Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Happy 5th Birthday!

(A letter to my son on his 5th birthday.)

Happy 5th birthday Mr. E! Or as you call yourself, “SUPER-E!"
How can you be 5 already?
Just a few things you did and said this past year that I’m going to remember forever:
  • Announcing at breakfast that your imaginary friend of 3 years, Sneaky Gumball, died the previous night riding a tiger Tijuana.  
  • Dressing up in costumes (Buzz Lightyear, Cowboy, Vampire) and then playing the piano.
  • Watching Jurassic Park at least 100 times. Telling people to be careful going poop and to go quick because a dinosaur might eat them. 
  • Me coming home from work, you telling me that you’ve changed your name to “Popsicle.”
  • Wearing your cape and mask pretty much anywhere out in public whenever you feel like it.
  • Your obsession with meat. Bacon, sausage, meatball, steak, hot dogs. 
  • Walking into my room any weekend morning and saying,"good morning" to the sun out the window. 
  • Holding anything in your hands lovingly (candy, toy car, food) and saying in a creepy voice “My Precious.” That’s fun to watch especially in public places with people around. 
  • My argument with you about Russia being a planet. You still refuse to say it’s a country. 
  • The “knock-knock” jokes you make up on the fly that make entirely no sense. But I can’t keep from laughing because you roll on the ground laughing hysterically. 
  • You telling me what you dream about when you wake up,”in my dream I was stuck to a cheetah’s butt. And then we became friends.
  • You got married at preschool to Zoe, and then she stopped playing with you. First marriages are the toughest…

Your favorite things at this moment:
  • Puzzles. Lot’s and lots of puzzles.
  • Playing on the beach and rolling around in the sand for hours and hours. Then washing you off for hours and hours.
  • Playing with your sister: school, store, building weird contraptions in the yard.
  • Netflix. Woody Woodpecker, Animal Mechanicals, and other offbeat cartoons. 
  • Making preschool art for mommy and me. The jeweled birdhouse flowerpot was a good one!
  • Riding bikes, scooters, people, animals, and things not made to be ridden. 
  • Hiking and throwing rocks in water.
  • Monsters, Sharks, or anything with large teeth and growls. 
  • Anything that shoots or makes really loud noises, or both.  

What you asked for your birthday:
  • Trumpet
  • Rooster
  • Sword
  • Jack in the Box

And I’m always going to remember what you told mommy last night before going to bed - buy Scooby Snacks for your birthday party at preschool, “just in case dogs show up.”

I’m going to miss the 4 year-old version of yourself,  but I’m looking forward to what new memories and adventures we’ll make together when your 5.


Monday, May 11, 2015

I Booked My Sons 5th Birthday At Chuck E. Cheese. Shame On Me And My Family For Generations To Come

How could I? I had no other choice, my options were exhausted from waiting too long. 

My wife and I have been talking about his birthday for months. My thoughts were to have it at home and invite a few friends, but apparently you can’t do that anymore when inviting friends from preschool - you have to invite half the school so kids don’t feel bad. 
Maybe that’s why these giant trampoline, child gyms, child activity centers, and indoor bounce house places exist because apparently having that many 4 and 5YO’s over the house is akin to having a late-night frat party where things get broken, drinks are spilled on the carpet, and sooner or later somebody ends up riding a goat through the house while wearing grandma’s brassiere.

Those 'party' places know it too and charge massive amounts to have birthdays. Weekend 2-hour party’s start at $500 with virtually nothing included. Well, maybe air conditioning, lighting, and carpet but that’s about it. And these places are booked months in advance - some up to a year! 

We attended a Chuck E. Cheese birthday some years ago for some neighbors (written here) and that was quite an experience. I walked away thinking, “I would never do that to my kid” and then years later I do the EXACT SAME THING! I’ve become "that parent."
Now I feel nothing but compassion for those people. I feel their pain. I still remember the dad apologizing saying things like, “Oh, I’m so sorry we had to resort to this place... we waited too long” 

Well, I didn’t realize definition of “long” was just a few weeks.

The party is this weekend. I better break out the humility, prepare apologies, and hope my son doesn’t end up with a gambling addition by the time he’s 15 all because I had his 5th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Where Imaginary Friends Go To Die

Sad news at breakfast earlier - my 4YO told the family that his imaginary friend of nearly 3 years had died the previous night while riding a tiger in Tijuana.

After telling us the gloomy news, he went about finishing his Frosted Mini Wheat’s while watching Woody Woodpecker on Netflix with his sister. Obviously, to say the least, the rest of us were more shocked by the news than he was.

I can genuinely say I’ll miss the 1’ 6” little guy.

