Scooby-Doo: Bridging the Generation Gap

Back when I was five or so my favorite cartoon was Scooby-Doo. I remember watching the episodes over and over again on the black-and-white television in my dad’s art studio while he worked on his art projects. My brother liked the cartoon too. One Halloween my mom made me a Scooby-Doo outfit and my brother a Scrappy-Doo outfit. (The photo she took of us in those costumes is still one of my favorite childhood photos.)

Fast forward 30 years. I have four kids. The oldest three (ages 6, 5, and 4) are the same age I was back in the late 1970s/early 1980s when I liked Scooby-Doo. What’s their favorite thing to watch on TV or stream from Netflix? Episodes of Scooby-Doo.

The other night, too tired to write, I sat down and watch an episode with them. I was a little surprised that the writers are still using the same formulaic. Yes, the show’s been updated. The characters use cell phones and computers, but they still dress the same and drive The Mystery Machine. The bad guy always dress up in monster costumes, Scooby and Shaggy are still cowards, eat like pigs, and manage to stay thin, and the villain always says that he/she “would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids” at the end of every episode.

But why mess with something that’s not broken? I liked it 30 years ago and my kids like it now. (My oldest has a Mystery Machine lunch box he takes to school every day.) In fact the new episodes are just as fun as the ones I remember watching as a kid. If anything, it’s nice to have something like Scooby-Doo that stretches across generations. I know who Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby are, I’m happy to get my kids “Scooby snacks” from the treat cupboard, or laugh with them at the silly slapstick humor in every episode.

Kudos to those who have been able to keep the show alive in various incarnations over the years. May it still be around when I have grandkids that are old enough to enjoy it too.

How to Play Real Football

This fall I’ve taken my kids to three college football games. One of the unintended consequences of this activity is that they think I don’t know a darn thing about how to play the game.

Take Saturday, for example. I take the kids to the park so we can play football. I divide everyone up into teams and hand the ball to my oldest kid. He gives me a quizzical look and hands the ball back to me.

“We can’t play yet,” he says.

“Why not?” I reply.

“Because we haven’t run out of the tunnel yet,” he says matter-of-factly.

Now it’s my turn to give him a quizzical look. “What are you talking about?”

“Before the game starts the players run out of the tunnel and you say what team you’re playing for.”

Now I get it. At the games I’ve taken them to, the teams run out of tunnels on the other side of the field. He wants to do the same thing.

“OK,” I say, “run out of the tunnel.

He and his brother run around the park and yell “Denver Broncos!” at the top of their lungs. They run back to me and I hand the ball to him.

“Hike the ball,” I said.

“We can’t Dad,” he said. “You haven’t run out of the tunnel yet.”

“I don’t need to—“

“All the teams run out of the tunnel,” he says. “Oh, and you’re the Indianapolis Colts.”

The Colts? I don’t want to be the Colts. I open my mouth to object but realize it could be worse. He could have asked me to be the Oakland Raiders.

So me and my daughter run around the field and let the world know we’re the Colts. When I get back to the ling of scrimmage the oldest hands me the ball.

“You start,” I tell him.

“No, Dad. You need to kick the ball to us.”

“What?”

“They kick the ball off to start the game,” he says as tosses me the ball.

The kickoff. How could I forget that?

I walk back to the goal line. My boys back up. I kick the ball over their heads. Laughing, they both run after it.  My oldest picks up the ball and I wrestle him to the ground. He jumps up and gets ready to hike the ball to his brother.

“We’re going to get a touchdown!” he says before hiking the ball.

Let the game begin.

Running: 10 Years and Counting

Running Ten years ago this month I made a decision that changed my life: I laced up a pair of old sneakers and went running.

It was the latest in a series of attempt to lose weight. After working as a cubicle jockey and enjoying a constant stream of free sodas and snacks from my employer, I was on the verge of being obese. I hated the way I looked and physically felt. I knew I needed to change my lifestyle or I was going to be miserable for the rest of my life.

At the time I never thought that running would be something I be doing one or even 10 years in the future. I just thought a little exercise would help me shed some weight and, once gone, I’d change my eating habits to keep the pounds from returning. But as I kept at it I discovered that running was something I really enjoyed. More than just exercise, I liked feeling the sun on my face and feeling the road under my feet. I enjoyed running farther, running faster. Every day was a challenge to see if I could improve and do a little bit better.

