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Hair today

Saturday’s a big day for the family: Haircut day.


A little off the top?

Wife, daughter and son. I’m left out as per usual. Just not cost-effective for the follically challenged to go to the barber. I can spend five minutes a couple of times a week and do it myself.

Haircuts are a big deal in our house because they don’t happen all that often. It will be a first for baby Brant. Just to trim some around the ears. And maybe corral that stuff on top that gets unruly when he gets sweaty. I sort of chuckle when I see it get out of control because I know, if genetics really do have anything to do with it, he’s already used up about 10 percent of the time he’s even going to have hair. Poor kid doesn’t even know yet.

How he is going to handle it, I have no idea. He made it through his first trip to the movie theatre last week, but no one was putting sharp objects in his face and his older sister wasn’t drooling all over him as she will this weekend. Like most 2-year-olds, he’s not real fond of sitting still for more than about 3 seconds, so we will see.

Now the day is also a rarity for Maren, who despite nearing her eighth birthday, is only going for her third haircut. Three. Ever. I cut my hair more times in a seven-day window than my daughter has in about 2,900 days on earth.

While Maren has certainly turned the corner into girlie girl, one thing she has not really concerned herself with is her hair. She prefers to wear it down rather than up in a ponytail, or even wear a headband to keep it back. She hates brushing it.

If she only knew what Brant was in for in about 25 years, she’d treat that stuff like Rapunzel’s golden locks.

I’ll catch you

I’m a firm believer in not using what I like to term “famous last words.”  I don’t say things like “Hey, watch this…”

So sure enough, this past weekend swimming in the pool, Brant yells at the top of his lungs “Dad, watch dis…” as he tries to jump off a raft.

You think anyone's gonna notice?

You think anyone’s gonna notice?

You have much to learn my young Padawan.

As I’ve said before, my wife and I have somewhat different parenting techniques. My kids trip and fall and, at times, I chuckle. My wife gives me the evil eye.

I guess it’s the man vs. woman thing. Dads try to toughen kids up quicker. Moms console them to oblivion. Neither is completely right. But neither is completely wrong.

In a lot of ways I am as hand’s on a father as I can be. But I’ve always learned best by trying things, so I tend to let me kids do that, too. Sometimes it’s best to learn something by going full speed.

This week I read an article on the Huffington Post about mistakes parents make raising their kids. I read stuff like this because I make mistakes all the time, in every aspect of my life. This story featured development psychologist Dr. Susan Engel discussing how to raise a “successful” kid.

I hate the word success when it deals with arbitrary things. Success in life is much more difficult to define than say success for a football team.

I have no idea how to raise a successful kid because I have no idea what defines it. There are a bazillion things that go into it, but if my kid still wants to give me a hug at the end of the day, I’m pretty darn successful.

I try not to freak about everything because there are too many things in life I don’t have control over. I do what I think is right for my kids in terms of teaching them values, education and more. My right may be way different than your right, but that’s cool. That’s how it is supposed to be, according to Engel.

“Part of it is the idea that if they just do everything right, they can make their child exactly what they want them to be,” she said, “And part of it is the idea that what they want them to be is highly successful, in what I consider to be somewhat outdated or useless notions of what success is.”

According to the Huffington Post, Engel later “explained that the secret to having a happy, healthy child largely involves letting go and recognizing him or her as an independent person.”

You know what Brant? Go right ahead and jump off that raft. I’ll catch you.

Are we done?

When the three large boxes landed in the drive way, I knew it was going to be a long week.

The latest addition to the family was dropped off last week in the form of three humongous boxes that were supposed to magically transform themselves into the new Bowman swing set. We built one several years ago, but it was literally crumbling.

So the new one arrived last week and the first thing I did was grab the instructions. After seeing there were 41 steps to complete the monster, the next thing I looked at was the completion time: If you are experienced, 6 to 8 hours. Could take as long as 24 hours to build, so leave two full days.


Are you done yet?


I am the first person to admit I am not the handiest person in the world. I sit at a desk and look at a computer screen and hope stories come together before it’s time to head home. I can build things, as long as they have detailed instructions that include detailed photos.

So when instructions tell me it’s gonna take 24 hours, I shudder.

