It Ain’t Always Easy

I would like for you to believe that The Bug and I are having a glorious summer full of play, learning, and creating memories.  While it is true that we have had some wonderful moments this summer, it’s possible that I may have left some stories out that were less than wonderful. Because… I don’t really enjoy airing out our dirty laundry for the Internet to read.

A couple weeks ago, I was losing sleep because I couldn’t get The Bug to do ANYTHING.  The Summer of Learning fell by the wayside due to lack of interest.  Doing chores was like a major battle.  Even things that she loves to do — like reading — took some major maneuvering to accomplish. And don’t even get me started on the home improvement projects that I was going to tackle this summer.  I was starting to feel like a failure Daddy when I talked to my wife. She’s so smart.

Here is the plan we created.

  • It’s all about earning stickers.  If she wants to earn stickers, she can help around the house, do chores, do learning activities, and other great stuff.  If she doesn’t want to earn stickers, she can be a slug in her room.
  • Each morning and some afternoons, we create at a list of 3 things she needs to do to earn a sticker.  These are consolidated from the original schedule we started the summer with, but these are the super important items.
  • With each sticker, she can pick a fun activity like go to a park, swim in a neighbor’s pool, or eat candy.
  • At the 10 sticker mark, the prizes go big!! Visit the zoo, go to a park where we can play in water areas, go to a friend’s house to play, or go out for ice cream.

These papers are hanging on our fridge for quick reference.



I’d like to tell you that it’s a stunning success, that I have a different girl who nails her work early in the day, but that’s not the case.  What it’s done for me is takes all the burden of getting work done off my back and it puts it on her. She knows the consequences of inactivity and chooses to live with them.  I no longer have to get super stressed, impatient, or lose my temper.  I just remind her of her sticker chart and her goal for the week and let her decide what she wants to do.  Sometimes I have to put my foot down.  Like, today, I told her that she had 2o more minutes of iPod time before I took it away.  She had to get work done.  I also don’t let her have screen time till her morning list is done, but in general, she lives by the consequences of her choices.

This also makes time for some fun things. Remember that mug she painted?  She earned that outing by getting 10 stickers. We also got her a book at Barnes and Noble when she hit her second round of 10 stickers.  Next up, I think we’re going to get to enjoy some Kona Ice real soon.  I’m pretty excited about that!

All done with the paint! It took a long time and patient work, but it looks great!



Here are some pro tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  • Lots of praise!  Always praise your kid for making good choices! It’s a lot more fun to give praise and hugs than to be a nag.
  • Don’t be stingy! Give out those stickers whenever possible.
  • Try to maintain structure in some way.  If I had this summer to do all over again, I would have still tried to stick to a schedule. Too much unscheduled free play isn’t good for my Bug, even when we try to give her independence.
  • Bring her into the process. One of the best things I did was have her help me brainstorm one- and ten-sticker rewards.  That way I knew she was shooting for things she wanted to attain.

How are you helping your kid through the summer doldrums?

The Bug and Her Mug


The other day, The Bug and I hit up Color Me Mine in Crestview Hills Town Center.  She has painted something for all her parents and grandparents and decided she wanted to paint something for herself.  We both have Bug-created coffee mugs and she wanted one for herself.  So, we took an afternoon to enjoy some Starbucks and some painting.

I love seeing The Bug’s creative side come out when she’s doing something crafty.  I’m decidedly not crafty, so it’s fun to see her go to town.  She picked out the colors and the designs, and I was just there for support.  “Daddy, you just look for glops and tell me where they are.  That’s what Mommy always does.”  Well, I looked for glops, held the mug, and directed traffic as best as possible.  What was cool was when other people noticed and said something to her.  One little girl said that it looked cute.  The lady at the table next to us (who was painting some cool stuff!) told The Bug it looked great too.  (Side note: We had the Asian Connection. She has two daughters born in China.  Love that Asian Connection!)

The staff at Color Me Mine is wonderful!  They are patient with The Bug, answer all our questions, and are genuinely there to help.  You should go visit sometime.

So, you’re probably wondering what her mug looks like.  Right?  Here are some pictures of the project from start to coffee.

The mug before she put any paint on it.

The mug before she put any paint on it.

Blowing paint bubbles for the inside of the mug.

Blowing paint bubbles for the inside of the mug.

Painting the outside bluew.

Painting the outside blue.

Starting the dots.

Starting the dots.

Lotsa dots.

Lotsa dots.

All done with the paint! It took a long time and patient work, but it looks great!

All done with the paint! It took a long time and patient work, but it looks great!

After they fired it, we picked it up. Opening the paper...

After they fired it, we picked it up. Opening the paper…

Looks great!

Looks great!

