I am a radical parent.

My wife and I are trying something radical in parenting. We’re spending some time with our kids.

Okay, maybe it isn’t radical. In fact, it is probably the definition of parenting, but it is something that can be a challenge when your schedule is full of projects and work and household chores and hobbies and such. To make sure that we spend time with our kids, we’re scheduling it.

Wednesday nights after dinner are now reserved for 1-on-1 parent/daughter time until bedtime. My wife takes one daughter to the kitchen where she gets to don a special hat, apron, and oven mitt while I take the other daughter to the basement for some video games or Lego playtime. We all get to do something that we like–spend time with our kids and enjoy some personal interests–and our kids get some personal attention. And each week, we switch daughters.

I know, it probably sounds like a no-brainer, but being intentional about any activity, including fun ones, takes dedication. We’ve had one of these Wednesday night 1-on-1 times so far, and it was a ton of fun. I really want them to continue, I’m hoping for a long time to come.

Here’s a few pictures from that first one.

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Do you have any suggestions for what we should call these nights? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Also, do you have ideas for kid-friendly/healthy recipes that we could use in the kitchen with our kids? Please share those too!

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Muslims have Mecca; I have the Lego Store.

My wife and I just got home from a trip to Chicago. As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we went to Chicago for a day of museums, cheesecake, and Lego fun. And before you think that we only did the things that I wanted to do, let me assure you that we did. I’m terribly selfish that way.

Believe it or not, I had never been to the Lego Store. Sure, I’ve loitered in the Lego aisle of every store that has a selection of toys, but being in the Lego store was different. For one thing, there were giant Lego statues.

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For another, there were mini-figure building stations where you could assemble your own custom Lego mini-figures to take home (for the low price of $10 for 3 mini-figures). So that is exactly what I did.

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My wife helped me pick out the best configurations for some unique characters. You’ll see them individually in the days to come (as Lego Story Prompts which pop up on my blog every Saturday), but here they are in the package: Judy the Queasy Nurse, Stubby the Pirate with his pet seagull, and Old-Timey Ninja Policeman.

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If you are a Lego fan, you should consider making the trip yourself. It was more fun thank you can shake a brick at.

I am 33.

33Today is my birthday. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for life and whatnot. I’m still enjoying it these 33 years later.

I was trying to think of some things that famous people did at age 33, so I could know what to expect, but aside from Jesus being crucified, I didn’t come up with much. I really hope I don’t get crucified this year.

So I did a bit of research on the number 33 itself. There’s a fair amount of mathematical mumbo jumbo associated with it:

33 is the smallest sum of two different positive numbers, each of which raised to the fifth power: 1^5 + 2^5 = 33.

33 is the largest positive integer that cannot be expressed as a sum of different triangular numbers. It is also the smallest odd repdigit that is not a prime number.

But that isn’t all that interesting (really, I just don’t understand any of it and at 33, I’m not going to start learning it now).

33 is the atomic number for arsenic, which is poison, which is probably a better thing to die from than crucifixion, but still not the happiest thought in the world.

On the upside, according to one Yahoo news article, 33 is the happiest age. I don’t know how to feel about that. I guess that means that I’ve peaked and everything else will be worse than it is this year. I suppose I should just enjoy it and not consider that I’m about to embark on a downward spiral toward death.

To be honest, I think I’m going to like being 33. I’m within a few days of having 10 amazing years of marriage under my belt to a beautiful woman. My kids are great fun and aren’t too cool for me yet. And I have a grown-up job, drive a grown-up car, and do grown-up things. It’s a good time to be alive.

Here’s hoping that this is my best year so far!

I am a leadership conference attendee.

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I attended a leadership conference last week on behalf of my work. I went there to help with the sales table but I was able to sneak into a few sessions anyway. I enjoyed the sessions that I attended and am now prepared to be the best leader that this world has ever known.

Well, I would be prepared for that, but one of the hallmarks of a good leader is to be focused on other people instead of myself, so maybe I shouldn’t have said that I would be the best. In truth, there are a lot of things that I have to work on and learn before other people should consider following me. The speakers gave me a lot to think about, so I may just go through my notes to make a few blog posts this week.

As I consider that, I’m curious.

  • Who is your favorite leader and why do you follow them?
  • What are three things that you specifically appreciate about their leadership?

I’d love to see some answers in the comments below.

I am no fan of power outages.

I am typing this in Microsoft Word instead of the handy blogging window that I usually use. On the one hand, I won’t accidentally go to press with anything before it is ready (that Publish button is mighty close to the Save button). On the other hand, I may not stick to my posting schedule (but I’ll blame it on an act of God and not feel too bad).

The power is out. You don’t realize how much background noise there is until the power dies. Or perhaps the realization hits when the power comes back on in the middle of the night and everything turns on again.

There are two thoughts that occur to me as I type in the silence.

