Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Love My Kids’ Artwork! (Now please make it stop…)


I love to create – always have, always will. I am absolutely energized when I take what I consider to be a ‘great’ photo. I write, when I can, in various formats. I once took a drawing class after college, and I have to say (and the instructor agreed) that my stuff was pretty good - at least for a guy that doesn't draw much anymore. When I’m blue, nothing picks me up like having created SOMEthing.

And so, it stands to reason, that I take particular joy in seeing my girls create too. I feel a glow in my heart when I see their little blonde heads bent down over their craft table, cranking away at some coloring, or painting, or just gluing a pile of beads together into what Sylvia calls a ‘sculpt-tour’.

"Skyline (I'm talkin' 'bout)"
Lillian Rose Chesak, 2012
Marker, crayon, acrylic paint, 
construction paper, white office paper
Thankfully for me, they love it too. They beg for art classes and camps, run up to me with eyes aglow to show off their latest creation, and ask for craft kits for holiday gifts.

And then, every once in a while, they have the time, materials, and focus to suddenly produce something that even takes me aback a little – something quite seriously really very ‘good’. There in my hands, created by my daughter, will suddenly be a thoughtful cityscape of detailed buildings with rows of lit windows, silhouetted against a multi-hued dusky sky, or a funky, honest owl splashed with equal genius of both subtle colors and riotous shapes.

Sometimes it, very literally, brings a tear to my eye.

But, among all this creative beauty, there is… a dark side [cue ominous organ music]…

The output of artworks by the average American kid is substantial. They are fortunate enough to live in a place there is generally a steady supply of paper, scissors, glue, pens, paints, markers, beads, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, and whatever else they can get their ink-stained hands on to produce copious works of art.

Each weeklong art camp they go to produces a good dozen works per kid. Every school day is three to five more, per kid.  Each holiday means two small deluges of themed artwork. Every moment spent coloring, cutting, pasting, and generally creating means more and more sheets, mobiles, Fuze-Beads, pot-holders, picture frames, god’s eyes, Valentines, water colors, finger paintings, paper dolls, sculptures, and more.

I appreciate each and every one, truly, as they are all special and amazing to me. Each one is truly a minor miracle, a wonder that my kid was able to pick up a crayon and color within the lines, or mix those particular hues, or string all those beads onto that shoelace. And yet, actually dealing with it all is yet another task to squeeze into the day.

"A Guy"
Lillian Rose Chesak, 2012
Tinfoil, bronze paint, wood block,
'and this stuff we put on it'
For every amazing work they produce, they produce another 50 or so that are great, in their own way, but… maybe not worth scanning and posting for the in-laws to see, or hanging on the fridge, or taping to the sliding glass door. So, you pitch much of it into the recycling bin, generally late at night when there are no little eyeballs to catch you. (Because, if they do catch you, there’s a little hell to pay. “Daddy, why is my dinosaur picture in the trash!?!?” Damn. Busted…)

And as you run about during your usual day of work, housework, trying to get to the gym, etc. The artwork piles up, and piles up, and piles up, until you find yourself with yet another task to accomplish; ‘Oh man, I’ve GOT to sort through the kids’ art!’

I do have a rather unique solution to some of the artwork challenges. Rather than just taking all the ‘good stuff’ (the pieces worth keeping) and filing them away where no one can see them, I actually hang them up in the garage. Half the walls in our garage are a mosaic of several years’ of kids’ artwork, all tacked up on bare drywall, layering each other. There are construction paper kites and butterflies on the ceiling, brass hinged dinosaurs trampling through princess watercolors, various paper dolls running through drawings of our house, which themselves cover the crinkling corners of larger format paintings.

It’s great fun to see in its entirety, and it spruces up some otherwise plain walls in an otherwise dull space.

And yet, preserving all this is time and work. Currently the ‘to hang’ pile on a garage cabinet is about three feet wide, by a foot deep, and nearly a foot high (high enough that to add anything to the mound I have to carefully balance a new piece on the very center of the top, unless it slides off and onto the floor below).

"Owl"
Sylvia Ann Chesak, 2012
Water color paints, marker, pencil, 
white office paper
Like most parenting, it’s both blessing and curse: you love each single work and each one can make you nearly burst with pride, yet the deluge is just ‘One – More – Thing’ to have to deal with.

