February 22, 2013

How to Weatherize Your Kids for the Winter

When leaving for a summer outing, it takes roughly 11 seconds to get your kids out the door. They are dressed. They have brushed their teeth (mostly). They slide on some flip flops. They are ready for the daily adventure that lies ahead, so much so that you only need to say “Let’s go” once and you can do it without an exclamation point.

Leaving for a winter outing, on the other hand, takes exactly 2 hours, 30 minutes and 45 exclamation points.

I call this The Winter Effect.

The Winter Effect happens when your wife decides it’s time to start weatherproofing your children. Much like you insulate your house for the cold days of winter, your wife insulates your kids in 14 layers of clothes that keep them so warm you could cook bacon on them. (NOTE TO SELF: NEED TO TRY THIS.) The Winter Effect required-apparel for each kid includes:

Snow boots
Thermal underwear
Hooded sweatshirt over sweater
Coat over hooded sweatshirt over sweater
Earmuffs on top of hat
Hood from coat over earmuffs on top of hat
Two pairs of wool socks
Ski Mask

Understanding the Winter Effect is difficult for us dads, as we wear shorts year round. In order to explain it, I’ve decided to use terms and references guys are more likely to understand. The Winter Effect usually starts sometime around the World Series and lasts until Opening Day. The ballpark price of clothing needed to insulate your kids is roughly the same price as buying an actual ballpark. And if you make the poor executive decision not to follow your wife’s wishes to weatherize your kids, your wife will weatherize herself each and every night before bed, leaving you to celebrate Pantsless Thursdays all by yourself.

The Winter Effect causes every kid in your house to move slower than a 7th inning pitching change. They’ll act shocked (SHOCKED!) when you ask them to put on their own coats. Also, they’ll look at you as if instead of saying “put on your coat” you said “sit and do nothing.” So you become tasked with putting each layer on each kid, which they make difficult by doing things like “running away from you” and “complaining.”

Middle Daughter: Dad, why did you put my hat on Mia!?!
Me: Your hat? You both have the same hat. They are identical.
Middle Daughter: No they aren’t.
Me: What makes them different?
Middle Daughter: The difference is THIS ONE IS MINE!

It’s conversations like this, mixed with the number of clothing items you need to apply to each kid, that make it impossible to actually leave your house and to make it to any event on time. Let me give you an example:
Subject A, who has no kids, is heading to a rock concert that starts at 8 PM. Subject A wakes up from a nap at 7:15 and is showered, dressed and out scraping the wintry ice off his windshield by 7:20.

Subject B, who has kids, is heading to the grocery store to buy more Dora Band-Aids. Subject B has been changing diapers, cleaning up Play Doh and tending to a sprained knee from a rather aggressive game of Ring Around the Rosy since approximately 6 AM. Subject B plans to get out the door (with the kids) at 4 PM, so he starts weatherizing his kids at 3 PM. He finally steps foot outside at precisely 5:45 PM. (It’s also worth noting that 10 minutes later he realizes he forgot the diaper bag.)
Why do I bring this up? Mainly to let you know that you are not alone, my friend. I spend most of my non-sleeping, non-working hours putting some layer of clothes on someone in my house—be it me, one of my kids or Sylvia the Cabbage Patch Doll. It is not easy and it challenges one of the most sacred virtues of fatherhood: Punctuality. But I do it every morning, and not just because of not-so-idle threats by my wife. I do it because I love my kids. I do it because I care about their well-being and I want them to be warm and cozy even in the bitter cold. And, most important, I do it because if I didn’t, I’d be serenaded each car ride by a chorus of “Dad, we forgot my scarf! I can’t live without it! I need it! I need it! I need it!” Then tears. Then loud tears. Then meltdown.

So embrace The Winter Effect and weatherize your kids every morning. If you practice long and hard enough, you may be able to do it in 2 hours and 25 minutes, leaving you a whole 5 minutes to daydream about summer. And the beach club episodes of Saved by the Bell. (Thank goodness Zach figured out how to throw two parties in the clubhouse at once!)

