They’re Everywhere!

I was nine-years-old when I first saw Groundhog Day with Bill Murray, and while I am sure I missed many of the jokes and themes that were in that movie then, the premise of the character’s main conflict was pretty easy for a young kid to follow. Immediately after walking out of the theater, I had the irrational fear that I too would wake up and be forced to relive the same day over and over again. This didn’t just last for a few weeks as most fears or nightmares do, but instead, this inevitable future stalked behind my childhood like a predatory beast patiently hunting its doomed prey.

Groundhog Day Wtf GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Seriously, for the longest time, I was convinced that at some point in my life, I would be shackled to one recurring day that simply wouldn’t release me from its treacherous and villainous grasp. It was a weird fear to have as a kid, and I recognize that now, but nonetheless, each day I woke, I breathed a sigh of relief that Destiny had still not found me. Obviously, as I grew up, I recognized how silly this anxiety was, and I hadn’t thought about that movie for the longest time– until today. 

My alarm clock went off, I reached for my computer, logged on to my school email to sign in for attendance, and then posted my lessons for remote learning. After that, I got ready for the day, which of course now consists of moving out of my nighttime pajamas and into my day pajamas, which will then likely be replaced at 4:00 by my exercising pajamas (shorts and a t-shirt). I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t in some sort of lounge attire, and I never thought I’d say this, but I wish I had a reason to put on some khakis and a button-up shirt. After trying to keep a routine and focus on hygiene, I went downstairs, ate breakfast, had my coffee, opened up my laptop to check my students’ work, and then prepped for the upcoming video classroom session I scheduled. I was, of course, terrified at the idea of Joey running into my office and screaming something embarrassing at my students. I made a mental note reminding myself to lock the door before I started the class. After I worked through that little scenario and waited for my students to join in, I had a profound thought. Crap! It’s happened. Groundhog Day has finally found me!

The struggle has been real in our household these past few weeks. It’s been the same day over and over again. It’s just like I had feared long ago. 

One thing has been constant in my life since this quarantine started.

One simple truth.

My children are everywhere.

I’m convinced we have more than three and that the others hide in the attic trying to evade us and imminent eviction. There’s no way three boys can make this much noise. The thumps, screams, and howls echo throughout the house like a haunted mansion trying to rid the peaceful inhabitants who have invaded sacred space. 

Everywhere I turn, there they are! Heck, the only reason I have the time to write this post is because I’m hiding in a dark basement corner hoping the kids won’t find me.

You know what else? They talk all the time!

ALL

THE

TIME

Last night, before I went to bed, I snuck into Tommy’s room so that I could tuck him in again. When I reached over to pull the blankets up, he laughed demonically in his sleep, mumbled something I couldn’t understand, and then finally thrashed about like a fish out of water until he found a new sleeping spot. After falling backward and tripping over his stuffed dolphin, I nearly passed out from the horror of it all. Even when they sleep, they make noise! 

When we eat though. That’s when it’s the worst.

For the love of everything good in this world, how? How do they have so much to talk about? We haven’t left the house except for walks or backyard time in nearly three weeks. I’m used to eating dinner with my boys every night, but breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day is a completely new experience. Every time I open my mouth to eat, they ask a question. I love their inquisitive nature and that they look to dad for the answers, but I need to refuel, fellas. I’m losing weight trying to keep up with you all.

Scared Jurassic Park GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
(Me eating meals with my kids these days!)

And, can we talk about grammar school math? I know people joke about this a lot, but now more than ever I’ve been exposed to it. I can’t do it! I can’t. This is like my childhood experience with mathematics all over again. Please! Just let me carry over the numbers. When did this all get so fancy and multifaceted? I’d rather read Shakespeare! 

This is life now. This is my Groundhog Day.

It’s the same thing. Every. Single. Day.

I had good intentions with this post. Really, I did. I was going to try and be like all the rest of social media parents and offer you up some ideas on how to keep the kids busy. How to keep them entertained during this trying time; however, it morphed into a reality post. We’re barely making it here. I’ve got a ton of respect for the people coming up with the mosaic window art their kids are creating and all the other neat projects, but that’s just not me. It’s not our family. My kids would break the window within five minutes of the activity. What exactly are we doing? Well, I’m teaching Teddy how to play pool, and he gets to stay up later these days for lessons. His combo and bank shots are coming along really well. Poker is next. Are they the best things to teach an eight-year-old? Meh, I don’t care. We’re just trying to survive and keep them off the iPads. I’m also proud to say I have yet to beat them in a nerf gun battle. Sure, it’s three against one, but they’re working and communicating together as a team. It’s a nice change of pace from the headlocks and elbow drops they usually gift out to each other. I guess I just needed to unite them against a common enemy– me. Here’s the truth of it all. It’s tough being home with the kids 100 percent of the time during this quarantine. It’s okay to admit that. 

I’m not here to complain. That’s for sure. People are sick. People are dying. My family and I might be stressed and bored out of our minds, but we’re safe and healthy. That’s all I really want. Anytime I even think about complaining or feeling upset about this quarantine, I imagine what other people must be going through or even other scenarios in history that required far more sacrifice than what we’re giving today. I’d rather be stuck in my house than sleeping in the trenches of World War 1. What about being crammed into a boat hurtling its way towards the beaches of Normandy? The sweltering heat of Vietnam? Our time in history is difficult, no doubt, but it’s important to keep perspective. Be honest with yourself. Cut yourself some slack as a parent. I know in the beginning I was really worried that my kids would regress in school and that we wouldn’t be able to create rewarding and educational experiences at home. But again, at this point, we’re just trying to make it through this thing. It’s going to be messy. There have been tears and there will be more. Nonetheless, we’re there for each other and staying healthy. It’s the only thing I’m trying to keep in mind.

Tell us about your quarantine experiences with kids. Any funny stories to share? Do you have any good ideas other than shooting pool and playing poker? I’d love to hear them. I’m not very good at that stuff. I’m praying you all stay healthy and sane with those kiddos! Best of luck. We’ll get through this!

Of Dreams and Failures

What sort of dreams did you have when you were a kid? You know the ones I’m talking about. Did you wish you could be a race-car driver hurtling down a speedway track meant for nothing less than 150 mph? Or, maybe you dreamed of being an astronaut flying into space and circling around monstrous planets all while you float freely in the cabin of that futuristic spacecraft. Perhaps pitching that no-hitter in the World Series for your favorite baseball team was more of your goal. Those are the dreams that used to matter. Those are the dreams that we often give up on because of “reality,” right?  Sure, we substitute those dreams we had as kids with “adult” dreams, and I’m not saying those aren’t important, but they’re certainly not the same. Nearly all of my adult dreams have come to fruition over the past few years, and I thank God every day for the life I have. I own a home, drive my dream truck, have three remarkable boys, work in a profession I cherish and one that gives me purpose, and last but not least, I’m married to the love of my life. She’s the woman who helped me reach all those dreams, and without her, I don’t know where I’d be right now in my life. These things are all important to me, and I would never change the life I’m living; however, a few months back, an eight-year-old reminded me of the biggest dream I had when I was his age.

Last October, I was on our living room couch with my laptop tucked in between my legs and my head propped up by a pillow. As Teddy watched one of his Scooby-Doo cartoons and munched away on his popcorn, I hammered away at the keyboard in front of me at breakneck speed. There’s something about creative writing. When you get in a groove, a rhythm, you just sort of start to sway and get into it. Admittedly, I was clicking and clacking rather loudly, but I can’t be held accountable when the creative juices are flowing and that muse has finally come down to visit. At the other end of the couch, I could see Teddy periodically shifting his little eyes away from the television and looking at me as I typed. I had a feeling I was annoying him with my pounding of the keys, but seeing that I pay half the mortgage, I often choose to park myself wherever and whenever I feel the calling. With winter looming, I tried to let myself soak up the rays of sunlight barrelling in through the family room window. It’s a great place to write even if Scooby is begging for some snacks in the corner of the room on a flat-screen T.V. 

He hit the pause button on the Roku remote and slowly swallowed the last popped kernel he shoved into his mouth. “Dad, what are you doing?”

“Writing,” I replied. Most of the time I try to give my kids my undivided attention. There are a few times I really struggle to do that. If I’m starving and have reached hangry level, I try to ignore them. Typically, it’s best for everybody if you stay away from a hungry dad. Michelle now carries Cliff bars in her purse and has zeroed in on when I might need one. She doesn’t even ask anymore and instead pretty much just rips the wrapper open and shoves it in my mouth. Secondly, when nature’s calling, please step out of the way because Dad is in no mood to chit chat. Lastly, writing is something I truly can’t peel myself away from, and when the words are being plastered up against a blank, white document, please leave a message and come back later. So, yes, I was short with him. 

“What are you writing?” Teddy followed up.

“A blog post.” My fingers continued to whip frantically across the keyboard. His next question brought my fingers to an abrupt stop.

“Have you ever written a book?” my son asked. Believe it or not, I worried I would get this question someday. It’s one I knew I would be embarrassed to answer. 

“Yes, I have.” I closed the laptop and stared at him. I knew where the conversation was headed, but I didn’t want it to get there.

“Cool! Can I see it?” He perked up from a slouched position, and he was ready to bolt towards the bookshelves in our living room where countless stories are stacked. 

“No, buddy. It’s not printed out. It’s not published.” 

“What’s published?” Damn it. Knowing how much I write, I knew my kids would ask me about my writing in the future, but I didn’t think it’d be so soon. 

“It’s when you submit your novel to a literary agent, and if they like it, they then try to sell it to a publisher. If you make it that far, and the book gets published, that means you’re a real writer. A published author,” I replied.

“Oh, so you haven’t gotten published yet?” Yep, that one stung a bit. Okay, a lot

“No, buddy. I tried. I sent it out to a lot of agents. I had a few that were interested, but it never happened.”

“So, you just stopped?” He asked as if implying that I was crazy for doing so. 

“Well, yeah, Teddy. Nobody wanted it.” 

“But don’t you tell me all the time that I should never give up on things? Like baseball and basketball.” Oh no! I was getting lectured by an eight-year-old. I forgot my wife had been in the room with us on the other couch. She patiently listened and waited to contribute.

Sensing an opportunity, Michelle chimed in now. “Huh, good point, Teddy.” She tilted her head and looked at me with a smirk on her face. “Yeah, Daddy. Don’t you always say that?” She’s always been supportive of my writing. She was not happy when I said I wanted to give up on being a published author. 

“Okay, can everybody chill out with attacking Dad?” I begged and then opened my computer to get back to my post. 

“Did anybody read it? Did they like it?” Teddy wasn’t going to let this go. When he knows he’s in the right, he will make you feel like you’re the kid and he’s the supreme leader of all the world. 