Still, all the scanning, the stapling in the garage, the hanging and un-hanging of Halloween ghosts and Leprechauns, and the subversive middle-of-the-night recycling is worth it to preserve all these various records of their artistic development.

Every time I look at their collective works that are scattered across the garage walls and ceiling, I marvel at their productivity, development, and passion. They are just little tempests of spontaneous, pure creation.

And if that makes me the guy that cleans up after these two magnificent little storms of uninhibited, unbridled, unrestrained creativity, then so be it. It’s a role I relish.

(Even if I don’t always relish having to sort that huge pile of artwork in the garage…) 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Schputtering


As a parent, you often lie in bed at night, exhausted and worn out, too tired to follow through on all your mid-day promises to your spouse about spending some time together that night after the kids are in bed. 

But you think about your day, and you can't recall ever actually accomplishing anything. You know you were busy, you know you were moving all day long, but you feel like you didn't actually DO anything. 

So where did all that time and energy go? It went to schputtering. 

A big part of daily schputtering: preparing
food, then cleaning up all that's left over. 
Schputtering is an ancient yiddo-germanglish word - and not something that I just made up (really, what sort of cad do you think I am to just make up words and then try to pass them off as real words with an ancient history?). It's what you do when you can't do anything, because you're constantly doing everything. 

As a parent of young kids, you have to run two (at least two) lives. And I don't mean that you get to be a spy or a secret agent here. You have to RUN two lives (again, at least two): you have to brush two sets of teeth, comb two sets of hair, make two sets of meals, dress two bodies, etc. etc. etc. But the second life you run, doesn't want to do all these things. Your kids don’t want to brush their hair or go to school or put on their pajamas. So, you have to push it all, Sisyphus like, up The Hill of Personal Hygiene everyday - twice (not to mention the Get to School Hill, then the Stop Teasing Each Other Hill, and the What Do You Want for Dinner Hill, and all the others in your own little daily mountain range). You are constantly pushing those boulders up all those hills... only to do it all over again the next day. 

So, with all this pushing of stones going about, you don't have a lot of time to do all the work on your home, on your life, on your relationship that you'd like to get done (much less stuff that you actually WANT to do, like read a book, go to a movie, hike, etc.) But, inevitably, a sudden and entirely unexpected quiet will come over the house. Suddenly the children are playing quietly (and well) together, or engaged in a craft, or engrossed in a fantastic story of princess-mermaid-ballerina-Taylor Swifts who go to the world's most amazing mall filled with all the cookies and candy in the WHOLE WORLD. Suddenly, you have no stones to push up any particular hills, for a moment. 

So what do you do? 

You don't dare start a project or try to get anything done, because you know, you KNOW, another stone is about to roll right down another hill, and it will come crashing right into your chest if you're not looking for it (generally, RIGHT at the moment when you've pulled the entire garage apart because you finally wanted to straighten it out, or you have realized that you just super-glued your fingers to the broken princess Barbie that is wearing a ballet tutu atop her mermaid fin). So, you know – from too much experience – that you can't dare start something that you really want to do. 

So, you start schputtering. 

You start walking around the house, sort of in a zombie-ate-my-brain stupor, just sort of looking around... 'What do I do? What do I do that is productive but is going to take no more than six minutes to accomplish and can be left completely mid-stride when the next boulder runs down the next hill at me?'

Sylvia, chowing down on some pancakes,
wondering what next she can to do keep
her folks schputting along. 
You wander about, until you see some toys that the girls didn't put away. So you put them away. ‘Ah, that feels good. Something accomplished!’

Then you see three-days worth of mail is stacked up on the counter. You sort it and put it all in its respective piles for the recycling, bills to pay, and coupons for cool things that you'll keep and put in the drawer with every intention of using to do something nice with your spouse, only to find them again a year and a half later, long after that business has gone completely belly up. 'Ah, mail sorted. More accomplishment.'

Then you see the kids' coats on the floor, try to put them away, and are immediately hit by a suffocating wave of other coats, mismatched boots, and single mittens. You spend a whopping, precious eleven minutes cleaning out the closet. ‘Productivity!’