We spent a few hours a couple of days last week before the final push on Saturday. By 7:15 a.m. I was outside with Maren, drill all charged up. Not sure if we woke the neighbors up or not, but I got a sideways glance when one neighbor let his dogs out at 8.

Still, we plugged away, trying to beat the heat. Another neighbor said he “loves big projects … as long as someone else is doing them.”

He laughed. I fake laughed. I was still on step 20.

As I sat sweat soaked trying to push through, Mrs. Bowman asked if I wanted a beer. God bless her, I thought, for offering. “We’re all out,” I said sadly, before asking “You know it’s only 9:30, right?”

Soon after Maren, who had been helping as much as she could, asked for the first time if we were done.

Do you see a swing?


Then we’re not done.

An hour later: Dad, are we done?

Do you see a swing?


Then we’re not done.

20 minutes later: Dad, are we done?

Do you see a swing?

Yes. I’m done.

Two hours later, after the telescope and rock wall and trapeze bar and steering wheel were screwed in, I was done. Kids played on it like they haven’t played outside all summer.

I smiled. It was 6 to 8 or 24 hours well spent.

Follow for 46 seconds…


Cooling off in fountain on 10,000 degree day

I’m not one of those guys who won’t stop for directions. Mainly because I can figure it out before I need to. If it ever got to that, I am sure I would, but for the most part I can get around well enough, even when I am visiting a place I’ve never been before.

Last summer, after leaving my sister-in-law’s apartment in Queens, we missed a turn to go north around Citi Field and out of New York without crossing into the heart of Manhattan. My wife panicked, my daughter following her lead. “It’s okay,” I said. “As long as we don’t turn that way (I said pointing toward 100-story buildings across the East River) we’re gonna be okay.”

So I sort of loop around, bolting past LaGuardia, make a couple of lefts. We’re back on Queens Boulevard, and eventually make our way back to our starting point. We hit the turn the second time and bypass the heart of NYC on our way back to Central Pennsylvania.

For some reason I can do that. Don’t really know why, but even in unfamiliar places I’m able to sort of figure out where we are.

I think I may have passed that trait onto my daughter (which is a great thing if she and my wife ever becoming shopping buddies in the near future).

Last week, Maren and I took a couple of days and went to Washington, D.C. Moments before we left, I realized we didn’t have the GPS. All I had was my phone and directions printed off Google Maps.

“I can read them off from the backseat,” she said as I dug through center consoles and glove compartments.

Um, OK.

I haven’t been to DC in a long time. Not sure, but it has been years, at least since she’s been born and she’s a pitching wedge away from 8. It’s not a city I am familiar with and one that scares me because it has streets that cross diagonally in addition to the normal block pattern we all love.

Once I got into the city I thought I would be fine. I looked at enough maps to gauge the chances are we could get lost. I thought as long as I didn’t drive through any security barriers around the White House, we weren’t going to end up in jail.

Getting into the city was my worry. There are a lot of 95s around there.

The only real trouble we ran into was that she would read the directions  then tell me how long in time, not in distance. “Follow I-495 South for 46 seconds before merging onto 66 East,” she said, finishing 42 seconds after I got onto 495.

She did a pretty darn good. We did not miss a single turn, although I did cut some people off in traffic at least once. We arrived within one minute of how long the directions said it would take.

She can be my navigator any day. As long as it’s a little cooler.

He loves me…

In all those psychology classes and Greek tragedies I read in college, there was always this connection between mothers and sons that didn’t really exist between between the son and father.

No way, I thought. If ever have a son, it’s gonna be great. We’ll go to games and play catch, I’ll teach him how to spit and throw a spiral and shave and be all manly.

Right now, I’d settle for a fist bump. Maybe a hug.

What do you mean I'm grouchy?

What do you mean I’m grouchy?

Brant doesn’t hate me, he’s too young to even know what that means. All I know is that he doesn’t like me the way he likes his mom. Or sister. Or grandparents. Or teachers. Or aunts. I think I’m ahead of the dog, but it’s nip-and-tuck.

Not sure what it is, but right now whatever I do with him, to him or for him is like pouring gas on a fire. The other day he told me to stop “akitaten” him (agitating him) when he was eating dinner.

Here are some instances that have occurred recently:

1. Whenever I open his bedroom door in the morning to get him dressed, he yells “No, mom.” He is still in a crib, so he can’t even see me, but I guess I open the door differently than my wife.

