Monday, December 31, 2012

The things I have learned this past year

Looking back on another year of staying at home with the kids I began to think about some of the things that make me go hmmmm.... Here are some of 2012's greatest hits.

1) You are going to lose socks in the washing/drying process. For some reason you never lose underwear or a shirt but ALWAYS socks. I don't know where all those darn socks went to and I know I am never going to find them.

2) The hot dog to bun ratio is ALWAYS going to be off. This honestly seems like a conspiracy to me. I know that I bought an eight pack of buns and an eight pack of hot dogs but then it seems like there are never enough of either one to please the kiddos.

3) You will constantly be doing dishes/washing bottles and laundry. I have taught my kids that if it doesn't smell, you can wear it again, except for underwear and socks and I STILL feel like I am constantly doing another load in the washing machine.

4) You will be amazed at the lack of judgement your kids will display. They are curious and will try out lots of things. My son once wondered what it would be like if he pushed his head through the opening of our cat tower until he got stuck. He never did that again.

5) Waiting for the babysitter to arrive when you and your wife are going out is how kids feel the night before Christmas or the day before their birthday. It is a real gift that should be cherished.

6) There is no bathroom cleaner that can claim that it is natural and still able to handle the stains. All bathroom cleaners have a smell even though they claim there are no harmful fumes. When in doubt, open a window first.

7) If you have cats, they will most certainly always barf on carpeting even though you only have half of your house covered in carpeting. If you have rugs on hardwood floors they will never puke on them...they will always go for the carpeting. I know not why they always are barfing or why they do it on the carpet.

8) I am not sure who coined the phrase "Don't cry over spilled milk" Have you ever tried to clean up spilled milk? That shit is sticky especially if some Froot Loops have been swimming in it and have enlarged to eight times their normal size. Cleaning up spilled milk sucks

9) Your kids will always throw a tantrum when you are late for an activity. It could be nanoseconds before you need to leave and they will just lose it.

10) Cherish your time at home. Almost every dad I have met this year who have asked what I do for a living sigh and say "Man, I WISH I could do that!"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Talking to your kids about tragedy

A senseless act of violence occurred yesterday. In Newtown,Connecticut a 20 year old man gunned down 20 elementary school kids and killed 6 adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary school. First and foremost, let me say that my heart and prayers go out to the friends and families of the deceased. I can't imagine the pain and suffering the people in that community are feeling right now. To outlive your child is something that no parent should have to bear. I have cried half a dozen times today just thinking about those little kids. I don't know what could possess a man to shoot and kill children let alone take another person's life, including his mother, another relative, and his own.

Many of my friends with kids have been posting on Facebook all day about today's events and they are right, tonight you need to hold your kids a little tighter and a little longer than you normally would. You may have to let the silliness go a little longer than usual, let their raucous voices ring out, or give them that extra cookie they are begging you for the last ten minutes. I have hugged and kissed my kids more today than I usually do. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy like this to remind us to hold the people we love a little closer to our hearts. We can lose sight of just how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken from us.

In only my third year of teaching in 2001, I was walking in between bells to the classroom that I taught homeroom. This was the classroom where all the important messages that the school passed on through me to the students. It was my job to connect with these kids and support them. On the way there, a student in the hall said "Mr. B, I just heard that a plane flew into the World Trade Tower" I thought, that can't be right but witnessed the horror of 9/11 along with 27 other impressionable teenagers. What was I going to say to them to make it all better?

Being a teacher, you are taught the procedures of lock down, the codes that would be read over a loudspeaker, and the steps you would take to protect your students. Every fire drill I have been a part of, I have taken accounting for every student seriously even if they didn't. The reality as we see, can be much worse. It happened in the blink of an eye. I applaud the teachers who protected their students, who did what they could in the face of a heavily armed killer. There is no justice, only aftermath. It makes becoming a teacher that much more important knowing that you are responsible for their safety. I support the teachers who gave their lives today to keep others safe.

During and after 9/11 it was hard to go back to teaching. How could I go on with my lesson with this going on? I couldn't ; all I kept thinking about were the people affected and if my friend had been anywhere near it when it happened. How are you supposed to go on with life when something like this happens? I spent days after that just talking with kids and having them write down their feelings. When I resigned from the school in 2008 I cleaned out my desk and found their journals. I still have them. Every emotion written in pages and pages of children's minds. I can tell you, that kids need to be reassured. Kids need to know that we want to keep them safe and that we are going to do everything we can to make sure that they are.