And yes, the weight came off. Six months later I was 50 pounds lighter. Looking back, however, it wasn’t’ just lacing up the shoes that day that made the difference. It was getting up every morning after that, no matter the weather or how I felt, and tying to run a little farther, a little faster. It was making that decision the second and third mornings and every morning since that helped me not only lose the weight but rebuild my life, fall in love with Marathon Girl, and bond with my kids.

So here’s to a decade of running—something that changed my life in ways I never even imagined when I first put on those worn out sneakers. And here’s to running every day for the rest of my life.

Family Runs II

Family Runs

Now that the weather’s finally warmed up, Marathon Girl and I have taking the kids on weekly family runs again. In the back of my mind I worry that the kids will tire of them but every week they still enjoy hopping on their bikes or climbing in the stroller for a three or four mile run with Mom and Dad. The oldest two enjoy them so much that they’ve now ride alongside me during my morning—so long as they’re awake and ready to go when I’m heading out the door.

Most mornings, just as I’m finishing my weight routine I hear them running down the stairs to see if I’ve left without them. When they see that I’m home, they let out excited cries of joy, put on their shoes, and head out to the garage to get their bikes.

It’s been a nice having the two boys on their bikes with me as I run. Having them with me helps me focus my thoughts on the family instead of work or other stress inducing subjects. It's been fun to watch their endurance increase with each passing day. A four mile bike rid is no longer a problem for them.

We don’t talk much during our runs but from the big smiles on their faces as we count off the miles, I can tell they’re having a good time riding their bikes in the cool morning air with dad.

I hope they can tell Dad enjoys them too.

Family Workouts

Family Treadmill Runs

When it comes to my kids’ bad behavior, I often see them mimicking my own shortcomings. I grimace every time my 4-year-old son get frustrated when something doesn’t go as planned because it’s something he learned from watching Dad. It’s a reminder to me that I need to do better (I’m trying!) and how much my actions (instead of my words) influence them.

Thankfully the kids learn from my (and Marathon Girl’s) good behavior too. One thing they’re really into is exercising. For them exercising usually involves running around outside with their friends. But with the cold spring, playing outside hasn’t happened as often as they like. So on days when it’s too cold to play outside, they run on the treadmill—just like Mom and Dad.

They know how to turn it on, select a speed, and run. I get a kick out of watching them run at full speed for a minute or two, slow down to walking speed until they catch their breath, and then start running again. And while one runs, the other kids explore my weights, pick up the lightest dumbbells, and start mimicking curls or strength training exercises they’ve seen me do.

When they started running this winter, I thought it was because the treadmill was new and that they’d tire of it after a week or two. But they’re still at it, almost every day, enjoying running on the treadmill. Today my oldest used it while I worked my triceps and chest. It made my workout extra fun to work out with him. It was a nice bonding experience.

I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did. I’d love to keep working out with him and all of my children now and as they get older.

I look forward to the day that they can run faster or bench press more than their old man.

Story Time

Story Time

Back in January I started reading Harry Potter to the oldest three every night. I wasn’t sure if it was something they’d enjoy. I didn’t know if they were old enough to understand what was going on or if a story about a young wizard would even hold their attention.

It’s worked out better than I expected. The two oldest boys understand the plot in the characters. Sometimes I have to explain words or things in the book they’re unfamiliar with but they usually lie in rapt attention as I read. Our lone girl is a bit too young, but looks forward to story time anyway because she can snuggle next to Mom or Dad. I’ve also learned that 10-12 pages a night is all the kids and my voice can handle and that explaining magical creatures and flying cars garners the most amazing, imaginative thoughts from my kids.

Having never read the Harry Potter books until now, I can see why they were so popular. They’re very imaginative and well written. Two thumbs up to JK Rowling.

I’m glad my kids are enjoying story time because whether I’m telling them something I made up or reading from Harry Potter, it’s one of my favorite times of the day

Real vs. Virtual Talent

Time Management

The best Christmas present I ever received was an Atari 2600. Unwrapping it on Christmas morning is probably my most vivid Christmas memory. Over its life it received thousands of hours of playtime. Even after it became outdated (Nintendo’s were all the rage in high school), friends and I would break it out on occasion and play our favorite games. It and the dozens of games we owned were finally thrown away as the family packed up to move to Wyoming.

