Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Splits

Building traditions are an important part of family bonding. Many extended families have long traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, but it’s important for parents to find new traditions that their children will take as their own.  This creates a bond within the family based on a unique shared experience.

When my oldest daughter first started Trick or Treating on Halloween, I realized she was coming home with far more candy than she could, or should, eat. Sure, I could have pulled some out when she wasn’t looking, but where’s the fun in that?
Lyla All Ready to Split

Ok, it’s totally fun sneaking some out and maybe I did that along the way, but I also decided that she needed to split her candy with her mom and me. After all, we were the ones hauling her around to all of the houses, right? Didn’t we deserve a piece of the pie…I mean, Snickers?

So that’s what we did. We dumped out all of her candy on the table between us and she picked one she wanted and then I picked one I wanted all the way through the pile. I would make arbitrary calls, too. Like, “you can have the pretzels. That’s a freebie.” or “I’m taking all the hard candies, because they’re choking hazards.”

During The Split, we were talking, too. Which is your favorite? Why do you like that flavor? Which house had the best decorations? Which costume did you like the most?

Quinn Gets to Split with Mom
 Now there are three more kids in the family, but each one has learned that when they get home, they get one treat, get out of their costumes and into their pjs, then come back downstairs to do The Splits.  None of them complain. They actually want to do The Splits.

It may be a little bit late and extend bedtime on an already exhausting night, but we had some time together to decompress and bond. It’s one of my favorite parts of Halloween and this year, my daughter, who is now ten years old, said it was her favorite part. All that candy and time walking around through the neighborhood at night with her friends and her favorite part is splitting up the loot with her dad.  That’s a moment that makes me feel like maybe I ‘m not too horrible at this parenting thing.

Part of the appeal of this small piece of the much bigger sugar packed holiday for all of us is that it’s our tradition. It’s a special time that our family shares together after spending most of the holiday around other people. Every year, the kids know to expect parties and costumes and running around the neighborhood to get candy and then coming home and doing The Splits.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015 - #H2O4MOM

Lyla (8)
The mother of my children (and conveniently, my wife), Erin, posted this message on my Facebook timeline a few weeks ago:

"Since you asked what I wanted for Mother's Day -- this is it. Please donate to this cause. I can't imagine adding walking 15 miles a day to make sure the kids have water to my "to do" list. Please also explain to the kids the cause and why helping people who need it is a great gift."

Please take a second to click on that link and read the story posted by A Mighty Girl, which is an amazing and inspirational website in its own right, and then come back here. It's easy to skip clicking on the link and figure you get the idea, but please give it a read anyway. It won't take long.
Quinn (6)

It is so easy to focus on the difficulties we personally need to deal with on a day to day basis and forget just how much harder it could be and IS for so many other people in the world. Siabatou Sanneh is an amazing woman, but she is also a symbol for so many mothers who do whatever they can in very difficult circumstances to provide for their families.

 I took Erin's message to heart and immediately ordered all of the books listed on the post to go over them with my kids. We've started reading, but more than that, we've been talking. With four kids of very different ages and abilities, the conversations have varied. Lyla, the oldest, is well aware of the importance of giving back, as it is part of the Lyla Tov Monsters mission. Emmett, the youngest, isn't quite picking up the nuances.  Quinn and Tessa are clearly getting the idea to think about what we can do to help others. They are clearly focused on water now as Quinn mentioned getting baths to people who didn't have them and Tessa thought if people don't have potties, it's good to get them potties.

Tessa (3)
I tried to think of how to make this Mother's Day gift even more meaningful and impactful for Erin. While talking to Lyla about how we can help others who have less than us, she said, "we can encourage other people to help, too."  I had been thinking the exact same thing. Not only could I donate to this very worthy charity, Water for Africa, to help drill boreholes in Gambia to ease to lives of communities without easy access to water, but I could help other people learn about the situation and how they can help bring water to these communities and help spread the word.

Emmett (14 mos)
So here I am, dusting off the old blog to spread the message. If you are at all touched by the story of a mother in Gambia willing to walk 15 miles a day to bring water to her family, please give to help Water for Africa bring water to the communities that need it. Per their website, as of today, they have built 3 boreholes. That's a start, but let's get that number higher! Even if you don't have the ability to give financially, please get the word out by sharing this blog post, A Mighty Girl's Facebook post or a direct link to Water for Africa.  Use the hashtag #H2O4MOM to spread the message far and wide.

Happy Mother's Day, Moms!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Father's Day 2014

Father’s Day is coming up again, and it seems like the Dad buzz is high this year. Apparently, Dads are big in popular culture right now. It seems that people are suddenly realizing that there are involved Dads in the world. Wow! Who knew?

There are all kinds of articles and online photos about Dads actually doing things with their kids and what you should get these Dads for Father’s Day because “today’s Dad is more involved with his kids than ever!” There are still plenty of people trying to get you to buy cuff links (which would clearly get caught in your daughter’s hair, so…) or some cool gadget (that your kid would break within a day, so…)

...so, I got to thinking what I would really want for Father’s. I thought about it enough to write up my biennial blog posting, because every couple of years 140 characters or a Facebook post just aren’t enough for me. Last time I posted, I had my first Father’s Day with 3 kids.  This time, it’s my first Father’s Day with 4 kids. If the guy who wrote that last post read this one, he would be shocked (and probably scared), but here I am with 4 kids. #DadPlus4
Pencil holder and paperweight

And that brings me to what I want for Father’s Day. I actually don’t want anything more than I expect on Father’s Day, which will be akin to previous gifts of pencil holders and paperweights.  What I really want, though, as a dad of four, is Time.

I want one-on-one time with each of my kids. One day with each, maybe? My wife and I have discussed doing this. Each of us having a day with each kid to focus solely on her or him, but life with four kids makes it incredibly difficult to arrange. Heck, life with three kids made it hard enough!

But I think about how nice it would be to have the time to talk about the world (and other worlds) to my 7 year old without having to turn away from her to deal with a crying 2 year old or keep the 6 year old from waking the baby or one of the millions of other things that comes up when you have a big family.

I could take my 6 year old out on a guys' trip where we just sit quietly and enjoy being together. When we’re alone he’ll do that.  With the rest of the kids around, if he tries to sit with me, I can’t stay for long, because someone else wants or needs something or is teetering on the brink of disaster or needs to be beside me, too, which turns into a shoving match.

My 2 year old could have me all to herself to hug and kiss. She could show off for me without having to worry about a brother or sister trying to hone in on the act. I could ask her questions and give her time to answer without anyone else jumping in to answer before she could.  When she wants me to pick her up to dance, I could do it without having to worry about the bigger (much heavier) kids also wanting to be picked up.

The baby doesn’t need me alone for long, I don’t think. He probably gets me to himself more than anyone else does, even if it's twenty minutes when the rest of the kids have gone to bed. Judging by his smiles and laughs, he loves it. I just need to make the time for him in chunks and I think we’ll both be ok with that…for now.

I know I there are solutions to make this happen and in the end, I guess the only person that can give this Father’s Day gift to me is me. Time to get a plan in motion!

Happy Father’s Day to all the other dads out there! I hope you get some one-on-one time with your kids, so you can get to know each other just a little bit better.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day

Tomorrow is Father's Day.  I've been thinking about it enough to actually blog something for the first time in a long, long time.

My assumption is that I'll get lots of "Happy Father's Day!" and some cute presents that I'll love (even if it's a fist full of dirt).  I don't really care about getting presents for Father's Day.  I do care that my oldest will put some thought and creativity into it, my wacky boy will be thrilled to hand something to me (and probably shout "Happy Father's Day!" a bazillion times) and my baby will smile at me, 'cause she's really good at that.  This is the first time I'll be spending Father's Day with three people celebrating me.