The first is that, in spite of the fact that I am sitting in bed in a house with a roof and a floor, it feels a little like I’m camping. I love the sounds of the storm outside and the absolute silence within. As soon as I’m done typing this up, I think I’ll use the light of the laptop to read a book (which is what you do when you camp, by the way; maybe you do it differently (or, as I like to say, wrong)).

The second thought is that I seem to be stuck inside a recent episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that I saw with my daughters. In the episode, there is a storm that frightens the titular tiger. His parents respond with a handy song to use when you are scared (“Close your eyes and think of something happy”). The happy thoughts work wonders and Daniel Tiger finds his sense of calm in the storm.

After the storm, Daniel is faced with another frightening situation: the doctor’s office and a vaccination shot. Any guesses as to what the plans are for tomorrow morning? You guessed it. My girls have an appointment with the doctor, and I’m pretty sure that at least one of them is going to have to face the needle.

I’m hoping if life in my family continues to imitate Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that in the next episode, Daniel Tiger is faced with the struggle of trying to manage too much money (“They say money can’t buy happiness, but I’m willing to try” could be the jingle for that one).

And with that happy thought to scare away my fears, I’m going to stop writing and go read a book by laptop light.

I am ashamed of a stuffed basset hound toy.

When I was about seven or eight years old, my family went around town to see what the garage sale scene was like. At the time, I was enamored with stuffed animals (so much so that I, rather pathetically, referred to them as “friends”) and I was on the lookout for the next addition to my plush pile of pals.

hush_puppiesAt one of the sales, I was sure that I had found it–a basset hound toy that was adorably sad-looking. I forget what the asking price was, but I was sure that they were asking too little for this marvelous specimen. So I took the toy to my mom and asked her for some money.

“Are you sure that you want that?” she asked with eyebrow raised. “You already have a bunch of stuffed dogs and this one isn’t all that special. I think it came free with someone’s purchase of Hush Puppies shoes. No, I don’t think you should spend your money on that.”

I was crushed. It didn’t matter to me where it came from, and the fact that my mom was judging its origin and worthiness of a place in my plush kingdom made it all the more desirable.

“Okay,” I said, turning around. But things weren’t okay. How could they be? And so I began to scheme.

I know, I thought. I’ll just ask my dad for the money. No problem.

So I did.

“What did your mom say?” he asked me.

“She said it was fine with her, but that I should ask you,” I lied.

“Okay,” he said, handing me some cash.

On the way back to the car, my mom noticing the stuffed dog and asked me why I hadn’t put it back on the table yet.

“I bought it,” I said. “Dad said I could.”

“He said that you were okay with it,” said my dad to my mom.

“Well,” she responded, “he has it now, and I’m not to going go asking for his money back.”

I had done it! I had won! The basset hound was mine, all mine!

But as we drove to the next garage sale, I looked my devious acquisition over. It really did look kind of cheap. And I did already have a few stuffed dogs at home. I probably didn’t NEED it like I thought I did at the time. But those things were nothing compared to the feeling of disgust that washed over me as I regarded the basset hound in earnest. I had lied to get this toy.

I don’t think I ever played with it. In fact, I remember hiding it toward the bottom of the stuffed animal pile in my room because I didn’t want to see the reminder of how I acted to get that toy. I hated that toy, but more-so I hated my actions and the selfishness that spurred them.

I am struggling.

I have been struggling with my blogging ambitions lately. Or rather, my lack thereof.

This man personifies my ambitions. He's obviously still there, but he's seen better days.

This man personifies my ambitions. He’s obviously still there, but he’s seen better days.

I’m a daily blogger, which, for me, means that I have fresh content on my blog on every day of the week except Sunday (even God rested (not that I am going to read any of my posts and declare that they are good)).  I’ve learned a ton about writing and about commitment (which is about 93% of writing anyway), but I go through these seasons where I look at my blog and the time that it takes and I wonder if it is worth it.

After all, I could be using that writing time for the stories that live in my head or for spending more time with my wife and family. Is it worth it to work by my self-imposed daily deadline to produce content for strangers with no monetary compensation?

I know that this is just one of those seasons where I ask. They come and go. But what brings them on in the first place? I think there are a couple of forces at work that make me want to take a break from blogging.

  • I’m busy – I started a new job about four months ago. It’s a great job, but it is a bit more demanding than my old one, both mentally and time-wise.
  • My numbers were down last week – It is summer, and I’ve been blogging for long enough now to know that people would rather be spending time in the sun than reading my blog. Schools are out and students aren’t looking for distractions from their homework by reading strangers’ blogs. Or maybe I just had poor content last week and no one wanted to read it. Anyway, it is discouraging to see a dip when I still put time into my writing.

I know that things will get easier, that this season will pass. I know that when autumn returns, my numbers will probably jump up again. But in the meantime, I’m still thinking about the novels that are inside me that aren’t getting written because I’m spending my time blogging.

So maybe I will take a little break. Who knows?

Anyway, please keep coming back. It means a lot to me that people read my stuff.