Stepping On Legos

I am almost certain that my feet contain the world’s most sophisticated homing device for small pieces of plastic. Back when I would manage to step on sewing needles that had been lost in the horrific shag carpet that my grandparents never quite got around to replacing, I used to think that my feet had some kind of magnet, but since the arrivals of my kids, I’ve learned better. Or maybe the foot magnet evolved to pick up on a specific type of colored plastic now.

In any case, if either of my kids has lost a Lego block, or a piece of K’nex, I will find it. With my feet. And I totally love them to pieces, but there’s always that moment when the sharp square edge of a Lego has just jammed directly into the softest part of the arch of my foot when I wonder what in the world my wife and I were thinking eight years ago when we started down this path.

It’s usually not even their fault, either. In almost every case, they tried as hard as they could to clean up the Legos before I blunder my way through the room, and just missed one. Or two.

You’d think that I’d eventually get used to looking for Legos when I walk — after all, in some way kids seem less devoted to playing with their toys and more happy to just build a mine field by strewing them around the house. But, that doesn’t help. Somehow, I only see the accidental remnants of the last Lego brick buildingfest after the homing device in my foot has done its job.

I’ve tried all kinds of little things to reduce the number of Lego Incidents in the house. Nothing worked. First, I tried to restrict the Legos to two rooms of the house — the den and the kids’ room.No luck. I stepped on the Legos the second I went to put them to bed, and then found another lost, lonely block in the hallway. How did it get out there? Did it bounce? Do we have House Elves?

So then, we tried using one of those outdoor tablecloths as a play mat. I figured that the Legos would be easier to see when it was time to pick them up. You can imagine how that worked out. That time, I was struck down by a Lego block that had made it all the way to the kitchen before lodging itself between my toes.

I still try to avoid the Legos, but it’s something of a half-hearted endeavor now. I’ve more or less given up. It doesn’t matter how hard my kids try to protect Daddy’s feet, their blocks will escape from their clean-up attempts.

I guess it could be worse. At least nobody in the house has decided to take up sewing.

lego foot

Cooking With the Kids

cookingAt first, I thought that cooking dinner was a drag. Not only did I have to do the work, but it was often hard to find ways to keep my son and daughter occupied. There was always the “traditional” method of sticking them in front of the Disney channel, or turning on the Wii, but that felt like the easy way out and meant that they were spending even more time in front of the screen.

Of course, when the solution came to me I couldn’t believe that it hadn’t occurred to me sooner — enlist the kids to help! My kids love cooking with Dad, and not just because it means they get to play with some of the kitchen stuff that’s usually strictly off limits.  In our household, the meal of choice is cooking Asian food: potstickers, eggrolls, and fried rice!

The most important thing to remember when cooking with your kids is to make sure that the tasks you give them are appropriate to their ages and developmental levels. You’ll know your kids better than anyone! If you get a step stool, younger kids can help by washing veggies in the sink or peel carrots with a carrot peeler (under supervision, of course). Older kids can cut veggies, stir food on the stove and form hamburger patties. Of course, it’s important to watch your kids when they’re in the kitchen with you so that you can teach important safety lessons when using hot ovens, microwaves, or knives and vegetable peelers.

It’s also fun to let your kids help plan meals — well, within reason. My son would be perfectly happy to eat hotdogs, ice cream, and pizza for every meal, but it’s terrifying just to think about what that would do to my cholesterol. However, when we have salad, or I make a stew, I ask the kids which ingredients they think would be best. I often let them decide which sides to make, although I do occasionally have to cast tie-breaking votes when they end up at an impasse between green beans or canned corn.

When we want to try something new for dinner, I check online for recipes that don’t need too much preparation and that have a few steps that I can let my kids do, too. It’s not too difficult — just remember to keep it simple. I prefer recipes that don’t use a ton of ingredients, and if I have to google one of the spices, it’s probably not for me.     Some of our favorite things to cook are: hamburgers (the grilling, of course, is my job), stew, homemade pizza, green salad, and spaghetti.

What surprised me was that once the kids were engaged in the kitchen with me, it was actually fun to cook. Right now, cooking still feels like play to my kids, and that means that it feels a bit like playing to me, too. The really great thing about this is that while they just think that they’re spending time with Dad, my kids are actually learning important skills that they’re going to need for later. That’s much better than whatever is on TV.

Sick Kids

I think all parents can agree that when your kids are sick, it’s the worst feeling in the world. Even if it’s just a little bit of a cold, when your kids feel awful, you feel awful. We can all remember times when the kids wake you up in the middle of the night saying that they don’t feel well, and their foreheads feel like they’re on fire. Surprise! Now you’ve got a sick kid.

The hardest thing for me is balancing the part of me that wants to completely panic when my kids are sick, and the part of me that knows that won’t help at all (and, honestly, will just make things worse). Kids want to know that their parents are going to deal with the situation, and scaring them won’t help their recovery at all.

sick kidIf your kids get anything more serious than a mild, snuffly-nose cold, then it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. Pediatricians can answer simple questions over the phone. In most cases, if you have to go into the office, it’s just to make sure that your kid doesn’t have anything serious. I can’t even count the number of times we’ve gone in when are kids have a fever and sore throat, dreading strep throat, only to find out that they don’t have that, and it’s probably just a virus that’s been going around, so antibiotics wouldn’t help anyway. (And, of course, you don’t want to give your kids antibiotics if they don’t have a bacterial infection, since it won’t help, and could mean that later infections will be starring bugs that are already immune to the medicine — yuck!)

Essentially, the hardest thing to learn is that after you’ve eliminated the actually scary possibilities, the only thing you can do is wait for the illness to pass. Well, that and stock up on chicken soup and orange juice.
Unfortunately, we also have to deal with the disease vector aspect of having kids. When one kid gets sick, you can be sure that the other one will be following along afterward, and, of course, you’re likely to get the illness too.

The part of this that’s sort of funny (well, it’s possible that I just have a weird sense of humor) is that when one kid is down with the illness, you start to want to see the same symptoms in the other kid, or yourself. The worst thing is when you realize that what you’re getting is a different illness altogether, because that just means one more virus is going to cycle through the family.

Anyway, when one of my kids is getting sick, I find that it’s useful to remember the following: it’ll probably pass on its own, ask a doctor if it seems serious, stay calm, and don’t check for the symptoms on WebMD unless you want to convince yourself that everyone in your family has developed some sort of horrific contagious cancer.