By far the best Christmas present our kids received this year was a Wii. And while I’ve enjoyed playing it with them as well as watching them play, it’s been somewhat troubling how addictive they find it. The boys would spend all day doing nothing but playing it if we let them. (We don’t. Its use is highly regulated.)

I bring this up because it amazes me how much time kids and adults spend playing video games. Even a lot of adults I know can’t live without their weekly game nights or spend hours after their kids are in bed playing World of Warcraft. Granted today’s games are better, more complex, and take longer to play than the ones I grew up on, but it really concerns me when I see the boys begging to play the Wii while they’ve got plenty of other toys and friends to play with as well as countless activities they can do outside. And though I wasn’t a video game addict, I did spend lots of time during college and the year or two after I graduated playing video games. Looking back it was time that could have been better spent honing my writing skills or spending time with friends, family, and loved ones.

This month we gave our boys a choice: they could sign up for spring soccer or baseball. (They both chose baseball. And, no, I did nothing to influence their decision.) The issue wasn’t what sport they were going to play but, rather, how they’re spending their time. And even though there are hundreds of clichés on why sports are good for kids, the real reason I want them to play a sport is so they can learn the amount of hard work it takes develop real talents as opposed to virtual ones.

While I don’t expect my kids to become professional baseball or soccer players, I know they all have skills they can develop that will help them later in life. It takes hours of practice to become a good artist, plumber, or computer programmer. Having the self discipline to work hard at something will carry anyone long distances in the real world.

We all have a limited amount time in this life. One of the best things we can learn at any age is what our real talents are and the best way develop and use them. Yes, it takes skill to hit a baseball 450 feet on the Wii (I’m still working n that one), but it takes more talent to hit a home run with a real bat and ball.

I’ll take the real talents over virtual ones any day.

Up with Grief

Up: Carl & Ellie

Note: This post was written for and posted on the Open to Hope site. You can see the original post here.

It's hard to find movies for adults that adequately deal with the death of a spouse and putting one's life back together. Fortunately, one of the movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar does a great job of dealing with the subjects of death, grief, and moving on better than any other film in recent memory—and it's target audience is kids.

The movie? Up.

In the first 20 minutes of the film we see Carl Fredricksen as a boy meeting his future wife, Ellie. When they grow up, they both want to become explorers and journey to faraway lands. Ellie shows Carl her adventure book that contains a few notes and drawings of things she's done. Most of the pages in the book are blank, and Ellie tells Carl that she's going to fill the rest of book with photos and of all the exciting things she's going to do.

Then the audience is taken on a short silent movie journey of their life. They get married and start careers. They decide to have a family only to find out she's infertile. Though the news is tough to swallw, they both decide to keep working and save their pennies for a trip to Paradise Falls in South America. But as the years pass, they keep raiding their savings to pay for car repairs and other life emergencies. They grow old, and one day Carl realizes that they've never taken the trip they dreamed about. He throws caution to the wind and buys tickets to Paradise Falls. Only they never make the trip. As he's about to surprise his wife with the plane tickets, she falls ill and dies.

The next time we see Carl he's a grumpy widower. Fed up with life and facing a court-ordered placement in a retirement home, he decides he's had enough. As a former balloon salesman, he rigs his Victorian house with thousands of balloons and launches it into the sky, determined to finally visit Paradise Falls. The only complication to his trip is that Russell, a neighborhood kid and wilderness explorer, has unwittingly come along for the ride too.

During the journey to the falls, the Victorian house becomes the symbol for Ellie. Not only does the house contain photographs and other reminders of Ellie and Carl's life together but, at various points in the journey, Carl looks up at the house talks to it, wondering what Ellie would say if only she were there with him.

As he travels with Russell, the house becomes more of a hindrance than a help. Carl's so determined to take the house to Paradise Falls that he's unable to form a relationship with Russell or even think about getting them both home safely. At times Carl seems more concerned about damage the house receives than the danger Russell and himself find themselves in.

Carl doesn't realize how much the house is holding him back until he finds himself browsing through Ellie's adventure book. As he turns the pages, he's surprised to discover that the blank pages she showed him years ago are filled with pictures of his and Ellie's life together. Suddenly Carl realizes that even though he and Ellie were never able to visit the Paradise Falls together, they did have a wonderful, fulfilling life as husband and wife. It doesn't matter that they never got to visit the falls together—the real adventure in life was the years spent with Ellie.

