Monday, November 19, 2012


I heard an adolescent girl at church last night saying that her parents hadn't had "the puberty talk" with her yet. She continued to say that she didn't need it--she had heard it all at school. Now I don't doubt that her parents have had some version of "the talk" with her--maybe not just as she expects it should be.

It was a reminder for me, though, that as a parent I need to be the source of information for my children. Not the only source, and maybe not even the main source, but I definitely need to be talking with them. If my wife and I aren't talking with them, then our kids are getting all their information elsewhere: "the puberty talk," drugs, alcohol, racism, etc.

So talk with them. Tell them the things they need to know. Tell them your expectations.  Tell them why. Tell them why not. Tell them your stories. But talk.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Birthday Party

Confession: I let my youngest son (who just turned six today) do all the work for this birthday party.

Not all the work. But he really had it planned out well. Last year I had made an obstacle course for his super-hero themed party. Apparently that was a big hit. He had spent weeks drawing out one for this year. Then he made a 3-D model of it. Seriously. He did. It involved string, cut-out paper folded dimensionally, and a few other things. Unfortunately, it rained a bit last night and the morning was quite dreary (we initially were told we'd have a big winter storm today), so we didn't set up the course. But then 15 minutes before the party started, we decided to do a short version of it. The sun came out and it ended up being 65.

He had also planned a game of "Pin the Head on the Lego Guy" (a version of the donkey game). He had drawn a Lego guy and made cut-out heads for the kids to put on it.

He had brought home some of his recent works from school, so he decorated by taping some of those on the walls.

He had also requested a Lego cake. You might have guessed there was a Lego theme going on. The boys learned at some point that if the presents their friends bring often go with the theme. So they come up with themes based on the presents they want. Shameless, I know. We didn't even announce the theme ahead of time; apparently he had told all his friends that it was a Lego theme. Which I guess works--the other parents don't have to guess what kind of present he might like.

We had also picked up some crafts at Michaels for them to do. Which, we should have thought before hand about having to have six Kindertarten-and-under kids trying to put together a wooden model...they required a bit of help with that. But over all it turned out pretty well.

And I never like coming up with activities, so it worked out well him having put it together. I heartily recommend getting the birthday kid involved in planning their party.

Happy birthday to my 6-year old!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Of Babysitters, Grandparents, and Blessings

Confession: I get jealous of the parents who live close to their families. I am envious of having "built-in-babysitters."

If you have your own parents living nearby, be thankful. We live 4-5 hours from either of our families (with the exception of my sister who is a half hour away--she used to watch our kids a bit, but she has three of her own now; she is still very willing to watch them, though). When our eldest child was born we lived less than an hour from my parents. We didn't see them too often, but they were always willing to come babysit when we needed it.

We've got great friends who help watch our kids, and we're very thankful for them. But there are plenty of times when we need someone to watch the kids when both my wife and I have to be at work or at a church event (when most of our babysitters are also at church).

If jobs were more abundant in the areas where either of our families lived, we'd consider moving closer. They're both in small town areas (which I would prefer to live and raise kids in). And not just for the baby-sitting but for our kids being able to be around their grandparents more frequently.

Now I write all this not to try and sound whiny, but to bring awareness to the blessing of having family living close to you. Not only is it great for you, but it's great for the kids (which all of this is obvious, I know).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sickness, Jobs, and Perspective

My youngest threw up at school yesterday. He probably shouldn't have been there, I know. He woke up that morning saying his stomach hurt. A stomach ache is hard to diagnose as if it is a legitimate reason to stay home or a convenient excuse for not wanting to go to school. I also have a need to be at work and not let people down. I also have a hard time giving up a day's pay right now. So I took him to school. I checked in on him later in the day--he was doing fine after a rocky start. But a couple hours later his teacher had brought him to my room. So my wife was frustrated I had taken him to school. I still kind of feel in the middle of a rock and a hard place with those kind of decisions.

He said his stomach hurt again this morning. He hadn't had any more issues after the one. I thought he'd be okay. He maybe is. But I'm playing it safe today. We're both at home.

These sort of decisions were a lot easier when I was full-time at home. If my oldest was appearing sick, I'd generally just keep him home. Those decisions are harder to make when it requires missing a day of work for me as well.

There are a lot of things that are harder now that I'm working during the school year. Both my wife and I are tired when we get home from work, but there are meals to cook, clothes to wash, dishes to do, floors to sweep, bathrooms to clean, and a yard to take care of. Plus, we want to spend time with the kids, time with each other, and have time doing the things we need to do for ourselves as well. That's not including the meetings and other obligations that fill the schedules.

