Winning as a Parent

As a kid, the goal of a sleepover was always to see how late we could stay up. I remember around the ages of 8 or 9, the benchmark would always be 1:30 a.m. If we managed to stay awake until at least that time, the sleepover was a success. If we dozed off before then, we felt like we had something left to prove. Once the pre-teen and teen years arrived, it was all-nighter or bust.

Oh, how things change once you are an adult…especially a parent. These days, the name of the game is how early can we get in bed?

The cards are always stacked against you. For Sidney and I, first and foremost, we have two kids to put to sleep. Many times both will stay up longer than anticipated; other times, just one. But even if only one decides to come down with a case of insomnia it holds everything else up just in the same way as if both were wreaking havoc.

Can’t beat them? Sometimes you have to join them.

On some evenings, the cards will align and both children will fall asleep before 8 p.m. However, that doesn’t mean an automatic ticket to crawling in the straw. Household chores, preparing for the next day, catching up on projects, and even running errands can all delay my head hitting the pillow.

Then of course there are the times when we are our own worst enemies. We will watch our must-see shows, text non-stop in our family group thread, scroll TikTok endlessly, or find other ways to drain time on our phones. Additionally, for me, I normally write my blog post for the next day in the late evenings.

But just like a pitcher who takes a perfect game to the latter innings, sometimes it just all comes together. The kids go to bed early, there are no chores to be done, all our shows are re-runs, TikTok is boring, and all is quiet on the group thread. Although the smallest development could still derail an early evening, just like a bloop single ending the perfect game, sometimes it is meant to be.

Those nights when we find ourselves in bed by 9:30 p.m. bring a sweet sense of victory and accomplishment that only a parent can understand. Please don’t think we are lame. Don’t Blink.

Blue Monday

Today is Blue Monday, known as the most depressing day of the year. It falls on the third Monday of January when the novelty of the new year has faded away, Christmas is a distant memory, the days are still short, the weather bad, and Valentine’s Day is the only holiday to look forward to.

Today is Blue Monday but it is less than scientific.

In the past, I have not minimized the gloominess of this time of year. The January-February time period can be an especially tough stretch of the calendar for many. The fact that the supposedly saddest day of the year falls within this range is not surprising.

I do qualify saddest day of the year with “supposedly” because the designation of Blue Monday is hardly scientific. A psychologist used a very unscientific formula to invent Blue Monday for a marketing campaign in 2005. However, the promotional blitz somehow found mainstream acceptance and is now considered data-based by many.

Despite the questionable legitimacy of Blue Monday, there is no debate that this time of the year can be tough. For those who have natural cases of the blues during these less than inspiring weeks, I recommend working toward goals, performing good works for others, and doing whatever endorphin-releasing activities feasible to you.

Real or not, Blue Monday has nothing on me today. I have the day off, I am spending time with my wife and kids, and we have plenty of good stuff to watch on our streaming list. But perhaps the best course of action is not to get too caught up in this pseudo-holiday. After all, there is a real holiday today that actually carries with it meaning. Don’t Blink.

Power Outage Thursday Rundown

Hey, we are exactly one month away from Valentine’s Day! Oh, give me a break. It is all about my wife’s birthday in two weeks. Holidays and birthdays aside, let’s get started with my latest Thursday Rundown…

Breezy – Early yesterday morning I was in the shower when the bathroom went dark. Sloan, turn that light back on, I hollered. But she was still in her bed. Super strong gusts of wind had wiped out our power. Using our iPhone flashlights we maneuvered around the house for about an hour as we got ready and packed up necessities for the day. We then dodged fallen trees in the road as we made the 30-minute drive to my parents’ house. The four of us camped out there for the day as I used their in-tact electricity to work. The Spokane International Airport recorded a wind gust that topped 70 MPH, the second highest mark in the area’s history. Thankfully by the end of the day we returned home as the winds had died down and our power was back on.