Armed with this new insight Carl is able to literally let go of the house in order to get he and Russell home safely. As a result, he's able to move on with his life and start a new and fulfilling chapter as a father for Russell. It's a message that anyone who's struggling to move on after the death of a spouse could use.

Don't let this beautifully animated film trick you into thinking it's for kids only. There's plenty in Up to keep kids entertained but with its unique plot and adept handling of more “grown up” issues, this life-affirming film deserves the Best Picture of the year award and is the new high water mark in movies that deal with grief and the loss of a spouse.

Dating and Marriage: One Regret

Dating and Marriage

A discussion over on the Dating a Widower Facebook group got me thinking about the time people spend between dating and marrying. The conventional wisdom seems to be to date as long as possible to make sure you really know the person.

Having gone through a long courtship (the late wife) and a fast one (Marathon Girl) I've learned that the amount of time you date isn't as important as knowing what you want in a future spouse and not wasting time with someone who isn't compatible and doesn't meet your standards.

Though the late wife and I knew each other for years, we didn't start dating until we were both in college. (I was a junior; she a freshman.) After a year of steady dating, I decided to serve an LDS mission to Bulgaria. Had I not done that, we probably would have spent another year dating before we got married. When I returned home, our relationship picked up where it left off. I could have asked her to marry be a few months after returning home.

But I didn't.

It took over a year before we finally tied the knot because I was worried about being able to finish school, pay the bills and still find time to get to know each other better. Even though we were both crazy about each other, I thought it would be easier if we could save more money and get as much schooling out of the way first.

Looking back, the only regret I have about the marriage to my late wife is that we didn't get married six months sooner. All my fears were unfounded. After we married, we both worked two jobs and attended school full time—albeit only for a semester. Somehow, despite our busy lives, we still managed to find time for each other and build on our relationship. If anything, going through the pressure that came with our hectic lives actually brought us closer together in ways that waiting another six month or a year never could have done.

After the late wife died, I stumbled back in to the dating waters. I met Marathon Girl. Our courtship lasted a total of nine months. If it wasn't for a handful of widower-related issues, the total time from dating to marriage might have been two or three months sooner.

After the second time around I learned that the amount of time we were going to date wasn't nearly as important as making sure we were compatible in ways that were important to each other. After a month of serious dating, I realized she was perfect for me.

• I was physically attracted to her • We enjoyed a lot of the same activities • We shared similar views about money and finances • We had the same religious, moral, and philosophical values • We shared similar views about family and parenthood • She had the emotional qualities that were a good compliment to my own

Once I realized Marathon Girl matched up in all the important ways, I knew I could spend this life and the next with her. Dating was fun but having been married before, I realized we could build up our relationship more as husband and wife. I asked her to marry me six months after we started dating. She accepted and we set a date 11 weeks down the road. (Yes, friends and family on both sides of our family worried we were taking things too fast or that I wasn't ready to move on but the mostly bit their tongues, respected our decision, and wished us luck.)

February 28th will mark seven wonderful years together. Waiting a few more months or even another year to tie the knot wouldn't have strengthened our relationship or made ourselves any surer that we were meant for each other. All it would have done is dragged out the inevitable.

Once you meet that special person that meets your criteria for a future spouse, it's not going to matter if you date them for 2-3 years or 2-3 months before getting married. If the person is right for you, you'll find a way to work together and enjoy the good times and the bad. We all have one life to live. The question, then, is how we choose to live it.

As to my whirlwind courtship with Marathon Girl, I have no regrets.

The Perfect Game

Football Cake

Tonight was one of the most fun Super Bowl parties I’ve ever had, and it had nothing to do with the Saints 31-17 victory over the hapless Colts. What made it so special was, for the first time, my two oldest boys took an active interest in goings on before and during the game.

My 5 year old helped me make and decorate a cake (pictured above) along with making some sauce for my hot wings. My 4 year old watched the first and fourth quarters with me while updating me on scoring changes along with making comments after every play. (Why did he drop the ball, Dad? Hey, he just scored a touchdown!) And they both ate more food than was good for them.

The result after all was said and done was two happy boys and a happy dad who are looking forward to more moments like this in the days and years to come.

