January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Games for Young Kids: The Candy Bowl

Watching the Super Bowl with young kids is nearly impossible.

There's yelling and screaming, and that's just from your wife who is trying to get the kids to stop standing on the coffee table.1

You miss the best plays of the game because you're cleaning up spilled Capri Suns off the carpet and you miss the best commercials because you're in the bathroom reading Blue Hat, Green Hat to your youngest who thinks she has to poop and refuses to get up until you've read the book at least 45 times. 

I was tired of not being able to watch the Super Bowl, the most popular thing in America, so last year I devised a strategy to get the kids involved by showing them the second most popular thing in America: Gambling. 

I grabbed a piece of paper and a marker and created a Super Bowl Box Pool or, as we like to call it, The Candy Bowl. I altered the rules a little to make it kid-friendly and will share them with you (I've included an image of our Candy Bowl chart below to help.)

The Super Bowl Box Pool for Kids
(aka The Candy Bowl)

The Set Up
1. Grab a sheet of paper and a pen.
2. Draw horizontal lines and vertical lines until you create a giant square with 100 boxes inside.
3. Tear a piece of paper into 10 small pieces and number each one zero through nine. 
4. Find a hat (or, in the case of a dad with three daughters, a Dora purse). 

The Rules
1. Take turns putting initials in each box until the entire 100 squares are accounted for. 
2. Adults may play, but they are allowed only 1 box for every 2 boxes initialed by each child. 
3. Take four boxes and mark them as "Community Boxes." If the score hits on one of these boxes, everyone wins. (This gives everyone a few numbers to root for together.)
4. Kids take turns pulling numbers out of the hat (Dora purse) to determine which number is associated with each row. Do this once for the horizontal rows and once for the vertical rows. 

The Prizes - Pick from the Candy Bowl
1. End of the First Quarter: 1 piece of candy
2. End of the Second Quarter: 1 piece of candy
3. End of the Third Quarter: 1 piece of candy
4. End of the Fourth Quarter: 2 pieces of candy2 

This game, this simple game, kept my kids much quieter than in years past. Suddenly they were invested in the Super Bowl. Their eyes glued to the score, as if the score were an episode of "Sophia the First." The asked me relevant questions about the football, such as "How do the teams score points?" and "How long until someone wins candy?" instead of "Dad, why doesn't your head grow any hair?" They spent more time snuggling on the couch with me than standing on the coffee table3, and stayed focused long enough for us to enjoy the game together. Most amazingly, they spent the entire year asking me when we could do it again.

So with this year's Super Bowl right around the corner, gather your paper, marker and Dora purse and get ready to go. It's time to start your annual tradition of The Candy Bowl. 

1 In their defense, they were playing Lava Floor and if they touched the ground, they'd be melted by hot lava. 
2 If you want to step it up, you could make little goodie bags of treats to give away. I would, but I usually am too busy reading Blue Hat, Green Hat.
3 Though we did keep our feet up off the ground. I mean, the floor is made of lava for Christ's sake. 

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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January 27, 2014

Should You Thank Your Wife for Heating up a Frozen Pizza?

Question: Should you thank your wife for heating up frozen pizza for dinner? This was a hot topic at my house on a recent Friday night. Most evenings we’re like any other family when it comes to preparing dinner: We make seven-course meals with mostly fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy dietary options while drinking organic Jamba Juice1, but on the occasional Friday night we take the cheap and easy way out.

On this particular evening, I requested frozen pizza for dinner. My wife, who arrived home early and was in a good mood because she was only minutes away from seeing my handsome face2, heated up the oven and threw in two frozen pizza pies. My daughters and I arrived home. We sat around the table discussing the finer points of English languagenamely when and where it’s appropriate to say the word “poop”when the oven dinged and my wife dished out the frozen pizza.

Then there was an awkward moment. And an argument. A ridiculous argument over whether or not the girls and I should say thank you to my wife for heating up store-bought frozen pizza for dinner.

To settle our dispute I did what any self-respecting adult would do in this situation: I asked Facebook. 