Sloan using a flash light when the power went out in our house yesterday morning.

Hungry, Hungry Hippos – Sloan received a true classic for Christmas. One of the first presents she opened was Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Although she didn’t really know what it was at first, we played it that night and she quickly became obsessed. Sure, she has found ways to cheat but for the most part it is good, clean fun. The rounds we play get pretty intense and one evening after Sloan went to sleep, Sidney and I stayed up for some 1-on-1 matches.

Sloan preparing to play a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

Soda Day – Apparently I like writing about soda on January 14. Way back in 2015, I explained why “mini sodas are the real MVP.” I reasoned that 7.5 oz soda cans help to reduce my guilt and that I would gladly pay the higher price per ounce for a serving that is smaller. I was pretty passionate. A few years later on January 14, 2018, I analyzed the rollout of the Diet Coke fruit-flavored sodas. In my opinion it was a much better play by the Coca-Cola company than its decision to rename Coke Zero. That really was a head-scratcher to me. Although I didn’t write it on January 14, if this section on soft drinks has you really interested, you can learn about my favorite sodas here.

Purchasing these smaller sodas saves me some guilt.

Easy Experiment – After being inspired by a Ryan’s World video, we did a science experiment on Saturday morning. We took a Ziploc freezer bag, filled it with water, and added some drops of food coloring. We then grabbed our freshly sharpened pencils and poked them through one side of the bag to the other. Once we pushed about five pencils through the bag we removed them and watched as perfect little spouts of water shot out from the bag until it was empty. Simple and fun to do!

Sidney and Sloan in the process of pushing pencils through the Ziploc bag.

This Week’s Meme – I once again grab a meme from the Instagram Story of my friend Lindsi to close out another Thursday Rundown. This perfectly describes the mood when Sidney and I use Google to settle our debates. When I am on the right side (which isn’t often) it sure is a sweet feeling.

Sidney and I let Google settle a lot of things in our marriage.

—————

I appreciate your time tonight. Remember that there is never a bad time to perform a random act of kindness. Have a nice Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and I will touch base next week. Don’t Blink.

Rediscovering and Appreciating Old Sitcoms

Tonight, I just have a brief observation.

Since getting Hulu, we have watched a lot of old sitcoms. “Cheers,” “Fraiser,” and “Seinfeld” are a few that we have acquainted ourselves with. Until streaming them over the past couple months, I had never given any of them a chance. Years and years ago I couldn’t switch the station fast enough if I landed on one of them while channel surfing.

Back in the 2000s, I wouldn’t give “Cheers” the time of day if I passed by a rerun.

However, as we get older we start doing weird things that would appall our former teenage selves. We enjoy going to bed early, we eat broccoli, and we even watch shows that “are about nothing.” It’s crazy.

I started watching these programs in mid-November. Hulu would group all the Thanksgiving-themed episodes of the sitcoms it owns together so viewers could truly get in the spirit of the holiday. I took the bait and got my Thanksgiving fix by watching classic sitcoms. I did the same with the Christmas episodes and then I went beyond the holiday specials and started watching random episodes in random seasons.

There used to be a time when “a show about nothing” just didn’t appeal to me.

I used to think shows like “Cheers” and “Seinfeld” were boring, crusty, and out of touch. But once I actually sat down and watched them from the perspective of an adult, one thing became apparent—they are works of art! Funny, well-written, and easy going, these shows make for fulfilling viewing.

But what really struck me the most is how they are relatable. In the case of “Cheers,” many of the episodes were filmed nearly 40 years ago. But you know what? The characters experienced the same predicaments and funny situations that many of us face today. The same can be said for “Frasier” and “Seinfeld.” Technology changes but relationships, jobs, and family still remain. To see these sitcoms opine on many of the issues that are so prevalent today has made me really develop an appreciation for these classics.

Frasier used to bore me.