Stories I Tell My Kids

Storytelling

Most nights before my kids go to bed, I tell them a story. Usually the stories involve the kids on some wild adventure where they fight dragons or exploring a distant jungle or mountain with all the adventure that comes with an Indiana Jones movie. Sometimes the stories involve recapping something they did that day (e.g., sledding or swimming) only with a monster thrown in to make it more interesting.

Though I love telling them stories, there are nights when it’s hard to come up with an original story every night. I know, I know. As a writer you’d think I’d have an endless supply of stories in my head. While it’s true I have a dozen novels floating around there at any given time and a few other stories to tell my kids, there are times when the well runs dry and I need a break.

So for the next few weeks I’ve decided to read the first Harry Potter book to them. I hope it’s something they’ll enjoy as much as me since I’ve never ready any of the Harry Potter books. (Yes, somehow I managed to avoid reading them despite the glowing reviews from Marathon Girl and everyone else who has read them.) I think the two boys are old enough to enjoy them. Not sure about the 3 year old, however. If she gets bored maybe I’ll just summarize the story for her before tucking her in. As long as she feels she got a story from Dad, she’s happy.

I’m crossing my fingers that all goes well. Tonight they get the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Marathon Girl: The Best Wife in the World

When I mentioned that my novel, The Third, had found a home with a publisher last week, I failed to publicly thank Marathon Girl. Without her support, the book never would have found its way from my imagination to paper. I feel extremely lucky to have such a wonderful wife. Marathon Girl understands that writing for me is like running for her and that we both need to do it. I know a lot of relationships where one or both spouses aren’t supportive of the other person’s goals and I’m grateful for a wife that does what she can to support me.

Between a fulltime job, four cute but very active kids, church responsibilities, spending quality alone time together, and everything else that comes with life, somehow we find time for her to train and run marathons and me to put out the occasional book. (I chalk it up to her superior organizational skills.) It’s not always easy and sometimes a stressful process but I want everyone to know that I’d probably still be stuck in a first draft somewhere if it wasn’t for giving me the hour or two I needed several nights a week to finish it.

And I’m looking forward to giving Marathon Girl the time and support she needs to run a marathon this summer. I can’t wait to see her cross the finish line with a smile on her face.

The Mixed Emotions of Parenthood

My boys are getting more fun as they age. Not that they weren’t fun last year or the year before that or at any other time in their life. It’s just that as they’ve become older, we’ve been able to do things and activities that were harder or impossible to do when they were younger. A couple months ago, they sat through and enjoyed a college football game. Now that it’s snowy and cold, they enjoy sledding. We have a good park for sledding across the street. The last three years every time I’ve attempted to take the two older boys (and Molly last year) sledding it’s gone something like this: they act excited about going when we leave the house, become terrified of sledding once we reach the park, won’t go down the hill unless they’re sitting on Dad’s lap, then complain about the cold after 10 minutes and want to go home.

Not this year. Sledding is (finally!) fun. I took the boys sledding with the usual trepidation that it was going to be a short trip. Instead, after one trip down the hill, they kept running to the top to go down again. The screamed with delight when I’d give them a push so they could go farther and faster. And when I was finally chilled to the bone an hour later, the boys didn’t want to leave. (I finally coaxed them away from the slopes with promises of big cups of hot chocolate.)

Back at home, the boys sat at the kitchen table, drank hot chocolate and told Marathon Girl about how much fun they had. As they talked, I realized that they aren’t little kids anymore. Kids, yes. Little kids, no. It seems like they’ve grown up overnight. They put their own dishes away after dinner. They don’t need me to help them get ready for bed. (Instead I supervise while getting the younger ones ready.) They can make their own beds and brush their teeth in the morning. And the oldest schools his dad on the Wii.

There’s a part of me that’s proud to watch them become more responsible and more independent. Another part of me, however, is a little sad that my two oldest boys aren’t the two small, cuddly boys that they’ve been since their birth. I know that part of being a parent is watching your kids grow up. As my kids age, new doors will open but others will close—sometimes forever.

I knew all this came with being a parent. However, no one told me all the mixed emotions I’d feel as it happens.

Fidget: A Christmas Story

Fidget: Santa's Smartest and Fastest Elf

Sometime during the fourth year of life, Dad told my brother and me about Fidget.

Fidget was one of Santa’s elves that lived in our house. He watched us all day, every day and carried around a notebook where he’d write down everything we did. As Christmas time approached, he would send all of his notes to Santa for him to determine whether or not we were going to get presents.

