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Creepers and Zombies and Spiders…oh my. Minecraft – Friend or Foe

It’s the dead of night.  I am standing in the middle of a field, unable to see more than a few feet in front of me.  Other than the clothes on my back…I have nothing.  Suddenly from the darkness I hear a sound like a rattle snake.  I look around, I can’t see anything. I squint into the darkness, I think I saw something move.  Then, suddenly…

BOOM!!!!

I am thrown back, 4 of my health hearts are gone, and my real heart is in my stomach.  “What was that!!” I shout.

“That was a creeper!!!” says my 5 year old son excitedly.  “He tried to blow you up!”  Apparently he did.  The next 10 minutes are spent running away from skeletons shooting arrows, jumping spiders with red glowing eyes, and zombies groaning at us from all around.  We each died several times before night finally lifted.  I was left wondering “what the hell?”

That was my first experience playing Minecraft with my son.  He on his Kindle Fire and me on my HP Touchpad.  It become pretty clear pretty quick that we had no idea what we were doing.

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Can you spot the creeper?

Learning through research and trial and error

This was a rare opportunity for both my son and I to learn something together as we obviously had no clue how to play this game.  I decided to involve him in the process I always use when trying to get a grasp on something I know absolutely nothing about.

We got online and googled things like “how do I survive the night in Minecraft?”  We searched for tutorial videos.  We watched people that are incredibly too good at the game to see how they did.  At each step we got back into the game and tried what we learned.  Before long we could survive the night easily, craft all manner of items, build a home, defend ourselves, and go on adventures.

This gave Jack a framework for learning something new.  Research it and then try it to see what works and what doesn’t.  Since we took on this challenge he has asked me to google things for him, he has sought out videos to learn things, and seems to enjoy figuring tough problems out.

Planning

Minecraft, in Survival Mode, starts you off with absolutely nothing.  You have about 10 minutes to go from nothing, to having a shelter to keep you safe from the nasties at night.  We learned through trial and error what the right order of things was.  Cut down trees, build a crafting table, build a wooden pick axe, dig out an open space in a mountain, get inside, block off your exit with dirt.  From there, you begin preparing to further create your world.

When you die in minecraft, you lose everything you’ve made.  Some of which requires rare materials which could have taken you hours to find.  So anytime you leave your home, you have to prepare like you would if you went out in the forest in real life.  Gather and cook food, build armor, build weapons, create signs and torches.  Each of those items requires exploring of caves and mining, it requires gathering of resources, and building other items.  All of that planning has to be done or else you risk dying and losing your precious stuff.

Now I can say things like “before we do X, we need to make sure we plan it out and are prepared, just like when heading on an adventure in Minecraft.  

Teamwork

It’s a lot of work building a world.  We quickly learned that to get things done faster, we need to separate duties.  So while I am carving out a living space, he is out cutting down trees.  While I am gathering wheat, he is smelting iron.  We stay near enough to each other at all times so we don’t get separated and if the other person gets attacked we can help.  Rarely are we in each other’s way.  In today’s world, effective teaming is an extremely important skill, one that I believe we are fostering when working together in Minecraft.

Making

OK, this one is a biiiiit of  stretch, but I do believe there are lessons here for Making.  Maker Culture is something I hope to encourage all of my children to take part in.  Learning to DIY is an extremely valuable art, something we’ve lost in the last couple of generations.  Everything in Minecraft has to be built from a collection of materials.  So if nothing else, it plants the seeds of “everything comes from something.”

Creativity

In the creative mode of Minecraft, you can literally build anything.  It’s very similar to playing Legos…except you never run out of blocks.  You can build everything from the Starship Enterprise to a working 8-bit computer.  My son has built some pretty crazy looking buildings and several rollercoasters that apparently pigs love riding in.  It is an opportunity to imagine something in your mind and produce it in front you, which can’t be a bad thing.

Dangers

Addiction.  This game is lack little boy crack cocaine.  I’ve seen him play the game for hours, just building random crap.  He will have days where every single thing he talks about ends up having creepers brought into it.  Seriously: “Daddy, Sarah I were playing and I was making her laugh by hiding under a blanket. And then a creeper came, and it tried to blow us up, but I said ‘Hey! you Creeper, get out of here!”

We limit him to 1 hour a day of game time on his tablet (although that is likely to get cut in half when he starts kindergarten).  Even with that rule in place, enforced by software on his tablet, he still tries to get extra time frequently throughout the day. 

Laziness.  Video games are an extremely easy source of entertainment.  While there is a lot of benefits, the biggest concern to me is it makes it harder to enjoy other forms of entertainment.  I’d like to see him draw more, build more legos with physical bricks, and do more pretend play with cars, trains, and figures.  

Wasted Time.  I look back at the incredible amount time I spent playing video games, and this is back in the days of 8 bit graphics…oh wait..  Ok, Minecraft is 8-bit graphics, sure, but it’s also a lot more involved than Atari Boxing.  I would give anything to have spent some that time learning how to program, learning electronics, or just practicing math.  

Conclusion

I don’t mind him playing Minecraft and if I am being honest, I rather enjoy our time playing together. There really are some benifits to playing the game.  I feel that if we keep him limited in his play time while providing plenty of importunity for engaging play, then there is nothing to fear from Minecraft.  