You stop, unsure of what to do next. You listen for the inevitable fight or crying from the kids' rooms upstairs, but not yet. It's still happyville up there for now. So, what next? Ah, the laundry! Check it! Because, surely, SURELY, there is a load still in the wash that needs to dry, or one in the dryer that needs to go into the hamper, or one in the hamper that needs to be folded, or one that's folded that needs to be put back in the kids' closets… where you'll find another load strewn across their floors, ready to go into the wash.

That done, you're feelin' GOOD. You are a machine of productivity! You start to wonder if you really could be so bold as to actually knock something off the three-month old 'To Do' list and maybe clean out the car, or replant that shrub - or even be so brash as to take a moment and sit down on the couch with that book who's plot and characters you've forgotten three weeks ago.

But… you've been burned before. You have to keep it short. You reset the couch cushions, refill the dog and cat food, maybe straighten up your office, always waiting, waiting, for that next stone to come rollin' down at you, which it inevitably does as a fight, or a cry of 'All DONE POOPIN'! or an immediate need for a peanut butter and honey sandwich with extra honey on soft bread with no crusts. 

Thus, after a full day of this over and over again, you're in bed, exhausted, and you can't remember all the 126 little tiny, incremental things you got done today. You're all schputtered out. 


So, what did you ‘accomplish’ that day, since you didn’t get to finally uploading the photos from Easter, or get the car washed, or rearrange the living room furniture, or get to your gymkata class? Not much. Just a whole lot of caring for, supporting, and taking care of some awesome little kids – which is, of course, also called simply ‘parenting’.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

WonderTime*


Parenting is dichotomous. For while parenting fills your heart and home with love and laughter and a level of fulfillment (I think is) otherwise unachievable in the world, it’s also – frankly, if I can be honest here – one huge, time-sucking, mundane, repetitive, soul-stealing total pain the in ass. (And forgive my being so blunt there, but I feel that it's true. And I'm a guy that loves being a parent!)

The trials and tribulations of parenting are obvious (and legion throughout this blog), but I absolutely must focus here on one of the more amazing positives here, something I call 'wondertime'.

After 42 years on this planet, some things tend to get a little mundane and you, quite naturally, take them for granted (if you even notice them at all any more). But when your toddler or preschooler starts to experience them for the first time and really starts to actually GRASP their concepts, these same things become huge, even monumental. There are just so many little things that we have forgotten about, that we just accept, but these supposedly now mundane things can fill our children with absolute wonder. And their palpable awe of these things can bring you right back to a time when you too found these little parts of life every bit as wondrous.
Sylvia, learning about gecko eyes
at the Boston Museum of Science

So, here, for you, is a very short list of a few wonder-filled things my girls have reintroduced me to:

MAIL! – Mail is an amazing thing. It is proof that your nation has achieved a certain amount of safety, security, and wealth to be able to provide this service (not all countries have mail, you know). But it’s also magic. A person, in uniform, comes to your house – almost EVERY DAY – to bring you things and leave them in a special box. Sometimes those things even have your name on them – they are for you! Sometimes those things come, somehow, from grandma. Sometimes those things have money in them for your birthday! Sometimes those things are kids magazines, just for you, or even toy catalogs (what we call ‘kids menus’ after a three-year-old Lillian dubbed one Toys-R-Us catalog by that name)! Like the guy in Blue’s Clues will tell you, mail is worth wailing about.

GARBAGE TRUCKS! – Oh my, but the garbage truck is a wonderful thing. Like mail, it’s a reminder that you live in a safe, wealthy country (many countries don’t have garbage pick up, either). But, unlike mail, it’s a special event that only happens once a week! Guys in special suits come, sometimes first thing in the morning, with a very special truck that is only for garbage and it has flashing yellow lights on it, and they take your garbage away! You never see it again – it’s GONE! When Lillian was four and Sylvia two, I’d yell out, ‘Trash Truck!’ on Friday mornings, and we’d all run to the couch by the window that faced where the trash guys took our garbage, just to watch and wave. Amazing stuff.

WINDSHIELD WIPERS! – Our cars have little arms on them that we can control. They clear off the windows when it’s rainy out. Better still, those windows have SPRAYERS that spray the windows to clean them off. That is just way too cool. It’s so cool, that sometimes you just have to ask your dad or mom to just turn them on, just to see them again and be sure that, yep, those little wiping arms are still there.

