E is for…

E

Everything.

Everything from A to Z. Everything I’ve written about so far and everything I will write about over the next 25 days. It’s about everything I’ve done today and yesterday and the 15,215 days since I was born. It’s about everything I’ll do with the unknown number days I’ll be here, of this Earth.

Right now, though, life is about everything we’ll do for our kids. We house them. We feed them. We educate them. We play with them. We put them to bed. That’s just the routine stuff. It’s the stuff we have to do. It’s in the contract.

It’s about everything we do for our kids that we don’t have to do. We sign them up for sports and music and dance and clubs and lessons and everything. We end up driving all over tarnation to get them where they need to go. It’s daughters doing dad’s nails and makeup. It’s about moms playing dump trucks in the dirt with their sons. It’s about dance parties in the kitchen. It’s about splash parties in the bathtub. It’s about doing what we need to do help our children be happy.

When your six year old son and the neighbor’s nine year old daughter decide they want to get married, you entertain the thought. You giggle when they start planning in November and set a date for April 5th. You roar with laughter when you hear they’re going to get divorced so they can get married again. Then they start assigning roles; a priest, a chef, a flower girl, a waiter. They create a menu of the grooms favorite meal; fish, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and corn. They ask for a wedding cake and cards. In November, it’s all good. It’s all fun and games and you allow them their creativity. Then comes April 5th. They didn’t forget. In fact, they spent the better part of those sixth month preparing. Invites. Place setting. Seating arrangement. Outfits. Decorations. The meal. Dessert. The first dance song.

So you make it happen. Coincidentally, there happens to be no school on their random date choosing six months ago. You take them to find a few things and return with fish, broccoli, pink salmon and green table cloths, a fake flower bouquet for the bride to carry, balloons, makeshift rings, and a cake that says Happy Wedding Day April 5, 2018. You gather the few who were invited and you act out the wedding. Then you cook the fish and mashed potatoes and broccoli and have it served by the gracious big brother. You allow them first dance waltz to Ed Sheeran’s Perfect then cut the cake.

Then you have to burst a bubble when you have to explain to your son that no, his “wife” can’t come live with us. Still… they do look like a very happy couple. It makes everything we do for kids worth everything we can do for them.

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Hey Kids, It’s Okay to be Bored

I’m bored.

Bored.
Bored.
Bored.

This was just minutes after ordering supper at a restaurant. You know what? It’s okay to be bored. It’s high time you learned to entertain your thoughts. It’s high time you learned to converse with other human beings. It’s high time you learned that sometimes in life you will bored.

And it’s okay.

Constantly in motion, constantly stimulated, the kids aren’t sure what happens when everything stops. There’s no app for sitting still. Sometimes you will just have to sit and entertain your thoughts for a while. I know thinking is something unusual for you, but it won’t hurt you. I promise.

With all of the lights and sounds and blips and bloops in today’s world, it’s no wonder that a constant need for stimulation is so heavily sought after by kids. TV. Tablets. Phones. Toys. They all need batteries and they all make sound and light up. How many non-battery toys do kids play with these days? How many adults turn to their phone when they have down time or are looking for something to do? It doesn’t matter that they’re sitting in the company of their friends. The lure is there.

It’s okay to be bored. It’s okay to use that boredom to think of wild and crazy ideas.

    A pretty purple giraffe that drives a dump truck

    An ice cream cone with 57 layers… what are those 57 flavors?

    Hitting a homerun in the bottom of the 9th to win the game

    Doing those stunts we saw the slopestyle snowboarders doing in the Olympics

    What would happen if the shit really did hit the fan?

    Daydream! I, myself, am guilty of it. I wander off to “Lalaland” more frequently than I should. Discuss! Talk to the people you are sitting with and tell them about your thoughts. Were you wondering something? Were you fascinated? Were you awed? Were you laughing hysterically? Were you pissed off? Tell them. There’s no need for an app for real life. It is its own app and it’s amazing. It never glitches. It never buffers. The images are always HD. The sound is surround. There are smells. There are feels. It’s amazing.

    It’s okay to be bored. You don’t have start picking fights with your brother just for something to do. Go make something. A dream catcher. A leprechaun trap. A comic book. Draw a picture. Paint a picture. Paint a rock. Or mold with clay.

    It’s okay to be bored. Go outside. Fresh air and sunshine are amazingly good natural remedies for boredom. Climb a tree. Explore the brook. Go “lion hunting” in the backyard. Ride a bike, a scooter, a skateboard, or rollerblades in-line-skates. Throw a Frizbee. Kick a ball. Throw a ball. Whatever… just go!

    It’s okay to bored. You don’t need constant stimulation. You don’t even have to always be in motion. There is much to be learned from sitting still and silent. Finding your inner self can be quite a journey. I found my inner self one day. Turns out my inner self is still 6. You’re not going to find yours sitting in front of a screen surrounded by a cacophony of sounds and lights.

    It’s quite the conundrum to be writing via the internet on my tablet about getting off the screen and being bored without it. So, I’m turning in now and I’m going to go read a book. (side note: I’m reading The Orphan Child about a woman who steals a Jewish baby off a Nazi train then joins the circus)

    And it’s not going to be boring.

    How A Cookie Saved My Life

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    I was walking home from school today and as I passed the grocery store I thought to myself (though I really said it aloud) “I should pick something up for dessert.” So I picked up monster cookies. These cookies are store made, the size of a man’s hand, and loaded with tiny M&M’s. Soft. Chewy. 8 cookies per pack.

    So I buy the cookies and continue walking home. At the corner of McDonald’s and the gas station I push the pedestrian crossing button. Now, you might not believe me, but it’s true, I swear. I pushed that button and hole opened in the sidewalk. I peered in and there was a man down there. He looked exactly like me! I hollered down to him, “Do you need help?” He just looked up at me. So I offered him one of my monster cookies. “Mon up and have a cookie” I told him. I knew he could smell it because his nose twitched. I took a step back holding out the cookie. Lo and behold, out of the hole he climbed. So I gave him a monster cookie just like I promised. I think he smiled, then he simply walked away.

    Being a curious guy, I looked into the hole again. It was empty now, but it was only about 4 or 5 feet deep so I climbed in. It was a tunnel, not a hole! I crawled in a short way and I suddenly felt myself sliding down. The tube was smooth and I couldn’t stop myself. I must have slide for at least 27 minutes.

    Once I stopped moving I thought I was deep under ground, but I was wrong. I was under water! Technically, I was inside a huge bubble under water. It was a city inhabited by frog people. Two of them wrapped me up with their long sticky tongues and led me away. They took me to who I believed to be their queen. I thought of kissing her to see if she’d turn into a princess, but I kept my lips to myself. Turns out she wanted to send me to the slave pits to smash clams. Then I remembered the cookies so I offered her one for my freedom. I knew she could smell them because she licked her green frog lips.

    They kick me out of their city on a green submarine that was piloted by a pirate. I don’t know where the pirate came from or why he had a submarine. I forgot to ask. Now, I know pirates are known thieves and this one seemed as slippery as squid snot. He looked at me with his one good eye and said, “Aye matey. You’ll make a fine deck hand on my pirate ship.” I always thought it would be fun to go sailing and work on those big, tall ships. Argh, the pirate life is not for me. So I offer him a monster cookie to drop me off somewhere safe. Preferably home.

    Apparently pirates don’t negotiate, but they do eat cookies. That pirate left me on a deserted island. I walked around the island to find a way off. No luck. Then I walk through the woods and what do I find there? A giant, silver, flying saucer. Well it wasn’t flying, it was landed. Once the aliens saw me, though, they took me aboard. I thought for sure I was going to be probed in parts that aren’t for probing. They buckled me into a seat instead. Then it became a flying saucer. They said we were going to their planet, Xorgon and I would be put in the human zoo. I told their leader that I had cookies and he (she? I couldn’t tell) could have one if they’d take me back to Earth.

    Now we’re on our way back to Earth, so I was told, when we suddenly stop. Lights of all colors were bouncing off the walls. Turns out we were stopped by intergalactic police! I told the leader alien the best way to get out of getting a ticket is to flash some boob, before I realized she didn’t have any boobs. Anyway, they arrest me for smuggling humans, even though I was the human. I’m riding in the back to the police rocket and I say, “Excuse me, Officer, I have this delicious cookie you can have if you don’t put me in jail. Police are easy to bribe. They’ll do anything for a cookie.