I have embraced it as a hobby for him and nothing makes him happier than Minecraft time with dad.  I know how he feels as I still look back fondly at my time playing the Atari 2600 with my dad.  I remember playing Atari Boxing, Atari Basketball and Breakout with my dad like it was yesterday.  

My ultimate goal: to get my wife to play Minecraft with my son.  It’d be like chocolate ice cream and M&Ms falling from the sky for my son.  No pressure honey 😉

Do you any of you play Minecraft with your children?  Do you have any stories about when Minecraft seemed to teach your kid(s) a thing or two?

The DadWars have begun

Look out mommy wars, dad wars are about to begin.  

Stay at home moms versus working moms is a battle that has been fought in blogs, opinion pieces, news shows and social gatherings.  We dads have just sat on the sidelines, keeping our mouths shut because: “you didn’t carry a baby in your body for 9 months.”  Damn biology.  

But, dads aren’t on the sidelines anymore.  With the number of Stay At Home Dads (SAHDs) ever increasing there has been a battle brewing just beneath the surface.  

Dads aren’t what they used to be.  We aren’t afraid of changing diapers anymore, breaking the baby, or being emotionally vulnerable with our children.  We are basically smellier, and typically, more physically rough, moms…with penises, and a hairy butt.

To prove this to yourself, the next time you are at a store, look around and you will see almost as many dads as moms.  You will see dads entertaining the kids, freeing mom to shop.  You will see dads there alone with multiple kids.  You will see dads like me chasing their giggling kids around the store, pleasing some, pissing off others.  We are there, you just have to look around to see.

All was well and good in the world of dads, until the SAHDs became “a thing.”  We were all equal.  We were just…dads.  Now, the SAHDs are ruining everything.  The news doesn’t care about working dads, only the bon-bon eating stay at home dads.  As if somehow being unable to make more than their wives makes them special.

The SAHDs apparently spend their days watching sports, working out, and sleeping in while their kids run wild.  When they decide to take care of their children, it’s only to take them to a park to try and hit on the lonely SAHMs, which always works because they have time to work out…bastards.  

Meanwhile, they act superior with their SAHD-only play groups. They think their kids diapers don’t stink.  The go on news shows and talk about how difficult it is caring for multiple children all-day long…boo-freaking-hoo.  Get a job bitch!

The real men, the ones that actually provide for their families because they have to, want to bitch-slap the smug smile off their faces.  Nothing more than a bunch of sissies with feminist sugar mammas neutering them.  

Oh yeah!  And they have itty bitty testies.  

 I, for one, am tired of the BS.  If the tiny-testy-dads think they are so special, then they should try balancing a demanding job while being an involved father.  They should try leaving their kids, who cry every time we walk out the door…every…damn…day.  Then you tell me who should get to go on news shows.

In closing, dad wars isn’t real.  Modern dads just want to spend as much time with their kids as possible.  The working modern dads who meet a SAHD will almost always express their wish to do the same, but will be happy for the SAHD.  We dads are just happy to see dads being good dads.  Seriously though, look around the store and enjoy all the dads you see with their kids.  We are out there and we love it.

 

 

 

Super Simple Soapy Slip’n’Slide

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The back story

Last summer I took my kids to a community day event which promised bounce houses, rock climbing walls, and other fun.  We got there early, all ready for a great time.  Parked the car, took a bus up to the event, went to buy tickets…shit, forgot to get money out of the ATM machine.

Back on the bus, back to the car, off to the ATM, back to the bus, back to the booth, buy the WAY overpriced tickets.  The kids run excitedly to the activities…they were too short for all of them.  The disappointment was palpable.  Back to the booth, refund, back on the bus, back to the car.

There we sit, completely dejected.  Then…an idea!  I took them to the store and bought their first slip’n’slide.   And look, it comes with a belly raft thing for going super fast.  We will ressurect the day!

We get home, I get the thing setup, and it becomes obvious that this thing is crap.  It’s not much wider than the kids.  The sprinkler thing along the sides shoots everywhere except on the slide.  They have fun with it, but it wasn’t very long lasting.

After that, I swore I would build my own and really have fun.

The research

I started doing research on every DIY slip’n’slide out there.  They all looked completely awesome.  They also all looked completely too huge for my yard.  They also mostly required at least a small hill to really work well.  Plus, most of them would not be easy to store (pool noodles were a common ingredient).  I began to feel dejected again.  Having only 20 feet of length in my yard, I started to think I was destined for a boring slide.

Then I stumbled on a blog post, which I very regretfully lost now, about an extraordinarily simple design…a “why the hell didn’t I think of that” design.  It’s completely ideal for a small yard, doesn’t require a hill, works perfectly for adults and children, and was incredibly simple.

The build

You only need 4 things:

  1. Plastic Sheeting of at least 4 mils thickness.  Clear is recommend as black will burn your skin the hell off
  2. Stakes to hold the sheeting down.  The blog recommended landscaping nails, which was quite frankly a horrible idea.  The next time I am buying tent pegs.
  3. Baby shampoo or soap, lots of it
  4. A garden sprinkler

It should be obvious what to do from here: Lay out the plastic, add the pegs to hold it on the ground, turn on the sprinkler, squirt copious amounts of soap on the plastic (I used 25% of the bottle on the first go around) and send your kids and yourself sliding across the plastic.

