Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My 5yo Came Up With The Best Present Idea!!

   Having kids is the worst because you have to buy them a present that they can give to their mom. It's miserable. I don't want to spend $10 on Cara and then spend seven more dollars so that Wyatt can get her something. And sure, Wyatt has some money saved up in his College Jar (no seriously), but I didn't want to break into that unless it was an emergency and I was going to an arcade or something.

   Usually a clever parent whips up something lame like coupons for a backrub or a picture of happier times, but I just can't. Partly because Cara still hasn't cashed in coupons from her last Birthday/Anniversary/Mother's Day/Valentine's/promotion/new haircut/me trying to get out of the doghouse.

I can't imagine why Cara hasn't cashed these in yet. Wyatt and I actually made these in his Sunday School class on Mother's Day, so it was a total lifesaver. My gift idea of "go ahead and take a nap" probably would've fallen flat. It's worth noting that we were supposed to make three coupons, so I had to make a third thing that looked like a coupon.
It's also worth noting that she asked one of our neighbors for a backrub, coupon in hand, and they promptly moved away. Poor kid was super traumatized.

   Well, Wyatt comes along and just crushes the whole "thoughtful and cheap" gift thing. I can't believe I didn't think of it myself: He put a bunch of Legos in a box, and drew a picture of the thing he wanted me to build. He made up a Lego set for me. It's brilliant. (And free!)

A folded "book" of directions, a box full of pieces, and a mostly-eaten bowl of cereal. Great stuff.

   I was so pumped about this. He usually builds his Lego sets with his uncle Garrett, because it's the only thing that Garrett could possibly do with him without scaring him to death, so I was glad to have a chance to build with him. I also wanted to see what he had in store for me.

A close-up of the instructions. Take a moment to see if you can guess what he has in mind.

   Well, shoot. I think we can all agree that this is disappointing. No color. No depth. Terribly poor drawings. I don't think he is even able to shade. Ugh, I don't know what Cara does all day. Besides work, I mean.

   Here's what I could see: a house with some plants (easy). A person who has no arms (done). A couple flowers and/or rocks (sure). An arch? or.. a snake? Maybe that's a rainbow, he's been into rainbows lately? I think it's a snake eating a person. Is that how the person lost limbs? Is that supposed to be Cara? Probably not (too skinny), but I am starting to feel like this is a cry for help. And probably food. I'm not convinced she feeds him.

   What's that big tower thing? It looks like a fence that was drawn by someone with no capacity for perspective.

   When Wyatt explained it all to me, he showed it was a house with grass, a skyscraper and a person. The big snake was actually a wave ("We don't have to build that," he assured me), and the sun ("Don't have to build that either."). 

   I was in store for even more disappointment, sadly. He hadn't even built it in advance! There was absolutely no testing or quality control! It's like he's four years old, instead of five! We didn't have enough pieces, couldn't set up a functioning roof, had absolutely no yellow bricks to build the sun, and most of the pieces he had already deigned for grass. Brutal. He will never be a Lego engineer, that's clear, so I think I still need to carry that torch for the family.

   Still, this is totally a gift I am giving him every year for the rest of forever. It's simply another example of how much fun, and how surprising, seeing someone grow up before your eyes can be. Lately, it seems like Wyatt does this every other day. Just today he set up a bunch of plastic cups, and put toys under some of them, so we could have a shooting gallery with our nerf guns. It's great stuff. I think today he asked me to play with him eight different times (doing eight different things), and I only said "no" to six of them.

My mood: disappointed and proud. I know, it's confusing.
Wyatt's mood: excited about his Christmas presents
Lincoln's mood: not excited about pooping
Cara's mood: bed rest ("Doctor's orders," she claims).
Listening to: Justin Timberlake.

Monday, December 19, 2016


   Y'all might find this hard to believe, but I've not won a lot of awards. Sure, I've won a Bloggy, which is a made-up-award for the world's best blog about Wyatts, but that barely counts. And every once in a while Wyatt calls me "a pretty good gad," which... I just wish he'd never met Aaron's dad. It's been a rough life.

The dad in this photo, whomever that hero may be, clearly deserves some recognition and/or money. I promise I'll use the money to buy Lincoln a jacket that fits.
   Actually, I did win my high school's chess tournament when I was a sophomore. There was no trophy, but my dad found a big trophy and printed up a sticker that read "Grant Gilchrist Sheldon High School Chess Champion" and placed it over the plaque that was already on the trophy. This is a true story. That thing was enormous. I then realized that trophy forging was a thing, and went to thrift stores and bought trophies to put up on my shelves all the time. People would come over for the first time, and most could tell immediately that I wasn't trophy-winning material and ask where I bought them, but every once in a while a poor sucker would get really impressed and say "Wow! I had no idea you were so good at bowling, karate, archery, and ... ballet?!" I would then piroutte.

   Wyatt? He had to wait five years to win something.

I didn't get the other girl's mom's permission to use her photo, so I did some fancy photoshopping. Can you see where? Only 16% of people can. (Genius Level). However, It turns out this picture of Shirley Temple isn't that far off from how cute that girl in the red actually is.

   At Wyatt's school, where he is in Pre-K, which apparently is a thing, he won an award for showing respect, or being nice, or eating vegetables or something like that. I'm not really sure, seeing as how I wasn't given the award I wasn't really paying attention. Actually it kind of looks like he wasn't paying attention either. And... is that just a blank piece of paper?

  The best thing about this, however, is that IT TOTALLY VALIDATES MY PARENTING!! Do you understand?! I can chat with other parents, pull up this picture on my phone, and say "I don't know what character awards your kids have won, but as the father to a publicly-acknowledged respectful son, I can assure you that Jason should not still be breastfeeding. ... So you can go ahead and stop that now."

