Saturday, June 12, 2010

My campout adventure

I don't know how to set up a tent. There I have said it! Not proud of that fact, but that was the truth, until a couple of weeks ago. Sure I can help anyone that knows what they are doing, but actually setting one up on my own, I hadn't done that. Now I have and it was really easy. Being a city guy all my life, I never had a desire to camp, in fact the thought was anything but appealing. At 40 years old, I can say my opinion has changed. I am now looking forward to my next camping adventure.

I went with Austyn, my 10 year old, and his boy scout troop, on an overnight to a state park close by. I really had no desire to go, but AJ was very excited and some of the other dads were going as well, so I didn't really think I had a choice. He is a Webelos now and parents aren't always required to go along on these trips. When he first heard about the campout, he politely told me that he did not want me to come as he wanted to do this on my own. Although I was a little disappointed, that my son didn't want me around, that quickly turned to excitement when I realized that I didn't have to camp out.

About a week or so before the campout I got an email confirming all those attending the campout. You can understand my amazement when I read every dads name on the campout list except mine. I thought it was a campout for the boys so they could get used to being outdoors without us dads! Well...I didn't have much choice and after talking with AJ, I emailed back that I would in fact now be attending too. Man, was I excited.

So the day came and I waited as long as I possibly could before leaving for the campout. One of my buddies that was already out at the park, kept texting me to find out when I would be there. Finally I decided, I couldn't put off the inevitable any longer and AJ and I packed up and headed out. It was a quick ride and we were at our campsite within a half hour. Oh the fun was about to begin! As AJ headed off to play touch football with the boys, I was left to complete the task I dreaded...tent set up. Wasn't this supposed to be about the boys doing things for themselves? I picked a good spot next to my buddy and got to work. Luckily for me the other dads were off doing their own things so no one would have to watch me as I messed up my tent. I made the mistake at looking at the other tents and how they well constructed they were and worried that mine would look like Charlie Brown's version. Surprisingly, it went much better than expected and within about 10 minutes, I had finished my tent without incident. It was at that point that I thought that maybe this night wouldn't be as bad as I thought.

After filling up our air mattress and filling up the rest of our overnight supplies in the tent, I was ready to relax and enjoy the rest of my night with AJ. Now...what about food? That question was quickly answered when our two den leaders started pulling out all their cooking supplies. Just like Mary Poppins and her garment bag, these guys just starting pulling out an endless supply of cooking utensils, food, grills and more. I was in heaven and so were the boys...I mean the other dads. We ate so well that night. Not only did we eat well, but the leaders did everything for us! I don't even get that kind of service at home, very often. All my worries were gone and I was truly enjoying myself.

The rest of the evening involved a campfire and lots and lots of smores. After the fire had gone out, AJ and I headed to bed in our tent. It was great feeling being close to him like this. Usually I have to share my attention with others, but not tonight. We stayed up for awhile just talking about the day and all the things that were on his mind. It was in that moment that I was feeling really bad about not wanting to go on this campout. In that moment, there is no where I would rather be!

The next morning began just as the night before had ended. When I finally woke up at 8:00(I think I was the last to get up), breakfast was all ready and the den leader met me at my tent door with my plate! I was very eager to show my appreciation and scarfed it all down. After breakfast the leaders had some learning time for the boys followed by another football game. I decided to let AJ have fun and broke down the tent myself while he played with his buddies.

After everyone was cleaned up we gathered for a closing talk. We talked about the best and the worst part of the campout. When it got to AJ, he made the campout complete for me. He said the best part was spending time with his dad and the worst part was listening to his dad snore last night. He filled my bucket to the top and I laughed so hard! He has another campout scheduled in August that I don't think I will be able to attend and that is a bummer for me because I will remember this one for a long time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sometimes it is really hard to get out of a rut

I love a rountine. I work best when I have a schedule to follow. My Palm Pre is my security blanket. I have all the kids schedules on there. I have access to all my important phone numbers. I have access to the internet at any moment. It makes me feel good to have this with me at all times. This keeps me on my schedule...I don't have to think, because my planner does it for me. In fact, it even reminds me when things are happening.

