Monday, December 31, 2012

Blog Anniversary - Art Projects


"I intend to live forever -- so far, so good!" - Stephen Wright
 
   Today is The Cheeky Daddy's 2 year anniversary. As with any two year old, there's been a lot of kicking and screaming. I started off strong, slowed down after a bit, and am now back in the game. Time certainly flies, but I find that even in the busiest of times, I can fit in posts about being a father, husband, or just me.
   For my bloggiversary, I painting plaster horses. They were a gift to my 'Lil Miss from her horse riding grandmother. It was the Fantasy Plaster Horses that are only $12.97 at Walmart. They were super easy, there was plenty of paint to complete the two enclosed horses and cleanup was a breeze. The time with my 'Lil Miss on some "arts and craps" as she calls it was priceless. It was a fun project. The above pic was my little side project to commemorate The Cheeky Daddy's 2nd blog birthday. Fun stuff.
   Being New Year's Eve, be safe out there, and all my best.
 
J.
('Lil Miss hard at work painting her Fantasy Plaster Horses)
 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Choosing Green Products


"It's not easy being green." - Kermit the Frog

   I was at a local baby store, when I passed a large kiosk that looked like the picture I took above. It was ALL kinds of green. While the color evokes a feeling of "I could probably eat that natural product!", I realized how far we'd come as a family with our use of "green" products. The Wife is a research junky, so it only makes sense that we've reviewed dozens of products that we use on a regular basis to find the ones that are truly more "green". We do it mainly for our children's sensitive skin, but also to not be breathing toxic fumes through pregnancies or in daily life. 

   Discussing green products as a whole, it's important to remember that we don't live in Utopia. There are those such as ECOS, Method, Clorox Green Works, and SC Johnson's Nature's Source that Stephen Ashkin, executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, says that are trying to put "real muscle" behind their claims. Others use 1 less toxic ingredient and claim their product is "healthier". The article mentions ways to DIY here, to control the ingredients that are in your cleaners. It's also mentions that while shopping, look for these things.

   For our part, we've chosen the following regularly used products for our household:

Seventh Generation Disinfecting Spray Cleaners - By Clean Well, a multi-surface cleaner that's for general purpose in our house.
Green Works Natural Glass Cleaner - By Clorox, this is just one of the their many naturally derived cleaning products to choose from.
Method Multi -Surface - By Method, it's just what it says. We use this for a lot of our surfaces around the house.
Method Antibac Kitchen Cleaner - By Method, we use this around the kitchen, more for the orange scent.

Hope this helps, and happy green cleaning.

J.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cute Child Pictures


buttocks (n) [buht-uh ks] 

Synonyms: back end, backside, behind, bottom, bum, butt, derriere, fanny, 
fundament, gluteus maximus, haunches, hindquarters, posterior, rear, rump, seat

   As my 'Lil Man gets older, he's taken on simple bedtime tasks. He brushes his teeth, washes his face, gets his PJs on, and so forth. Now that he's potty trained, he takes care of "nature's business" as well. I went in to check how far he'd gotten down the checklist and glanced down to see a half moon staring back at me. I remembered the line from Austin Powers "It's like two hams!" 

   I don't have a ton of cute child pictures, but I have the ones that count. I'll never been on America's Funniest Home Videos, but I have the ones that make me chuckle. I feel so fortunate to have access to the kinds of pictures I have of my wee ones. They're precious to me, both pictures and the kids. I try to back up from my computer's hard drive to an external once every month or so. There's a review of the top 10 online backups here. It's not such a chore and I know I won't loose ALL my memories in one computer crash. That would be terrible, and I've heard of it happening. 

   I hope we all can grab a candid shot or two along the way. If not to make us laugh, then to use as blackmail when we need them to do something later, once they've grown up a bit (insert evil laugh). 

J. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Thing About Grandparents




"Being grandparents sufficiently removes us from
the responsibilities so that we can be friends."
- Allan Frome
 
   Yesterday's Christmas activities will be entered in the log as one of the best. Good times, good people, good food. It also came with a stomach ache from cookies and chocolates in abundance. Just after dinner our 'Lil Man complained about his tummy hurting. He was almost to the toily when he defiled the bathroom floor. He apologized over and again about how he tried to make it. He was put in a shallow bath, over much complaining. I went back downstairs to help with the baby and was passed by my step-father, who was on his way up to see how he could help. My mother thought he was over stepping his responsibility, but I reassured her that it was worth a try. After a minute or two the crying stopped and I said, "It must have worked." I went back upstairs to peek in his room and saw the scene pictured above.
   A grandfather lay next to his grandson. His big booming voice was now a soft hum of love, attention, and understanding. His big burly hands were now a soft blanket of comfort and affection. My 'Lil Man was calm, quiet, and sweetly responsive to grandpa's questions meant to distract. Once he was sure his job was done, he silently excused himself while we finished an early bedtime routine.
   The thing about grandparents is, they're needed, no matter what. The quote above hits the mark like none other. They're excused from parental responsibilities that we enforce on a daily basis and can give attention and support to add on top of what parents provide. It was there in LARGE amounts last night, and my heart was full upon seeing it.
   I see varying levels of participation as grandparents through friends and close family. In a day where parents are needed more than ever, I see that applies to grandparents as well. My hope is that we can all have that too. Happy holidays to all of you and your families.
 
J. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Good and Bad Visits With Santa

(Photo Credit: Emily C., via Yahoo!)


