Family Travel: Four Reasons To Visit Frankenmuth

There’s something cool, full-circle, and organic about passing a familial tradition down to your own children for the first time.  In movie form, I’ve written about this in the past: http://wp.me/p4fx2q-9z.

Being a conduit to your heritage, where you’ve come from, and where you’re going can help provide your children with a sense of self and a sense of the niche they fulfill in this huge world.

As a child, I visited Frankenmuth, Michigan, about once a year to once every other year en route to Ontario, Canada, or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for family vacations and fishing trips.

Driving through Michigan can be a chore.  While you can move at a high rate of speed on the highway, it’s a monotonous journey filled with pine trees, flat roads and semi-truck after semi-truck.

The exits and rest areas pop-up in a rhythmic nature and can lull you into a hearty daydream.  Even before Interstate 75 was paved going north/south through Michigan, this was still the case.  My grandparents realized this and planned their vacation to often times begin and end with meals at the world famous Zehnder’s Restaurant in Frankenmuth.  My grandparents passed this tradition on to my parents and my parents passed this tradition down to me.  After I was married to my wife, I passed this tradition down to my wife.  Everyone in my family has embraced the stop in this town and embraced the meal.

This year, I was able to expose my children to the experience of Frankenmuth.  The decision to visit was not a tough one.  In Ohio in the winter time, it’s easy to get stir crazy watching football, shoveling snow, and watching movies on television.  It’s healthy to plan trips and experience new things and visit new places.

While Frankenmuth was not new to me or my wife, it was fun introducing the tourism attraction to our children and some friends who accompanied us on the trip.  Additionally, Frankenmuth has evolved.  The town has added attractions and events and now brings in visitors year round for reasons other than German heritage and chicken.  A visit this March for me was the first visit in the last ten years, but the fun we had will motivate us to stop in on a more frequent basis over the coming years.

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Below are four reasons to visit Frankenmuth if you have never been before in the past.

  1. The Chicken – In Frankenmuth, it was, it is, and it always will be about the fried chicken. The first chicken dinners were served at an Inn in Frankenmuth in 1856, about 11 years after the city was founded by a group of German immigrants.  In 1929,  Zender’s Restaurant opened and served 312 dinners on Mother’s Day at price of $1 a piece.  Today, the family has split the chicken dinner franchise between two dueling enterprises, Zender’s and The Bavarian Inn.  The two restaurants feature old world Bavarian architecture and decor, with the cuisine revolving around a family style, all you can eat, fried chicken dinner.  Zehnder’s has evolved into America’s largest family style restaurant.  It can serve up to 6,000 guests in one evening.  The standard family style traditional meal includes: Frankenmuth fried chicken, garden salad, chicken liver pate with toasty bread, creamy mashed potatoes with chicken gravy, dressing/stuffing, buttered egg noodles, seasoned garden vegetables and ice cream or sherbet  for dessert.  The best way to describe the meal is a Thanksgiving feast, but with crispy, piping hot fried chicken, and ending only when you say so.  Currently, the family style traditional dinner at Zehnder’s costs $20.95 with discounted options for children and senior citizens.
  2. The Splash – Not unlike other cold weather winter destinations in the Midwest and Northeast states, Michigan and specifically Frankenmuth has ways to attract tourists during the non-peak cold weather seasons.  Zehnder’s has accomplished this by building one of the largest indoor water parks in the state of Michigan.  Zender’s Splash Village rivals the indoor splash mecca of Sandusky, Ohio, where Kalahari, Great Wolf Lodge, and Maui Sands dominate the indoor waterpark scene in Northern Ohio.  The new complex, down the road from the restaurant/hotel, adds 178 additional hotel rooms and over 50,000 square feet of indoor water fun.   What better way is there to work off the chicken dinner than with some water sports?
  3. The Christmas –  Outside of the chicken, old world Bavarian downtown, and the water park, another big tourist attraction that you have to at least visit once is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.  Bronner’s is America’s largest Christmas store.  For many Americans, Christmas is the favorite holiday.  You can literally celebrate Christmas 365 days a year at Bronner’s.  Over two million Christmas shoppers visit Bronner’s each year.  They visit for the decorations and lights both indoor and out.  In addition to their store which is over 7 acres large, they have an additional 27 landscaped and decorated acres outdoors.  We purchased personalized decorations for our nieces and nephews there this year and they will surely be impressed with the detail that can go into these ornaments.  They, by no means, are just ornaments with names on them.
  4. The Beer – How can you celebrate German heritage without beer?  You can’t.  That’s the answer. Frankenmuth has two main beer attractions, which can provide adults a respite from the kids family responsibilities throughout your visit.  Frankenmuth Brewery is one of the oldest breweries in the country as it first opened in 1862.  The brewery has been destroyed by tornados and changed ownership and was completely renovated in 2009.  Today the beautiful brewery is located in downtown Frankenmuth, overlooking the Cass River.  The brewery includes a restaurant as well.  Try one of their traditional German brews, their hand crafted wines or sip on their in-house (non-alcoholic) homemade “Root Bier.”  In addition to the Frankenmuth Brewery, there is also a craft beer store in downtown Frankenmuth called Lager Mill. They sell over 400 labels of beer from the state of Michigan and beyond and there’s also an attached beer museum which commemorates the rich brewing history of Frankenmuth.
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Eating Where You’re Not Welcome and Five Tips For Dining With Children

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Swanky lights. High bar tables with stools that have no backing.  Pricey, a la carte menu.  No kids options.  No kids cups.  No fun straws.  Dirty looks from the hostess.  Rudeness from the wait staff.  Side eyes from patrons.  

For any culinary adventurous parent with young children, we’ve all been there.  It’s not a welcoming feeling and it’s extremely natural to go into a shelled-up, protective mode.

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To backtrack a little, Valentine’s Day is not a huge deal to my wife and I.  Instead of getting a babysitter and having a romantic dinner out alone, we decided to go out to dinner and a movie with our kindergarten-aged kids.  We set sail for a new local culinary spot we’d been hearing great things about.  The name and location of restaurant are somewhat irrelevant because it is not the first time or the last time we’ve experienced some noticeable reactions of restaurant personnel and patrons.

Sometimes it’s just the lack of a kids menu and a resistance to provide any flexible meal options by the kitchen.  Sometimes the wait staff can be rude or inattentive.  Sometimes the planets align and all the barriers to having a relaxing meal out with the people you love are built up around you.  This was the case when we went to dinner out to a new cutting edge culinary spot as a family on Valentine’s Day.

The first thing that can enter your mind in a situation like this is that maybe it’s best to just leave and pick a new place.  This both entered my mind and my wife’s mind on this specific night.  We made eye contact with each other and without speaking much, we decided if we simply left… that the terrorists would have won.  By terrorists I mean the snark-filled, pretentious, pessimistic masses that expect tons for children of our future, but don’t provide them any guidance, lessons or benefit of the doubt.

America is fat and parents are to blame, people say. Kids are rude and disrespectful to elders, people say.   Kids are loud, obnoxious, and can ruin a culinary experience, people say.  Kids need to learn manners, people say.  Our future is dim, people say.