MONEY! – Money is amazing. You have it, then you can hand it to people for stuff. You just hand them pieces of paper or little metal disks and you get back candy, toys, rides, all sorts of stuff! It’s especially fun when your three-year old begins to recognize money, like Sylvia a few years ago stepping out of our car in a mall parking lot. She saw a penny on the ground; “Daddy! Money! Money, daddy – look!” She picked it up and held it aloft for the entire world to see. Money is power. Sylvia knew this, she heard about it from us, her parents, because when you have money you can do things and when you don’t, you can’t and suddenly Sylvia had her own little bit of power, right there in the palm of her hand. “I have money daddy, money!” It was a penny, but she’s getting the concept at least…

Lillian, in PJ's, with early morning lady bug
POCKETS! – When was the last time you really appreciated pockets? I mean pockets are pretty wonderful. Not all of kids’ clothes even have pockets, so when they do have pockets, they can carry… STUFF! Sylvia’s parking lot penny went into… you guessed it, her pocket! Pockets can carry little dolls, or piles of rocks, or seashells, or candies, or stuff you want to use later. Without pockets, it’s much harder to carry these things. So pockets are cool! They are worth telling the world about, “Look daddy, I have pockets on this dress! And I’m going to put X, Y, and Z in my pockets!”** 

These are just a very few things that my girls have reintroduced to me as being quite amazing. Their wonder constantly wakes memories within me of doing some of those exact same things, allowing me to see the joy in all these forgotten things and to, for a moment, feel that childlike amazement again. And these are just a few. There are dozens, maybe hundreds more: the light in the refrigerator, rubber bands, bubble wrap, camping, remote controls, light switches, bridges, tape, Pop Rocks, spit balls, sprinklers – the list really does go on and on and on. (Oh, and don’t even get me started on holidays, especially the grand daddy of all wonder-moments, Christmas. That’s a WHOLE other league of ‘wonder’ going on there.)

But, when it comes to these modest little things, I’m so thankful to my girls for reintroducing me the true wonder and amazement of these inventions that I have taken for granted for so long, and for allowing me – for a moment or two – to be, again, that wide-eyed amazed little kid too.


*With apologies to the excellent parenting magazine of that same name that existed, all too briefly, prior to the economic downturn. It was the one parenting magazine that was actually positive, proactive, and chock full of great recipes, ideas for games and toys for kids of a variety of ages, and offered realistic, sound parenting advice, rather than the usual fear-mongering parenting magazines out there that are constantly emblazoned with terror-filling headlines like “25 Things in Your Home that will KILL your Toddler – RIGHT NOW!” It was such a good magazine that we would buy subscriptions as baby shower gifts for people. If you are a parent, the back issues are worth seeking out.
RIP WonderTime. We miss you…

** Side note, once when I was a kid of about seven or so, I found some cool worms and I thought it would be super awesome to put them – and there were a LOT of them – into my pocket to take home. Well, I first played out in the sun for several hours. When I got home, I was excited to get my worms back out and build a little home for them. Well, let’s just say that that particular pocket wasn’t quite so wonderful…

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Of Peas... and Lipsticks

Lillian hates vegetables. She despises them actually. Her hatred is so very deep that she will sometimes actually completely flip-out (and I mean have a total meltdown) just because there are vegetables on the plate NEXT to hers.

Lillian devilishly taunts Sylvia with her 'lipsticks'
while Sylvia recoils behind her frozen peas. 
And I don’t mean she’ll flip out if there’s a plate full of veggies sitting right next to her own plate, I mean she’ll flip out if there is, say, a small pile of peas on a plate on the setting next to hers – a good full two feet away. She will see the offending mass of green or orange or yellow stuff, her eyes and mouth will shock open in terror, then she will quickly pick up her own plate and everything else from her setting, and move somewhere else – usually to another table entirely.

Her distain was so acute that we actually looked up to see if there is actually a medically noted phobia of vegetables. There is.

It’s called lachanophobia.

And we’ve fought the battle, fought it over and over and over again. We’ve tried every vegetable imaginable. We’ve tried numerous variations of each vegetable. We’ve tried hiding them, disguising them, covering them with cheese or brown sugar, inserting them into things, and more. The only thing that has really worked with Lillian is if you take the Jessica Seinfeld route of shaving bits of a veggie into a mass of carbs and fats and then feed it to your kid as a muffin or some other more familiar food, trying to be content that this dusting of vegetable mass that you were able to slip by your kid’s radar is certainly better than nothing.

