Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Losing Our Marbles

Over the winter, Regina and I noticed our kids had blue faces.  It certainly wasn't from the cold -- we couldn't get them to go outside -- it was the light from their tablets, glowing softly on their angelic faces.  So, in an effort to get them breathing fresh air, Regina came up with Marbles.  Not to play, although that would have been an improvement, but as a reward system.  Essentially, the kids earned a marble for completing different chores, and each marble was worth ten minutes of screen time.  For example, if Dylan went outside and shot twenty arrows, she could go inside, collect a marble, and shoot a thousand virtual arrows.  Sound a little hypocritical?  You bet it is, but it also worked.  Sort of.

Dylan treated it like a new, fun game where her goal was to collect as many marbles as possible.  She currently has enough in her jar to watch all ten hours of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and probably have a few marbles left over to catch the first three hours of Titanic.  She saves marbles like they're her personal IRA and she really wants that sweet condo in Boca Raton.  Grady, on the other hand, takes the "If You Got It, Spend It" attitude.  He earns a marble, plucks it from his jar almost immediately, and sits down to ten minutes of The Lego Movie.  He watched the movie, in short chunks, over the course of four months.

Their enthusiasm, and ours, wore off pretty quickly.  The jars of marbles are still around, I know because I knock one over about once a week, but they're no longer a viable form of kid-currency.  But, an amazing thing happened -- when they realized they couldn't play Minecraft (Dylan), or snap a thousand photographs of, say, your shoe (Grady), they started to drift toward their bookshelves and pretty soon they were asking for more time to read, or another trip to the library.  Granted, they've always loved reading (Brag alert: Dylan leads her class in AR points by double), but now they burn through books like ISIS in a Salman Rushdie library.

Did the marbles work?  Absolutely not.  We're back to reminding the kids that their pets need to eat everydamnday and that, yes, they should do their homework before dinner.  But the fact that the local libraries email regularly to inform us of their overdue books, and that I'll probably break a hip one day from slipping on an errant marble, is only a small problem.  I'm calling Marbles, whether they horde or spend, spill or rattle around the dryer, nearly a win.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sugar & Spice

Dylan just turned 9.  Yikes.  What does a 9-year old Eastside girl get for her birthday?  Guns and knives.  Not exclusively, although that would have been awesome.  She also got, I don't know, other stuff that wasn't gun or knife related, like books and crafts.  And those gifts perfectly tell the story of our Dylan.  When she's not crafting, she's reading, and when she's not reading, she's shooting.  I'm really just trying to raise her to freak boys out, even though I know this will backfire, because up here, "I'm a good shot," is a sure-fire way to get a boy's attention.

A couple weeks ago I took the kids to the bow shoot that a local organization sponsors.  The Siskiyou Bowmen have a few courses that you walk through and shoot 3-D targets.  Think miniature golf, but with weapons.  They also have a kids' shooting competition, with three different age groups.  Dylan is in the middle group.  I stood back and watched as she was the only kid to hit the bullseye on her first shot (or any shot, for that matter).  She won her entire age group and came home sporting a new Siskiyou Bowmen hoodie as her prize.  I was awfully proud of my little junior badass.

We've introduced Dylan to the world of BB guns.  For me, a BB gun was a great tool for shooting my friends, but I'm really stressing to her that "shoot the bellybutton" wasn't as fun a game as it sounds.  She's been spooked by shooting rifles, mostly because of the noise, so BB guns are a nice introduction.  I honestly thought she might not be interested in it at all.  She'd thank us sweetly for the gift and hide it under her bed with her Lalaloopsy dolls.  But, like her bow, she loves target shooting.  I took the balloons from her party outside and she was in love at first pop.

With her new birthday knife in her pocket, and her bow and rifle by her side, I sometimes feel like we're raising a nutty survivalist.  Then I see Dylan with her nose in a book or making animals out of paper clips and old erasers and I breath a sigh of relief -- whew, she's definitely nutty.  No, I know she's balanced.  And unless I see her studying the pages of 1001 Uses for Your Bunker and crafting tactical tomahawks for the family, "For when shit goes down," I won't worry.  She's the perfect balance of smart and tough, cute and killer.  So when the zombies attack, the Canadians invade, or Donald Trump gets elected, and you see a cute girl in braids holding a bow, get behind her, she'll get you through.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Grady Jay Day

Ok.  I know, it's been awhile since I've written.  Is it because as children get older they get less and less interesting?  That can't be true.  I'm still the idiot parent who yammers on and on about my kids to whoever's unfortunate enough to stand behind me in line at Target.  It's laziness, pure and simple.  I wish I had a better excuse -- I've been putting all my energy into my Fulbright application, it's rush-season for Somali pirates and I can't decide which band of thieves to join, the Jehovah's Witness wouldn't leave -- but I gots nothing.