Sneaky Gumball loved living life on the edge of mischief and danger since his appearance in 2012 when our son was about 2 1/2. I still remember the day he came into our home instantly appearing when our son was standing near spilled juice on the family room rug. When we had asked, “did you spill this?” he replied with, “I didn’t do it, Sneaky Gumball did it.”

Sneaky Gumball did all sorts of bad things. He stole French fries, lost Lego’s, threw balls indoors, broke toys, farted in closed cars while driving through the car wash and elevators; he even managed to steal our son’s pull-up at night, pee in it, and put it right back on him. Sneaky that Gumball was. 

In addition, Sneaky Gumball's parents had made lots of questionable life decisions as they let him do dangerous things our son was never allowed to do. For example: when our son wanted to light matches for a bonfire and we refused, he would instantly respond with, “well, Sneaky Gumball’s parents let him play with matches…all the time.”
The conversation never ends well when your parenting choices are compared to that of some other “cool parents.”

Well obviously riding tigers in places lacking authority was not an entirely shocking ending. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sneaky Gumball’s parents bought him that tiger for his 5th birthday and left him alone at his parents Tijuana timeshare.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Things To-Do By 40

My birthday just passed. In addition to my regular annual questions of, “where did the time go?” or “when my Dad was my age, he looked like he was 63” another important thought came to mind now that I’m conformably in my 40’s and get asked occasionally  

 “What should have I done by age 40?”

Well, after deep thought, here’s my advice of things every father and maybe every man should have done by age 40:

1. Create a Will. It’s the responsible thing to do especially if you have kids. 
2. Save for retirement. Thankfully I started at 22 when my first boss told me these very wise and insightful words, “I have no idea what a 401K is, I just know you put money in it and you won’t die poor.”
3. Run a Marathon. Or in my case a ‘more achievable’ 10K. And then on the day-of feel like your doing pretty awesome; making really good time, and then when you start getting tired, you pass the 1 mile marker, and then for the next 60 minutes ask yourself over and over again, “Oh God, I can’t feel my toes/legs/tongue...! Why did I do this?” 
4. Celebrate a milestone birthday in a foreign country. Preferably at a local karaoke bar in Kyoto, Japan singing to the tune Bee-Gee’s “Night Fever."  Just don’t fall asleep at 6PM.
5. Do something really adventurous with your spouse before having kids. In our case, we went to New Zealand for 3 weeks. One major highlight and life changing experience - we went caving with 2 guides and thought we were going to die repelling 9 stories down a giant hole. At the time I told my wife, “if you survive and I don’t, please make sure my tombstone says, “Sacrificed his life saving his young beautiful wife, and ended up falling 9 stories into a giant hole in the New Zealand countryside’.” 

By the way, I still want my tombstone to say that regardless of how I end up dying. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Average Teen in 2015 Will Spend $919 on...Prom?

I had to read this study/release a few times as it seemed completely foreign to me - 

Costs include: 
  • Attire
  • Limo (seriously..?)
  • Flowers
  • Pictures
  • Food
  • Tickets
  • “Accommodations”  (Dear God, as a father that scares me…)
  • "After Party" (don’t like the sound of that too. Amen.)
  • "Promposal” (what-choo-talkin-bout?)

In my senior year I went to 3 proms and spent around $75, maybe $90 tops, and paid for it all out of my own pocket; I worked at a movie theater part-time. Of course, I went to those proms back-to-back Thursday, Friday, Saturday and used the same $25 tux! 
It’s a good thing my dates didn’t know about the other proms. That was something that could be done back in those days and can never happen today due to Instagram, Twitter, and social media. 

Something I find completely crazy is this new idea of a promposal. Kids today spend an average of $324 on these newly created elaborate schemes which are similar to wedding proposals. I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than spending that kind of money asking somebody to go to the prom. There are so many ways to ask these days - text, DM, call, FB, Snapchat, or here’s a novel idea: in-person without an audience...

Oh, and the most unbelievable fact from the article - parents pony up around 3/4 of that $919 mentioned above.

 Parents, why? 

Monday, April 20, 2015

When Your Kids Asks, “Have you ever heard of a vinyl record?”

My daughter asked me recently, “have you ever heard of a vinyl record?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

She went on to tell me how the neighbor’s 19YO had one and played them on this funny thing called a "record player.” 
I nearly died laughing inside just listening to her explain it to me.

She went on, “oh my gosh…in the old days, it was a lot of trouble to hear just ONE song. There was no Pandora. Can you believe that!?"