So, we did what all good parents eventually do: we gave up. Hard to admit, but it’s totally true. Lillian beat us. There, I said it. Congratulations seven-year-old girl – you just wore down two 40-year-old (ish) adults!

But our misery is Sylvia’s opportunity.

As Sylvia started to grow out from under the yoke of oppression that her older sister held over her when she was two or three years old, finally standing up for herself and telling Lillian what was on her mind, or what SHE – not Lillian – wanted to do, and generally putting her little four-inch foot down, she started to use vegetables against Lillian.

You see, Sylvia loves her veggies. She chows on carrot sticks, asks for extra peas (even pulls the peas out of Indian rice to eat them like a treat before the actual rice), loves her some broccoli, and will even try exotic new vegetables. And, while mackin’ on some squash puree or something, she at one point realized just how much it repulsed Lillian. So she did what any good little sister would do: she started taunting her big sister with it.

She held vegetables aloft before eating them, so that Lillian could bear witness. She declared, town crier like, which vegetable she was about to eat. She chewed with her mouth open. She asked for more, and then more again. She pointed out how much she had eaten and pointed out where the bowl of more veggies was on the table. She often walks around the table with her plate to eat her veggies right in front of her sickened and screaming lachanophob big sister. Sylvia saw Lillian’s weakness, and like a good general commanding troops or a boxer in the ring, she immediately exploited it.

But Sylvia is not without her own kryptonite. You see, Sylvia hates lipstick, or ‘lipsticks’ as she calls it. And, as the parental fates would have it, Lillian just LOVES makeup (and all things girly for that matter).

Now Sylvia’s fear is so acute that she asks her mom if she is, “Wearing lipsticks” before Sally can even kiss her good-bye or night-night. She inspects family water bottles to be sure that no one with lipsticks has used it before her – and if they have, well then she just doesn’t drink water then. It goes so far that she will ask me if I have any ‘chapsticks’ on before I kiss her, or before she drinks out of my water bottle.

Now, a quick search of the interwebs tells me that, thankfully, there is no official phobia named for a fear of lipstick (although apparently there is a band by that name), nor is there even an official phobia for a fear of make-up in general. But if there were one, Sylvia would certainly have this ‘revlon-aphobia’.

So, what does Lillian do? She taunts her sister with it, of course! Sylvia won’t do what Lillian wants or maybe gets her in trouble? Lillian is off to her bedroom to apply some Hello Kitty lipsticks! Is Sylvia being a whiney brat to Lillian in the car? Lillian digs out some lip-gloss (or perhaps ‘lip-glosses’ in Sylviaspeak) and applies in layers (sometimes missing her lips and creating this creepy sort of clown-face look). Then, once firmly applied in layers thick enough to make a house painter proud, she chases Sylvia, threatening to ‘kiss her all over’ with her lipstick-caked lips.

So what do Sally and I, the parental equivalent of the U.N., do here to assuage the saber-rattling of these two super powers? We have tried peace talks. We’ve tried d├ętente. We’ve tried disarmament treaties. We’ve tried the spray bottle, squirting them in the face like a bad dog or a cat trying to sharpen her claws on your new sofa. But, in the end, we settled on deterrence – you simply arm them both. And with this ‘mutually assured destruction’ (in Cold War parlance) comes an uneasy, stressful ‘peace’ – of sorts.  

When we’re at the dinner table now and we’re serving vegetables, we make sure that Sylvia is aware that Lillian can go get her lipsticks whenever she likes. When we leave the house and Lillian holsters her lipsticks or lip-gloss, we grab a ziplock bag of frozen peas and hand them to Sylvia (the peas eventually defrost and serve the double purpose of providing her with a healthy snack later).