Fidget wasn’t a normal elf, Dad told us. He was the fastest and smartest of Santa’s elves. If he was standing right behind you in the middle of the room he knew when you were going to turn around and would run before you could even see him. If you walked into the same room where Fidget was, he could hide before you could see him. He could also squeeze and hide himself into the tiniest places so no matter how hard you looked for him, you could never find it. And to top it off, no matter where Fidget was, he could see what you were doing and would take notes.

As Dad told the story I remember looking around the living room and wondering where Fidget was hiding. Was he hiding behind the leg of the couch just out of site? Maybe he was peering between the heating vents so he could keep warm while he watched us. Perhaps he was peeking from behind a corner only to run away as soon as I looked in that direction. Fidget was fast, after all.

Though Dad told us this story to elicit some better behavior from us during the Christmas season, my brother and I bought the story of Fidget hook, line, and sinker. We spend hours setting up traps hoping to catch him or searching our room hoping he’d never be as quick as Dad said he was. Proof of Fidget’s existence, however, came on Christmas morning. Not only did Santa eat his plate of cookies and milk and leave a thank you note, but Fidget’s ate the food we left for him and left a note of thanks as well.

The story of Fidget went over way better than Dad expected, so he milked the story for all it was worth. No matter what time of year it was, Dad would reference Fidget. If we were fighting or getting under his nerves all he would have to do is say “Fidget’s watching!” and we’d stop fighting. When we moved from Utah to small Colorado town that summer Dad assured us that Fidget knew we were moving and would make the trip with us.

Now, 30 years later, Fidget lives again.

A couple weeks ago, while trying to get Aidan, Steven, and Molly to behave, I blurted out that Fidget was watching them. All three of them stopped and gave me blank looks.

"Who’s Fidget?" Aidan asked.

"You don’t know who Fidget is?" I said quickly feigning surprise.

They all shook their heads.

"Come sit by Dad," I said. "And let me tell you about the fastest and smartest of Santa's elves."

So far, the story of Fidget has worked just like I hoped. Sure, the kids still fight and argue like all kids do, but the mention of Fidget is enough to end the bickering—at least temporarily—and have them look around the room, wondering where he’s hiding.

My only hope is that Fidget is something I can use after this Christmas is over.

Like Dad, I want to milk the story for everything its worth.

Back from the Dead

One of the side effects of using Twitter and Facebook is that I don’t blog as much as I used to. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say on my blog. Rather, with my free time at a premium right now, I simply don’t have much time to blog and find it much more convenient write a short message on one of the social networking sites. But, since I have a few minutes, here’s an update of the last month or so of my life.

On the good side, I’ve been going over some publishing contracts that will dedicate most of my free time o to forthcoming writing projects for the next year or more. Just thinking about all the writing I’ll have to do to meet certain deadlines kind of freaks me out. I know I can do the work and meet the deadlines, but the actual thought of doing that much writing is a little intimidating.

On the down side, there’s been some instability at work. Though I still have a job, there’s a chance could be coming to an end this month. As a result I’ve been taking on some more freelance copywriting work and checking out other opportunities. If you know of anyone that’s looking for some freelance or fulltime marketing writing work, feel free to let me know.

Back to the good side: I’ve accepted an invitation to present at the largest writing conference in Utah in April. If you’re a writer and want to attend a worthwhile writing conference, I highly recommend this one. I attended last year and got a lot out of it. I’m excited to give a little back to attendees this year by presenting, attending some of the other great presentations and workshops and seeing fellow author friends again.

Finally, I’ll be making a big announcement in the next week or so. (It’s really cool!) If you want to be one of the first to learn about it, subscribe to my email list if you aren’t on it already.

Stay tuned.

The Sports Kids Love

I was contemplating taking the kids to another college football game yesterday but a steady snowfall and temperatures in the 20s make me reconsider. Even though I would have loved to watch a game in the driving snow storm, I doubt the kids would have lasted past the first quarter. And since I want them to enjoy going to football games, it’s probably not a good idea to have them associate them with freezing temperatures and snow—at least until they’re old enough to want to do something like that. Instead we stayed home and played copious amounts of Chutes & Ladders, war, rogue chess, and many other card and board games. A good time was had by all.