I have seen first hand as a teacher in school how quickly misinformation can affect a child. It doesn't matter how old they are, they still need to be reassured. I have already heard from my son the things that get passed down from the older kids. The fourth graders have a tendency to let things trickle down to the younger grades whether they want to hear it or not. I would rather my son hear it from me what happened.

I don't want to freak him out so he won't hear details but I still want him to know that he is safe. Kids are perceptive when it comes to how adults are reacting and talking to other adults about a situation and ignoring that it never happened is not healthy. We need to show our children that it is O.K. to be sad or angry about a bad situation. This way they learn that it is normal to have these feelings and they learn how to cope with adversity.

If you talked to your kids about Hurricane Sandy, the earthquake in Haiti, The Tsunami in Japan, 9/11, this should also be addressed. While we can't begin to explain why things like this happen to young children we can at least give them comfort in knowing that we are there for them. There are some awesome websites devoted to talking to your kids about tragedies. Fred Rogers has a helpful website that can help you talk with your kids about what they perceive and how to deal with it. Go to to learn more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The things your kid will learn on the bus : Santa

Is Santa really real? Is Santa you? I can't believe I am already facing these questions. Adam is starting to ask if Santa is real. I truly believe that this sort of thing should last for as long as possible mostly because the wonder create by these mythological characters makes holidays a little more fun. I think that it is sad that he is already asking me as he is only a second grader. He has told me that kids on the bus say that Santa is really your parents. Damn these kids! I mean, why can't they keep that shit to themselves?

Don't get me wrong, Susie and I don't really give Santa all that much credit in the long run. He fills their stockings with things that they need like underwear and toothbrushes but we don't hide some ridiculous gift and pop it out at the end like it is something more special than all the others. The jolly old elf sometimes seems to get too much attention while the parents really are the ones that are busting their asses really providing for them the whole year through. We don't let that bowl full of jelly cash in on our happiness. It's much more fun for us to see their faces light up from a present you got them without Santa getting all the props for "knowing" EXACTLY what they wanted.

Let's face it, going to see Santa is a milestone. Most kids are terrified of this prospect. I have seen my own kids cry hysterically like I was taking them to go sit on Satan's lap. I gave up trying to make that photo happen. You are better off sidling next to Santa while holding them. Sitting on Santa's lap is kind of like the litmus test for the fortitude of your kid;will they tolerate it or bawl uncontrollably like you just set them down on a bed of nails? The only way you can prepare them for this is by finding a complete stranger with a straggly beard and ask them if you can put your kid on his lap for a few minutes periodically throughout the year. That way when December comes around they think that this is totally normal behavior. Sounds gross right? I understand why you are crying babies and I feel for you.

When it comes to Santa, I usually tell my kids that people can believe what they want but that I believe in Santa because I want to. The biggest lesson I have tried to impart on my kids at a young age is to be yourself and not worry about what people think of you. Stupid peer pressure. The first time I ever came up against this sort of thing I used The Polar Express to illustrate my point. For awhile this worked. I want to be able to still hear the bell. Clearly, these other parents have given up or the kids with older siblings just lose out because they don't want to be teased that they believe in something like Santa.

I understand the perception, that to an older kid believing in Santa makes you a baby and no one wants to be a baby especially when you are a 4th grader and you are headed to middle school next year. When my kids decide to stop believing I am going to make sure that they don't ruin it for the younger ones. Holding on to the magic is healthy for their imagination. Too much of what kids today are exposed to today is the harshness of reality. I am just bummed that eventually that magic is going to be gone with my kids. When that is gone it is really an indication of them growing up and who wants that? I am gunning for you bus kids, keep your ideas about Santa to yourself.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chip off the old block

Today is my dad's birthday. So, I would like to say happy birthday to him. The guy has been working since he was twelve and just this year finally retired. While at the National At Home Dad Convention in DC, we visited the Air and Space museum. I was looking in the gift shop for something for the kids and I laid my eyes on one of those Apollo Space pens.

If you have ever seen the Seinfeld where Jerry inherits the space pen from his dad's friend down in Florida you know what I am talking about. This pen is supposed to be able to write underwater, under extreme temperatures; basically a pen that is as bad ass as an astronaut being launched into space. I have never personally been to space although I have come close when I made an attempt to brave Mission: Space at Epcot before Susie and I were married. Let's just say I will never be going into space even if we somehow figure out how to live up there. You see, I get extreme motion sickness. So even though I knew this, I still tried to be brave and go on it with my wife. Even when I spend a weekend up in the Adirondacks and am going in and out of fishing boats, I have after effects when I get back on land.

Anyway, back to the pen. I thought this was the sort of pen that could stand up to my dad's adventures in retirement. In fact, his response to me in email was that he loved the pen and hoped that he wouldn't have to use it to write underwater. Bernholdt's have bad experiences with plumbing.

I was looking at my scrapbook today and came across photos of myself with my dad. My mom did an awesome thing a few years back. She took all the photos of my brothers and me and separated them into bins. She then created a scrapbook for each kid. An amazing project given that I have three brothers and our family is a bunch of photography nuts.

It is awesome to see pictures of me with my dad. What is more awesome is seeing the resemblance between myself and my son. Same blue eyes, same mop of hair and same goofy smile. My dad however maintained his "Bow" which is that wavy thing on top of his head in the picture below. The Bow didn't last long after my younger brother was born however so you can glean what you want from that what you will. I am glad that I have this time with my Mini-Me at home and thanks dad for all that you did for me. Happy Birthday and I love you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cleaning House

Let's face it. Your wife's idea of clean is much different from yours. If you are a stay at home dad like I am, in my opinion things are probably not as clean as your wife would want them to be. Now, I know that there are exceptions to the rule. There are probably guys out there saying "No way! Mr. Clean and I are tight!" Personally, I am the only bald guy doing any cleaning in this house and while I am trying to be more proactive about things like dusting sometimes wrestling those giant dust bunnies isn't high on my priority list. It's not enough to take care of the kids and keep them alive; the house needs attention too.

Don't get me wrong, it bothers me when the house is dirty. I despise cleaning the bathrooms. If you clean up after kids in bathrooms you know what I am talking about. It's not just my son's inability to appropriately pee in an elongated bowl giving him ample surface area in which to operate. My daughter is just as bad with leaving a pee trail behind. Sometimes I get down there to clean the bowl and think "Holy crap! What happened in here?" I still consider it a triumph in my stay at home dad portfolio to know I taught my kids to wipe their own asses even if the job they do sometimes isn't all that thorough.

I don't want you to misunderstand either, my house is not as bad as a college friend I once knew. He literally had roaches in his dorm and dorm rooms are not big. He probably could have cleaned the entire thing with a Wet Nap. Going into his room was like visiting Joe's Apartment. I was afraid to go in there and definitely would NEVER sit on his beanbag chair. I suspect that the queen lived somewhere in there and was not about to find out the hard way. Come to think of it, I am not that sure what ACTUALLY filled his beanbag chair.

I used to ask him why he had bugs in his room and he just shrugged. I knew however that he regularly had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches laying about in what he called "strategic locations". My kids can sometimes be like that; sometimes I give the two year old an apple and assume that she has eaten it core and all only to find it hours later between the couch cushions, on a bookshelf, or in the laundry basket.

It's hard because after a day of dealing with the kids making the mess you actually have to clean up the mess. If you really want to impress your hard working wife you need to buckle down and do a clean sweep. Happy wife, happy life. Right? So, this is what I have started to do and it may work for you too.

1) If your kids can pull out toys they can also put away toys. Granted, their idea of putting something away is never going to fit in your color coded bins with separated toys by category but you need to get them involved. If you are freaked out at the thought that Barbies are mingling with Ninjago Legos then wait until the kids have helped clean up before you re-clean. Getting the kids involved gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility.

2) Rotate your chores. Find the things that you really despise doing and set aside one day for each thing to focus on. Granted, I feel like I am constantly washing dishes and laundry in between cleaning up cat puke but by breaking down cleaning duties you are much less likely to blow them off. I usually tackle bathrooms first because they are my nemesis. Once they are out of the way, the rest is easy and you won't feel so overwhelmed.

3) Look high and low, real low. It's amazing the things that you will see when you are experience what your kids are seeing. At their level I notice the crumbs more. In my defense, being 6'7" and having poor eyesight has contributed but it's mostly because of procrastination. As a friend of mine once said "Procrastination is like masturbation, you are only screwing yourself. Like a rookie cop, check your corners. Cobwebs build up in the damnedest places.

4) Each kid is generating a certain amount of filth. Their is a direct correlation between their age and the amount of snack crap they are producing. Take their age in to account to determine how on top of the cleaning you need to be. Multiple kids means multiple messes. The more kids you have in your house, the more concentrated your contamination is going to be. A good indicator of this level is the state of your backseat, minivan, or underneath your car seats. Untold treasures await you.