Monday, July 14, 2014

What I thought I knew about having kids

If you haven't seen Bill Cosby's skit on "natural child birth" then you should put that somewhere in your "I should check that out" memory bank.

In it, he talks about how he and his wife are "intellectuals."  He elaborates about all the plans they make in having children, and then hilarity ensues.

I have a lot of friends who are on the fence about having kids.  They hear rhetoric ranging from, "kids are just too expensive" to "plan and make sure you're ready to have children."

I reject this entire paradigm of thinking about children.  Here's all you need to know, coming from a father of 4 kids.

Children are an act of faith.

That's it.  They're not "expensive" they're not a "huge responsibility" they're not a "life-changing event," they are an act of faith.  Do you want money in life?  It's okay to say yes.  Well, having kids is a leap of faith that you can both mentor and provide for this little person and still get what you want.

No matter what your goals are in life, children do NOT prevent you from achieving them.  Sure, you can use your kids as excuses for falling short if you want, and they can make certain goals in life more challenging--but what no one told you is they can actually make achieving a lot of your goals a lot easier.  Children are about the best motivation I have ever found in my life for achieving the things I always wanted when I was single, but too nervous or complacent to actually do.

So, whatever any half-brained journalist, column writer, or socially indoctrinated friend tells you, just know that in the end, children are an act of faith.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Typical Evening With Kids vs Without Kids

Read a "Typical Saturday Morning" post of this nature, so here's the evening version courtasy of yours truly.

With Kids Time Without Kids
Get home from work, stressed, disgruntled and in need of a break. You can't be tired, it's not allowed yet. Kids are screaming, there's an odor in the air of a dirty diaper, TV is playing loudly in the background. 5:00 Get home from work tired. Flip on the TV, find something interesting to watch.
Attempt to change out of your work clothes without being followed or having any one of a hundred non-washable stain treatments haphazardly thrown about your dwelling mark what you're wearing. Make it into your room with only one straggling kid who insists on you wearing a tiara/blob of mud (depends on gender) 5:30 Ooow, sitcom.
All candy, snack food, junk food, health food, and basically everything except for the Gerber first-start food you bought specifically for your kids has been ravaged, so you start eating some Gerber first-start food. You dream briefly of catching up on the mess in the kitchen/living room/bedrooms/bathrooms. 6:00 I'm kinda hungry, gonna grab some chips or snack food.
Okay, I can't get this mess mopped up, and I can't sweep because of all the legos scattered about, so where's that bin you bought for your kids? Cracked in two, guess all the toys go in the garbage? You announce that you're throwing away toys to your kids, and they panic, start screaming and possibly pick up one or two of the 346,204 items they've left on the ground. You concede and just use your foot to push enough of them aside to clean one area of floorspace that you haven't seen in a week. 6:30 I can do dishes tomorrow night. Big Bang Theory is on.
It's been two days since I've been able to keep the 2-year-old from biting me while attempting to brush her teeth. Argue with the wife about which tranquilizing drugs are safe to use on children for a bit. Try to act excited and turn teeth-brushing into a game. Have blood drawn from young teeth, again. 7:00 Should I go out tonight? Meh, let's see what else is on. . .
Try to read child a bedtime story. Get your third rib bruised when they wiggle violently on your lap. Tell kids to stop arguing with the story. Attempt to tuck them in, only to have 15 complaints delivered serially (it starts with a "I want water," I get water and return to be informed that it has to be in a sippy cup, so I put it in a sippy cup and return to be informed that it has to be a blue sippy cup. I continue this process until I pass out, blow up, or give up) 7:30 I should probably get changed. Guess I'll coordinate with a close associate about evening plans.
Half the kids are down, so it's safe for me to look in all my hiding spots for food that might be edible. Help oldest with homework. Break up a fight. Finally stuff face with more than discarded baby food. 8:00 Change to pajamas, find a book, start reading.
Tell the older kids to finish their chores and start getting ready for bed; be ignored. Turn the TV on to see if there is a show available that you might enjoy, and you find one--briefly ignoring the PG-13/TV-LV rating on it and attempt to turn it on. 8:30 What a great book!
Woah, yeah, didn't want my kids seeing that. Hopefully they didn't. Aw crap, they've been behind me the entire time glued to this show and they noticed that I'm eating some regular food and that they finally have my attention so they start demanding food identical to mine. I provide, then help them brush their teeth and send them up to bed. 9:00 What time is it? Who cares, it's just getting interesting.
I'm pretty sure I heard a loud thud from the kid's room. I go to investigate. They've been throwing toys off the bed and have woken up the baby. Help the baby calm down and fall asleep again, scold children, go brush teeth after locking the door behind me. I haven't showered in two days, so I best attempt that. Well, wife is in the shower and has already ignored advances for the past few days. Guess I start getting my stuff together for work tomorrow. 9:30 9:30? I got time.
Work bag packed, check schedule for tomorrow. Check facebook for a few minutes before you hear the voice of your oldest say, "who's that?" Ask them why they aren't in bed, to be informed that another diaper needs changing. Try to get the kids settled after the most recent diaper change. 10:00 Hmm, video games? Don't mind if I do!
Lay down. My mind is racing too fast to go to sleep. Quell anxieties about being a good parent for a moment and attempt to organize thoughts. Hear a knock on the door, one of the kids has wet the bed. Get up, help wife change the sheets, lay back down and repeat. 10:30 Yes, new high score!
Slam pillow over head defiantly when the baby starts to scream. Briefly reflect on how much your life sucked before you were married and had kids and smile a bit before telling your wife you love her. She smiles, and gets up to take care of the baby. 11:00 Maybe I should think about going to bed. . .Ooow, facebook!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Lost My Marbles (follow up)