Parents of children are tasked with raising the next generation well and proving these people wrong.  One task that is paramount to overcoming this culinary issue is a topic that is more broad that only talking in terms of restaurant behavior.  The task that I’m getting at that it really hard to teach children and the task that is taken for granted by random bystanders in public is called situational awareness.

“Situational awareness is a term used to describe a persons awareness of their surroundings, the meaning of these surroundings, a prediction of what these surroundings will mean in the future, and then using this information to act.”

Strangers and bystanders expect kids to develop manners, good eating habits, and social skills, but can be reluctant and show little patience when kids practice and hone these skills in the real world.

Kids that can develop situational awareness quickly can earn the trust, respect and praise of onlooking adults.

In rough terms, situational awareness when talking about raising children means, when to act a fool and when to mind your p’s and q’s.  When to run, play and scream, and when to wipe your mouth when there is queso dip wedged at the corners of your lips.  When to sing and dance and when to respond with please and thank you.

Parents that don’t expose their children to public situations like upscale culinary meals, celebratory events, cultural performances, sporting events, musical performances and philanthropic opportunities can be hard-pressed to teach kids the lessons of situational awareness.

So the terrorists weren’t going to win on the night we went to a fancy restaurant on Valentine’s Day.  We were going to power through and show the people there that our children could handle the situation.  Our children were lectured before we even knew what kind of establishment we were getting into that the reward for behaving themselves could potentially be big…  SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water…  in 3D at the movie theater!

The kids sat down in the sketchy high stools at the swanky restaurant with only tall tables and no kids menu.  They verbally ordered their own food, unaided by their parents.  They drank their rare treat of a soda pop out of a tall glass with no straw without spilling or breaking the glass.  They kept their voice below the volume of the white noise that filled the restaurant and watched a college basketball game on television while their parents caught up with one another in conversation.  They walked to restrooms in the back of the restaurant and didn’t run amok.  They stayed in their seats for at least 90% of the hour plus meal.  They played on their iPads with low volume after they finished their meal. Not all meals go this well, but I think our kids sensed that we needed them to hit a home run in this certain situation.

Towards the end of the meal the wait staff warmed to our table.  They were more attentive to our needs  their apprehension turned into relief.  They spoke of the harsh winter weather outside and asked about our plans for the rest of our night.  Surrounding patrons politely stopped turning their side-eyes to us and focused-in on one another.  The restaurant that was once made us feel like outlaws eventually felt welcoming.

Now that we know the vibe of this particular restaurant, we probably won’t return again with the kids.  We respect its vibe and its niche in the community and we’ll return alone as a couple or perhaps they will eventually make the spot more family friendly.   Perhaps they can survive and prosper with this type of vibe, or perhaps they will suffer the consequences and be ultimately unsuccessful due to reducing the segment of the population that would consider their spot for a weekend dinner.  Time will indeed tell.

This experience, however, won’t stop us from trying new places in the area and introducing our children to new, unchartered, and unfamiliar experiences.  Putting children in these types of new and uncomfortable type situations can help children develop social skills, manners and grow their personal situational and self-awareness.

Below are five tips for comfortably dining out with children:

  • Attempt to get a sense of if a restaurant is family-friendly through word of mouth and if questions still persist, call the restaurant directly.
  • Establish the expectations for behavior with your children prior to entering the establishment.  Reward good behavior and correct poor manners.
  • Maintain control of the situation and always discipline in private.  Remove any misbehaving child from the dining area to a waiting room or bathroom and correct their behavior privately as to not embarrass yourself or your child.
  • Bring children activities that can help pass down time at the restaurant, like quiet toys, coloring books, puzzles or quiet electronic entertainment devices.
  • If the wait staff is friendly and flexible to your family, tip generously.  Note out exceptional service with the manager in-person, via written letter or on social media.

Valentine’s Day, Good Or Evil? … Talking About The “Holiday” To Kids (A Dad’s Perspective)

One thing I try to do as a parent is to present an issue or a topic with a neutral, fair, two-sided and unbiased view.

“Some people feel this way about blank, but others feel this way about blank…  What do you think?”

By phrasing competing thoughts on the issue, letting children analyze the pros and cons, then forming their own opinions, hopefully we are stoking the fires for future critical and independent thinkers.

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With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, this fair and balanced vow has been tough for me to keep.

Valentine’s Day might very well be my least favorite, widely celebrated holiday.

Think about it…  who is ever happy on Valentine’s Day?  What percentage of the population loves to publicly show their affection for one another on a forced day of directed romanticism?

Single people LOATHE the day.  They complain that they are cuddling that night with only their pet.  They sadly warm up leftovers, drink a box of wine and finish off the night with a pint of peanut butter cup chocolate swirl ice cream, dreaming about the one that got away…

Married people LOATHE the day even more!  They think about the pressure to do something nice for their spouse.  Is the gift expensive enough?  If I buy my wife chocolates, does that mean she’s going to interpret that as me saying she likes to eat and she’s overweight?  Roses are so cliche.  Should I get tulips?  Where should we go to dinner that night?  Will they have some crowded, terrible price fix Valentine’s Day four course meal?

Think about the expectations.  How many married or dating couples have ever had fights about the expectations of Valentine’s Day?  I’m guessing many.

Couples in the United States spent over $17.6 billion dollars on the holiday in 2012.  The average male spent $170 on the holiday. Valentine’s Day is also by far, the most sexist of all holidays.  The average woman celebrating Valentine’s Day only spend $85 on their man.

Regardless, let’s say you play all the cards right (that’s a big “if”), get the perfect, unique gift.  You find a quaint new restaurant and your reservation holds up and you  have a nice meal and some light conversation on this evening and you hit the expectations for each other out of the park on this one fateful night in February.

What does this say about your relationship and your love as a whole?

Nothing.  It says nothing.  It’s a front.  Valentine’s Day is the Quarterback Jamarcus Russell of all holidays.  Big arm, great height, elite athleticism, but zero heart, drive, or authenticity.

The next morning on February 15th, Valentine’s day is over and your relationship and love is on the same status as your relationship or love was on February 13th.

Valentine’s Day is simply the worst.

Relationships are more than flowers, chocolates or fancy dinner reservations.  Relationships are based on trust, honesty, devotion and a passionate chemistry.  Relationships are not bound or broken on one day in February, relationships are built over time, with consistency and respect.  Relationships cannot be bought, they are earned.

Cheating on your spouse? Secretly saving money in a savings account separate from the family checking account?  Addicted to alcohol or drugs? In need of marriage counseling?  FORGET ABOUT IT! IT’S VALENTINE’S DAY! Roses, chocolates and dinner reservations will cure all the ills! Am I right?

Ick.  The whole holiday makes me feel icky.  And if you research the origins and history of the holiday, those will continue to make you question why it is so widely celebrated worldwide.  Drunken Romans, animal sacrifices, executions of martyrs…  it’s all no good.

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Those are my jaded, biased thoughts on Valentine’s Day.  Some may disagree with my opinion, some may agree…  but the important question is, what do we teach our children about the holiday?

Veteran’s Day is easy to educate young kids about.  New Year’s Day, Memorial Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day…  all pretty cut and dry.  But Valentine’s Day?