So, while in the world of Jude and Ward Cleaver, everything little sibling conflict might actually have a parental solution that can wrapped up in a nice, tight, little succinct package, the reality of real-world parenting is that it doesn’t work that way. And, as sheriffs of this one-horse town, sometimes to keep the peace you’ve got to just make sure that both your little gunslingers are armed – even if it’s just with a baggie of frozen peas and a Hello Kitty lipsticks. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The iPhone/iPad Parenting Crutch


It’s a little known fact, but there was no parenting prior to the invention of iPhones. It’s true.
Before the invention of these smart little devices, parenting was just deemed too difficult and hard so no one had kids until the iPhone was invented. Really, no lie.
I mean, what could a parent have done while waiting for a newborn to fall asleep? I mean they HAD to check emails and/or try to get three stars on each Angry Birds level, right?
And what would a parent have done during those brief, 5-15 minute random lulls between chasing, cleaning, changing, and breaking up fights over the Snickle-Fritz ZhuZhu Pet, BUT post to Facebook and catch up on several Words With Friends games?
And lord knows that a parent wouldn’t have dared to enter a restaurant or, worse yet, attempt to travel, without a smart phone loaded up with kids games and shows.
It just wasn’t done.
It was impossible.
Thus, no one had kids before the iPhone.
I mean, what was a parent supposed to do without an iPhone? What, actually pay more attention to their kid?
For parents, the iPhone is a bit of a loaded gun… or perhaps more a loaded slingshot ready to spray angered fowl all over your glass house of piggies. It’s a fantastic addition to the parents’ world, yet a very dangerous one, because it’s far too easy to immediately go to your phone at every available opportunity – and not just as a distraction for the kids, but for you as well.
Some of my own personal iPhone lows:
  • Checking emails between pushing the girls on swings – You push a kid, read an email, give them a BIG PUSH, type half a reply, answer said kid about why you aren’t pushing any more, give them a push, type rest of email, push kid, send email, etc.
  • Playing Scrabble while the girls play in the tub – You’ve washed them, you’ve played with them, you’re just waiting for them to finish up. What else to do while sitting on their toilet, just ticking down the ‘five minutes!’ ultimatum you gave them to play a little while longer in the tub, than check in on a Scrabble game or two.
  • Weekend mornings – Simply too easy to continue the weekday habits of checking email, then looking up the weather, then checking on a Scrabble game, then checking Facebook, as two adorable girls in PJ’s sit and play on the floor without you.
  • Used the phone as a babysitter – Frazzled with trying to balance the work necessary for a home/work/yard/personal project and the demands of little kidlets, it’s just too easy to hand a kid a phone and say, “Here!”
My wife and I generally do a pretty good job of limiting the girls’ ‘screen time’ (including TV, computer, tablet, or phone) to one hour per day. But there are those days of course where you’re just too tired or frustrated or busy (or… ahem… hung-over…) to try to care any more. And then out comes the iPhone – or, more dangerous still now, the iPad.
Basically these things have become too much of a crutch, a diversion from real parenting. And it’s getting pretty scary out there, in my book.
While Sally and I will offer up the phones to the girls for them to play some reasonably educational games at a restaurant while we’re waiting for the food to come out (and only then – and ONLY if the girls are getting fussy or are fighting), we’ve seen on multiple occasions parents who bring iPads into the restaurant for the kids to watch movies throughout the entire dinner. There sits a family of three, the parents chatting away while their daughter stares glaze-eyed into the mighty device, watching ‘Cars’ for, perhaps literally, the 67th time.
Last week I saw a woman at Target walking around the store with a shopping cart, with her kid sitting in the bottom of the basket watching a movie on an iPad.
When you throw the iPad into the mix, it becomes truly scary to think about the access kids now have to backlit screens, especially with those parents that just don’t care to limit the amount of TV their kid watches in a day (and we’ve met them, even once having neighbors whose TV would go on the minute the kids woke up, flashing cartoons or kids movies all day long, until the kids went to bed). Conceivably, those kids could get up in the morning and immediately start watching a screen, hop into the SUV where another movie is playing on another screen, get hauled around Target in a shopping cart watching a screen, back to the screen in the SUV, then back to their house to watch the giant flat panel screen on the wall.
What kind of IDD (Imagination Deficit Disorder) is that kid going to have when s/he grows up? Just how socially inept will s/he be? And will they, in turn, someday be raising kids with iGlasses, providing nonstop animated diversions flickering in front of the eyes of this next generation as they go about their entire day, from waking up to going to bed?
The key of course, like so many things, is moderation.
We always first offer up other things for the girls to do (coloring, crafts, getting outside, playing with toys, etc.) before we go to the screens. But even then, I’ll admit that we probably go to the screens a little too often. Actually, as I write this I realize that we probably go to the screens to often for ourselves, quickly whipping out the phones ourselves to ‘just check something’ (me especially) too frequently. 
It’s just far too tempting to just ‘check in’ on work, or to email a friend, or to see what your buddies are doing on Facebook, when it’s right there in your pocket. And, as one of the challenges of parenting is feeling like you’ve lost your identity as an adult, it’s too easy to use the phone to try to stay connected to your adult life.
So, some suggestions that I’ll present here to you… that are really, frankly, probably more reminders to me:
  • Leave the phone in another room. Stop just immediately putting it into your pants pocket and instead leave it somewhere out of reach – especially on the weekends, at dinnertime, etc.
  • Think before you say yes to a screen. What did I do as a kid when I was fussy or bored or starving at a restaurant waiting for food that was taking FOREVER? I didn’t play Angry Birds, that’s for sure. To this end, make sure that you have other options with you, like drawing paper and crayons, travel games, books (remember those?), or a portable craft (Lillian, our 7 year old, now likes to sometimes bring her friendship bracelet maker with her). [Note to Self: create a little bag of basic craft supplies for the girls to have at restaurants and elsewhere, then just leave it in the car.]
  • Set restrictions for you too. While our girls get only an hour ‘screen time’ per day, I think I need to do a better job of setting restrictions on my own iPhone use. [Another Note to Self: maybe after working hours I only check it once per night (and not right before bed).] 
  • When you’re with your kids, be WITH your kids. Put them first and make sure you interact with them. Play with them. Imagine with them. Make up stories and plays together. Go for a hike, or even just a walk around the block. When in Target, make up a guessing game or play ‘I Spy’. And just generally make sure the iPhone is the last option – for you both. 