Back to the kids.  It's been a pretty epic Spring for them, and Grady's had a few "firsts."  It started with the G-man losing his first tooth.  I'm not the parent who tries to yard out a tooth at the first sign of any wiggle (see: Regina); I let those suckers go until they're hanging by a strand of saliva, then casually tug it out.  I love the look on a child's face when he or she loses a first tooth.  It's always, "I lost a tooth!" followed by, "No one told me there would be blood!"  Grady's was the same.  We were just happy he didn't swallow it.  You can sure tell he's a second child by the way the Tooth Fairy responds these days.  Here's a conversation the Tooth Fairy and Regina had the morning after Grady's tooth came out:  R: Did you remember Grady's tooth?  TF: Um. R: How much money do you have?  TF: (digs through pockets) ¢.47.  R: (sigh) Here's a few bucks.  TF: (pretends to dig chonies out of Grady's dresser and hides cash under tooth box)  Me: Hey!  The Tooth Fairy left you some money!

Grady also got to be a Prince for the high school's basketball homecoming.  Princely duties include wearing a tie, hanging out in the weight room for three hours, and crowning the Homecoming King.  The best part was during introductions, the little Prince and Princess got their bio's read.  Delaney, the supercute Princess, wanted to be a Nurse Anesthetist when she grew up.  The crowd was so impressed they literally "ooooh-ed."  Grady wanted to be a cowboy or a Bumblebee Transformer.  Maybe not as high a career aspiration, but still, a pretty good goal.  He didn't get the "oohs" when the announcer said "Bumblebee Transformer," but Grady gave a big fist pump when he heard it and I could see a lot of high school boys thinking, "That's really a job?  I need to go see Regina."

The announcer should have read, "When Grady grows up, he wants to be the next Banksy," because the walls of our home are getting tagged by our little graffiti artist.  There's no detective work involved to find the culprit, he writes his own name.  Our car doors, the windowsills, and several walls all have his little-boy handwriting -- and sometimes a little abstract art included as a bonus -- on them.  The bright side is that we're really noticing an improvement in his penmanship with all the practice.  The downside is, well, obvious.

*Turns to annoyed stranger in line behind me at Target* So, yeah, the kids are great.   Have I told you about Dylan?  Oh, you've got to go wash your cat?  Ok, sure.  I'll catch up with you next time.  And I promise I won't wait three months to yammer on about my kids.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dad's Weekend

The Christmas Season was not the goldmine of calamity and failed parenting that I exploit like to write about here.  It was ... perfectly normal.  Great for the Eastside Gang, bad for writing.  In fact, the only real gem came from Dylan on our truck ride home from Callahan Christmas.  "Dad," she asked from the backseat, "you know how some people smell different?"  I looked at Regina.  We had no idea where this was headed.  "Sure, sweetie," I said.  "Your dad smells really different," Regina said.  "Well, Callahan Santa smelled like ... Mac & Cheese."  Whew, Mac & Cheese was my very last guess.  Cigarettes, Regret, Bourbon, Fresh Blood ... all those options ran through my head before she finished her sentence.  Mac & Cheese, I can definitely live with that one.

So that's it, that was Christmas.  But this is a tale for all the fellas (cue Young MCs, "Bust A Move").  Regina spent a weekend in Napa with her college homies and I stayed home with the monkeys.  I had a weekend planned that was packed with sledding and sleepovers and snowboarding and horseback riding.  Activities!  That's what we need to do.  And then it started raining.  And it rained.  And rained.  It rained at the sled run.  It rained at the ski park.  It rained on my dreams.  Plus, I kind of suck and switching plans.  Fortunately, Regina's good at it so when she called to check in, she offered up a few alternate plans.

First of all: Feeding.  That's a great half-day activity that keeps the kids occupied.  Couple that with "bull turnout day" and you've got an entire day packed with me figuring out how to avoid talking about what "bull turnout day" really means.  That was Day 1.

Day 2 was a little trickier.  With the sledding plans washed out, the kids got cooped up in the house pretty quickly.  Finally, during the briefest break in the weather, I piled them into the Ranger and went exploring.  We had a rogue wild boar in one of the fields, so I put them on patrol to find it.  We never saw him, but their lookout turned up two great shed antlers, so we had something to bring home.

Day 3 I nailed.  After feeding, we loaded up for Ashland to go see Star Wars.  The kids needed something to talk to their friends about at school, and we may have been the last family on earth yet to see it.  We got to Ashland a little early so I loaded the kids up on noodles and then hit the cheapest entertainment in town: The Dollar Store.  Here's a tip: if you ever need to kill an hour or so, take your kids to one.  We burned an hour, loaded up a basket full of crap, and it only cost fifteen bucks.  We bought duct tape, candy, stuffed monkeys, Hot Wheels, toothpaste, sandwich bags, and more candy.  So, with pockets stuffed with Swedish Fish, we hit the movie.  Grady, literally, was on the edge of his seat the entire time.  So much so that his seat kept springing back to the "up" position because he kept leaning so far forward.  Dylan loved it too.  How do I know?  Because for the rest of the afternoon I kept getting questions that started with, "Daddy, do you remember in the movie Star Wars ...," like we'd seen the movie a year ago, not an hour ago.  How do you overcome the post nerd-flick blues?  More sugar.  Ashland is great for its sweet shops, and we strolled for the rest of the afternoon and hit up a few.

Regina came home to a nearly clean house, and kids who were still in one piece, so I think she was impressed.  She may not be so thrilled after their next visit to the dentist, but hey, I can always blame Mac & Cheese Santa for filling their stockings with too many sweets.