As parents, we all know one of the greatest things about having children is watching them grow up. There are so many small things we observe on a daily basis that can bring so much pride and joy: seeing them learn how to read and write, their first time striking out in baseball or scoring their first goal in soccer, losing teeth, and watching those marks on the doorway that show how much they've grown in a few years. Sometimes it goes unnoticed, but I always like to step back observe and see how much we've all grown.
One of the more interesting things is having two boys who are eerily similar to me—which makes my wife a little scared—play the same games so differently. As Young NC gets closer to seven, he's not as inclined to play the "cutsie" games anymore. He's a big boy now and wants to act that way. However, I can still watch Little A play the big boy games in a "cutsie" way.
Last week while putting Little A to bed, we did our normal routine of a story and some fun before he called it a night. On this particular night, he wanted to play with his Hot Wheels, so I let him and watched him have a race with his cars. Young NC has been having nightly Hot Wheel races for a couple of years now and I seen his way of racing the cars. Well, Little A race was completely different—from the shape and length of the imaginary track to which car was going to win that nights contest. Until then I figured a race was a race and there wouldn't be a lot of differences when pushing cars around a bed. It intrigued me that two boys who are so alike could be so different when it came to a simple game. Bottom line is that it made me happy to know that they'll always be brothers, but always be themselves. The one thing they did do similarly was not let me win a race, never, ever!
I'm not sure how you do it at your house, but we still have Christmas gifts that were "stored" right after Christmas. These are usually the toys that require a ton of batteries or an adult to make them work properly. The intention is to pull those toys out within a couple of days, weeks or maybe even in the spring. The reality...."holy cow we have some awesome toys from last Christmas in this closet!"
Can you believe Young NC and L'il A have had toys in a closet for over a year and to top it off never asked for them or even stumbled upon them. I'll pat myself on the back for not raising nosy kids. They are however quite noisy! That "i" can make such a difference and I'm not really sure which is better or worse.
I guess I should let you know what awesome toy we found hidden away. No, it wasn't a Red Ryder BB Gun or the super cool Quad Four Wheelers some of their friends had Santa deliver. Nope. It was something basic, simple, creative, challenging and rewarding. Something I think all little boys get into and something most would love to do when they grow up.
Yep, we found the Lego Star Wars set!
At first I was a little apprehensive to open it. There are tons of small pieces to lose, instructions to follow and the fear of finding a rogue piece with my bare feet at 3am. But I got past my Lego fears and remember a childhood of trying to build everything I would see or do with my Legos. So we opened the box and tried to keep the pieces orderly and began to build the A-wing Starfighter. This is when I realized how much I really loved playing with Legos, and yes wanted to somehow work with them when I grew up.
For the next 20 minutes or so the three of us took turns following the directions and starting the building process. After that the boys grew impatient and I was in my glory finishing up the project, and after another 15 minutes, we had our A-wing Starfighter complete. It was awesome and reminded me once again that there is something about the snap of a couple of Legos that is very satisfying. It's even better when they are brand new. Despite the fact that the A-wing now resembles Mater from Cars doesn't really matter, what does is that we had a great time building and the boys have asked when they can have my old Lego sets (yes, I still have them). So with that I crown Lego ... "The Greatest Toy Of All Time!"
Now please excuse me while I remove the block I just stepped on from my foot.
We've had an unusual sort of epidemic around our house since the calendar flipped to 2013. I'm not talking about anything related to health, as we've been pretty healthy since I managed to get the boys flu shots, which I keep telling myself was worth it.
I say manage because I took them solo, without appointments, and made the worst mistake of all - letting them know where we were going. Their reaction was just as predictable as that of the dog who freaks out when it hears V-E-T!
It went something like this, cry - no - cry - we hate you - cry - we're not getting out of the car - cry - mumbles - we'll get chocolate shakes afterward - hmmm - cry - can we have strawberry - what was I thinking-ok - it doesn't hurt - shakes - oh they have the mist - cry - come back in fifteen minutes - shakes - cry - that wasn't fifteen minutes -ugh - cry - you're done - that didn't hurt at all - and then....the loudest screaming of the word "NO!" by a four year old who doesn't want a syringe up his nose!
As you may know, angry four year olds are kind of strong. So, yeah, we managed to spend a fantastic Friday afternoon preventing the flu from coming to our house, and yes I'm sure was worth it!!
The epidemic I'm referring here to is the "Island of Misfit" toys we are creating. Yes small pieces are easy to lose and so if a puzzle isn't missing at least two tiles, we're puzzled.