Last weekend I took them to their first Utah Jazz game. This means in the last year or so they’ve attended a major league baseball game, college football game, and an NBA game. Aside from making them spoiled rotten, it’s been interesting to see how they act at different events and which ones they enjoy the most. For any parents in the crowd, here’s my take on how young kids (say, 6 and under) enjoy different sporting events.

Best: (college) football. There’s enough stoppage between plays that they can stand up and do whatever they want then focus their attention back on the field. And since most plays take up quite a bit of the field, there’s a lot to focus on. By the end of the game the boys understood the basics of the game and could read the scoreboard. (Read about the experience here.) And after watching a game in person, whenever we throw the football around the yard, they now want to play “real” (read: tackle) football. Final Weber State game is next Saturday. If the weather warms up, I’ll consider taking them.

Okay: baseball. The game is slow enough for them to follow the action while still act like kids and find all sorts of ways to entertain themselves during the breaks in the game. The problem is that when the action does occur, 90% of it takes place between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. It was hard for them to pay attention to that small area or watch the ball get thrown back and forth. They enjoyed it more when the bat and ball made contact. Will probably take them to a handful of minor league games next summer and see how they handle it.

Too soon: basketball. Despite row 7 seats, the Jazz game was too fast for them to follow. They got the concept of putting the ball in the hoop but that was about it. Score changed too fast for them to follow. Parts of the game were too loud for them—something they didn’t enjoy. The best part of the game for them was watching the Jazz Bear. Might wait a few years before trying this one again. Might consider some Utah Flash games if the chance arises. Those games aren’t as noisy and they won’t have to watch Carlos Boozer screw things up.

Fathers and Sons and College Football

Weber State Wildcats Football

One of my earliest memories is attending a college football game with my dad. I was four or five at the time when he took me to Romney Stadium to watch Utah State take on BYU. I don’t remember who won but I do remember sitting near the top of the stadium watching a packed stadium of people enjoy the game. I also remember feeling really special that I could go to such a big event with my dad who was usually busy working to support a family and trying to finish his MFA.

As the years passed, my dad and I bonded a lot over football. There were Denver Broncos games that were watched fairly religiously every Sunday and a period of a few years when I was a teenager when he bought a family pass to Utah State games and most Saturdays would take the hour drive to Logan and watch most of their home games. Those were good times--even if Utah State fielded an awful team (and even worse schedule) year after year.

Though I don’t watch as much football as I did ten or even fifteen years ago, I still watch it and, recently, the two oldest boys have enjoyed watching it with me. After seeing their interest in the sport (or at least their interest in spending time with Dad), this weekend I took them up to Ogden so they could watch their first college football game and get some good bonding time with dad.

Taking 5- and 3-year-old boys to a game was somewhat of a gamble since I didn’t know if they’d have an attention span to sit through a three hour game. Unlike watching a game at home where they can sit on the couch for five minutes, go play with toys, and then come back to the couch, they wouldn’t have many entertainment options at the game.

On the other hand, if I was going to take them to a game, Weber State games are a great environment for kids to develop an interest in the game. Since Weber State plays in the football championship subdivision and has three Division I teams within a 90 minute drive of their stadium, most college football fans in the state don’t even know or care what the Wildcats are doing. The fans that do show up are passionate without being over-the-top about their team. And since the 15,000 seat stadium is usually half-full, there’s plenty of room for little kids to spread out and run around if they get restless. And since the stadium is small, there’s not a bad seat in the house so they’re always close to the action.

We showed up to the game 10 minutes before kickoff. I bought the boys some kettle corn and something to drink and we settled into the general admission seats just as the game started.

The boys were too busy munching kettle corn to pay much attention to the first few minutes of the game. But once the settled down, I was surprised by how much they actually watched the game. They learned to cheer when “the purple team” did something good and “the white team” messed up. By halftime the 5 year old was able to read the scoreboard. And in the third quarter, when the 3 year old got tired, he simply used Dad’s leg as a pillow for a quarter but kept his eyes on the field and would occasionally ask a question about what happened.

But they were both awake and active through the fourth quarter, and, in the end, they sat through the whole game. And even though Weber State lost, as we climbed in the van to go home both boys told me how much fun they had and asked if we could go to another game soon.

I told them there was another game in two weeks and, if they wanted, I’d take them to it.

The boys excitedly said “Yes!”

As I drove home and listened to the boys talk to each other and laugh, I realized that, as a dad, I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon with my sons.