My son recently asked me about my feelings about the holiday and I didn’t go into an in-depth argument about why I think the holiday is icky.  I censored my thoughts, because when kids are elementary age, we want to protect them from all the harsh realities of the world.  I want him to figure this all out for himself.  Perhaps he may be the next romantic poet like William Shakespeare and I would have robbed him of his motivation and drive.  I want him to view the world in his own (nearly 6 years old) eyes, in 2015.

–  First, I told him Daddy and Mommy don’t celebrate it as much as some other people do.  He should not expect to receive gifts like on Christmas or birthdays.  If he wished to make a family member or a friend a gift or a card, that we would help him with that.  If he wished to schedule a future play date with one of his best friends, we could help him do that as well.  

–  Next I told him the holiday is about expressing love, and expressing your love for your friends and family is healthy.

–  I told him that Daddy thinks Valentine’s Day is about finding the good in people where some people don’t see it. 

–  Lastly, I told him that Valentine’s Day is a day to spend with those you love.

This Valentine’s Day, we plan to make dinner at home as a family.  After dinner, we are thinking of going Snow Tubing at a local ski resort as a reward for recent good behavior and good report cards.

As a family, we are treating the holiday much like any other weekend together, because love is a year-round gig…  but we’ll let them figure that all out as they grow older.

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Does your family celebrate Valentine’s Day?  What do you tell your children about the day?  What are your favorite holidays and why?

Do You Even PTA, Bro? – Stereotypes And My First PTA Experience

My mind was full of stereotypes when my wife first told me that she planned to sign us both up for the local chapter of the National Parent Teacher Association… more commonly known as the PTA.  Though I had already established a blog about parenting from the “dad perspective”, bucking the established mommy blogger strongholds, the acronym PTA was still something I had to overcome.

Stereotypes are something I’ve come to appreciate.  They have a negative connotation, but stereotypes tell a story.  Stereotypes are widely held societal norms, images or ideas, that help us understand groups and the world around us.  Some stereotypes are positive and some are negative. Often times stereotypes are grossly oversimplified or outdated.

Examples of some common stereotypes are:

–  People that wear glasses are intelligent.

–  People that play sports (jocks) are dumb.

–  Women are in touch with their feelings and sensitive.

–  Men do not cry.

–  Police officers like donuts.

–  Republicans like guns.

–  Democrats like taxes.

The list could go on and on and on.  There are stereotypes about gender, race, occupation, nationality, religion, politics, and age.

Stereotypes can teach us about the world around us if individuals can research each topic and ask why.  Why is it a widely held notion that men do not cry?  What social norms were established in the past to support this thought?  Is this true and still relevant?  What do the percentages and statistics tell us?  Who has confirmed or debunked this stereotype and why?  What events have been turning points in the world which have help changed or evolve the issue?

On the negative side, stereotypes can make us develop prejudices.  We can avoid things we may actually like or be interested in due to preconceived notions.  The important takeaway regarding stereotypes is that they are oversimplified and not standard rules.

There are exceptions to each norm.  There are people that wear glasses that are not highly intelligent.  There are people that play sports that are intelligent.  There are Democrats that own guns.  There are tattooed grungy looking folk that are quality, caring people with high integrity and there are people that wear fine couture suits each day that are evil minded thieves!

These can be talking points to discuss with your children over the years as they grow older and possibly begin to exhibit, perpetuate or regurgitate stereotypes.

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In late October I showed up to spend time with my children and to help the PTA put on a Harvest Party/Halloween Party at their school.  It was the first time I had been inside the school during school hours.

Parents/PTA members began showing up outside the school and talking with one another.  Many knew each other from PTA meetings in the past and other activities.  Generally a relaxed person, I was a little nervous.  I had some “first day at a new job” or “first day of school” type butterflies in my stomach.  I was happy to see some men/dads in the crowd.  By no means did I want to be the only dad there, but I was prepared for it nonetheless.  There weren’t tons of dads, but there were a few.

Once inside the classroom, we helped the kids put on Halloween costumes and they participated in an outdoor parade.  Teachers, administrators and parents awaited them outside.  Kids were given compliments and high fives and many pictures were taken.

We came back to the classroom and set up snacks for the kids at their tables.  We then set up a series of games and activities for them to partake in.  There was bowling, temporary tattoos, drawing and coloring stations and a bean bag (cornhole) toss game.  Now, cornhole…  that’s something I knew a little something about.  It is a favorite family and friends summer activity.  The other five PTA members in the classroom (all moms) asked me if I had a preference for organizing a certain station and I picked the bean bag toss/cornhole station.

All of this was a surprise to the kids who only knew that there would be an event later in the day and they were permitted to wear their costumes to school.

The kids had a blast.  My son Cooper was happy to introduce me to some of his friends.

There is something extremely heartwarming about a little boy proudly saying to his friends, “this is my dad” or conversely “this is my mom.”

The PTA moms in the classroom I was at were nice and welcoming to me.  They were glad to have the help at the event.  During the event, one child went outside without his shoes accidentally.  The child was emotionally upset because he did not think he could participate in the event since he forgot his shoes, so I asked him if he would like to be picked up and carried throughout the parade.  He obliged and his frown turned to smiles once he was outside showing off his sweet pirate costume.  I was his adoptive dad for this situation.

After the event was over, I began to recap the series of events in my head and research more about the PTA.  I was interested and happy to find out that PTA membership of males is on the rise.  Once close to zero, now the group is made up of over 10% of males.

In June 2007, Charles Saylors was elected the first ever male national president of PTA.  A construction worker and father to four children, Charles had previously been a PTA member for 20 years in South Carolina prior to becoming PTA national president.

PTA membership is open to anyone that is concerned about education, health and welfare of today’s youth.  Involvement is not limited to biological parents, step-parents or adoptive parents.

More generally, when dads are actively involved in the the lives of their children, they are happier, perform better in school, and have less disciplinary problems…  those are facts, not stereotypes.

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How To “Win” A Parent-Teacher Conference

Winning doesn’t always have to entail banners, championship rings and trophies.  In everyday life we can “win” during meetings with our bosses, hosting a fun family or social gathering or during first impressions with new personal or business acquaintances.

Chip Kelly, now head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles professional football team, popularized the phrase “Win The Day” while coaching at the University of Oregon.  By winning the day, Kelly means that you must concentrate on doing the simple, mundane, but necessary tasks that are required to accomplish the larger, sexier goal.

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As a parent, the larger, sexier goal with your children in school is to have them continually learn, grow, mature, graduate, and be ready for college and beyond.

There are boring, responsible tasks though that you must complete daily to help them reach those ultimate goals.

One important task that many parents and teachers are currently preparing for in October are parent-teacher conferences. 

Parent-teacher conferences are one of the few opportunities parents and teachers have to intimately and openly discuss the status, progress and goals for your child.  Conferences can build relationships and open the lines of communication between parents and teachers.

Below are a few suggestions for winning the evening at your upcoming parent-teacher conference.

Prior to the conference:

–  Say Yes

This is the easy one.  While parent-teacher conferences are highly thought of to be voluntary on the part of the parents, they are essential.  Realize the importance of the night and say yes immediately.  Get on the schedule during a time slot that makes sense for you.  Show the teacher that you care about the education of your children and show your children you care about their educational progress.

Megan Grdina, a high school science teacher at Bay Village High School says that teachers pay attention to who shows up.  Grdina noted, “One thing I notice every year is that the parents of all my A students come in.”