This very organized schedule on my phone, allows me to stay focused...and stay in a rut. What is a rut? To me it is doing the same thing, over and over and over again. It means not trying anything new or leaving your comfort zone. This rut serves me well...most of the time. When it gets me in trouble is when staying in the rut is more important than the needs of my wife or family. Luckily, I have a great wife that reminds when I am getting too deep in the rut and helps to tow me out.

About a month ago, the kids were on Spring Break and we decided to get away for a family vacation. Of course I say this like it was a very collaborative between my wife and I, but that is really giving me too much credit. I could talk about this for awhile, but isn't the main story today. Today, I really wanted to focus on the importance of getting away as a family.

We decided to take a trip to Missouri. We saw Kori's college, University of Missouri, which she hadn't been back to since she left in 1991. We all loved hearing her stories and visiting parts of her history. I can't forget to mention our trip to the student bookstore where we stocked up on enough Mizzou stuff to hold everyone for awhile. We then headed down to Lake of the Osarks to a friend's rental property and spent 3 days there.

We hiked a lot, explored a cave, went minature golfing(I won), ate good food, shopped and did some site seeing. It was a great trip, but not because of any of those things I just mentioned. It was a great trip because we were together as a family! Kori and I joke about creating memories, but it is true. What this trip was all about was creating memories for our family. These are the times and the trips that our kids will remember. They won't remember the numerous soccer practices that they went to or meetings we had to attend or dad's continual forgetfulness(I hope). They will remember the times we spent together as a family! They will remember how dad made them walk 2 extra miles because he missed a sign. They will remember that we let Austyn pee outside at a National Park instead of waiting until we got back to the car and the bathrooms. They will remember getting soaked by the rain and taking a picture under the natural bridge. These are the memories that will stick with all of us. These are the memories that will keep us all close. These are the times to remember when you get stuck in a rut. It doesn't matter what you do or where you go, but every once in awhile, change it up. Do something you don't normally do. Create memories for your kids. Don't worry, your schedule will be there when you get back. And it won't take long to get back in your rut. I think it is time for another trip!

Here we are at University of Missouri and at Bridal Cave
Kedzie took the top picture...we made her. The other picture shows where Mike should have stopped the hike
This shows where we ended up after the hike...soaked and the other photo shows the kids at the end of the dock at our rental place

Last day we went to a water park. Had to throw this on in here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Everyone needs a little time away

My apologizes to Brian Reid for such a lapse in blogging. Mr. Stay at Home Dad blogger gave me the good advice to blog on a reoccurring basis so followers could get used to reading at a certain time. Well...that hasn't happened! It is now over a month since I have blogged and I can't believe how fast time has flown by. Time to get back into it.

Last month I got a weekend away from my family. It is a yearly event that I refer to as "The Boys Weekend." Once a year a group of us get together up in East Lansing, MI. for a fantasy baseball draft and also a little of reliving our past college days. It is something that each of us look forward to for various reasons. For me it is all about camaraderie with other guys. It is knowing for one weekend, I can let loose and just be. I don't have to worry about soccer games or dance competitions. I don't have to think if I have everything I need in the car for piano lessons or the band concert. This weekend, I just have to think about what I need. It is a good feeling...for a short time.

In years past, I have regretted how I have acted during this weekend as I was stupid and drank too much. That doesn't even touch on how I left things at home. In recent years though, I have learned from my mistakes and I now stay in control. I make up for my controlled drinking with a total lapse in calorie counting. I eat enough calories during this one weekend to probably not eat at all the entire next week. This allows me to have the same amount of fun without any of the regrets on Sunday, except for the fact that my jeans are a little tighter. I know that when I come home from my weekend that I have to be ready to reconnect with the family. There is no checking out or being tired because I am hung over after being away for the weekend. That is a very acceptable tradeoff for my time away.