“Yes, people read it. Yes, they liked it.” I started typing again and tried pouncing away at the letters even louder than before. I wanted to drown them out. 

“Well, that’s just stupid. I don’t know why you stopped. Write another one.” Teddy continued.

“He was halfway through a second one, Teddy, and he just stopped!” The two of them together are a lethal team. It’s really not fair when they’re on the same side. 

“Geez, Dad! What’s wrong with you?”

And at that moment, I really did question what was wrong with me. I don’t like talking about my novel. Truth be told, not a lot of people know I’ve written one. They do now. I don’t talk about it because I’m embarrassed it never went anywhere. Let’s get back to that idea of childhood dreams. When I was a kid, I dreamed endlessly about being a writer. As I tore through R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and countless Marvel comics, all I could think about was being able to do what those authors did. I was constantly writing as a kid, and whenever I had the chance, I created short stories in the stacks of spiral notebooks my mom bought for me at the local Jewel.

At twenty-eight, I finished my first novel and thought I’d see that dream come to life. I queried agents for about two years, got close to landing one but ultimately failed, and I even had a contract with a small publishing company I sought out on my own. When that deal fell through because of my poor negotiating skills, “reality” set in and left me wondering whether or not I was really good enough. I ultimately decided I wasn’t, stopped querying, and then quit writing altogether. Michelle was right. I was halfway through a second book and was so jaded by all the rejection that I decided to quit in the middle of it. 

However, here I was now with my oldest son, and he was not happy with me; he was questioning why I gave into failure and seemed ashamed that I let my dream pass me by so easily. I closed out the tab to my blog that day, opened up the file I had saved on my hard drive, and well, I just started writing. I didn’t stop for the next few months. I became obsessed with that story again, and I finally finished it in early January. If you’re wondering where I’ve been, now you know. I decided to put the blog on hold so that I could focus all my spare time on writing that story and taking another step towards achieving a lifelong goal. After countless edits, rewrites, and beta readers, I finally felt that I was in a place to start querying agents again, so here I am in familiar territory. A few rejections have started to trickle in for my new novel, but I have a different mindset this time. I’ve learned a ton from that first attempt. And this time around, I  have a secret weapon- the mindset of an eight-year-old. I may never get published. I may never become a published author, but I am still a writer, and I enjoy doing it. Teddy taught me something that day. I’d rather be a failure who never gave up trying than a quitter who gave up on his dream.

The blog is back! I’m not entirely sure I’ll be posting once or twice a week like I was, but I’m going to do my best and post at least once a month. I’m currently putting a lot of time and energy into finding an agent, and like a glutton for punishment, I am five chapters into a third novel. If you’re a writer, you get it. When an idea finds you, it’s like an infection. It settles itself inside of you, inside your brain, and it festers there until you treat it. It grows and doubles in size and becomes the only thing you can think about. Eventually, if you don’t address it, it swells so big that there’s no room left. Your skull starts to crack open from within. It’ll drive you crazy if you don’t get it out. If you don’t put words to paper. Either way, I’ll never stop writing. I guess I’ll be published by the time I die or have fifteen novels just sitting in a folder on my computer. Who knows, maybe I’ll self publish in the future, but at this point, I’m going to let my dream continue to drive me. 

What about you? What was your dream as a kid? Have you reached that dream, or did you give up on it too? How do you find time to work on bettering yourself all while being a great parent? Because I can tell you, it’s not easy doing both, but we do the best we can, right?

Scheduling Blues

“Please, go take your guitar into the living room and practice for twenty minutes like you’re supposed to,” I ask. No, I beg just like I have to every single time the topic of music comes up. 

“I don’t want to! I’m tired.” That pouty, pitiful look takes root in his face, and in no time, it grows into a full-bodied rebellion. “No! I’m not gonna do it!” Tommy confidently declares. 

“Thomas, we don’t have time for this, man. You’ve got soccer in an hour and mom’s almost done with dinner. Start practicing!” I hate when I have to raise my voice, and I really don’t do it often, but there’s just not enough scheduled time in our day to have a discussion about it. Want to know what I really hate? It’s when I find myself raising my voice over something trivial like guitar practice. “You and Teddy have music lessons on Thursday. You have to practice the new stuff before then.” 

“I’ll practice tomorrow.” A reasonable request, but what he doesn’t realize is that he’s penciled in for yet another event on his social calendar. 

“No, tomorrow you have something for Boy Scouts.” I pull out my phone and look at the calendar. I confirm tomorrow’s full schedule, and out of curiosity, I look at each day for the rest of the week- soccer, Boy Scouts, piano practice for Teddy, guitar for Tommy, and the list goes on. I flash forward to November and my stomach, weighed down by the prospect of even more activities, sinks to my feet faster than the deep dive of a rollercoaster. Basketball is starting up, and even further on the horizon yet still casting its shadow menacingly over our free time is ninja class. Are there even enough days in the week? “Ugh, basketball and ninja class are starting up soon too.” I click the home button on my phone and hang my head. 

Tommy runs to the couch, flops on it, and sprawls out dramatically. “Too much, Dad! I just want to lay down!” 

“Me too, buddy.” 

That night, after winning the battle of practicing guitar and eventually getting everybody to their designated activity for a Monday night, I mulled over and over again a conversation about schedules with my wife. How terrible am I? The entire rest of the day, after seeing how stressed and overtired Tommy was, the only thing I could think about was getting rid of one of the boys’ activities. Listen, I get it. It’s important to expose our kids to a wide variety of clubs, sports, and other activities so that they can find their interests, their passions, their futures. I’m a strong advocate of that, but for the love of God, this is getting out of control! I once found Teddy brushing his teeth and reading a book at the same time. I can hear you now. Chris! What are you complaining about? Your kid is reading every second of the day? That’s awesome!

No! 

He was frantically trying to finish his homework because he didn’t have time throughout the day and knew he needed to do it before bed. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, “Dad, I didn’t have time to do my homework. I had piano and then the Care Package for Troops with Boy Scouts. I’m trying to finish it now.”


Eight. 


He is EIGHT. YEARS. OLD! 

The night of Tommy’s failed music rebellion, when they were all tucked in their beds, I bravely decided it was time to discuss with my wife the fact that we just had too much on our plates. My wife, whom I love more than I will ever be able to convey in words, is a strong-willed woman, and I love her for it. She takes so much pride in being a mother, and if I’m continuing to give you the truth and nothing but the truth in this blog, she does way more of the running around to activities than I do. I was worried I was in for a battle with her because I know she really likes that the boys are involved. She’s passionate about the boys being a part of teams, learning new skills, and finding what they love. She is not wrong that these things are important. However, I tend to think that sometimes too much can do more harm than good. Check out this article I stumbled upon regarding this very issue: 

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/05/15/too-many-extracurricular-activities-for-kids-may-do-more-harm-than-good/135388.html

I thoughtfully considered the delivery of my opening remarks and was ready to present my case in front of the judge. Expecting a battle of wills and even accusations that I only wanted more time to fish (which let’s be honest, isn’t entirely unfounded), I was incredibly surprised with what came after the start of our discussion. She agreed! Not only did Michelle agree, but it was like a wave of relief washed over her when she heard me lay out my evidence. Initially, we both felt a ton of guilt and questioned if eliminating an activity made us bad parents. Is it because we can’t handle the stress anymore? Is it because we’re being selfish? How come other parents can handle all the activities and our family can’t? We questioned and debated endlessly the decision, but ultimately we arrived at some very simple revelations. 

Each family is unique. We’re not bad parents, and I will stand firm by the notion that if parents are stressed and anxious, their kids will emulate those same emotions and behaviors. I’ve seen it in my boys. Since school started up again and along with it a plethora of activities, our boys have been prone to meltdowns, tears, and increased sass. They are happiest when we are playing in the backyard as a family, watching a movie together, or eating dinner as a unit and talking about the silly parts of our day. A lot of that seems to have been on the back burner these last few weeks, so Michelle and I decided we want to get back to that a bit more- especially headed into the winter. We’re not dropping everything. Music though is headed for the trash bin. As somewhat of a creative person, I hate that the artsy thing is being eliminated, but I think it’s important to be honest with ourselves as parents. Teddy and Tommy just aren’t interested in it. It’s like pulling teeth trying to get them to practice, and I swear there are gouge marks in the drywall from their fingernails digging in as we try and drag them out of the house to lessons. What’s the point? Are we keeping them in it so we feel great about ourselves as parents? I guess I will never be able to hear them play in an orchestra at some fancy concert hall. Or, maybe I will. Maybe they will come back to it themselves in the future. At least, however, they will be a little less scheduled for now. A little less stressed. And maybe, just maybe, we can get back to the family time we’ve been missing.

All I know for sure is that we are spreading not only ourselves too thin, but the kids as well, and for that reason, I don’t feel bad at all about dropping one of their activities. They’re going to be just fine, and the boys have plenty of other things that will keep them engaged and help them grow as individuals. We’re excited to free up a day or two during our hectic weeks. Not because it’s easier on us or because it will allow time for our own sanity, which I’ll admit are bonuses, but largely because it will give us all a chance to catch our breath and spend time with each other again. I might be teaching my kids that it’s okay to quit something, and a lot of people might think that’s bad parenting. I’d argue that I’m teaching them to slow down, appreciate family time, and that balance in life is important.

What are your thoughts on this? Is your family’s schedule packed a little too much like ours is? Do you feel guilty whenever you have to eliminate something? Is that guilt currently stopping you from freeing up some time? I’d love to hear your thoughts whether you agree or disagree. Please comment below and don’t forget to share. 

Don’t Forget to Laugh

There’s a good chance I think I’m funnier than I really am, and if that’s true, at least I am my biggest supporter. I guess my wife is a fan too, but in all transparency, there are times she looks at me disapprovingly and says, “You know, you’re not as funny as you think sometimes.” Ah well, at least I’m coping with laughter. I’m telling you the honest truth. I can make myself laugh despite the most awkward, random, and uncomfortable situations. See, as a parent, if there’s one simple key to happiness I’ve discovered in this often maniacal existence we parents all share, it’s laughter. If you’ve read the “About Chris” page on this blog, you know there was a time in my life when I over-obsessed with the idea of perfection, and over the years, I simply have learned to just relax. Oh, a kid somehow smeared his poop infested behind up against the wall because he fell over learning how to wipe? Well, it happens, and let’s get serious for a moment, that is really funny. And, if I’m being honest, it’s a darn good story to share in a future wedding speech someday. Sure, I’ll spend the next twenty minutes trying to scrub it out, but at least I’ll be laughing the whole way through it. I bring up laughter because really, it’s hard to laugh it off sometimes as a parent. I’m not saying I am completely carefree and easy-going, but I do have a lot of fun with where I am at in my life. What’s my favorite part of being a parent with embarrassing kids? It’s being out in public with them. I’m serious. You might think I’m joking, but here are some true stories that prove why you just need to laugh it off most of the time as a parent even if sometimes people don’t share in the same sense of humor. This first story happened over this last weekend. The incident inspired this post and made me question my value as a parent comedian. 