   There are so many things to worry about when raising a child. When to give formula. Whether or not they should sleep on their stomachs. Or in your room. Or in the carseat. Or at all. Deciding if they should have sugar or gluten or crayons. Can they have plastic toys? Should they be spanked? Can they watch TV? I could go on.

   Here's the point: I NAILED all of those decisions. Got every one right. We know this because my son just won an award for having the best teeth I think in his class of 18 kids or something like that. Boom. I am writing a book on parenting and you can buy it for $83, because your kids are worth it.

Chapters include:
How Much Ignoring Is Too Much Ignoring? (Impossible)
When Is It Appropriate For Me To Judge Other Parents? (After you've won an award).
Is There Such Thing As Too Much Screen Time? (Kids: yes. Parents: no.)
What Sort Of Crafts Should I Have My Kids Do? (Cleaning, cooking, silence.)
How Do You Do It? (Natural talent, you don't have a chance)
and "Where Can I Find the Last Missile Canister in Super Metroid? (no idea after 15 years)

The book will go on sale after I've received enough orders to justify publication, so you can go ahead and send me that $83 now.

My mood: proud and about to be rich
Wyatt's mood: honestly, kind of confused by the whole thing. His grandpa called him to congratulate him and Wyatt had no idea what he was talking about. He did know about Spider-Man and wanted to talk about that.
Link's mood: jealous. Not of Wyatt, but of Chris Pratt.
Cara's mood: feeling better after a long run of morning sickness but really who cares.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Big Brother Update!!

Announcing pregnancies is a young blogger's game, so let's ruin the secret right off the bat: Spoiler alert, we're having another one. Baby is due at the end of May and Cara's been real sick so far. Like, can't get off the couch, certainly can't make dinner, and probably can't clean a single thing or stop watching Netflix sick

We had planned to keep it from Wyatt for a while, but then we got bored and grabbed a camera. If you've been around the Wy Guy at all lately, you know how sweet and excitable he is, so this was a prime moment for us to get some precious, viral-ready video of him finding out he's going to have another baby to torment him.

Here goes:

Oh goodness. That's a top-five video for me at this point. No joke. (If you're curious, here are the other top 4, in no particular order.) Colin is one of the neighbor boys across the street, and any chance Wyatt gets to play with a neighbor boy causes him to abandon any activity that was currently taking place. I could be giving him candy wrapped in money and he'd run out to see Colin if given the chance.

We are looking forward to having what is most certainly a boy. We know it's a boy because there's no way it's not a boy, so there's no reason to ask us what we are having, it has to be a boy. Wyatt wants to name the baby "Jet," which was growing on me until I heard the full name: "Jet Rocket Flash." Now I'm convinced. (When asked what we should name a girl, he said "I don't know that's hard. Maybe... "Jet Girl"?")

Actually, there's a lot of pressure on naming your kid "Jet." If he doesn't have sweet black hair from the 50's, isn't super fast, or isn't generally cool, he can't pull it off and is essentially cursed with letting people down whenever they meet him for his whole life. Since this child will be my offspring, there's really no chance he will be cool or super fast, so we'll probably have to stick with Tham for a boy, Thara for a girl.

Once we finally got to hit Wy with the news, some great things happened. For example, he made it REALLY clear to us that he understands how a C-Section works.

Sheesh, that killed me. He was going to show me the scars that Cara has from her C-sections when he turned and showed me his belly. He's asked once or twice "When will they cut the baby out of mom?" and I think he has no idea what a natural birth is like. But then again, does anyone?

And if you were wondering, Link spent that whole video saying "Cheese" because there was a camera on. It's basically the only word he can say.

So, yeah, baby's coming. Things are pretty exciting around these parts. Wyatt's so excited that while I was skyping with a friend a few nights ago, he said "Hey Rj guess what! I got a yo-yo! And my mom's having A BABY!"

Hopefully Cara starts feeling better soon and then we can start eating meals again, because it's getting pretty hungry around here.

My mood: excited but hungry
Wy's mood: super excited, praying for the baby all the time
Link's mood: not wanting to talk
Cara's mood: unhappy
Listening to: Pearl Jam

Sunday, October 16, 2016


   You guys it's tough being such a perfect dad all the time. Here is Exhibit K:

   When Wyatt turned two, his papa and he and I were driving by a park and saw some kids playing soccer. He got really excited and wanted to go play. It was tough for me to convince him that soccer isn't actually fun, so instead his papa told him he can play soccer when he turned five. All of a sudden, I was held to a promise three years in the making.

Believe it or not, this was a tough defense to score against. #coaching

   You might think that a two-year-old would forget this over the course of three years, but it turns out Wyatt can remember pretty much anything. Roughly 10 months before his birthday he asked me to get him a Paw Patrol cake for his party. I told him I would, again thinking he'd forget. The day before his birthday he says "I am so excited for my Paw Patrol cake tomorrow! I said "Me too!!" as I dialed Dairy Queen, knowing they were closed. There was no Paw Patrol cake, but we did have pretty great Paw Patrol napkins!!

 ...   Where was I going with this? Oh, right, 5-year-old soccer. He'd always ask "How long until I'm five?" and I'd have to say "Never" and he'd laugh and sigh and say "Oh dad..." and it was all really quite precious. Well, I was precious. He was just kind of cute.

   When it came time to look at soccer signups, we realized something: We don't want to spend $80 to have our five-year-old kick a ball a few times with strangers at places we don't want to go. So for maybe the second time ever, Cara had a great idea: We will start our own soccer league.