"Oh please, there's only one fat guy who brings us presents, and his name ain't Santa." 
- Bart, The Simpsons

   I saw the pics of Bad Santa Photos over at Yahoo! and couldn't resist a little commentary. Take a peek at the link, as those are some FUNNY pics. I don't know if we as parents should be a little ashamed of the terror that we inflict on our little ones, but it's funny nonetheless. 

   We've been through some crying ourselves with our first two. This year, both 'Lil Miss and 'Lil Man were excited to see St. Nick. Our Wee Lass is too little to notice, so time will tell for her. We've all seen the reaction to any new figure that looks MASSIVELY out of the norm. Characters at Disneyland can have the same effect. How we deal with that as a parent is up to the parent AND the mood. Do you want to ease them into it with explanation? Or do you toss them in the deep end and start filming? Good times. 

   I remember a few visits with Santa before the magic left. Then I saw The Polar Express on opening night in the theatre. The magic was back, and I cried like a baby. I didn't realize how much I missed the magic of the season. The tradition of St. Nicholas and all that surrounded him. Share your stories, please? 

J. 

p.s. Here's a pic of The Cheeky Daddy, December of 1975


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tradition In A Sweet Movie Moment


"I had one when I was eight years old." - The old man, A Christmas Story.

   My brothers and I watched A Christmas Story every year since about '85 or so. Even into our marriages, it comes out for viewing if we're together or at home with our own crew. I dusted off our copy and watched it this morning with the kids. They usually last until the opening credits are done on any film, and then proceed to bug anyone they can. They ended up watching the whole thing!

   I can recite most of the film from memory, so I know what's coming at each scene. So it surprised me when I started to tear up at the end when The Old Man watches Ralphy open his BB gun gift. I watched the parents and their reactions to the gift and each other. As my 'Lil Man is getting older and I ponder what to get him for birthdays and Christmas, the scene seemed to hold more special meaning. While the score helped set the mood, the reaction The Old Man has to passing on a tradition to his son was what got me. Sure, the entire rest of the film he was a stereotypical dad from that time period, but it was a sweet moment. 

   For a movie, it hit the mark. I pondered a bit on that feeling and what I'd be passing onto my children. Tradition says they'll be getting an orange in their stocking, a Whitman's sampler in there as well, amongst other small treats. I have a football for the 'Lil Man and books for our voracious reading 'Lil Miss. Merry Christmas to you and yours. Keep the traditions alive!

J. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Parenting Never Ends


(sometime after school today...)
Me - "Why are your new boots so scratched up and worn?"
'Lil Miss - (blank stare)  

   It seems like only yesterday I had the same answer for the simplest of questions. After being asked why I hit my brother, or wedged a large metal screw under my father's tire, etc., the answer was the same. "Deer in headlights!", my older brother always says.  

   I'll pass right by the "Why" question, as it insults any parent to look for a good reason behind what any child does. It's more about shortening the time it takes to get past the, "Wha, wha, whe, WHY!?!?" Somehow through the frustration, we as parents need to simplify the message and get it through to the blank stare that is typically NOT looking you in the eye.

   That's the question isn't it. How do you handle all that? Since parenting never ends, nor does this molding and shaping. Teaching why we take care of things, and how we can get used items if the child would prefer to not have to take care of the new. It is also worth noting that I've seen grown-ups act this way toward things they should be taking care of, so it really, TRULY, never ends.

J.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

When The Grinch Visits Your School

 
You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus, You're as charming as an eel,
Mr. Grinch.
You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel.
(listen/see on YouTube)
 
   As I paid my daughter's school a visit to pick up some items today, there was a buzz in the quad. The kids were happily freaking out about a visitor. I heard the word "Grinch" and wandered over. The above picture is of a local dad, all decked out, just to have some fun. The kids all loved it and there were pics taken by one of the staff.
 
   It made me think of all the things I, or dad's I've known, have done for our kids. In fact, as I think back, I remember things my father did for us, and friend's dads did for them. My dad went a through painstaking process to be dressed up as a werewolf for halloween one year. He spent all day prepping and cooking for a Chinese dinner for a group of us for homecoming my senior year. For two years he led the restoration of a 1928 Model A Ford that finished (and started for the first time) at 4 a.m. the night before my senior ball.
 
   Think about all that's been done for you, and all you've done for your own. When it's done out of love, it's never a chore. More of a labor of love. Isn't that what it's all about?
 
Merry Christmas, Grinches.
 
J. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Creating Memories Through Old Traditions

 
 

"Nothing I've ever done has given me more joys
and rewards than being a father to my children." - Bill Cosby
 
   While my father admitted to me that he had a hard time relating to us four small boys, he did try to do things along the way that showed he cared. One of my favorite memories was when he needed to shave off his full beard at one point in his life. To mark the occasion, he set up the camera and then took pictures with us boys, ALL of us making funny or though faces throughout the ENTIRE process. We went through lamb chops, fun-manchu, handle bars, full mustache, the Hitler, all until he was clean-shaven.
 
   While I only carry a goatee style beard, I do have some fun when I'm in need of a trim. The above pic is my last round with the kids. They think the process is fun, and the pics are funnier. When all is done, they look at me with curious eyes and ask, "When are you going to grow your beard back?" Our Wee Lass can't figure it out at all. The Wife always averts eye contact, claiming she can't be seen kissing a 13 year old boy.
 
   Work on your traditions you might be able to share and pass on to your children. While we only did the shaving pics with my old man a few times, it's one of my clearest and best memories with him. Have fun!
 
J.
 
...and for your reference...