Fast Food Carpool

This past weekend I took the boys to a local hotdog and beef sandwich joint near us. If you’ve ever tried to order at the fast-food microphone with kids nestled uncomfortably in their car seats only but a few feet behind you, you know that this is sometimes a damn near impossible task. Joey was singing, both impressively and obnoxiously, the song “Old Town Road” and refused to put his concert on hold. Teddy kept asking repeatedly over and over again if he could have a milkshake after I already said fourteen times that he could, and Tommy was chucking little toys he stores in the back of the van up towards the front. Considering the absolute chaos that was bursting at the seams, I was able to get our order out and prayed the teenage kid on the other end got it all right. Lord knows that if the order is ever wrong, the kids whine and complain, and they are incapable of understanding it was likely because the person couldn’t hear me over their madness. A long time ago, this would’ve embarrassed me, but like a once wild and free animal now in captivity, I have been broken and trained to accept the lawlessness of my children for what it is- kids just being kids. The shrills and screams rarely phase me these days, but I sometimes forget that this isn’t the norm for most people- especially those who do not have kids. 

We pulled up to the window, I paid, and then the employee asked me to pull off to the parking spots in order to wait for our food. Like a dutiful father gathering food for his kids, I did so. The weather was nice, and knowing that winter is breathing down our necks, I decided to put the windows down, turn the van off, and just relax while we waited. We love this restaurant, but I knew it would be awhile. Moments after I did so, another car pulled into the spot next to us where they too would wait for food. The driver was a middle-aged gentleman, and it took me a minute or so to realize he kept periodically staring at me. His window was down as well, and I was a little on edge and uncomfortable after he kept looking, again and again, my way. I perked up a bit and tuned in to my surroundings. In doing so, I realized why he was staring at me. The boys’ volume level was absolutely deafening. I hadn’t realized it, but all three were now singing “Old Town Road” and to call it singing is giving my boys far more credit than they deserve. It was more like ear-piercing screams and nails on a chalkboard, but whatever, I am used to it. This gentleman clearly was not. In his defense, they were so loud! Jokingly, I looked at him, pointed at his car, pointed at mine, and shouted, “Want to carpool next time?”

I laughed because, well like I said, I think I’m hilarious. 

He did not. 

Awwwwkward. 

As a matter of fact, he gave this weird grunt and head nod, and then he rolled up his window.

In the words of Michelle Tanner from Full House, “How rude!”

I felt absolutely zero embarrassment because I don’t care who you are. If you can’t laugh at the sheer goofiness of children and appreciate the hilarity of certain situations they find themselves in, you’re likely not somebody I want to laugh with anyways. 



Can I Offer You Some Syrup?

This one is an oldie but a goodie. We just had Joey, and I recall him sleeping in his carrier in a restaurant booth next to Michelle. After those first few stressful weeks of having a newborn and being stuck in the house most of the time, the fog finally lifted leaving us with a sense of bravery. One morning, Michelle and I decided to take the boys out to breakfast, and it would mark the first time we all went out to a restaurant as a brand new family of five. At the time, Teddy was a late three, Tommy a fresh two, and Michelle and I were seriously questioning our life goal of having three kids two years apart from each other. Our boys have always handled going out to restaurants fairly well because we tried to take them out when they were babies as often as we could so that over the years they’d learn how to behave. Selfishly, we also just felt like getting out as neither one of us likes burning a whole day doing nothing inside a house. Even though they were exposed to the general dining public at a young age, they’re still kids and have the occasional meltdown or mishap every now and then (Okay, actually like every time we go out to eat). 

This particular story tells the tale of when Tommy, frustrated that I wasn’t cutting up his pancakes quickly enough because I took a brief second to fuel my sleep-deprived body with coffee, grabbed a cake and tossed it over his right shoulder, over the top of the booth, and onto the table of an elderly couple behind us. Like any other two-year-old would, he responded with an onslaught of giggles and belly laughs when he saw my mortified face. I quickly jumped up, spun around, and to my relief, I saw the couple was laughing as well. I grabbed the syrup on our table and put it on theirs.

“I figured you both might like some syrup with that pancake.” They laughed even harder and even though I apologized profusely, they said there was no need to do so. Phew! Now here were people who both understood and appreciated my humor and the downright silliness of the situation.

The lady, in between breaths of laughter, reminded me of something I sometimes forget as a parent. Longingly thinking of the past she said,  “I promise one day you’ll miss these days, honey. Enjoy it because in the blink of an eye it’s gone.” She handed me back the pancake, we laughed again, and I sat back down to enjoy the rest of breakfast with my silly family. 



Clean-Up in Aisle Three

When our kids were in diapers, I was notorious for playing a game of chance with the bladder and bowel movements of my children whenever I went out in public alone with them. I hated lugging around the diaper bag, and I sometimes gambled with whether or not to bring it. Most times, I’d justify not bringing it with because the trip would be quick, and as a result, I’d throw a diaper and a baggie of wipes in a back pocket and pray that only one change would be necessary. For a while, it was a flawless system that saved me from carrying around the baby survival bag we packed to the gills. What a monstrosity that thing was, and whenever I could, I left it at home. My method worked just fine for the first few months of Tommy’s life, until one day it didn’t. 

He was about seven months, and we were at the grocery store tearing through that list in record time. It’s like I perfectly planned out my route throughout the store, and maybe, just maybe, we’d make it home for the start of the Bears game. Mind you, before we left I saw the diaper bag leaning up against the laundry room door, thought about it, and of course, decided against it. We’ll be an hour tops. We’re good. Plus, I’m pretty sure the boy is all cleaned out so far today. Flash forward a bit to the produce section of the store where I was picking out bananas. I moved to the front of the cart to pick them out, bagged them, and then placed them in our stash of groceries. When I came back to the rear of the cart where Tommy was sitting, a smell hit me like a sledgehammer to the face and almost toppled me over. “Holy Mother, Tommy!” Okay, no big deal. This will set us back a little bit. I reached for my back pocket, and to my dismay, I found myself smack dab in the middle of an unmitigated disaster. I forgot the diaper and wipes! Channeling my inner Scooby, I uttered, “Ruh Roh,” and waited for the panic to set in. It’s okay, you’re in a grocery store. Just go buy some wipes and diapers. It’s cool. Relax. 

Taking my own advice, I laughed uncomfortably, set my cart off to the side, walked to the baby aisle, and grabbed the necessary items. Checking out was interesting as the wretched smell wafted all around us in line, but again, I tried to laugh at the situation instead of feeling embarrassed. People no doubt noticed the smell. It was fierce! Finally, it was my turn, and as I placed the items on the belt, the teenage girl checking us out asked if I had my Jewel card. 

“Sorry, I don’t have it.” Ha! I forgot diapers, lady. There’s no way I can be trusted to carry around a grocery card! 

“Those might be on sale. Phone number?” she asked impatiently.

“Umm, I’m not sure which one my wife uses.” 

“It’s fine. I’ll just put one in for you.” She ferociously tapped at the keyboard, and I saw the price change on the monitor. 

“Awesome, thanks so much. Throw in a free diaper change and that’s a deal right there. Do you guys do that here?” I reached for my wallet and chuckled. Obviously, it was meant as a joke. 

She stared at me blankly, eventually blinked at me in disgust, and did that teenager eye roll I am all too accustomed to as a high school teacher. “No, sir. Please swipe your card.” The mom behind me thought it was funny, but it clearly fell flat on my intended audience. 

Ouch. People are too serious these days. 

I very well could have terrible humor and poor comedic timing, but at least I’m not taking myself too seriously. I’m laughing, and for me, that’s all that matters. People might stare at me with a baffled and confused expression like that checker. They might even judge me like the man in the car did. However, every now and then I get a laugh and a shared moment of humanity from people like the elderly couple in the restaurant. Whatever the response, I’m still going to enjoy the comical experiences my boys create. Parenting often presents us with some embarrassing and stressful situations, but I’m hoping you laugh it off and like that lady told me, enjoy it while it lasts. I sometimes forget this message when I’m drowning in the stress of the day, but I work at it as often as I can. 

4 Random Ramblings of a Reflective Dad

1. Why am I arguing with a 4-year-old about the validity of Fruit by the Foot as a healthy snack? 

Joey: Daddy, I want a snack. (He hops off the couch forcing me to pause our before bedtime cartoon. You all know how I feel about pausing movies and shows. If you don’t, click here: https://thedadmanchronicles.com/blog-3/2019/9/17/lights-camera-questions).

Me: You didn’t finish your dinner, so no. 

Joey: But, I’m hunnnnnnnngryyyyyy (He drops to the floor, lays on his side and starts using his feet to spin himself around in circles- his go to tantrum). 

Me: Well, you should’ve finished the chicken and broccoli. I don’t know what to tell you.

Joey: But it’s BORING! 

Me: You’re not using that word correctly. 

Joey: BORRRRINNNNGGG! (He spins and spins and screams that piercing cry of his). 

Me: (A moment of weakness settles in. I do my best to win the war, but I’ve had a long day and concede this current battle). Aghhhhhh! Fine! It has to be a healthy snack! Go get fruit or carrots. NO CANDY! 

Joey: (Turning off the tantrum lickity split as if though he was acting the whole time, he jumps up and heads to the kitchen. He comes back with a Fruit by the Foot. He sits on the couch and tries to open it).

Me: Ummm, no. Are you kidding? That’s candy.

Joey: No, it’s not. It’s a Fruit by the Foot. Fruit, Daddy. You said fruit. 

Me: Joe, that’s not healthy. That’s candy. It’s not real fruit. 

Joey: Yes, it is. They smash it up and roll it up. 

Me: No, it’s not. It’s like pure sugar. You’re not having that before bed.

Joey: Then why do they call it Fruit by the Foot? 

Me: I don’t know, ingenious marketing? 

Joey: Huh?

Me: Never mind. Go put it back. 

Joey: Noooo! (Drops to the floor and resumes his tantrum spins). 

Me: Aghhhhhh! Whatever! (Every now and then, it’s okay to lose the battle). 

