Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The "No Fair" Family Trip - Part 4

So we spent the next 2 days either trapped in our hotel room or throwing rocks into Lake Michigan.  The view was beautiful but that lasted 10 minutes and we had 23 hours and 50 minutes to come up with something else for our kids to do.  Enter the Raven Hill Discovery Center.
I spoke with the concierge and she told me about this discovery center that the kids might enjoy.  There were inside and outside activities so it seemed promising.  I was thinking it would be like a COSI (Center of Science and Industry) we have in Columbus.  The only downside was that it was 45 minutes away.  But it was Friday and it was raining, so this would be our day trip and we could spend 4-5 hours there and get back to the hotel in time for bed time.  Well we made the trip out into the Boonies.  I am talking way out there into the fertile plains and backwoods of Michigan.  We began to see signs for this place which is common for large places of interest, which was a good sign.  We are following the directions from the concierge and next thing I know, turn on to this dirt road.  This was when I became suspicious but still hopeful.  Well we start traveling on this dirt road and began passing a bunch of mobile homes with old cars and junk in their front yards, and then we approached an enormous 45 degree angle mud covered hill. 

(Yeah, we took pictures)
Well, luckily our minivan made it but I began to think this road is not heavily traveled on so how popular could this science center be?  We continue down the muddy road (because it was raining) and I almost missed the entrance because it was literally a large warehouse building off the road.  We pulled in to the rock covered parking lot and Lindsey says to me, "I am not paying $8 per person to go in there."  And we didn't but there was a road to go further into the property which we took to check out the rest of this "discovery center." 

To the right of the parking lot was a weird assortment of what looked like various doll houses or model train scenery with no toy train in sight but an uncompleted brick walkway where you could supposedly "discover" creepy dwarf houses and barns.

The next "exhibit" was a pile of bricks which was probably the "hands-on" interactive part of the center where kids could feel like a real mason and learn how to build brick walls. 

Further into the property was a large building called "The Print Shop" your one stop shop for wedding invitations and death notices.  It was closed but there was a sign stating you could show yourself around or contact a staff member for a guided tour...of that building.

Next to the Print Shop was the one room school house where you could ring the school bell or pump the non-connected water pump on the side of the deck, another 2 interactive activities for the kids.  My favorite was the sign on the door.

So pretty much, you are at risk for wasp/bee attacks no matter where you are at the Raven Hill Discovery Center.  Next to the wasp nest/school house was an open field that contained their space exhibit.

It was a shed painted over with a space mural most likely by a 10 year old.  And if you can't see from the picture, on the rocket is an eye-balled, hand printed "NASA."  But my favorite part of the place was across the street from "The Print Shop."  It was a walkway surrounded by a large display of various skulls.  Prehistoric man, animals, bigfoot, la chupacabre, etc.  It was a creepy walk down skull memory lane.

The tag line for the Raven Hill Discovery Center was "where science, history, and art come together."  But it seemed more like Uncle Jo Bob in the sticks had a hundred bucks and a dream.  One day he turned to ol' Mildred and said, "I thinks I's gonna open up a discovery center.  I mean I gotta do something with my large collection of bricks, weird skulls and creepy doll houses.  And didn't your 10 year old niece just learn how to paint.  We'll have her paints us a space center.  She can put 'NASA' on the rocket to makes it official."

Needless to say, we high tailed it out of there and headed back to the hotel room.  So we spent 45 minutes there, 5 minutes "discovering" the place, and 45 minutes back wasting 70 miles of gas for nothing.  That was supposed to be our whole day there.  We arrived back to our tiny room with frustrated kids with pent up energy and aggression toward one another for being in the car for one and a half hours for nothing and now back to where we started with nothing to do.  We decided to take them swimming in the misty rain.  So Lindsey left to get our swim stuff out of the car and stayed in the room breaking up fights and manning the complaint department.  I was so defeated.  The day didn't turn out, the hotel didn't turn out, the vacation was not turning out.  I was spending gobs of money on unappreciated and usually un-eaten kids meals at expensive restaurants and now we were going to a pool in the rain that would probably last 2 minutes before Drew gets out complaining about being cold and Zachary yelling about Drew complaining.  Lindsey walked in the room and saw the defeat in my face and at that exact moment, Nate ran up to me and punched me in the crotch.  And as I lay writhing on the floor in pain, I had an epiphany, "Metaphorically speaking, this day is like a punch in the crotch."