Ok, so we now know how much I look forward to this weekend, but I also know the sacrifices this weekend places on my wife and family. In past years, when I wasn't so mature, I would just take care of my needs for the weekend and leave everything else at home to my wife. One year, I even forgot to buy groceries for the family and thought she could do it while I was gone! I have learned over the years what a responsible stay at home dad should do when he leaves his family for the weekend. This leads to a much better weekend for all.

I am very thankful that my wife gives me this time! It rejuvenates me. It helps me stay connected with other men. I am passionate about fantasy baseball and it lets me continue to play a game I enjoy. It gives me some freedom that I otherwise freely give up for my family.
I think every spouse needs some time away to just be themselves. It, in the end, will be a benefit for the entire family. When I come home, I am more attentive to my wife, I am more even tempered with my kids and I feel better about myself. This weekend makes me realize all the gifts I have in my life and how lucky I am. my wife, Kori...Thank you for giving me this weekend every year. This weekend makes me a better dad and a better husband. This weekend illustrates to me how great my life is and how fortunate I am. This weekend is about so much more than "The Boys Weekend," it is about me, something just for me. I can't wait till you start taking your weekend too. Hopefully you will get to experience all that I do and why it is so important to me. Maybe I will change the name of my weekend to "the me weekend." That seems more appropriate. I love you Kori!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Driving with Character

I got a ticket last night and I wasn't even speeding. Turns out that my tags on my license had expired. I had no idea that was the case. Obviously I will be handling this first thing Monday morning. It would have been no big deal if it was just me, heck, I could have even hide it from everyone...well, no, that isn't true...I digress. The point I was trying to make is, things are different when you get pulled over when your kids are in the car. That is what happened last night.

In the past, when getting a ticket without any extra small bodies in the car, I hadn't been so mature about my ticket, just ask my wife. I didn't always treat people respectfully or handle my ticket with much class. So, I always wondered how it would be when the kids were in the car. Would I lash out at them? Would I show my anger? Or could I talk to them with maturity and handle the situation with class? I did all right on this one...I think, guess you'd have to ask my kids on this one. Didn't get mad, answered their questions and made it no big deal. Phew, I passed and I didn't even need a reality check from my better half.

I think the bigger issue here goes back to one of my first thoughts...Could I hide this from everyone if no one saw it happen? I think that is what separates the guys from the dads. I have heard many times the quote that "character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking." I didn't always feel that way. I thought if I could get away with something without anyone knowing, then it wasn't really wrong. Eventually, those lies caught up with me and really got in the way of me becoming the husband I needed to be and the dad I sometime wanted to be. So, when my lies started to piling up, and the kids came along, knew it was more than time to be a stand up dad and husband.

I decided that the legacy I wanted to leave for my family is to be, above all else, a great dad and husband. I couldn't do this by trying to pass off lies as the truth. There is another quote that says, "The faults of the father fall always on their sons"(and daughters). That isn't an option for my family. God has tested me plenty and I know I am far from perfect, but I know with His help, I will continue to be the dad with character.

I have been a dad now for 13 plus years and have had my share of tickets. In fact, I have had one of our kids with me for my last three moving violations. It is kind of scary for me, as my oldest daughter opened the golf box and pulled out my registration without me asking as I fumbled for my license. I asked her how she knew how to do this. She said, "Dad I have done this before, remember." Well...she will be driving in a couple of years, so I guess I can call this a dad teaching moment. That's my story and I am sticking to it. Do I need to quote that last sentence?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Love what your kids love, part 2

Ok, I really wanted to get back to something I started talking about a couple of weeks ago. I got off track, but that was ok with me, because the message was good, but I knew I wanted to get back to this, so here we are.