Family Runs

It’s no secret that Marathon Girl and I love running together. Some of our first and best dates were waking up at 5:00 a.m. and enjoy long runs together. Even after six years of marriage, we like the bonding experience that comes from spending 30-60 minutes running side by side. As our family’s grown, however, running as a couple has been more and more difficult. After the birth of our first child, we bought a running stroller and were still able to run together several times a week. But after second and third child arrived—and we bought a double-wide running stroller to compliment our single one—running together become something we’d do every week or 10 days together.

Then number four came in January and having the chance to run together came to a screeching halt. There were too many kids and not enough running stroller seats to make running as a family feasible.

It was hard not having time running together. It was time that Marathon Girl and I needed—even if it was only once a week.

Then two months ago our oldest learned to ride his bike without training wheels. While we were watching him zip up and down the sidewalk the idea came to Marathon Girl that maybe he could keep up with us as we ran. So the next day she took him on a test run/ride with found out that not only could he bike our four mile course without any difficulty, but he could ride faster than she could run.

So we started we started weekly family runs. We put the younger three in the running strollers and the oldest on his bike. It’s worked out so well that it’s something our three oldest kids really look forward to. (Number four is too young to express an opinion. He usually falls asleep a few minutes into it. I guess that means he likes it.) I get home from work and all three kids run into the garage and excitedly tell me that we’re all going for a family run then climb in the running strollers or get on their bike in anticipation.

I’m glad the kids like it and hope it’s something we can continue for years to come. It’s turned into nice family time and give Marathon Girl and me a chance to reconnect in a way that brought us together in the first place.

Coming Up for Air

There are many blog posts I’ve wanted to write over the last month but simply haven’t had the time. Fr the last 10 days I’ve been feverishly working on a final rewrite of my novel. Now it’s done and off to an editor for some feedback. Once look over and implement her suggestions, then it’s off to three decision makers at publishing houses expressed interest in reading it. Hopefully I’ll have some good news in regards to my yet-to-be-titled book before the end of the summer. (Maybe I’ll stage some sort of title contest if I’m unable to come up with one on my own.) I’ve been writing so much the last month that today I was thinking about what I was going to do after the kids were in bed and realized that with no novel to write, I have no idea what to do with myself. Okay, that’s not entirely true. There’s a big stack of books on my nightstand I need to read and a past blog post I need to turn into an essay. But before I do any of that, I need to take Marathon Girl out on lots of dates. You know, the kind where we get a babysitter for the kids and we have some time alone. She’s been VERY patient and supportive during the entire novel-writing process and needs to be rewarded with nice dinners, movies she’s wanted to see, a long 10-mile run together, and maybe a night where we drop the kids off with the in-laws or my parents and just have 24 hours to ourselves.

Until then, it feels nice to be able to breathe again.

Imitation: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Our kids are napping and I’m taking advantage of a couple hours of quiet time to finish the last chapter in my novel. I feel eyes on me and look at the door to the bedroom and see my four-year-old son standing there. He always had a hard time napping on my days off. He’d much rather play with Dad then nap.

I tell him he needs to nap. He shakes his head and climbs up on the bed with me. He watches me write for a few minutes and asks if he can use Marathon Girl’s laptop.

“Sure,” I tell him. If he’s not going to nap, he might as well stay busy.

I get Marathon Girl’s laptop and start it up for him. He knows how to login to the kids account we have set up on there and start the games he likes to play so I go back to my writing.

A minute later I feel eyes on me again. I look at him then at the computer screen. He’s not playing games.

“Why aren’t you playing games?” I ask.

“I don’t want to play games,” he says.

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to write. I want to write like you.”

I smile and show him how to open Word. He begins “typing” then looks at me for approval.

“You’re writing really good,” I tell him.

He smiles and I return to my book.

A couple minutes later I feel a tug on my sleeve.

“Look,” he says.

I look at the screen. All by himself he’s figured out how to change the font, size, and color of the type. There’s a ton of green and red text of different sizes across the screen.

“Wow. That’s really good,” I tell him.

He smiles.

“What are you writing?” I ask

“A book,” he says.

“What’s it about?”

“I can’t tell you until it’s done.”

I give him a hug and we both go back to writing.

In another 30 minutes I’ll be done with my novel. Then I’ll tell my four-year-old what it’s about.

I hope he’ll tell me what his book’s about too.