But I'm just preaching to the choir, here. Most of us are familiar with the busyness of life--and how it gets compounded when parents are working. Sometimes we just have to do our best.

A friend recently reminded me that no one has said on their deathbed, "I wish I had spent more time cleaning the house." Her point was that sometimes we don't do something we need to do for the sake of spending time with our children or spouse. Of course, we can't choose that every day or we'd get in trouble for sending the kids to school in clothes that haven't been washed in five weeks or for them getting sick from eating off dishes with an unnamed fungus growing on them.

The point is, sometimes we need to make the better choice. And some days that's keeping my kid home from school for the sake of his health (and the health of everyone else in the school). And I need to remember that having that time with him is a gift.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Best Buy's New Look & Give Away

We were invited to look at one of Best Buy's new store layouts today. Four stores in the Twin Cities had grand openings for their new store design (with others in other parts of the country). Many have commented on how it's similar to Apple Stores--my wife is the one who goes to the Apple Store more often, so I can't comment on that. I do know that it was very "user friendly."

The signage makes it easy to find what section of the store you are trying to get to. Products were well displayed. Staff was on hand to ask questions. And you can purchase your items at many locations throughout the store. Best Buy now has "Solution Central" and other areas in the store to get help--not only on finding what you need, but to help get information on how to find the right technology for your needs, set-up/wire/connect your entertainment centers or computers, and people on hand to help fix any products that aren't working.

While we were at the store in Eden Prairie, Best Buy was having give-aways throughout the day to celebrate their grand opening (we didn't win anything, but there were some nice prizes). Earlier in the morning, chef Kevin Vanderaa, big winner on the Food Network's Cupcake Challenge, had been on hand doing some baking demonstrations. "Cupcakes at Best Buy?" you may ask. If you have seen their new kitchen section, you'll understand why. They have quite a nice selection of kitchen appliances on hand now--anything from Frigidaire refrigerators to Kitchen Aid mixers. Additionally, they were offering a few workshops throughout the day--much like Home Depot offers workshops on DIY projects, Best Buy was offering talks on things like "Time Saving Apps" and "Media for On-the-Go."

I was glad to see all their traditional electronics were still offered and well-stocked. I was delighted to find some things I didn't expect: in addition to all their kitchen products I also came across an instrumental section (if I need to replace a guitar string), office supplies, even Star Wars Lego watches. Which was a plus, because I had my youngest son with, and he was happy with all the fun things to look out (most of the displays are at eye-level and many are where children can check out things they'd be interested in as well). Be sure to check out a Best Buy store with their new layout if you have one near you.

Best Buy has offered some some gift cards to my readers. If you're interested in winning one, please leave a comment on this post (especially if you have visited a new store--I'd love to hear what you thought) with a way to get ahold of you if  you win (such as an email address if one isn't connected to your log-in). Winners will be drawn at random on Saturday, October 21 at noon CST. Please post your comment before then.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Confession: I (and my wife) get frustrated (and maybe sometimes angry) that our son doesn't want to do the things he needs to do.

At the end of the last school year, our then second grader made a list of goals for the summer as part of an assignment. Despite reminders I don't think heh ever looked at them.

One of our goals for him was for him to have his multiplication facts memorized. Admittedly, I didn't follow through with it as well as I should have, with using driving time in the car to work on a fact family and such. 

He's a kid with a delicate ego and sometimes poor self-esteem. He's said at times he feels like he's "the worst kid in the world." 

We try to be loving and encouraging as much as possible. Apparently we don't always nurture that very well, though. At least it feels like our efforts haven't paid off in creating an "I-can-do-it" attitude.

We've tried various approaches: encouragement, check-lists, even the occasional bribe. Nothing's been effective. And ultimately we want him to have the self-motivation to do things on his own because he desires to achieve things.

So, I'd love to hear what works for do you instill a desire in your child to accomplish the tasks before him that aren't going to go away? How do you help keep a child motivated? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


We dropped my wife off at the airport today. She'll be in Pennsylvania for the next ten days working on her research site for her doctoral program. The boys did well with this drop off--there wasn't any crying this time.

Sometimes I feel like putting a post on Facebook seeking sympathy for having to take care of my kids alone for the next ten days. Other dads get to do it. But it would be silly for me to do so. I'm used to taking care of my kids. Sure, I'm not alone most of the time, but I cook, I clean, I do things with the kids.

