Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I'm Just Gonna Tap The Brakes A Little

“It doesn't cost anything to pay attention.” ― Scott Cherney, Red Asphalt

   While I'm always intrigued by the mysteries of the universe, I'm always happy when science provides  some validation to my gripes. Case in point, traffic. The above video is a little experiment by The Mathematical Society of Traffic Flow (Science Now article here). The article states that "just a few mildly inconsistent drivers on the road will eventually cause a wave of backups."

You don't say...

   Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE has felt a level of road rage when they've slammed on their brakes for what appears to be no reason. Now I know why. There is,...wait for it, And now I have proof. 

   I wonder if it will make me less inclined to bark at my windshield, or spew more venom at the faceless "wonder-braker" somewhere up ahead. Either way, I appreciate stumbling across this. It helps to know that when I'm screaming "THERE'S NO REASON FOR THIS", that, well.......I'm right.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Can I Play With The iPad?

“I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. 
The world will only have a generation of idiots.” - Albert Einstein

   I'm positive that we've seen the above scenes in our daily wanderings. Groups of people that are engaged in anything but face to face social behavior. In a day where these gadgets can feel like an extension of our bodies, where we draw the line on use can be a tricky thing. I'm a gadget nut and I like my tablet and smart phone quick a bit. However, when my in-laws pointed out how good my 'Lil Man was as using their phones at 18-24 months awhile ago, I started thinking more about how these gadgets fit into our lives. 

   A co-worker told me that they have no gaming devices in his home. His son and son's friends say that their house is "boring". This saddens me quite a bit, but that's another post. 

 I'm not overly strict when it comes to using and playing on our smart devices. They've proven to be fun to play as a family, and have been GREAT babysitters. I've also seen the abuse that has caused my boy to revert to wetting himself during potty training, and my 'Lil Miss to become somewhat addicted to the point of talking back and throwing fits when banned from use. I read a post on Playground Dad that discussed this topic with some great tips to manage tablet use. While we're all on own to make decisions when it comes to rules around eProducts, here are a few of ours:

* Out of sight, out of mind - We've found that if the gadgets are out of site, the kids will revert to coloring, playing outside, playing with each other in the play room with blocks and train sets, etc.
* Timing the use of gadgets - When our Wee Lass was born, it was easy to let the older two use the tablets, and they were on them for HOURS. Timing their use helps to keep it in check.
* Be engaged with your children - I remember reading an article that said watching cartoons could be good if you watched with your children, engaging them on what they see, hear and learn. I've adopted that with our learning and "for fun" games, and it's kept it from becoming a separator.

   I took a picture of a family that is the same number as ours, but much older than us at the time I took it. I keep it as a reminder that while these devices have a place, it should never replace.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Communicating With Your Children

"Anyone who thinks the art of conversation is dead
ought to tell a child to go to bed."  - Robert Gallagher
   Whenever it's bedtime, my kids turn into Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. They prepare their arguments well, and get me to say ANYTHING. While I know the standard "because I said so" closes the case quickly, it leaves to many unanswered questions, and my kids want answers, nay, THEY WANT THE TRUTH.
   But alas, they can't handle the truth. They're children! Communication is not programmed into them from birth. So without help, they can be cavemen running around in full diapers grunting for food (I've seen it, so don't roll your eyes). It is our responsibility as parents to help them learn to communicate. Remember the line from Shrek, "It talks!" Shrek replies, "Yeah, it's getting him to shut up that's the trick!" It seems like we spend SO much time teaching out little ones to talk, and then they never stop. It also seems like talking is not completely communicating.
   Our 'Lil Miss is now 7 and needs an explanation for all things that do not go her way. We've been explaining how things work in social, medical and other type of situations. I thank my mother for taking the time to do the same for me, as it shapes your view of the world and how you engage it. Our
'Lil Man is now 3 and a much different case to review. He's still getting that rules actually exist, and is trying to figure out which ones are the serious ones (verses the ones that DON'T put him in time-out).
   As we look to get the most out of our relationships I urge us all to take more time thinking about what and how we're teaching our children about communicating. It's been the backbone of my marriage and it's success to date. Take the time as a family to talk. Also take the time one on one with each of your children. I've seen middle children fall through the cracks in large families. I've seen the eldest weighed down with too much expectation, just for being the oldest. It's our job. We signed up for it. My father always taught me to leave things better than you found them, and our children are no different.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ultra Deep Field - Astronomy Can Hurt My Head

"Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another." - Plato

   While I'm not an avid astronomer, even at an amateur level, I always marvel at the vastness of space. As a boy scout, we went to a planetarium in the bay area in the 80's. I saw Saturn through a telescope at night and thought it was fake, it was so clearly visible. In the 90's I was backpacking on Mt. Whitney and saw a satellite passing overhead one night, camping at 11,000 feet. Then around 2010 I stumbled across the video below. It's about 4 minutes, but left my head buzzing. 
   As my children ask questions about the world around us, and the sky above, it's fun to tell them what I know, and fun to speculate about what I don't. We see a few more stars than the average city, as we're kind of on the edge of town. I LOVE my stars, and love to contemplate the vastness of space. It's a wonder that I think can capture us all if we let it. 
   Enjoy the video. I truly appreciated how unique we are on our small little inhabited planet. Give me a reaction. I'm dying to know your thoughts following the clip. 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

When There's No Baby Sling

"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living my baby you'll be."
- Love You Forever, Robert Munsch
   When there's no baby sling, what do you do. I was out watching the older two on their bikes and had my Wee Lass with me. It was still warm when we headed out, so I didn't have a coat or blanket for her. The sling or carrier typically acts as its own warmth device, but alas, I had none. So I unzipped my jacket, dropped her in, and zipped back up. She was snug as a bug in a rug. She continued to watch the world around her from the comfort of daddy's sweater jacket. In return, she kept me warm to.
   It was precious, and every so often she'd look up at me and grin. I'm sure some of you out there feel the same way when I say it feels like her smile could bring peace to the world. It brightens my darkest days, turns my frowns upside down, and makes me feel better no matter what. I found myself saying "I'll love you for always." I then remembered Robert Munsch's book Love You Forever that we all know.
   It's a small moment in our busy lives, but thought I'd share. There are little things we do that end up being big memories. I won't remember my days at work, as much as I'll remember the day I zipped my Wee Lass into my jacket and wandered around the neighborhood.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Magic Roundabout - Swindon, England

"I accept chaos, I'm not sure whether it accepts me."  - Bob Dylan

   Some time ago, before the warranty on my body ran out, I had spent some time in southwest England as a missionary. There were plenty of months I was walking or on a bike, so I got good at navigating the insanity of the "town center". I was thrown into the deep end when it came to the famous European roundabout. They're a never ending intersection that are common place, but quite foreign to a newcomer from the states.

   Recently, we visited a shopping center that has a few roundabouts at the entrances. These were and are a bad idea. Americans have NO idea how they work, and it's really just many fender benders waiting to happen. It reminded me of my time in England, then put my mind to the infamous "magic roundabout" in Swindon, England. This was the pinnacle of roundabout engineering. FIVE roundabouts surrounding one giant roundabout. This of 5 small gears moving around 1 bigger one, and that's how it works,.....with cars. Cars with moms taking their kids to soccer practice, dads going to work, old people visiting the grocery store, etc. Oh, the humanity!!! I set the stage to tell you that I, The Cheeky Daddy, in his glory years, navigated the magic roundabout on a push bike.

(animation of how it's supposed to work)

   THAT'S RIGHT!!! It's like biking in New York in a blender. There were times when there were almost no cars on the road, later in the evening and such. During traffic time, it was a mad dash to protect your life. The chaos was orchestrated and everyone seemed to do well, even me on a bike. I thought I'd share and remind you to be careful if you encounter a roundabout in your area. As you approach it, you YIELD to the people to the left already in the roundabout. Then you enter and exit as you need to. It's that simple! Yet I still get people stopping in the middle of them, not knowing what to do. Grrrrr....


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Baby Carriers and Slings

"Carry on my wayward son." - Kansas

   Aside from feeling like a humanoid marsupial, carrying my children in carriers and slings has been a mixed bag of reaction and emotion. The first time I put one one, I went through a myriad of feelings, from "this is what it's like to be pregnant", to "boy, this'd be GREAT for shoplifting!" Basically, it boiled down to the same benefit as any hands-free device. You get more done! There's the added benefit of the child falling asleep, as they're nearer to your body, body heat, heartbeat, etc. That means sleepy time!