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

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February 13, 2013

The 10 Rules of Making a Valentine’s Day Card for Mom

One thing every Mom deserves from her kids on Valentine’s Day is a homemade Valentine’s Day card. It’s a simple, loving gesture, and a project we Dads are in charge of organizing. It is also a project we are inevitably going to screw up. But have no fear! I’m here to help. Follow these 10 rules for guiding your kids into making the perfect Valentine’s Day card for your wife that will make your wife smile and, for the briefest of moments, make her lose sight of the fact that you didn’t buy her jewelry.

1. Get Mom out of the house. 

On any other given evening, when given the opportunity for a night out, your wife would be out the door so fast that she wouldn’t even notice if you had shaved off one of your eyebrows and glued it to your chin. But for some reason, when you are trying to craft a surprise gift and need her gone, she’ll act as if the only place on Earth she wants to be is at your house. The only solution is to tell her that you’ve scheduled a surprise massage for her that night and that it starts in 20 minutes. This will buy you just enough time to have the kids make Valentine’s Day cards. It will also buy you enough time to make an apology card, which you will need to make up for lying to her about the massage.

2. Gather all the kids in one room. 

If you have more than one kid, this is nearly impossible. By the time you get one kid settled into a chair, another one has gone missing, with the most likely destination being In Front of the TV. The best solution to keeping them in one room is to either bribe them with candy or threaten them with duct tape. These are two of the three most valuable tools you will ever have as a father (the other is a Dora DVD).

3. Make sure you have all the necessary supplies.

Making a Valentine’s Day card requires a lot of supplies, such as construction paper, stickers, crayons, glue, markers, boogers, scissors, gauze and Band-Aids. If you are missing any of the mandatory supplies, you will hear about it.
“There are no stickers, Dad?”
“No, but I’ve cut out all these red hearts from construction paper that you can glue on.”
“But I NEED stickers! Without them, this card is RUINED.”
“I don’t think the card is ruined.”
“I may as well give Mom a half-eaten lollipop for Valentine’s Day.”
If your wife is reading this then she will finally understand why her Valentine’s Day card is covered in approximately $11 worth of postage stamps.

4. Always work over a table.

If you don’t want to find marker stains on your couch and a remote glued to your fireplace, then make sure you’re crafting these cards over a table. If the table is at someone else’s house, all the better.

5. Never try to tell your kids which side of the card is the front.

It doesn’t matter what you say or how logical your suggestion is to use the front of the card as “the front of the card,” your kids will dismiss it--just like they dismiss your other wise, fatherly suggestions like “clean up your room” and “stop sitting there--my head is not a resting spot for your butt!” To them, every side of the card is the front. The front is the front. The back is the front. The inside is the front. Sometimes even your table is “the front.” Just be happy that they are settled in and finally working on the cards. Worry about your sanity later.

6. Prepare for multicolored arms.

Whenever markers or paints are involved, you can rest assure that your kids will unintentionally (and sometimes completely intentionally) draw all over their arms. By the time the Valentine’s Day cards are complete, their arms will look like the work of a drunk tattoo artist who was testing out a new design that he calls “the epic rainbow.” The best way to deal with this is put the kids to bed in long-sleeved PJs and giant oven mitts, and pray that your wife doesn’t notice when she gets home.

7. Make sure you spell “Mom” correctly.

Sounds simple, but if you turn away for too long the kids may accidentally add extra letters to “Mom” and spell something nonsensical like “MomIsStinky.” It won’t be the most pleasent of Valentine’s Days when you have to spend most of it explaining to your wife where they learned how to spell that. Also, your wife will not believe you when you say “Twitter.”

8. Have a predetermined card making start and stop time.

There are two types of cards kids make: Cards that are finished with just one scribble on them (so they can return to trying to break your iPad) and cards that will never be finished (so they can avoid bedtime at all costs). Explain to your kids that for the next 30 minutes (and only 30 minutes) they will be giving all their attention to making the best Valentine’s Day card for Mom that they possibly can. After five minutes, feel free to abandon this plan and send them to their rooms.

9. Clean up the evidence.

When the cards are finally finished and all the “fronts” are decorated, be sure to clean up all the materials and scraps that have overtaken your house. It’s amazing how a few simple cards can lead to enough paper waste to fill a bowling alley.