It's the broken toys that I'm talking about. Boys are gonna have accidents and can be rough. I get that and encourage it...up to a point. My flu-shot-angry-strong four year, old aka Little A, actually seems to enjoy breaking toys. I've watched him do this and he really just needs to push his toys to and past their limit. What ends up happening is him saying "Mommy fix it later" and problem solved. Short term at least. In reality I have repair these abused toys and superglue will only fix so much. I've used toothpicks, spaghetti, rubber bands, and just about anything that will help to put a toy back in action.
So if you come to our house in 2013 we should be hale and hearty, with plenty of good health and energy for toy demolition. Leave your tissues at home but keep an eye on the floor for those Misfit Toys and...if you have a spare glue gun could you bring that along, please?
It all started last year when my parents came in for a visit and to celebrate Little A's third birthday. We decided to take the family to Splitsville for bowling, pizza and to keep my Nana occupied for a few hours. After we decided that a "boy car" and a "girl car" was the best way to convoy down 95, my dad, the boys and I began our trek south to the area I like to call red lights-a-go-go, or route three.
Shortly into our trip my dad had the boys enthralled with every truck we passed by describing in great detail the contents of each one. The trucks were full of peanuts, sofas, bananas and I even think we passed a truck full of spaceships...even I thought that was cool. This game was so awesome we had to play it on the way home, as well. After my folks left the truck game became mine. Now one might think I would be creative enough to describe a few different things in each truck we happened to pass since then. Well not so much! I stink at the truck game. I can never come up with anything clever or fun, and even when I use the same contents my dad did, the boys are not impressed.
So as you can imagine every trip I now take on 95 with the boys is just a little bit of a challenge. Traffic, a carload of kids and now the truck game. I bring all of this up because like a lot of folks around here I drive 95 to and from work each day and every time I see a truck I'm reminded of how awful I am at a game I should really be at least decent at. And even though my dad is 500 miles away I'll hear his voice eloquently describing the truckload of batteries I'm passing on my way to work. I then wonder if my dad just knew I'd be terrible at the truck game, and got the boys into it just to torment me. Sort of like a small bit of payback for me being a typical teenager in my time. Honestly, I doubt he's that devious. Then again, I thought of it and we're blood, so it could be true. Either way, it's a great way to think of both generations I am surrounded by and how we all have our special ways of being a family.
By the way. I'm sure when my boys become parents, I'm gonna be awesome at the truck game!
I hope your year is off to a great start. Thanks for taking the time to read and listen and may 2013 be the best year for us all.
It's right around the corner. The big day we all try to find something to be thankful for. It really shouldn't be that hard. Take a look at the things right in front of you -- kids, family, health. Or maybe your favorite items, such as a car, home, or the 60-inch screen you'll watch the game on. Any way you slice the turkey, we all have something to be thankful for. So take a minute and say thanks to whomever deserves it and enjoy the day.
I'm reminded of being at a great uncle's home many years back for Thanksgiving. After he said grace, he added the following with tongue firmly implanted in cheek, "I wanna thank you for all of the things I have, but I hear there are some who have more, and I'm not happy about this." This has stuck in my brain for all these years. I guess there's both truth and humor in it.
As Young NC and Little A grow faster, it's becoming more difficult to remember all of their original quips. They teach me something new every day. One of the biggest challenges is answering their random questions. At first, they were simple, such as "Why is the sky blue?" My answers used to satisfy them easily. Now they think more independently and question almost everything I say. "Why?" is asked frequently and, although sometimes annoying, overall I'm thankful for their curiosity and thirst for knowledge. My one piece of Dadvice on this: Don't squelch the questions, but embrace and encourage them.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving and I hope you appreciate time with those special to you (and I hope that your team wins!). I'm letting the boys sit at the big table this year!
What a great summer it has been so far! My wife and I are always trying to find activities to keep our boys occupied between camps, play dates and visits to the grandparents. One thing we have enjoyed this year more than ever is the pool. Mostly because both boys can swim. Well, they can bob up and down in their floaties. This means trips to the pool are no longer constant worrying and handholding.
Not sure if you've been to the pool lately, but I've noticed that pool toys have certainly come a long way. I'm not just talking noodles, floats or swim goggles. Have you seen what they call a water gun these days? Sure, we had super soakers when I was younger, but now they require batteries and you can soak someone from a hundred feet away. This is seriously awesome, yet expensive. But I digress...
