Tag Archives: rules

Back To School

17 Aug

While putting in 10-14 hour days at the office isn’t my definition of a “fun time,” I do appreciate the fact that it is a change of scenery that affords me perspective on family, parenthood, and my children (2 and 4) I might not get if I were home all day with the boys.  My wife Kate, however, spent the summer home with them…and we agree they are gremlins.  Adorable, sweet, loving, terrifying gremlins.  They have grown up so much and are sooooo sweet!  But don’t turn your back on them…they’ll eat you alive and they always travel as a pair.  I’m not sure if we fed them after midnight, maybe they were exposed to bright lights, and we definitely got them wet since we spent the summer at the pool…but whatever mogwai was left in them has turned to full-on terrifying gremlin as they decimate the small town of Kingston Falls that is Kate’s and my sanity.

We have looked forward to today for a while, Kate more than me.  Today is the first day of school!  For both the boys and Kate.  Everyone is out of the house!!!  We took those gremlins to get haircuts yesterday, bought them school supplies, drenched them in soap, polished them up and…tada!  Cute little boys again!  So please, help me congratulate my wife Kate…she survived the summer and didn’t go crazy despite the constant barrage of…

“Ma! Mama! Ma! Mama! Maaaaaa! Mamaaaaa! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Maaaaaaaaa…!”


“Watch me!”


School’s back bitches…and I know one Mama who’s stoked to be back at the head of a college classroom.


Dodge & Max heading to their first day of school, Fall 2015

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The Adult Word Game

18 Feb

266754_10150360126988835_2560311_oAs my youngest son Dodge gets ready to turn 1-year old, I am amazed at all the words he is learning.  He’s got the basics like, “Dada, Mama, hi, bye-bye, uh-oh…” and such.  Last night I taught him to clink glasses and say “Cheers!”  He’s working on “brother” but much to big-brother Max’s disappointment…Dodge finds the cat way more interesting.  So what is the “Adult Word Game?”  Its simple.  My wife Kate and I are very active in our community and therefore are privileged to get to attend a plethora of parties, functions, and events.  In these events we have grown up conversations about things like the state of the local economy, last year’s drought and how it will affect the cost of meat, current art shows, and how to make donations to our non-profit.  These functions often have an open bar (or cash bar) which to me is the green light for adult fun.  We spend all day saying things like, “Hitting is no-no which is why we are having a timeout. Do you need to go poo-poo or pee-pee on the potty?”  When you speak like this all day it is hard to transition into sentences like, “The city of Wichita is economically expanding outwards and needs to reach its boundaries, thus drawing businesses back to the central business district to create a thriving epicenter for the population.”  You say a sentence like that and the next thing out of your mouth is, “Now if you’ll excuse me…I have a few bottle of Dada-juice (beer) and need to go pee-pee.”  Not cool.  The “Adult Word Game” helps you bridge the gap.

Prior to going out, as Kate and I stumble over plastic toys and put on the ole fancy clothes, we pick a word to be the word of the night.  The word has to be obscure…obscure enough that it wouldn’t come up in regular conversation but not so obscure that it comes across as offensive or weird.  Bets can be placed on how often you think you can say it but to win:  You have to say it the most throughout the night.  Here are the rules:

  1. The word has to be used in proper context
  2. All tenses of the word are allowed (i.e. past, present, future, plural, etc.)
  3. The opponent must be present when the word is said for the word to count
  4. The word must be said to a stranger in conversation with eye contact
  5. If you can get the stranger to repeat the word without asking it is double points
  6. Using a word as a non sequitur is not allowed and results in a loss of point
  7. Whoever has the most points when you get in the car wins

Its a simple game but wildly entertaining.  It gets really fun if you include another couple so there are 4 players.  Now, instead of wondering how the sitter is doing or why your kid pee’d on the ottoman…you’re trying to figure out how to work “imprecation” into a sentence.  FYI, “imprecation” is when you insult someone by calling upon a higher power to curse someone.