First cup of (decaf) coffee!

First cup of (decaf) coffee!

Let’s end with some pro tips.

  1. Pony tails are better than hair down. Look at that last picture again.  Why on earth would she want to wear her hair down when she has to do that to take a drink?
  2. It’s OK to be crafty.  After typing this up today, I made flowers out of egg cartons. It’s cool. Your daughter will love it.
  3. Starbucks. You need coffee for an hour or more of mug painting.
  4. Decaf for the little one.  Don’t give your kid caffeinated coffee at 5:00 in the evening.  Don’t go there.  Don’t be silly.

What’s a cool paint project you’ve done with your kid lately?


Be Generous

Not long ago I was asked to be a contributing writer for GetConnectDad, a web site created and written by dad bloggers.  Each week, the GetConnectDad writers write about various character traits and how they try to teach those traits in their homes.  My first assignment was almost late, and it never got published on the site. (I know… Great first impression.) I decided to post the article below in full.  So, without further ado, here is what “Be Generous” looks like in our home. 

And then hop on back to GetConnectDad to check out other great articles. 


I asked The Bug this afternoon what it means to be generous.  Her answer was… well… kinda spot on.  “Showing that you care.”  Not bad, Bug, not bad.

I thought my next question would nail things down for us.  “How does our family show that we are generous?”  (I had to ask that one a couple times for her to understand what I meant.) “When you helped Pop Pop up when he fell down in the ocean. You showed him you care.”  

So… We have some work to do. (I mean, I did show my dad that I cared when I helped him up, but I think that’s a different character trait.)

A few years back, Audio Adrenaline made a comeback with their signature song “Kings & Queens.” This song quickly became a family favorite, and it their use of the phrase “the least of these” really opened up some conversation points with The Bug.

Every year, our church does a major Thanksgiving Food Drive, when we fill thousands of boxes with Thanksgiving Dinner to spread to the needy in and around the Cincinnati area and even send shipping containers of food to our sister church in South Africa.  Why do we do this?  Because Jesus told us to take care of the least of these.

A little over a year ago, our church challenged each family to support a child from Nicaragua through Compassion International.  We went into the service knowing that our funds were stretched too tightly and we would have to pass this one up.  God knew differently.  We now support a teenage girl in Nicaragua and have her picture up in our kitchen.  Why would we do this? Because Jesus told us to take care of the least of these.

So, teaching The Bug to be generous would be an easy task.  Right?  Well, maybe not.  When you sit down and think about it, these examples I gave are quite abstract for a seven year old.  She helped pack the boxes for the Thanksgiving Food Drive, but it didn’t hurt her wallet. She sees the picture of the girl we sponsor, but she doesn’t have any interaction with her. While these things are generous, I’m not sure they become lifelong generosity lessons.



What does generosity look like in the day to day world of a seven year old only child living in America?

  • My wife’s hot chocolate had marshmallows and my daughter’s didn’t…not till my wife spooned them into her mug.
  • It was time to pass out cookies, and my daughter offered the plate to each of us before taking her cookie.
  • When Daddy was sick, other people helped out the family with food, doing chores, and helping with babysitting.
  • It’s Daddy putting down his computer to play a game when he really should be writing a blog post about generosity.
  • It’s giving her an allowance and making sure she sets aside 10% for Jesus to put in the box in church.

As I sit here and think about it, teaching about generosity is living a life of being generous in front of our daughter so she can see it in action.  It’s a bunch of little things that show her a really big thing — IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT US.  

So maybe she wasn’t so wrong to begin with.  When I show you I care, I’m generous.  Maybe I’m using my money to show I care, but maybe it’s my food, my strength, or my talents.  But I care about you more than I care about me.  

And I hope that when she is older she can point back to us and say, “I’m generous because they were generous with me.”

Here are some pro tips to help you out.

  • You want a generous kid, you gotta be generous. It’s all in the modeling.
  • Have her take part in the generous acts when possible.  When they participate it sinks in further.
  • Listen to some good music.  Music always makes things better.  Rock out.
  • When in doubt, do some Beans and Rice Week. Donate the money you save to the charity of your choice, but the food selections will make memories for a lifetime.

Let me know how you’ve been teaching your kid generosity because I’d like to learn more.  



Lots of trash at the unoccupied house down the street!

Trash Walk

There are at least a half dozen things I should be doing right now, but I’m so stinking proud of my kid that I just had to blog RIGHT NOW!

A week or two ago, we were driving along commiserating about trash on the side of the road and together came up with the idea of a trash walk.  The plan started with us taking a walk around our neighborhood with trash bags in hand, collecting trash wherever we saw it.  The Bug has extended that idea to gathering everyone who has ever been considered a family friend, parking in a store parking lot and tackling the trash problem as a team.  (We might work up to that idea, so be prepared.)

I mentioned it in the car and promptly forgot about it.  The Bug, however, has not forgotten about it.  She has pestered me and begged me and pleaded with me and declared just about every day as “the perfect day to pick up trash.”  Well, today I finally did something about it.  We put on our rubber gloves, got ourselves some garbage bags, strapped up the dog, and headed out.  We painstakingly walked down to the end of our road and back and picked up every cigarette butt, old store ad, expended firework, and water bottle along the way.

The Bug did not complain once. We were hot and sweaty. We were thirsty. The dog was panting her head off. The Bug wanted to keep on the move. Her only complaint was when I declared our walk over.  What she wanted to do was take a break then hop in the car to find a dirty parking lot near you.

So, to that end… here are some pictures of my favorite kid cleaning up the neighborhood.

Gloves on and ready to go!

Gloves on and ready to go!

Lots of trash at the unoccupied house down the street!

Lots of trash at the unoccupied house down the street!

Get it!

Get it!

Cute trash collector

Cute trash collector

A girl, her dog, and her trash bag

A girl, her dog, and her trash bag

Time to cool off!

Time to cool off!

And of course, here are some pro tips for you.

  • Gloves! There is some seriously gross stuff out there.  Wear gloves.  Bring extra gloves with you!
  • Go early in the morning.  We went right before lunch and it was hot and muggy.  Earlier the better.
  • Make it fun! It’s amazing how much fun you can have with “The 1812 Overture” using only the words “cigarette butt.”
  • Use the words “I’m proud of you” early and often. It’s not lost on me that this is abnormal kid behavior. I want The Bug to know that I appreciate her love for the world God created.

And, hey! If you want to join her devious plan of bringing all our friends together to pick up trash, let me know.  We’ll make it work!



Family Night

You know how it is when you need to fill out a survey and you’re asked about your hobbies?  What are some things that jump out at you right away?  For me, one of my favorite hobbies is being with my family.  Yes, I know it sounds hokey but I really do enjoy when the three of us are together.  And I don’t mean the “together” that comes from trying to get homework done or rush out to church or clean a toy room.  What I really like is an evening or weekend where we get to hang out and just enjoy being together.

A while back, we realized that there was dearth of that in our home.  With weird work schedules and other obligations, we didn’t get a lot of time to just be a family, having fun together.  That needed to change, so we instituted Family Night!  There is no magic behind Family Night and we rarely do anything over the top.  Here’s how it works…

  • We look ahead at the calendar for a weekend night we have free.  No extra work shifts.  No plans with friends.  No big plans the next morning.  THAT becomes our next family night.
  • We take turns.  Each member of the family gets to plan a Family Night.  This includes dinner, dessert, and any entertainment.
  • Eventually, we will work with The Bug about budgets and things like that.  Till then, we get to approve or disapprove her ideas based on cost.

This really is a great way to teach a few things to The Bug.  One, there’s the whole planning thing.  She has to think about each aspect of the evening and decide what is fun for all and sensible to do. Second, the aforementioned budget will be vital to her life as she tries to figure out the tricky world of finances down the road.  Third, as individuals, we may not always be happy with what the family does, but we all have to get along.  A very important lesson for an only child.

Recently, my wife got her turn to plan Family Night on a Friday night after she got home from work.

We started by letting her unwind on the back patio.  This was Fourth of July Weekend, and we had introduced The Bug to various fun (yet not wildly dangerous) home “explosives” like sparklers this year.  So, for us, unwinding meant throwing those little popper things on the patio over and over and over again.  Great fun.  Good times!



Then, it was time for the park!  I — Mr. Domesticated Daddy — had already packed a picnic dinner, so we loaded up the car and went to a local park that we don’t frequent much.  The Bug ran immediately to the playground.  The swings used to be her favorite thing, but now she is working on learning things like rings and monkey bars.  She also tackled her fear of the the largest “fireman pole” we have ever seen on a playground.


Just before dinner time we decided to head to an open patch of grass to try our hand at a frisbee catch.  Years (and years and years) ago this used to be one of our favorite outdoor activities.  Now, I think we are learning (or re-learning) to throw a frisbee using these awesome discs The Bug won at various school activities.


We ate our dinner and played some more before it was time for the grandest event of the evening — ice cream at Graeter’s!  For those of you who live outside the Cincinnati area, I really am sorry that you don’t get to experience Graeter’s ice cream.  I’m sure your city has its own wonderful cuisine that you can call your own.  There’s only one problem.  You don’t have Graeter’s.  You need to come visit us and grab a bowl or two.  The Bug and I shared a bowl of mint chocolate chunk and my wife had watermelon sorbet.  Oh so good!