They'll probably do that for about an hour after I wake up.  I may be lucky enough to sleep in tomorrow... like until 7:30am or maybe even 8:00am, but if I don't, I'm cool with that, 'cause it means Erin gets to sleep later and being a mom is far more exhausting than being a dad.  So the kids will be thrilled to celebrate me for about an hour and then go back to being my kids and probably whining, climbing on top of each other, complaining, destroying things, not wanting to eat what we give them or smiling at me.  Tessa is really a pretty awesome baby.  She smiles at me a lot.

I love my kids, and I love being a dad.  But really, none of that is enough to want me to dig up the old blog I haven't posted on in two years.  (Sorry, Tessa!  I didn't even post that you were born on here, but... well, Facebook totally killed this blog.)  Really, what brought it up is thinking about how I celebrate my father.

My father died when I was 18 years old.  Astoundingly, that was 22 years ago.  I've spent more years missing him than I spent with him.  My kids saved Father's Day from being only about missing my dad.  It's kind of hard not to think about your dead dad at a time when you see ads about what to get dad for Father's Day and whether he'd want a new smartphone or an iPad or an HD TV or one of the many other awesome things my dad never even got to know would exist.

I wish he could know about all those things.  I wish he could know about how amazing my wife is and how miserable/happy/exhausted/elated my own kids make me.  I wish he could know what I made of my life.  It's not always the greatest, but I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished, and I think he'd be damn proud of me.

This year might be harder for me than most years, because not only am I a father three times over, but a few weeks ago, my next door neighbor passed away.  He left behind his wife and two teenage boys.  I can imagine what they're going to go through tomorrow.  The first Father's Day without their father.  I can imagine it, because I've lived through it.  It sucks.  It really, really sucks.  And it never gets better, but it gets easier sometimes.  You keep yourself busy and you focus on the dads around you.  Grandfathers' or uncles or friends with new babies... BEING a dad is awesome.  Missing a dad is not.

So, tomorrow, on Father's Day, you might be having a cookout or brunch or a steak dinner or doing something special with your dad.   Or, you might not be with your dad, but give him a call or Skype with him or text him.  Whatever you do, let him know that you love the heck out of him, 'cause some of us don't get to do that and really wish we had the opportunity that you do.  Don't just go through the paces this time.  Even if your dad pisses you off, 'cause dads can do that some times.  Love him anyway and let him know, in whatever way works for your relationship, that he's important to you.

And for those of you who are missing your dad this Father's Day or any other day... well... you're not alone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Did You Miss Us?

Once again, I find myself apologizing for not updating this blog. This time it's been four months. Shameful, I know. There's lots of reasons for this. I put a lot of emphasis on putting up pictures and that takes a lot of time/effort. There are probably easier ways to do it than the way I do, but I haven't found something I like. The four months I've missed are a little intimidating, too. I've missed so much that I should fill you, dear reader, in on.

So, I've decided to just start right now. Forget the past and begin a new bloggity blog style and just write up what I want when I think of it. Maybe a sentence, maybe a picture thrown in there. Who knows!?

The Black family has been very busy lately. Erin has been working multiple jobs and we've had a revolving door of babysitters taking care of the kids. This past weekend we took part in a craft fair in Queens, selling Lyla Tov Monsters, sweaters and notecards. These all happen to be on sale at www.blacksrock.etsy.com as well.

I'll dedicate another post to talk about the Lyla Tov Monsters (see picture above), assuming I get into the swing of this blogging thing...

Yesterday, I took a day off from work to hang out with the kids and we went to the Queens County Farm Museum to pick some pumpkins. The weather has been fantastic! It was a great morning with the successful acquisition of three pumpkins and looking at lots of animals. Lyla painted her pumpkin soon after we got home, but Quinn prefers its natural state at the moment. We'll carve the third one closer to Halloween.

That's it for now. Let's see if I can post before another four months pass us by...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Quinn Turns Two!

Quinn hit his second year with style throwing our first ever backyard bash. His friends all had a great time playing in the sandbox, drinking juice boxes and riding around in plastic vehicles. Pics of the festivities are up in his birthday image gallery.

He even got to show off a little of his walking, though he seemed to still prefer the crawl.