Meow Game

Meow Game

This is not the “meow” game from the movie Super Troopers…which is amazing and should be used as less formal gatherings.  This is something you play in a more upscale setting.  Often the winning number is 2 because how do you work “megalomania” into a conversation with the Governor of Kansas?  (Some of you got that joke)  Then there are nights where a word thought to be embarrassingly impossible becomes legendary.  For us it was The Night of a Dozen Chortles.  I was on fire!  I got “chortle” into a conversation twice, caught myself “chortling,” later commented how I had “chortled” earlier, and even got 2 repeats for a score of 8!  Kate worked in 3 fantastic ones as well throughout the night but the dagger was at the valet when he asked if we had a good time and I replied, “We chortled all night long.”  Boom!  Winner-Winner Chicken Dinner!

The McGurk Effect Video

The McGurk Effect Video

The next word was selected this morning and it will debut at a party/gathering still TBD (you can’t do it every time you go out).  The next one is “McGurk” as in the McGurk Effect.  It is a perceptual phenomenon that demonstrates an interaction between hearing and vision in speech perception.  In layman’s terms…remember in middle school when you’d mouth the words “Olive Juice” and it looked like you were saying “I love you?”  McGurk Effect.  Don’t go around whispering to everyone “I wanna vacuum.”  Not cool.  The McGurk Effect makes me laugh every time because of this video of a guy saying “ba-ba-ba” over and over and over again.  When he switches over to “fa-fa-fa” visually while we still hear “ba-ba-ba” our brains auto-correct due to the visual data and we actually hear “fa-fa-fa.”  My hope is to get lots of people at a fancy party saying “ba-ba-ba.”  Almost as fun as “McGurk.”

So remember meow, kids are the only ones who get to have fun!  Next time you are at a party with a bunch of megalomaniacs and you want a few chortles, try the “Adult Word Game” for fun…but don’t get caught, or strangers may start tossing imprecations your way!  Enjoy meow!

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Parenting Kids On Planes

9 Jan

1560714_10151936196293087_1958088754_nAfter 10 days of vacation in the Caribbean I had to laugh when Max (almost 3) was more excited about flying home because we got to go on two airplanes and see the astronaut in the Atlanta airport (its in the TGI Fridays in the E Terminal).  That’s kids.  Like my 10-month-old Dodge, playing with the wrapping paper more than toys on Christmas morning.  Max was excited to take his toy airplanes on an actual airplane while endless beaches, turquoise waters, and tropical drinks disappeared behind us in the jet-wash.  There’s an old saying we use in the film industry, “Hurry up and wait.”  That’s flying with kids.  Hurrying to catch a cab and get to the airport so we can wait in the check-in line.  Hurrying through security with milk bottles being scanned and kids running so we can wait by the gate.  Hurrying to get on the plane to get our bags situated so we can wait for everyone else to get on.  Hurry up and wait.  Kids are not good at hurrying (or waiting).  I was, as always, pleasantly surprised with my kids who behaved very well under the circumstances on this trip.

20131227_143946On the first flight we saw the harsh contrast of different parenting styles when we sat in front of a family about a year older than us with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old.  Max is almost 3 and is very easy to fly with.  We take him out to dinner, to public functions, and have taught him how to behave in public with the understanding that he’s still a little kid and it could all go out the window with a little sugar or exhaustion.  Controlled chaos.  I remember him being 2 and it was more difficult…but even then, so long as you told him exactly what was going to happen (good and bad) he was great.  No bribes, no tricks, no overly high expectations…just the truth of what is going to happen and preparedness for the reactions to it.  I have 3 rules for Max when we fly:

  1. You have to stay in your chair with your seat belt on
  2. Remember to use your “inside voice”
  3. Do not touch or kick the chair in front of you

122-59205-airlineannoyance-1387409882That’s it.  3 simple rules.  Everything else can be related back to these rules and a kid can remember these.  They are kids and therefore will violate them accidentally (sometimes intentionally) but it is a core to come back to for conversation.  The family behind us?  No rules.  Their 2-year-old shouted at the top of her lungs over and over and over and over again, “Dad! Dada! Dad! Daaaaaad!” while kicking Max’s chair for 2 1/2 hours straight.  Sometimes she would scream just to get his attention.  What did Dad do?  Read his book and ignored her.  Am I judging?  You bet.  First of all I have to applaud the dad for mastering the art of ignoring his kid’s annoying cries for attention because it was fingernails on a chalkboard bad.  However, just because he mastered the art of ignoring his shouting daughter doesn’t mean the rest of us have!  It was a constant barrage at 30,000 feet and Mom wasn’t any help either.  Finally they got involved and bribed her with a lollipop (rewarding bad behavior with sugar) and silenced her for about 5 minutes.  Now, here’s the kicker for me:  The parents never apologized for the screaming or kicking at any time during or after the flight.  I know more than anyone that kids will be kids, and airplanes suck for adults…they suck more for kids.  However, even when everyone knows kids will be kids you’re supposed say “sorry” so we can say, “It’s okay…kids will be kids.”  I was happy to get off that plane with lollipop-sucking, screaming, Honey Boo Boo and her indifferent parents.

