Friday, April 29, 2011

Vitamin D Anyone?

   Summer time is fast approaching, and we're getting into gear. We've got swim suits, flip flops, sand toys, sunscreen, and so on.This past week has found us at the park and friends house with one of the biggest front lawn blow-up water slides I've ever seen. Granted, the slide left cuts, scrapes and bruises on my kids that had me looking over my shoulder for child services. Besides that, good times. We purchased our own sand toy kit, since many of the children we've encountered are slightly possessive (to put it mildly). Of course the first day we use them, no less than ALL the kids at the park come over and want to play with them. We just kept an eye on our stuff, oh, and I put our last name on EACH piece in big, bold Sharpie pen.
   So as we approach the time of sunshine, warmth, and no school, I hope you're all gearing up too. We're planning day trips to the beach, Saturday morning canoe trips with 'Lil Miss, and the odd AAA baseball game nearby. Let me know what you're up too, it may give some ideas.
   If you need some inspiration, here's Summertime from Will Smith:


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Indoor Hopscotch

"Do not, on a rainy day, ask your child what he feels like doing, because I assure you that what he feels like doing, you won't feel like watching." - Fran Lebowitz

   The whole family was sick late last week, and if your family is anything like ours, cabin fever sets in rather quickly. Our two little 'uns are SO active, that even in sickness they have a ton of energy. Going outside is a limited activity during days of the plague, so we find ourselves breaking out the indoor tent and couch cushions to make the ULTIMATE fort. Twenty minutes later, when that got old, I had the brilliant idea to bring the "black top" games from my childhood school years to the indoors.
   Hopscotch is what first came to mind. So I grabbed an old roll of masking tape and got to work. I had to look up the basic rules of hopscotch, but we got there in the end. 'Lil Miss was all over it and played well after I was done. Days later, she was outlining the squares on the back patio with colored chalk so she could play outside. It was great, 'cuz it's helped her to learn some rules, taking turns, tossing her marker with some accuracy, balance, etc. What's more, we kept the television off that much longer.
   Up next will be indoor four square and indoor kick ball (........ ouch! Should we do that indoors?)

(p.s. Even old masking tape sticks pretty good to carpet. It DID come off, but I got worried for a minute there.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Father's Love

Papa Swann (right), circa 1955
Papa Swann (left), circa 1955

"Let me tell you a secret, about a father's love..." - A Love Without End, George Strait

   I've spent most of my life so far knowing that my father loves his children through action, not words. His dedication to exposing us to the best in sports, scouts, college, rent help, etc. have always shown that he cares. We've even heard second and third hand that his four boys are ALL he talks about, yet he's not much for touchy feely talk and expressing himself through words. I've spent the last decade or so ending each conversation with "Love 'ya pal." He knows I love him, and I know he loves me, even if it isn't said. That doesn't mean that I never want to hear it. My father-in-law attended his own father's funeral having never heard an expression of love in his life. I was concerned that may be the case for me. Until last week.
   I called on a whim, and we chatted about a dresser refurbish project. He quickly needed to be on his way, so we said our good-byes. "Okay, chat with you soon, pops. Love 'ya pal."
"Love you too. Later.", was his reply.
   I found myself staring at the floor, baffled. I glanced up and noticed that my hands in fists, raised above me head in triumph. Not knowing the last time I heard that out loud, I finished the day, and week, a very happy guy.
   My brothers and I have certainly gone the opposite direction. Whether it's a conscious choice, or just how it is these days, we are very vocal with our affection. It certainly goes a long way, as I've found out. Children notice when it's not there. They'll see it in movies, at their friends house, or wherever. Think about it. Make the decision that you won't leave this life without your children knowing how you feel (and not through purchases, yeah?)

"Daddy's don't just  love their children every now and then. It's a love without end, amen."


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pay It Forward

"Do unto others..."

   The above photo was taken after the following experience. I rolled up to the local baker to get a morning donut and drink. As I slid over to the register to pay, I heard a man call out in Spanish, saying something that neither I, nor the Korean girl behind the counter could understand. We both said, "No Espanol.", to which he replied, "No pay, no pay." The girl says, "What?", and he says, "No pay. I pay." She pauses and asks, "Are you sure?" He nodded, stood up from his chair in the corner, and walked over beside me. I looked at him with a smile and asked, "Why?" He smiled back, shrugged his shoulders and said in broken English, "Dunno,'s okay." I thanked him over and over again, then snapped the above picture.
   I don't know his name, but he will live forever in my memory. Not for covering my donut and drink, but for the thoughtful gesture that reminds me of the man, father, husband, and human that I want to be. I try to be this person all the time, but it can get away from me. I try to teach this principle to my 'Lil Gal, and live it day by day. In the hustle and bustle of everyday grind, this was a simple reminder of how I want to live. I look to pay it forward and do something nice for someone in the next day or two. Then, I'll try to be that person every day after.
   I challenge you to do the same.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stealth Baby

"The closer we are to danger the farther away we are from harm." - Pippin, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

   Observe the above image closely.   'Lil Man has some of The Wife's hair product in hand. We've found that he backs up to the nearest parents blind spot, and commences with the illegal act of choice. The Wife quoted Pippin, since it applies so well. 'Lil Man has found that if he announces his triumph, he will be chased down, tazed, cuffed, and hauled off to his wooden jail. It's much simpler to use ninja-baby stealth to commit his crimes. "Keep your friends close,...and your enemies closer."
   'Lil Man is truly a fun child to have. Yet, I can't help but wonder how much of this incident will carry over into his later years. Should I be using Photoshop to place a cigarette in his hand in the third frame? I don't actually worry about that stuff much. I just think it's hilarious that he does this at all. I know y'all have a story or two like this. Bring it.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Disney's Tangled - Review

Rapunzel: "I have made the decision to trust you."
Flynn Rider: "A horrible decision really."