About 4 years ago, both of my girls danced at a local studio and I was there quite a bit with them both. In fact, I still can't listen to Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani as I heard it weekly being danced by the team when I was there for my girls' classes. Please don't say b-a-n-a-n-a-s! I got to know the dance team as they were there on the nights when Kedzie was tapping and Madi was learning her jazz rountine. For the most part, they were the average dance team, except for one team member, a boy. I remember thinking, and I am sorry to say this, "I wonder what his dad thinks about his dancing?" I know that I was immature thinking this wasn't the cool thing for a boy to do. I wondered if he got teased by his buddies for wanting to dance with a bunch of girls. I wondered if his dad was teased because his son dances. I felt all the stereotypes about what boys should or shouldn't do and dancing was one of the things that should be left to the girls. We had tried our son Austyn in dance and later our son Logan but neither liked it at all and I was totally fine with that. My opinion of boys in dance changed when I saw the end-of-the-year dance recital. Not only did that boy on dance team hold his own, he really stood out as a good dancer. Right then and there, I realized that boys could do anything girls could do and sometimes better!

Fast forward ahead to the summer of 2008. Madison was taking a summer dance class at our studio in Nebraska. I took my then 6 year old, Logan, with me to watch. Next thing I know he is in the class with her and trying all the hip hop moves that she is doing. I signed him up for the class that day and both Madison and Logan took classes all summer. I really thought it was great exercise for Logan and a great skill builder for Madison. Little did I know that this class would open the eyes of the studio director and his teacher about his dancing. In fact, shortly after the class had ended, I received a call from the studio director, stating that they were so impressed with Logan, that they wanted him to join dance team and they wanted to audition girls to dance with him in a number that they would choreograph with him as the center of attention. I have to admit, those old stereotypes and my insecurities came racing back to the surface. A summer class was one thing, but joining dance team was a different thing all together. Then I remembered that boy at the old studio and decided it was up to Logan.

Of course Logan said yes, or there would be no story and so began his dancing experience. I could go into all the dances and all the competitions and how much he loves it, but that is not the point here. The point is to love what your kids love! I am so glad that I didn't say he couldn't dance because he was a boy. I'm so glad that my own insecurities didn't make me worry about what other men would think because my son was a dancer. I am so glad that I asked my son if he wanted to dance because he shined on the dance team.

He is dancing again this year in more numbers and in more styles of dance. He never tires of dancing and never gives me a hard time about practice. He really looks forward to his time at the studio. This is something he really likes! Of course I do have some male influence on him still. He does play basketball, soccer and baseball in addition to dance. Not too long ago he told me that his plan is to be a professional dancer and a professional baseball player. I am not sure how he plans to do this, but you can bet that I will support him 100%. One of his buddies on his basketball team heard he wouldn't be the game next weekend because he has his first dance competition. The boy laughed when Logan confirmed this. When we were walking to the car, he asked me why his friend laughed. I said I was sorry that happened and I didn't know why he laughed. Logan said, "He is probably just jealous because he doesn't know how to dance." I said, "You're probably right!"

Friday, February 12, 2010

The home telephone vs. social media

I remember a time when you would talk for hours on the home phone with friends. There wasn't much to say, since you had just seen them hours before, but that didn't stop the long conversations from taking place. You would talk until your parents got so mad that they would hang up for you or you would get the look that said, either hang up the phone now or I will cut the cord and you will never call anyone ever again. Do you remember that? Ok, well I wasn't one of those who abused the phone, but I had plenty of friends that did. As I became an adult and met parents with teenage kids, I would hear that same story told to me from the parent's perspective. I told myself when I become a parent, I will have strict policies about phone use. Only certain hours of the day could the phone be used for recreational use. Children needed to check in with me regarding all phone calls. All calls would originate from the kitchen and parents would be privy to all conversations. Well, I have kids that are into their teenage years now, so I was all ready with my phone rules. Unfortunately for me, the rules have now changed. I am now having to come up with new rules to deal with the way teens are communicating today.