Mark Kuhnle, a high school Spanish teacher at Vermilion High School echoed Grdina’s observation: “Often times the parents that don’t necessarily need to come…  they come, while the parents that need to come…  they don’t come.”

Wondering if you need to show up or not?  Show up. By showing up, you’re acknowledging your own importance and role in the learning process.

–  Logistically Plan To Be On Time And Prepared

The general misconception about parent-teacher conferences is that only teachers need to be prepared for the night.  Parents need to be prepared too. Come to the conference with a list or an outline of questions that you’ve had in your mind since the beginning of the school year.  Be prepared to discuss what you as a parent are doing at home to reinforce the learning the child is experiencing during the school day.

In regards to preparation, another important and common-sense aspect of the night is arranging childcare.  If your child is not old enough to be left alone at home, you’ll have to schedule a babysitter or a family member to come over during the conference time slot.  Lastly, be on time.  Most teachers schedule conferences with no breaks, back-to-back throughout the evening.  Be courteous to the teacher and be courteous of other parents who similarly have important discussions planned about their children.

During the conference:

– Listen First

So you’re all prepared with notes and questions.  You’re professionally dressed.  You’re on time.  Now what?

The best thing to do is listen first.  Let the teacher introduce and set the structure for the conference.  You’ll have time to ask your questions and address the things you want to talk about.  You’re in the domain of the teacher and they get to set the ground rules.

– Address The Positives and Negatives

Conferences can highlight areas of strengths and weaknesses of learning for your child.  Every child has both.  While it’s exciting to hear positive feedback about your child, try to not let it turn into a giant praise parade.  Conversely if your child is struggling with many aspects of school, find a positive to also build upon.  Most importantly, be open to and expect constructive criticism.  Have a good attitude about the process.  Don’t be defensive and make excuses for your child.

–  Don’t Ignore The Emotions

It’s easy to get caught up in grades, test scores, and academic assessments.  The measurable and comparable nature of numbers can set parents at ease with the progress and status of the education of their children.  However, school is more than just academic performance.  Teachers get to see how your children interact socially and emotionally with their peers.  Query teachers on if any trouble areas like bullying, depression, anger or disassociation are present and share with the teacher what you observe regarding the emotional well-being of your child at home.

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–  Establish The Preferred Communication Method

The biggest threat we all heard in the past in school from teachers went something like, “if you misbehave, I’m going to call your parents.”  In this new digital world however, this is becoming less and less the case.

Most teachers have work e-mail addresses automatically provided by the school district.  More and more teachers are using smart phone apps to link parents to general information about academic or school events.  Some teachers still prefer written notes or regular in-person visits if the student is struggling.  Before ending the conference, be sure to have a good sense about what medium the teacher prefers in regards to ongoing communication between the teacher and parents.

After the conference: 

– Review With Your Child

Honesty is the best policy and while reviewing conference topics with your child, it’s worthwhile to openly confront any issues and develop a game plan for improvement if needed.  Of course, depending on the age of your child and the sensitivity regarding what was discussed, using commonsense and tact is encouraged.  Don’t come home and tell your little Timmy that Mrs. Smith thinks he’s a complete and utter failure.  Discuss ways to improve and reinforce those areas over the coming weeks following the conference.

– Follow-up With The Teacher

If there were specific recommendations made or referrals regarding speech, vision, hearing, medical or emotional issues we’re suggested, schedule those assessments right away.  Let the teacher know when they are occurring and fill them in on the results so they can monitor improvement.

Parent-teacher conferences are opportunities for parents and teachers alike to help make their jobs easier and more productive.  Use the tips and suggestions above to help make the evening less stressful and more productive.

The task may seem mundane and routine, but if successfully executed, reaching the ultimate goal of educational success can be sweet and fulfilling.

8 Ways Watching Sports Can Prepare Children For Kindergarten

We have some friends and relatives that don’t like and don’t appreciate sports.  We respect them and their homes and social events.  We attend the events and smile and broach topics that might interest them.

 

Some of these people don’t have televisions in their main living area.  From what I understand, they don’t have televisions in their main living area to inspire organic conversation about the arts, current events, music, politics, or religion.  In their mind, I think they believe sports are a topic of trivial conversation for the common man/woman.  This does not bother us.  As the saying goes, to each their own.

 

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One acquaintance we have completely dismisses the thought of learning anything substantive from watching or attending a sporting event.

 

He’s said things to us before like:

“Someone’s gonna win and someone’s gonna lose and there’s going to be some scoring.”  

“Most likely Cleveland will lose.  They always lose.  They’ll lose when you have grandchildren.”

“That owner is stealing your money.”

“You should spend your time doing something productive.”

 

We smile when he says these things and play along.  He’s old and it’s thoughtful to respect elders.  When you only have to interact with individuals like this at a few functions per year, and they are deep down a good person, and this is their schtick, you know what to expect and prepare yourself for it.  On the outside I am polite and cordial, but on the inside, when he goes on a rant, I’m rolling my eyes times a thousand.

 

Obviously, he’s right in a way, there are many more aspects of life that are more important in life than sports.

 

When there is a national disaster, sporting events are cancelled and rescheduled.  The security of our nation I would think is a high priority.  Food, clothing and shelter are vital to survival.  Your overall health and emotional well-being are probably up there. The list of things more important than sports could get pretty lengthy and vast.  However, watching sports events can entail so much more than winning and losing and the actual game on the field.

 

There are life stories for adults that can help them find motivation, perspective, and inspiration in their own personal lives.  There are stories of perseverance.  There are sports stories with political or racial lessons.  There are stories of dedication.  There are stories of failure.  There are redemption stories.  Sports can teach us so much when you look beyond the score on the scoreboard.  The same has can be said when learning through sports as a child.  This has been most recently evident over the last year when preparing our twins to be ready to go to the full-time, all day, dog eat dog, survival of the fittest world… also known as kindergarten.

 

When assessing their readiness for school and hearing some of the general knowledge type questions they are being evaluated with during their first few weeks of school, it has been mind-boggling to think of the knowledge they’ve acquired from watching sporting events.  Be it in-person or on the television, sports has given them a head start in nearly all of the primary school subjects.

 

Below is a list of subject areas and social/behavioral norms, of which, watching sports can prepare children for kindergarten and a lifelong appreciation for learning.  

 

1. Watching sports teaches children the basics of following rules

Penalty flags.  Personal fouls.  The penalty box.  A year long suspension.  Getting ejected from a game.  Each time one of these things happen when children watch a sporting event, the next question out of their mouths is, “why?”  When explaining “the why” to children about these penal actions, it is a perfect opportunity to point out that like in life, and like in a classroom setting, sports have rules and regulations that each participant must abide by in order to be permitted to play the game.

 

2.  Watching sports teaches children about geography – 

This year we had the opportunity to take our children to Major League baseball games in Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit.  Next year, we are thinking of traveling to St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.  During these trips, the kids have learned about the origins of each city.  They’ve learned out the important rivers, ports and bodies of waters that are nearby.  We’ve talked about local landmarks, famous settlers, major cities, surrounding states, state capitals, and local climates.  For example, a joke about the Detroit “Motor City Kitties” (Tigers) turned into a conversation about the production of automobiles, Henry Ford and how Michigan is shaped like a mitten and has an upper peninsula area.