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peppermint Oreo Pops - Children's Birthday Fun

 
"There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate,
white chocolate, and chocolate truffles."- Author Unknown
 
   I have a habit of overdoing it on projects. Then there's the saying that couples start to look alike. Combine those two items and you get last night's festivities. Today we celebrate the 7th birthday of our 'Lil Miss. With that comes the soft obligation to bring in a treat to her classroom at school. The Wife found a fun idea at Lulu the Baker, a blog that I shall be returning to for other ideas. It reminded me of the chocolate drizzled caramel popcorn I saw from the gals over at eighteen25 (some fun ideas to of things to make with/for the the kids).
 
   The steps were simple and went rather smoothly for it being our first time with confectionery chocolate. We had two bags, one being white chocolate flavor, the other mint. The biggest problem was pulling the tops off our Double Stuff Oreos. They kept breaking in half! Lulu had some "repair" ideas, but whole process took The Wife and I about 3 hours total, candy can sprinkle included.
 
   The result was a VERY excited 'Lil Miss. The report this afternoon was that the kids LOVED them,...just as much as their party favor bag. It was a way to show our little one some love, have her be the queen for the day, and deliver to her temporary subjects. The problem is, though, that she gave the two leftover pops to her carpool friends. Now I GOTS to make more. Mmmmm....
 
J.
 
(action shots)
 
          
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Monday, December 17, 2012

Treats - Passing On Confectionery Traditions


“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.” - Charles M. Schulz  
 
   It's not secret that The Cheeky Daddy loves chocolate. Some years ago, I was introduced to the wonderful world of Terry's Chocolate Orange. I normally do NOT like fruit with my chocolate, and I prefer milk over dark. I loved the amount of chocolate you get with each orange, and I adore the way you are encouraged to "whack it" on the table before opening to loose each piece from one another. I LOVE the summary given at Candy Critique.
 
   At this time in my life, I seek opportunities to pass on my habits, music choices, and favorite movie lines to my children. While at a local store, I saw a row of Terry's Chocolate Oranges on the shelf and asked my 'Lil Man if he wanted to give one a try. He loves citrus, and won't say no to chocolate, so we got one. I broke him into the world of proper orange smacking technique. He LOVED it! The whole experience of choosing, smacking, opening, and eating, was a super fun experience to have and pass on to my little one.
 
They can be bought at:
You can even "Like" them at Facebook here.

I'm really enjoying passing on traditions, favorites and the like. It helps to build a bond with my children, and share more than the oxygen in our living room.

What are your favorite confectionery treats to share with others?

J. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Teaching Your Children To Be Brave


"Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone 
who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true." 
 - Charles Dickens

   Recently, our little family was at a local store, who was sampling the latest in prepared food delicacies. My offspring are an example of Pavlov's bell in action. They bug their old man for a taste of the local treats, whether they be an oatmeal they don't like or the latest, non-alcoholic wine (oh, boy). The common thread is that their courage has always come from their parents. Until this moment. 

   I lost sight of the 'Lil Man for a moment and by the time I looked over the above scene was taking place. With bravery mustered, my little guy approached the station with hands in pockets. "Can I have some more pwease?", he eeked out. With patience he waited, and was rewarded, with a glorious toothpick of warm honey baked ham. Victory was never so sweet. 

   Now let it be known, that The CheekyDaddy was a bit of a wall flower growing up. I didn't realize until later in life that caring about what others thought was a waste of time. Now that I am comfortable in my own skin, I try to show my children that hey can be brave in life. My 'Lil Miss is still working on it, but my boywill try anything.

TIP: Do one brave thing a day. When in the presence of you children, they'll see it's no big deal.

   So keep in mind that your children follow your lead. My father was a bit of an introvert. I plan to break the cycle and show bravery every day in life. I challenge you to remember...


Be brave,

J. 


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Homework With Your Children


"I don't love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful." - Natalie Portman

   So the end of the week finds The Wife and I trying to hide our enthusiasm to dig through our eldest's backpack in search of her test scores. Specifically, the two that are regular are a spelling test and a timed reading score. I can only compare it to a scratch off lottery ticket, with the excitement building. However, this is where we win every time. Our 'Lil Miss is very competitive, but also LOVES her play time. We've had to try difference things to keep her interested in homework and study time.

   We crashed and burned when we let her come home and play first. Disaster! We'd always run out of time and she never wanted to stop playing to do it. I felt like I was taking my first dog to the veterinarian.

TIP: We tried a old tried and true method of getting some homework done right after school.

   It works great. With the knowledge that she can play after and not have to stop again to work on her words or reading, she powers through. At one point last week, she actually asked if she could finish the remainder of her homework so that she could go straight to playtime after school. The Wife and I were beside ourselves.

   Some additional resources:
 - The U.S. Department of Education - General Homework Tips for Parents
 - Circle of Moms - our friends over at the circle have and article, "7 Fixes for the Homework Battle"
 - Scholastic - The article is "Homework for Kids", and point #2 is our play. Oh, and look! There's a dad helping with homework in the photo. Go dad!

   The the quote at the top sums up my own personal experience. I really hated studying, but LOVED learning. Try to figure out how that works for you children with their homework. Instead of repetitious math problems on paper, I poured out the change jar and we worked on our 1s and 10s with pennies and dimes.
   You can do it.

J. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bye-Bye Binky - Pacifier Exorcism

 
"Do thou snatch treasures from my lips, and I'll take kingdoms back from thine."
- Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Photo courtesy of America Bronzing Co.