So, the marble program is now well established in our household, and we have found it to be a very useful, low-maintenance tool for improving the quality of life in our home.  It takes us about 3 minutes per day to keep it up to date and running, and it has had a drastic impact on our home.

Here's how.

First, the marble system fundamentally boils down to a physical reward for doing something that mom and dad like.  Rewarding kids is important, and they need a wide variety of positive reinforcements for good behaviors to turn into habits, which build into enjoyable personalities, and the marble system is meant to be used as an add-on to praise, treats, affection, quality time, and entertainment as rewards.

My kids have now learned that marbles are valuable.  They owe me 14 marbles per week for their room and board, which has helped them learn to take initiative (particularly on the weekends before rent falls due).  V grows much more helpful on the weekends just before Rent is due, whereas N gets more conservative with her spending habits.  Y, the 2 year old, has just learned that she gets more freedom and goodies when she does what she's told, and I think she understands that marbles translates to good things happening for her.  Each trip to the store becomes a thrill to the kids, because they're looking to spend their marbles on toys, or candy.  The best part about the marble system is that mom and dad have no say in how they chose to spend their marbles, or when they can play with the toys that they bought.

Ownership seems to be a lot more important to kids than I thought.  I'm not talking about gifts and birthday toys, though those are important.  I'm talking about the process of working, saving, and earning something.  It's theirs, and no one can take it from them.  Having those havens of ownership has cut down on fighting significantly.

N has things that are specifically hers, and if Y or V ask to use them, we say, "talk to N."  Giving kids this dominion has become a tool to actually teach sharing, because Dani and I will never infringe on our kids genuine property rights for the items that they earned.

If you'd like to try the marble system in your own home, here's how we got it started.

Create a chart of things that improve the quality of life in your home, and things that kids do that decrease the quality of life in your home.  Some examples:

Good Stuff Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Showing kindness without being asked
Helping with the dishes
Living room cleaned before bedtime
Getting dressed (morning)
Getting Breakfast On Your Own
Brushing teeth

Costs Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Hour of TV
1 Hour of Computer Games
Making Mom or Dad Ask More Than Once
Not taking care of yourself

This is a baseline for our "marble" chart.  Dani put pictures by each task to remind the kids what each one was, and laminated it.  We use a dry-erase marker to keep track of what they've done during the week, and then jars that contain their running totals.  Usually, we try to give them the marble right when they finish doing something good, but N and V really like the accounting part of it, so we keep track of their money with both their running-total marble jar, and their tally points on the chore board.

Friday, June 6, 2014


I've been the sole provider for our family since we were married.  I've worked very hard so Dani could be a stay-at-home mom.  That's what we discussed when we were engaged and that's what we wanted.  It was mostly because we wanted to champion traditional family values and show, through the way we lived, the benefit of following them.

That was about 8 years ago.

