The misadventures of a first time father

We did the mash…the folded monster mash

blizzard-snow-winterHere in the northeast, it’s supposed to be pretty snowy this weekend, and with no plans for us set in stone, we’re likely to be hunkering down inside as much as possible, watching the birds at the feeder in the backyard and likely a ton of PBS Kids programming. Maybe I’ll even make some popcorn.

That said, three kids inside all weekend long is a recipe for the “what can we dos?” or a case of the “I’m boreds.” Fortunately, we’ve found that one of the best tools in our arsenal is not a toy, or a show but a ream of paper. Well, and a box of crayons. Creativity can only go so far with a stack of blank paper and nothing to write on it.

Amid the drawings and makeshift storybooks that come out of the messy dining room table that doubles as an art studio is a fun littlegame our son enjoys that puts both of us to the creative test.

folded monster 01It was an activity we lifted from a magazine and recreated with just a blank piece of paper, folded into four sections, each with its own designation – head, body, legs, and feet. Whoever goes first, draws the head (of a monster, a robot, whatever) in the head section, leaving just a little bit of neck on the body section, then folds it over so the next person can’t see what’s drawn. The next person then uses what is exposed of the neck to draw a body and arms, leaving just a little bit onto the legs portion for a guide and again folds it over so the bulk of what’s been drawn so far can’t be seen. So on and so forth, until all four sections have been drawn.

Then, comes the big reveal, unfolding the paper to see what you two (or possibly even four if you wanted) have jointly, but blindly created.

Easy, fun and resulting some pretty wild stuff at times.

Give it a try. And if you do, drop an image or two in the comments and let’s see what you and your kids created!

folded monster 03

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The Gnome that saved our Christmas

Gnome 03With the hustle and bustle of life keeping us in an ever-increasing flurry – what needs to get done, who needs to be where – this time of year can lose a bit of its magical luster as we get older and slip into the robe of responsibility that is adulthood and parenthood.

We carry that magic around with us well after childhood. It might not always be so easy to see as we grow older and our focus finds itself divided among so many other things than we concerned ourselves with as children (though several years ago, I did spend winter wearing a Macy’s “Believe” button on my coat), but it’s still there, even if below the surface. It’s in the smiles on our faces, the kindness in our hearts and minds, and our actions to others – now, and hopefully all through the year.

So when a child, all but the age of six, starts asking questions on just how Santa Claus can do all he does, I admit, I started to wonder if the magic of the holidays season was already beginning to fade away from our household. I was feeling crushed.

When what, to our wondering eyes did appear, but a tiny little gnome, but no reindeer.

Gnome 01Not long after the questions began to arise from our oldest, our family returned home from an evening story time at Barnes & Noble and there, sitting in our living room, was a small gnome. With him was a note, explaining to us that some of Santa’s elves were doing reconnaissance work in the area and dropped off this little gnome, who wanted some visiting time with a good family. Unlike those elves on shelves we hear so much about, the note explained that gnomes aren’t the mischievous types or cause trouble. Instead, they just like to play hide and seek, careful not to move when we humans are around, but often enjoying finding places to hide out until we can find them.

Though his stay is only temporary until he hops a ride back to the North Pole with Santa, the little guy, whom our kids named Rex, has reinvigorated the energy and magic of the holiday in our home. Since his arrival, our kids awake, anxiously looking forward to what funny places Rex found to hide in overnight. Together, we share in the silliness, the laughs, and somehow, this little guy has very simply brought back a bit of magic to all of us, and made many of the questions of weeks past fade away.

Thanks, Rex. We owe you big time for the visit.

Gnome 04

Touring the crayon factory with you, neighbor

mrrogerscrayonsMaybe it’s the calm feeling of the wax being poured into the molds, or the soothing narration as each yellow stick gets stacked, sorted, and place amid a rainbow of color sticks for boxing.

Whatever the timeless appeal is, every day for the past several weeks (no exaggeration. I mean every day), our three year old daughter wakes up, wanders out of her room, the lull of sleep still filling her eyes as they flutter in adjustment to the morning light and her little voice asking us “Can I watch the Mr Rogers where they learn to make crayons?”

Available now on the PBS Kids app for free on your streaming device or mobile device, by the way. Download it if you can…shameless plug from this PBS Kids family.

And so, every morning, for several weeks, mornings have started with that familiar chime of music through the model neighborhood, the friendly greeting of Fred Rogers, who takes some time to show us how to assemble a three legged stool (with leather seat delivered courtesy of Mr McFeeley, of course) and setting himself atop the stool in front of an easel, begins to color away on a large piece of paper. Then comes the piece de resistance! The tour of the crayon factory, the payoff that keeps her 3 year old eyes and mind glued without interruption. And I have to admit, as much as I had a memory of it from my own youth, I never realized how soothing it could be as an adult.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FszGkMqAF0c

There’s more to the episode beyond the tour of course, such as King Friday’s declaration of a coloring contest in the Neighborhood of Make Believe and Lady Elaine’s insistence that winning is everything and makes people like you. This provides the perfect opportunity, as trolley exits the neighborhood and heads back to Mr Rogers’ home for Fred to use Lady Elaine’s skewed perspective as a wonderful lesson to the viewers at home:

“Lady Elaine has just heard about the contest, and all she’s thinking about is winning. Not doing, but winning. It should be the fun of doing it that’s important.”