The results

I don’t say this lightly: The 3 hours we spent on that slide was the most enjoyable time I have ever had with my kids. All 4 of us slid across that thing for hours, belly laughing the whole time.  The key is to try and come up with different ways to slide.

We put our slide at one end, they’d go down the slide and zip across the slip n slide.  I put them in pool floatie rings and pushed them across the slide.  We held hands and all went together.  The kids would lay on their bellies and I’d push them down the slide.  They went on bellies, backs, and knees.  I’d add a new heavy layer of soap and we’d try to race across the slide, falling numerous times and laughing.

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If you are squeamish about minor injuries, you may not have as much fun.  There were a couple crashes and a couple head bumps when they fell.  These were all shaken off quickly and back to play.

The lessons learned

While the setup is very straight forward, there were some things that are worth knowing.

The sheeting was tricky to find as there are a million sizes and mils.  I was in a huge hurry so I didn’t want to order it online.  I finally found what I was looking for, a 20′ x 25′ sheet of 4 mil plastic at Walmart.  I will probably get 1 or 2 more uses out of it before it has too many tears.  Next time I will go with this 6 mil sheeting from amazon.

Landscaping nails are like huge REALLY pointy huge staples.  I found a couple had gotten pulled up and were pointy side up.  That would have been an instant trip to the ER had someone fell on them, so I won’t use them again.  I am looking for good tent pegs now.

Your grass won’t like this one bit.  After a day out in the sun, there was some serious yellowing going on. The grass recovered after a few days, and my yard looks like crap anyway, so it didn’t bother me much.

The more baby soap the better.  It just adds to the fun.  Reapply frequently.

 Final Thoughts

This ended up being a little more than I had expected.  Since I didn’t have a sprinkler I ended up spending around $50 on it.  I’ll need to spend another $40 on better plastic and tent pegs.  But, that is less than the price of 1 amusement park ticket…and this was 10 times as fun and we’ll get continued use out of it.

Up next will be to invite some of their friends over to enjoy the fun.

I’d love to hear if anyone else has tried this setup and hear your stories of fun.  Thanks for reading.

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My Daughter, the button pusher

I always heard about how kids are experts at pushing their parents buttons.  I guess they hone in on what agitates parents the most in order to hold some power over them. “You didn’t give me a cookie yesterday, even when I said please, so yes I looked right at you while purposely spilling my juice on the floor.”  Jack, our eldest, never really went out of his way to piss us off.  He might do something he shouldn’t, but it wasn’t out of malice.

My 2.5 year old daughter on the other hand is extremely good at it.  She can send my wife from mildly annoyed to full blown fury with one prissy bat of her eyes.  I fear, like seriously, FEAR the teenage years in my house.

       Poor Jack

My poor son is hopelessly outmatched.  She knows EXACTLY how to piss him off.  She’ll be sitting next to him while he plays his tablet, the perfect picture of the sweet little sister.  Then…completely out of the blue, she will pop up and smack his screen.  If he ignores her, she does it again.  If he reacts with a whine, she smacks it a bunch of time real fast, yells at him, and then starts laughing.

He will be happily playing with his trains and again she’ll just sit there and watch or even play along when, unprovoked, she will just sliiiiiide her foot over just enough to knock the train off the track.  This instantly turns him into a whining mess, then she’ll look at me and , no kidding, will put on a look of innocence and say “Jack crynin.”  I wonder why.

The sad reality is, he never pushes her buttons.  His only beef is when he wants to play by himself and she interrupts that.  He never goes out of his way to get a rise out of her.

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Girl’s got attitude!

      Only one is immune

Her button pushing ways don’t really work that well on  me.  Sure, she gets me fired up, but its more over general toddler behavior, not because her “attitude” as it were.  Her eye rolling usually cracks me up.  She gives me a nasty “NNNOO!” while looking sideways, doing her best to be a total shit and I have to hold back a laugh.  When she purposefully misbehaves, I don’t reward it with anger.

She does have one weapon that she is always improving upon.  Like the velociraptor in Jurassic Park, she’s always trying different angles.  She hones it.  She fine tunes it.  Sometimes, she finds a chink in my armor and files that away for future reference.  She is on her way to perfecting that daddy-daughter super-weapon…Cuteness and Sweetness.

      She’ll have you wrapped around her finger

I’ve heard it since the day she was born, how “that little girl will have you wrapped around her finger!” I’ll admit, I’ve gotten woven around there a few times, but I owe it to her to not be the dad that always gives in.  I don’t want a daughter who is so spoiled by her daddy that she expects life to be handed to her on a silver platter.  She needs to make mistakes, even painful ones, so she can grow into a strong, confident, and brilliant woman.  I want her to know that she can tackle anything in life on her own.  The hard part is striking the right balance between building independence and letting her know that, no matter what, I will be here for her.

