainly get the professional synopsis via IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes, here's my take. 

Jon Favreau is a great writer/director/actor. The ensemble chosen for the film gels together VERY nicely. What I mean is that I got lost in the characters instead of realizing, "Hey, Robert Downey Jr. is playing a great pretentious ex-husband!" Each actor brought their own "flavor" to Chef (pun STRONGLY intended), without taking over any scene. The music throughout the film had me grooving in my seat, and the food shots made me hungry even though it was close to bedtime. The father/son portion of the story was relevant to me as I navigate my relationship with my own children of 9 and 5 as of this post, and added another cute layer to the plot line.  

   With the little craft business The Wife and I are trying to get going (The Cheeky Nest), the film left us inspired to create. We both had so much going on in our minds that it was hard to sleep and I was up way earlier than usual the next morning. We actually ended up watching it two nights in a row. This is a great film and will go in our top 10 favs in The Cheeky House.

J.

P.S. Here's the trailer for Chef.



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Carrying The Sleeping Kids In From The Car


Good Guy Greg, Reddit.com
Knows his kids are pretending to sleep in the back seat.
Carries them inside anyway. 

   I saw this meme on Reddit and thought of my father when I was a kid, and now me as a father of three (NOT the weed bit,....that's just the meme, for better or for worse). Back when I was a little tike, I pulled the same trick on my father. It would be the end of a long drive at night, back from some family event. I was never able to sleep in the car, but was never "awake" by the time we rolled into the driveway. My father would always pick me up and take me up to my bed before my mother would help us get our pajamas on. There were four of us boys, and sometimes he would shuttle more than one of us in at the end of a trip. In that, my dad was a Good Guy Greg.

    Now that I'm a proud papa of three, my 4YO 'Lil Man is currently faking sleep when we pull into the driveway after an evening out. If the 'Lil Miss is looking tired, I'll carry her too. I feel like I have been passed the torch of fatherhood and I get a bit of the warm fuzzies when I think I get to do something for my children that my father did for his. We loved it and it endeared him to us is some small part. I feel that our little ones will remember that dad carried them in, even if they were just faking the sleep.

   When I think of the choice we make as parents to have children, I know we've chosen a life of sacrifice. We've accepted that our lives will change and giving will take up the better part of our lives from day one of NO SLEEP! The rewards are immeasurable, despite the hard times that go hand in hand with being a parent. I try to remember to be open to the fun and memorable experiences of being a father. My hope is that our little ones will pass on the traditions to their children one day.

J.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Building Your Child's Confidence.

 
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt  

   Recently our older two (8 and 4 years old at time of post) have had some crowning moments in their extracurricular activities that turned my thoughts to the topic of confidence. I would have called myself a confident child. Even with the praise of a diligent mother, I could easily be swayed from being sure of myself. I can pinpoint a few times before I turned 18 that could be labeled as moments where I felt confident, and sports teams appear to be the top contenders for how that happened.

   For our 'Lil Miss, she joined a small cheer team. After near two months of practice, they performed at a college in front of hundreds of people. For a girl that can second guess every social situation to tears, she said her butterflies left her body as the team took the floor and they performed a near flawless routine. The energy was coming off of her the entire time and such a great showing made the day that much more sweet for her. It was her first trophy and you could tell how much the whole experience meant to her. In the short time following, she's already expressing interest in other activities that we are sure will build on the confidence that we're already seeing grow within her.

   For our 'Lil Man, T-Ball is about half over, and hitting off the T was replaced with coach pitching. I had been working on that at home, but never expected it this season. During the allotted 90 minutes, my little buddy swung with all his might during his first and second at bat with no success. His third clipped the top of the ball for a bunt-like single. As the game came to a close, and coach yelled out "last batter" to the other team, my 'Lil Man swung once, then connected on the second pitch. The ball sailed into the outfield and brought in loaded bases. The entire group of parents cheered him on and the coach scooped the entire small team of 6 boys in his arms saying how great they ended the game. Our little guy was beaming the rest of the day, and couldn't wait for his next game.

  As I recalled the events with a neighbor, I thought how much these activities can give to our little ones. My comment was that whatever my little ones were destined for, it was my job to give them opportunities to shine, build character and confidence, and be their biggest fan along the way. We can provide the vehicle for these budding minds to be strong and independent. I think we just need to keep trying to be selfless and give them their time to build their courage.

J.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Your Child's Homework Habits

 
"Homework: Because 7 hours of schoolwork wasn't enough." - Unknown
 
   We here at The Cheeky House are neck deep in the beginnings of our eldest child's homework. Being in 2nd grade, there is getting to be a little bit more, and we're still working on what is best for our 'Lil Miss to do well and get the most out of it. The Wife was the last of 5 children and her parents were pretty much done helping with homework the time she came along. I was habitual about lying that I didn't have any homework, which probably explains a lot about my high school and college grades. Wanting to break the cycle of both, we're working on some ways to help our wee ones succeed with their homework, after all that schoolwork during the day.
 
   I visited Parent.com, which had a great article 7 Ways to Establish Good Homework Habits that highlights some great ideas to make homework productive. The two that we've specifically focused in on are:
 
Designate a regular place to do homework  -  We tried the desk attached to the kids' bunk bed, and that doesn't work, unless there is supervision (not enough room). We've chosen the kitchen table. It also needs to be added that the distractions of television, siblings, doing dishes, etc. can ALL impede a good homework session.
 