If you are like me and steered clear of sitcoms from the 80s and 90s, you might want to go back and give them a second chance. You will see that your parents weren’t so crazy after all. Don’t Blink.

What January 12 Means to Me

On this date 20 years ago, my aunt died. It was the first time in my life that someone I loved and was close to passed away. First time experiences usually stick with us and this was no different. To this day I vividly remember most of the details starting with where I was when I heard the news. The Rosary service, funeral mass, interment, and reception can be played back with relative ease in my mind. Moments like the closing of the casket and riding in the black limousine of the funeral procession are also cemented internally.

My Aunt Becky passed away on January 12, 2001.

Losing a loved one will acquaint you with the reality of death. As a kid, this lesson can be jolting and unsettling. But once you learn it, it will never leave you. This is why on January 12 I always reflect on my own earthly mortality just as much as I do on All Souls Day.

I mentioned that when we are children the concept of death can seem really scary. To be honest, this uneasiness doesn’t go away as we get older. Thankfully, the anxiety of death can at least be equalized and even trumped by trusting in what God has prepared for those who love him.

As we prepare for our own passing, let’s make sure to remember and pray for those who have already departed. Today I keep my Aunt Becky especially close in my heart and petitions. Don’t Blink.

The End of My Life’s Little Instructions Run

I am a man of quirks and traditions. Over the years I have become known for doing certain things on a consistent basis. Whether it be just writing this blog or sending out extravagant holiday greetings, I like to give people something to look forward to, no matter how small it might be. When 2021 rolled around, I laid to rest one of my longstanding daily traditions.

For the past 14 years, I have had a page-a-day calendar called Life’s Little Instructions. Each day would feature a tidbit on how to be a happier, kinder, wiser, or healthier individual. Many times these quotes were hokey or outdated, but sometimes they actually hit the mark. For the first five years of using the Life’s Little Instructions calendar, it was these occasional nuggets of wisdom that encouraged me to purchase it year-after-year.

Me holding the 2018 Life’s Little Instructions calendar. 

But after a half decade the instructions started to repeat themselves and the novelty wore off. So what would make me continue to go through the same song and dance for another nine years? Social media.

An example of a Life’s Little Instruction.

In 2009 I started to post the instructions to Twitter and in 2013 I started to post them to Instagram. I found that my followers actually appreciated them. The repeating instructions didn’t bother me enough to pull the plug on the enjoyment of others so I continued to purchase Life’s Little Instructions and post the content on a daily basis.

I didn’t know it at the time, but 2020 would be my final year with the Life’s Little Instructions calendar.

My Instagram audience enjoyed Life’s Little Instructions the most. Over the years I have had several regulars comment and share the posts. However, no one gave me more of an incentive to publish the instructions on my feed than Ellen Seder. For four years, this college gym pal of mine would respond to every post with a humorous or witty comment. Most of her replies were self-deprecating as she would analyze the instruction in context with her dating life, reality TV-watching habits, or love for Prada. Whenever I would post in the morning I would think, what is Ellen going to come up with today? Her comments always brought joy to my day.

This is Ellen Seder, the person responsible for bringing a lot of humor to my Instagram account over the years with her comments on my Life’s Little Instructions posts.

The Life’s Little Instructions calendar kept me knowledgeable about the date, provided a lot of blogging ideas, gave me consistent social media content, and helped me not to take myself too seriously. However, I guess all good things come to an end.

I planned to continue my Life’s Little Instructions run in 2021. However, when I went to purchase the calendar at the end of December, I was told that a shipment of the Life’s Little Instructions product never arrived. The store manager said that the pandemic contributed to a lack of inventory. I turned to Amazon and found it, but if I ordered it online I would not receive it until mid or end of January. I decided I would discontinue my search. So, for the first time in 15 years, I started the new year without referencing my Life’s Little Instructions calendar.

Most good things come to an end.

