Thursday, June 27, 2013


We have completed FIFTY items off our bucket list this summer!  We are half way down, and we're gearing up for the home stretch!  The kids start school August 1, with all kinds of school activities the week before, so we have roughly a month to make this all happen!

Ride on a carnival ride--Grace excited at first; petrified later... Grant's choice (the spinning ring of terror, which he went on all on his own--extra props for not puking!)

Slip and slide

Paint a picture

Make and play with homemade playdough

Play in a park (camera died)

Do a cannonball off of a diving board

Go to an art museum (score one for Indy for having one of the largest outdoor art parks in the country attached to our great art museum)

Go to a military museum (to which Grant added, "Guns and swords... now THAT'S what I'm talking about")

Learn to sew a button

We've had the best start to summer--the kids aren't fighting; we're exploring our city and state; we're spending little time in front of a screen, and we're making memories... lots and lots of memories! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fatherly Humiliation

I've had a rough day.  Last night was my 20th high school reunion, but I didn't go.  It wasn't any kind of conscious "I'm not going to THAT" kind of thing.  Rather, I just wasn't that into the idea when it was originally announced, and we ended up scheduling other events for the evening.  Plus I've seen a lot of my high school friends recently, and we all keep in touch pretty well.  But as the date got closer, I wished I were going.  Again, there wasn't any particular reason.  I just felt sort of drawn to it, but in the end, I wasn't able to attend, and I've spent the last 24 hours thinking about high school, old friends, and my occasional inability to make clear decisions.  I'm sure I'll go to the 25th or 30th reunion.  I promise.  And I'll enjoy the pictures that others took at this year's reunion.

In an effort to keep my mind in the present, I offered to take my two oldest kiddos to a little workshop at our local Lowes hardware store.  The kids recently saw "Monster's University," and the project was to build a little wooden box with MU decals all over it.  The kids were excited, and the thought of taking them proudly into the workshop made fatherhood feel like my grandest accomplishment of the past 20 years.  (Second only to eating the most burritos at our local Mexican restaurant in a single sitting, of which I'm also proud.)

Upon arriving at the store, we were sent to the receiving dock in the store where a dozen or so other kids and their parents were seated on the floor around small tables.  We were handed two small plastic bags featuring kits to help us build our boxes and two small hammers.  I helped Grant and Grace open their bags and begin working.

What I immediately noted was that there were only mothers present (two), no fathers, and the Lowes employees were merely passing out the bags.  They weren't involved in the actual building of the boxes (probably for legal reasons -- nothing worse than being sued for hammering a small child's finger and forever traumatizing the memory of a Pixar character for a lifetime).  "Slacker fathers," I thought.  Why all these mothers and no fathers?  I was obviously a shining example of fatherhood in the 21st century.

With my assistance, Grant and Grace began hammering the various pieces together with small nails.  I would find the correct pieces, get the nails started, and then away they would go.  Shortly after about two or three pieces each had been assembled, I began to notice some minor issues.  Grace had a nail sticking out the side of her box.  Grant had an outside piece turned toward the inside.  I asked for some sort of tool to pry some of the pieces apart to fix these things, but the only aid I received was from an 8 year old girl who had brought her own toolkit and was already nearing completion of her box.

Spare parts
As I pried a piece apart on Grant's box, the wood on one of the sides split out completely.  I could see a little bit of distress building in Grant's face, but I assured him I could clean it up.  I began nailing the split board in a different direction, silently noting that I was starting to split the other side as well.

I decided not to make the same repair to Grace's box, opting for silence and praying that it wouldn't really matter that the decorations would be INSIDE the box instead of outside.  But nothing gets past the Chinese kid, and she too began showing signs of cracking.

Around this time, one of the Lowes employees came by and silently handed me a single new kit for the box.  I thanked her and dumped the new pieces out, intermingled with the old.  I made sure we didn't make the same mistake again, and began having Grace hammer various pieces together.  I switched over to Grant, trying to figure out if the new kit had enough pieces to fix Grant's broken box.  Another employee came by and handed me a new kit for Grant as well.  Shew.  Crisis averted.

As I dumped the pieces out for Grant's new box, I noticed that in reality, Grace's box was still not correct.  One of the other mothers also took note of this.  She came by and said, "Can I help you?"  She had three kids of her own, but they were all basically done with their boxes.  And she could see that my incompetence was starting to put a strain on my kids, and rather than say, "Do you need any help?" she asked the more appropriate and direct "Can I (PLEASE) help you so that your kids don't turn out to be failures like their father?"

Grace getting some much needed help
I was humiliated but also thankful.  In reality, I was beginning to doubt my ability to create these boxes, even with the second pair of kits.  The Lowes employees brought a sample box over to help me, and the kind mother and a couple of her kids began helping Grace.  The Lowes employees also brought us another two kits from which to harvest spare parts.  More spare parts.

At this point, relieved, I looked at Grant, and I will never forget the look in his eyes.  There were tears welling up in his eyes, and he was trying with all of his might not to cry.  I said, "We'll get it fixed up, Grant," and he replied, tears beginning to stream, "I just want to go home."  It was awful.  He put his head in my lap and began to cry.  I had a lump in my throat as I tried to convince him that it would all be OK, and that his box would be "unique."  In as honest a reply as any six year old boy has ever given, he looked up and said, "But I'm so mad at you.  I don't think you can do this."

I was crushed.   Grant didn't say it in a mean way.  He said it in a way that cut to every sense of failing that I've ever had in myself.  And he was right.  This isn't a skill set that I really possess.  And my failure was creating embarrassment for him.  I told him that none of it was his fault (which I think was pretty obvious to him, the Lowes employees, and several middle-aged moms) and started reworking his box.

Can you see the joy in his face?

I began to pull two of the pieces apart, and Grant suggested that I "just leave it."  I asked, "But don't you want it to look right?" and he responded, "No, it'll be fine.  Just leave it."  All the while, the other mothers were helping Grace finish up her box, which looked basically like the example.

As all of the other kids finished up and got their completion badges, Grant started to perk up a little bit.  He had a box on which stickers could be placed, and it even opened and closed properly (thanks to the watchful eyes of the other mothers who prevented me from nailing a key joint closed.)  I sent him up to get his badge, and I heard the words "someone didn't quite follow directions" escape the lips of one of the employees.  I dove toward the table and informed the employee, briskly, that daddy had screwed up the box, and that Grant had done a model job of nailing the pieces together and shoring up my generally shoddy design.

As we packed up to leave, the kids were happy with their boxes, and the store employees gathered up a rather substantial pile of unused parts and offered them to me.  Since we had opened six kits and produced only two boxes, there were lots of unused pieces.  I gladly took them and announced that I would let the kids hammer the spare boards to trees in our backyard.

At this suggestion, one of the employees, the same one who chastised Grant's instruction following, bristled and said "that's terrible!"  I said, "What?  Letting my kid hammer wood to wood?"  She said, "Yes."  Rather than punch an old lady in the throat, I chose to just let it drop without even asking what the devil she was talking about, and we made our way out the door.  In the end, the staff had helped me out by providing all of the extra kits, even if I did feel like this one particular lady wasn't particularly understanding.

I thanked all of the mothers and began trying to produce business cards with my title on the front and salary scribbled hastily on the back, in an effort to prove I was only a failure at box building and not as a complete human being.  They all laughed at the experience, and everyone was happy.  Even Grant.

And in the end, it was worth seeing Erin laugh to the point of tears at the story when we got home.  She said she would never, EVER be able to discard Grant's box.  And I'll never regret spending the hour with my kids.  EVER.

Grace on the left, Grant on the right

Friday, June 21, 2013

Someone TURNED 5!

Hard to believe that this little thing...

in China:




has turned into this big thing....

Grace is so unbelievably kind, so unbelievably selfless (no, really, I could take some lessons from her on her willingness to die to self), and so unbelievably smart--we are blessed beyond measure to call her our baby girl!

Today, she opened some presents (My Little Pony and Princess stuff) before heading off to see Monster's University, and we were supposed to go to a special art class tonight, but it was canceled, so I am sure there will be some other fun that will make me poke out my eyes my baby girl smile. 

Here's an interview with Grace:
1. What's your favorite color?
Pink, Purple, and Yellow

2. What's your favorite food?
Rice with eggs

3. What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Chocolate and strawberry

4. If you could take a plane anywhere right now, where would you go?

5. What do you like about being a sister?
That I can help Trent and Grant

6. What are you most excited about for kindergarten?
Music and Art classes

7. If you could change a family rule, what would it be and why?
Be allowed to get out of bed before 7 am. 

8. When do you think someone is an adult?

9. What do you think you want to be when you get older?
A doctor who doesn't have to work over Christmas

10. What kind of man do you think you'll marry?
Funny and kind

11.  How many kids do you think you'll have?

12. If you could invent something that would make life easier for people, what would you invent?
A helpful stick that would point to which day it is

13. What's your favorite tv show?
Strawberry Shortcake 

14. What makes you special?
That I am kind and sweet

Indeed you are, baby girl.  Indeed you are!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Catching Up Our Bucket List

We accomplished a few things on our bucket list over vacation: swim in the ocean, collect shells, fly a kite, take a boat ride, throw pennies into a fountain, do a color by numbers, build a sandcastle, go the movies (Epic was the choice), and play miniature golf.

Just a few days home, we've hit the ground running again.  

Go to the library (we're actually at a library--we visit several--weekly, so this one was a gimmie)

Do a load of laundry on your own

Make something in the kitchen on your own

Finish a maze book

Make and drink root beer floats

Go bowling

Visit a cemetery

Go on a geocaching adventure (this, too, is a gimmie, as we do this often, but this one happened to be at the above cemetery, and it took a bit of time!)  Grace is pointing out where to find the cache (down in the post)!

Score: 36 down... 64 to go!!!