Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Video of the month

I was born in the early 70s, so I have a not-quite-unhealthy obsession with Star Wars. I came across this video of a 3-year-old describing Star Wars and I had to post it here. This is neither my video nor my kid. I'm just sharing.

I like how C3PO is "shiny guy."

Sounds like a challenge to Colleen, eh Tom?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Would you like a free sample of broccoli?

I figured something out the other day that could change how we feed our children their dinner. Like every parent, we struggle with getting vegetables in them, attempting every trick from bribery ("if you want ice cream, you have to eat three bites of cauliflower") to logic ("broccoli makes you grow - don't you want to grow?") But no matter what we try, those vegetables get pushed aside, even if that means no dessert.

We visited Sam's Club the other day and they must have had a free sample cart at the end of every aisle. Once the girls figured out that each cart offered a possible treat, they couldn't wait to go down the next aisle. They were trying food that they would never try at home.

Clara: Daddy, can I have some of that?
Me: Sweetie, it's beef jerky. Beef jerky is not for little girls.
Clara: Oh please, oh please!
Me: Clara, you won't like it.
Clara: Yes I will, it's my favorite!

So I take a sample of beef jerky and peel off a little piece for her to try. She chews and chews and chews, and as she does so her eyes light up and she smiles as if this is the greatest thing she's ever tasted. Kate of course has to have some. Her reaction: "Yummy!"

Clara: How about some of that?
Me: That's laundry detergent.
Clara: I love laundry detergent! It's my favorite!

At any moment during that trip you might have seen the girls spooning yogurt and granola into their mouth, holding large chunks of baked ham, blowing on hot pizza snacks, dipping carrots into a ranch sauce, struggling through a spicy chicken wing, and wolfing down a Chinese rice and chicken dish. They wanted a second helping of the Chinese dish, so I bought it for dinner that night. They wouldn't touch it. Wouldn't even try one bite. "I don't like it," Kate said. This was many hours later in the day, so they couldn't have still been full from their sample-fest.

After pulling my hair out I had an epiphany : If kids will eat anything that's a sample at a grocery store, use that to your advantage. Instead of serving your children traditional meals, buy a free sample cart and set it up in your kitchen or dining room. Cut everything into bite size servings and put them in little plastic cups. Don't forget the tiny square napkins. As they run by with buckets on their heads, using towels as capes, offer them a free sample. I bet they stop, eat, then continue playing.

You can set up your cart inside or outside. You can set it up in the doorway of a room in which you want to contain your kids. The possibilities are limitless. If you're sitting there uncomfortable with the fact that you would in essence be constantly serving your kids, then, my friend, you are in denial as to your role as a parent.

Give it a try.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I think my neighbor's in the mafia

The house next door has sat vacant for almost a year and a half. We met the new owner, and he seems like a nice guy, but he sure isn't in any hurry to move in. In fact, since he bought the house there has been a steady stream of workers going in and out of the house - with no obvious changes to the house. Sometimes there will only be one truck in the driveway, sometimes a dozen. If they're making significant changes to the interior, they must be doing it with very small tools or with great attention to the slightest detail for it to take a year and a half.

With increasing good weather recently has come something a bit more troubling: workers sitting on the back porch in lawn chairs. I kid you not. It's like I have Vito Spatafore and Philip "Philly Spoons" Parisi next door fulfilling their no-work contracts. I keep expecting to see Paulie Walnuts in his shiny gray track suit walking around using his index and pinky fingers to point at things. If someone pulls out a reflective tanning board and starts sunning his chin I'm moving. Unfortunately for me, Kate loves them. She runs over to the fence and yells, "HI!" while giving them her little wave. They all think it's quite sweet, but I can only guess what they're saying about me.

So now I'm getting paranoid about what they are doing over there. I noticed that the basement light is on late into the night. It's not like there's a prison nearby that they can tunnel to, and the closest bank seems a bit far. Whenever a group of them go into the house I look for the one mouthing "help me" in my direction. I'll be the one mouthing back, "no."

Seriously, what do you think they're up to?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Every Parent Needs a Break

Our break came in the form of a trip to Aruba that Megan won through her work. If you're sitting at home with your little ones you can either throw stuff at the screen or you can take a little trip in your mind with me. If you chose the latter, go make yourself a pina colada. I'll wait...

The trip almost didn't happen. With my family in California and Megan's parents in Florida, we don't really have a local option to watch the kids for extended periods of time. We've done a couple of trips in the past where we scheduled several sitters in blocks of time, but that was too stressful for everyone involved. Just as we were about to give up on the idea, the heavens opened up (singing choirs of angels and all) and delivered to us my sister Tracy. She flew all the way from California to watch the girls for five days so Megan and I could have this time together. Not only is she a nurse, but she's a former child care provider who raised three kids of her own. Where other people would have been stressing over what the kids' schedules were or where everything they needed was, Tracy just showed up and kicked us out the door, promising everything would be fine. And of course it was.

We explained to Clara that we were leaving in the morning. She asked if Auntie Tracy was staying with her. When we said yes, she just shrugged and said, "OK."

See that picture up there? That was the view from our room. I could just stop there but they don't pay me to be concise. Our schedule for the entire time we were there was sleep in, go have breakfast among the sea breezes, claim a spot on the beach to read or write for a few hours (with frequent swims in the ocean an visits to the bar,) have lunch in a wall-less cathedral of dining, swim in or lay out near the pool (with frequent swim-ups to the swim-up bar,) take a nap, look in the mirror to see all the spots the sunscreen didn't quite make it, get dressed up for dinner, eat in one of the resort's nice restaurants, walk off our rich meal on the dark beach while cool sand sifted through our toes like fine sugar.

Distance didn't quite erase the parent out of me. There were sisters there almost exactly Clara and Kate's age who always seemed to be wherever we were, making me miss the girls. I look forward to being able to share a trip like that with them. Oh yeah, we're doing that with the Etters in a couple of months...

Stop throwing stuff at your screen.

As a follow-up to my last post on being the Green Dad, I got my first paycheck as a writer: $1.29. So if you come to St. Louis I'll buy you a tall coffee - or a venti water. On the list of links to the left is one that says "green building articles." That will take you to my author page with everything I've published so far. Check back often and I just might make enough to buy you a mocha. Also, if you use Stumbleupon, an online social networking tool, do me a favor and give my blog posts - both here and on the green site - thumbs up. It turns out Stumbleupon is one of the greatest sources of traffic for web sites. I appreciate it.