2. The other day I was touching his milk cup – akitaten him for sure – and he looked right at me, sans blinking, and said clear as day “Do. Not. Touch.”

3. I went to give him some more food the other night at dinner and he melted down because he wanted my wife to give him his onion ring and not me.

4. Last night when he cried for his binkeys at 2 in the morning, I went in to get them. After I  opened the door (to which he freaked out because he could tell by the way I opened it that it was me), he stood up and screamed right in my face for mom. As I shifted the crib away from the wall to get the binks, he was pulling on the side of the crib like the Ultimate Warrior screaming “daddy, no move crib. Mommy!”

5. It was a worse reaction than the night before when the same thing happened, only he took it a step further when he laid back down and I went to rub his back to calm him down. He simply pointed at the door, without ever lifting his head up, and said “Go.”

So our relationship is a work in progress. Either way, I’m going out and buying my daughter a pink baseball glove just in case.


Family meeting

As I sat and drank my morning coffee two Sunday’s ago, a slip of paper lands on the table in front of me: “Family meeting. 6 p.m. In the living room.”

Sure enough, the 7-year-old had called a family meeting. What’s on the agenda? I asked. “All the new paper products in the house.”

I know Maren has had control issues for a while now. I try to not worry about things I can’t control, like the weather. But Maren’s got a more than a little bit of her mom.


I’m in charge here, people!

She needs to know what we’re doing not only now, but five minutes and five months from now. But the kiddo takes it a step further. As soon as she gets comfortable, she wants to own the room, which means no talking, no laughing, and no fun.

So four adults descend upon the living room for our mandatory family meeting. There is a new family mailbox which will be placed in the house, where people can put any notes or other family suggestions. There are other paper products as well, a new broom and pillow.

It quickly becomes apparent, however, that things are spiraling out of control. No real direction, smart-alec dad questioning the legality of said meeting.

I guess the meeting was a success, because it looks like a new tradition in our house. We gathered again last night. This week we had to put a time limit in: 15 minutes.

Before the meeting I was told there would be assigned seats and I would have to sit near the front because I was a troublemaker the week before. Not only that, my seat was going to get moved if I didn’t listen better. “Hey, I wasn’t the one texting during last week’s meeting,” I said, throwing Mrs. Bowman under the bus.

The time limit certainly helped, and Brant got to take part, emerging from behind “stage” to unveil the latest musical lantern. Then he went back behind the curtain and put 45 necklaces back on.

We had a special speaker this week; were ordered to be sure to put notes into the family mailbox for next week’s meeting and some of us (not naming names) got two minutes detention and had to stay 2 extra minutes.

Still, it’s been a fun event in our house the last two weeks. And I’m actually looking forward to next week’s meeting, partly because it’s my week to give a presentation on France…

Um, what was that?

As parents, we hear it all. Excuses, secrets, blaming each other and so on. After a while, not much stuns you really.

But every once in a while you hear something and it stops you in your tracks.

Like: Maren doesn’t have any shoes left.

Now that is a conversation starter right there. When I dropped her off at school she had shoes, so it would be not be unreasonable to assume that she would have shoes when I got there to pick her up, no?


as per usual, one looking, one not

Yet somehow Maren somehow breaks both flip flops on the same day, but in two completely different ways. How is that even possible? Yet one had the thong pull out of the bottom and the other one simply had the sole split in half.

Or how about this: Cuz jumping couch bad.

Close your eyes and think about that for a second. Try to figure out the context. In our house that is how Brant answered the question “Do you know why you got a timeout?”

Cuz jumping couch bad. Or, or big-people words, because jumping on the couch is bad. It did not mean our couch was jumping.

Til next time…I’ve got to go buy a new pair of flip flops.

You’re old … er

Last week while cooped up inside a tiny lakeside cabin, another day of steady rain, I sat facing my daughter, a game of Battleship between us.

She was on an unprecedented streak. Eight wins in a row. After she learned it took a couple of minutes for me to find her ships when they were always in the corner, she became very good.

As we prepared for another sea battle, she peaks over the top of the “screen” and says, “you know why I can confuse you so easily, Dad? Cuz you’re old.”


You’re old. And bald.

Um, okay.