Another reason I strive for that balance is respect.  Shortly after Kaylee as born we were at a store and there was a ~19 yr old girl working at the register.  We were buying some small shovels for the kids and mentioned to the girl that “yeah, these would even be good to keep in the car in case it snows.”  This girl says “I don’t really need it, I’ll just call my dad and make him shovel me out.”  At first I thought “sounds like a really good dad.”  But after we left it started nagging at me.  I want to be there to help my daughter, if she hurt her ankle and needed to get out to a job interview, I’d be over in a second to dig her out.  But, I really don’t want her first thought to be “I’ll just make my dad do it.”  I want her to appreciate me, not take advantage of me.  I want her first thought to be how she’d take care of it herself, then look to my help if she needs it.

So far I’ve managed to be in control of my faculties, only letting her extreme cuteness win the day when I want it to (mostly that is). It’s getting trickier all the time.   She’s learning the posture: the angled head, sweet smile, bright eyes and the slight back and forth twirl.  And she’s learning the talk: the falsetto “Petty Peeeeease daddy, I have it?”  Honestly, even if she didn’t “pour it on” I would still struggle as my children’s happiness is by and far the most important thin in my life.

I fear the day is not far in which she gets something out of me I had not planned on giving in on.  I will continue the good fight and I hope that she will only win when I want her to.

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“Ok, I guess you can jump in the puddle”

What the hell is a Sleep Consultant? Part 1 of 2

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A sleep consultant is simply the greatest gift you can give your family.  Seriously. Ever.  Screw that trip to Disney, get a sleep consultant.  If I seem a bit like an evangelist, keep reading and you’ll see why.

The meaning of exhaustion

Every parent knows the hardest thing about kids is the complete and total lack of sleep we parents get.  This gets exponentially worse every time a child is added to the family. Below is an example of how bad some nights would be.

 

 

 

Pre-Sleep Training Schedule:
8:00 pm:  2 and 4 year olds in bed
12:00 am: Baby in bed
12:01: Parents asleep
12:45: 4 yr old visits bedroom with the least convincing “I’m scared ever.”  Dad walks him back to bed
1:00: Baby is awake. Mom rocks her to sleep.
1:30: 2 yr old wants covered back up, dad takes this one
2:00 Baby is awake again, wife nurses her
3:00 Wife wakes up from rocker, puts baby down, goes back to bed
3:15: 4 yr old is back.  Mom walks him back to bed
3:45: Baby is awake again, dad rocks her back to sleep.
4:30 Baby is awake yet again, wife nurses baby again
5:00 4 yr old wet the bed, Dad changes him, brings him to parents bed, too tired to change his sheets
5:30 Alarm goes off, dad gets up, goes to work
6:30 2 yr is up, loudly calling for someone to come get her, wife is up for the day

The end result of all of this was 2 overly exhausted parents who were rarely happy.  This lead to 2 stressed out kids who had to result to bad behavior to get attention along with, what we learned later, was an overly tired baby.

I am not going to sugar coat it, there were points where it felt like our family was spiraling out of control.  It was pretty awful.

The AHA! Moment

Then, one day, a blogger we follow wrote a post that would change our life.  It’s time to sleep train the baby, by Mommyshorts.   That was the first time I ever heard of a sleep consultant, which is basically someone who helps you implement sleep training for your kid(s).  We like mommyshorts, but sometimes she gets some extravagances from her blogging that makes me think “yeah, if only we were all popular bloggers who would get that crap for free!” Overall though, we like mommyshorts cause she parents a lot like us.

That is where I left the sleep consultant thing. Who can afford to pay some person to teach you how to get your kid to sleep?  Total freaking luxury.  Then, after another awful week of sleep, my wife blurted out “I don’t care how much it costs, I so want to get that sleep consultant that mommyshorts used.”

We were at the end of our rope, so we took a serious look at this sleep consultant thing.  We were surprised to find that the woman she used was only $150.  There are others that go for upwards of $800.  We talked about it and decided that $150 is a paltry price to pay for a proper functioning family again.

So. I sent a message to Pickles and Ice Cream sleep consulting to fix our family.

Enough suspense.

The results

Three weeks later Sarah now only wakes up once per night to nurse.  She takes ~2 hour long naps at 8:30 am and 12:30 pm with a 45 minute nap at 3 pm.  She is in bed no later than 7 pm.  Every.  Single.  Day.  We also put the older kids in bed at 7 pm now and this has virtually eliminated all wake ups.

Now our schedule looks like this:

Post Sleep Training Schedule:
7 00 pm: All three kids are in bed
10:30 pm: Parents go bed
Between 2 and 4 am: Baby wakes up, gets nursed
6:30 to  7:00 am: All 3 kids are up.

That’s right.  3.5 hours of child free time every night. Wholly freaking crap!

To say this has been amazing for our family would be like saying “a diaper blowout is like a wet fart.”  Amazing, incredible, life changing, a miracle, etc and none really cover it.  Just look at the two schedules.

Now, I have a lot more to write about this, but I am saving that for a second post. Below is a quick list of positives and negatives of sleep training followed by what we love about having a sleep consultant.

The Good and the Bad

Negatives: Let’s just get these out of the way

  1. It’s hard.  Seriously, crazy hard.  If you are squeamish on cry-it-out, this may not work for you.  Erin may have options for avoiding it, but they would certainly take longer.  We needed it done…now!
  2. It’s really freaking hard.  My wife was tortured by the baby crying.  And she cried a lot (the baby and my wife).  Even three weeks later I am sitting hear listening to the baby cry herself to sleep, although most nights its only a few minutes now, if at all.
  3. You have be brutally consistent.  Pick a time when you don’t have any major distractions coming up. Your life will be upended for a few weeks while you attempt to get the baby to acquiesce to the new schedule.
  4. You can no longer rock the baby to sleep.  This is killing me, especially now that its the season for putting the baby in comfy sleepers, making her extra snugly.
  5. The kids are all awake between 6:30 and 7 am.  If you are used to sleeping later, this could be difficult to adjust to.

Positives:

  1. Sleep.  Sweet, precious, beautiful sleep.
    1. I am back on the top of my game at work again
    2. We no longer snap at our kids constantly
    3. We are losing weight cause we actually feel like eating healthy
  2. A huge jump in mommy/daddy time.  We use it for all kinds of stuff:
    1. Eating a late dinner for two with no tantruming children to force feed
    2. Planning the week so we are actually ahead of the game
    3. Returning our house to a manageable amount of disorder
    4. Eating healthy
    5. Exercise (soon, we swear)
    6. I actually get a few minutes daddy-time now
  3. Significantly happier atmosphere
    1. I no longer receive text messages at 7 am from my wife telling me how awful “my” children are today
    2. There is laughter in our house again
    3. Things are just smoother
    4. The kids are much better behaved

Why a sleep consultant?

  1. Confidence.  There is no chance we would have made it through this sleep training if we didn’t have Erin backing us up.
  2. Help.  Sure, you can find all kinds of sleep plans on the internet, but at some point you are going to wonder if you are doing it right.  Things are going to go awry.  Erin would always respond to our questions with plenty of detail and reassurance.
  3. Impetus.  It’s easy to say “yeah, we’ll start sleep training next week.”  But, there is something to be said for spending money being a great motivator to taking the leap.
  4.  Time. Erin has the knowledge already.  It took all of 30 minutes of our time to get a detailed sleep plan for our baby.  It would take that long to get through a single chapter of a book.

So there you have it folks.  Sleep training with a sleep consultant has change my life for the WAY better.  I am now an evangelist.  I suggest it whole-heartedly.  And at $150, its an absolute no brainer.  I don’t advocate credit cards, but if there was ever something to plop on one, its this.

Stay tuned for a more detailed look into how the whole process went for us.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you have any experiences with sleep training I’d love to hear about them.

Child-Induced Parental Madness

So you are normally a calm, patient, and loving parent.  The day-to-day stresses of parenthood typically roll off your shoulders.  Then one day, your precious little girl, not yet 3 years old, bats her eyes at you, giggles, and literally hops away.  “Hop, Hop, Hop” she says merrily as she bounces out of the kitchen.  It’s the kind of thing a grandparent would melt over, an aunt would swoon for, and would generally cause people to declare “she is so cute!”

You on the other hand, fly into a rage.  You abruptly stand up, every motion you make exuding anger, and you chase down the merry toddler. You grab her, you yell “I AM DONE TELLING YOU TO EAT YOUR DAMN DINNER!!!!!”  You hit every D like a blacksmith flattening a sword.  You roughly put the child into a chair, declare loudly that she is in time out, and stomp away righteously, even while she calls to you through a vale of tears, “Daddy! Come Back.  Nooooo.  I sorry!!!”

Back into the kitchen you go, declaring to the remainder of the family that, “I am done with this not eating dinner bullshit! I’m sick and tired of it.  She can stay in that chair all damn night for all I care.”  Then you angrily thrust your fork into your food, and masticate it with all the fury you can muster.

Later, after she’s finally eaten, she sits happily upon your lap. She showers you with affection, handing out hugs and kisses, and sweetly declaring “I love you Daddy!” At that moment you think back to the maniac that just tore this precious little girl 2 new assholes and wonder…”WTF!  Seriously.  What…the…fuck?”  How could you possibly have lost your mind so completely with this tiny little person who worships you and brings you so much joy.  What is this evil that lives within?

The evil is called: Child-Induced Parental Madness…and it happens to most, if not all parents.  And its…OK.

What is Child-Induce Parental Madness (CIPM)?
There is the normal parenting mode which consists of various levels of discipline, maybe some yelling, and for some maybe some spanking.  This is all well and good as typically the parent is in complete control.

When the madness creeps in, however, control is lost to various degrees.  The parent gets angry and finds themselves justifying any number of actions that they normally wouldn’t undertake.  This can range from just raising your voice, to screaming, to locking your child in their room and declaring they will stay there until they go to college!

Once the madness subsides you typically find yourself thinking “who was that crazy person?”  There is also guilt.

What causes CIPM?
For me, its almost always time or obstruction.  I have something I really want to get done, the kids are preventing me from getting it done at every turn, then I realize time is running out, then the do that one last thing which sends me over the edge.  BOOM, madness.  Next thing I know I am trying to intimidate my children with evil glares, terrible tones, and even hurtful words. (I never hit).