First came the cell phone. Actually, I have been in favor of my kids having one of these. With their ever increasing schedule, it is good to be able to get in touch with them, especially when dad knows he is going to be late for a pickup. That never happens, but knowing they can get ahold of me or vise versa is very important. Then came texting. Jury is still out on the importance of this for the well being of the kids. Things can be said in a text that wouldn't be said in person. Inappropriate texting is also a big issue for me. I check my kids text messages to make sure I know who they are talking to and what is being said. I have begun texting myself and find it to be an easy way to communicate with others. I started texting when my sister-in-law said it would be a good way to relate to my kids and she was right. It is kind of fun to send a quick message and the response from your kids is "you are a dork!" Picture mail is not something that we allow. With all the sexting going around, I totally wanted that restricted. I don't even send picture mail.

The cell phone was my warm up to what would come next, social media. My wife is in the communication field and social media describes all those networking sites. For my daughter, that means facebook. When she turned 13, we told her she could have a facebook page. Actually, she didn't even want one, but some of her out of town friends had their own and they wanted to keep in touch with her, so we suggested that she get one. At first, it was just one word answers back and forth between a few girls, but now her friend list has grown and is almost more than mine. Now, not only do I need to check her text messages, I have to read her facebook page. You see, the rule was, that if she got a facebook page, I got her login and password and could check it anytime I wanted. That keeps her honest about what she writes, but lets her talk with her friends. We also have a rule about who she can be friends with. Her mom and I told her that just because someone wants to be her friend, it doesn't mean that she has to allow it, so she will ask us about some kids that ask to be her friend.

I have been happy with how our kids have handled texting and now facebook. I think that is because we have given our kids good guidelines to follow and they know they will be held accountable for their actions. After reading some messages that were texted or posted on facebook, I know that some parents do not have these same guidelines with their kids. When kids aren't being held accountable, that is when problems arise.

So, now we have new rules for texting and facebook. When I was a first time parent, I never imagined either of these two things. I suppose there will be new technology in the future that my wife and I will have to deal with and come up with even more rules and accountability. I am up for the challenge. If you ever want to talk about coming up with your own rules, feel free to call me at home. No one ever uses that anymore.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Love what your kids love

Growing up, the one thing I loved to do most of all was play baseball. In the summer, I would ride my bike all over town to find a game. Yes, I went without a helmet and sometimes would ride a couple of miles to find a lob ball game. Times were different then, but I digress. Come wintertime, I tried to pass the time with baseball cards and my legos, but neither could compare. I couldn't wait for the snow to melt and get out there with my friends to play. I played all summer long with some guys I still call friends today. I have lots of great memories of those times and when I became a dad, I couldn't wait to share those experiences with my kids.

I started with the girls at a young age and coached their t-ball teams and later their coach pitch softball teams. I know they enjoyed the time with Dad, but softball wasn't really their favorite sport. Before long, I was loving soccer and basketball as much as they were. In fact, I started getting into watching and now really look forward to their games. Baseball was a part of me, but didn't mean it had to be a part of them. Besides, I thought, I still have my boys.

I picked up with them as I had with the girls and they quickly took to it and really liked it. Watching both of them develop gave me hope that one would turn into the next left-handed phenom pitcher for the Cubs. I guy can dream, right? Well, that might not be their dream and I have come to realize that I am fine with that. They are both looking forward to the baseball season, but they also are looking forward to soccer starting next month, the dance competition coming up in a couple of weeks, finishing the "Battle of the Books competition" novel and the Jump Rope-a-thon.

What I have realized over time as a dad is that it isn't about me anymore. It is about them and helping them become the best people they can be and support them to find what really brings them joy. If it is sports, great, but if it is something else all together, that is great too! So many parents today don't feel connected to their kids and in my opinion it has to do with meeting the kids where they are and not where the parents want them to be. If kids have passion for something appropriate, it has to be encouraged. They can't be told "no" because it is deemed unimportant. Kids need to know that their parents have their back and that they are encouraged and supported at home. Parents can do so much good for their kids when they love what their kids love.

Funny thing about blogging...I came into this today focused on writing about something else, but this just flowed today. I do feel passionately about this topic and found I had more to write about it than I had thought. Good news is, I feel really passionate about my next topic too, so check back next week for a follow-up. Thanks for reading.