10. Hide the cards in a top secret location, namely a spot that Mom hasn’t looked in for so long it has cobwebs on it.

Hey, it’s about time you got some use out of her lingerie drawer.

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

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* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things. 

February 1, 2013

A Night Out is Different Once You Have Kids

A night out for me used to mean dressing up to look good for my wife, sharing a few drinks with her at Murphy’s Pub and grabbing a 10-sack of White Castles on the way home. Our bedtime was in the AM while our wake time was in the PM. The only two things I had to worry about were my wife and whether or not I remembered to close my bar tab.  

Nights out are a little different these days now that I’m a parent.

First, there needs to be a reason for a night out—like, it’s grandma’s birthday or we need a headlight replaced. Second, there is less emphasis on “looking good” and more emphasis on “finding at least one piece of clothing that doesn’t smell like baby vomit.” Third, bedtime is at 8:30 sharp (unless, of course, someone forgot to lotion hands or put on chap stick or wear the socks with furry toes or has to pee again). Finally, I have to worry about 100 million things, with the most pressing on the list being cleaning up all the magnet letters that are all over our kitchen floor and solving the mystery of where my youngest hid the remote.

Recently, we had a night out as a family thanks to my eldest daughter’s school. In honor of Catholic Schools Week—which is religious speak for having Out Of Uniform Days, Crazy Hair Days, Crazy Sock Days and, I’m not making this up, Science Class—the school hosted an amazing Luau Dance. For a small donation you could eat pizza and embarrass your child with your sweet dance moves, all at the same time! I find opportunities like this are rare, so you need to take advantage of them when you can.

Because these events are so few and far between, my wife and I decided to make the most of it. She and our daughters got all dolled up, wearing flowery dresses and other luau gear my wife picked up at our favorite costume shop. I broke out my beloved Hawaiian shirt, which causes my wife to give me the old look-up-and-down, from head to toe, with that gleam in her eye that says, "If you ever wear that shirt again, I'm leaving you."

We arrive at the dance and are greeted by many of the other families we know, also dressed for the event. We grab a table, but the minute my daughter spots one of her friends she's off. Once my middle daughter spots my oldest bolt, she's off. And when my youngest spots a piece of dropped popcorn on the ground, she's off. I sit for a moment at a table with my wife, as our kids run off. It's as if we are on a date. I smile and think about giving her a kiss, when my wife turns to me and says, "Are you seriously going to let her eat that piece of popcorn?"

Just then, a loud, God-like voice speaks over a PA system.

"It's time to get this party started. Let's dance!"

All the kids from the school, as well as some brave moms, are on the dance floor. It's a line dance, which is my favorite kind of dance because you don't really have to "talent" to participate. My daughters are all mingling, watching the dance with great attention. So I get up and join in. First a few moves to the left. Then a few moves to the right. Then stomp (right foot this time). Stop (left foot this time). Hands on your knees. Hands on your knees. Everybody clap your hands (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap). I lean over to my daughters and say, "This is so much fun. Come on out here and dance with me!" All three look at each other as if I asked them to, in unison, spontaneously combust.

"No thanks, Dad." It was like getting turned down by the prom queens.

I came off the dance floor a bit bummed. My daughters aren't even as old as my newest pair of jeans and they are already uninterested in dancing with me, their old, uncool (but pulling off this awesome Hawaiian shirt) Dad. My spirit had been a bit crushed. Then this older gentleman stopped me as I made my way off the floor.

"Don't worry. I've been there. Keep dancing and one day they'll come back to you."

That line really stuck with me. While I think that I yearn for carefree nights out like I used to have with my wife, I now yearn for nights out with my daughters—the same ones I often crack jokes about. And just as I'm ready to admit that out loud, my girls are off, playing with their friends and leaving me to dance all alone. The only hope I have is that one day, eventually, they come back and share a few dances with their old, uncool (but super awesome) Dad.

I return to my seat next to my wife. She knows I'm a little sad by this revelation, so she puts her hand on my shoulder and gives a sympathetic shake of the head. At least I have her.

"You'll always dance with me, right?"

"Not if you're wearing that Hawaiian shirt."

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.