 

3.  Watching sports teaches children how to share and sacrifice for the betterment of the group – 

Scoring a lot of points is cool in basketball, right?  Scoring goals in soccer is the point of the game, right?  Absolutely these statements are true, but that’s not necessarily always how you win.  In these team sports, full blown offense is not always the winningest strategy.  Parallels can be drawn to the classroom. Teamwork is essential to the success of a team.  One bad apple can spoil the bunch.  Sacrificing your own wants and desires for a group victory can build relationships, friendships, and introduce ideas of loyalty and reliability.

 

4. Watching sports develops simple math skills –

Whether it be baseball, golf or shuffleboard, watching sports in-person or on television is a practice of counting.  Many times my kids will ask, questions about hypothetical situations that may happen later in a game.  So if the home baseball team is winning 6-2 over the away team, how many runs will it take to tie the game?  How many to win?  If the bases are loaded (a runner on first, second and third base) and there is a player batting, what if the batter hits a home run and all the runners scored?  What would the score be? After going through what seems like a trillion hypothetical situations, the kids learn simple addition and subtraction by default.  You’d be surprised at how quickly the basis for multiplication and division begin as well when talking about sports.  If daddy and mommy bought two tickets to all eight professional football games this year, how many total tickets did they buy?  As they say, math is everywhere, but it is especially present and easy to understand when watching sports.

 

5.  Watching sports can help children learn to read and spell –

Whether it be learning how to spell the name of the mascot of your favorite team or sounding out the last name of the player that scored the winning touchdown, watching sports can spark curiosity when it comes to reading and spelling.  Now if your kindergartener can spell the last name of former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh on the first try, you may want to have them Doogie Houser baby genius tested.

 

6.  Watching sports teaches children about symbolism, patriotism and business –

There are so many things to visually see at a professional sporting event.  There are the players, the jerseys, coaches, flags, banners, advertisements, pomp and circumstance. Whether you’re bowing your head and remaining quiet for the National Anthem or watching the Goodyear blimp soar gracefully to capture bird’s eye view pictures from above, there are teaching moments about the world around us at every turn during sporting events.  A recent conversation with the kids about the National Anthem spurned more questions about our nation’s capital, our military, the role of our President as Commander and Chief, the capital of our nation before Washington D.C. and a brief biography of the person that sewed the first flag, Betsy Ross.

 

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7.  Watching sports teaches children about elementary physics and science topics – 

Over and over again when pitching batting practice to the kids in the backyard, I talk about hitting line drives.  Line drives are hard hit baseballs that are tough to catch.  They are the highest percentage type of strike of a bat against a ball for getting on base and scoring runs.  Uppercut angled swings of the bat, by nature of the surface area of a baseball, are more likely to add loft to the batted ball and cause easy to field pop-ups.  Pop-ups come down to the ground because of gravity.  Similar discussions of about loft, momentum, gravity, and speed can pop up during other sports besides baseball, too.

 

8.  Watching sports helps children identify shapes, forms of measurement and helps children gain a sense of distance – 

The identification and memorization of shapes seems very simple yet this skill continues from kindergarten through elementary school, middle school, high school and then often times shows up on college entrance exams.  Whether it be a round tennis ball or a oval shaped tennis racket, sporting equipment and venues are full of shapes.  Sports also help children learn about distance and measuring too.  Football may be the best example for distance.  In football, teams get four chances to advance the oblong shaped pigskin 10 yards or else they must turn the ball over to the control of the other team.  A football field is 100 yards long.  There are three feet in a yard and twelve inches in a foot.  When children can conceptualize distance in terms of inches, feet, yards and miles, then they can start thinking how these things relate to time.  If the corner drug store is 300 yards from our house, it would not take the family a long time to drive there compared to the house of their grandmother which is 40 miles away.

 

So the next time you and your children are bored and thinking of something to do, consider watching a sporting event with them in-person or on television.  Keep track of the score and who wins, but also realize that by them asking and you answering questions about the event, you’re potentially giving them a heads up on the kindergarten competition.

 

 

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Jimmy V And The Philanthropic Middle Class

Jim Valvano was a talented basketball coach.  He and his North Carolina State Wolfpack won the 1983 NCCA National Championship with an upset of win over the highly touted Cougars from the University of Houston.  Houston’s team boasted future NBA Hall of Famers: Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.  Houston was dubbed “Phi Slamma Jamma” for their high flying slam dunking prowess.

Valvano and his team of nobodies held Phi Slamma Jamma in check.  Houston only scored 52 points in the championship game.

Valvano’s coaching comrades called him, “Jimmy V.”

Jimmy V knew a thing or two about zone defenses.  I’m not talking about parenting metaphors about surveying the land and keeping your cool…  he actually knew real zone defenses.  They were his speciality.  He started trends like the box-and-one defense where four players play zone (in the shape of a box )and the top player guards the perimeter.  He had other zone schemes called the “triangle-two” and the “one-three and a chaser”.

Jimmy V was like a chess master with X’s and O’s on a basketball court, but he also was a master motivator.  He could give speeches in the locker room that could inspire the most lackluster squad.  He had the quick wit of a boy that grew up on the streets of Queens, NY, but he also was an English major in college and liked to discuss topics like nutrition and world diplomacy.  He was the ultimate jack of all trades, master of one.  His one was coaching college basketball.

 

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The ESPY Awards airs during this time each year and it’s a great time to re-watch the famous “Don’t Give Up” speech that Jimmy V gave in 1993.  If by chance you have never seen this speech… please… please… please, click on this You Tube link and check it out.

It was his final goodbye to the sporting world and the general public.  Jimmy V was dying of cancer and his end was very near.  It is crazy to think that a man with that much vigor for life and living would die the following month.  There are so many great snippets from that speech that can be saved and applied to our everyday lives.

My favorite part of the Jimmy V ESPY speech in 1993 is when he says this:

 

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.”

 

When thinking about this quote and applying this to our everyday lives, days like this probably pretty rare.  Perhaps in times of extreme happiness or sadness, our emotions are accelerated and the frequency of days with laughter, deep thinking, and crying are more prevalent.

There are mundane Monday, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays in my own personal life that fly by without much thought, laughter, or emotion.  They just exist.  Work. Dinner. Bed.

These days are not necessarily a waste of time.  Our kids are learning.  My wife and I are communicating.  We are taking care of needed and important tasks and logistics, but there is no deep thinking or emotion.

I yearn at times for deeper, more meaningful, full days like Jimmy V talked about.  I yearn to give back to the community.  I feel successful with my own life and family, and feel a responsibility to my friends, family, and community but as a parent of multiples, I’m also EXTREMELY BUSY.

 

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This triggered my thought pattern about the many ways we’ve aided charities over the past several years.  It got me brainstorming about ways we’ve given back to those less fortunate or in-need.  Was it all enough?

Thinking about this made me feel less guilty about my philanthropic endeavors of the past and present.

Below are ways I thought of to aid those less fortunate or in-need.