   So trust me. My family recently rented Disney's "Tangled", and I was NOT disappointed. My wife and 'Lil Gal saw it in the theater for a birthday treat, but I was unable to attend due to the Little Man's nap schedule. We got all the treats, drinks, pillows, blankets and such in order. The movie was cued up and we were set to go.
   The movie flowed great, the animation was awesome, and the scenery/color palette were delightful. (Here's an interview with the directors, on The Disney Blog) The characters were easy to fall in love with, and the mother was easy to dislike. My favorite, though, was Max the horse. The animation behind his character nearly stole the show. His body language was great, and made me laugh several times. I also teared up a few times (yeah, I'm easy to manipulate).
   The sign of a good kid flick in our house is how much it infiltrates our daily lives. Not only does 'Lil Gal want to be Rapunzel for Halloween, we play the characters in her castle all the time. I play Flynn Rider and she is, of course, Rapunzel. There are a multitude of games and crafts that can follow a great film like Tangled. I like to think big and different, though. We were watching Disney Jr. and I saw the following:

   I'd better get started, eh?


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lil Gal's Crop Circles

"Could crop-circles be the work of a cereal killer?" - Steven Wright

   So Lil Gal has been creating what I call her "crop circles" for some time now. It started with lining up blocks in order of size. Then it was book lined up in order of size. Soon after it was a mix of blocks, books, dolls, stuffed animals and so on. At first I was just a father looking on admiringly. The last half dozen have made me want to start documenting them. It feels like Close Encounter of the Third kind, "This means something! This is important!" Notice the time taken to arrange the items picture by plant type. Leaves (green), sticks (brown), flower petals (pink). It's as if she's setting up a landing strip, for VERY small aliens.
   In a time where creative programs, arts, and music are being swept under the rug to save money for other things, I want these "crop circles" to go on as long as they can. In fact, lil gal and I are using found bits of nature to make us a fairy house (post to come). I'm trying to keep the creative side working hard as she is starting to be taught the organized side of math and writing. It's all about balance, yeah?
   At the very least, she'll continue to keep me guessing. Just what do they mean?


Great parody of Close Encounters (10 min.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dads and Donuts

"We'll get him a doughnut."
"He likes jelly."
"[to HOSEHEAD] Jelly doughnut comin." - Strange Brew

   One of my favorite weekend treats, is to head to the local bakery in the morning and score me and the kids some fresh baked donuts. While I try to maintain "it's for the kids", it's certainly to get my fix as well. Little gal's favorite used to be ANYTHING with sprinkles. Lately she's trying out some raised glazed and such.
   I've noticed many of the other dad blogs are hovering around the same message. Take the time to spend with your kids. I try not to rush us out of the store. I take the long route to get there and play some of our (my) favorite songs along the way (Barroom Hero, below). I try to go out of my way to have conversation with my little gal, even little brother. It's taking the time. Take it, you'll be glad you did.
I asked little gal: The most important thing about going to get donuts?
Her response: "Don't forget to bring little brother."



I leave you with my Saturday morn' donut run anthem:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cheerios Butt

"I'm a Fruit Loop in a world of Cheerios"

   I was reading a series of blog entries from a fellow dad who ended his blogging career in 2009. Still worth a read at Looky Daddy, he was pointing our some little, and funny things that indicate that you are a parent. Sure, I get comments about how blue my kids eyes are. There are few about how much they look like my wife (I guess provided very little in the way of looks). However, it's the things that indicate you're a parent, even when your kids are nowhere to be seen.
   Take last night at the local Panda Express. I was next in line and the server gave me a Golden Treasure Shrimp, recently off the frying pan. As I put the hot lava rock in my mouth, she asks what I want. "MMphhhhhblurbapor..." After I got the real order out, I turned to the lady behind me and mouthed, "That was hot!" She giggled a bit. Then my night was made.

"Do you have a toddler?" she asks.
"Mmmmmm, yeah?" I reply, wondering if she has the force.
"'Cuz you have a Cheerio stuck to your butt.", she said before busting up laughing.

   I turned Golden Treasure Shrimp orange and laughed with her. I knew this day would come. I held onto it for a minute, wondering if I should bronze it as a keepsake. Maybe put it on a chain and wear it around as a badge of honor. I'm a fully functional dad. Cheerios on the butt and all.


Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, "Oooooo."
Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.
- Family Guy

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Dad Blogs.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Beach Boys

"If everybody had an ocean, across the U.S.A. Then everybody'd be surfin', like Californi-a"  - Beach Boys

   So we recently spent some time with family in Mission Bay, San Diego. My 5 year old spent her time being chased by encroaching waves. I spent my time getting my 1 year old boy used to the idea that the same water can kill you. The lesson was lost. He just wanted to sit in the water. We were there as the sun set on a beautiful day. I was focused on the moment. Bills, pay, leaky water faucet, etc. were all forgotten.
    We all need that time. Whether it's the beach, the mountains, the local park, the mall. Find the time to be with your brood, 'yer critters, them rugrats. I used to spend a lot of time bad mouthing my old man, and how little he focused on us. As I've gotten older and wiser (p-yeah! right!), I realize just how much time he DID focus on us. Hikes, father/son campouts, sporting events, rodeos, post-symphonic band ice cream trips, etc. I have a vast archive of stories and experiences, and I am now trying to create them with my own. In fact, daughter is behind me, begging me to play "hotel". I'm off.