2. No, you can’t be a professional blackjack player when you grow up. 

I’ve found in my eight years of being a parent that the key to making your kids learn is by tricking them into doing so. At a very young age, Teddy learned to add and subtract through the game of blackjack. While teaching my kid to essentially gamble might not win me the father of the year award, Teddy sure can add and subtract those cards pretty quickly these days. Now that he’s a big kid in third grade and working on multiplication, I’ll also ask him to take his first two cards and multiply them together. If he can do it correctly, he gets an additional chip to his pile. This is exactly how I learned how to do math as a kid in my family. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe that’s why math was never my forte and why I’m an English teacher. Oh well, it seems to be working for him. This weekend, Teddy and I were playing the game, and he was doing surprisingly well. Actually, the kid was cleaning out the bank. We don’t play for actual money, but I could see the wheels turning in that perpetually churning brain of his. He kept looking at his stack of chips as it grew higher and higher. He was nailing the multiplication problems too and had all the luck in his corner for the last ten hands or so. 

Winning another hand, he grabbed his chips, turned his cards over to me, and he said, “You know, Dad. I think I might be a professional blackjack player when I grow up.” Uh oh, this game backfired on me, and it was time to teach my son the pitfalls of gambling. 

I replied, setting up the trap I knew he’d fall into. “I don’t know, Teddy, gambling is a very bad thing. We’re doing it for fun, but it’s ruined a lot of people’s lives. If you’re not careful, it can be really dangerous.”

“But, Dad. Look at me! I’m rich!” He spread his massive stack of chips all about the table and rubbed his hands all over them in a triumphant glory. “I don’t think I’ll ever lose at this game again.”

Seriously, it was time to reign in that way of thinking. “Luck runs out all the time.”

“Not mine!” he said now piling his chips meticulously back into their original stacks.

“Hmm, well, since you’re feeling lucky, let’s play one last hand. All or nothing. If you win, you can play your iPad for the rest of the day. If you lose, you have to do thirty minutes of math problems.” I was setting the trap. There’s no way I was going to let him walk away from this game thinking his luck was never-ending. 

“Deal!” He perked up in his seat and got on his knees. 

“Or…” A father’s lesson in the making. 

“What?”

“You walk away now, and I’ll let you play fifteen minutes on your iPad.” I knew he wouldn’t go for it. And if he did, awesome. It means the boy has some self-control.

“Nope. I’m going for it.” 

Yep, I knew it. “You sure? I told you gambling isn’t good. You can walk away right now.” A part of me wanted him to make the right decision, but I knew for this lesson to hit its mark, he’d have to go for it. 

“Deal the cards, Dad!” 

Now, I ask that you please hold your judgement. I’ve got quick hands, and I grew up playing cards and have continued to play my whole life; therefore, it was pretty easy finding the right cards in order to make him bust. Of course I wasn’t going to let him win! This game was all about teaching mathematics, not developing a gambling addiction! He was NOT happy. 

“What’d you learn?” I asked. 

“Gambling’s stupid.” He shoved his cards and chips my way. “I don’t want to play this game anymore.”

“Good, go get a piece of paper and a pencil. I’ll write down the problems.”

I don’t see us playing blackjack anytime soon, but hey, I’m teaching math and life skills all at the same time. Maybe I do deserve that Father of the Year Award.

3. The timer starts now! 

I’d like to introduce you to your phone’s timer. You don’t know it yet, but this tool can be your most valuable asset as a parent. I’ve recently discovered its use in the world of parenting, and wow, has it been a game-changer. If your kids are like mine, they uncannily demonstrate the motivational tendencies of a sloth, and if you’re like me, moving at the slowest possible pace is unbelievably unbearable. Last week, we went to the library, and when my kids have to make decisions, the world comes to a stand still and all of its inhabitants must help them make the most perfect choice or LIFE AS WE KNOW IT IS OVER! 

“Pick one book and let’s make it quick.” I release the hounds into the children’s section only for each of them to return what feels like eons later with armfuls of books. “Ummm, no. One. One book each.” 

“We can’t decide, Dad.” Tommy whines. 

“One minute. You have one minute to choose. Whoever can make a choice in one minute gets frozen yogurt.” I whip my phone out, click the clock app, and set a timer for one minute. 

It only takes fifteen seconds. Teddy asks, “We can put candy on it, right?”

“Sure, let’s roll.” 

Shortest trip to the library ever!

Use your timer.

It works wonders. 

I use it for everything now. I’m not sure how long it’ll last, but at the moment shoes are put away in record time, hands are washed faster than a crack of lightning, and lego pieces are cleaned up as if though my kids are offspring of the comic book speedster, Flash. 



4. Kids are incredibly observant.

Okay, this one’s a little sad, but nonetheless an important observation about parenting. On our way home from dinner one night, I had Joey and Teddy in the truck while Michelle took Tommy to a den meeting. Naturally, we were windows down and jamming out to my favorite artist, Luke Combs. There’s a song of his I play nearly every single time I drive, and it’s incredibly fitting for a dad blog. The song is “Even Though I’m Leaving,” and its largely about the relationship between a father and a son, specifically the notion that “Daddy” will always be there for his son even though he’s not physically there. Whether you’re a young boy afraid of the monsters under your bed, a soldier ready to join the army, or a grown adult saying goodbye to your father as he passes, you’ll never be without the love of your father. It’s a great song and one that I obviously relate to as a father; however, it caused some tears from Teddy in the back seat. I often forget that he’s getting older and wiser with each passing day, and it sure does feel like yesterday he was in a baby carrier completely oblivious to the world around him. 

With the other two, I can still get away with certain things like watching the news on Saturday and Sunday mornings in the family room. Although with Teddy, I can tell that the arguing and bickering that unfortunately plagues news outlets these days often upsets him. He’s worried about the adults arguing and always asks if everything is okay. Of course I try and explain things as best I can to an eight-year-old and reassure him that everything is fine. You may disagree with this, and that’s fine, but I’ve recently tried to limit his exposure to it. There’s enough that stresses kids out these days, and I happen to feel like they don’t need to worry about politics as well. That being said, I was completely absorbed in the song and belting it out at the top of my lungs not really taking into account that the lyrics are actually pretty sad. When we got to this part, Teddy asked me to turn the song off: 

Daddy, I’m afraid, won’t you stay a little while?

I never thought I’d see the day I had to say goodbye

Daddy, please don’t go, I can’t do this on my own

There’s no way that I can walk this road alone

My oldest is starting to get to the age where he’s a little embarrassed of crying, but I could tell he had tears in his eyes, and of course, I felt terrible. Teddy can be one tough booger, but he has a sensitivity to him as well. I am proud of him for it since it’s my belief that compassion and empathy are also the fundamentals of being a man. I try to reassure him that the tears are okay sometimes. We had a good conversation about the song, what it meant, and why I enjoyed listening to it. I appreciated the opportunity it gave me to talk with Teddy about a really sad concept like losing his dad someday. However, it reminded me to always be aware that my kids are listening. Some of you might think that it’s just a song and not a big deal, and you’re probably right. I happen to be of the mindset though that kids are forced to grow up way quicker these days than we did. The constant exposure to all things related to the internet doesn’t help, and while I certainly don’t believe in shielding my kids from the reality of life, I admittedly want them to hang on to their childhood and the carefree innocence attached to it for as long as they can. Teddy is also getting to the age where he is so naturally inquisitive about what the adults are talking about. Have you ever seen the Adam Sandler remake of Mr. Deeds? Remember the butler that literally showed up everywhere, all the time, and completely unexpectedly? “Sneaky, sir. Very, very sneaky.” That’s Teddy. Michelle and I can think we’re alone having a conversation and then Teddy slowly reveals himself from behind a corner and asks, “Whatcha guys talking about?” Once our hearts settle back to their normal resting beats after being shocked by the little creep, we both shout, “Nothing! None of your business!” 

Beware of the children. They are always listening! 

Galactic Let Down

As I’ve mentioned before in a post, our family is currently on an endeavor to watch all the Star Wars movies. Much like I did when I was their age, the boys have absolutely fallen in love with that amazing galaxy George Lucas created, and to my delight, nearly everything we talk about these days is Star Wars related. Joey, who often has a connection to the dark side of the force and all other things “bad guy” related (I’m concerned about this, but I figure if we keep showering him with love, he won’t stray too far from the light), has chosen to be Darth Vader for Halloween. Like the galactic ruler he is, Joe has convinced his brother Tommy to be a Stormtrooper and funnily enough has found ways to give countless orders to his older sibling. He’s a mastermind, and truth be told, my youngest boy makes the perfect Vader. He has easily mastered the robotic breathing, raspy talking, and even the infamous Vader Force Choke. Watching him do so makes me wonder if he has a job in acting someday. Joey and Tommy are regularly seen marching throughout the house in their costumes looking for “Rebel Scum.” Teddy, bless his peaceful heart, is the only one who consistently identifies as a good guy. There are two heroes Teddy absolutely adores, and in his eyes, either one of them will do the trick when trying to stop his villainous, younger brothers. If he’s not Luke Skywalker masterfully wielding his lightsaber, he is Harry Potter casting freezing spells to stop them in their tracks.

These characters are his favorite, and I couldn’t be happier that he has fallen in love with these two fictional worlds. Additionally, while the villains of the house like to play as the bad guys every now and then, they no doubt love the character Luke Skywalker as well. The hope, bravery, and love Luke demonstrated throughout his journey in those original three films has helped show my kids what it means to be a hero. Now, it might seem like I’m exaggerating, and I can see how it comes off as such. Listen, I get that I’m geeking out right now and letting my nerd flag fly, but hear me out. The thing is, that even though these characters and their stories are fiction, they without question are helping shape my boys into the men I’d like them to become when they’re older.


As a matter of fact, a lot of who I am today as a person is obviously because of the people who helped raise me, but the stories I read as a kid and the movies I saw molded my morals and belief system as well. Isn’t that one of the reasons why stories exist after all? When I was tempted to give up on friends who had done something wrong to me, I’m sure the story of Luke not giving up on his father may have reminded me that sometimes people are worth a second shot. I’m certain that a Superman comic at one point taught me that it’s okay to stick up for yourself and others, but stooping to the level of the “bad guy” is never the right answer. And as lame as it sounds, I’m sure that reading the story of a parentless Harry Potter helped reiterate to me the love of family. Stories can help define us, and I can see it happening with my boys. They like to emulate the characters they see and read about, and while I joke that Joey has the occasional dark leanings, I am glad to report he mostly reenacts heroic tales more than anything else. 


For this reason, I was really hesitant to show them the newest Star Wars trilogy, and specifically, The Last Jedi. Please let me preface the rest of this post before I continue. I ask that you understand I am not trying to step on anybody’s toes and bash a movie you might really like, but rather, I am sharing a personal experience I had with my boys and this movie. I have friends who love this movie, and I also have friends, like me, who very much dislike it. I am writing this post not as a means to vent out my distaste for the movie (Alright, maybe just a little bit), but largely because watching it with Teddy, Tommy, and Joey presented me with a parenting first and a difficult challenge I wasn’t expecting. If you loved the movie, that’s awesome. That’s another reason I enjoy movies and stories so much. They mean different things to so many different people, and as a result, we can learn from each other by having good, healthy debates. 