   Binky, bubba, pacifier, pacies, dummy, soothies, etc. It's gone by many names, but meant one thing for our little ones. Comfort. You ever give your little one their binky and their eyes glazed over in comforting goodness? Those of you who know the international trading laws that go with trying to kick the binky habit can give me an AMEN. Those of you who don't,......prepare yourself. Or don't. We just said goodbye last night to our 'Lil Man's, and here's the score for our three kiddies:

'Lil Miss: Hit her mouth on a window ledge back in the day, and didn't want it thereafter. SCORE!
'Lil Man: Chewed it beyone recognition and said goodbye to his last one, last night. Verdict is not in yet, but he did pretty good all night without it.
Wee Lass: Hates 'em with the white hot intesity of a thousand suns. I think she'd prefer a mouth full of bees before she'd take a binky!

Tips: We used bribery, trade, and finally used the old art of distraction. I reminded my 'Lil Man that he knew the consequences of chewing on his friend. Then I used verbal smoke and mirrors to keep his mind off it. I told him an extensive bedtime story, which turned out to be very entertainng (look for my first children's book hit entitled "The Dragon Who Liked Chocolate", summer of 2014). We actually ended up hitting 4 of the 6 tips offered over at Circle of Moms.

Let me know if you have any other experiences, tips, rants, etc.

J.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When Baby Won't Sleep


"I see you're trying to get some sleep. Allow me to sing you the song of my people." - Wee Lass

   Captain's Log. Stardate 12/12/12. Day 134, and we're still at war. Baby sleep is an elusive beast, like unto the unicorn or snipe. Morale is low and spirits are sinking. Mom and dad are near tears and have a zombie-like demeanor. 

Haven't all parents gone through something like that? The Wife and I are there. I thought in the spirit of sharing, I'd also pass on what we've used to help with the Wee Lass. It was determined that she's experiencing a bit of acid reflux. As any of you know who have experience this with an infant,.....good times. ALL that adorable screaming,....and at such fun times of the night!

   Some of the natural remedies have been to keep her upright for at least 30 minutes after feedings, or what we were told in our case, "as much as possible throughout the day". Goodbye shoulder muscles. Aside from allergies, there is good reason for a nursing mother to stay away from things like caffeine and dairy. Follow the pediatricians advice on those, and typically the mother is more on top of that than us dads (crap!). When those aren't the problem and you baby is still experiencing colic, gas, stomach pain, irritability, homicidal tendencies, and the like,...here's what we've tried:

 
 

Little Tummys Gripe Water: We tried it and Wee Lass griped anyway, so it wasn't for us.
 

Little Tummies Gas Relief: this worked about half of the time to calm her little tummy.
 
 

The generic Up & Up from Target was a cheaper alternative and seemed to work about the same for our family.

   If you suspect acid reflux in your baby (ours is currently 3 months old as of this post), the options are limited. We found out that the long and hard way on the phone between doctors office, insurance company, and the pharmacy. The two medications we've experienced:
 
Ranitidine (generic Zantac): It seemed to help some with the symptoms, but not enough to prevent the 3 hour bedtime routine, more than normal spit-ups, etc. Our health plan pharmacist said that ranitidine has a different mechanism of action than Prevacid, so some don't do well on the former. Some babies don't do well on it at all. Besides, our Wee Lass hated taking it and more was spit out than taken. We were moved onto...
Prevacid: (lansoprazole): Our little one enjoyed the mild strawberry flavor, and the solutab went down with no argument. The bedtime routine was not as intense and she slept for longer than she had for some weeks.

   I'm by no means a doctor, so do what's best for your child, consult your pediatrician and pharmacist, and be patient. I welcome any other ideas that may help. Good luck,

J.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When The Training Wheels Come Off


"I am still learning." - Michelangelo

   I knew this day was coming, and I learned more than one lesson in the process. My 'Lil Miss took some time learning how to pedal a bike. About few months ago, a few more girls her age moved into the neighborhood and we were outside more than ever. The bike was in full use and I started to notice about a month ago that my 'Lil Miss was coasting down the sidewalk and I couldn't hear the sound of the training wheels touching the ground (it was like the scream of a banshee!). She made a game of trying to not let those training wheels touch the ground. A little over a week ago, she traded bikes with one of her friends, who then promptly tried to attack a large electrical box in our front yard with it.
   I was trying to fix the bent training wheels, when my girl asked if she could leave them off. Trying to suppress the cynicism in my voice, I told her she'd most likely fall, and I didn't have the energy to run along side her holding her seat. MUCH protesting later, I threw my hands up and said okay. She got on and we started down the sidewalk. Within about 20 feet, I took my hands off to show her she was doing it all by herself, ready to be there for her. It's been almost two weeks and I haven't touched the bike seat since.
   I swiftly ate my own hat and stood in amazement at how fast my baby is growing. Seeing her breeze past me over the next several days was crazy to see. Her first crash didn't happen until day 5. I told her we'd go in for Band-Aid treatment and through the tears and crying she says, "Okay, but I want to come back out after, okay?!?" Her love for bike riding is clear. I think the time we took to encourage, participate, etc. has all paid off.
   So spend the time, no matter what the activity. The payoff is huge.

J.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Changing A Lock - My Everest


"A man who is 'of sound mind' is one who keeps the inner madman under lock and key." - Paul Valery

   That is unless you're 3 year old has locked the door, which turns you into the madman. WHAT THEN!!! A few days past, our 'Lil Man locked the downstairs bathroom door, which for SOME reason, was outfitted with an actual 5 pin lock handle by the previous tenants. 

   The problem: We were given no additional key to the bathroom, and the front door key didn't work.