A couple days ago, my mom was at Barnes & Noble. She texted me a photo of the 2021 Life’s Little Instructions calendar and asked if I wanted it. After thinking about it for a moment I said no thank you. It wouldn’t have been a big deal resuming my tradition after a week hiatus but I decided against it. My social media followers were getting along just fine without the daily instructions.

My mom texted me this photo of Life’s Little Instructions calendars at Barnes & Noble. She asked if I wanted her to buy it. I passed.

It is working out just fine for me as well. In 2021, I look forward to building an Instagram presence that centers on beautiful photos that mean something to me as opposed to eyesore calendar photos. Also, my Twitter followers will no longer confuse calendar quotes as something that I said or believe. Although at first it felt weird not posting the instructions every day, I am managing.

Thanks to everyone who followed and enjoyed Life’s Little Instructions over the years. It was a great run and hopefully they resonated with you every now and then. Don’t Blink.

From Fun to Yuk

Tuesday night I had a true guilty parent moment.

That afternoon in the mail we received an envelope from the Washington State Department of Health. It was branded under its Child Profile program and addressed to the parents of Beau Reser. In the envelope was a wealth of health and safety information for babies.

Among the papers enclosed in the correspondence was a sheet of stickers. The stickers bore the likeness of Mr. Yuk, a grimacing green face that is synonymous with poison. The idea is to put the stickers on household chemicals and toxins that would be harmful if ingested or introduced to the skin. When children see Mr. Yuk, in theory, they know to stay away from whatever substance he happens to be on.

These Mr. Yuk stickers were included in the envelope that arrived at our mailbox on Tuesday.

Knowing how much Sloan likes stickers, I decided to show her the sheet of Mr. Yuk faces. She thought it was really cool and she even affixed one of the stickers on one of our household cleaning bottles. As we talked about Mr. Yuk and what he means, I decided to enhance the lesson by enlisting the help of YouTube. This turned out to be a big mistake.

Sloan put this Mr. Yuk sticker on a bottle of cleaner.

After typing in the name of the subject we were learning about, I tapped on the first search result titled Mr. Yuk Commercial. It was only a minute long and I thought it would supplement what we had already learned by perhaps introducing Mr. Yuk and further explaining what he is used for.

To be fair, it did do these things…kind of. I just didn’t know the delivery would be so menacing. In an exorcist-type voice, a song is performed with the endearing lyrics of He’s Mean, He’s Green. The poisons that turn into demons, children in distress, and the fiery/strobe-effect backgrounds certainly fit with the musical score.

This video wasn’t the best thing for kids.

Needless to say, the educational impact of the video was lost on Sloan. Instead, she was petrified. Her excitement for Mr. Yuk turned to fear in those 67 seconds. After calming her down we went upstairs. I felt bad.

Fast forward about 90 minutes later. Sloan was asleep in her bed—or so I thought. I was right next to her under the covers as we try to re-introduce her to routine after a couple weeks out of town. Just as I was about to hop out of bed her little eyes opened wide.

Sloan was in distress just like this girl in the Mr. Yuk video.

“Daddy, I am scared of Mr. Yuk. Is he still downstairs?”

I tried to tell her she didn’t have to be afraid of Mr. Yuk but I assured her that he was no longer downstairs (a little white lie). Sloan being scared in the moment earlier in the evening was one thing, but the fact that the trauma extended to her sleep made me feel much worse. Thankfully, she ended up going back to sleep.

Early Wednesday morning I hid the Mr. Yuk stickers and removed the one she stuck on the cleaning bottle. This was a good lesson to screen YouTube videos before showing them to your child. Thankfully, Sloan has not expressed fear of Mr. Yuk over the past two days. Let’s just hope it stays that way. Don’t Blink.

Therapeutic Thursday Rundown

Tough times for our country. Yesterday was a lot to digest and I wasn’t interested in writing nor did I think it was appropriate to do so. Tonight I am writing because it is offering me some therapeutic relief and because I believe some people might want to read something that is on the lighter side. Here is my first Thursday Rundown of 2021…

Wrong – It just happened yesterday, but there are already enough articulate and passionate condemnations to keep someone busy for multiple lifetimes. Because I can’t really add anything else of unique value, let me say this about the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building: It was wrong. It was also very troubling and sickening. But at its very core it was just plain wrong. What else can I say?

My Favorite Christmas Gift – Chalk it up to my wife for once again finding me the perfect Christmas present. She gifted me a lap desk! For anyone who likes to write with pen and paper (like me) while relaxing on the couch, a lap desk is a must. These days they are more popular than ever with so many people working from home. Yes, they are perfect to rest your lap top on! Don’t worry Sid, this gift is going to get a lot of use.

I love this lap desk that Sid got me for Christmas.

The Best Birthday Gift – If you are ever in a bind for a birthday gift, consider sticking some scratch offs in a card. I wrote that last sentence one year ago when I described my go-to envelope stuffer. You see, scratch offs are perfect for men and women, they don’t need to be wrapped, and they are readily attainable at any local gas station or grocery store. Need more evidence for why they are so great? Read my blog post from Jan. 7, 2020.

Scratch offs make great birthday gifts

Bets on the Next Host – It looks like the guy I was pulling for to replace Alex Trebek won’t get the opportunity—at least not permanently. Ken Jennings was a favorite to take over hosting duties on Jeopardy but a couple of social media controversies might have squashed his ambitions. Although he will still guest host, the gig will likely go to a bigger name with a news background. Katie Couric is reportedly a legitimate candidate for the coveted position. This L.A. Times article does a good job of speculating about other candidates and explaining why Jennings won’t get the job.

Ken Jennings is a very, very smart man but most likely won’t be landing the Jeopardy hosting gig (photo courtesy of USA Today).

Holiday Wrap Up – We were blessed to safely spend the holidays with Sid’s family. Although we hosted her parents in October, Sidney had not seen her sisters and their spouses/kids for seven months; for me, nine months. Most of our time was spent catching up and playing board games. We made some great memories and ate some really good food. I am extremely thankful for my Myrtle Beach family.

The cousins had plenty of time to hang out at the end of December and start of January.

————————

Please pray for peace. Thanks for reading what has been a therapeutic exercise for me. Don’t Blink.

Bracing For What 2021 Will Bring

Well, almost four days into 2021 and so far so good. I say that of course as a pandemic continues to ravage our world. No, the coronavirus didn’t disappear when the clock struck midnight last Friday. But perhaps we are at least moving in the right direction?

2021 is here. What will the next 52 weeks bring?

In terms of 2021, I have found myself going back and forth between two different gut instincts. On one hand I am cautiously optimistic. I hope that the vaccine will be distributed globally to a large percentage of the population and we will turn a major corner. It can happen…it needs to happen. But what if it doesn’t happen? Or, what if it does, but mutations take us all back to square one? Thus, I have to be honest and say that I feel a little uneasy about this year too.

Of course, whatever direction the pandemic trends is where the lives of millions will trend as well—both directly and indirectly. Whether from a health, economic, or social perspective, this virus is ruthless. That is one lesson we learned in 2020 that we soon won’t forget. It goes without saying, this year depends entirely on what happens with the coronavirus.

As I mentioned, I do feel a little uneasy about 2021 and I am sure many others feel the same way. But we can’t let this natural feeling paralyze us with fear or prevent us from doing our own personal best to make this year successful. Yes, the coronavirus can sweep the rug from under us but we still need to proceed with the mindset that hard work, creativity, and kindness can still yield a bountiful harvest—even during what will be a challenging year.

There are things we can’t control. At any given moment a major curve ball could be thrown our way. In 2021, we need to step up to the plate ready to handle that curve but also ready to hit the fast ball out of the park. May we all have a positive 2021. Don’t Blink.