Mr Rogers at easelFrom there, as he so often does, Mr Rogers reminds us of our contributions to the world with his wonderful song of “You are Special” and lets us know as he exits that “You make each day a special day. You know how, by just your being you.”

She never seems to tire of hearing it, every single morning. And you know what? Neither do I.

Maybe in this crazy world, in the stress and hectic days of adulthood…maybe we could all stand to start our day out with a little lesson and a little affirmation from Mr. Rogers.

Cooler weather, warmer beverage

beer-pouredWith the crisp, cool weather of autumn in full swing, and the chilly frost of winter preparing to make its way in (if it hasn’t already), I absolutely love the coziness of this time of year. Hunkering down inside the house, watching the leaves blow by the front windows (and later the snow fall to the ground), some festive music on the radio or programming on the television, and a good drink in hand to sip on while soaking it all in.

Yes, I sound like one of my favorite Onion articles about Mr. Autumn Man making his triumphant and cliched return, but that’s okay.

All that in mind, I have to admit, that one beverage I miss having in my hands as I hunker down is a nice glass of beer.

For those of you who aren’t tired of hearing about my low-to-no carb and added sugar diet in an effort to bring my cholesterol down, it has meant that beer, like much else, has been off the menu the past several months. I’ve instead been having an occasional glass of red wine, which I enjoy, but it admittedly is an entirely other animal.

hot ciderSo, this season, I’ve picked up a new favorite as I enjoy all the cliches of the season – hot apple cider. When the kids go to bed and I’m attempting, post-our nighttime responsibilities (because let’s face it, when those kids finally fall asleep, it’s a shotgun start to get anything done around the house or next-day prep we couldn’t get to earlier), I’ve been pouring myself a mug of apple cider and popping it in the microwave for a good two minutes so that it’s nice and piping hot for a little bit of time on the couch decompressing with the window, the TV, some music, or even a little silence.

Hot cider with spices, known as Wassail goes back centuries to Europe, a yuletide tradition.

beer-gardenMy own transition from beer to cider as my indulgent beverage of choice seems to be in direct opposite to their paths (especially that of hard cider) in early America, where, according to the Smithsonian, the once popular apple beverage (popular with and easier to make for colonists and settlers than beer because barley was harder to grow in New England), was eventually dwarfed by waves of Germans and eastern Europeans settling in the midwest where an easier environment to grow barley in, and their own love of the brew, brought beer across the pond in a more robust way.

So while I admit to some longing for an Oktoberfest or Winter Ale as we move into this chillier holiday season, I’ll stick with it, saving the beer in the fridge for company and keep substituting a nice steaming mug of apple cider when that cold winter craving (and weather) comes a calling.

Your favorite part

A comic about our trip to the museum of play.

DD - Day at the Museum

Cleaning (up) my plate

asparagus and steak

Veggies and meat. The new norm in my meals.

During an annual visit to my doctor this summer, I got word that my latest round of bloodwork had continued an unfortunate trend of very high cholesterol levels. I’m not one for medicine unless necessary, and fortunately for me, my doctor likes to go that route only when there are no other options to exhaust.

So, the prescription of the moment is becoming more active along with a fairly strict change of diet, eliminating (as much as possible, anyway) carbs and sugars from my plate.

If this sounds vaguely familiar it’s because my doctor had requested I try this in the past, to which I would start out strong and quickly lose steam before falling back into an eat-anything type of pattern again.

So this latest endeavor began at the start of August, and I’m proud to say that as I write this I am successfully three months into this new way of eating. The activeness part of the prescription, I admit, still needs some work. Sure, chasing three kids around certainly feels like a physical and mental work out by the end of the day, but I’m sure the doctor has something a little more routine in mind. Over the summer I was better at getting up early in the morning before the rest of the household awoke and going for a walk. With the start of the school year, of course, our morning routine changes with the season and an early morning walk is just not feasible, unless I wanted to go for a walk in the dark at 4 am – a prospect I think I’ll pass on.

Some years ago I had stopped sugary drinks, so sodas and sugared coffee was already out of the mix. So diet-wise, it’s been all-systems go, and with a huge help from Meg, my meals have consisted pretty much of meat and veggies, fruit or eggs, or soup and salad (in some order/arrangement) for the past three months. In that time I’ve found that many of the pains my doctor chalked up to inflammation disappear. Another side effect is that in that time I’ve also lost between 13-17 pounds, which I imagine had much to do with dropping carbs from the menu. Of course, the side effect to that side effect is that many of my clothes of the past few years are now baggy on me.

donuts

I can’t express how much I want a donut.

I’m going to be honest in that the road hasn’t been easy. The first few weeks without carbs left me in a state of constant irritation as my body went through a withdrawal stage. And I admit it’s hard to not sample a cookie or donuts, skip the birthday cake at the kids’ parties, and leave rice or potatoes sitting on a plate at the restaurant. But, I am and three months in, I’ve gotten much better at adjusting to what I can and can’t eat.

With another round of bloodwork coming in December, I’m determined to stand firm to see if this strict diet change has made any difference in things. If so, we’ll have conquered it without the need for medication. If not, well, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it.

The motivating factor in it all? Not the numbers, but my kids. I want to make sure I’m around as long as possible to see them grow, to see them thrive, to see who they become. And it’s possible that without the right changes to my diet and health, that may not happen.

So, as much as I may soooo crave a donut now and then, I can forsake the taste of that baked good when I put it on the scale next to the future with my kids.

Comic: The Chatterbox

A comic about how things change.

cp2


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