We ended up leaving a day early because we could not handle another day like today and ended up going to our friend's house in Toledo and spending the day and sleeping over there.  Our kids got to play with their friends, we got to talk and have adult conversation without any interruptions, and everyone had fun.  Except when I went out on the porch to check on Drew, at the same time I heard Lindsey scream behind me, I felt liquid running down my leg as I turn and see Nate standing in the doorway, half-naked, peeing on me.  Apparently he either no longer likes to uses toilets or he was giving me another good metaphor for this trip, "It was like getting peed on."

We returned home the next day and within an hour of arriving home, my wife and I were out the door on a date to spend some alone time together and be away from the kids.  Now that date was our official "vacation" - a time away without the kids. 

May all your trips become vacations,
The Joyful and Tired Dad

The "No Fair" Family Trip - Part 3

We traveled to Bay Harbor Michigan a short 20 minute drive from our non-air conditioned vacation sweat box/home.  We could not check in till later so we ate lunch at a terrible Mexican restaurant that served bad Mexican food.  To which my wife replied, "seriously, who messes up Mexican food?  its tortillas, cheese, meat and vegetables.  Its not that difficult."  I really believe that they used steak-ums instead of real steak in my fajita.  And we were luckily enough to find the only Mexican restaurant in the state of Michigan that could screw it up.  It was quite a treat.  After lunch we went to play Miniature Golf for the second time because we are a glutton for punishment.  You can never keep a real score when playing mini golf with children.  Because it turns into "who scored what?" versus having fun.  We learned this the hard way.  Zachary was doing well for the first 2 holes then Drew did better on hole 3.  Well, Zachary could not handle that and instead of trying harder, his strategy was to yell louder at Drew and blame him for things that Drew had no control over; like Zachary hitting his ball too hard or Zachary hitting his own ball into the water.  Yep, Drew's fault.  So then it turned into a competition about who would go first and second.  We then lost 2 balls into the woods and 1 potentially into the river but I literally jump in after it, soaking my shoe.  Because I knew, Zachary had to have the blue ball and no other ball could ever replace it.  Nate really got into mini golf too by starting his putt 1 foot away from each hole.  He was so into it he kept taking his ball on to the next hole bypassing and blocking the putts of the party ahead of us.  But in the end, everyone had fun, except me, my wife, the in-laws, and the 3 boys. 


We were then able to check into the Inn at Bay Harbor.  Well I unpacked our bags and looked forward to getting out of our single hotel room and into the beauty of Northern Michigan and start some good ol' family fun...  And it started raining.  And there was nothing to do for the kids. 
The beach turned out to be a rock beach instead of sand.   So we spent a lot of time throwing rocks into the water and trying to keep the kids from throwing themselves in too.  We attempted to take some beautiful family pictures, the kind you put on Christmas cards and convince your family and friends of the amazing family vacation you took by the look on all the happy faces and view in the background.  But this is what we got:

2 crying toddlers and 1 farting 7 year old.

Nate was poked in the right eye, Drew in the left eye, and Zachary blocked the eye poke by using binoculars.

I call this one, "Indigestion."

And of course, "the crotch grab."

We did the famous "O-H-I-O" picture with Nate dotting the 'i' which came out pretty well but check out the next one:

Zachary losing interest, Drew asking when we are going to eat next, and Nate whining because he skipped his nap and it was somehow my fault.

But of all our pictures, these were my favorite.  Can you guess why?