   Solution #1: Watched YouTube video here on how to make a paperclip lock pick set, as I had none. Then spent nearly two hours over the next two days patiently trying to pick that darn lock. 
   Solution #2: Borrowed an industrial power drill and titanium bits from neighbor to drill out the locking mechanism. The titanium drill bit broke (fig. 1) as I pushed too hard when it got past the locking pins, but I pulled out the broken drill bit piece and used a long pair of needle nosed pliers to turn the locking inner hand turned lock rod to open the door. 

   Lesson Learned #1: Asses if you have locks in your house that do not have keys to them. Headaches WILL be averted. 
   Lesson Learned #2: Boys aged 3 years or under don't understand the concept of "don't lock the door", so please refer to Lesson Learned #1. 
   Lesson Learned #3: When drilling out the locking mechanism, you only need to go about 1-1.5" into the center. Past that is the Unobtainium turning rod, that will ruin your neighbors drill bit made of FREAKING TITANIUM!
   Lesson Learned #4: I think I should learn to pick locks BEFORE the crisis. 
   Lesson Learned #5: Keep your composure, as even at the end, mistakes can be made, as evidence by my installing the new handle backwards (fig. 2) preventing the door from closing. Grrrrrrr.....



 (fig. 1)  


 (fig. 2) 

   We discussed why we don't lock the doors inside with our 'Lil Man. The concept was learned fast when he was dancing to go #1, and the downstairs restroom was out of commission. Let's face it, there were a LOT of lesson learned on this one. Hope this helps someone.

J. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Farmer's Market


"I am not a pig farmer. The pigs had a great time, but I didn't make any money."  - Willie Nelson

   I feel lucky to live in a part of the country that has so many farmers' markets each week. Every Saturday, we hit the market in our local old town, where local honey, fruits, and vegetables are sold by local farmers. So far, the turnout for vendors and buyers alike is good. When The Wife and I first got interested in the concept, I did a search for local outdoor markets where we could support our local growers and get produce that was as fresh as it gets. For us here in California, a great site is the Certified Farmers' Market. I looked around and it gives fairly current listings of farmers' markets near you. 
   Each market is different, offering a variety of vendors and products. Beyond the fresh produce, you'll find the bird lady, local jewelers, etc. There are typically some food choices too. We've run into bakers, health enthusiasts, a crepe stand, and various ethnic foods that really add another yummy element to the trip. The kids look forward to the kettle corn booth, where they can get the blue colored "cotton candy" flavored corn. Their blue tongues and sticky hands prove it's been a good day for them.
   So look up where your nearest farmers' market is, and check it out. You'll be glad you did.

J.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Boy And Girl Baby Names

Avi: Should I call you Bullet? Tooth? 
Bullet Tooth Tony: You can call me Susan if it makes you happy. 
 - Snatch, 2000

   Baby names used to be a conventional thing. One would name a boy or girl using the traditional designation within their own culture, quite often for a symbolic figure within that culture or a particular family member. These days,...it's ALL over the place. Mostly here in America. Popular fruits, emotions, etc.,  have become the new personal label. There was recently a family that gave a Twitter inspired name

   For our part, the wife and I used as a base these two books:


Beyond Ava & Adien - published in 2009, it served us well for our '09 boy and even helped start the process with our '12 girl. 

Best Baby Name Book In The Whole World - published in 1984, this was our first book and was a great launch to the search for our first, and kept us from "naming block" for our second and third. 

   There is much to consider when naming in the early 21st century. Will my child be bullied? How many other boys or girls will have the same name? Will the company I'm in love with send me endorsement checks for showing this kind of loyalty? I realize that some parents feel the need to be unique, oblivious to the torture that "Bernice" or "Apple" will be subject to over the years. Others are thoughtful and will always adhere to the traditional naming convention of their culture.

   Never discount where you might find the name you are looking for. The books above gave some great suggestions that rolled over into other ideas. For our part:
- Our first child was a name within our extended family that fit and we never looked back.
- Our second was a name we heard on a television show that trumped all ideas we had instantly.
- Our third was a "similar names to..." suggestion upon looking at the website ParentsConnect.

   After my suggestions of "The Amazing" or "Artist Formerly Known As", I'm very happy with out names, even if friends or family wrinkled their noses at them at first. Our children are now branded, and no other names would have been more perfect. So happy hunting and let me know what you came up with. I'm curious.

J.

Poems and Stories For Children


"You may have tangible wealth untold 
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. 
Richer than I you can never be. 
I had a Mother who read to me." 
- Strickland Gillilan

   I love to write poems and short stories. As our children grow, so do their tastes in reading material. We've graduated from the Touch and Feel books by DK Publishing. Currently, we're split between our 7 year old 'Lil Miss and 3 year old 'Lil Man. These days, as parents, we're always on the lookout for new stories and poems for our children. 
   I think the first point to be made is we all could be reading to our children more. At the end of a long day, it can be the last thing you want to do. The benefits have been proven, as listed on the Early Moments website. Those reason speak for themselves. My key reasons are to build a better bond with my children and get them excited about reading for all the residual reasons.
   My brother reads 10-12 simple book to his young kids each night. I'm not that ambitious, but it is admirable. His trick to keep them interested was to rotate the short stories in their collection. He hits the local Goodwill Industries store. They usually have deals on books and he comes home with a new stack every so often. He'll keep the family favorites, as kids enjoy repetition of their favorite stories as well as a new ones.
   My 'Lil Miss has taken a shining to the legendary Shel Silverstein books that are a compilation of poems. The rhymes are fun for her to read out loud, and each poem's topic is funnier and more goofy than the last. They've been fun as the books themselves are from when The Wife and I were kids ourselves. We switch between Where The Sidewalk Ends and Light In The Attic, when we're not reading other short stories.
   As for our 'Lil Man, his recent love is for Puff The Magic Dragon. He likes the story, rhyming, and the song (which we sing often). Beyond that, he seems to really enjoy the old spoken word stories like Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.
   To whatever flavor your children enjoy, make the effort and get 'er done. You will appreciate the time and so will they. You will also appreciate the advance in their speech, comprehension, etc. Happy reading!