SPOILER ALERT: The rest of this post will talk about the movie. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you come back and read the rest of this post after you’ve watched it. 


For those of you who haven’t seen The Last Jedi and don’t care to, but still want to read this post, I have to give some quick information for this to all makes sense. In the movie, we meet our hero, Luke again, and while he once stood for hope and bravery, he no longer exudes these Jedi beliefs. He is bitter, crude, and void of any positivity. He refuses to train the main character of the story, Rey, and as the story progresses, we learn he once had a vision his nephew would stray to the dark side of the force. Naturally, without even having a conversation with his young nephew, Ben Solo, he tries to murder him in his sleep. Murder him in his sleep! Yes, I wrote that correctly. In the original trilogy, Luke Skywalker refused to give up on his father, Darth Vader, and his hope of bringing the lost Jedi back to the light was the very reason Darth Vader found the light side again. It was an impossible task, but Luke and his story showed us that nothing is impossible when concerning hope and love. Everything my boys fell in love with regarding their favorite hero has been completely written off in The Last Jedi. Unfortunately, there is never any sort of redemption for this character in the movie. I can go on and on about the injustices done to a character who once refused to give up hope, but this isn’t a movie review. This is a parenting blog, and while it does in fact seem like a movie review, this is more about how we handle situations when our kids’ expectations are shattered. 


For the first time as a parent, I had to have a conversation with my boys about the notion of people letting us down. Teddy and Tommy were absolutely wrecked when they watched this movie. I was sure not to let my feelings on the matter show in any way, and my wife, smart as she is, encouraged me to let them make their own decision about it. After the viewing, Tommy was on the verge of tears. He was more upset that Luke died at the end, and he couldn’t quite understand the character’s change. “Why is he so mean, Daddy? That’s not Luke. Is it?” Teddy, at eight-years-old, who is really good at reading and comprehending stories, had a much more interesting reaction- the same reaction so many others have had to this movie. 

“Dad, it doesn’t make sense.” He puzzledly looked at me. “He saved his dad. He saved the worst person in the whole galaxy. Why did he want to kill Kylo Ren?” This wasn’t prompted, and if I’m being honest, I’m super excited and proud he had the same thoughts as me. Joey, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care either way about Luke’s downfall, but he did keep running around the house laughing at the alien “pickles” part of the movie. Pickle is how Joey says the word nipple, and yes, there is a part of the movie where Luke is awkwardly milking an alien- that alien has somewhat of a humanoid form. It is hands down the most uncomfortable scene in movie history for me, and apparently Joey thought it was absolutely hilarious. It serves no purpose other than to demean the character even further. 


Regardless of the galactic let down we just watched, I am really proud of what happened next. It’s not what I really wanted to discuss, but it’s what I think a good parent should do in a situation such as this one. I’ll be candid. I hate the movie and think it is garbage, and that’s all I really wanted to tell my sons. However, as bad as I think the movie is, it did succeed in setting up a pretty awesome parenting moment for me. Okay, I admit I am somewhat using this post to let go of some frustration I have towards Star Wars at the moment because of its most recent movies, but that being said, it’s not what this blog entry is really about. Rather, this post is about the idea of coaching our kids through the reality of life. It’s the notion that sometimes certain things or even people might let us down. I get that this might seem overdramatic, but we talked a lot about how sometimes our expectations can be too high and that nobody is perfect in life. Luke certainly was not perfect by any means in this latest story. I guess in the past he once represented the idea that hope should never fade, but now, maybe he is the true embodiment of humanity’s imperfection. At least that’s what I am selling to the boys right now. It was a good conversation. Teddy made comparisons to himself and talked about how he’s not perfect to his brother’s all the time, but he tries to be. We talked about how even though he tells Tommy and Joey they’re annoying no less than eighty times a day, Mom and Dad understand he does loves them. I even admitted some of my imperfections to the boys, and I think they really appreciated that even their dad wasn’t perfect by any means. Even more than that, I think they liked that I wasn’t afraid to show them what I thought I needed to work on as a person. Tommy brought up that he’s not perfect either and that his room shouldn’t have to be perfect all the time too. A nice try, but no, Tom. That needs to be perfect. 


I think they understood our talk, and again, while I hate that Luke no longer represents what he once did for me and for the boys, I guess I appreciate that we got to talk about flaws. If there’s one thing I don’t want my kids growing up thinking, it’s that they have to be perfect. I want them to be able to make mistakes and learn from them. Most importantly, I want them to know they can talk to me about those mistakes and trust that I will be there to help them through it. Who knows, maybe that’s what Luke is going through. Maybe he will overcome those mistakes as a force ghost (it’s a thing) in the last installment of the newest trilogy. I don’t have a ton of hope for The Rise of Skywalker (probably because Star Wars ruined my most hopeful character), but you never know. See what happens when you ruin incessantly hopeful characters? We lose hope ourselves! Maybe by the end of this year, after the movie releases, we can talk again about imperfection, mistakes, fear and how Luke overcame those obstacles to regain hope. This is the direction I hope they go in, and if not, I think I’ll just let the boys know that sometimes people simply stink at writing stories. 


Can you think of a time your kids were let down by something or somebody? How did you handle the situation? How did you help them through it? It’s not an easy thing to talk about because we try our best to shield our kids from pain, but it’s a part of life, right?

I’m Bored

When I was younger, I was incredibly lucky enough to grow up in a loving home with not only caring parents but grandparents as well. For the first five years of my life, my parents and grandparents lived down the street from each other. I remember learning to ride a bike in our old neighborhood and pedaling full speed ahead away from my dad and towards my grandparents house. Even to this day, I still remember having that white brick house in my sight and thinking how proud my grandmother and grandfather would be when they saw me riding without training wheels. Get to their house. Get to their house without falling was all I could think, and when I made it there unscathed, my grandmother was out in front waiting for me with a big hug. It’s one of the few memories I have of that old neighborhood, but it’s undoubtedly one of so many I have with my grandparents. At some point, after realizing we were together most of the time in the same house anyways, my parents, my yiayia (grandmother in Greek), and my pappou (grandfather) decided it just made more sense to sell the two houses and live together. 

Being so young, this decision rocked my world mostly because I didn’t quite understand what moving meant. Where were we going? Would we lose all of our stuff? What do you mean none of my friends could come with? Eventually, the day five-year-old Chris had dreaded for so long had arrived, and we were off to start a new life together. Before we knew it, two families had become one, and I would spend the next eighteen years living with essentially two sets of parents until I moved out at twenty-three. Huge family dinners filled with lots of laughter, amazing food cooked up by my yiayia and my mom, and of course, because we’re Greek, the occasional, heated debate at the kitchen table were the building blocks of my childhood. 

Knowing all of this about me is vital for this post to make sense. See, my grandfather came here from Greece when he was sixteen, met my grandmother a few years later, and eventually, through hard work and dedication, worked his way up from a dishwasher in the back of a restaurant to owning a produce delivery company. It’s that age old story of sweat and back-breaking labor leading to success and a better life. Pappou came here with nothing, achieved the American Dream, and as a result of that dream, he now has five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. My father eventually took over the business and still has it today. Each of them spent most of their adult life waking up at 2:30 in the morning, getting on a truck, picking up produce and other restaurant supplies from the market in the city, and then delivering it to local restaurants and grocery stores until about 7:00 at night. Additionally, while my mom and yiayia stayed home, they both were in charge of the bookkeeping. Arguably, they had the harder jobs managing the financial aspect of a business all the while taking care of three small kids. Apparently, like my youngest, I was quite the handful. My mom likes to remind me that Joey is the universe getting back at me. 


I mention all of this hard work I was raised with not to impress you, but to draw a picture of what life was like growing up. I’m sharing this with you so that it makes sense when I say that as a kid, there were two words you simply never said in my childhood home. 


“I’m bored.” 


This was a bad idea, and sometimes I used to forget that these two words could send a whole lot of work your way if you used them. It was sort of like saying “Bloody Mary” three times in the bathroom with the lights off as kid- you just didn’t do it!  Today, when my son uttered these words to me, I couldn’t help but think of a time when I made the same mistake he did. I recall being about ten and feeling the heavy weight of boredom crush my spirits as I was likely grounded from the SEGA Genesis or television for something stupid I did to my brother or sister. The sheer frustration of “supposedly” having nothing to do forced me to walk down to the kitchen where I moped and flopped at the table. I sighed and looked for attention, and I hoped that I would annoy some adult in my family long enough for them to finally give in and let me get my way. I did get attention, but it wasn’t the kind I wanted. 


“What’s the problem?” Pappou asked from the corner of the kitchen where he was grabbing his car keys. He had his “work” clothes on, and this should have been a sign for me to run, but I didn’t. It was too late. Even though it was a weekend, he was up to something, and I can promise you it wasn’t related to fun in any way. Even when he and my dad had days off, my grandfather found ways to work. To be honest, I can’t think of a single hobby Pappou has ever had in his life- unless of course you find staining the deck a form of enjoyment. 


“Umm. I don’t know. I’m bored.” Oh no! What did I just do? Those two words! I knew better. What was I thinking?


“Oh, you’re bored? Oh, okay.” He responded frankly and decidedly. He knew exactly how to remedy that problem of mine. He put his keys in his pocket, grabbed a Menards bag off the tile floor, and walked to the table. He stared at me and then smiled. “Go get your shoes.” Yep, I was in for it. Reluctantly, I went to the closet, grabbed my nice gym shoes, and started to put them on. “Nope, not those. Your old ones. We’re painting the fence at the apartment building.” My parents and grandparents used to own an apartment building, and most of everything I’ve learned about fixing crap inside a house came from working with him at that place. While I’m grateful for that knowledge today, I have to say, it was dreadful as a young kid. The car ride was long (dare I say boring), and the whole way there, I was completely annoyed with myself. Not him. It was all my fault. As kids, we knew that we should never complain about being bored. My sister used to make the same mistake too in front of my yiayia and would then find herself dusting the whole house shortly thereafter. 


Never admit you’re bored.


Ever.


It took us nearly the whole day to paint that fence. After two coats, my grandfather decided we were finally done, and as soon as we got in the car, he asked me something. 


“You still bored?” Pappou asked as he started the engine. He put his station wagon in reverse, looked at me, and waited for a reply. 


“Nope,” I replied. “Not at all.” 


“Good,” and then he drove off. 