Stay tuned for the final part,
The Joyful and Tired Dad

Monday, July 30, 2012

The "No Fair" Family Trip - Part 2

So we had ended our first day of vacation like most days at home: fighting, yelling, refusing to sleep and way past a normal bedtime.  So the next day seemed promising.  And like everyday at home, they woke up early.  Who likes to sleep in on vacation?  Apparently not my kids.  But this was the only day of the week that we had great weather.  It had cooled down from the day before and I did not wake up in a pool of my own sweat.  It was actually a great day.  Highlights: Zachary and Drew went on a kayak ride with Pop Pop and Lindsey, Zachary and Drew caught their first fish ever, I got 2 hours away from the kids to ride on a jet ski by myself and only 10 fights between Z and D.  
The rest of the week till Thursday was filled with a lot of the same.  Mostly fishing on the dock that was walking distance from house.  Zachary in total caught 19 fish and Drew around 4.  Luckily this fact was not focused on or it would have rubbed in and highlighted.  I was even able to catch a snapping turtle by the dock that must have weighed 20 lbs.  Now Lindsey has an irrational fear of turtles and has drilled into our children that you must never touch a turtle or you may get diarrhea.  I don't know if this is proven science that she read somewhere on WebMD or an urban legend she made up herself.  She is fine with fish and lizards and other creepy crawlies but there is something about turtles.  One time at a Dad's night at Drew's preschool, the zoo brought out a painted turtle to hold.  Drew was very apprehensive to touch it which I find out later was not because of it being a live reptile but because of the possible future digestion problems.  And directly after touching it, without skipping a beat, he asked the worker "Can I wash my hands?"  So I pulled this snapping turtle out of the water with a net and placed it on the dock.  Pop Pop came over and bent down to pick up.  And Drew in a panic yelled, "DON'T TOUCH IT! YOU'LL GET DIARRHEA!!" 

Check out some pictures from our boy's first fishing experience.

We also were able to go to Petosky State Park's beach on Lake Michigan.  We had a great time playing in the water, building a sand castle and burying Daddy in the sand.  We also were able to get a couple of good pictures of the boys which is every Mom's main goal on vacation. 

I want you to look at these next 2 pictures.  The first picture is 1 of around 50 that actually came out great.  The second is what the other 49 looked like.  Mostly Zachary yelling at Drew for no good reason.  Thank goodness for digital cameras and 128 mb memory cards that can hold 4000 pictures.  Because most likely you will get 5 good ones out of those 4000.  What did we ever do before digital cameras?  It must be why most of my family's photo albums from vacations growing up contained more pictures of scenery than pictures of my siblings and I.  Cause if you don't get that 1st picture, you only have 27 more pictures on that roll and film cost $10 a roll.  So scenery it is.  Check these out...and Zachary's butt crack.

On Thursday, we left the vacation house and headed for Bay Harbor to finish our trip at a beautiful resort on Lake Michigan.  Sounds great, right? 

Oh just wait,
The Joyful and Tired Dad

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The "No Fair" Family Trip - Part 1


I love this blog.  It does several things for me.  1) It allows me to write down my thoughts and memories on “digital” paper so I will never forget this time in life.  2) It is a place for family and friends to catch up on the raising of our three boys.  And 3) It is a place for me to vent all my anger and frustration from raising our three boys.  So everyone can empathize and sympathize with me like a “digital” group therapy session.  I can get all my feelings out in the open and you can know that you are not alone in this thing called parenting.  So please join the group, sit back, relax, and listen as I share with you our latest family vacation.
“Hi.  My name is Mark.  And I am a parent…”

The "No Fair" Family Trip - Part 1

va·ca·tion   noun, often attributive \vā-ˈkā-shən,

:a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation (without kids)

trip   noun,

:an act or instance of traveling from one place to another (with kids)