J.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reclaimed Wood Projects


"One man's trash, is another man's treasure."

    Okay, so it you can substitute "woman" for "man", but the topic is the same. The Wife and I are all about the reclaimed wood craze. While it's not for everyone, we're hooked. Sure, we're buying and refinishing secondhand furniture. The finishes all seem to contain some form of distressing. The questions though, is why not start projects with ALREADY distressed wood. The Wife and I looked around a bit and my better half came across Vintage Timberworks in Temecula, CA. They have a ton of various types of timber available for projects, as well as some amazing completed commercial projects. 
   There are plenty of projects that are MUCH simpler for the beginner. I'm itching to find some time to replicate this project by a fellow woodsman. The graphic can be anything, but the concept is simple enough that one only needs some time and the guts to get started on the wood project. I've found that going into the first project or two knowing that mistakes will be made helps me from becoming frustrated. By project two or three, MANY lessons have been learned and I'm more confident. That brings me to my final tip. 
   I was getting a morning drink and stumbled across a guy with a trailer FULL of reclaimed wood (pictured above). I had heard of the concept and asked if that what he was doing. He said he was a fence builder, and what I saw was ALL GARBAGE!!! I nearly died, seeing all that aged wood going to the dump. FREE WOOD! It wasn't the time to take it all back home, so I got his card. He said he takes several sections at a time to a local furniture maker, who turns it into something valuable (like this from another website). Oh, one can dream. 
   So dream big, and make a little bit of time each day. I've found that helps me stay creative, while being a dad with three young tikes. If you have any ideas, send 'em my way!

J. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Neighborhood Activities For Kids


It is never too late to have a happy childhood. ~ Tom Robbins
 
   We were lucky to have some recent additions to the neighborhood. Three girls living within three doors of our place makes for some fun evenings in our cul-de-sac. The big questions is what kind of activities are there for our children to keep them engaged and entertained, just in case the imagination runs out for the day? I read a quote that mentioned playing outside with our children is a lost art. I spent most of my childhood outside, though my father wasn't really there to participate. I'm just a big kid these days, so it's easy for me. I'm on my bike, with my 'Lil Man riding on the bar in front of me, chasing the girls on their bikes around our quiet street. When they're not playing bunnies, princesses, or just chatting, we've offered some alternatives.
   I've always had boxes on hand. Cardboard tunnels are ALWAYS a hit, and are disposable or re-usable afterward. Sidewalk chalk is also a neighborhood favorite. The kids practice their names, pictures, and quite often create mini roads of their own to travel on their bikes and scooters. We also keep a supply of Otter Pops, fruit snacks and such on hand for the kids to always have something to slow down and socialize while eating something fun or healthy, depending on the day.
   Finding neighborhood activities can depend on location, traffic, number of kids, etc. Before our new friend additions, I was out front with the children regardless, making it fun. I challenge us all to try harder, for they will demand you to leave them alone with their electronics and cell phones soon enough.
 
J. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day 2012

Everett Howard Swann (left) 1918-1975     -     Arthur Wayne Schofield (right) 1922-Present


“War does not determine who is right - only who is left.” ― Bertrand Russell
   On this Veternan's Day, I wanted to post a rememberance of the men in our family that served in the military. Both of my granfathers served in the Army Air Corp. Everett, on my father's side, died the week after I was born. Without writing a book, I know he was good at what he did and was recognized for some innovative thinking within his time in the service. Arthur celebrated 70 years of marriage this past year, only to lose his sweetheart about 6 months later. His time in the service is still labeled as "war is pointless". He lost his brother early on and has never wanted to talk about it much, other than to put down the concept of war.
   I don't know anyone else that has spent that kind of time in the service within our family, making them icons to us, for participating in something so great and terrible. Their experiences are unique in our family, as none of us can relate. I'm proud to be of their blood and know them to both be honorable and loving men, who put their wives and families first. Between them there are 7 children, 26 grandchildren, and 71 great-grandchildren. The legacy lives on.
J. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Treasure Maps




Andy: Do you think there's really any treasure here? 
Mikey: Andy this whole ship is a treasure.

- The Goonies (1985)

   I've always wanted to do a treasure map, ever since I was a wanna-be Goonie. I remember the Map of One Eyed Willie oh so well. I did a small, lame one a few weeks back that went over extremely well with my older two pirates. They begged for another. So we found the right treasure, that the kids were kind of in need of for their rooms anyway, and I set to creating the map. This took me about two days of minimal time in between stuff. 
   I started with pencil, to map out the rooms with a ruler. I then penned them in with Micro pens (ohhh....I've got a thing for these pens...). I did some tracing and some lettering for the letters that would eventually lead the kids to the "treasure". I did some water color to give that "weathered" look. It ended up better than I thought it would. 
   The treasure hunt was fun. My 'Lil Miss was going way to fast, so I had to carry the 'Lil Man a bit. I put sticky diamonds in the locations where the letters would be in each room. After they were found, they were numbered so they would spell a sentence of where the final treasure location would be. The hunt was super fun for the kids and lasted around 15-20 minutes. I know I can add layers to add more time. A word find, maze, etc., would help, but this was my first attempt. I know we're all at different levels of creativity, but anything will do. The kids are worth it, as they are our treasures. Have fun!

J. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Cheeky Daddy's A Daddy Again!


"Sleep is a mythical creature, like a unicorn or snipe." - The Cheeky Daddy

   So we're about 2 months into the new addition of our little family. #3 came along at the end of August and we've been awake ever since. All of the baby items came out of storage and got a good cleaning. All went to plan and our new little one joined us with little fanfare. The older two were anxious and curious. I sat in our room, waiting to be called into our third C-Section, wondering how this would change our lives. 
   And in 8 weeks, it's been a whirlwind. I'm not sure if this entry is real, or a dream. Sleep is on the ration list, though my sweet wife lets me get more than she does. As we look around, I know we all see people from various walks of life. Some are not interested in having a family. For those of us who are, this has been a wonderful addition to our family. Smiles started early, and the older two are sometimes bursting with love for their little sister. We all have trouble defending ourselves from the cute factor. 
   It's inspired another round of creativity, storytelling and the like. I'll be playing dolls, being the prince, and cuddling on the couch to girly cartoons for another while now. I wouldn't change a thing. 

J. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Disney/Pixar's Brave Review


"If you had your chance to change your fate, would you?"   - Merida

     My family went to see Disney/Pixar's new animated film "Brave" on Saturday. To add to the hype, we went to Disneyland the day before. At the park, we stood in line to meet Merida, which was the coolest for our 'Lil Miss. She got to meet the Scottish princess and then shoot a bow and arrow. The next day the anticipation was great. I had been waiting for this movie to premier since I heard it was a concept. It's been on my mind for the past year. My patience paid off on Saturday with the viewing a long time in the making. I personally enjoyed the story, followed by the beautiful music and even more breath-taking scenery. I loved the mother/daughter relationship that is explored and thought the comedy was well timed. The commentary that the story is not original did not detract from my experience, nor that of my two little 'uns.
     I couldn't say it any better than the Upcoming Pixar Blog. I couldn't say it any better than they did. I've noticed that the marketing for the film has been great, with plenty of merchendise to grab. I'll be picking up a doll and some story books for sure. I give it five out of five stars, as I wasn't left wanting for anything. I downloaded the soundtrack the next day, if that says anything. Enjoy!

J. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kindergarten Graduation


"The tassel's worth the hassle!" ~Author Unknown

     So, my 'Lil Miss graduated from Kindergarten today. I know we all have mixed emotions as parents. There are the feelings of pride and forward motion in life. A sense of accomplishment and worth while time spent throughout the year. Then there are the Luke Skywalker yells of "Nooooooo!!!!!" when I realized that my 'Lil Miss is growing up.
     I helped out a week or two ago in her class, which was a blast by itself. We did snack time out on the small tables. Then the kids played on the enclosed area, complete with swings and play-set. I saw a couple of the boys laughing with a couple of boys from the "big" playground. Then it hit me. My sweet, innocent girl will be out in the great expanse of "the blacktop", as we called it when I was a kid. All the horror of what I heard, learned and copied came flooding back. I was instantly sick to my stomach. I wanted to lock her away in a tower somewhere. It took her teacher, sweet Mrs. Scott, to talk me off my mental cliff. She said that we had to let go as parents. As long as we're concerned, we're on the right track. She mentioned sheltering her daughter too much, and it ended up biting her back in the end.
    So with that, I look forward to a fun summer and try to get her to practice reading, writing her words, and adding stuff wherever we go. Seems like I was just a kindergartener, and now I feel like I'm too old for all this. Or maybe not as ready as I'd like to be. Hmm.

J. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lunch Bag Art Surprises


“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.”  -  Henry David Thoreau
“To draw, you must close your eyes and sing.” - Pablo Picasso
“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” -  Albert Einstein

      I love these quotes from some of the greats. I've tried to do more of my lunch box art surprises for my 'Lil Miss. They're VERY quickly done, so that I don't get burned out on doing them. I remember how much fun it was to get a note from my mother in my lunch, and so I've tried to start doing more of that with my first born. As she is in kindergarten now, we're still in the beta test phase. I'm finishing 1 every week or two on average. Some weeks I'll do almost all 5 days. Sometimes I'll go a few weeks without doing one.
      The point is actually trying. She loves it and I enjoy the outlet for my art (which is hard to find time for these days). Being fast, there are liberties taken on anatomy and architecture. She gets the point, and that's all that matters.

The only other lunch bag artist that I can find out there is a legend. Check the cool dad here.

J.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Polish & Buff Your Troubles Away


     So The Wife and I made a purchase yesterday that made my day. The Black & Decker 6" Polisher / Buffer. As far as power tools go, this was a cheaper buy, which I will always agree to. We've been trying our hand and refinishing some furniture pieces. They're mostly for our own home right now, with the possibility of reselling future pieces.

If interested, a few links where you can purchase the tool:
Amazon - $29.99
Lowes - $24.97
Sears - $29.99
Home Depot - $31.20
* Prices current as of date of post.

   We had just finished putting a wax finish on a dresser and wanted a more efficient way of polishing and buffing the wax surface that had cured. I got going on it and was instantly pleased with the result. There is a fair amount of trial and error with every new endeavor, but I was pleased with the outcome once I learned the pace, tempo, and pressure to use with the buffer. So if you're in the market for a product, I can recommend the Black & Decker 6" Polisher / Buffer as a great choice. Enjoy.