A few weeks back my wife and I were getting things prepared for a day of pool fun. We sent the boys down to the basement to play while we packed a bag. After a few minutes, I noticed it was uncomfortably quiet and as parents we know that no noise is sometimes more concerning than screaming and crying. It was time to investigate, so I headed down the stairs calling their names. To my surprise, I peeked around the corner and found the two of them sitting in a couple of old car seats. They managed to buckle themselves into the seats and were not sure how to get out!
I couldn't help but laugh at the predicament they had got themselves into. Funnier was that they wouldn't admit they were stuck. So for the next few minutes, I stepped aside and watched them struggle with the child-proof buckles and listened to the 5-year-old talk about how he meant to do this and that it was no big deal. Eventually I helped them out, but I couldn't wait to go upstairs and tell my wife. I think this is just one of the hilarious, harmless things kids are supposed to do. No one was hurt and we all had a good laugh. Now if I can only get them to stop digging holes in my lawn!
This scene was playing out way too many weeknights. Our bedtime routine was becoming more of a bedtime torture, usually starting about 7 pm and wrapping up around 10 pm. The routine was running us. Having two children with different bedtimes is challenging; getting one into bed while the other is still up, then putting the older one down fifteen minutes later without disturbing the younger.
One wrong move and it's routine reset. There have been nights when it's a cycle of one kid up one kid down, over and over. Most nights, we weren't eating dinner until nearly 9:30 pm, and rarely uninterrupted. (This is especially fun when I wake at 3 am for work.)
Don't get me wrong - my wife and I enjoy the bedtime process. We both love reading to the boys, telling them stories and tucking them in. They both will sleep through the entire night and stay in their rooms. We've never let them sleep with us, and they are generally great night time kids. It's just bedtime and getting them to go to sleep.
We've tried a few tricks we learned through the parent grapevine, to no avail. I'd have them running circles around the house at 5 pm and still couldn't wear them out after dinner. So we finally decided to just push everything back 45 minutes and put Young N.C. and A-Bomb to bed at the same time. We're giving them the old double team; we each take one to bed.
You know what? It's starting to work! After three weeks, our bedtime routine runs about 20 minutes shorter and we're eating dinner at a far more reasonable time. (If you're wondering why we don't all eat at once, my wife does the NoVa commute. Most nights she's home just in time to help with this process.) With the days becoming longer as we get into summer this will become more of a challenge, but as parents we're going to keep enjoying the small bedtime victory while we can.
And the best lesson we've learned? Man-on-man defense always works best at bedtime!
It's just a name right? Or is it? I recently found out a co-worker of mine lets his daughter refer to him by his first name. This is something I never would have thought of doing as a child. It was Mom and Dad at my house.
We've changed it up a bit at our house and the boys call me Papa. It was something we chose because I liked the sound of it. The problem we run into is that most people don't know about this and constantly ask my boys about their "dad."
I'm sure that they will eventually out grow "Papa" and move on to Pops, Pa or even Dad. However, the one thing I will never respond to is my first name. They've tried being cute lately and have dropped a "Chris" here and there, to which I do not respond.
If they keep it up I'll just have to start calling them "Son 1" and "Son 2," to turn the tables on them.
This begs the question, since my co-worker and I have both gone with non-traditional monikers, which name makes more sense? I would like to believe Papa is closer to traditional, but it gets used for grandparents a lot, as well.
And speaking of grandparents - we've gone with old school Italian for Nana & Nunu. All of these names are fun to me and make our family unique, I guess. Just as long as they don't call me "Dude!"
Let's talk about respect...which seems to be the hot issue at my house lately. Our five year old is certainly feeling much more comfortable in his world; school is fun, he's figured out the right direction to run the bases in tee-ball, and his baby brother is really looking up to him! All of these things are natural and we are very proud of him. However, this also means he is becoming the child my parents warned me about: The one with his own opinions and pushing the envelope when he can. My wife and I have made it clear many times that we will not tolerate some of his shenanigans, but he is five and trying to 'reason' with him is still challenging. We finally stumbled upon a chore chart that rewards good behavior with smiley faces and encouraging mottos. I can't believe what a motivator this has been; nothing is better to a five year than a "good job" smiley face! If he happens to misbehave and not earn a smiley face, the next day he is going to be EXTRA good.
Who knew something as simple as this was the solution to our problems with a five year old? It is working and, for the moment, there is some harmony in the household. Now ... if we could just get our three year old to stay in bed all night . . . more smiley faces??
A few other things on my mind as we enjoy the early spring...