 

Ways to give back:

– Direct monetary donation

– Cash back credit cards that donate to charities of your choosing

– Charity dinners

– Creating something, for example, a playground or garden

– Charity sporting events, for example, golf scrambles or 5K races

– Donating your time

– Offering professional advice

– Donating used goods or toys

– Donating food

– Giving blood

– Helping family and neighbors/elderly

– Adopting families in need during the holidays

 

The different ways of giving back are plentiful and sometimes have just as large of an impact on any given cause as a direct monetary donation.  Studies show that The “middle class” in America is in fact a very charitable bunch.

Recent public information data obtained from the Internal Revenue Service demonstrates that the middle class donates a larger percentage of their discretionary income to charity than other income group.  This is telling, as this does even not take into account some of the non-financial acts of kindness the middle class are most famous for, as mentioned above.

In 2012, households earning $50,000 to $75,000 donated 7.6% of their discretionary income to charitable causes.  Those making $100,000 to $200,000 donated 4.2% and households making over $200,000 donated 2.8%.

Ironically, I had read this article about the philanthropic middle class and was thinking about various ways to help out recently.  Watching Jimmy V’s speech again was further inspiration to reserve a time soon to partake in a scheduled/planned act of kindness and charity.  If I was a fruit, I was ripe and ready to donate my time.  I’m compelled to make the most out of this short time we have on this earth and any day when I can laugh, cry, and think (any particular order), as Valvano eloquently described, is a day worth living.

 

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Aptly timed, Jacquie, a local blogger (blogging at http://clevelandkiddos.com/) messaged me about possibly joining in a group volunteer opportunity at the the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland in July.

There was no hesitation in signing up.  I was in.

I was very familiar with the Ronald McDonald House and had made direct monetary donations to the house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the past.  There are more than 300 Ronald McDonald Houses in the world to include homes nearby in Cleveland, Akron and Ann Arbor.  For those who may have some reservations about aligning with an huge corporate fast food restaurant, the homes are supported very sparingly via financial backing from Ronald McDonald Charities.  While they bear the McDonald’s affiliated name, they are all largely local, independent non-profit entities that are funded organically.

 

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From their website:

“The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland offers a place to call home at little or no cost so families can access the best health care, regardless of their location.  We allow families to stay together, which can help their children heal faster and cope better.

 

Our House enables families to focus on the health of their child rather than anything else – like paying bills, cooking meals, cleaning the House. We preserve a sense of normalcy with home-cooked meals, comfortable beds and recreational activities for the family to enjoy.  Most importantly, we help families create connections with other families, staff and volunteers.  In doing this, families have a support system to turn to during the most stressful moments of their lives.”

 

I mentioned to Jacquie in-passing about knowing a lot about this charity.  I let her know that my family once was a recipient of kindness from this organization.  I didn’t offer up more details and she never asked.

 

On the ride to the charity event, I had time to THINK.

In August of 1987, I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor, MI, with my parents following the birth of my brother.  He was born with a infection and needed to be life flighted to the University of Michigan Hospitals and placed on an experimental heart lung bypass machine called ECMO while his body fought the infection.  Doctors gave him a ten percent chance to survive the helicopter ride to Michigan.  We immediately drove from Ohio to Michigan to check on the arrival and well-being of my brother without hotel reservations or a plan.  Upon arriving in Ann Arbor, no hotels in the area had vacancy.  The hospital did not have space for all of us to spend the night in a hospital room or waiting room.  They referred us to the Ronald McDonald House and luckily they had space for us.

At age 6, I don’t remember much about the visit to the house.  I remember my mother was very emotional and felt helpless about not being about to help her sick young child.  I remember they had lots of food there for breakfast and dinner, which was important!  I remember there being video games there to play and other young kids there to play with.  These kids similarly had sick siblings too, and could relate to my situation.  My brother eventually recovered from the infection, he was discharged and sent back to Ohio.  Our family was very luckily to get through this rough patch in our lives.  Since that time our family has always supported this charity, which we never knew existed prior to this emergency in 1987.

 

Upon arriving at the charity event this July, I had the opportunity to LAUGH.

I like to cook and immediately jumped right in to cutting fruits with my friend Katrina.  Cutting strawberries, grapes and melon was a breeze (I thought to myself).  We were putting together a succulent fruit salad for 60-80 dinner guests we expected in a hour or two.  Out of nowhere Katrina and I were handed four massive pineapples!  We both looked at one another for guidance on how to chop up pineapples and neither one of us had a clue.  I’d never cut a whole pineapple up myself.  It’s not my favorite fruit.

Obviously the top green leafy thingy needs to be chopped off, right?  We laughed.  Instructions were provided by another blogger on how to slice and dice the pineapple and we were pretty proud of that fruit salad upon completion.

Dinner was a wonderful spread of homemade chicken fingers, homestyle macaroni and cheese, thinly sliced fresh veggies, and our prideful fruit salad. Everyone seemed very happy with the meal.  We were greeted with a huge thank you from Laura Klinger Doyle, the Communications Manager of the the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.  She asked us to spread the word about the need for volunteers.  If you are an individual or a group looking to participate in a similar activity, contact her at (216) 229-5757, extension 1105.

 

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Some of us were thanked individually by those consuming the meal.  Others sat quietly and ate the food with seemingly more pressing matters on their minds.  Confidently, our group of local bloggers thought that those staying at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland that day received a nice, warm and nutritious meal.

 

The last event of the night was an event where we helped kids that were staying at the house decorate cupcakes.  I was doing dishes at the this time and was thinking about heading home to see my own kids before they went to bed, but I decided to hold off a little longer and watch the youngsters have some fun after dinner.  We had various frosting options and colors to paint the cupcakes.

A young boy came up to me about age 10 and asked me if I could help him with his cupcake.  I obliged, as I saw his mother was nearby in deep conversation with her spouse.  I handed the boy eyes and nose shaped pieces of candy as he started to make a smiley face on the top of his cupcake.  This warmed my heart as I thought back to the time I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House and found momentary happiness resting in a home-like atmosphere with other people going through similar circumstances.

I thought the boy was done decorating the cupcake and ready to eat it, when at the last second, he added tears running down the face of the cupcake figurine.  He was obviously having some mixed feelings about his current situation.  I did not inquire about who he was there with or why.  It was none of my business.  What I did tell him was that I really liked his cupcake and I had fun hanging out with him.  He thanked me and went back to his parents to eat the cupcake.

After leaving the event, I was overcome by nostalgic, happy, and sad emotions and sat in my parked car and CRIED for a few minutes before my drive home.

 

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It was a mundane weeknight, but I was able to think, laugh, and cry.  Not all days are like this, but I urge you to put yourself in situations to have as many days like this as possible.

This particular day… it was full day. It was a heck of a day.

 

 

Have you ever heard of the Ronald McDonald House?  Which charities are your favorite to support?  Do you prefer monetary or non-monetary ways of aiding charities of your choice?  How many times per year do you abide by Jimmy V’s advice and think, laugh, and cry in the same day?

 

 

Morning Routine Tips To Alleviate Stress

One aspect of blogging that I’ve enjoyed so far has been sometimes discussing deep and heavy topics like death and dying, the passing down of cultural traditions, and the roles of being a father in the 21st Century. Statistically, these posts have been shown to be popular, but the pragmatic and task-oriented posts about preparing for a new baby and what to get dads for Father’s Day have also elicited nice responses.