Thirty-three people commented on the post. The answers ranged from this:

To this:

To this:

In fact, by a landslide 31-1 vote, the consensus (whatever that means) was that “Yes, you thank your wife for making dinner, even if it’s just heating up frozen pizza in the oven.” Many of the responses stuck it to me, with a “I can’t believe you would even consider not thanking your wife. You’re dumber than a slug!”3

One comment, though, wasn’t a vote. It pointed out an oddity in the question: “I'm still trying to figure out what science has to do with this.”

While the scientific note was mostly a joke, it did serve a slightly grander purpose: Everyone thought that I was arguing NOT to thank my wife. That assumption was dead wrong.

Every night when my wife makes dinnerwhether it’s chicken parmesan, quesadillas, salmon and rice, macaroni and cheese, canned soup, or frozen pizzaI thank her. And I make sure all our kids thank her too. I do this because 1) I think it’s important to thank whoever put in the time (no matter how little time it takes) to prepare your dinner and 2) I want my kids to always show appreciation for their mom, someone who works tirelessly at a 40-plus hours-per-week job to help provide for them all while taking care of us (which is probably more exhausting than the 40-plus hours-per-week job). And just because on occasional Friday nights she’s too tired (and I’m too tired) to make a big meal, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be showing our gratitude for the meal she did make.

So when the girls and I thanked her for making the frozen pizza, shemy beautiful, lovely, kind and generous wifeargued that we shouldn’t thank her for simply heating up pizza. I said that we should. She told me to stop. We actually fought about this for quite awhile. And, while I’m not proud of it, there was some name-calling:

Me: “You’re so unreasonable! Just accept our gratitude you clown!”
My Wife: “I’ll tell you where you can stick that thank you, you super-sexy piece of man meat!” 4

The point is, my wife fluffs off a lot of things because she believes that's just what you do for the people you love. I want her to know that we appreciate her, even for the simplest of tasks. And, thanks to modern marvels like Facebook, I proved that I’m right.

Which means that for the first time in the many years that we’ve been together and the many disagreements that we’ve had, I can finally utter the phrase, “I was right.” 5

So I’m going to continue thanking my wife when she makes frozen pizza (and when she does other things to care for our family, no matter how big or how small). And I’m going to make our daughters do it too. I guess she's just going to have to live with it, just like she lives with this super-sexy piece of man meat.

1 This is a lie. We eat Burger King.
2 This is also a lie. She was happy to have a few quiet minutes to herself before I brought all our loud kids home (though I’m sure my handsome face helped too).
3 Except for those snooty, elitist Ivy League slugs. Thankfully none of them read this blog.
4 Well, that’s what I heard anyway.
5 This is a big lie. I’ve been right twice before: 1) Bacon is not gross, it’s delicious and 2) watching “Who’s Harry Crumb?” with me repeating every line IS fun!

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

* Subscribe to The Life of Dad via email or RSS feed!  
* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things. 

January 8, 2014

10 Things You Need to Do at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Going to Disney World is a right of passage that many families go through. It’s a place where your dreams come true—if your dreams include having your photo taken with Rapunzel and spending $14 on a box of four tiny chicken nuggets. It’s also the happiest place on Earth, and here’s why.

Disney does everything right. They may take all of your money (and the deed to both of your kidneys), but they take careful care and consideration of the Disney Experience and really do give you an adventure that you can’t get anywhere else. That’s why I’ve put together the 10 things I think everyone needs to see or do or know about while at the Magic Kingdom. By doing these things, it's hard not to have a great time.

1. The Disney FastPass

Everyone who goes to Disney is eligible for a FastPass. FastPasses typically work like this: Instead of standing in long lines, you can sign up at kiosks around the park (and on your smartphone) and reserve a time to ride any ride that is eligible for the FastPass. The program lets you know what times are available to reserve (some rides book up quickly), and you get a limit of 3 per day day—which is amazingly fair if you think about it. Basically you’re cutting in line, but everyone is given the chance to cut in line a few times to make sure that everyone is able to ride what’s most important to him or her (and their family).