20131228_110144Okay…so now you think I’m super judgy.  You’re right.  Stick with me though, there’s a silver lining.  If the kid had been a baby and screaming because her ears hurt it would be a different story.  We had that issue with Dodge a few months back if you remember.  This wasn’t a baby crying in pain.  This was a kid with fully formed sentences, understanding of the space around her, and a commanding use of the word, “Dad.”  The next flight was a very different story…we were the only ones with kids on a SUPER late flight full of adults thanks to major delays.  The first thing that happened was the gentleman in front of us asked how old Dodge was.  We told him he was 10 months and he told us he had a 7-month-old daughter and how they had flown together recently.  An average parent-to-parent conversation.  However, it set the tone that the gentleman in front of us was saying, “I understand how hard this is with a baby.”  It was a nod of understanding.  When Dodge cried before takeoff we apologized to a sympathetic audience who knew exactly what we were in for and then got pleasantly surprised when he stayed quiet for the flight and slept for most of it.  Max, as always, was just a flat-out rock star.  We talked at length before the flight, I told him how he needed to sleep on this plane because it was bedtime, he asked me questions, I replied, and eventually he was asleep in my lap as we soared through the night sky.  After we landed, the woman behind me on the plane leaned forward and said, “I just have to say, it was a delight watching you parent your children.”  If you have ever had someone say this to you as a parent…let me tell you right now…it is the ultimate compliment and the best feeling in the world.

Am I “The World’s Best Dad?”  Nope.  Don’t even own the coffee mug.  Am I a dad who values parenting?  Bingo.

20140107_111240There’s no instruction booklet, every kid is different, and it is 24/7.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done, the most rewarding, and has redefined how I think of myself as a person, an individual, a member of a family, and a member of the world.  Flight 1 is the story of what happens when parenting breaks down…albeit a 3 hour window into someone’s life.  Maybe it was a bad day?  Maybe Dad is deaf?  Who knows.  However, in that moment…it was unbelievably frustrating and I just wanted one of them to pull their faces out of their books and engage their child.  Annoying or not…the kid wants attention and you either have to give it to them or teach them to be self-sufficient through constructive and positive experience.  Instead?  Lollipop.  The second flight was the two greatest gifts there are on a plane.  A sleeping baby and the reward of a compliment.  Dodge slept because he was exhausted and Kate sacrificed her comfort for him to not create a sucky environment for everyone else on the plane.  Max slept because Kate and I have spent 3 years engaging him in conversation where we have learned who he is, what he likes, and how he learns from us.

More often than not, we as people find ourselves judging other people (as I have in this article).  I’m sure there are plenty of times other parents have seen me with Max when I’m frustrated and then said something snarky behind my back.  Its human nature…and I’m a hard-ass.  However, how often do we compliment people for things we like…right out in the open in the moment?  Aside from my New Year’s resolution of going out and being more active this year, I’m going to resolve to compliment people more often when I see things I like.  I’m good at compliments in the service industry but what about in life?  What about complimenting people for things they do when they are not looking for a compliment or tip?  Think about how nice it feels when someone gives you a compliment out of the blue.

I like the way you finish a story I write and tell your friends to subscribe.  😉  Happy New Year!

Max's "Dusty Crophopper" toy at 30,000 feet.

Max’s “Dusty Crophopper” toy at 30,000 feet.

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The Elf on the Shelf

6 Dec

santa-clausIts that time of year again and everyone is buzzing and asking what Max and Dodge want for Christmas.  Max (almost 3) just wants a silver bell from Santa while Dodge (9 months) would like his two front teeth…seriously…they’re about to push through and this kid is in pain.  I’m sure both wishes will come true if they are “good little boys.”  We’ve tried to be careful with the opposite of that phrase in our house because we don’t want Max to think he’s a “bad boy” if he breaks a rule or throws a tantrum.  He’s 2…he breaks rules all day and tantrums are inevitable, that’s what 2-year-old’s do.  Instead we’ve explained that he’s “a good boy who sometimes behaves badly.”  To help reinforce this idea comes the children’s book sweeping the nation since 2005, “The Elf on the Shelf.”