J.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Cardboard Castle


“You make kingdoms and castles on your own.” - Stephan Jenkins

     With all the leftover cardboard we accumulate, and my ever impressive art degree, did you expect anything else from me? When I see large boxes or pieces or unused cardboard, I see castles and forts, they way some people see shapes in clouds. With a sharp box cutter, and duct tape, I'm on my way. I always wish I could have done more, but an artist is his own worst critic.
     There are some fun posts out there. Visit the Thingamababy blog here to see the amazing fort a dad made for his kids. He did it for a party of 18 kids and has some GREAT ideas for add ons and tips. I also got some inspiration from the blog Playful Factory here, with links to structures you can buy or just gain some ideas from.
     It's all abou the effort. You will be rewarded. As I write this in the morning, I got a text from The Wife saying that she heard our 'Lil Miss wake up, come out of her room, and begin playing in the Cardboard Castle again. My day has been made.
     Happy building.


J. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You've Got a Friend In Me

You've got troubles, well I've got 'em too
There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you
We stick together and we see it through
You've got a friend in me
- Randy Newman
     I snapped this pic a few days back and realized how good I've got it that my little ones get along so well. While they ARE still young, I hope it's a foundation to build on so that later on in life they don't resort to the exchange of gunfire. My 'Lil Miss is very type A, and can get extremely frustrated when things are not going her way. That seems to pale in comparison to her loving nature. She's always looking out for the underdog, offering help where the shy kid needs it, and comforts her little brother whenever he's upset. My 'Lil Man is the same. He's all boy, for sure, but has a sweet natured side that uses "please" and "thank you" all day long.
     How can we accomplish this? The Wife and I communicate with the kids often. While some items fall under the "because I'm your father" category, explaining things goes over very well. Granted, The Wife has more patience with that than I do, but I'm learning. I think showing love to one another for them to see it important too. Mom and dad showing affection and helping each other. Dad showing that same love and help to each child. They then adopt the behavior to each other.
   Either way, the scene pictured above melted my heart. Let's hope we have a lifetime of them.

J. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Remembering Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak 1985 - AP File Photo

Maurice Sendak 1928-2012

     I was listening to NPR this morning and heard the news that Maurice Sendak passed away today. I can remember "Where The Wild Things Are" from my childhood, and the monsters within intrigued me then, as they do today. I didn't know Mr. Sendak personally, but I know a part of the message he seemed to portray. Childhood is rough. I try to remember that as I see my 'Lil Miss in her first year of public school. I watch her navigate a room of 25+ kids, make and maintain friendships, etc. Maurice's book themes touch a nerve in the childhood I remembered.
In a conversation with Terry Gross of Fresh Air on NPR, 2003, Maurice  said:
"Do parents sit down and tell their kids everything? I don't know. I don't know. I've convinced myself — I hope I'm right — that children despair of you if you don't tell them the truth."
     As I try my hand at writing and illustrating my own stories, I try to keep in mind that not all stories for children in real life end up with the prince kissing the princess as they ride off into the sunset. My daughter currently thinks that, as she has experienced nothing contrary. My parents divorce at 10 years old taught me otherwise. I think it's important to know that children see a lot, and while they are honest and forthcoming at times, they can also bottle up much of what they experience.
     I enjoyed an interview with Maurice Sendak (below) on the Colbert Report. I giggled when he referred to Stephen Colbert an "idiot". I think I can be an idiot and embrace that as I work out my own stories I try to write and illustrate. There is also a documentary produced by Adam Yauch (recently deceased Beastie Boy) here.
     Stay young, stay real.

J.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Children, Can You Hear Me?


As far as my kids listening to me, they're on the fence.

     It just dawned on me, as I was trying to think of a clever caption for the above picture, why I wrote that. The kids and I love to watch animal videos on YouTube. We watch the loud ones, like gibbons, lions and such.We stumbled across an amazing video of a gorilla pack. It's about 6 minutes long, but the kids were enthralled. I was struck at 5:10, where the silverback wanders off after babysitting the kids and their curiosity in the human. I watched the silverback leave,.....and the offsring instantly followed.

 

     The light bulb went on. No tantrums, no crying, no deals made to stay "just a little bit longer". I looked at my 6 year old 'Lil Miss and asked, "See how the babies listen to their daddy and follow him without arguing? Why can't YOU guys do that?" She smiled with no response, and continued to watch in awe. I think the point was lost. NOT ON ME! I look to better my communication with my kids, so that I get a better response to direction in stores, parking lots, and others that are needed to protect them "out in the wild" We'll probably need to revisit this topic again.

J.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kid Crafts and Memories


"There's no such thing as a bad kid, just a kid with a bad haircut." - Sam Malone, Cheers
     I'm always surprised at how clean we like to keep our spaces, but how hard it is to discard the things left behind by our little ones. I watched my 'Lil Man placing his hand in water and then on the ground, producing patterns of hand prints. He was so proud of himself, but the images faded as the water evaporated. I took a snapshot so that his little art installation was captured.

     Now, I keep EVERYTHING that my little ones make. I learned a long time ago with pictures, that you can always delete, but that you cannot create them from nothing. So I keep everything, and then thin the pile at the end of the year. With free online programs like pixlr, photo editing is easy. So my idea is to digitally capture most of the good stuff, and then actually keep the best and most significant pieces. Once I get to the end of a year, I can take all my images, collages, etc. that are digitally captured or created, and put them into a book. Either print and put them into clear sheets in a binder, or publish them in an awesome book like from My Publisher. I've used them before and the books look amazing.

     I'm not encouraging us all to be pack rats or hoarders. I'm more hoping we can not regret how little we have from our children's past for us and them to look back on. I love that I have my first story book that I stitched together with cardboard and twine. Email me for ideas, or just try them out on your own. Have fun!

J.