    I’m sitting in the police station of some far off planet when Chief tells me a taxi is coming. You should have seen the size of this rocket ship taxi!  I climb in the co-pilot’s seat and we take off for Earth. We were going so fast that if I had had hair it would have caught fire. This taxi driver was a maniac! “Slow down!” I shout. He laughs, his fat belly jiggles, and a button popped off his shirt. Fortunately, he slows down. “Give me a cookie,” he says, “Or we’ll go even faster.” I had no choice but to give him one.

    The taxi drops me off on Earth. I could tell something was different but couldn’t quite place it until I heard a thunderous sound and felt the ground shake. I could only stand in awe as a 40 foot T-Rex approached. It roared a monstrous roar. I threw a monster cookie at it and took off running. Then I saw a shimmery blue oval hovering in front of me, like a wall. With a terrible lizard wanting the rest of my cookies I had no choice but to jump in.

    I found myself in a dark room. It smelled of dirt, felt like rock and was too short for me to stand up in. So I sat in my dark room and ate the last monster cookie. I must have sat there for at least 27 minutes when suddenly a bright light shone down on me. I squinted and looked up. “Do you need help?” I heard someone ask. I couldn’t see him because of the bright sunlight in my eyes. “Mon up and have a cookie,” I heard him say. The cookie smelled so good it made my nose twitchy. So I carefully climbed up out of the hole, took the cookie, smiled and walked home.

    And this, kids, is why there is only one cookie left.

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    Bumble Bees and the Grass Goblins

    Our yard is full of dandelions. It looks like a dandelion farm. I kid you not. The mower mows most of them. Some are still too short. No matter. They grow fast enough that by tomorrow they’ll have predominantly all returned. But did you know there is a war being raged ona miniature scale to keep those dandelions yellow?

    5491756636_17818b05a1_zBattles ensue between the bumble bees and the Grass Goblins. We have all seen buzzlebees. They’re big, round, fuzzy, yellow and black striped and love yellow dandelions. It’s wings appear too small to be effective, but provide the bee with flight nonetheless. They don’t mind us humans and generally leave us alone. Their cousins, the hornets and wasps, are the cranky ones who hate us with a vengeance. But the bumble bee is much calmer. Unless it’s up against a Grass Goblin.

    Now, if you’ve never seen a Grass Goblin consider yourself lucky. They’re ugly. They make scorpions look cute and cuddly. They are slightly smaller than their bumble bee enemies. They are unnaturally thin with blades of grass sprouting from their head and back. They are covered in warts that would make a toad jealous. Naturally, they’re greenish brown. The Grass Goblins turn all those bright yellowy flowers into white puff balls to use as parachutes and gliders in a blitzkrieg against the bees.

    The bees, of course, hate that. They feast upon dandelion nectar and, consequently, pollinate the vibrant flowers. Those white puff balls are completely useless to the bees objective. So the bees wage war against the Grass Goblins  to save their food supply.

    Or so a certain, lovable, wildly imaginative 4 (soon to be 5) year old, Bang, believes. Perhaps because that’s the story his father told him while they were playing the backyard. Not long after being hearing this story, said four year old found a white puffball dandelion and took it to a bumble bee asking it to turn it back to yellow. Apparently it was too late to save the flower. So Bang blew off all the seeds so the Grass Goblins couldn’t use it against the cute, fuzzy buzzle bee.

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    Fostering Creativity

    Imagination is more important than knowledge
    ~ Albert Einstein

    That quote, along with Einstein’s picture, have adorned my classroom wall every year I’ve had my own classroom. Even as a math and science teacher I always encouraged students to be creative, use their imagination, play the “what if” game. I do the same with my own two kids.

    Ever since Crash was born (7 years ago) I’ve allowed his imagination to run wildly free. We would play made up games of Max and the Wild Things – we’d show our terrible claws, roll our terrible eyes, gnash our terrible teeth and roar our terrible roars. We’d find pictures in the clouds, the moon, and the stars. We’d make up stories and go on adventures in the backyard. Which brings me to the first TV show he took an interest in… The Backyardigans. If you’ve never heard of them, here they are:nickelodeons-the-backyardigansIt is about a group of friends who travel through both time and space to adventure in their (you guessed it) backyard. For added fun, each episode is set to different genre of music. So much imagination for us to emulate! Boxes become race cars and space ships and submarines. Bang is following in his footsteps. He tags along with his big brother to go on adventures in the backyard. Though now it might involve being chased by zombies or pretending they are ninjas. But no matter what they’re pretending, they’ll always be my wild things.

    Anyway, this thought process was sparked when a friend of mine posed the question on Facebook, “Why are Legos sold in sets? What happened to a random collection of bricks and letting the kids build what they want”? Or something to that effect. Here are my two answers…

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    The photo on the left was built by Crash for Bang. Bang loves diggers and this digger improved 10 fold with the addition of the claw. The photo on the right is roughly 6 or so “sets” of legos. They got built according their instructions. Then disassembled a couple days later to be rebuilt as God knows what. One particular morning when the stars aligned they played quietly together for quite some time. When I came to find out what they were up to (when they’re quiet, they’re up to something) they had built a Lego playground. I wish I had gotten a picture of it before it was dismantled.

    All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.
    ~ T.E. Lawrence

    There are so many ways to foster creativity. By far the easiest is to read, read, read. While reading alone is a good step, take it one more step and discuss the reading and put yourself or your kids into the story. If “Hey dad, watch this” is the kid’s equivalent to “Hold my beer” then “Hey dad, what if…” is equivalent to “Lets do shots”! Once the hard liquor comes out who knows where the rest of the night is going. Once the what if’s start there is no predicting where the story goes. Don’t be shy. Play the game with them. Heck, be the one to start it. It can make an ordinary day extraordinary!

    Imagination isn’t simply about being creative. It’s about thinking differently. It’s about exploring the possibilities, the methods of making those dreams a reality. Imagine what would have happened had Edison not improved the light bulb, if Neil Armstrong had not stepped on the moon, if Steve Jobs had not created Apple, or if your favorite author had not put pen to paper. I just discovered the dad I want to be when I read about the dad who hacked Donkey Kong. His daughter wanted to play as the princess so she could save Mario. Dad took that “what if” and made it real. Amazing. Of course, it helped that he was a game designer and capable of such miracles. Lastly, most importantly, is my favorite dreamer, my DW. A friend asked her if it would be possible to build a new playground for our community. We had but one very poor, slightly dangerous playground. She imagined a playground that far exceeded anyone’s expectations and one year after lighting the spark, 500 community members came together and made the dream come true. Check out the video to see the dream become a reality.

    Is imagination important to you? How do you foster creativity?

    What the Teachers Didn’t Teach

    Dear School,

    I want to thank you so much for teaching my son. He is in his third year of school and the amount he has learned is astonishing. As a teacher, I know kids are like sponges and absorb knowledge like their shirts absorb ketchup. He’s learned to read chapter books. He can add and subtract and is even starting to multiply! He can skip count clear past a hundred. He understands the seasons, senses, space, and so much more that doesn’t start with “S” like compassion, condensation, and compasses.

    However, not everything he has learned is listed in the curriculum guide.

    Zombies are not in your curriculum, but he walks around the house with limp hands dangling from arms stuck out in front of him, moaning .

    Where does Pokemon fit into the curriculum? I can’t find it anywhere in the syllabus. Yet, he is almost obsessed with it. He’s brought home some cards. Were they from the cumulative activity to wrap up their unit on Pokemon? I’m not thinking so.

    And ninja training? Which outcome taught him to be a level 3, 8, 15, 20? He’s not even sure what level ninja he is but apparently someone is teaching him to be a ninja and his ninja level is not that of who is teaching him. So he runs around, sneaks around, hides in the yard, and climbs the tree. Of course, I join him because I’m a level 105 ninja (or so I’ve told him).

    Lastly, thank you for introducing him to Minecraft. It’s the candy crush, flappy bird, crack for kids game that so far I’ve been able to keep at bay. Though, I’m not sure for how much longer.

    Thank you, school, for going above and beyond and teaching him so much more than is required by the core curriculum standard outcome goals.

    Sincerely,
    A dad trying to be “cool”


    (Has your little one learned something not quite educational from school?)