   I know this sounds like the plot to a bad Disney movie, and that's probably because it is, but it worked out really well. Instead of paying $80 to watch five-year-olds not play soccer while standing on the sideline with strangers at a place we didn't want to go, we invited all of our friends with five-year-olds (sorry if you didn't make the "friend" cut) to come to a park by our house, at times that were convenient for us, and watch our kids play soccer for $0.

These were simpler, sunnier, warmer times.

   About once a week, give or take, a group of 5 or 6 families would get together and the kids would play soccer. The first week there were probably 8 families, but those numbers quickly dropped. I guess when you don't drop $80 on soccer, you feel less committed, I don't know. I was the coach, with help from some other parents, and it was great.

   Cara looked up some drills for us to give to the kids. One of the most important things they stress for this is age is to not have them practice using their head because it scares them. I, however, am not trying to raise (or field a team of) pansies, so the first practice was only headers. It went really quite poorly.

This was shortly after I told Wyatt "None of the other kids
can use their hands but you can because you are special."

This was honestly the most organized and behaved they were all season. Also, it's pretty great how hard I was working to coach while all the other parents hung out on the edge and talked about stuff. Probably about me, actually.

Seven kids!! This must have been one of our earlier practices. This was moments before I berated the girl in the pink for using her hands. "YOU'RE NOT WYATT YOU DON'T GET TO DO THAT YOU'RE NOT SPECIAL!!" I yelled at her without punctuation.

These were the siblings of the kids playing soccer. But really, everyone wanted to spend all their time at the playground instead of being forced to plank for two minutes at a time with me,

   We did drills of walking dogs, running around trees, slaloming between cones, kicking backwards, even kicking the balls really hard at one of the dads who deserved it. Everyone loved it. At the end of each practice we would have a scrimmage. This was by far their least favorite part. They would rather play "tunnel tag with soccer balls" or "sharks and minnows with soccer balls" or "go get water" or "lay on my back in the wet grass" then play an actual game. What's worse is since we always played ourselves, our record for the season was a miserable .500.

   Something really fun: Wyatt has been coming to Marist, where I coach ultimate, to help with practice a few days a week. He's been doing this for years, but all of a sudden he got real excited to start calling me "coach." He has a huge grin when he says it, and then always says "Because you coach your students and you coach me and also you are my gad." All very true statements, Wyatt.

   When the season was over we went to Papa's Pizza for a party. I am proud to say that at the Awards Ceremony I cleaned up by winning "Best Coach" and "Handsomest Dad," while Cara won "Least Present at Practice" and there were no other awards at all. I told the kids "None of you earned one, especially you Silas." Silas cried but he'll be better for it, eventually.

   Speaking of Papa's Pizza, I've realized that there is no amount of money I wouldn't pay to have bad pizza and kids far away, playing. I went in to the play room to grab Wyatt when the pizza came and basically wanted to tear my ears off, it was such mayhem. One of my students was working in the play room, wearing a referee's striped shirt. I asked her how she liked working there (she gives me a look of "oh it's not the best") and I finish with "because it sounds miserable." She nods and then goes to tell Johnny to stop eating the padding around the playpen.

   I think soccer was a great success. Looking back I wish we'd found a few more drills to do and kids to play, and I really wish I'd charged everyone like $30.

My mood: glad it's over
Wy's mood: sad it's over
Link's mood: unaware it's over
Cara's mood: didn't even know it had started
Listening to: Miley Cyrus

Saturday, October 15, 2016


   Lincoln really become a lot of fun over the summer. Talking to himself, laughing and playing, having lots of personality; he really started to grow up. But the main thing that has come out of this summer is his love of slides. The slide at the pool, at the park, in our living room, all of them.

   At the two pools we frequent - Camp Harlow and Amazon - he would go down the big slides for an hour straight. He got to the point his little legs couldn't get up the steps (each one is about 2/3rds the length of his leg), so he'd walk halfway up and need me to carry him the rest of the way, then giggle the whole way down. It was glorious.

   But the slide that was king of them all was the big long one at Camp Harlow. It's roughly 6 million feet high and 42 feet long and holy cow did he love it.

Aaaand this might be my favorite picture ever. Because I am so fond of that watch.
   Here it is in moving picture form. You'll notice at the end that he walks straight to the far complex to go down the big slide again. The whole loop takes him about two minutes.

   The first time he did this I was absolutely terrified. Remember, he's not even two years old. He sort of snuck away from me and I realized I had a better chance of catching him at the bottom than racing him to the top. The second time I was still a little nervous. Then it became the greatest thing in my life. There's probably some lesson in all of that, but I think it's "slides are really fun."

   One time towards the end of our slide marathon, Link got a little too excited. He started to lean forward to grab me pretty early, and fell forwards. He was about to take a big bite of hard round metal, but luckily some selfless hero was there to save the day. I quickly threw my hand in the way, figuring him biting me was better than him losing all of his teeth,. While this essentially worked, it basically turned in to me punching his face instead of his face punching the slide. He still got a fat lip and my hand was all cut up. I do not regret allowing him to go down a slide that was thirty four times his height.

   My sister and sister-in-law have been running a camp for kids whose parents are incarcerated. It's called Camp Agape. It's an overnighter that takes place at Camp Harlow, free for the children, and devoted to making them feel loved, encouraged, equipping them with supplies for the school year, and telling them about Jesus. It's a simply wonderful thing. My brother volunteers as a counselor, my wife volunteers in the kitchen, my parents probably do something too, and I hope to get some credit for being related to these wonderful people. While they are all working, I take my boys to camp so they can play.

   Also, things like this happen:

Wyatt learned this from watching mom. This is exactly how she kisses.

   So really, Camp Harlow is just like Pawnee.