Vacations are fun and exciting and relaxing.  Trips are with kids.  We just returned today from a family trip.  Before writing this blog, I said to my wife that I wish I could somehow relay to the reader the bubbling anger and stress that often swirled and gurgled in my gut many different times during this trip.  But there is no way to put that on paper so I will try to describe the situations and feelings but only true parents may really know what I am talking about: the teeth-clenching, muscle-tightening, eye-popping frustration that all parents are all too familiar with.
I went to Northern Michigan with my wife, her parents and our 3 little angels, ages 7,4, and 2.  The first part of the trip was to stay at a vacation house of  a friends of my wife's parents and the second half at a resort called the Inn at Bay Harbor.  The plan was to drive with her parents to Michigan on Sunday, switching kids and drivers to relieve the stress of an 8 hour car trip.  A week before we left, her dad tells us that his friends want them to come early and that we would be driving up... alone...for 8 hours..with our children.   
Before I had children I always judged the parents who had DVD players in their cars.  It started with hand held DVD players and then standard built-in DVD players in minivans.  I felt bad for the children who were missing out on quality family time because selfish moms and dads couldn't entertain their own kids for 2 hours in a car on the way to grandmas house.  Back in my day, we didn't have DVD players and iPhones.  We entertained ourselves.  But now thinking about it, did we?  I remember taking a family vacation in a truck camper with my brother and sister laying in the bed above the truck cab, baking in the un-air conditioned camper, sliding around from side to side with every turn, occasionally coloring a coloring book, but mostly complaining to our parents through written notes held up to window (cause they couldn't hear us) about who hit who and when can we stop to pee.  We had no car seats back then or any type of child safety precautions.  So thinking about now, we mostly spent our time just staying alive in a moving car.  Now that I have children, who are restrained to their car seats and can move nothing but their mouths, I now love DVD players.  They are the greatest invention to parenting since pacifiers.  They are electronic pacifiers, good at any age.  So before we left, I took the boys to the library to pick out movies for the trip.  To say that the boys are "into" Pokemon is like saying  Romeo was "into" Juliet.  They are obsessed with Pokemon.  So in turn they choose Pokemon videos...12 of 16 Pokemon videos.  They would have chosen all 16 but I demanded for some sanity, a couple non-Pokemon videos.  If you are unfamiliar with Pokemon, just imagine someone squealing in a mind-numbingly high pitch just under dog hearing directly in your ear for a 30 minute episode.  And my kids brought 60 episodes for the trip.  Here is an example:

Yeah.  I am now reconsidering my view on in-car DVD players.

We left early in the morning with a plan to take our time, stop for lunch, have a nice long nap period and eventually arrive in the late afternoon when the kids woke up from their nap.  We get on the road and Nate falls asleep at 10:00.  He sleeps for a half an hour.  There were occasional fights about which Pokemon video to watch and I knew then that the kids had packed their "no fair" attitudes with them.  Drew decides that during this trip he will never let a drop of pee stay in his bladder for longer than 5 minutes.  So we had to stop on the side of the road for the kids to pee out of side of the van because there is a 5 minute time bomb in his bladder that will go off regardless if there is a toilet in front of him or not.  The side-of-the road pee, standing in the van doorway is not stressful.  The fact that Nate likes to turn around to talk to you while peeing is.  So Lindsey has to hold him forward as we try to keep all distractions to a minimum while he pees in silence.  Drew also decides to skip his nap today because he hates us.  We finally arrive in Northern Michigan after 8 long hours.  And what would you expect from 3 sleep-deprived boys who spent 8 exhausting hours in car?  Yep, energy.  Unbridled, pent up energy with no outlet.  So we took them to a nearby lake which we thought was a beautiful beach where we could swim and play in the sand till dinner.  We pull up to this "beach" which is being very generous calling it that.  There was about 5 feet of beach and then lake water.  I am used to beautiful ocean water with clean sand and surf.  This was a lake with muck, mud, tree branches, drift wood, and lake-borne diseases in the water.  But at this point we could have played in the sewer as long as it would wear the kids out.  The water's temperature was also 5 degrees.  But the kids loved it.  Well, Drew and Zachary loved it.  Nate decided that he too was used to ocean beaches (even though he has never been there) and refused to get in.  Z and D fought over the rubber rafts in the water but generally had a good time.

The vacation house we were to spend the first 5 days turns out to be a 2 story house in a small sub-division which was very nice except for one fact: it has no air conditioning.  It was 95 degrees in Michigan when we arrived.  I stepped out of the minivan into 95 degree heat and into the house in 98 degree heat.  My shirt instantly turned to wet rag.  As I searched the house for box fans, I realized I would now be wet at all times during my vacation.  I had also packed my "no fair" attitude.

And then there was dinner.  As I mentioned before, the boys had packed their "no fair" attitudes and weren't afraid to unpack and use abundantly.  We went to a beautiful bar/restaurant on Lake Michigan overlooking the yachts at Bay Harbor.  Dinner would have been fine but this restaurant also contained a parent's worst enemy: the stuffed animal claw game.  We even sat on the opposite side of the place but my kids sniffed it out like pack of bloodhounds.  I held them off long enough till after dinner to go look at it and I had no intention of playing it because I knew what could happen.  But remember, we were with their grandparents who apparently brought a fist full of one dollar bills with them.  So while I was with Drew, here comes Zachary with 3 one dollar bills for each kids to try the 2 50 cent per claw games.  For a little insight into Zachary, he is a very compassionate little boy who cares about his fellow man.  He gets this from his beautiful mother, who has an amazing gift for compassion and watching out for the underdog.  But there is a fine line between compassion and injustice.  Especially to Zachary when he thinks he is the underdog.  Then it is all about the injustice and how it is not fair.  So Zachary goes first at the claw game and spends his dollar going after this pink bear which he dislodges but does not win.  He then returns to the table defeated but OK.  No injustice done.  Then comes Drew.  He goes after the same bear, and wins it!  He grabs the bear and runs back to the table for everyone to share in his good fortune.  My thought process was this: "Yea! Drew, he did it, I am so proud of him, I can't believe.... oh no!  NO, don't run back to the table, DON'T SHOW ZACHARY!"  But there is Drew both hands holding this pink bear above his head like Simba above Pride Rock in triumph...right in front of Zachary.  And with tears in his eyes and anger in his heart, Zachary runs back to the machine with a 5 new dollars from Pop Pop to win his own prize.  Well, sad to say he never does and Nate seeing that Zachary gets to play so many times, unpacks his no fair attitude and begins to cry for his turn, only he has already spent his money and Pop Pop is out of dollars.  So we left the nice quiet restaurant with Zachary screaming in anger at the injustice of not winning, Nate crying about the lack of dollars and turns, and Drew dancing around with his new bear.  As we walked away with Nanna promising Zachary to buy him his own bear, Drew thinking of new songs to dance to with his bear in front of Zachary and Nate quiet because of a well-timed pacifier, I turn to Lindsey and tell her I've named the new bear "Victory: the Unfair bear."  And like all care bears that have a special power, Victory is able to shoot injustice out of his chest.
We return home to the sauna and boys decide that sleep is overrated especially since they skipped their naps today.  So after many veiled threats we all cried ourselves to sleep excited about the next day of vacation.

So ends Part 1,
The Joyful and Tired Dad

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bathroom Humor

For those of you who are easily offended by bathroom humor or are too disgusted when talking about all things toilet-related, this post isn't for you. But for those of you who can't help but laugh at a good fart, you are in for a treat.

I wanted to write down some stories about our boys and the toilet.  Because 1) I think they are hysterical, 2) so I won't forget these stories and 3) because I will have documented proof to embarrass them at a later date preferably high school graduation or their wedding reception. At this time I have officially potty-trained 3 boys for which I am going to make a t-shirt for myself and award myself a medal. I am still in talks with the mayor about earning a key to the city for this heroic feat but so far they've only offered a gold-plated plunger, which I will proudly accept and display on our mantle. Let me break down each kid individually.

At this time is 7 years old and has mastered the toilet. He being our first, we probably spent $500 - $1000 on all types of baby toilet seats, aiming targets for the toilet bowl, Playskool toilets that played songs when you flushed, and special educational DVDs like "Dora visits el bano" and "Thomas the Train goes toot toot at the station but poop poop in the potty." But of course, Zachary was going to potty train when he was good and ready. Don't you just hate those parents who say, "yes my little Jenny just looked at the potty and said 'I want to use that from now on' and we never had to do anything. She potty trained herself." But here I am looking into a recurring payment plan with Pampers due to the diaper debt and wondering if you'll be able to see the adult diaper under his graduation robe. Zachary waited and waited until he was ready. But he finally did get it.