Much like blogging, as a parent, sometimes you are dealing with difficult issues that have serious implications and other times you are simply trying to figure out how to get Junior to stop picking his nose in public.

Zone Defense Blog has been a approached by Northeast Ohio Parent magazine to work in conjunction with them and be a local online presence on a new blogger section of their website. Potential opportunities to have cross exposure into the print side of the magazine and other mediums are also being explored. The blogger section of the website is set to go live in August of 2014. This blog hopes to create new works prompted by them and also continue exploring topics that are specifically organic to the author. This is the first blog post prompted by Northeast Ohio Parent magazine to be used by them on the new blogger community section of their website.

 

Morning Routine Tips To Alleviate Stress

Stress-free mornings are an oxymoron in most households and ours is no exception. The one thing our kids hate to do is rush to complete tasks. What fun is that?

In the morning, prior to going off to pre-school, their main activities involve, you guessed it… rushing to complete tasks. It can be hectic and stressful. It can be the worst part of your day. Parental scars can be created that massive amounts of caffeine can’t cure.

Luckily for my wife and I, our work schedules allow us to both chip in during the morning rush to get our kids ready for the day together. This cannot be under-valued. Playing zone defense and having both parents completing delegated tasks during mornings can make for a less stressful environment.

Personally, I am not a morning person so my wife contributes far more during the morning rush than I do during weekdays. I try to pay her back by waking up with the kids during many weekend mornings so that she can catch up on sleep. This works for us, but the set-up may be completely opposite in your family and that’s fine.

Below is a list of tips that can help alleviate stress during the morning rush. Feel free to bend and mold these hints to fit the current age, development stage and morning requirements to your own personal situation.

 

Stress free mornings begin the night before – Establish a weeknight bedtime for your children and typically be firm with it. For us, we shoot to have our 5 year olds dressed, hygienically clean and physically in their beds by 8:30 p.m. Once they are in bed, they then can have us read them books or they can practice reading on their own for the next 30 to 45 minutes. This reading period serves as a cool down for the day and helps set the kids in a calming mindset before bed. It also serves a dual purpose by setting aside specific time for reading each day. The kids like reading at this time, because it allows them the opportunity to stay up later like bigger kids and adults. There are special occasions and many weekend nights that we allow later bedtimes, but during the week, having this general rule can establish expectations in both the child and with the parent.

Make an achievable morning task list – Lists are boring, monotonous and mundane, but they help. The list can be written down or just small enough in content that it can be memorized. There are less than five tasks our kids know they have to complete every morning before we will listen to requests about food, drink or fun in the morning hours. Most of these list items are hygiene related. For younger infants and toddlers, the parents completing these tasks for their children (for example: brushing teeth and changing clothes) consistently (with or without a written list) will similarly establish trust and expectation with the child.

Reinforce and recognize good listening – This is a common sense item, but it cannot be forgotten. Show your child that you notice that they are listening and that they are making an effort to make the morning run smoothly. A comment like, “Wow those are some great circles you are making with your teeth brushing” or “I really like that outfit you picked out for school” can help show the kids you are watching and you care about them and their health, hygiene and fitness. If they are not doing a good job, point out where they can improve. Show your children you care about them and their well-being and they typically will try harder to impress you.

Allow time to “wake up the mind” – At the end of each morning routine, before entering the rigors of the real world of daycare, work or school, we all deserve some time (15 to 45 minutes) to sit and relax. Adults sip coffee, look at the weather, read the news in newpapers or on a phone or tablet. Children deserve a similar time period to compose themselves and wake up their minds. Be it word puzzles, cartoons on television or a quick game on the iPad, allow some time after tasks are completed and before the real day starts to wake up the mind.

Recognize and reward good behavior – As always, a carrot is a motivating factor. Kids should not be expected to prepare themselves every morning of every day without a hitch or a whiney moment. If you are able to get several consecutive good days in the books during the morning routine, reward and reinforce those good strings of days. Our kids can earn an extra half hour to stay up at bedtime, a weekend treat like a trip to the movie theater or ice cream, or a trip to the community pool or playground with a parent of their choosing after school.

 

 

Some mornings are better than others. Don’t get discouraged.  They won’t all be bad.  Additionally, the older the child gets, the clearer the awareness of their responsibilities come into focus. Here is a picture of our kids during a better string of mornings on a day when they received a reward to go with their grandparents to a professional baseball game.
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What other tips have you found useful to help alleviate morning stress? What rewards have you come up with to help reinforce positive task completion?

Father’s Day and Gifts

Like moms on Mother’s Day, come Father’s Day, most dads don’t seek, yearn or expect gifts.

Father’s Day gives us time to reflect on the relationships we have with our dads, children and grandchildren.  Also, like many other holidays, it sets aside a specific day to spend time with those you love.  That’s my favorite part of Father’s Day.

In our immediate and extended family we are big golf fans.  We have a tradition that involves outdoor grilling, catching up with one another and then coming inside to watch the final round of the US Open on television together as a family.  The US Open traditionally ends on Father’s Day Sunday.  Many times there are heartwarming moments where the winning golfer has their kids or dad run onto the final green for a warm embrace after they sink the winning putt.  Decorated golfer Graeme McDowell shared this special moment with his dad Ken at Pebble Beach in 2010.

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However, the reality of the situation is that Father’s Day gifts (big and small) will be purchased for dads as a sign of appreciation, dedication and respect.  This can be stressful for those buying gifts as many guys out there have “everything”.

Here are some ideas for dads in your life:

 

– Food and Drink

Dads love to eat.  Dads love to drink.  Food and drink gifts are simple, safe bet ideas, that are sure to make most dads happy.  In Northeast Ohio, we are lucky to have plenty of options to choose from in this genre.

Try buying some craft beer at Warehouse Beverage in South Euclid, Rozi’s Wine House in Lakewood, or at one of the Lizardville locations on the east or westside of Cleveland.  Local grocery stores like Giant Eagle Market District, Heinen’s and Whole Foods also have outstanding selections.  Has your dad shown interest in brewing his own beer?  Check out learning to brew/beginner kits at The Cleveland Brew Shop.  Is your dad more of a fan of spirits?  How about supporting the newly opened, locally owned and operated, Portside Distillery.  Portside specializes in artisan rums.

Fancy drinks require proper glassware.  There are many more choices when it comes to glassware than in the past.  Monogrammed whisky or bourbon glasses are always a pleasant way to show your dad that he’s the king of the castle.  Craft beer glassware styles also have their own style categories.  IPAs belong in one glass, stouts in another and pilsners require glasses shaped in an hourglass form.  Local breweries and brew stores have many types of glasses, but many department stores carry sets like this one from Libbey which gives you an array of glass options packaged together in a set.

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A nice low cost idea is to make dad dinner for Father’s Day.  Whether it be steak, nachos or brownies, it’s easy to show dad you love him by recognizing his favorite dish and recreating it with him helping or while he relaxes on the couch.

 

– Fashion and Gadgets

One area that can get away from dads is fashion.  Our priorities change when we get older and fashion trends and styles can take a backseat to tasks like who needs to be driven to soccer practice or who needs help with a science project.