The rain is beating softly against the window right now as I type this, and for me (and I bet for a lot of parents), a day like this is actually a good excuse to slow down and enjoy doing nothing. The weekends are always packed for us, but I don’t know, there’s something about a rainy Sunday that makes you say, “Forget it. I’m just going to have a lazy day.” For once, which rarely ever happens, we had nothing planned, and it was glorious! This sort of attitude simply destroys morale for the kids though, but I must say, I really don’t care today. When as parents did we sign up for being personal, social secretaries for our kids? Why do we feel pressured to make sure their lives are jam-packed with entertaining activities or educational experiences? 


Yes, it’s important that we show our kids idleness isn’t good for the mind or body, but isn’t boredom actually okay every now and then? Doesn’t it foster creativity and self-motivation? I’m sorry, but when I was a kid, my parents didn’t line up every single minute of our days with fun-filled excursions and playdates. My mom would open the back door, look at the clock, and then tell me when to be back home. That’s about as involved as she got in setting up playdates with my friends. Normally, Michelle and I feel so much pressure to keep them occupied, and to be honest, I don’t quite know why. Today, as I was watching the morning news and having my coffee in the basement, Teddy came down, stood right in front of the television and said, “Well, what are we doing today? I’m bored.” The audacity of this third grader! Those two words. There they were, and he was saying them with such disregard. Two words I feared to say in front of an adult in my childhood home because I knew what the consequences would be- hard work. That was for sure. Do you even know how many times I helped clean the rain gutters because of those two words? 


However, my kids? 


No fear. 


That had to change today. 


“Excuse me, son? Do I look like your personal entertainer? Go get your brothers and find something to play. Dad and Mom are taking a minute.” I sipped my coffee, turned the volume back up, and … he was still there. He wasn’t moving. “Umm, can I help you?” 


He sighed that sigh of his. “You have to play with me. I’m bored.” When Teddy whines, I don’t know, it just feels like nails scratching your insides. I love him, but the whining doesn’t suit him. 


I almost gave in and started to get up. Anything to stop that whining, but then, the story of my pappou and our day painting that fence flashed in my head. It’s like I was ten all over again, and my arms were suddenly stinging from a long, hard day of work. “Oh, you’re bored, huh?” I mischievously asked. A smile crept menacingly across my face. So this is what that felt like. The power! The high ground! Muahaha! Muahahaha! I laughed demonically in my head. 


“Yes, I want to do something.” Son, you’ll learn to choose your words more carefully as I once did at your age. You will learn. 


“Follow me, Teddy.”


Is this how my pappou felt? Life is funny, isn’t it? The Lion King wasn’t kidding when it sang about the Circle of Life. I put my coffee down, sprung out of the chair, and ran up the stairs two at a time with quite a bounce in my step. Teddy followed quickly behind me with so much energy and excitement I thought he might burst. I’m not sure what he thought we were going to do, but man was he pumped for it. For a moment, I felt bad, but meh, I quickly got over it. Memories like this are what made me who I am today, so I figured he’d appreciate it too in the future. I think he knew things were going awry when I peeled off into the laundry room and grabbed the feather duster. 


“What’s that for?” He stopped in his tracks and scrunched his eyebrows as confusion showered down on him like the rain beating on our roof.

“Oh, you’ll see.” I tried to say in an even, mysterious tone, but I clearly was enjoying the situation and found myself chuckling. Because of that, he laughed nervously not really understanding how to feel at the moment. I have to practice being stern like Pappou was. I gathered myself, cleared my throat, and evened out my tone. “Follow me.” 


At the top of the stairs, we turned left towards his bedroom door, and just before I grabbed the handle, I said to him, “Buddy, when I was your age, I tried to NEVER say I was bored in front of an adult. If I did, somebody would give me a chore to do.” His face dropped. He knew what was in store. I can guarantee he was thinking the same thing I was once thought all those years ago in the station wagon. “You know how I’ve been asking you to organize and clean your room over and over again? Well, since you have the time today.” I handed him the duster and opened the door. “Have at it, buddy!” 


“Dad, this isn’t fair!” 


“You just got that iPad back. Do you want to lose it again?” I gave him a little pat on the back and gently guided him into his room. The door closed behind him with a resounding thump. I proudly stood up, nodded, and then sought out my unfinished coffee. 


The next hour kept him good and occupied. I was glad to help him out. I don’t think there was any boredom the rest of the day and that room was spotless. Something tells me he’ll think twice about saying he’s bored again, but like I used to, I’ll bet he might slip up every now and then. Until then, I’ll have  to think of new and fun ways to torment my children when they tell me they’re bored. Some days parenting is really hard, and other days, like today, it isn’t that rough. Today, I won’t lie, was a good day. I folded some laundry on the couch and watched some football. There was nothing spectacular to our day, but I can tell you I think I succeeded in teaching my son that it’s okay to be bored. If you are, you’d better find a way to occupy your time, or I’ll help you out like my grandfather did for me long ago. 

8 Things NOT to Update in Your Home (If You Have Kids)

If you’re anything like me, you have a great deal of pride in your home. Each day I go to work, I feel lucky and blessed that I have an opportunity to help provide my kids with a safe, loving home. A home that will house our memories of birthdays, holidays, and all the stuff in between, and someday when we’re old and gray, we can look back fondly on the place where we made a life with our boys. When my wife and I bought our first house, we kept that place looking immaculate, and on most weekends, we’d spend a bit of time cleaning and organizing it so that it remained that way. This, of course, was BC (Before Children), and oh how our obsessive cleaning tendencies have pacified over the years. 

About three years ago, we moved into a new house, and because of three growing little boys, the house has been an utter free-for-all ever since the day we moved in. I never imagined myself saying this, but living with two other guys in a college apartment was a far better experience than living with my little dirtballs. Quite recently, Michelle and I have tapped out. That’s it! No more! We have done the best we could for years, but we simply cannot fight the good fight anymore. While we still like to have our house generally clean for health reasons, we have given up on fixing and updating certain aspects of our home. Why? Because we wrongly named each of our boys when it comes to their middle names. All three of them should have the title “Destruction” attached somewhere to their full name. 

As a result, I have put a list together of 8 things you should NOT considerfixing or updating in your home! Trust me, I get it. There’s so much my wife and I want to do to our house in order to make it look nicer or more livable, but at this point, as the holes in the walls continue to multiply, we simply don’t have the time, money, or patience for any more fixes or updates. At this point, lighting the money on fire and watching it burn would be a better use for it. Anything we choose to update or fix is destroyed by the fellas in such a short period of time. No matter how many conversations we have about respecting our home and having pride, it still happens. They don’t do it maliciously, and I don’t fault them for being kids. I have simply just learned to accept that my home will never be showcased in Better Homes and Garden. Fun fact about us. About a year ago, Michelle and I have started receiving that magazine subscription in the mail, and we never signed up for it. Either the magazine just knows we’re a wreck, or a family member is slipping us a clue. As both of us are naturally obsessed with organization, this idea of not worrying about the house was such a hard one for us to overcome; however, once we did, our stress levels started to diminish dramatically. Not to mention, it has saved us time and money! Hopefully, I can save you both of those valuable commodities too by reading this list:

1. Furniture

The cushions in our house are so worn out that when you sit in them, it’s as if though you are falling into a tub of cotton candy. You sink so low to the bottom, that no matter what physical condition you are in, it is nearly impossible to get up without assistance. You could also implement the roll and fall technique, but this can sometimes lead to injuries, so we exhaust extreme caution and only utilize it when alone. How did the couches get this way? Years and years of normal use? Absolutely not! The cushions have been used as shields, trampolines, fort walls, and makeshift sleds. They’re ripped and stained, and I simply just cannot bring myself to spend money on a new set that will suffer a similar fate. 


2. Flooring

No matter how many times you ask them not to play hockey on the hardwood floors, the game will somehow find its way out of bounds from the tile in the kitchen and onto the living room oak. Scratches, gouges, and cracks now riddle several planks on our floors. After I spent seventy dollars the first time to have one repaired, I vowed I would never make that mistake again. The pristine flooring only lasted a month since it was fixed before a new victim felt the wrath of a forceful slapshot.

3. Walls 

Holes. SO MANY HOLES IN OUR WALLS! By the time I am done patching one up, another three of them are born. It’s like playing a game of “whack-a-mole,” but instead, I am having a go at “patch-a-hole.” At this point, I’ve decided I’ll patch them eventually- perhaps just once a year. Maybe the whole family can celebrate Happy Patch Day and help out.

4. Toilet Paper Holder (Yes, you read that right)

“Tommy, the toilet paper holder is not part of the monkey bars! Stop hanging on that!”

CRACK! The holder tears away from the wall sending him backward, nearly missing his head on the toilet. A portion of the wall is now missing and the holder parts are torn to shreds and can’t be put back together. The kid is safe. No hospital trip. Consider it a victory. My wife has fixed this one twice already. Forget it! She’s done. Put the toilet paper on top of the toilet tank and call it a day.

5. Picture Frames

When the pictures fall off the wall and the frames break because of a stray ball or an impromptu wrestling bout, just get some painter’s tape and tape the photo back up. It will happen again, and unless you’re willing to get rubber frames without any glass, just let it go. Let it go.

6. The Patio Door 

Unless you can find a company that has a lifetime warranty on accidents like we have, don’t plan on updating your door. Michelle opens the sliding door often to let out the stench of the boys in her life, and even though she has asked Joey not to press the kick lock down, he of course does. In a rush, and forgetting to check, she often slams that door shut, and in doing so, rips the kick lock off as the door slides along the track. This is likely the only update that has made sense for us because of that warranty. The company has been out four times to fix that lock at no charge. If you must update, do your research on warranties! 

7. Ceiling Fans

Honestly, I suggest you just take these down if your kids find chaos as easily as mine do. Twirling and swirling lightsabers while in the midst of a ferocious battle will connect with and certainly deform those spinning blades of death. The unit will wobble, jump, and threaten the safety of everybody in the room below. Take cover and pray nobody loses an eyeball. If it breaks, don’t fix it. Let it be a reminder of a common saying that now haunts our house. “This is why we can’t have nice things!” 


8. The Television

This one is hard for me. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I have a passion for movies and the whole experience attached to it. That obviously has translated into an obsession with television viewing at home, and most days, when I walk by the local Costco or Best Buy television aisle, I am lured closer and closer each time by the crisp, vibrant pictures of those exhilarating flatscreens. However, in the back of my head is a little voice. Don’t do it. Think of the little hand smudges that will taint that picture quality. Think of the possibility of a Wii or Switch remote flying straight through its center. Wait. Wait until they are older. It’s been ten years since we’ve bought a new television. Ugh! I don’t want to wait any longer! 