For others it could be the shear inanity of children.  “I asked you TWENTY TIMES to put those Legos away! It takes 2 minutes.  You would have been done 20 minutes ago if you would JUST FREAKING DO IT ALREADY!!!!”  Then you would find yourself angrily slamming the legos into their box while the child bawls for forgiveness.  Then, you step on of those Legos, and after yelping in pain you angrily declare: “THAT’S IT.  I’ve had enough!  No more Legos for you until you hit puberty and if you say so much as ONE MORE WORD, they are going RIGHT in the trash!!!!”

Am I terrible horrible person for falling prey to CIPM?
I hope not, because by extension, many of us are terrible.  As long as the bouts of CIPM are infrequent and not the defacto standard way of dealing with your anger and their misbehavior.

One thing that should not happen during a bout of CIPM is hitting your children.  You should never hit your child out of anger.  Even those who are pro-spanking should have that rule.  I refuse to spank, so that never comes into the realm of possibility when I am having a freakout. I can easily imagine how someone who regularly uses spanking going overboard in a CIPM situation.

How do I avoid CIPM?

If I knew…I wouldn’t have forced my daughter to take a bite of her spaghetti before I’d give her a bandaid for the scratch she’d gotten when I accidentally closed the door over the top of her hand.

I do know my #1 trigger and that is trying to do something for myself and being blocked by children shenanigans.  Therefore, I try really hard to keep my expectations in line and try to do the stuff I want after they are in bed (like writing this blog post).

That being said, I believe that Child-Induced Parental Madness is just part of being a parent.  It’s embarrassing, it’s awful, and if done too often it can damage your relationship with your children…but we are just people after all and we can’t be perfect.

Am I alone?
I’ve done some relatively mean things when in the throws of madness, as is evidenced above.  Please tell me I am not alone!

I can’t be the only one to physically flop my kids in their beds, angrily stomp out of their rooms, while yelling back “I am DONE with the both of you today!”  Or send my stubborn toddler to bed without eating because I had that fight 50 too many times that week, just to have him throw up the next morning from eating too fast.  Or be completely numb to the cries of their forlorn children who just realized how bad they just screwed up and want nothing more than to make it better, but who can’t because their father just stormed out of their room.

All of these things may make it sound like I am a horrible person, but please realize that I rarely fall victim to CIPM.  Most episodes are short (a few minutes), relatively mild and probably happen once a quarter.  Most of the time we discipline via time outs with little emotion.  I am normally very patient.

I wrote this because I suspect this happens to a lot of us but its not something that gets talked about.  I am hoping we can talk about it, so we can better understand it, and hopefully avoid it as much as humanly possible.

 

New Dads: Breastfeeding

The “New Dads” feature is a collection of posts about becoming a new dad.  It offers tips, resources, and stories about early parenting from a dad’s perspective. 

You’ve likely read the myriad of information on why breastfeeding is beneficial to your baby and your wife.  If not, that link should get you caught up.

What is harder to come by is how we dads fit into this breastfeeding hullabaloo.   Try as you may, the nips you got won’t do you a damn bit of good (and don’t try!).  An no, chances are your wife won’t let you hand express for her.  So what is a dad to do?  Give up and watch Sports Center?  Play some xbox?  Nap?  How’bout no…

Believe it or not, if your wife is open to it, dad’s can have a significant impact on a nursing mom and through supporting her you will be able to bond with baby and mom in a very fulfilling way.  This post will give you some pointers on how.

How can dads help?

By and far, the most important aspect of supporting the mom is through what fashion magazines call the “hand bra.” Using your hands to boost her up is fun and cheaper than buying nursing bras.  Ok, that’s not at all true.  Before we go on, you should know, during the first few weeks, it’ll likely be “hands off pal”.  They will be sensitive and the word “engorged” will be bandied about, so just step back from the boobies.

So your bustier support won’t be needed, but your emotional support is critical.  It’s her decision on whether she wants to breastfeed, but you need to support her decision fully.  She may want your opinion, so make sure you have one.  Do your best to understand nursing so you can talk intelligently to her.  You don’t need to know what an overactive letdown is and you may not want to know what the various problems can be but at least know the basics.

Mr Obvious says: avoid whining and complaining about losing access to her boobs, don’t say anything stupid like you won’t want to go near them once they become a food source, don’t ponder if they will be saggy when she’s done, and just generally be positive about the idea.  I am not saying you won’t feel that way at times and I am not saying they won’t change, but allow yourself to be impressed that your wife is using her breasts to give your child exactly what they need and to keep your child alive and flourishing.

Before the Delivery

Most hospitals offer a breastfeeding class that teaches women the ins and out of nursing babies.  Encourage her to go.  Nursing can be WAY harder than it looks.  Don’t stop at encouraging her though, go with her man.  She will likely appreciate the moral support, plus there are some things you will learn that could come in handy down the line.  If you are lucky you will see the video we saw.  It was apparently made in 1983, and in the audition they must have said “Be famous!  Looking for the most disgusting breasts on the planet to show thousands of people.”