Then I went downstairs and hidden in our cabinet showed her my record player and around 200 records in boxes bought in the 80s and a good chunk bought in goodwill and antique shops while I was in college in the early 90’s because people were just giving them away. Most of then still had the price tags of $.25 to a steep $1.50! I’ve always had a thing for records as it always reminded me of my grandmother listening to records (mostly Tom Jones) on Saturday mornings while eating breakfast. 

Now nearly every Saturday morning she loves getting up early and playing records on this novel record player and telling her friends about her dad has this huge collection that she’ll get one day. 

Now I’m feeling like some hipster; of course before hipsters were cool. So does that make me a pre-hipster? 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Connecting With The Kids On A Family Vacation

Last week, for my vacation and my daughter's spring break, our family spent the entire week on the California Central Coast (San Luis Obispo) area doing activities such as hiking, “geocaching", playing on the beach, visiting wineries, riding bikes, picnicking at parks with playgrounds, and my personal favorite: the occasional afternoon nap in the sun to the sound of crashing waves (I can’t think of anything more relaxing than that!)
It was so much better than our normal family affair of a multi-day theme park visit to someplace like Disney World. 
On the way home I asked my kids what their favorite activities were from the week. My 4 year-old answered, “eating Easter candy and visiting a farm” and my 9 year-old, “playing on the beach and the REALLY fun conversations we had while hiking.” 

"…the REALLY fun conversations we had while hiking.”


A trip well spent. 

Monday, April 06, 2015

Leaving a Lasting Positive Impression

I met an interesting friend-of-a-friend last week visiting from Ireland. 

His name is Paul. 

A really nice guy that likes to talk a lot about life in general; topics like family, friends, work, travels, people all in an upbeat and positive sort of way. He’s the kind of person that would easily call you a 'good friend’ as an introduction to another after just meeting and speaking with you for a hour. 
He makes a infectious and positive impression just from his upbeat attitude and outlook but probably doesn’t realize it.

This morning after my wife and kids made my annual Birthday breakfast, I found out Paul passed away last night from an epileptic seizure. 

Paul was 38. 

It really puts things in perspective when rushing through life: what kind of impression are we making to those around us? It could be one of many or possibly the last.  How do we want people to remember us? We could have the best heart and intentions in the world, but what we do, what we say, how we act, our actions, how we treat others, our gratitude, acknowledging how blessed we are in life -- that's what matters. 

I strive to leave that kind of lasting positive impression on others, as Paul left on me. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

First World Kid Problems

With all of the things happening around the world and even nearby, it amazes me at some of the things I’ve been hearing all this week:
  • 4YO ran out of space on his iPad.
  • 9YO dropped and cracked her iPhone screen (again.)
  • No new movies on the iPad to watch while on a Road Trip. "Road Trip" meaning 20 minutes in the car. 
  • Pad Apps (while on "Road Trip”) that require an internet connection.
  • Nobody answers the landline home phone or checks the messages. “Wait...who was going to visit (last) Christmas?"
  • Kids think using a MacBook Pro is archaic, but love vinyl records and think rotary phones are really cool - "let’s get one!"
  • The DVR cut off Teen Titans Go - “why aren’t these on Netflix streaming?!"
  • 2 kids streaming Netflix at the same time on different devices, watching the same show. Estimated time: 3 hours to download work PowerPoint. 
  • 9YO’s friends also follow me on Instagram and I posted her doctor’s note: 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Apps, Social, and Cell Phone Contracts for Kids

My wife and I recently let our 9YO acquire a (hand-me-down) phone after hearing so much about how her other friends have “had them forever!” to which I used the standard parental handbook page 93 answer of, “well if all of your friends had hungry pet tigers, should we get you one too?”
Her getting one didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t come without hurdles. After a few discussions, making her write out a list on why she’s responsible enough to own one and presenting it, then I agreed.

It does still seem strange to me that kids have cell phones (or “mobiles” as they call them in Europe) so young as I got my first cell phone at 27!
When I was her age I wasn’t even allowed to have a Walkman! And kids that had their own phone (land-line) well, they were pretty much living the high-life.

We made arrangements to make her pay for the phone (discounted) out of her allowance and pay a portion of the monthly fee from her allowance as well. For being 9, I’m quite proud of her budgeting skills – she makes me proud at that for sure!
Then I wrote out a contract with her listing out things like expectations, her responsibility, payments, behavior, Apps, social things like texting, Instagram, and general phone etiquette. While writing it out I realized that having the phone is actually a pretty good teaching mechanism.
When I spoke to other friends with kids around her age, I was a bit taken back at how they thought the idea of having their kid sign a contract was strange. After some chatting then they realized that maybe they should have one as well.  

Here it is for anybody to use or modify to fit their own needs: