Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Better Than a Toy Unicorn

I love my Annabelle.  We have a pretty good Father/Daugther thing going.

And even though she can be a tad TOO independent for my taste at times (read: at the end of a long work day when she doesn't want to go to bed on our set schedule for her), she is a funny, bright, hard working, strong and lovely little girl.

And my days would be filled with so much less happiness without her.

Apparently, she appreciates and enjoys the affection I heap on her as well.

Hmmm, maybe I shouldn't have promised her a real unicorn for her next birthday.

Okay, I didn't really promise her a unicorn.  But I really do need to teach her about the value of wishes and the decision making process that goes into choosing one.  Thinking bigger, if you will.   I mean, really, she can hug and kiss me (and does) anytime she wants.

On second thought, perhaps I will leave this lesson until much later.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Birthday Sponsors Review

Happy Summer Readers.

With the calendar having turned to July, America's birthday around the corner, and Lukas' birthday now in the rear view, It's time for me to send some shout outs to some sponsors who helped to make his birthday week a rousing success.

First up: Play-Well Teknologies.  The folks at Play-Well Teknologies were the star attraction at Lukas' birthday party for his school friends.  Mike and Khaemmeraa from Play-Well Northwest  arrived on time at our destination, loaded to the hilt with Lego's for a motorized project build that fit the Minecraft party theme perfectly.  Lukas and his friends, 20 of them in all, under the expert guidance of the Play-Well staff were fully engaged in building motorized creepers, or Steve's (their choice) and had a terrific time.

Mike and Khaemmeraa kept the rather large group of kids engaged and having fun the whole time and were completely fun and appropriate.  It's almost like they'd done this type of thing before!

Anyway, Mrs. LIAYF, Lukas, and I were extremely pleased with their professionalism and flexibility and would absolutely recommend their services to anyone looking for a fun filled activity or party.

Thanks Play-Well Teknologies!

Estes Rockets  The fine folks at Estes Rockets were kind enough to send over, not one.  Not two.  But three of their pretty cool air rocket sets for us to try out.  Lukas was pretty excited to try them out after his birthday, and couldn't wait to walk over to a local park with a huge lawn since these rockets - which come complete with an air pump - can travel up to 150ft high.

We were a bit skeptical of that claim, until we actually put the Sonic Boom set to the test. We were all thrilled when it indeed soared high into the sky, probably close to the 150ft claim.

And while we had trouble getting another of the sets to work, Lukas had a blast chasing after the falling Sonic Boom.

StikBot Studio  The folks at Zing toys were kind enough to send over a the Stikbot Studio, a green screen box with stikbot figures which works in conjunction with an app for editing, allowing kids to place the stikbots into their own homemade videos.

Lukas is just tapping the potential of the Stikbots, and has been extremely excited about learning how to use and edit his pictures and video clips in order to create a finished movie product.  We are not there yet, but once he has something to show, you will be able to see it here.

Thanks Zing Toys for this very cool set!

The Rise of the Herobrine.  Author Danica Davidson was kind enough to send over this, the third in the 'Unofficial Overworld Adventure' series.

Lukas, who loves all things Minecraft right now, was immediately drawn to this book, and although he hadn't read books one or two, he has burned through this book twice already in merely a weeks time.  Asked for his opinion on the book, he called it "Awesome" and gave it a resounding thumbs up.

Thanks Danica, and to all those sponsors who helped to make Lukas's Birthday another successful venture.

Now go 4th and enjoy your Summer!

*Full Disclosure:  I received free product from each of these listed sponsors, but was only asked to do a fair and impartial review, which I have done here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

9 is a Magic Number!

As they say, the more things change the more they stay the same.

That is so very true.

Happy 9th Birthday to Lukas, My inspiration, My source of happiness, My comic relief, My hope for a better future for this world.

My wonderful son.

Lukas ~ Age 2

Lukas ~ Age 9

9 is indeed a magic number.  As were the 8 others that preceded it.

I love you Buddy!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Trophy Dad

Hey there other Dads. Today, you can forget all the well intentioned mugs and hats you might have received as tokens of your kids appreciation.

Forget the T-shirts and framed pictures as well.  And the ties and frisbees too (yeah, it's happening out there).  In fact, forget everything you may have been told about the identity of the best dad in the world.

Why forget these things, you may ask.  Well, forget them because a definitive #1 Dad has now been crowned people. And it is your truly.


I've got the trophy to prove it*.

Just take a gander below, but don't stare directly at it because it's brightness may burn your eyes.

Reminicient of the Stanley Cup.  Or a butterfly.

Okay, okay.  This may, in fact say 'Dad 1 #'.  And the alignment is a teeeeesny bit off, with the 1 acting like it needs some space from the # symbol.  Whatever.

But without a doubt it's coming from coming from the cutest girl EVAH!

(no her name isn't Evah, that is just my way
of slanging the word 
ever.  Roll with it.)

So we can certainly give her a little slack.  I did.

I've got a combined 4608 days chalked up to being a Dad.  I think the title is deserving. Plus, I can now pour some cold beverage into each end of this paper cup trophy, and have myself a refreshing, relaxing day.  At least until the paper handles give.

Who am I kidding.  I'll still be chasing them around today.  The beer will be my reward for that time after they are in bed.

Yep, this Father's day will be the best of all time. Once again.

*I am also open to the slim possibility that there might be more than one #1 Dad out there, or 1 # Dad.  And if there are, I raise my trophy in toast to those great dads.  

Happy Father's Day, guys.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dear Kid on the Playground

Dear Kid on the Playground,

My daughter and I were swinging at a local playground a couple of days ago when you came over to play as well.  I'm sure you remember this, since you are still young.

You stood on the yellow plastic chair swing next to us, as I pushed Annabelle higher and higher at her emphatic request.  You seemed interested in our antics, as you smiled at us.  Then you told my daughter that you liked her glasses.  She didn't really respond, but that was because she was busy gaining altitude, her arms stretched out in front of her pretending to fly.  Plus she was being a bit shy.

So, that's why I answered for her.  "Thanks!"  Grown ups do that a lot.  It's called being polite for your kids.  Anyway, then you asked her how old she was, and she did respond.  Just not too loud.  "Three" I helped out once again.

Then you proceeded to shimmy up the swing bar, the one that angled backwards, so effortlessly that I was duly impressed.  As you hung there  at the top, nearly 10ft high I asked you your age.  You responded seven with conviction and an ease of tone.  Then as you swung back and forth on the bar, you engaged us in even more conversation.  You told us about your school, and how you were almost done with 2nd grade and about how you like to climb a lot.

Once back down, you even started showing Annabelle just how to climb up the pole.  Taking her shoes off was a helpful tip (although I groaned just a bit because you know who has to put them back on, don't you?) Even though I then helped her climb up with some bottom support, she was smiling because the 'big girl' was showing her how.  She loves climbing too, by the way.

Once you even looked over at me when Annabelle was turned away, and whispered exaggeratedly "Her glasses are SO cute!", which was pretty cute in and of itself.

If I had thought to pick out your parent(s) from the crowd conversing not far away at the edge of the playground I might just have gone over to them and indicated how impressed I was with your kindness towards Annabelle, and the ease with which you struck up a conversation with this dad and his daughter.  As a grown up you often think of those things later.  Things you wish you had done in the moment. Then you say 'Oh well."

But there was something else you said during that interaction that afternoon which actually made me laugh inside. Inside, but out loud inside.

It was when you turned to me with a smile and said "You know, you look a lot like my dad, when he was younger."  I paused for a moment, only because I was fully processing that statement.

"Yeah? How old is your Dad?"  I curiously replied.

And when you responded matter-of-factly "Thirty Four", I just smiled outwardly, did the mental math, and had that internal moment of blissful amusement.

Anyway, thank you cute kid on the playground.  You certainly made this 48 year old dad chuckle.

Typically, this is a job reserved only for my own children.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Father's Day Time Machine

I could travel back eons ago, to a
time when humans lived in shells.

Inevitably the question always arises around this time of year.  It usually goes something like "Hey Seattledad, what do you want for Father's Day?  A day away from the kids? A night out with the guys?"

And, just as inevitably, I always answer with a simple 'Nope, I enjoy spending time with my kids. They're awesome."

But this time, just such question from a work colleague got me thinking. Daydreaming actually.

Yeah, it wasn't at all unlike those crazy thoughts that run through your head right before you read the winning numbers of the Power Ball lottery and you eventually realize that, yes, you do have to go to work the next morning. I'm sure you know the ones.

Anywho, I started dreaming about getting a time machine for Father's Day, and how perfectly awesome cool that would be.

I know, right?

I mean, think about it.  If I had a time machine I could dial it back to when Lukas was Annabelle's age, and compare their levels of cuteness.  That would be a toss up, by the way, with both being absolutely adorable at 3.

I thought about how I could also dial it forward to a time when my kids are parents themselves, so I can see my grandkids for the first time.  This is assuming I am still there which, given my late start in life as a parent and the fact that my kids will hopefully wait until well into their careers to start families, is not altogether a lock.  In fact, it's probably a toss up at this point. Plus, I guess that would depend also on what you consider 'first'.

I pondered many of these types of scenarios with a smile.

But then I started to consider all the pitfalls associated with my choice.  Which was, in all honesty, a buzzkill.  I mean, what if my time machine dial didn't have a specific day and hour setting on the dial?  I might accidently land in my house during pre bedtime. Otherwise known as 'The time that shant be mentioned'.