   We've used two different models for our little ones. The first is the Ergo-Baby. We own the Bundle of Joy - Original Black/Camel with Camel Insert.

  This one's nice for loads of reasons. The waist belt keeps the babies compounding weight off your shoulders and on your hips, much like a mountaineering pack. There's a buckle in the back, between your shoulder blades that keeps the thing from feeling like it's going to fall off at any minute. The weather cover is great for the sun, a light sprinkle, or just to keep them more enclosed once your child has fallen to sleep. Check out the standard features tab for the full enchilada.

   We've also used (are using) Sleeping Baby Productions LLC, slings. The Wife is a research nut, and always has been. After a TON of looking around, reading reviews, etc. she found Jan Heirtzler's hand made slings a while ago and they're the biz for babies.Kudos to The Wife for such a find, and kudos to Jan for such a stellar product.

   This one's nice as they are of great quality material, craftsmanship, and are VERY reasonably priced. She'll add a bit of color flair to the fringe, add a pocket, and a few other extras available. The website covers safety, why to chose them (besides listening to The Cheeky Daddy, MY MINIONS!!!), and a bunch of other questions an involved parent would ask. 

   My last comment is related to the manliness of wearing a baby carrier. I'm past the embarrassment of it all. After being peed on, pooped on, puked on, and food dumped on, pride is OUT the window. Wear your kid with pride instead. They are my loudest cheering section these days, and THAT'S all that matters. Good luck in you baby wearing endeavors. 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Throwing A Princess Party

"A party is a party,..." - Mr. Elton, Emma

   But a Princess party!!! The event was many weeks in the making. The Wife and I planned, researched, baked, frosted, and decorated ourselves silly! It was clear about halfway into the whole thing that this party MIGHT just be more for us than for our 'Lil Miss. It came, it happened, it went. Here was the schedule:

11-11:15am - Welcome and making of bead necklaces
11:15-12:15 - Visit with a princess (face painting, games, songs, etc)
12:15-12:30pm - Cupcakes
12:30-1pm - Open presents and candy bar wrap up

   We started this whole mad process with a simple set of lists on a piece of paper. We listed the all the treats we could think of, then all the decorations we wanted to try put out. We began to research locations, then things we could bring into our home. Over the course of a few weeks we had priced and began acquiring items from Target, Wal-Mart, Party City, Sam's Club, The $.99 Store, and a few others. Our biggest influences came from our YEARS of enjoying Disneyland, Disney movies, stores, etc. Ideas I've had for a long time finally got to be used.  We also spent a fair amount of time on Pinterest, looking for ideas around the keywords "princess, party, pink, treats" and so on.

   We both thought it would be like herding cats, but we kept things moving and it turned out to be a REALLY good time. The girls were sad to see the princess leave, but they focused on whatever was next. By keeping them onto the next thing and staying involved, all 14 girls were very well behaved and super cute. In the end, I'd say that throwing a princess party was a LOT of hard work, but VERY well worth the effort.

All my best in your party planning endeavors. 


P.S. Could NEVER have been done without The Wife. Get her take at her blog, The Cheeky Cafe.
P.P.S. The above and more pics set to "The Magic Flute"

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Preparing For A Birthday Party

"There ain't no party, like your grandma's tea party." - Flight of the Conchords

   Our 'Lil Miss had a birthday in December. We tried to have a birthday part at that time a few years ago, and it was a miserable disgrace of a thing. No one is available for something like that, as they're busy with work parties, church parties, family gathering, travel, alien abductions, etc. So this year we planned ahead and handed out invites just before the winter break for a January date. "Omigosh!", you might say. Before naysayers pipe up, we've had 13 out o 15 RSVP to attend. 
   There will be a full report with pictures and link to our favorite spots for part gear. This is more to indicate that The Wife and I are in heaven. Fun and creative stuff like this is our drug. The above pic is just one of the rooms we'll be using for the festivities. Princess canopy with lights, sparkle mesh, etc. While it won't be especially Disney themed, it WILL look like the part threw up on our first floor. 
   All this because we want our 'Lil Miss to have a good time, her guests to have a good time, and because I start to get the shakes if I haven't had some sort of creative outlet like this in some time. The things we do for our children, yeah? I'm not sure how I'll handle a superhero, or army part for my 'Lil Man one day. 