Throwback, vintage t-shirts that commemorate special events or people in sports or culture never go out of style.  Locally, there are many options.  Check out GV Art and Design in Lakewood, CLE Clothing Company downtown or Fresh Brewed Tees.  Regionally, Homage in Columbus has many national, thrift store inspired shirts that tell a story.  For more humorous t-shirt options, check out the website bustedtees.com.

For example, here’s a shirt that every OSU Buckeye Football fan can appreciate. The shirt celebrates their deep disdain for their bitter rivals up north.  The OSU/Michigan rivalry is arguably considered the top rivalry in all of sports.  The quote comes from a memorable game when legendary coach, Woody Hayes was asked why he went for a two-point conversation while winning by a blowout margin late in the game. For more backstory on this t-shirt and other items, visit the Homage website.

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Father’s Day also so happens to fall right in time for summer fun.  A functional, yet fashionable accessory perfect for the summer months are sunglasses.  Sunglasses are great to shade and protect your eyes while driving, playing sports or lounging around.  For cheap options, check out a standard plastic pair of wayfarers.  Wayfarers sunglasses were in style when Tom Cruise danced in his underwear in the movie Risky Business in 1983 and they were seen on the red carpet at the Academy Awards in early 2014.  They are timeless.  For more high-performance sunglasses, search for polarized lenses and frame styles from brands like Native, Oakley and Costa.

Watches and fitness trackers provide an area of customization that didn’t exist several years ago.  Whether it be tracking your sleep, measuring the yards left to the pin on the golf course, logging the distance of your runs, or trying to lose weight, there’s a watch, bracelet (and app) for that.  Garmin and Nike seem to have the biggest selection of these types of gadgets and their websites would be a good place to start browsing.  For fashionable watches that balance fashion and function, look for Casio G-Shock or Timex Weekender styles on Amazon.

 

– Experience Gifts

When we are old and on our death bed, we won’t recall the things we have in our garage, we’ll recall the memories that made us happy, the people we’ve loved and the places we’ve been.

Think of where your dad likes to be most and join him at this place.  Join your dad in doing his favorite activity.  Organize a gathering with his favorite people.  Schedule a weekend trip with him visiting relatives in his hometown.  Regardless of cost, experience gifts are many times the most special and memorable.

What gift or experience ideas do you have for Father’s Day? Have you purchased or created a gift yet?  What are your favorite Father’s Day traditions and memories?

 

Seven Characteristics Of A Good Father

Mother’s Day has passed and Father’s Day is on the horizon.  This is a dad centric blog and thus the examination is relevant: what makes a good dad?

 

I meet some couples on the fence about having kids at times and they are overwhelmed by the expectations of motherhood and fatherhood.

 

Parents are portrayed in movies and commercials.  We all catch our best moments and post them in full smiles on social media outlets.  I’m guilty.  You’re guilty.  We’re all guilty.

 

Moms have to do crafts with their kids.  Dads have to play catch.  Mothers cook.  Dads work late.  Mothers pack lunches and write cute notes with smiley faces.  Dads take their kids on their first tractor rides.  Right?  Perhaps.  But these are not requirements.  These are not prerequisites.

 

The problem is some moms can’t cook.  Some moms make more money than dads.  Some dads are better caretakers than moms. Some dads can’t catch a curveball and would rather watch paint dry than play baseball.

 

The good thing is that perhaps what couples perceive as common, required stereotypes that are set in stone, are actually very, very archaic and antiquated misnomers.  This is especially the case outside the bubble of the Midwest and Plains states.

 

So what actually makes a good dad?

 

Do you have to be able to tie a Boy Scout knot, be handy with a crescent wrench and be able to fix a leaky faucet?  Can you show emotion?  Can divorced or single dads that see their kids once a month provide enough guidance to be considered good and relevant.

 

The expectations of what makes a good dad should be fairly low.  Many of us, many of you, and many future guys out their will be “good fathers”.  When you wish guys Happy Father’s Day in the coming weeks, I encourage you do so with zeal and fervor.

 

Many guys out there do not get enough credit.  Showing up, is indeed half the battle.

 

Below is a list of characteristics of “good fathers”.  Maybe some of the characteristics will hit home to you and yours.  Maybe some of them will give you thought for the future and help you concentrate on a weaknesses in your life.  Perhaps the list will allow you to relax and pat yourself on the back.

 

Here’s my specific list of Seven Characteristics of a Good Father.  By no means is this list all-encompassing.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads trying to make a positive impact on our future generation.

 

1.  Good dads are present.

US Census statistics show that one out of every three children grow up in a home without their biological father present.  Children growing up in homes without their fathers are 77% more likely to be abused.  They are far more likely to drop out of school.  They are far more likely to eventually become incarcerated.  Whether in a relationship, married, divorced or separated…  be present and available for your kids.  This is the truest measure of a good father.  Good fathers are the the rock of the family and are perpetually available and present.

 

2.  Good dads treat women with respect.  

Children are sponges.  If you hit women, if you yell at women, if you talk down to women, your children will replicate these actions either now or quickly down the road.  Whether it’s a mother, a sister, a librarian or a waitress, good dads set an example by treating women with respect.

 

3.  Good dads set an example.

This trait is closely related to characteristic number two in that kids are watching at all times.  One thing dads will learn quickly is that even though kids can’t understand immediately…  they are always observing.  Kids mimic adults and by setting examples of consistency, respect, honesty, trustworthiness and happiness, you can turn your kids into humble and thoughtful human beings without even giving direct instruction.

 

4. Good dads love unconditionally and aren’t afraid to express it.

The days of men withholding their feelings and being “tough guys” are over.  There are times to be tough, strong-willed and moralistic, and there are times to show emotion.  Some guys aren’t into hugging.  Some guys aren’t big on kissing.  Some guys have a tough time saying the exact words, “I love you.”  All of these struggles are okay.  Every person has their own way of showing love and gratitude.  These struggles do not mean you’re not a good dad.  Kids know when you love and care for them and it often times has nothing to do with spoken words.

 

5.  Good dads allow their children to make mistakes.

When kids start to walk, there is a physicality to worrying about them making mistakes.  I remember being stressed out about them falling.  One sour move created a goose egg on their forehead that lasted weeks.  Do other parents think I am a crappy parent for letting my kid fall and get a goose egg on their head?  No.

It’s as impossible to fully protect your children at 18 months as it is to fully protect their children at 18 years.   Letting children make mistakes and establish boundaries can teach them limits and allow them to be good decision makers as teenagers and adults.

 

6.  Good dads can adapt and grow.

It would be shortsighted to only examine fatherhood from ages birth to age 18.  This is when we perceive fatherhood to be most relevant.  However fatherhood is not only something that is only impressionable upon our youth.  Fathers have to adapt and relationships develop over time.  Good dads can figure out what guidance is needed at what particular age and not force kids to grow up too slowly or too quickly.  Good dads are always adapting and figuring out the best way to provide guidance and love to their children.

 

7.  Good dads don’t treat fatherhood as a job.

Fatherhood is at its core, a choice.  Having, raising and teaching children is not something we are forced to do.  A job is something we are forced to do to make money and allow for a comfortable life.  You can have a comfortable life without raising children.  Good dads don’t act like spending time with their children is a burden.  Good dads relish the moments and memories made with their children… both good and challenging.

 

 

What are other characteristics that you prioritize for being a good father?