It’s not easy putting your house on hold because you know certain aspects of it will inevitably be destroyed by the kiddos, but this is what we signed up for, right? I realized that in the past I was overly worried about how the house looked, and in doing so, I may have caused some anxiety about it for my kids. They don’t need that stress, and I don’t need it anymore either because as I mentioned before, it’s completely and utterly stupid to think that my house will be perfectly kept with three ravenous boys running around it. I am in no way saying let the house go completely, but what I am saying is to let the obsession go and appreciate the chaos. If somebody comes to my house and judges me for having toys littered across our living room or for being able to stick their finger through the drywall, that’s their problem. In the future, I’ll get to the plans I have for my house. But for now, I’ve learned to appreciate the handprints on the wall and the memories they possess. For example, whenever I am in our office, I look at the crayon drawings on the wall, smile, and remember Joey when he was toddling around as a one-year-old. It is what it is, and I’m okay with it now. I do have one bit of advice though as to what you should update if you need to.

1. Your Backyard

If you have one, make sure there’s plenty of grass for them to roll and run around in. Don’t let them in the house unless they have grass stains on their knees and mud on their faces. We’re currently in the process of taking out a crumbling patio and adding more grass for the boys to run free. 

What updates have you done to your home? Have you had the same experiences as us? Please comment and share how you manage your home with kids!

Lights, Camera, Questions!

Aside from my kids, my wife, and of course fishing, another love I have in my life is watching movies. I’ve always been a huge fan of the smell of buttery popcorn, sticky theater floors that make your shoes screech with each step, and the flickering light spilling over the large, silver screen telling its intricate tale. Throw in the fact that these days movie theaters have leather reclining chairs and what you have is a match made in heaven for me. I can distinctly remember being a kid anticipating the dimming lights and the loud boom of speakers signifying the start of previews. Previews, in my opinion, are the best part of the experience despite the fact that some people think they’re not all that important and can be missed. What sort of blasphemy they are spewing out I will never understand. My brother, on the other hand, gets it. For this reason, he is often my first call when I’m looking to catch that new Marvel flick or whatever other movie we think deserves our attention, money, and time. 

Movies have always played a huge role in my family, and my grandmother, God rest her soul, was definitely the reason I developed a passion for cinema at such a young age. As I mentioned in other posts, I grew up in the 90s when things were, uhhhh, a little bit more relaxed as far as parenting goes. Movies like Rocky, The Godfather, and Jaws, while not entirely age appropriate, were often playing on the tube when my grandmother had control of the television. She loved movies and had great taste in them; she no doubt passed down that passion to her grandchildren. While most kids and even adults have never been exposed to the likes of movies such as Gone With the Wind and The West Side Story, I can assure you I am well versed in such stories. As kids, we were always at the movie theater with my grandmother, and I have incredibly vivid memories of the movies I once saw as a young boy. 

I remember perfectly the opening scene of Aladdin. The enchanting music, the vibrant colors, and all the excitement of magic forced me to the edge of my seat. Forgetting that I had popcorn tucked in between my legs, I dropped it all over the ground below me. I also remember the time we saw one of the greatest sports classics of our time, The Sandlot, and how I brought a baseball into the theater, turning it over and over again in my hand as the story unfolded before me. I distinctly recall tracing the stitches of that ball with my finger when the final credits scrolled- disappointed that the experience was over, yet excited at the prospect of playing baseball with my brother and sister when we got home. Movies have always been a passion of mine, and for that reason, I take my kids as often as I can to the theater. That being said, the experiences aren’t always as magical as I’ve wanted them to be, and I have learned, just like other aspects of my parenting life, to adjust and appreciate the chaos. 

Those experiences, as well as this past weekend’s viewing of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, have all helped me create these four valuable tips to consider when watching movies with your kids or taking them to the theater:

1. Everybody go to the potty! RIGHT NOW! 

I don’t care what they tell you. They have to go to the bathroom, and they most certainly will need to go within the first fifteen minutes of the movie or at the worst part if you don’t force them to try beforehand.This is a shout out to my sister and her experiences with my kids at the movies. Disney movies were also a staple of our family during our formative years. My grandmother took us to every single one of those movies when we were younger, and as embarrassing as this might be for a 34-year-old male to admit, I can belt out some really great renditions of Disney songs. My sister, like me, is an avid Disney fan, so you can imagine how crestfallen she was when she missed not one, but two of the most iconic Disney movie moments ever produced. When the two of us found out about the live action remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King, we both started reminiscing about two scenes in particular- the magic carpet ride and the heartbreaking moment Mufasa dies. 

Let’s be honest, when my family decided to take the kids to these movies, it was more about the millennials’ nostalgic trip back to childhood. Of course, as if though Destiny had been eavesdropping on the conversation about our excitement for these movies, my sister would unfortunately miss both of those scenes in their respective movies. I tried to take the boys myself, I really did, but when my kids asked to go on a potty break, the only person they wanted to walk them to the restroom was their most favorite aunt in the whole wide world. As she got up each time, she looked at me with an anxious look of despair, and we both knew what she was about to miss. As I mouthed, “I’m sorry,” I secretly thought, Sucks to be you! These are the sacrifices we make for kids at the movies. Even if we’re trying to relive our own childhood through Disney remakes, the duty of parenthood, or in my sister’s case, aunthood, takes precedence and the call must be answered unless you’re ready to clean up an accident. 

2. Read some parent reviews and prep the kids!

Michelle and I learned this one the hard way. Listen, like I said, we were tough as kids in the 90s, and we didn’t let a little monster flick scare us. My brother and I watched the original It when we were way too young, and yes, it gave us both irrational fears of clowns even till this day. After we watched that movie, while the villainous smile of Pennywise was still fresh in our heads,  we immediately ran to our room and hid the obscene amount of menacing porcelain clown figurines my mom had put on our dressers a few years prior. We were certain they would come to life and eat our heads clean off our bodies if they weren’t dealt with appropriately. She still has no idea what we did with those demonic little statues. But, whatever, we were tough. We survived. We didn’t let some movie get us down. We were children of the 90s, damn it, and we handled it! I can tell you what we didn’t do. We didn’t scream bloody murder while watching that movie and cry. We had each other as a support system! Kids are different though today, and let’s be honest, we have only ourselves to blame for this. My boys don’t handle scary all that well, and we’re working on teaching them the idea of movie magic and that most things simply aren’t real. 

“Tommy, it’s not real. It’s a green screen and computer programs. No, no, no. Dinosaurs are not alive now. However, give it time. The way our society’s going, who knows. Daddy’s kidding. But not really.”

You’re probably thinking I’m a terrible parent and that I show my kids horror movies, but I promise I don’t. I’m in no way advocating that we “toughen” this generation up by showing them terrifying tales of flesh eating monsters. While I joke about us being young kids watching wildly inappropriate movies, I don’t really condone it. I did, however, do this once on accident.

This specific tip dates back to when we took the boys to see the movie Shazam! earlier this year. I was so excited to take them to a superhero movie. My boys love all things superhero related as mentioned in my origin story, so I thought the comedic take on the character Shazam would be a great day at the theater. I hadn’t read any reviews about it assuming the content would be fine. Little kid gets powers and becomes a superhero. Sounds fun! A quarter of the way into the movie, these horrifying demon creatures came crawling on the screen, and to our surprise, bit the head off of one of the characters and then threw  another person out of a window. NOT. WHAT. WE. WERE. EXPECTING! Tommy stood up, looked at me, looked at Michelle, and then started bawling. Before we could console him, he was out of that theater quicker than one of Shazam’s cracks of lighting and a trail of popcorn followed behind him. SHAZAM! HE WAS GONE! Teddy was forever scarred too from the scene and ran out after Tommy with Michelle right behind them. The most concerning part of this story- Joey. He didn’t flinch. I immediately tried to cover his eyes, but he pulled them down aggressively. He looked at me and said, I kid you not, “What’s their problem, Daddy? That was cool!” That boy scares me. Should I be concerned?


3. Use pause tickets

I love movies. This you now know about me. While most of the time I am the quintessential, patient father (sarcasm), I have incredibly low patience for disruptions during movies. At home, this seems to happen more than theater outings. Most of the time in public, the boys are actually on their best behavior; however, at home, it’s a crapshoot. Movies at home are intolerable for me. This is not one of my proud papa moments, but when we watch movies, I get frustrated very easily. I mean, it’s brutal! Michelle and I have to field an onslaught of questions every five minutes of the movie, and I simply cannot handle it. It’s unbearable! Over the last few months, the boys have expressed interest in the Star Wars movies, so of course I jumped on that and was ready to share my love of the saga with them. We have watched Episodes 1-6, and getting through those six movies has been the ultimate challenge of my life. No joke. 

The following is a transcript of a conversation I had with Joey during our viewing of Episode 3: A New Hope

Joey: Why is Dark Vader so mean?

Me: It’s Darth (Emphasis on the TH sound). Darth Vader. 

Joey: I know. Dark (Emphasis on the K sound) Vader. That’s what I said. Dark Vader.

Me: Okay, sure. Dark Vader. 

Joey: So? Why is he mean?

Me: It’s the dark side of the force. It’s evil.

Joey: See, Daddy! Dark side. Dark (Again, K sound emphasis) Vader.

Me: Okay, Joe. Yep. Dark. (Goes to press the play button)

Joey: Who’s forcing him to do something?

Me: (Stops and lowers the remote again) No, the force. It’s a mystical, ancient power that one connects to…Oh, just forget it. I don’t know, Joe. He just is mean and nobody is forcing him.

Joey: Oh, okay. 

(Dad presses play)

This happens with nearly every movie we watch. This past weekend was our viewing of Episode 6: Return of the Jedi. Please keep in mind that this movie is on my list of top five greatest movies ever made. It was a rough experience, and it took us nearly the entire weekend to get through it. 

Teddy: Dad, how did Luke get a new lightsaber?

Me: (Reluctantly presses pause) He’s nearly completed his training and can now construct a lightsaber. He did it himself.

Teddy: Oh, cool. 

Me: Yep. (Presses play)

Teddy: Why is it green?

Me: (Pauses again) Well, there’s a crystal in the hilt of the lightsaber. A kyber crystal. It’s green. 

Teddy: Oh, cool.

Me: Yep. Okay, I’m going to hit play now. Let’s try to keep it going, yeah? 

Teddy: Got it, Dad. (Thumbs up)

(Two minutes later)

Teddy: Dad, I mean, how did they get the Death Star working again?

Me: (Violently presses the pause button this time) Engineering, son. The Empire invested in some top notch engineers. 

Teddy: Huh?

Me: Forget it. The force, Teddy. The force put it back together. 

Teddy: Oh, cool. 

(Ten minutes later)

Me: Who just farted?

Tommy: Hahahaha! Me! 

Me: Do you have to use the bathroom? 

Tommy: Yes. Please stop it.