2. It’s a Small World

This classic Disney ride kind of encapsulates everything about Disney—its all-inclusive nature and how we can all connect with love, happiness and empty wallets. Seeing cultures represented from all over the world in a calming boat ride is a nice way to start your trip and introduce you to Disney. Also, I recommend only riding it once. The more you ride it and listen to that song, the more you get the feeling that the animatronic characters are going to murder you.

3. Watch Mickey’s PhilharMagic (& Any Other 3D Attraction)

We were blown away by how amazing the 3D technology is. In fact, it is so well executed that my middle daughter got scared and refused to wear the glasses because she was afraid Donald Duck was going to hit us with his flying carpet. The PhilharMagic is a must-see (and so is the Muppet Show in Disney’s Hollywood park).

4. Character Parade/Princess Parade

Officially called the “Move it! Shake it! Celebrate it! Street Party” and the “Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade,” these parades rotate throughout the day traveling up and down the main drag of the Magic Kingdom (the one leading up to it’s iconic Cinderella Castle). You .. er, I’m mean, the kids can dance with many of the Disney characters. So if you’ve ever wanted to shake it with Cinderella or line dance with Jessie the Cowgirl, this is your chance. I busted a move with Frozone from the Incredibles. It was awesome.

5. Enchanted Tales with Belle

Also known as Storytime with Belle, this event is one of the most impressive at the Magical Kingdom. Kids (and adults) get the opportunity to play the roles of the Beauty and the Beast characters and perform an (extremely) abbreviated version of the movie, and they get to interact with an animatronic Wardrobe and the famous Lumiere (both of which blew my mind). I offered to play The Beast, but apparently my acting skills were not up-to-snuff so they cast some fresh-off-of-naptime 4 year old to play the role. (I mean come on, that kid couldn’t even grow a mustache!)

6. Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor

This is an animated show where characters from the Monster’s Inc. movies provide stand-up comedy. They poke fun at audience members (yes: on screen characters make jokes about people in the audience, whom they show on a separate big screen). It’s pretty funny for kids and adults alike. Also, while waiting in line, you can text jokes to the Monsters and a handful get used in the live show. Though they didn’t use my, “A screwdriver walks into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Hey, we have a drink named after you!’ The Screwdriver responds, ‘You have a drink named Kevin?’"

7. Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney has made billions of dollars on movies based on this ride, so you really can’t go to the Magic Kingdom without exploring the pirate life. Plus, if you pay attention, you can spot Johnny Depp, er, Jack Sparrow.

8. Meet Mickey

You can meet all the Disney princesses and characters that you want—and our girls wanted to meet most of them—but none of them compare to meeting Mickey. He’s really the star of the show. His mouth moves when he talks, which endeared him to some of our kids and freaked out others, and you get to meet him in an individual room, so don’t feel as rushed with him as you do most of the other characters (where you can still see the line of impatient kids waiting behind you).

9. The Electrical Parade

The Electrical Parade is an evening parade that takes place a couple times a week, where they shut down the streets/paths of the Magic Kingdom and have beautifully lit floats caravan throughout the park. It’s almost like they’ve taken the most wonderfully decorated houses at Christmas Time and put them on wheels. The parade has been around since I was a kid and it’s just as mesmerizing now as it was then.

10. The Castle Show

Shortly before the fireworks close down the park, music starts to play and the iconic Cinderella Castle in the middle of the part begins changing colors. It’s unbelievable. Images of characters float on the walls, as if the castle is some kind of humungous plasma TV that has curve and angles that display in high-def. Really, it feels like a Pixar movie is happening right in front of your eyes and it’s breathtaking. We went back to see it a second time and I was just as amazed as the first time. This show sums up the entire Disney experience for me: Simply magical.

Editor's Note: To clear up some confusion, I was not paid in any way by Disney to write this. I genuinely had an amazing time at the Magic Kingdom and thought this list of "musts" would benefit my audience and other parents, many of whom probably have a trip to Disney on their radar.

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

* Subscribe to The Life of Dad via email or RSS feed!  
* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things.