So glad my parents never found it necessary to turn the music down! To this day I cannot hear ELO or Donna Summer without a) wanting to turn it up louder, or b) reminiscing about coming home from school and actually seeing the house shake. My love for music was shaped by their love for music and I will gladly pass it on to our children.
The bus stop is the greatest place to learn everything about your neighborhood!
I had a chance to have lunch with my kindergartener at school. This is an experience I suggest you all enjoy. What starts out as a leisurely meal quickly turns into 'kid chaos' and makes you appreciate every teacher you ever had even more!
We're gearing up for a fun day at this year's Family Fun Fest. There are going to be some great guests and lots of fun for the family. I hope to see you all there.
Well, here I am back at it, it’s been an oddly mild winter, my football team let me down, and now I’m finding out my kids are actually annoying. I guess we can look forward to the cherry blossoms, right?
As we settle into our third year in our once new house, we’re finding out the textured blue-ish paint job in the bedroom and the “this was once white” color thoughout the downstairs are just plain ugly. In an effort to beautify the place, we’ve been doing some painting, which means plenty of trips to the local home improvement store. In my effort to be super dad, I enjoy bringing the boys. They play well together these days, and can usually make a dull trip more interesting, to say the least. During one of our latest trips, they HAD to share the race car shopping cart, which is really made for one smaller child. Sharing means lots of talking, singing and, at some point, fighting. They were doing great until I had spent about 15 minutes too long looking at paint samples. They were restless and beginning to express it. As we headed for the checkout, the fighting was calming down; however they decided it was time to put on a show and try to entertain anyone who was nearby. In the same aisle happened to be a nice couple who were also checking out paint. As we passed them, the boys began to sing at top volume. "Ha ha," I said as we passed and muttered something like, "kids...aren’t they cute?" What came next was something I was not expecting or ready to see. It was an annoyed roll of the eyes, followed by a shrug and blank stares from the couple. What? My kids, my little angels, the cutest little things ever, are actually annoying little pains in the rear...to others!
Since then I have stepped back and looked at the boys from a different point of view, still mine, but realizing they aren’t always that cute to everyone else. And by the way, if we’re in the same store and your kids decide to entertain me, I will laugh and enjoy the show. While I go and work on new material for the boys to use during our next trip to the store, hit me up with any questions you feel compelled to ask. Enjoy the spring-like weather while it's still here!
Editor's note: We'd love to hear your questions for Chris, so use the Add Comment feature below to tell us what's on your mind!
Now really, how did this happen? I was just sitting around being my usual smart-aleck self, when someone asked me to give advice to other Dads. I have been rereading that for fun. Granted I have managed to keep my two sons, Fonzie and Chachi, out of the emergency room for over five years, so I must be doing something right. So why not share some of my thoughts with you? And perhaps you have an issue that's troubling you and would be entertained by another perspective. Send them to me here at Fredericksburg Parent and I'll do my best to provide some "parenting advice."
Since it's the start of the new year let me first share that I will not be keeping 80% of those resolutions I made on New Year's Eve. This means my diet will consist of things you'll find on "DON'T" lists in health magazines, I will continue to be sore from the workouts that will end mid-February, and the money I was going to save will be spent taking Mrs. Centore to dinner as an apology for breaking the "we aren't going to argue over trivial matters" resolution. In other words, I'm not pretending to be perfect and my fatherly observations should not be interpreted as expert advice.
December was Fire Prevention Month, which ironically reminds me of the time I almost burned down the house in an attempt to make popcorn on the stovetop. Being raised on Jiffy Pop myself, a pan, oil, and kernels can be mystifying. I found out the hard way that the oil and kernels need to go in the pan at the same time. Heating up oil on the stove can and will result in flames and, when dosed with water, makes the situation worse. Fonzie and Chachi getting nervous and scared as the flames nearly engulf the curtains compounds the panic. If you ever find yourself in this situation, I strongly suggest putting the top on the pan to extinguish the flame and next time hitting the popcorn setting on the microwave.
Lastly, we all know it's back this month and we can't wait to see the preliminary rounds of terrible singers. We should also remember who the real Idols to our children are. Fonzie has been wanting to dress like me, act like me, stay up like me for the past few months. When I told Mrs. Centore that I thought it was odd, she lovingly pointed out that our boys are going to want to be just like me. What?? I know myself pretty well and for a minute I was a bit panicked, imagining Mini-Me's running around. All of the crazy things I had done in my life flashed through my head, things I would never want them to do. But after a while I realized I'm a pretty good parent who cares about his children and THAT is what they see and want to be. So for all the Dads out there trying to get it right, YOU are the next American Idol!