The Mouths of Babes...

Lillian told a joke at dinner: 'High school is a school that kids go to get HIGH. They get HIGH and then they go to SCHOOL. Get it?'

Little does she know...

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Mouths of Babes...

From a college friend:

My son came up to me this morning and said, "Daddy, is this a piece of candy?"

"No buddy, it's not."

"What is it Daddy?"

"Go ask your mother."

It was a tampon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You Know You're A Parent of Small Kids When…

  • You apologize for the 'disastrous' states of your car, house, and lawn so often that it's now second nature when greeting someone; “Oh, hi – so nice to meet you. Oh, don’t mind our [car/house/lawn], it’s a TOTAL disaster. So, you’re Dylan’s mom?”
  • You actually look forward to business trips simply to have a bed to yourself.
  • You routinely use references from kids' shows in real life, such as; "God, that guy is a real Doofenshmirtz."
  • You currently have a supply of Cheerios, fruit leathers, granola bars and/or other snacks stashed in your car, purse, backpack, etc. (either new, still in the package, and ready to go and/or half-chewed and simply scattered about the floorboards, armrests, purse bottom, etc. gathering a sweet collection of hair, lint, and dust).
  • You consider six straight hours of sleep a "pretty good night's rest".
  • You reminisce about things like 'reading', 'sitting through a whole meal', 'sleeping in', 'hobbies', 'movies', 'hiking', 'sex', etc.
  • You actually check out other parents not to see if they’re hot or not, but to see what brand stroller, carrier, etc they use (and, even more sadly, get excited when you meet some one using the same stuff).
  • While once heinous and repulsive, the concept of cleaning up someone else's puke or shit is now really no big deal – at all.
  • You know the ages of babies just by looking at them; "So, he's about 18-months then, yes?"
  • You've developed both a distain of – and yet respect for – workers in China that package children's toys in the hundreds of tiny rubber bands, twist ties, shrink wrap, string and zip ties that they now come all bundled in.
  • You are now expert at identifying food within feces; "Look dear, Sam really did eat that entire pint of blueberries yesterday!," or, "So that's what reconstituted raisins look like…"
  • You have tired eyes, weary bones, a couple of extra pounds, a fuzzy mind - and a full heart.
  • And... you are so tired, weary, chubby and fuzzy that you’re occasionally prone to wistful bits of cheesy prose (see above).