Then, like all prudent time travelers, I would also have to make sure that I didn't get too close to my family.  Since I am pretty much always around my kids, I would have to make sure that I didn't see myself, or accidently wander in and have Lukas think that I was 5 years ago dad.  He would probably notice that I looked 'older'.

I might screw up the timeline, and have something go horribly wrong.

Then, that the time machine idea was a bad one was cemented in my mind when I considered one final thing.  I realized that If I actually saw my kids during a different timeline I couldn't NOT run over and give them a big hug and kiss.  I wouldn't have the will power to stop myself.  And if I did, the timeline consequences could be devestating. And not just for my family.

So, I ended my daydream with the resolution that if anyone does give me a time machine for Father's Day, I am certainly not going to use it.

I wouldn't even re-gift it.  The consequences are way too risky.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't think about it though.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Having That Effect

Annabelle and I were on our way to her Soccer class this morning, which does not happen to be in our neighborhood, so it took us approximately 15-20 minutes to travel over the high bridge and down into the valley below to the indoor arena where her class was being held.

It was a gorgeous Seattle morning with temps expected to reach the mid 90's later in the day, so I had her window partially rolled down so she could enjoy the breeze.

As we crossed the bridge she pointed out at the water below and squealed "River" with delight.  Out beyond was the towering white mass of Mount Rainer smiling down upon us. It was a picturesque start to our lazy Sunday and left smiles on both of our faces.

And Annabelle was still smiling widely as we exited the freeway and pulled up to our first stoplight.  Just then, a very large city bus pulled up beside us, stopping just shy of me, so that the driver was right next to Annabelle's window, but sitting much higher up.

Once he looked over, and saw our sweet girl gazing over at him with her smile still beaming, his mood seemed to immediately change for the better.  He smiled right back down at Annabelle, and slide open his window.

"Hi there Sweetie" he started.  "Are you enjoying the beautiful day?"  "I'm goin to Soccer!" Annabelle shot back.  "Well, that sounds like fun!"  the driver retorted.  You're pretty cute!"  to which my daughter merely raised her hand and waved a bye-bye to the nice  bus driver, as the light had turned green and we were starting to move.

I glanced back to see a big smile on his face as well, as he waved goodbye to her too.

It was a small exchange, but not uncommon with us.  No, it has never before been a city bus driver, but on almost every trip we take out of the house, people are stopping to at least flash a smile in the direction of my 3 year old cutie pie.

I'm sure this happens to most other 2-3 year olds as well.  Especially if they are animated, which Annabelle most certainly is.

It's cliche', I know. But I really do wish I could bottle this.  This adorable time in our lives.

Without a doubt I can see what effect popping the cork on this bottle has as we walk through the lives of others who are not now, or never will be, in this phase of their own lives.

It's akin to having a garden hose of happiness and spraying it on an unsuspecting crowd.

It's pretty awesome.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Drop EVERYTHING and Dance, Sucka!

We built this city. built this city on kindie and folk.

We listen to a lot of music in our household.  From Kindie, to Blues, to Folk, to Americana, to Classical, to Indie, to Grunge, to Classic Rock, to.....well anything really.

That being said, we do have a kid themed Pandora station we listen to on most weekend mornings.  It is a mix of kindie artists such Caspar Babypants and Elizabeth Mitchel, with some Johny Cash, Jack Johnson, and the like thrown in for good measure.

And, once the algorithm gets cranking, it ends up being a fairly fun and breakfast appropriate mix.  The only problem I guess would be that there is not a lot of new music added to the profile, so after time you end up hearing the same songs on a regular basis.

I say 'problem' but, in all honesty, even this has it's advantages.  It's silver linings, if you will.

The most obvious of these to the LIAYF household is that the kids, as well as Mrs. LIAYF and I have identified for each kid a song that is "Their Song".   For each these are songs that elicit a healthy round of dancing and general merriment.


Usually, as I mentioned, this is in our kitchen. On a weekend morning during breakfast.  So, if Annabelle's song 'Ho Hey' by the Lumineers comes on, we drop everything, crank up the volume, and proceed to enthusiastically dance around the kitchen like complete fools, laughing and intermittently hugging all the way through.

Thankfully, Ho Hey is a relatively short song, because by the end Mrs. LIAYF and I are pretty much worn out.  In fact, after a minute or so we are usually eagerly awaiting the conclusion.

Similarly, we laugh and dance enthusiastically and sing to Lukas' song 'The Best Day of My Life' by American Authors.  This is a great song, sure, but it's even longer than 'Ho Hey', so takes a lot of effort, especially for dad such as myself.

Bottom line, it's fun, but it can be a little much if done on too regular basis.  And now the kids expect dancing to happen anytime either of these songs come on.  Nay, they DEMAND it!

That became apparent a few nights ago, when, after walking around our local business district, we all stopped into a local Starbucks where most tables were quietly taken up by singles on their laptops. But the music was playing, relatively loud.