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fatherhood - Breaking The Cycle Of Bad

Dearth Vader - "I am your father."
Luke - "NNNNNNOOOO!!!!!" - 
The Empire Strikes Back

   With my own past experience to draw from, a big fear of mine is for my children to react the way Luke did to his father. "Nooooo!!!!" Context aside, the point is the same. I don't want my children to be ashamed of me, afraid, timid, shy, or anything else that results from bad parenting. Now, I don't mean letting them stay up too late, or eat too many sweets before dinner. I'm talking about the meat of being a father. Most of us can be the iron fist, pretty easy. Hell, I picked up that one from my old man without even trying. I'm looking for that thing I remember feeling when hearing "Daddy's Hands" by Holly Dunn that goes:

Daddy's hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´. 
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong. 
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle But I´ve come to understand. 
There was always love in Daddy´s hands.

   After a less than stellar father moment this morning, I realize how much I need to work on the "soft and kind" bit. The point was rammed home last week when I had some holiday time with my 'Lil Miss. As I was going the extra mile on her little art project she says, "You sure are being nice to me today!" Even now, the word "nice" rings in my ears, like some accusation. I'd like that to be the norm.  I know that my brothers and I have truly broken the cycle of bad fatherhood, though it doesn't come easy. I called my old man once years ago and asked what he was up to. He told me he had just given my half sister a bath and was brushing her hair. I let an awkward pause happen, then said, "You never brushed MY hair dad..." He exclaimed, "You were boys! I didn't know what to do with you guys!" THAT'S the cycle we're breaking. It's a conscious effort to try. We make daily decisions to not shrug off a game of Go Fish, ask about a day at school, talk about the things they see everyday, and so on. 
   Some previous thoughts I've had are at my post A Father's Love. It all applies. Say "I love you more." Take more time with each child. Curb the things you didn't like your father (step-father, father figure, father time, etc.) saying and doing.
   Keep up the fight. Fatherhood is a brotherhood. We're all in this together.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Baby Milestones - Rolling Over

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ― Plato

   I love to watch the progress of each baby that comes into our lives. Our Wee Lass has just started rolling over and it made me think of how fearless these little ones are. They are truly fearless when it comes to progress, learning, and so forth. It's funny how we can react in two directions when this kind of thing happens. There is a war "whoop" of excitement and success, followed by a realization that things are about to change rapidly. 
   We immediately want to get the carpets cleaned. It's also very apparent how many little things are left on the ground by our 3 and 7 year old kiddies. Her play mat is suddenly too small as she rolls into the padded arms that hold up her hanging toys. Then there's my panic that she'll perfect crawling too soon, a REAL game changer. 
   I also realize how fast time goes. Our Wee Lass is over 4MO, and we're already at rolling. The Wife and I have been trying to remember to savor each moment. We try to be more patient with the late nights and such. She seems heavier each day, but I love to hold my baby, as I at one point I thought I'd never do that again. So I'm now in the last rolling phase of my children (that I know of). I'm in the daddy zone, and I'm afraid of how I will feel once certain phases are over.
   Pay attention, cherish each moment, take LOTS of pictures (one can always delete, never create afterward). Now,...Autobots.....ROLL OUT!!!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Making Videos With Your Children

"Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with 'C'" - Cookie Monster
   I have a secret love for making little videos. I sometimes hear a song and see the video I want to make instantly. This was one of them. I asked my 'Lil Miss if she wanted to bake cookies for a friend, and make a video doing it, and she was game. Please excuse minor flaws. With three little 'uns, I get little time to finish these. This was about three hours total, all before lunch on a Saturday morning. We watch it all the time and we ended up with some really fun memories. (4:29 min. long)
Music is "Against The Grain" by Hudson.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Shoes To Fill

"You know you're old when someone compliments you
on your alligator shoes, and you're barefoot." - Phyllis Diller
   Happy New Year to you all! As the Cheeky Family was preparing to leave I got our shoes ready for our departure for our outing and thought of a picture that I took back when The Wife and I were first married.
    Oh, how we've grown. I started thinking about past goals, new ones, etc. I thought about all that we've accomplished with our little family over the past 7 years with kids. I've thought about what I've taught my little ones so far and how it's my shoes they will be filling. It's been a fun ride so far, with bumps along the way. I'd trade it for nothing. I'm happy and content. I wish you all the same, with an Andes mint as a garnish.