Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dads on NPR

Talk of the Nation on NPR today had a segment on the changing demographics and roles of men and women in the workplace which touched on stay-at-home dads. My wife told me about it on her way home from work, saying that TOTN was going to feature stay-at-home dads. I didn't get to listen to much of it when it was on since I was taking care of kids at the time. I'm just finishing it up right now, listening to it on line.

Here's a link to the audio of it if you're interested: End of the Macho Man?

The title of the segment is a bit offensive--or is it meant to be tongue-in-cheek? Our society still has a lot of biases about what men and women are supposed to do. I was recently introduced to a stay-at-home dad who is from Africa. Doing that is taboo in the culture he came out of. I know in my neighborhood I am the odd one out--some of my neighbors also come form cultures where being an at-home dad isn't macho or acceptable. We're at a point in history where we're wrestling with what it means to be a man or woman as well as fighting against long-established gender barriers. To me what matters is that we're doing what we want to be doing and doing it for the sake of those we love.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Art for Art's Sake

Anders had a field trip last Friday. They ended up not needing me along as a chaperon. So Nils and I took a field trip of our own to the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. Once again, I must express my appreciation for free museums and attractions. We wouldn't be able to get out as much otherwise.
It's getting to be more enjoyable because Nils is able to enjoy a little time there. He loves taking pictures for one thing. He's also becoming quite the artist himself--something that used to be only Anders' thing. Now Nils is into drawing and painting--and it's fun to see him improving and enjoying it.

One of the fun things about the museum, too, is that you can explore different parts of the world and different parts of history. The boys love the knight armor and swords, the Egyptian mummy and the African masks.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Get It In Writing

Nils said to me tonight, "I'm going to be Iron Man for Halloween. I'm goimg to write that down."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Green Chips (Kale Chips)

This past weekend some friends brought over kale and Swiss chard from their garden. I haven't had much experience with either plant before, but I have come across recipes lately for kale chips and have had friends rave about them. I found that any heavy green can work for the chips (kale, chard, spinach, etc.). If you search for kale chips or chard chips recipes you'll find many of them out there (Weelicious is a good kid-focused recipe website). The basic ones go like this:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  • Remove the stems from the kale (or whichever green you're using).
  • Cut the kale into chip-sized pieces
  • Lightly coat the leaves with oil (or spray them with a cooking spray). I used olive oil, pouring it over the leaves in a bowl. Not knowing how many leaves were in the bowl, I can't exactly tell you how much oil I used either. My advice is not too much (I over coated them, I felt)--just enough to lightly coat each leaf.
  • Place the leaves on a cooking sheet in a single layer (if you're using parchment paper underneath you should be able to get by with even less oil).
  • If desired, season (some recipes just skip seasoning as the chips will have a decent flavor as they are, others add a light amount of sea salt--you don't need much at all we found, we even tried some Parmesan cheese and garlic salt).
  • Bake for about 15 minutes (watch closely--lighter leaves like chard will take less time). As soon as the leaf is crisp, they're done--don't let them get too brown.

We had a neighbor kid over when we tried these last night and they were a hit with all the kids. They really end up just like a chip. It's a good way to sneak a good dose of vitamins into them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Toy Story 3

Yesterday the boys and I went to see Toy Story 3. I know it's been out for a while, but we were waiting for it to get to the cheap theaters (I'm not often compelled with the need to see something the first weekend it's open & financially, the cheap theater is what we can do). It was the first movie I had seen in a long time (my wife needed to study while we went), and it was really the first movie my almost-4-year old saw in the theater--at least that he was able to sit through.

There were a couple of intense scenes--but these got to my 6-year old more than my almost-4-year old. He's the sensitive one anyway. At the end of the movie when Andy and his mom are in Andy's empty bedroom, my son starts crying. Movies often touch him. I love that about him. He's also acutely aware that he's getting older. And that means changes. It means not being able to do the things he did when he was littler. It means that someday he won't have his toys to play with anymore.

I hope he never grows out of being sensitive. Sure, he needs to learn to be in control of his emotions and not let them control him so much. But I also don't want him to get to the point where he feels he needs to hide his emotions.