And of course, as soon as we had ordered, 'Ho Hey' started piping loudly out of the speakers.  Annabelle, in here cutest 3 year old voice, immediately screamed "My Song!", grabbed our hands, and led us to the middle of the store where she started to dance around still holding our hands.

Well, what could we do?  What would you do?

I'm sure we looked rather foolish to the rest of the onlookers, but we all danced around until the song was over.  We were a little more muted and not quite as enthusiastic as we usually are in our kitchen.   But drop everything and dance, we did.

Annabelle was pretty happy with that, which made it all worth it.  Although I sure hope we don't start making a habit of dancing around public places.

Even if it is pretty darn cute.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

What a Rube!

For his 3rd Grade Science Fair recently, Lukas was tasked with entering a project as part of a class assignment.

He was excited about the idea not only because this meant no additional homework for a month, but because after entering a project in the fair during his 1st grade year (I wrote about it here), he was not given an opportunity last year in 2nd grade, as the teacher opted instead to do a whole class project, which bummed him out.

So, this year he went all out and decided to go with an idea he has been wanting to pursue for some time, having collected various and sundry items that might someday be used in just such a project.

What was the project, you ask? Well, for his Science Fair Project, Lukas designed and built his very own Rube Goldberg Machine, which was all kinds of cool once completed.  

Just take a look at this, his first successful test of the full machine, and try not to smile a 10th of what he does in this video.   Don't worry, it's only a minute and well worth a watch.

Yes, it was test #101, like he said!  But only test #7 of the whole finished machine.  Mrs. LIAYF worked with him on many of the details, but make no mistake, this was his project and he was the point person on every part of the process.

We are all very happy with his choice of projects, because besides being a lot of work, it was also a lot of fun as you can see, and Lukas also learned a LOT about physics during the process.  As he is quick to point out, his Machine used gears, levers, pulley's, wheels, axles, and springs to convert energy into completing the task of popping the balloon. 

Thankfully, the Science Fair went off without a hitch too, with his whole class - as well as curious onlookers from around the school, expressing much interest in the machine, and wanting to try it out for themselves.  

Of course, not every individual run through went off without a hitch, but that only stressed the delicate balance that had to be attained to make the Rube Goldberg Machine work as designed.

Before you ask, no, I guess I am not smarter than a 3rd Grader.

Which is also pretty cool I suppose.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Triumph of the Jedi

"Join Me!"  "Nooooooo!"

Boom, Lukas can officially drop the mic on childhood!

That's because on our recent trip to Disneyland, which happened over Spring Break here in Seattle, Lukas was able to don a Jedi robe, draw a green light saber, and battle against perhaps the most iconic villan in movie history, Darth Vader!

Hey, but I am still his father!!

As you can see from the photo above, Lukas had amazing form as he parried all light saber srtikes by Lord Vader, and returned his own forceful blows as well.  This was no surprise to Mrs. LIAYF and I as he has been training around the LIAYF household for years now.

Certainly this was one of the highlights of our vaction, as Lukas and I arrived early at Disneyland, waited in line until the gates opened, then raced full speed over to Tommorowland where we were met by.....a rope.

Yep, that's right.  Once he and I had raced through the park to the Tommorowland, where the Jedi Training was to take place, we had to wait another 20 minutes behind a rope as hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of park goers squeezed up behind us waiting for the rope to drop.

And all around us, we heard dads and moms, and sons and daughters talk about one thing. One Thing!  Getting signed up for Jedi Training, which only happens for a few lucky Padawans each and every day at Disneyland.

Selfie at the rope, waiting for the race
through Tommomowland!

So, as we prepared for the rope to drop I implored Lukas to hold onto my hand while we ran through Tommorowland to the sign up line so that he wouldn't get run over by the hoards of crazed dads and Mom's gathering behind us.  I was carrying a heavy backpack, but I was determined to also save my son from determined mass.

Then the rope dropped, the signal was given, and Lukas surprised everyone and sprinted like a cross between The Flash and Dash from The Incredibles and left me in the dust becoming the first person to reach the place where the training was to take place.

This from a kid who was in a wheelchair with a broken femur just a few months ago!

The only problem was that this was NOT the place to sign up for the training, which we didn't know.  This allowed another Dad to pass us in line.  This was no problem though, as second in line was plenty enough to choose our time slot and get Lukas signed up to train as a Jedi.

And, to ultimately battle every Jedi's arch nemesis, Darth Vader!

Honestly, I'm not sure who loved this more, Luke or his Father.  And by his Father, I am not referring to the guy in the black mask!

Our first trip to Disneyland was amazing, and I will post more about it in the near future, but this one experience had to be the defining moment of our trip.

The Force is Strong in our son.  He fought like a true Jedi, and certainly made this Father proud.

This was fun.