Now I've been working a day job for the better part of a decade.  If social pressures and dogma get their way, then I'm almost done with decade 1 with 3 or 4 more to go.  When it's all over, I get to spends the last few years of my life traveling, serving missions, playing with grandkids, and so forth.

I do believe that we all have to work to be happy and successful in life. But, when it comes to the conventional wisdom of how we need to go about work, I don't buy it.

I don't buy that just having mom accessible to the kids is what's best for them.  Why have we designed our entire society around taking fathers out of the home?

What is wrong with designing a social structure where kids, who are old enough, study and learn right next to dad each day as dad works to provide?  Can't I both provide for my kids' present needs and teach them to provide for their own in doing so?

I realize that doing this would sort-of predetermine what kind of jobs my kids would be good at, and becomes the foundation of a class-based society, but I'm just conceptually sick of this idea that a father is an appendage to their kid's development.  I want more than that, and I just don't know how to fill that role.

For the time being, I'm just content to be my kids' tutor for their school work.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fitness After 4 Kids

One goal I tried to keep between pregnancies was to get back to pre-baby size and weight.

That didn't happen after my 3rd. I was actually on a diet plan when I then fell ill with an awful stomach bug that went around causing me to not be on plan but on an I.V. drip at the hospital. I then found out less then a week later I was pregnant. Stop the diet and prepare for baby.

Pregnancy 4 was the one where I gained the most and because I didn't loose all the weight from baby #3 I weighted the most I had ever weight in my entire life.


How to fight it? I started working out. I found that it helped with the depression, gave me a little "me" time and helped me be happy because I was working on getting to my goal of pre-baby #3.

Now of course it hasn't come off nearly as fast as I have wanted it to and I still can't fit into my jeans with out a comical dance that includes a lot of jumping, sucking it in and strained finger tips as I try to button up my jeans. Oh, I've gotten them buttoned but the over hang muffin top is enough to make me cry.

Keep going I'm doing great.

But exercise is not enough. My major obstacle is eating. I'll eat if I'm bored, stressed, depressed, mad, or just out of plan habit. Does that taste good? Yes? We'll then don't mind if I help myself to more then my stomach can handle.

So I'm working on that.

I talked to my doctor and he told me things like this take time. I have to develop the habits and just because it doesn't come off now doesn't mean it wont when conditions are better.

"What other conditions?" I asked him.

Turns out, sleep. Yeah a 3-month-old who was waking me up 4 times a night and the occasional random scream from the 2 year-old who can't find her sippy was wearing me thin emotionally, but did nothing for my waist-line. Thus creating a very tired mommy.  The doc said that getting enough sleep, and keeping your stress levels manageable play a big role in weight loss and fitness.  Yeah, add the juggeling act of 4 kids and my stress levels were up too.

It's not all neat and orderly how I would like. I don't get to the gym the same time every day and get 2 hours to myself. My 8 hours of sleep are still out of reach (we're working on that) but I'M DOING WHAT I CAN.

And that is what counts.

Oh I still beat myself up and slip and then beat myself up some more. But everything takes time and work and I have a great hubby who is helping me along, because it's something I want. He likes how I look. I just want what I had before and I know it is possible. So here I go.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pavlov's Children (follow-up)

Well, it didn't go exactly as planned--but few things do when it comes to parenting.

Y and I spent a lot of time figuring things out, and here's what I learned:  kids can't process emotions the same way adults do.  When I'm angry, she doesn't pick up on those queues unless I deliberately exaggerate them.  I remember readings some studies showing that teenager's minds didn't process emotions shown on people's faces in the same way adults did.  It stands to reason that toddler's process emotions in a different way too.

This training helped her learn four audio queues.  Y now recognizes my approval, regular communication, agitated, and angry vocal inflections. Before this week and this time training, she really didn't respond to me at all.  She is responding very well to those now.  The treats and negative reinforcement were hardly needed at all, and the entire process took about 3 sessions ranging from 5 minutes to 2 hours.

Since Y went through the training, she has started cleaning up when asked and doing what she is told by the time I reach my agitated inflection.   I call that a miracle.  Before, she was very disruptive when it came time to cleanup--running around, dumping the toys, and so forth.  Now she is looking for ways to help and no longer trying to make things hard for her older sisters.

I'm looking forward to rewarding Y for the next few room cleanings. I also think Y and I will start getting along much better.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Sorry, no post today--ran short on our buffer, and we couldn't find any time to write in this past week.