Still, it's never easy. The hardest part of a spouse being gone isn't necessarily the lack of support with tasks around the house or watching the kids. It's that you're now the only adult in the house. No grown-up conversations or interaction after the kids are in bed.

But it's only ten days. And I won't be alone. We've got friends and family. I can do it. So can you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Scheduling Free Time

A friend of mine posted this on facebook today. I may have to look into getting my hands on the book.

We try not to over-schedule our kids. They're not in a ton of sports or activities. And sometimes I regret not being able to give them music lessons or gymnastic lessons (they're inspired by Batman to learn some gymnastic moves). But I do try and plan things now and then--trips to museums or zoos, bike rides, picnics in parks, swimming at the beach, time with friends, etc.

I think we also give them a fair amount of free time--empty hours. But our oldest at least tends to spend his empty hours doing the same thing--playing with Legos or drawing. And he can do that for hours, but it doesn't always create happiness.

So I guess that's part of my pondering--will my children create their own happiness with their empty hours or do I need to help them discover how to do that? There are good thoughts here, and much to explore and discuss.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice

Trying out the Pedal Pull
Confession: I don't like that it's already the longest day of the year--Midsummers Day for those of us from Scandinavian descent.

A week and a half into being out of school...we're slowly getting the hang of summer (and me being back at home for the next few months).

A cousin of mine was married last weekend in Iowa. The boys and I drove down early to have a few days on the farm with the grandparents, visit the great-grandmothers in the nursing home, and enjoy summer opportunities (lakes and small town summer celebrations).

Visiting Great-Grandma
Last night we participated in the Celebrate Northeast Parade with our church (and other churches). I brought the boys' scooters (a good move on my part) and they did the whole length of the parade and back (to get back to our car) which was from 28th Avenue to 14th (okay, we hopped in at 26th Avenue, but we had to walk a couple blocks from our car). They did well.

We haven't been home much yet. And the few days we have I've had some appointments, and soon the boys will have appointments. So we haven't gotten too many days on our own to form any sort of schedule yet. I'm hoping for one day for bike rides, one day for visiting museums, one day for working around the house and yard, etc. And there will be days in there of watching friends' kids and playing with neighbors.

Enjoying the Lake
I know many parents dread summer. I enjoy it. Maybe it's because of all the opportunities my kids have for summer in the city that I didn't have (my opportunities tended to be farm work and swimming lessons--both of which I'm grateful for, but it was a little more limited that what we have here). I enjoy getting to take them places and explore--new libraries, new museums, new parks, new people.

I already feel like we've got a lot going on, and we're not doing any day camps or major activities. There is plenty to do. And plenty to enjoy.

Today, the most sunlight potential we'll have all year, was a bit cloudy and rainy, but it ended with a spectacular rainbow. It was well past bedtime, but when I got home from a meeting, we loaded the boys in the car for a pajama ride to try and chase it down. By the time we got to a place where we could get some good pictures, it had faded pretty well. But it was a nice ending to Midsummers Day.

Earlier sunsets from now on (which isn't bad--it'll help with the bedtime routine), but still a lot of summer to enjoy.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer 2012

School is done (I'll have to write more about that later) and I'm back to being a stay-at-home parent for the summer. I'm looking forward to it.

I just came across this listing of free events around the Twin Cities (concerts and such) and thought I'd post it so that I can remember it as well as sharing it with others.

Click here: Free Family Events around the Twin Cities

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Continental Cumulus

As we were driving this afternoon, my 5-year old looked up at the sky and said, "That cloud looks like Europe." I guess he's been working on the world map a bit at the Montessori School.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

An Update

I clearly haven't been posting here lately.

I've been substitute teaching (or subbing as a para) almost every day. It's (mostly) enjoyable. It also makes for long days. I get home usually just in time to pick up the boys from school. That leaves time to figure out something to make for supper. Then there's often something going on each night--either I have a meeting, or my wife has something, or we all have something going on. Plus there's plenty of things around the house to do since I'm not here to take care of them during the day. (I so miss being able to hang clothes on the clothes line--even in the winter.)

The days are much longer. But I am grateful I don't have to work every day. If one of the boys is sick, I can stay home (fairly) easily. I don't have to worry about early out days at school. I can take a day off if I just need to get something else done.

So even though some days are tough--there are some classes I really wouldn't go back to if I can help it--I'm grateful that since I have to work, it something that still allows me to have some flexibility. I'm especially grateful that we're able to keep to our family's commitments and desires--that the boys don't have to do after school programs and that I can be there when they're sick. And I should still be able to have the summer with them.