Me: Ahhhhhh! Okay. (Pauses movie) 

(Tommy returns twenty minutes later)

Me: Can we chill out on the pauses now you maniacs? (Finally resumes the movie)

Shortly after that, I went into the office, cut out nine small pieces of paper and wrote “Movie Pause Ticket” on each of them. I handed three to each kid and instructed them that the movie could only be paused with a ticket from then on. Once the pause ticket is used, it is gone until the next movie. Once you’re out, you can’t ask questions anymore, and if you do, it’s straight to bed you go. Guess what? Each of them kept those tickets until the end and then cashed them in and asked questions at the END OF THE MOVIE. After I gave those tickets out, it was a glorious, uninterrupted showing of one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made! 

4. Your own private showing

I’ve had lemonade spilled in my lap, tended to nosebleeds, taken kids on countless bathroom trips, and dealt with crying and screaming all because the Dots box was empty. All this in an attempt to give my boys that magical movie experience I had as a child. I know I’ve succeeded as they really do enjoy going to the theater, but my last tip for you is to check out that movie you really want to see by yourself before you take the kids. When Spider-Man: Far From Home came out, I felt incredibly guilty going without the boys, but it was the best decision I could have made. I went first, enjoyed the movie uninterrupted, and had a great time out with my brother. When I took the boys, I had an abundance of patience for them and tended to their every need without feeling frustrated. I know this seems selfish; however, I’d rather buy a ticket twice than miss out on an experience I really cherish and that harkens me back to the fond memories I have of my grandmother. There’s nothing wrong with doing something for myself as a parent, and if this helps me foster the passion of movies for my kids all while maintaining my sanity, it’s perfectly fine.

What are movies like with your kids? Can they make it through a whole movie without any issues? Let’s hear your stories below and any other tips you’d like to share!

Father Time

I want to bring you back to a time long ago. A time when you had, well, TIME. Time to sleep. Time to eat. Time to peacefully go to the bathroom. Time for your hobbies.

Time to relax and hear…NOTHING.

Yes, a time long ago…

I call it B.C. 

Before Children.

Remember when you were okay with staying up on a Friday night until whenever? Who cares, you’d say to yourself, I’ll just sleep in tomorrow morning. I have the time to do that. I’m not talking about sleep in as in 7:00 A.M. which often feels like a really late morning these days. I’m referring to a time when you’d wake up at noon, check the alarm clock, think to yourself, Damn, I just missed out on the better part of a day. Ah, well. It happens. Then you’d go downstairs, pour a bowl of cereal, make a cup of coffee, put on the television, and then not move for another hour or so until your body was finally ready for rigorous activity like walking. 

Remember when you ate your food at a normal human rate? Yeah, you remember, don’t you? You didn’t cram it down your throat because you were worried about only having fifteen minutes to get to baseball, soccer, piano, guitar, ninja class, or whatever new thing your kid was into at the moment. I can’t tell you how many times I came close to choking because I had to shovel dinner down my gullet in record time. I guess taking bites between frantically gathering baseball gear isn’t the best tip for safe, healthy eating habits. Remember when you could go out to nice restaurants, sip a nice glass of red wine along with a succulent piece of filet mignon cooked to perfection with a little butter and rosemary atop of it? You’d take your time slowly savoring bites of that masterful cuisine, and you’d wash it down with that cabernet thinking about nothing other than being in the moment. That sweet, sweet moment of relaxation. What a hectic week at work! It’s okay. It’s the weekend now. I have time to relax. You’d let the wine linger in your mouth for a moment, swallow, take a deep smoky oak flavored breath in, and then you’d calmly relish in the freedom of nothingness. 

B.C. 

What a time. Am I right? 

What about the bathroom? Man, wasn’t it nice to just….go? Whenever you wanted. Without people screaming and banging on the door looking for you? 

“Dad! What are you doing in there?” Tommy always asks with a hint of annoyance in his voice. Oh, well excuse me, son! Is my bowel movement or the act of evacuating my bladder putting a wrench in your plans?

“Yo! Guy! What do you think I’m doing in here? I’m using the bathroom?” I give the same irritated tone right back to him. Take that you inconsiderate bathroom interrupter! 

“Pee or Poop!” Did he just? Yes, he sure did. Privacy. There was a time when I had privacy. 

“Oh, come on! Does it matter? Leave me alone!” 

“Just want to know how long, Dad!” 

Can kids cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Is that like one of the side effects of having children? 


Side effects of having children may include:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Loss of sleep

Loss of appetite 

Inability to focus 

Inability to find inner peace

Eye twitches

Doubting every decision you make

Nausea and vomiting (Children are magnets for the stomach flu)

Occasional marital spats with the wife (Let her win. She’s your only ally, and let’s be honest, she’s probably right)

Fits of rage (Tiny, stray Lego pieces will in fact ruin your life) 

Loss of silence

Eye twitches 

Feeling of impending doom

Did we mention eye twitches?

And the list goes on….

It might sound like I wish I had all that time back. To be honest, while at times I may have fleeting moments of envy for those days before children, the truth is, I would never trade my current life. My boys are my world now; however, the other reality I am faced with is that parenting is incredibly tough at times, and what makes it even harder is the inability to stop and process things. I mean, the days are short and the tasks just keep filling up on that immeasurably long to-do list. I usually hit the couch around 9 o’clock at night. Sure, I get to “watch” a television show if I am not grading a stack of essays from my classes. Even then, I’m not even really watching that show because I’m actually thinking about the millions of things I have yet to accomplish in my week. For crying out loud, there’s a light bulb in our closet that is haunting us on a daily basis. This thing has been on my list of things to accomplish for quite some time, but I can’t get to it because it’s very low on the hierarchy of needs at the moment. A light bulb. How sad is that? Every time I flick the switch on and nothing happens, I nearly lose it. 

Regardless, that’s my life. Time is remarkably elusive. Do you want to know when I decide is the best time to think about that list and all the crap I have to do? Bedtime. Right before I am supposed to get to sleep, I decide it’s a good opportunity to drop the gate at the horse track and let my brain run rampant around and around that dirt track of stress. Curious onlookers with gambling addictions place bets on when I will finally fall asleep, and before I know it, it’s two o’clock in the morning. I still haven’t slept. 

Time? Where did it go? 

So, what’s the point of this post? Am I just complaining about something we all deal with? Am I hoping you’ll hear this sad tune on my tiny, insignificant violin and feel sorry for me? Nope, I’m just hoping you can relate, and when you’re staring blankly at that bedroom wall desperately trying to stop your mind from wandering and churning, I hope you know you’re not alone. More importantly, I want to give you a huge suggestion. 

Despite the notion that we never have time anymore, I want you to make time for something.

Yourself.

Michelle and I were so bad at this early on with kids. We always felt guilty grabbing a drink with a friend, going fishing, or getting nails done. We refused to give ourselves the time we needed, and even to this day, we can be better about it. We’ve no doubt learned from our mistakes, and we now realize that giving ourselves a brief return to alone time drastically improves our mood when we’re with the boys. Whatever it is you like to do, find the time to do it. I’d like to throw this your way as well.

Mindfulness Meditation. 

I won’t lie, that was really hard for me to write down. It just sounds so incredibly awkward and weird, and I feel like it makes me sound strange. Maybe not to you, but for me, I don’t know, it used to be wildly unorthodox to my mindset. Meditation was so far outside my comfort level before I actually gave it a try. I didn’t really grow up with anything remotely close to meditation or even talking about feelings all that much, so I had such a negative perception when a friend first recommended Mindfulness Meditation to help me with my sleeping issues. I laughed and just couldn’t shake away all the stereotypes I had in my head about it. Finally, one night, I decided that four nights of sleeplessness in a row would be unbearable, and I was ready to try anything. Usually, I would struggle with sleep every other night or so, but now it was becoming increasingly regular, and let me tell you, dealing with nearly 150 teenagers the next day on four hours of sleep is no easy task. 

So, I set aside a half hour before bed. I didn’t care what was happening outside of my basement. I was dedicating thirty minutes of some me time, and seeing that it was 9:30, the boys had been in bed for nearly two hours. Deciding my students’ essays could wait one more day, I set out on my first try at meditation. I had already been given some links and articles beforehand (I’ll share below with you at the end of this post), so I somewhat knew what I should do, but I had no idea what to expect. I got in my recliner, made myself comfortable, put on the YouTube video my friend recommended, and well I….meditated. At first, I didn’t think any of it would work. Nobody was in the basement with me, and yet I was so completely embarassed that I was even trying this stupid thing. 

Then, I did what I was told.

Count from one to ten over and over and over again in your head. Visualize the numbers and see them as you repeat them slowly and methodically in your mind’s eye. If an outside thought invades, start from one again. Don’t go past ten. Restart when you hit ten. See the numbers differently each time and don’t focus on anything but the numbers and the calm music in the background. Then, when other thoughts are no longer invading your concentration on those numbers, focus on every part of your body starting with your toes and move to the top of your head. Feel the weight of your body in the chair. Give each part your entire focus. See if you can feel the rhythm of the blood as it fills your fingers. 

I’m telling you, I never felt goofier in my whole entire life, until I realized that it was actually working. In thirty minutes time, guess what I thought about? The numbers one through ten and the sensation of my ass in the recliner! That’s it! Do you know how much of an accomplishment that was for this ADHD brain of mine? I succeeded in putting a halt to my incessantly racing mind, and I forced it to stop thinking about all the meaningless tasks I had to do. Thirty whole minutes of me time and NOTHINGNESS! 

Sweet Mother of God! A return to the days before children! 

Speaking of thoughts, chew on this one for a second. We have an hour out of the day when we encourage kids to learn about physical health and force them to exercise physically, yet mental health plays a very minimal role in curriculum throughout a kid’s day. What about you? I bet a good amount of us are concerned about whether or not we’re fitting in enough gym time, but how many of us take time to exercise our mental health? I’m not preaching here, I swear. Going to the gym is important too. No doubt. I’m just saying that as parents, we’re juggling not only our lives, but the lives of our kids as well. Dang, that’s a lot of pressure. And while I know time is so very limited these days, we have to find time for this. Find time to exercise not only your physical well being but your mental well being too. This may very well go down as my most out there posts for some of you, but if you have never meditated, do me a favor and just try it once. What’s the harm? You look like a hippie for roughly thirty minutes? Who cares? You may find, like I did, that your preconceived notions were completely misguided, and who knows, you might just find yourself in a new routine at night like I have. 

What are some other ways you deal with the stress of parenting? How do you unwind and make time for yourself? How do you get your mind off the countless things we’re tasked with on a daily basis? 

Check out these links on Mindfulness Meditation:  

Do what works for you. I change things up for me. Here are some good reads though:

https://www.verywellmind.com/mindfulness-meditation-88369

This is the background noise I use: