Saturday, July 31, 2010

Giving Props

After having my wife gone the last two weeks and taking care of the boys by myself (well, not really--we were around other family for a while), I have to say how much I admire single parents. My wife and I have mentioned before how we don't know how single parents do it all--we struggle on one income and we have one of us to watch the boys so we don't have day care expenses.

Being on my own, having to watch the kids all day and getting little time for myself, I'm also discovering how hard it is to stay on top of household chores. Single parents, I don't know how you do it.

We all know single parents, I'm sure. Let's not forget to offer them help. And single parents, don't be afraid to ask for it. We're here for you.

10 Digits on Their Arms

I found the free pass to the Minnesota Zoo at the library this week so I took the boys yesterday. I usually take a sharpie marker and write my cell phone number somewhere on the boys' arms in case the get separated from me. Forgetting to do that yesterday, I discovered that the customer service desk has wristbands that are available for writing such information on. Thankfully, I didn't loose them. They wander off sometimes, but I can usually find them pretty readily. Once when Anders was pretty little, he wandered away from me in a Toys R Us store. I could not find the little squirt anywhere. Thankfully, a store employee directed me to him.

Some days just not loosing your kids is an accomplishment. Last night the devotion in the boys' Bible was about Jesus, when He was twelve years old, traveling with His family to Jerusalem to Passover. When they leave Jerusalem to go back home to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph assume Jesus is with some other people in their traveling party. It's not until the next day that they figure out that Jesus isn't with them, so they turn around and find Him in the temple (His "Father's house") impressing all the rabbis with His knowledge.

How does one loose the Messiah--their twelve year-old son--for an entire day and not even notice? We haven't gotten to take a lot of trips, but whenever we leave some place I know to always check and make sure everyone is in the car. I guess if God had enough trust in Joseph and Mary to let them parent Jesus, I can have confidence in my parenting abilities, too. Sometimes it's nice to know we're in good company.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

All By Myself

My wife has been gone for almost a week and a half now. She's taking a class. The first week was classroom work in town mostly. The following two weeks her class is four hours north of here research work. They're staying there and don't have time off. Thankfully, she comes home this coming Sunday. So, I'm on my own for two weeks. A lot of people ask how I'll manage it. The truth is, it's not too much different than normal. That's not to say that my wife isn't around and helps out--she does great work around here and I couldn't do it without her. But her schedule has been such that she works some mornings and works some evenings, so I'm always by myself during different parts of the day. The main difference is that I don't have much time to myself.

So the I took the boys down to my parents' house last week in northwest Iowa. They like to have a week on the farm with the grandchildren. And the boys love being on the farm (I do too for that matter--it's a welcome break from city life). We got in our first camping trip of the summer (finally!) with them as well.

Then we drove down to Des Moines to pick up my sister and her boyfriend to head to a family reunion in south-central Illinois. Anders went once as an infant, but we haven't gotten back since. We're sure to be back soon. We all love going. It's not so much a typical family reunion as it is an event, a destination. Family come from all over the United States and stay for several days. I love that family is so important to everyone and want that instilled on my boys.

But now we're back home. With plenty of clothes to wash, things to unpack and put away, and a few more days without my wife around. Being around other family is great, but there's no substitute for having your wife around and the kids being able to be with their mother.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Butterfly's Kisses

We went to Como Park today. We don't go there much in the summer because I hate the crowds and trying to find parking. But we wanted to see the newly opened Polar Bear exhibit--and we love going through the butterfly tent. My six-year old waited the entire walk through the tent (and we took our time) for a butterfly to land on him. He would even stand patiently in one spot for a while hoping for it to happen. Finally, right before we left one landed on his shoulder. It made him very happy. We all need those moments in our lives . . . simple joys when butterflies alight on your shoulder.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Keeping Cool

We checked out a splash pad/wading pool in Cleveland Park near our house tonight. It was a hot, humid day. We decided to cool off a little after supper.

It was a nice pool: zero entry, a good eighteen inches deep (maybe close to two feet--the side was marked as a foot, but it was much deeper than that). It didn't have as many water features as the splash pad in St. Louis Park, but that one wasn't with a pool--the water just drained. Anders loved swimming under the "mushroom."

The downside was that some kid dropped a glass bottle in the pool. And a few adults weren't following the no tobacco in the park signs. But they were also helpful in picking up the broken glass. And you'll get things like that in any park.

It was a fun discovery. And the playground seemed pretty decent, too.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Serendipitous Finds

This morning I took Anders back to the playground group he has been signed up for in St. Louis Park through their Parks & Recreation program. It's only $7 for the two months it runs, so we didn't mind doing it even though we weren't going to be living near there for long. Nils and I ran some errands. Afterward, we had a picnic lunch at a park in Golden Valley.

As we were driving home, we saw Golden Valley Parks & Rec.'s mobile Puppet Playhouse. We discovered the park it was pulling into for an afternoon show (a couple days a week they take it to a handful of parks in the morning and another group of them in the afternoon). So we stayed to watch the show (they "lip synced to a few Disney songs--Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King).

Then we discovered that after the puppet show the local police and fire departments were showing up for some community exposure. They did a brief (honestly--like two minutes at most) spiel about fire and bicycle safety. Then the fire truck hooked up the hose and became a giant sprinkler for the kids. They also gave out frisbees, pizza, ice cream novelties and bottled water. I missed out on getting some work done around the house, but it was one of those fun discoveries that we weren't planning on doing. We also found a splash pad close to our house (a few friends had mentioned it) that we'll have to check out another day.

It's those unplanned, unknown discoveries that make special moments (and even lead to some lasting traditions). May you have the same serendipity in your life (and be sure to share what you're discovering).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Birthday Time

My oldest turned six yesterday. We had his party in the morning since my wife had to work in the afternoon. And that worked out pretty well.

One of our birthday party philosophies is that they can invite the same number of guests as their birthday age (we'll see how that plays out as he gets into his teens). So, theoretically, he should have had six friends coming. July (especially around the 4th) is a hard time to get people since many are away on vacation. So he invited more than six since we new a few were going to be gone. I think we ended up with seven because one brought a friend from their class with (thankfully we came prepared with extra "gift bags").

One of our other philosophies is to keep it simple. For some people that may mean renting a place that takes care of the party for you. We can't afford that right now, so we had the party in a park. A park with a splash pad. So between getting wet and using the large play center at the park, the kids were occupied. (Translation: I didn't have to come up with any games or activities.)

Our son picked a Lego theme for his party (his best friend had one a few months ago and he enviously desired one as well--especially since his friend received lots of Lego presents). Basically, my wife made a wonderful brick-shaped cake and we sent the kids home with a Lego set (that we had stockpiled from clearance sales).

We just served PB&J sandwiches, popcorn and juice pouches for lunch (knowing that if we tried to serve other things like veggies or additional healthy options, they probably wouldn't get eaten much).

Honestly, other than the cake decorating, we didn't have to put a lot of extra effort into things. We could just enjoy the day. Which I think is what birthday parties are about anyway.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wet & Wild

The boys got to spend time with Anders' best friend from school and his little brother who is the same age as Nils. We hung out at the Oak Hill Splash Pad in St. Louis Park. It's a great time (and free!).

We also have a lot of free wading pools near us in Minneapolis (2 within a few blocks in either direction). They're actually deep enough for Anders to practice his swimming in (the water gets near my knees). We used to even just bike over to the school that was near our old apartment when the sprinklers were running and the boys would run through them. Of course, there are also plenty of bodies of water around us for cooling off in. It doesn't much matter where you go, if there's water on a hot day the boys are bound to have some fun--especially with good friends.