One story I remember when he was 3. The back story is, like all parents, whenever Zachary would pee we would throw a "pee party" and cheer and yell because of the success. Well one time I took him into the men's restroom with me and had him stand against the wall while I washed my hands. Well another man came in to use the urinal and I could see Zachary curiously looking at him as we stood there in silence. And as soon as Zachary heard the pee hitting the urinal, Zachary yelled to me, "Daddy, HE DID IT!!!!!" So excited that this man was able to go pee pee in the urinal. He threw him his own "pee party." I always wonder if that was last time that man was ever able to pee in a urinal again.

Another story about Zachary and urinals. Around the same time in another public restroom and just discovering what they were, picked up a urinal cake and showed me, asking, "Daddy, what is this?" After throwing up and having him put it back, I replied, "well its poisonous and you only get to touch it once. So never touch it again if you want to live. Now lets go take a bath in bleach and never tell your mother." Well, actually I just screamed and told him never to touch it and had that same face you are wearing right now for about a week.

Currently, as much as I am glad we are out of the diaper phase, I don't know if this next phase is any better: the butt-wiping phase. Now the 2 younger boys can hold their respective 1's and 2's, but I am still in charge of clean-up on aisle 2. Drew, the 4 year old, picked up "holding it" and making it to the toilet pretty quickly but he is still unsure of the hygiene part of toileting.

Lindsey tells the story of recently after Drew had gone poop in the potty, jumped up from the toilet and ran back into the living room to watch TV. Well he plopped down on the carpet and to Lindsey's horror, when he stood up there was a nice, round poop stain on the carpet. His butt cheeks had opened up to form a brown, stinky Rorschach test of poop on the carpet. It was a perfect butterfly or 2 goblets depending how you looked at it.

After much encouragement and training, we are getting him to wipe himself more. Of course just last week, I caught him taking all his dirty toilet paper and throwing it in the trash can instead of the toilet. But the best story is just yesterday he told me his process for checking himself. He told me after he poops, he always wipes his butt on the toilet seat and if there is poop on the seat, he has not gotten all of it yet. This explains a lot of things. Mysterious stains on the seat, recent extra toilet cleanings, and extra baths after the poop had spread down his legs, front and back.

Another Drew story back in May.  We were visiting my brother in Cincinnati for my nephews birthday party.  Everyone was outside after lunch playing in the yard or hanging out on the deck.  Drew went inside alone to poop.   When he was finished, he poked his head out of the bathroom and saw the only other person in the house, my brother’s mother – in – law.  Since she looked like a grandma, Drew said, “Excuse me.  Do you wipe butts?”  To which she replied, “I sure do,” and helped him out.  It reminds me of the old Chinese proverb, “the family that wipes together, stays together.”  Thanks Ramona.

Our 2 year old was the fastest to grasp potty training and is also in the parental butt wiping phase. Not because he wants to be but because we demand it. If he had his way, he would always be pants-less and sitting on my pillow. The thing with Nate is that he has this need to mark his territory. Lindsey has found him standing in the pantry peeing on the potatoes. But who can blame him, he loves potatoes and those were now his. He also loves to stand on the bottom step of our deck, drop trough and pee on all the outdoor toys especially the ride-on toys that other kids love to play with. But to him, "if my dog can mark his tree, I can mark my toys. That will show them not to mess with my stuff." Thankfully I have not found pee-covered inside toys. But I am not too confident when I find a puddle in our house, its always the dog.

Nate also likes to play "poop fake". He will call me when he is ready to be wiped and let me get 3 good cleaning strokes in, then declare "more poop!" He will then proceed to have another poop marring all clean-up that I just did. Much like the "pump fake" in football, I fall for it every time. I think the stinker holds back half of his dump when he knows I am the wiper. He loves to "poop fake" me out.

Now you know some new things they don't teach you in "What to expect when you're expecting."

You're welcome,
The Joyful and Tired Dad