At the Hospital

When she nurses the baby in the hospital, get your ass up and stand next to her as she tries.  Ask the nurse how you can help her position the pillows to make it easier, gently lay your hand on your wife’s leg, talk to her about what she’s doing.  Do NOT leave the room and do NOT hide in a corner.  Let her know you aren’t afraid of seeing her nourish your child.  And be ready, lots of people are going to see your wife topless in the hospital, and elsewhere, get used to it.

At Home

There could be tears.  Look, your wife is most likely not used to having a moist vacuum cleaner on her breast for hours at a time, so unless she has callouses for nipples. it is going to hurt.  Her nipples will chafe, they could crack, they could bleed.  Do yourself a favor, wash your hands real well and stick your finger in the baby’s mouth, you will be shocked at the pressure.  So offer supporting words, listen to her thoughts, talk with her if she’s worried.  Know what a nipple shield is in case you need to run out and by one in an emergency.

Get her water.  Nursing women need more liquid, therefore the “lactation consultant” will suggest that she drink a glass of water ever time she nurses.  That is one way you can feel involved, by rushing to get her a glass of water as she prepares to nurse.  Seems silly, but if you are reading this you likely want to be involved, you’d be surprised how this will help.

Set her up a lactation station.  We setup a one of those TV dinner trays that slide under the couch for her to keep all her stuff on during long hours nursing.  At first, babies nurse a lot, often falling asleep while they do it, meaning she could be stuck there for an hour or more without getting up.  Make sure your wife has somewhere within half an arm’s reach to put her phone, remote control, water, book, nipple cream, snack, etc.

Other Tips

  • When the baby wakes up to be nursed, get the baby for your wife while she gets setup at her lactation station.  Yes, even in the middle of the night for the first few weeks.  Its a good way to be involved.
  • Burp the baby.  The baby should be burped every ~15 minutes or so.  This is because they swallow air while nursing.  If they get an air bubble trapped early, when that burp comes out, so does a bunch of the precious milk your wife just got in there.  So, take burping duty.  It will give you some baby snuggle time and help you feel involved.
  • Make sure your wife has at least one Boppy pillow and 2 covers.  You will crap your pants at the price, but they are worth every dime.  Don’t make my mistake and complain about the price, trust me.
  • Have her buy nipple cream before the baby is born.  She may not need it, but if she does, it could be the difference between discomfort and blood.

If you remember one thing from this post, its BE SUPPORTIVE.  She will be using her body to nourish your child.  While it may take some of the magic away from your favorite play things, it truly is a beautiful thing.

Tips submitted by readers:

This is an excellent suggestion from jesteram

A specific way to be supportive is to actively compliment her about her breastfeeding, starting wherever the baby is born. Tell anyone else around, in her earshot, that she’s doing great, that she’s amazing, that you’re so proud of her. Tell her this frequently in one-on-one and in public settings (where it would be appropriate to draw attention, of course—don’t make her the center of attention in a restaurant where she’s trying to be discrete). Her hearing your pride in her—whether nursing comes easy or it’s a painful and disheartening challenge—will do wonders.

If you have any questions at all, post them here and I’ll try and help.  I’d also love to hear thoughts from other dads who have been there done that and moms, what did I miss?

I miss my son

We made a realization towards the end of the summer.  The whiny, unlistening, mean little bastard that had taken over our son was created by non-other than his own parents.  You see, we were sleep depriving our son.  A 4 year old requires 12 hours of sleep a night.  He was getting 9 to 10.  Those 2 to 3 hours had several negative side effects:

  1. My wife now has some gray hairs poking out
  2. The stress levels in the house were through the roof
  3. My son had become a little monster.

So, we moved his bed time up from getting to sleep between 9 and 9:30 to getting to sleep between 8 and 8:30.  And wholly crap, our sweet and cooperative son was back!

Then…came school.  It’s from 12:30 to 3 PM M-Th.  He loves it.  But, the intense activity in school saw the return of the monster, only this time he had become a manic monster.  Bigger, badder, angrier and even more…tantrumy (it’s a real word! I swear.).  Every night he’d have an emotional break down like one of these.  There was little joy to be had with the boy.

Realization: 8:00 pm wasn’t cutting it.

We tried 7:30 pm.

Sad Truth: 7:30 pm…wasn’t cutting it either,

Facing reality…that bitch: Jack’s bed time has to be…7 pm.

In order for Jack to be happy and to have the best chance at learning meant he’d have to be in bed just 2 hours after I get home.  Accepting that made me feel like the hero in an epic story who realizes his fate is to die to protect his charge.  Silent resignation.  Internal Sorrow.

It’s only been two days.  I hate these two days.

The harsh reality is that his sisters take a lot of my time, leaving little one-one time for the two Jacks.  Squeezing dinner, bath, and bedtime routine into 2 hours leaves precious few minutes for actually engaging with him, or Kaylee for that matter (Sarah stays up later so I get plenty of baby time).

The result is that I miss him and he misses me.  Tonight, I told him it was time to get ready for bed at 6:30, to which he replied, his voice veiled in sadness, “But daddy, I wanted to play with you some more.”  This wasn’t a whine.  It was just a statement of fact and his own realization of what such an early bed time means for him.

I honestly don’t know what to do.  I miss my son.  I need more hours in the day…or a babysitter or a flux capacitor.  <Sad Sigh>

So, while he is slumbering, I did exactly the thing I probably shouldn’t have done and started looking back on memory lane.  I haven’t looked at his baby pictures in forever.  Tonight I did.  There may have been some fresh cut onions near by, but who can say.

Here is a short progression of my first born.  My only son from those early days in the hospital to the handsome little man he’s become today.

Jack 2 Jack 1Jack 3 Jack 4 Jack 5

Jack 6
Jack 8
Jack 7

How I met my wife, the mother of my children

In this post I go back to the beginning…like, seriously, way far back.

My wife and I met in High School (told you it was way far back).  It was the end of April, 1994.  I was a junior, she was a freshman.  I had just turned 17, she was 15.  My high school had freaks, geeks, gangstas, preppies, jocks, etc.  I was amongst the freaks. I had long hair and a long goatee, dressed all in black and listened exclusively to heavy metal.    I was also extraordinarily silly.  I was very much a goofball.

I had female friends (I was the one who would listen to how awful their boyfriends were while secretly thinking “but, I’m nice, you should date me”).  But, I was always very shy when approaching new girls.  So when the second semester of French started and I saw this really cute girl always sitting in the hall doing her homework…wearing heavy metal t-shirts….I did nothing.

I HATED French, but the 2 days a week I got to catch a glimpse at this heavy metal shirt wearing cutie were the highlight of my week.  Months went by, and I never said a word  to her (too nervous) and never even found out her name.  I had a female friend in French class who would egg me on every day, she even threatened to do it for me.  Yet…I did nothing.

Amazingly, I never once saw this girl outside of that hallway.  I hung out with the freaks, but she was more likely with the theater/music nerds.   Our paths just never crossed.

Finally, one day I saw her in “the commons” which is wear the freaks hung out at lunch…my turf, and courage welled up from within.  I pushed may way through a crowd of people, jutted my hand out in front of me and said these romantic words: “Hi, I’m Jack.”

Equally romantic she responded: “Umm.  Ok.  I’m Carey.”  Not exactly an auspicious start.

After that, though, I made my interest clear to my group of friends who helped me invade her group of friends and I was able to make some chance meetings happen.  It took a few weeks of me pouring on the sweet and helping her get over a bad relationship before she seemed ready to become my girlfriend.

I wanted to make it official.  In my friend’s mom’s kitchen, I got on one knee and further showed off my romantic chops by saying: “I wanted to get a rose, but I have no money at all.  But, Carey, will you be my girlfriend?”  She agreed.  She probably cried.  Her family does that, cry when they are happy.

We then became that sickening high school couple that said insanely adorable things to each other, wrote notes every period, saw each other every day (Carey had a calendar in which she marked every day that she saw me).  I wrote her love notes (and hid them around her room), wrote her love songs and even made a mixed tape of me singing songs I made up, like “Here’s a little diddy about Jack and Careeeey.”  Thankfully, I forget the rest.  I even teared up when she left for Florida for a week, which was before text messaging.  So I slipped her friend notes to give her daily from me (you puking yet?)

So anyway, the rest….is a reeeeeally long and fulfilling history full of ups and downs and curvy roads.

The reason I wrote this is because I frequently think about how I would react at one of my daughters bringing home a boy that looked like me, who was 17 to my daughter’s 15 and they started spending all of their time together.  Had I not LIVED our success story, I think I’d be full-on “Oh heeell no!”

To the credit of all our parents (our parents are all divorced, so we had lots of parents), they trusted us a great deal.  Apart from one period where we were limited to only 2 days a week of seeing each other, there were very few issues.  I am sure nobody imagined that we’d still be together with a houseful of kids 19 years later (even we didn’t dare imagine that far out).    Yet, here we are.

Luckily I am a long way off from my kids having their first real loves but I hope that I can trust them the way our parents trusted us.  It’ll also be important for us to remember that our story is not typical and that we should expect our kids to have many failed relationships…and we shouldn’t judge.

I love origin stories.  How did you meet your significant other?

WP_20130907_004 WP_20130907_003Carey.and.Jack.Parkin.Wedding 719IMG_1574

 

Friday Finds

Friday Finds are a variety of things that I’ve run across on the interwebs.  Be it an interesting activity, a great blog post or some type of product.  If you have a Friday Find you think our readers would like, let me know.

6 ft long blackboard sticker

This has been on livingsocial for some time, its a 6 foot by 1.5 foot vinyl chalkboard.  We finally got around to installing it today and it is pretty sweet.  Kaylee is loving it. The chalk goes on well and comes off pretty good too, much better than the lousy chalkboard we have in an easel for the kids.  Well worth the $15 delivered, we actually planning on getting another one.

What does LOL mean?

I found this post about one technophobe dad’s embracing of technology to connect with his son charming, and quite funny.

An AT-AT made out of pancakes?  Ah..yep:

And a bunch more at jim’s pancakes

A rapper teaches science

Inner-city kids have an all around bum-deal.  It is heartwarming and amazing when seeing an idol actually live up to the title.  A member of the wu-tang clan gets kids to love science.