Then, it was time to go home and get ready for bed.

Simple, fun, making memories.

I love my family!


How does your family make simple memories?  How do you celebrate family time?  Let us know in the comment section. 


Geocaching in Ault Park

Geocaching has been one of my favorite hobbies for years.  Well before there was a Bug, we loved to get out on a Saturday, visit a local park, and find a few hidden treasures.  In fact, I’m proud to say that our Cache Find #1100 was at a Buddhist temple in Seoul and The Bug’s first ever find was in the shadows of Seoul’s Olympic Stadium.  Anyhow, after we brought The Bug back home with us, our caching excursions ground down to an almost complete halt.

But…wait…you may not know about geocaching and everything I just said sounded like gibberish to you.  Let me explain.

Let’s start with the satellites floating above us in space.  You probably already know that many of these satellites can team up together along with devices here on earth to pin point our locations pretty much anywhere on the planet.  This may freak you out in a Big Brother sort of way, and I’m sorry about that.  There’s not much I can do about that.  Just enjoy the fact that your phone can now tell you where the nearest Starbucks is and give you directions to it.  Now, keep reading.

There are people who enjoy using this cool yet creepy technology to hide things and make other people find them. These people are called geocachers. So, here’s how it works.  Someone goes out and hides a container.  It can be big like a box or small like a little magnetic dot about a centimeter in diameter. It can be in the woods five miles from anything or along a crowded city sidewalk. The important thing is to get the GPS coordinates before walking away.  Go to and write up a description of your cache, including what to look for and any hints or stories you want to tell.  Eventually your cache gets approved, then you sit and watch your email inbox. Other cachers will use your coordinates to go out and find your cache.  When they open your container, they may want to trade stuff they find in it with something they brought along.  (Think cheapo toys that somehow invaded your house when you became a parent.) They will also sign a log book you left in the cache to mark their success.  Eventually, they will sign a digital log book to alert you that they were there.  It’s a fun — yet geeky — activity that can be done in all weather and relatively inexpensively.  (When I say all weather, I have cached in pouring rain, burning sun, and falling snow.) Every geocacher has a special code name.  Our family is called the Steagles.  (I’m an Eagles fan, my wife is a Steelers fan, together we make Steagles.) I call The Bug “Steaglette” in my posts.

If none of that made sense, here’s a video to explain it better.

Now that you’ve had that introduction to geocaching, here is what we did on Father’s Day.

If you recall, we celebrated Father’s Day a week early.  We were going to go camping on the real Father’s Day Weekend, but that didn’t happen.  Instead, we decided to go to Ault Park in Cincinnati to do some hiking and geocaching.  It was a HOT day and The Bug was more interested in playing on the playground, so we only logged a few finds. I still had fun, though.

As we walked through the garden areas, I realized there was a cache only a few hundred feet away.  This can be deceptive, since those distances don’t take into account that most humans can’t walk a straight line to all caches. We got to within 100 feet, and saw that we were on the edge of forest with a steep decline toward the cache.  So, our nice little walked turned into a hike.  We had to find a trailhead and weave our way through the woods to the cache.


Hiking to the cache. (Yes, the eye crossing was a complete surprise to me when I opened the pic on the computer screen. Oh well. She’s cute!)


This is very typical of what you might find inside a cache. I tend to leave the toys and stuff alone. I’m sure you can figure out why. The Bug always wants something but rarely brings something to trade out.


Sometimes caches aren’t quite on the beaten path. The Bug followed me off trail a bit too late to make it to the cache, but this is a good example of what you may have to hike through to grab your find.


Heading back to the main path.

The Bug finally got to a swing and all was right with the world once again.

The Bug finally got to a swing and all was right with the world once again.

As always, here are some pro tips for you.

  • Get the geocaching app on your phone, but it’s also good to have a good handheld GPS.   I once cached with a family who tried to use their car GPS. Not such a good idea.
  • Bring plenty of water, a pen, and junk to trade if you want to trade junk. Don’t forget the bug spray too! I could tell you stories…
  • Always plan time for playgrounds. Once you get going you just want to keep finding the next one, then the next one, and so forth.  Always be prepared for the inevitable swingset to mess up your plans.
  • I asked The Bug for good geocaching advice.  She said, “Nuttin’.” She doesn’t like geocaching nearly as much as I do.  Sad, really. (One fun fact is that she doesn’t call it geocaching or caching like we do.  To The Bug it’s called, “finding treasures.” Cute.)
  • Make it a fun time! Enjoy the hike, race to see who can find the cache first, and always end with ice cream.

I’d love to hear your geocaching stories!  Drop a good one in the comment section.

Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver