The Field Trip

FieldtripMy youngest, who is in Pre-K had his first fieldtrip a few weeks back. I am lucky enough because I get to go on these field trips with him. One of the perks of being a Stay-at-home dad. One of his classmates parents owns a farm so the kids got to visit the farm and see cows, pigs, chickens, go on a hay ride, and all the kids got to pick out a pumpkin.

Fieldtrip 2The thing that stuck out to me most was the amount of dads who chaperoned the fieldtrip. I would say almost half the adults there were of the dad or grand-dad persuasion. I am so happy to see so many dads, especially working dads involved in their children’s lives.

It got me thinking because I drop off and pick up my kids everyday at school. I am at the building three times every day. I have been looking around, and I am not the anomaly there. There are lots of dads picking up and dropping their kids off. Lots of hugs, and kisses. Lots of comforting. Lots of dads not being the typical macho guy who doesn’t do anything besides earn for the family.

But, yesterday, I heard two moms talking and laughing at their husbands expense. I had to do everything to hold my tongue as they bashed their husbands about everything they do around the house and how they can’t seem to figure out how to do things the way that they (the women) like it done. Just because it isn’t your way doesn’t mean it is wrong. My wife and I do things much different around the house. But yet, here I am the primary caregiver of my children and not one kid has been scarred for life under my watch and I am sure not one of their children or households has been seriously injured under their husbands either.

I remember when I was in school, not many dads were involved in anything besides attending their son’s athletics. It is great to see how some things change, but it is obvious that there are still so many things that need to change, even just in that perception of what it means to be a dad.

Advertisements

Why Fall is the Best Time of Year

Autumn20140914_125814The best thing about living in New York State (yes New York is a whole state and not just a city) is that we get to experience four uniquely different seasons. Mother Nature must really like us to because we don’t have any real bad weather or natural events(aside from the occasional big snow storm) to worry about. We don’t have major earthquakes, tornados or hurricanes to worry about. We only have to worry about people who don’t know how to drive in snow.

But, to me, the best time of year is Fall. Fall wasn’t always my favorite. Obviously, as a kid I loved summer. But now that I am older and wiser (yeah right), I know that fall is the best time of year. So much happens in the fall (or near fall) that I enjoy so much.

First Day of School

First Day of School

The first thing that happens is my kids go to school. I know, technically it is still summer when they start, but to me, it is the beginning of fall. I love having my kids around, and I do miss them when they aren’t at home, but that 3 hours when they are both not here, makes it possible to get so much done around the house.

I also love the look and smell of fall. I love the color changes that you don’t get in the southern part of the country. I love the fall leaves while they are on the trees. Although, I do loath them when they are on the ground and I have to rake them for what seems to be eternity. I love the cool, crisp air. The fact that you can layer your clothes so that you are warm on the cool morning and then peal off layers as the day warms up.

But the thing that has really grown on me over the years, and especially now that I am attempting to garden, is that it is harvest season. I love the fact that all these great foods are being picked fresh and you can get so much good local fruits and vegetables. The best part is going to the orchard and picking apples with the family. We all enjoy it so much and have a ball going through the orchard picking all the different varieties of apples. The boys love finding the biggest, brightest apples they can find. They love running up and down the rows and rows of trees. I love the fact that I can get so much for so little. I am sure we will go back again and get more.

Apples from the Orchard

Apples from the Orchard

There is so much that can be made with them and I am just starting to scratch the surface of what I am able to make. I have made, Apple Pie Oatmeal, Apple Salsa, BBQ Chicken with Apples, BBQ Chicken, Apple, and Tomato Pizza, and Apple & Blueberry Butter. I also frozen some that I chopped and coated with Cinnamon and Sugar so that I can make a pie or apple sauce quickly. All this has been done and I still have a ton on the counter waiting to be used. What else will I make? Who knows. I am still learning as I go here.

Children and Germs, my Kryptonite

KryptoniteGerms. I hate them. I hate them. I. Hate. Them. They are Reason #3 why I am not a teacher. So let me do some Common Core Math for you here to make it a little easier to understand. Kids + Germs = Me being sick (constantly). So, as the new school year has only been going for a couple of weeks, I have managed to already get sick by these little germ factories we call kids. I am careful, I wash and sanitize, I clean the house, but it doesn’t fail. For the better part of 4 days I had been achy, fevery, coughy, running nose(y)?

I know why this happened to. It is because this is N’s first time in school. He is being introduced to all these new exciting germs on a daily basis. Germs he hasn’t had contact with previously. Germs, he brings home to dad. Germs that get dad sick. You see, dad has always been one to easily get sick. Strep throat as a kid. Constantly. Ear Infections. All the time. Scarlet Fever. Yep. Now before kids, I was a fairly healthy adult. Seasonal allergies, sure. But not constant sickness. Now here I am, and every school year, I get sick.

But, the worst part is that now that I am getting better and have been very careful around my kids to not get them sick. N is home today because he was coughing constantly yesterday and up during the night with a fever. So the germs finally did him in to. Eventually he will get used to all these new germs while daddy goes through the rollercoaster ride of sickness all school year. At least I don’t have a job I have to go to even while I am sick because I used all my personal time for sick kids. Oh, wait…

Sick kid and his puppy

Sick kid and his puppy

Using All Your Tools To Make Something Amazing

This isnt what these are for

You mean this isn't what these are for?

You mean this isn’t what these are for?

I just want to start off by saying I have an amazing wife.

I was out of the house doing some work and the kids were bored so she (the wife) decided to make them forts over their beds. Now, we don’t have a lot of ropes and things to help keep the forts up in their rooms let alone above their beds. So my wife, being the resourceful woman that she is remembered my box full of Ethernet cords, cable wires,usb cables, speaker wire…well you get the point. There is a lot of stuff in there we don’t use. So she decided to use them as guide wires. As you can see it worked amazing. I came home to some monstrosities over the boys beds, but they have loved them so much it has been over a week and I haven’t been able to take them down. Way to go wife.

So what does your significant other do that truly amazes you? I would love to hear about it.

Weekend Review September 8, 2014

Weapons Training

Listen up maggots, it’s time to put on your big boy pants and start shooting some guns! How else are you going to survive the zombie apocalypse when it happens? So, put on your vest, grab your gun and start shooting.

Laserquest.com

Laserquest.com

Laser Quest

We recently went to play Laser Tag at Laser Quest on a hot but rainy Labor Day. Can I just say…It was a blast!

Description

If you don’t know what laser tag is watch the video.

You done watching the video? Good. Pretty self explanatory, huh? Well, that does a better job of explaining and showing what Laser Quest is then me. But, to add to it, they have video games, foosball, air hockey and other games in the area you wait before being let into the briefing room where you learn about the rules of the game. They also have a few big party rooms for birthdays or other events.

Basically, they brief you, you get your vest and gun, activate it, go in and try to kill everyone. And by kill I mean try to get the best score out of all the people playing by shooting their sensors and not letting them shoot yours. The games are 15 minutes long which actually seems pretty long once you are running around this big maze which is lit only by black lights.

 Verdict

You definitely have to try it if there is one near you. So Click Here to find out if there is one in your neck of the woods. Every one enjoyed it. The only thing I can say is I wish they had some smaller vests, because while younger kids can play, the vest doesn’t fit on a smaller child like my 4 year old “N”. His mother and I had to take turns wearing the vest while he had the gun (which is attached to the vest by the way). So we had to follow this little terror around as he ran stalked after girls totally annihilating them. It is pretty difficult to do, but also a lot of fun. Also, leave your pride at the door to the briefing room because once you get in there you will quickly realize that you are going to be beat again and again by a 4 foot tall laser shooting maniac.

 

First Day of School

Ninja TrainingFirst Day of Ninja SchoolSo today it starts. It is old hat for the “A” and it should be old hat for his dad, but it isn’t. Today marks the day my youngest takes the next step away from needing me for everything to be more independent. Today, “N” goes to Pre-K. Today, I am no longer the center of his learning universe. Today, “N” will start learning all his ninja fighting skills from other kids and dare I say it…a teacher (gasp). Today is the day that his world starts to expand exponentially.

It is bitter sweet for me. I will enjoy the little bit of freedom I will have without the boys in theFirst Day 2 house, but I will miss the great adventures they take me on. I know, I know, I will still have plenty of time for them after school, but this new adventure for them makes me realize that I will gradually become less and less a part of  their lives as they learn and grow. I will be the taxi, the waiter, and the hotel concierge. I do realize that I will always be dad. I do realize that “A” and “N” will always love me. I just know that I will miss these full days, even if many of them are just filled with hanging out and watching shows and playing video games together.

So today, I sit here and contemplate the next phase of Ninja Training. Any suggestions?

The Giving Tree

shelsilverstein.com

shelsilverstein.com

As this summer comes to an end I am once again thinking about my time as a teenager working at Madison County Children’s Camp (Camp Lookout). It was a place that changed me as a person for the better. I often think about it and hope that one day my children will be able to attend a camp like Camp Lookout.

You see, Camp Lookout has been a refuge for needy children. Every child who comes to camp is there because they needed the love and respect that every child is given every day. They do not come from rich families, they do not come from perfect homes. Often, they are broken and need to be built back up. And the best thing is that the families do not have to spend a dime for their children to be there. Camp Lookout is run entirely on donations, grants, Community Chests, and the Madison County Board of Supervisors. Every child’s stay is paid for by the generosity of the community.

Every time I think about my years as part of the staff there, I can’t help to think of “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. It was a man stay on our last night of camp. We read it to the campers and it has basically become symbolic of what the staff does and why we do it for the campers.

For those of you who don’t know, the story is about a tree, and a boy (who grows up throughout the story). The tree gives to the boy everything she has, and the boy takes everything she has. I have realized as I read this story to my children that as you hear this story at different points in your life it means something totally different. As a child you understand it as a parent loving their child and giving them everything they need and want. As a teenager reading this to the children at a camp, I understood it to be about an adult figure giving children the love that they need. As a parent I understand it as a love so strong you will give your children everything they want and want nothing in return. Why? Because you love the boy, very much.

So as I think about my own children and being that tree, I straighten myself up as much as I can and tell my children to sit down and rest. And this tree is indeed very happy.

And the tree was happy.

And the tree was happy.

For those of you who want to make a donation to Madison county children’s camp so that some of the county’s most vulnerable children can attend please go to Camp Lookout Donations for directions on how to make donations.

The Fort

The BatcaveThe BatcaveWhen I was a kid I used to love making forts out of pillows and blankets at my grandparents house on a rainy day. Now as a dad there is nothing I like more then seeing my kids enjoy the same fun.

Inside the fortWith the help of the lead architect “N” we built one on a recent rainy day. I love listening to them play inside. I sat outside and just listened to their great imaginations at work. This is so much better then any video game or electronic device because everything they did inside and around it was them creating it and doing it and thinking it themselves. They were not being led by some device. They were leading. This is what childhood is all about to me.  This is what will help them survive out in the world outside of school. Imaginative play helps create imaginative individuals who will have great and imaginative lives.

But that is not what it is about for them. It is about fun. More then anything I enjoy that they are having fun with something so simple. “N” liked it so much he even took his nap in it.

Sometime, I love rainy days.

Weekend Review August 11, 2014

Utility Belt

Episode 4

2014-04-12 18.17.07

So here we are with the final installment of our Outdoor Theatre. This is probably the most important part of the setup because without the screen you would have to project your movie onto your house or a sheet or your Uncle Ned’s backside.

If you would like to know about the other parts of the setup please check out Episode One for my review on the Sony 3D Blu-ray Player, Episode Two for my review of the Arion Legacy speaker System and Episode Three for the ViewSonic Projector.

When we were looking for a screen there were a ton of options to choose from. We thought about going with a blow-up screen for easy set-up but we ultimately decided against it because we didn’t want our sound system to compete with the blower for us to hear it for the whole movie. Like all the other components of our set-up the driving factor is portability and ease of setting it up and taking it down as we would not be leaving it up after a movie. This brings us to the one that we ended up buying.

Visual Apex ProjectoScreen120HD Projector Accessory

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

Description

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

I went with the Visual Apex because the reviews were good and it looked like it would be easy to set it up and take it down. It was big without being huge at 120″ diagonally. The screen and all the components come in a nice heavy duty carrying case which everything folds up nicely to fit back in the case. It comes with the frame, legs, screen, rope, stakes, and eye hooks. Everything can be set up by one person, but I recommend two people do it to make it go quicker and a little bit easier for some portions.

The frame for the screen unfolds easily and locks into place with minimal effort. I attached the eye hooks to the top and left them there to take one step out of set up each time. They do not get in the way when packing it back in the carry case. The eye hooks have two uses. You can use them for hanging the screen if you want to go that route or for running the rope through for stability when you use the legs.

 Now they recommend that you put the screen on while it is laying flat on the ground but I do it differently as the screen can be hard to attach on the ground. So now I attach the legs fold them open and stand up the frame. It is light so you can do this by yourself. The frame now stands at over 9 feet so you will need a step stool to attach the screen to the top portion of the frame.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

The screen is a heavy duty .32mm PVC elastic bright white material surrounded by a boarder of black with a black backing which they say helps prevent light loss. The screen is washable so if you get it dirty you can clean it with mild soap and water. On the frame there are snaps and on the screen there are the other side of the snaps so it is supposed to go on easily. This, however, is why I stand up the screen and have a second person (my wife) help with set-up. I do not think they recommend my main method for attaching the screen but have found it useful. If you have time leave the screen in its protective case and lay it in the sun for a while so that it can heat up and expand. The screen is supposed to stretch so that it is a tight fit so there will be no lines and wrinkles from when it is folded for storage. However, if you just try to attach it to the frame it is really hard to stretch to fit by yourself. This is why you leave it out in the sun so that it can warm up and be easier to stretch so that you can snap the buttons into place. We usually don’t do that though as one we never have enough light in our yard and we usually set it up just before movie time. So we have come up with another way. I will start at one of the top corners and attach the screen. My wife will go along the back with a hair dryer and heat up the material slightly so that it stretches easier. We are careful not to stay in one place too long so that it doesn’t melt as this is plastic after all. It really makes attaching the screen a lot easier and we have mastered this pretty quickly. After the screen is attached we attach the guide ropes and the stakes so it doesn’t fall over, because a small gust of wind will catch it and send it over very easily. Overall, when we first set it up it would take us about 25 minutes. Now we do it in about 10-15 minutes.

Take down, is even easier. Just pull the screen off, take the stakes out and fold everything up and put it in the bag. It takes about 10 minutes to take down. Now do be careful though. As you are folding up the screen, make sure you are not in range of the frame as your wife is pulling the stakes out, because the screen will topple over and it will hit you in the head and you will bleed and curse.

Pros (+)

+ Easy set-up in about 15 minutes
+ Easy take down in about 10 minutes
+ Light weight
+ Good price at $220.00
+ Can stand it up on legs or hang it for multiple set ups and applications.

Cons (-)

– It does take some ingenuity to get the screen attached to the frame.
– It really does hurt to get hit in the head with it.

Verdict

Add it to your utility belt. Set-up is quick and easy. Take-down is even easier. The screen is bright white and this makes for a great picture from your projector. We love this screen and its ease of use. Would love to have the 144″ screen when we upgrade our system.

Our Living-Room Set-up

Our Living-Room Set-up

The View From My Office

The Batcave

My Office

My Office

This is the best thing about being a SAHD (Stay-at-home dad). This was my office yesterday. I got to spend time with my kids and have fun at the park. I am not stuck in some tiny cubicle breathing recirculated air. I am out in the fresh air playing with my kids. Sure, I don’t get paid for it. But the perks are amazing. I bet you don’t get this with your job.

These are the days that remind me why I am a SAHD. These are the days that recharge my batteries and keep me going. These are the days that I am not worried about the cleaning, and the housework. These are the days I am not thinking about the money I don’t earn. These are the days that I just sit back and enjoy the ride.

These are the days that remind me that I have the best job in the world. Now excuse me, I have a board meeting to attend to (ie. go play with my kids).

Go Play Already

Go Play Already