   My summers growing up were lived out at Camp Harlow, which on summer weeks is a camp run by First Baptist Church in Eugene for K - 8, primarily. Counseling, swimming, playing, working. It was my second home. One of the saddest things for me about being a parent has been knowing that my kids won't have camp in the same way that I did. Where can I find a space that they can run, play, love, and care for, besides their own room? I still haven't answered that question (although Marist is kind of becoming that place lately), but I absolutely treasure the three days each year that my boys get to play at camp, while I get to remember it.

   So now camp is the place where I learned how to work, and where Lincoln learned how to slide, and Wyatt learns how to swim. Somehow those boys are able to walk around and everyone knows who they are. It's an extremely gratifying feeling to let them run and watch them grow up out there.

Here's to next summer, when they'll be bigger and doing different things and never 1 and 4 again.

My mood: melancholy
Link's mood: runny nose forever
Wyatt's mood: excited about Halloween
Cara's mood: tired of working
Listening to: Nothing. (That's not a band. At least I don't think it is. Is it? I don't know. Look it up. They're great.)

Monday, August 8, 2016


   Uncle Kirk hasn't gotten a lot of press around here. We've all been waiting for him to do something noteworthy. He hasn't yet, but I've at least found a way to connect him to my increasingly awesome life.

Kirk and Ashley, with my nephew Bruin. Kirk is sporting a fetching green Cowbucker, while Bruin shows solidarity with the camera.

   Kirk, you'll remember, got all of his groomsmen and none of his brothers-in-law some sweet longboards as gifts for his wedding. They were pretty impressive. We even have video of Wyatt trying one out, but here's a picture circa 2014 to melt your heart:

Kirk is in the background somewhere, about to get married or something.

   Well, last Christmas Kirk totally crushed his Wyatt present, making him THIS:

Kirk made the board, and gave him the helmet and pads for Christmas. It now tops the charts for "Best Gift Ever Given To Wyatt," which used to belong to Ashley. The order now goes like this: 1) Kirk (skateboard); 2) Ashley (book); 3) Cara (life).

   It's a stupidly cool gift. Kirk has always wanted to get Wyatt into Star Wars. Really, young kids everywhere. Really, anyone, everywhere. So he has some hyperspace action happening on the board around the name and this is basically the sweetest thing ever. (Kirk also loaned us the Star Wars DVD's, and sometimes Wyatt says "Dad I have an idea, let's watch STAR WARS THIS SUMMER." It's now August, we've watched some Star Wars, and it's still his plan for the summer.)

   Actually, it's so cool that Wyatt has no idea how cool it is. And the prospect of riding a skateboard is a bit daunting for him right now. I'm getting nervous that he's not going to learn to skate until he's too big for the board, and then we will have to place it on the wall above his bed and that's still pretty dang sweet. In the meantime, I might track down a longboard so he and I can skate together.

   So, if you are keeping track at home, Kirk has now made boards for his groomsmen and his nephew but none of his brothers-in-law. So I felt the need to take matters into my own hands. Quite literally. If Kirk wouldn't make me a board, I'd have to make me one myself, darn it. So this started:

The guy on your left is Josh. He built, or at least helped Kirk build, all of the boards that Kirk has claimed credit for over the years. I called him up and we started building a paddle board. Josh makes lots of boards as a hobby under the name Forgiven Boards, and I am sure that the little plug I just shot him will get him tons of business. He's currently building a surfboard for a dude in California that I plan to steal before he puts it in the mail.

This is about as much help as Wyatt ever was. In the above two pictures, we are gluing the side rails to the board after having cut and glued the ribs and spine to the bottom skin.
   Josh and I were floating the river one day. It was in June of 2015. He is always talking boards with people, and I tell him my wife would like me to make her a paddle board or else the love is gone forever. He was down.

   In August I called him and we got started. He was thinking it'd take a few months. In July I got on the water. (seriously). A few things happened that caused it to take so long: 1) I found blueprints for the largest paddle board ever. It actually needs to be registered as a boat in 7 different states. 2) We were only able to work about once a week, and each time we got to work we had to figure out where we left off, which wasted about 12 minutes per session. 3) Spring. Man, spring time was busy for us.

   Josh and I had a great time working together, and I learned a ton. When it was time to get the board wet, I was nervous and wanted to be careful and didn't want to it get damaged, so I knew just where I wanted the maiden voyage to take place:

Funny story: I still don't have a paddle for my stand up paddle board.
   Here are some cool pictures of the final product:

What's crazy is how tall the board is, knowing that I AM SEVEN FEET TALL.

Which... I guess... makes Wyatt a 5 FOOT TALL 4 YEAR OLD.


Cara spent a lot of time upset with me for making a sit-down paddle board. She's the best.
   The board is lots of fun to play on, and moves and floats wonderfully. If you are wondering how to make a paddle board, here are the steps:

1) Start sanding. Everything. Just, take my word for it and sand.
2) Go online and find a blueprint you want to follow. Print up the blueprint, buy the wood (cedar) and glues you'll need. Sand all of these things.
3) Have a friend who builds boards and has all the tools. Go to his house a lot and do what he tells you to.
4) Wear ear protection.
5) Sand the board. Several times. You've not yet sanded enough. Sand it more. If you feel like you are done sanding, this means you are halfway done with all of the sanding you'll have to do. The wood will feel so soft when you are done sanding that you want to make a pillow out of it.
6) Glue, stain, fiberglass, apply polymer finish, sand.
7) Realize that you still need to buy things like a fin, a paddle, a life jacket, groceries, and life insurance. Don't panic.
8) Be prepared to act like you built the thing, even though Josh did. Tell the right stories, discuss the tricks and things to be careful of, try to use technical terms that you don't really understand.
9) Pretend like that bug didn't fall onto the board while you were fiber-glassing, and that you can't always see it forever when on the board.

   Thus ends the tale of the paddle board. I am so relieved its over and have really enjoyed playing on it and making it. Wyatt loves to float with me, Cara will one day stand on it, I'm sure, and Lincoln doesn't know what's going on ever, so his opinion on the point is not very interesting. But most of all, thanks to Kirk for having a friend named Josh who was willing to put up with me for nearly a year long process. Way to go Kirk. And Josh. And Grant. Mostly Grant, probably.

My mood: proud and content
Wyatt's mood: wants to play Spider-Man tag
Link's mood: sick and fussy and teething and growing pains and ugh.
Cara's mood: working too hard.
Listening to: The Shins.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Fixer Upper Love!!

   I'm sure you remember that I've put my kids on a screenless summer. This was prompted when Wyatt walked up to me and said "Hey dad, did you know that Nationwide is on your side?" He then sang the jingle four times during breakfast. I don't let the kids watch or play anything on a screen, unless I am tired or annoyed with them or they ask me or Cara is home. She lets those kids watch screens all day, mostly so she can watch "Spy Brothers," which is what Wyatt calls "Psych."

   One of the things that Wyatt has picked up from Cara, apart from a general disdain for laundry, is a love of Chip and Joanna Gaines and their little show: Fixer Upper.

Link is preparing for our eventual trip to Texas, where we meet Chip and Joanna Gaines

   We went to bed one night, and Wyatt says "Hey gad. We should turn half of the garage into a library, and move some things to make more space in the halls." It was really great advice, actually. Cara and I could use more library space since we read so many books on our kindles (these don't count as screens), and the hall has been tougher to walk through ever since I put on weight. Wy is curious about every wall. "Is that a load bearing wall? We can just knock that out and create some great space and add some light in there," he says to any store worker he can find. He usually follows this by asking "Hey gad what's load bearing mean?"

   He wants to go and meet them ALL the TIME. He is always asking "Are we in tex-ess now?" He even wants to change his name to Wyatt ChipandJoannaGaines Conrad, which, yeah. I'm on it. He really wants to play with their kids, because he views their kids as potential friends. There's nothing he likes more than friends. Except for maybe Chip. Wyatt always says "Dad you're funny like Chip," which surprises me because I wouldn't think Wy would understand Chip's subtle, nuanced humor. He's so used to my jokes, which usually involve a finger being pulled.


   Here's the thing about Chipstopher Thomas Gaines, which is his full name I think: Dads identify with him. Us dads all see ourselves as funny, passably handsome, able to charm our wives with boyish antics, and from Waco, Texas (pronounced: Wacko. Most people get this wrong.) I personally identify more with Paul Rudd, however. Sometimes I watch that guy and think "That could've been me." Other times I watch him and think "You look just like that guy from Ant Man."

   It's sure cute the way Wyatt fixates on them. Everyone knows that people can't just become friends with TV stars. Even wanting to become friends and trying to make it happen is silly, because it just can't. It doesn't matter HOW perfectly your families would get along - which we totally would - it's just a silly dream that has way too many logistical hurdles to overcome. Like, where would we stay when we went out to visit our friends the Gaines's? Certainly not with them, because that would be weird OF THEM to have some internet strangers whose kid and also mom adore them stay at their house before they met (not weird of us), but I guess that wouldn't actually be a problem because my best friend from childhood just moved to Wacko while his little sister plays soccer at Baylor (Wow, that came together nicely)

This was taken shortly after we said "Hey Wyatt, pretend like you are saying hi to an acquaintance that you don't really like, but have to spend a lot of time with." We were surprised he knew what "acquaintance" meant.

   And, like, what would we do when we got together? At first it'd be awkward hanging out with famous people, but I'd reassure Joanna that most of my page views are from some bots that I set up and my daunting 80 hits per post isn't genuine, so I think she'd relax. (Could this really work?) Then I supposed I'd have to turn my charm up to 11, but it's been done before. Finally, Wyatt would pull some antics, like my personal favorite: He walks up to his baby brother who can't talk and asks him a question. Link responds with some sort of grunt. Wyatt gets in his face and says "Lincoln are you lying to me?!" It's gold. Jo will love it.

   And we wouldn't need to be on the show or anything, because who wants a handsome, funny sidekick mucking things up on a reality show, amirite? No, we'd probably just chat and laugh and enjoy each other's company while our kids play and Chip and I leg wrestle. Then when they come out to Oregon to visit us, we'd patiently tell Joanna "My sister is an interior designer who has done the same church 4 times so we don't need your accent wall even though that's a pretty good idea" while showing them the fireplace insert that we did or how handy my son was at the age of 15 months. J-Anne will love it. (This is perfect! I'll check the calendar).

Cara chalked the word "Love" herself. She did it on her birthday, what was a little uncomfortable for those of us that had to watch her work on it during the party.
   (Did you note how I added a drawer to the fireplace mantle? I call it an open-faced drawer, where I stack Wyatt's clothes on it as I am doing the laundry, and then don't actually take it to his room ever. It got to the point where I would be dressing Wyatt in his room, and we'd go out to the fireplace to find a shirt. You're welcome, Mrs. Gaines.)

   Ok, fine, Chip, you drive a hard bargain. We'll come deliver the one paper airplane my son had me make to your 9 kids or however many you have, so they can take turns flying it. We'll hang out and become best friends and you'll come to Eugene to watch Duck Football games with me. On TV, I mean, not at the stadium. That's not free. Actually, we'll probably on my iPad because we don't get cable (Which reminds me: Can you fill me in on what's happened lately on the show? Netflix doesn't go beyond season 2). Like, you can have the game on your iPad and I'll watch it on mine. The wives can go and do wifey things, but mine usually works Saturdays so I'll try to find an iPad for JoJo. Don't bring the kids because I seriously don't have enough iPads for everyone. Looking forward to our future friendship.

Wyatt's mood: excited to go to Texas and make friends, which I've promised him is bound to happen so don't let him down.
Link's mood: wants to get on the counter. Always. It's all he wants.
My mood: excited to make friends and possibly get discovered but it's not like that's my goal or anything
Cara's mood: avoiding laundry and trying to track down more iPads
Listening to: Green Day

Friday, June 24, 2016

Bike Riding!!

   Guys!! After no more than two hours of me officially being in summer, I accomplished one of my summer goals: Wyatt can ride a bike!!

   Since he's only 4-and-a-half I think this makes him the youngest person to ever ride a bicycle ever. And you'll never guess who had absolutely nothing to do with this great accomplishment: Cara.
And listen, I was going to break it down in all the boring details: The trials, tribulations, triumphs and tiaras, but instead let's hit the blueprint.

1) We got Wyatt a balance bike over a year ago. He spent about 4 days slowly walking with it between his legs, never once pushing or gliding. It was painful and hilarious.

2) I took him camping and made up a new game: See how far you can go without your feet touching the ground. Withing 20 minutes he was doing this:

(please forgive the poor video/picture quality lately, I'm having a lot of computer issues)

Just so you know, that was by far his worst run. Most of the time it was smooth, straight, non-nearly-disastrous sailing.

3)   I borrowed a bike-with-pedals from a friend last Sunday. On Monday, I took him outside and gave him the following instructions: Ride it like its your balance bike, but you can use the pedals if you want." I went inside to get the camera, came out, and he was doing this:

 It had seriously been like two minutes. I wish I could take credit for this, but it is really all due to that darned little balance bike he started on.

4)   A little later, we are working on tricks:

   Now, I know those aren't very impressive tricks, but sheesh they are sure adorable. Even today he tried to stand up on the pedals a little, which really just means he got his cute little rump half an inch off the seat.

   But really and truly, the best part about all of this is that on that first day he stopped mid-ride, ran up to give me a hug, and said "Thanks for teaching me how to ride a bike, gad! This is the best day ever!!"

   We've had a lot of fun biking places since then. He fell down once, scraping his knee a little. When we got home, Cara and I sat down to read/watch Netflix/ignore Lincoln, and Wyatt walked up and said "Um, excuse me, isn't everyone supposed to be taking care of me?" This is what Cara says every day, so, it's no shock where he got that from.

My mood: super proud and super pleased
Wy's mood: super proud and super pleased
Listening to: the menu music to the movie "Creed" over and over.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Screen Time!!

   Guys, you know how pretty much everyone recommends that kids have somewhere between 0 and 20 minutes of screen time per day? Well, I'm such a good dad that I've basically quintupled those numbers. That's right: 0 to 100 minutes of screen time per hour for my kids.

You'll have to forgive the upcoming blurriness. For some reason my iPad refuses to take good pictures anymore. But you get the idea.

   It's hard being so effective as a parent all the time. When compared to recommended daily values, I went ahead and triple the amounts of sugar, sodium, and chicken nuggets they consume. But what's most challenging is probably knowing what the boys should be watching during their unlimited, healthy screen time. Wyatt watched 42 episodes of Beyblade Let it Rip!! in what I think was four days, drastically increasing his knowledge of ripcords and tired anime tropes. (Theme song: "Beyblade beyblade let it rip! Beyblade beyblade let it rip! Beyblade beyblade let it rip!" Repeat x13). Lincoln has hacked  the password for my iPad and can now watch PBS kids, but I usually funnel his attention to Pokemon to make sure he's not falling behind other kids his age when it comes to catching them all.

   Cara and I work opposite schedules. I am usually at school from 7:30 - 3:30, and she's often at the Pharmacy from 3:00 - 9:00. This timing is a lifesaver for our marriage, because spending time with me is the worst, but has always made it hard for us to get our little ones on good sleep schedules. It's usually not until summer time, when I am off work, that I a) get the kids outside, running and playing, every day, and b) can be in sole control of naps and bedtimes. Right now, Link almost always takes a nap around 3:00 (transition time between parents), and thus is up until about 1:00am. How do I handle him being up so late? NETFLIX.

   AKA screen time.

   Now, don't think that screen time is ALL we do at the Gil residence. Here's proof that my children shouldn't be taken from me:

   That's right!! Rock climbing!! The volunteers were super impressed with how brave he was, climbing above his head, but even more so that he was easily willing to let go of the wall and hang down by the rope. He's only four! And I know some 30-year-old handsome blogging math teachers who would be afraid to do that.

   Also, here's proof that Luncoln once had this one time he wasn't watching something
Ok, yeah, I'm not actually sure what this proves. That... than Link can grade tests? Or eat pen caps. Either way, those things are definitely on the list of "Not Screen Time" and therefore count as evidence towards my good parenting.

   In the glorious summers, our screen time will plummet to nearly zero. So will Link's education. He won't learn anything about superheros or bad sitcoms or even trains that can talk. I think it's worth it. But for about three more weeks, we'll be awful parents (Cara's definitely the worst) and our kids will get their fill of television.

   Ahh, summer. It's like a dream that's realized every year. It's waiting like waiting on a prophecy while remembering that it already came to pass. Teachers sleep in, kids play outside, breezes blow through the house, books are read, video games are played, and hammocks are filled.

   I asked Cara what her goals were for this summer. It's usually things like "build a fire pit," "build a deck," "just build a planter box or something for crying out load," and other pipe dreams that are impossible. This time she said "I want Wyatt to learn to swim and learn to read. What are yours?"
   "I want him to learn to ride a bike, to throw and catch really well, and to add and subtract."
   This means we are either really great parents or super lame adults, I'm not sure. You'll note there were no Lincoln goals in there. Why? Because if he can just say "up" and go to bed before tomorrow, I think we're happy.

My mood: eyes hurt from screen time
Wy and Link's mood: eyes are ever-improving due to screen time
Cara's mood: sleepy
Listening to: Beyblade in my head incessantly.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Play Date!!

This sums up my two special children quite nicely. Link falls asleep while eating, Wy doesn't want to start eating in the morning.

   A friend recently wanted to borrow my truck. This is a common occurrence, actually. The fact that he didn't want to borrow me to help move things with said truck was a downright miracle. When he and his son came to grab the truck, I offered that his boy could stay and play with me. I mean, Wyatt. Play with Wyatt.

   Boom. Playdate.

   Playdates are the best because a) Wyatt doesn't want to spend any time with me when friends are here, but more importantly b) they let you compare how your kid is doing to someone else's kid.

   I can say with ample evidence and a firm conviction that my kid is way more special than his kid. In this case, let's call that other, non-special kid "Doug."

   Sure, Doug can ride a bike with pedals, but Wyatt can almost brush his own teeth.
   Sure, Doug can read, but Wyatt can play Angry Birds really decently.
   Fine, Doug has coping mechanisms to deal with things like losing a race or handling Wyatt's cheating when winning races, but Wyatt is able to break down into tears when he loses, so everyone acts like he won. This is a strategy that will never backfire.
   And I get it: Doug has better grammar. When I tell Wyatt to eat his dinner, he says "I'm are" instead of "I am," whereas Doug says "I think you meant 'I am,' " and it's like come on Doug you can't end a sentence with a preposition. Oh, what's that? I guess you're correct, Doug, "am" isn't a preposition. Nice work."
   See, here's the important thing: Doug is twenty-one days older than Wyatt. So, in three weeks, Wyatt will be just as good at all of the above things, no sweat. So enjoy that head start while it lasts, D, because Wy and I are coming for you.

   But Wyatt is way better at making up songs. Today, he sang "I'm - going to throw - to the moon - this car!" to the tune of "I want to tear my ears out," and all Doug could say was "What are you doing?" or "I don't think that's a real song."

   Still, it's lots of fun watching two four-year-olds try to make up rules to Candy Land, build a train track that is straight awful (I even told them this. I walked up and was like "This track is garbage, you two gotta figure this out." I think they respected me for my courage and honesty.), and maybe engage in what can only be described as a screaming contest.

This was a result of a game called "Hip Hip Hooray!!" where they would throw Candy Land cards in the air. I tried to get them to play a version where they throw weeds into a bucket, but they saw through it.  Doug said "I think you are just trying to get us to do yard work!" and Wyatt tried to pick his nose but kept missing.
Also, no, the shade on that light isn't dirty, clean your computer screen.
Also, yes, that does look sort of like a cool eclipse.

   It was also fun to observe how they handled independence. When Greg - shoot!! Doug!! - was dropped off, I told his dad my plan was to nap as much as possible, and the kids wouldn't be terribly supervised. I think he thought I was joking BUT I DON'T JOKE ABOUT NAPS. While I was in bed, I heard one of them say "Are we alone?" Doug said "My dad left. Is your dad here?" Wy said "I don't know, I think he left too." Then they just kept playing. An undisclosed-and-yet-totally-appropriate amount of time later I came out and they said "Oh we weren't alone!"

   "You never are. I always be with you." I said to Doug.

   So now we know that Lord of the Flies is bogus. Also, I think we now know that parenting isn't really necessary past the age of 3.
   Successful play date with minimal parenting. And the best part is now Doug's parents owe us a babysit, so our next weekend away is covered.

My mood: accomplished
Wy's mood:  Not sharing great
Link's mood: sick and sleepy
Cara's mood: at work
Listening to: Michael Jackson

Monday, February 22, 2016

Christian Music!! And Puffin Rock!!

   Change is coming to the Special Household. Lately, Wyatt will sing along with and repeat any song he hears, often as soon as he hears it. Sometimes he'll hear a line and immediately sing it himself.  Recently, while listening to some Classical Music of the Ke$ha Variety, Wy asked "Why does it say 'We're going to die young?'" His favorite is "X's and Yo-ho-ho's they want me!" at the top of his lungs:

   I've made the very hard choice to only listen to good music around him, by which I mean musicthatisusuallyreallybad: Christian radio. I think it's advertised as "Some of the same songs you sing in church, but performed by a guy you want to punch!" I've heard the song about Him being a Good Good Father (it's who He is) seven times in two days. It literally repeats every word and line 5 times (not literally).

   Is this a worthwhile sacrifice? Probably. Most of the "good" music on the radio is still surrounded by six hours of people making sounds like they are having sex, or is 15 years old anyways. For every one of Bieber's "Love Yourself" there are 4 other of Bieber's "Whatever else I sing." You might be thinking "Hey Grant, why don't you just play your own music." Great idea, you fantastic problem-solver you! But the CD-player in my car doesn't work, someone stole all my tapes, and my phone can only hold like 4 sound effects at this point.

Wy finally realized how to play so Link won't ruin everything. I dressed both boys all by myself!! Except Wyatt.  This picture is symbolic of Christian Music, I'm sure.

   This, of course, isn't the only thing I've given up since Wyatt has grown into the impressionable ages. When he was around two years old, his Sunday School teacher approached me and said "Wyatt's been acting rather aggressive and punching the air a lot." I said "Oh, just the air? So, like, not people?! DOESN'T SOUND LIKE A BIG DEAL." Then I said "Yeah, he's been watching me play a lot of a super-violent Batman game." I've not played the game (or games like it) since.

   Cara and I have given up good TV as well. It's become a whole lot of Pokemon over here. I came home one day and saw him watching one of the cartoons and I was terrified, for two reasons: 1) A Pokemon habit can become rather expensive over time. 2) THERE ARE LIKE 6 MILLION EPISODES OF THE SHOW. It was also rather depressing when Wyatt could encapsulate the whole dang show after two episodes: "Dad, Ash is a good guy, and he has pokemon! One of them is pikachu. Team Rocket is the bad guys, and they try to catch pikachu."

   Wait, still? They are still trying to catch pikachu? It's been like 18 years. Has the show just had Team Rocket trying to catch Ash's pikachu every episode? Why not catch any other pikachu?! There is literally an infinite supply in Veridian Forest. Can my 4-year old really grasp THE WHOLE SHOW after two episodes?

   So we agree that kids shows are the worst. Except for one... um... exception: PUFFIN. ROCK.

   Have you seen this show? It's on Netflix. Netflix gets parenting. They are the same people that put out a fake New Years Countdown so you could put your kids to bed at 6:45 instead of 12:05. Anyways, this is the intro to Puffin Rock, and also, you're welcome:

   It's just so calm and soothing. And pretty! I came home one day and Cara was staring at Puffin Rock, mesmerized on the couch. I think she'd been there for four hours. Wyatt was trying to cook dinner for me (and probably himself), realizing that he was in charge of his own survival at that point.

   The show itself is equally cute, calm, and pleasant. It's narrated by Chris O'Dowd, which, if you don't know who that is, stop what you are doing and go watch The IT Crowd right now. (well, don't stop what you're doing, because you are reading this blog. Instead, keep reading, and then share this with everyone on all your social medias. Then go watch The IT Crowd and also you're welcome.)

   Music. TV. Video Games. It's like all these things might actually just be bad if I can't consume them in front of my children. I might give them all up forever. I wonder what kind of things I could accomplish without these distractions. Really, I wonder if anything like these distractions is ever worthwhile. What is worthwhile? Probably reading my Bible and trying to help other people. Which sounds a lot like Christian radio. Hmm, this is rather annoying.

My mood: surprisingly contemplative about life changes
Wyatt's mood: ever-calmer as those puffins play tag. (Kidding. Wyatt's mood is DAD! LOOK! PIKCAHU!)
Link's mood: he keeps falling and hitting his head
Cara's mood: She acts like she keeps falling and hitting her head
Listening to: Puffin Rock

Monday, January 18, 2016

Lots of Talking!!

   I don't know who had the bright idea of teaching Wyatt to talk. It's all he ever does now. It's incessant. Which is the opposite of cessant. I wish it was cessant. He will talk and talk and go on and on and it's like the stuff he's saying has no point and I have no idea where he gets it from.

   He has a wonderfully active imagination. He tells story after story about his snow house, which has all the things we don't have at home. "Dad do we have cereal with eyes?" (This is what he calls Cinnamon Toast Crunch.) "No, Wyatt I ate it all in a day." "Oh, well at my Snow House there's cereal with eyes." And 10 bathrooms. And a snow car. And a snow bike. It's like this all day.

Here's Wyatt regaling a crowd of high school girls with his stories of how he can stand on one foot. If only I'd known how well this worked when I was in high school. I figured it out much too late. When I tried this move in college, no ladies were impressed. They were looking for handstanders at that point, methinks.

   What's worse is the attention he demands. If I don't respond to every single prompt, it gets repeated. I know this is parenting 101, I even wrote about this coming day a couple summers ago, but it's SO BAD. What's worse is when Wy repeats what he says for my own benefit, because once wasn't enough. Just yesterday, we had this conversation:

In an annoying, giggly voice: "Hey dad! You're a snowman!"

In an irritated, yet firm, soothing, manly voice: "Oh, wow."

In an informative, excited voice: "Hey dad! I said "Hey dad, you're a snowman!""

"Oh, wow."

   I get in the habit of saying "yes" or "uh huh" or "oh, wow" to anything coming out of his direction, a hundred and twelve times per day (I counted once). Today, I think I agreed that "If a lightsaber hits your head then your head explodes," for example.

   Sometimes I say "Wyatt, it's time to be quiet. You're being too noisy." I might've yelled this whilest exasperated. He got real quiet and sad and said this: "I'm sorry dad. ... I'll be quiet. ... ... ... ... Sometimes I talk too much. I'm sorry. ... ... ... [awkward laugh] ... it's just that I like to talk. ... At my snow house I talk all the time. Sometimes I'll tell stories to my snow brother!" He went on from there. I bought myself about 9 seconds of silence and 30 years of guilt. He's so gosh darned sweet!

   The other day, Cara and I said "Wyatt go away. You're being too loud. Go somewhere else." (#dadoftheweek). This happened:

Wyatt went to the far wall and put his back against it. He then looked at us. And started blissfully talking to us. Also, wow, I can't believe how clean the house looks. Don't look too closely at that kitchen.

   Seriously, who decided to teach this kid words?!

   On a different note: When will Lincoln start talking!? I can't wait!! He does the cutest job of trying to mimic me sometimes. Watch me making his favorite sound, then him trying to make it:

   I love it when he laughs, and when he tries to make the sounds himself. I also like that Wyatt is in the background talking at times, with no one responding to him.

My mood: needing some quiet time
Wyatt's mood: wanting to go to the snow house
Link's mood: wanting to play with the fireplace
Cara's mood: wanting to make me some dinner
Listening to: Jet