And I'm acutely aware that my kids are growing up, too. I'm not thrilled about it, but it is a bit unavoidable. And it's my job (not the school's or our church's or even the government's) to make sure he grows up well. That's our goal as parents: to raise children who can go out and live on their own when their old enough, being able to make the right decisions and having the resources to do so. We are not to hold them too tightly that we can't let them go (nor too loosely that they don't know real love from us). So, when the day comes and my son needs to box up his toys and get ready to leave for college, I'm sure I'll shed a tear, but I'll also know that he's ready for it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another Zoo Trip

After three days in a row of watching my niece and nephew (which I do enjoy, but it's hard to do much with additional kids during the day), Nils and I headed over to Como Park today. You really can't beat a free outing like that. It may not be as big as other zoos, but the kids always leave happy.

I enjoy going in the non-summer months when there aren't crowds to fight. Plus, today we heard a zoo talk about the giraffes, saw them training the polar bears, watched the seals and sea lions being fed and took in a story time. It can be quite the educational tour--plus, all the information I can share with my kids. Not to mention quality time together (and the relaxing time in the conservatory enjoying the smells of the flowers).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finger Painting

Nils has been into finger-painting lately (so much so that the paints are hardly a recognizable color anymore). Tonight I broke out a few canvases that were tossed away at our old apartment. There were three of them, so we each got to get our fingers dirty. It's been years since I've finger-painted, but the boys always enjoy doing things together. So, that's my piece of advice for today: play along with your kids. Use those crayons in a coloring book, push that train around the track, create with Legos, stack a tower with building blocks, create a new fashion for Barbie. Play and have fun (but remember it's for the kids--I know it can become easy to get too focused on that amazing house you're building with Legos).

Nils' abstract untitled work, Anders' flower on a hill (with mixing palette on the side) and my ode to "Starry Night"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hands Full

Three days a week I watch my sister's kids. They're almost 2 and 3 months. So I've got four kids ages 6 and under (though my 6-year old is in school most of the day, so really just 3 kids under 4). Some days I'm happy if I just get meals made.

Of course, there's always housework to be done. And diapers to change. And mouths to feed. And kids who need some focused time with me. Plus somewhere in there I'd like to stay sane and find a little time for myself (even if it's writing a quick spot on here).

All the while, I'm thankful I have the opportunity. I get a little supplemental financial gift for watching the kids (which is much needed right now) and I get to know my niece and nephew better--even having the opportunity to shape them in small ways: working with my niece on the ABCs, 123s and spelling her name. And I get time with my kids, get to help mold them and I don't have to worry about what they're picking up at day care. Frankly, the consistency of being with them each day pays off.

The truth is, we all have our hands full--no matter how many (if any) kids we have. Life is full. We make choices what we fill it with--and how well we handle what we've got. While I may not get much accomplished on days I'm watching several kids, I can still make it an effective day simply by pouring our best into whatever task is at hand--even if it's playing with the kids.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Labor Day is one of those holidays with little meaning to it. Basically it got on the calendar to appease the labor unions, as I understand it. Most of us observe it as "the end of summer": a chance to travel, get outdoors, bar-be-que or hang out with friends and neighbors. Often it's a last-bash-before-school-begins event, but we're already a week into school this year. For almost everyone it's a day off from work. Except stay-at-home parents, of course (unless your spouse is gifting you with a day to yourself, but it usually tends to be a family day).

An older gentleman asked me this weekend what I do. I told him that I'm home with my kids. He replied, "Oh, you're a babysitter." I didn't bother with trying to change that idea--he was from a different generation, and I doubted I would get too far.

We all know people who have that image of us. And well all know that there is so much more to being a stay-at-home parent. It's a thankless job that pays nothing. But there are great benefits.

So to all you who don't get a break from work today because you're with your kids, may your Labor Day be a memorable time with your family. Keep up the good work!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Hang Out Place

We seem to have become the hang out place after school. After all summer of only fleeting acknowledgments from our neighbors, some of the kids who go to school with Anders (a second year student who is in his same class room, and a third year) have been over to play almost every day this week. It's mostly because I'm not willing to let the boys hang out at other places yet until I've gotten to know their parents (which I'm hoping will happen as their kids hang out here--though none of them have been by yet). We've got a good yard to play in, and they've played inside a bit, too (even playing with Nils' train track that he hasn't touched in a while).

While sometimes I can let myself believe it's an inconvenience, that I want some time with my kids by myself. But I'd rather it was this way than not. The reality is that many parents don't care where there kids are or who they're hanging out with. Or they do care, but they're not able to do much about it because they have to work to put food on the table. So I know I'm lucky in being able to keep an eye on my kids while being able to "screen" their play time. I guess in being blessed with being able to be home with my kids all the time, I can take opportunities to extend that to the neighborhood--at least in getting to know the kids that my kids will hang out with better.