Designate a regular time to do homework - Can I play first, watch a show first, or anything else first, are all ways to procrastinate. Take it from the Procrastination Champion 1981-89, if it's put off, it will not be done. That's as true with our kids as it was with me. We have our 'Lil Miss do her homework right after a quick snack so that it's done. Then she can move onto her own projects.
 
The other five ways that were great ideas are:
 
- Let your child play a role in the setting the rules.
- Observe your child's homework habits.
- Don't do your child's homework for her.
- Give positive feedback.
- Keep in touch with your child's teacher. If your child
 
   So the battle rages on, and will for some time. It's important to us that our children do better than we and our parents did. It sure feels like an uphill battle, but the above suggestions feel like a great road map to success. Now it's just keeping it up. (sigh......)
 
J.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Keeping Promises With Your Children


"Magic trick: to make people disappear, ask them to fulfill their promises." - Mason Cooley

   A promise is something that seems to its meaning over time. When we're young it floats between a method to get 15 more minutes of play time all the way to the unbreakable bond between child and a friend or parent.

   As a young boy, I questioned the strength of a promise when my parents divorced. Not understanding what divorce really meant, I can recall the fragility of any promise thereafter. I figured if the family wasn't the promise of a bond that lasted, then what was? My buddy promising we'd double date to prom was an unstable prospect, and I had a hard time finding faith in a promise from that point on.

   Fast forward to becoming a father and the definition ebbs and flows again. "I promise we can do it tomorrow" can seem hollow when a parent is just hoping the subject will be forgotten by the next day. Soon, in the blink of an eye, our little ones are calling us out on our promises and we as parents are left caught in a broken bond by our biological constituents.

   A recent promise was made to our 'Lil Miss that we would dress up her bed corner. Shadow boxes, cork board, and artwork were all included in a promise that we would put it all up. It was promised "tomorrow" for three days, until our sweet little one called us out on it, reminded us that we'd promised it for several times. The feeling between us parents was that we needed to keep the simple promises if we hopes she would trust the complex ones. It is also a lesson so that we can trust hers. So we took the time to get her little corner all set up, and the result was well worth the work. She was beaming and wanted to invite all her friends over to see it.

   It was a reminder that we're only as good as our word. While circumstances can change, I believe we need to be more careful when we're promising things to our little ones. They hold us to it and I'm trying to be true to my word more these days.

J.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When I Got Caught Shoplifting



“I left my money somewhere, probably in your wallet. Let me check.
” - Jarod Kintz, 

   When I was twelve, I was at the local grocer with a friend, looking through the candy isle. I had my eye on the row of Jelly Bellies, and I wasn't leaving without a nice bag full of the sweet goodness. Money? Pfffttt,.....no, I didn't have the money for it. I was wearing an over sized army surplus jacked with some BIG pockets. I looked left and right, slipped the large bag of my score into the jacket pocket, and made my way out of the store. A young associate jogged up behind me and politely asked me to empty my pockets. I was busted, had to call my mom, and later explain to her and my father just what the heck I was thinking. I did community service, and didn't go back to the store for months out of shame.

   The topic of our children's future came up recently in a conversation with The Wife. A teenager in the family had been caught in an untruth regarding his evening whereabouts and it got us thinking about the personalities of our little ones. It was agreed that my 8YO is a terrible liar, but our 4YO might be a problem. While the eldest is sweet and kind, honest and innocent, our second child can fall outside of that. So we discuss how we can keep them on a path that doesn't land them in community service.

   When I was caught, my father had later asked me why I didn't just ASK for the money, since we most certainly had it. After a few shrugs and "I dunno", it came out that I'd grabbed some smaller items and was never caught. The items got bigger until my hand was "caught in the cookie jar". I knew stealing was bad, but tried it a few times and didn't look back. So what changed? I realized we didn't talk about a lot of topics when I was young. The Wife and I are trying to bring up a lot more than we remember hearing about. The world seems smaller and more intense than I remember it, and I think a lot of parents agree with that, no matter the age. So it is our charge to talk more to our children. Not just about stealing, but about everything. Talk and talk a lot, about a lot of things. When we open the lines of communication, great things can happen. Let us all just try.

J.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When Children Find Their Courage

 
"Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway." - John Wayne
 
   We gave our 'Lil Miss earrings for Christmas just two months ago. She'd walked past the booth at the mall for months before, daring herself to get her ears pierced. Her ears were still soft and sweet, as we never got them done in her first year the way many people choose to. In the past year or two, she's asked more about it. When we gave her a cute set of colorful ear bling to get her started, there was no turning back.
 
   Our children are a perfect blend of their parents. The Cheeky Daddy is soft and emotional, while The Cheeky Mommy is determined and a go getter. So yesterday, walking past the booth yet again, she stopped her mother and said, "I want to get my ears done,.....today." After a quick chat, it was clear, she'd found her courage. She knew she was scared, and did it anyway. I got the image while working, and my heart swelled at the thought of my 'Lil Miss facing a dragon. I mean, to an 8 year old, that kind of impending pain is a massive, green scaled, fire-breathing, sharp horned, razor-clawed dragon, isn't it?
 
   As parents, we've been trying to help our children find their courage. "Don't be afraid to catch the baseball!", has been changed for my son to, "Be brave and keep trying!" It's working for sure, as my sweet young woman couldn't stop talking about how afraid she was before, during, and after the whole event. Yet, she found her courage, and I can't wait to see where that takes her.
 
J.