Elf-on-the-ShelfI became aware of the book a few years ago when my sister and nephew introduced it to me.  The story is about how Santa has elves to help him know who’s been bad or good and one of them has come to your house to watch over you during the days leading up to Christmas.  The elf sits on a shelf and monitors your behavior, you can tell your elf messages to relay to Santa, you can’t touch the elf or he could lose his magic, and Santa has made a rule that the elf cannot talk to you.  Its like the Gestapo of the North Pole but in a sweet way…if there is such a thing.  Anyhow, every night when the kids are asleep your elf flies back to Santa and tells him about your good/bad behavior, your Christmas wishes, and all the good deeds you did.  Then your elf flies back home and in the morning there is a flurry of kids trying to find the elf’s new location.  Its a fun little game.

Last night, Max and I read “The Elf on the Shelf” before bed.  My mother bought it for him and read it to him yesterday so Max was very excited to review how it all works again.  On the last page you fill in when you welcomed your elf into your household and what name you have given him.  I asked Max to dream about his elf and think of a name for him when he arrives.

This morning…our elf arrived and was sitting on the mantle!

Max's Elf ("Fred") on the Shelf. Day 1.

Max’s Elf (“Fred”) on the Shelf. Day 1.

Fred VanVleet

Fred VanVleet

Max was very excited and ran from the dining room table to show me the elf when I came downstairs for breakfast.  There he was…sitting on the mantle next to the snow globe with a mischievous smile.  “You can’t touch him Dada…he can’t talk!”  I agreed and we reviewed the book.  I asked him, “Max, have you thought of a name for your elf so we can welcome him into our family?”  Max shook his head in a thundering yes and replied without doubt, “Fred VanVleet.”  Fred VanVleet is the starting point guard for the Wichita State Shockers and Max’s favorite player…Max pretends to be him all the time while shooting baskets.  I agreed it was a great name and so we welcomed “Fred” the elf into our family and our home.

elf-on-shelf-630x630Today Fred is going to keep an eye on Max and see if he picks up his toys when he’s done playing with them, see if Max is gentle with Dodge, see if Max tells us when he has to go potty, and keep a look out for arguments like when Max doesn’t want to go to bed or yells at Mama.  Where will Fred be tomorrow?  Hard to say…he’s an elf!  There are many shelves, ledges, and perches to sit on and quietly observe.  Many people’s elves help with fun nighttime activities such as our friend Maggie’s elf:  They planted Tic Tac’s in a bowl of sugar and in the morning the elf had turned them into candy canes!  Some friends have changed the messaging of the elf to be more religious so it is less about good vs. bad and more about honoring your faith.  However you choose to do it, its a fun tradition for any household and the kids love searching for the elf.  Here are some fun things other people’s elves have done:

So from our family and “Fred (VanVleet) the elf,” Merry Christmas!

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Labor Has Begun

27 Feb

labor1pic_smallWhile Kate has been in “Early Labor” (or Latent Labor) for the past few weeks things have been ramping up as the days tick by.  This morning things went up a major notch and baby-watch 2013 has begun!  Tomorrow we are scheduled to induce so I can say with confidence that this baby is coming in the next day or so…the question is when?  Personally, I think that we’ll be checking in to the hospital tomorrow as planned but the needs for induction will be lessened by the natural things Kate’s body is already doing…I’m hopeful that “inducing” will simply be helping Kate’s body jump start and then do the rest on her own.  Who knows…we’ll see.  I feel really good about our support team, doula, and midwife.

Reminder: PLEASE DO NOT CALL/TEXT KATE right now offering support, asking her how she’s feeling, etc.  She knows she has your support and love and we all appreciate it.  Our support team is already in place and there is nothing we need right now, if we do we will contact you.  The best thing you can do to help us right now is give us some space and we’ll introduce you to the little guy as soon as he’s ready.  If you are wondering when is a good time to contact us, click HERE to read the rules we’ve laid out.

My posts will be short updates when appropriate for the next few days.  Thank you for your support.  See you on the other side.

©1993 Robert Mankoff & Conde Nast

©1993 Robert Mankoff & Conde Nast

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