“Er,” she then says quickly realizing my feelings were likely hurt. “You’re old-er. Like older than Brant and I.”

I think it was supposed to make me feel better. It did, I think.

Sometimes I physically feel old. I’m to the point where if I go play basketball or tennis or softball, I just take Advil before I go because it saves time later.

Sometimes I just feel old. Like this week, when conversation in the office tilted toward the TWA Flight 800 crash and we started talking about where we were when we heard the news. Many of us were in newsrooms, some in the same newsroom we still were in. Then the baby of the news department, a photog, says “I don’t remember because I was six.”

We all hate her now.

Hard knock life

I’ve been told numerous times already by my 7-year-old daughter than I don’t love her, or she doesn’t love me, or that I’m a stinky-head. She’s got it rough, she thinks she does.

Like most kids, she’s got a lot of stuff. Markers, crayons, books, butterflies, stuffed animals (covering just about every species). It’s like the Loudon Wainwright song says, “Everything she sees, she wants. Everything she wants, I see she gets.”

She has done more things at this point in her life than I did before I was 30. Everybody wants their kids to have a better life and she’s on her way, although my life gets better every day as I watch my kids do more stuff, learn more stuff and become more stuff.

But, I have to admit, this week was pretty rough.

Last week she was able to win the spelling bee in her first-grade class. She was lucky because the girl she beat spelled “again” wrong. I asked her how to spell it and she said A-G-I-A-N. That put her against the other first-grade winners this week, so she spent the part of the weekend practicing. The night before the spelling bee, which was on a stage in front of all the first-graders, we went over words for more than hour. The only word she missed was “elephant” and the only reason I gave her that was so she would miss one.

We stopped when I asked her to spell “where” and she asked “wear like the clothes you wear? Or where like where are we going?”

The day of the spelling bee I raced home from work to find out how she made out. From the steps I could hear crying, so I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

Poor kid spelled the first word wrong. The word was “did” she heard “digged” and spelled that. She later shook her head incredously, “dad, digged isn’t even a word!”

But that wasn’t the worst of it. She said one of her friends told her she let the whole class down. “Who am I going to eat lunch with now?” she said wiping tears away, “Who am I going to play with at recess?”

All you can do is hug ‘em. The next day everything was back to normal as if nothing happened. Kids are resilient. The sting is gone.

Kids of a different feather

I’m the older sibling, as is my wife, so to be honest I don’t know a ton about the so-called “middle child syndrome.” But this week the Huffington Post had a short post with a photo of three siblings. The oldest is lovingly looking into the youngest’s eyes while the middle child, who was the baby of the family until about a five minutes ago, zones out.

The picture is very familiar to me. Well, minus the middle child. We have one of our kids and it is one of my favorite pics. Maren is holding Brant, who is probably about 4 days old. It was taken moments after we brought him home for the first time.


     Does he have teeth? has a story on middle child syndrome which “helps explain how birth order affects every aspect of a child’s life. Wondering what your middle child may be experiencing, or how to possibly counteract any negativity caused from being a middle child?”

It’s a neat story, talking about how the middle child can sometimes feel left out, yet can also be the most outgoing at the same time. It can also lead to some rebelliousness. It’s a cool read.

I do find it fascinating how different kids, raised by the same people in same house and with the same values can be so different. It really is all about personality and that is completely a person-to-person deal (I guess the reason it’s ‘person’ ality and not ‘everbody’ ality) In our house we see the big boy/girl difference and to be honest it is very shocking. We have plenty of friends who told us if they had a boy first they would not have had a second child. Brant is more difficult to deal with than Maren, sure. He’s a bit more hot-headed and stubborn. Brant is a bit sensitive – he did run and hide under the table this weekend when I was going to put him in timeout after he smashed his sister in the head with a toy drill – but he’s not the same sensitive as Maren.

Maren has some bounce-backability, but if she doesn’t get her way there will be two outcomes: Someone is getting an earful (me) or someone is going to slam a door while crying on the other side (her). Where this comes from, I don’t know. (Actually, I do, but I will not discuss it further)

But I guess it depends on what the situation is. Brant will cry if Maren takes a toy from him. Maren will let Brant play with Barbies until he’s blue in the face, but if he touches one of her books, it’s on.

So all I know is my kids are different from each other, but they are also very similar. I’m cool with that.