John Henry (or The Brain is An Amazing Thing)

When John Henry was a little baby (baby), sittin’ on his daddy’s knee….

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12 Games of Christmas: An Introduction

We are finished our Christmas shopping.

We own a lot of board games.

We’ve gotten rid of a lot of board games.

This year we are taking a page out of the the book of some dear friends of ours and using our time wisely. Since my wife and I have essentially 24 nights in December to not have to worry about shopping, we are going to be spending half of them in a friendly gaming competition that we are calling “The 12 Games of Christmas”.

I have a self-imposed rule for my board game collection. If I get a new game and I can’t make it fit on the shelf, something has to go to make room for it. When one owns more than 100 games, you’d think it would be easy to figure out what to get rid of. Not so much. I looked at the shelf one evening and knew that I had some games incoming with nowhere to put them.

So, I put my wife to the task of helping me figure out what to get rid of. I took index cards (well, old personal business cards of mine that have a dead email address on them…what good are they now, anyway?) and wrote each game on it’s own card. Then, I handed the bulging stack to my wife and asked her to sort them into four piles.

Absolutely keep, Unsure, Absolutely get rid of, and never played.

I know what you are thinking. How is the “never played” pile not the largest!? Rest assured, it was not. To my delight, the largest stack was “Absolutely keep”. And to boot, there were some games that were in that pile that I thought in a million years she’d never want to play again! There were a few games in the “Get Rid Of” pile that I had to convince her to keep (You owe me, Flash Point), but we came to an agreement on a fairly large stack of games that we were on the same page about.

What does this have to do with “The 12 Games of Christmas”, you ask?

Owning 100+ with new ones incoming means that in order for each of these games to be played once a year, we have to play at least one game every third or fourth night…which doesn’t happen. So I had an idea. Since we had this stack of cards that we KNEW we wanted to keep, either because we loved it, or we hadn’t played it together, let’s force ourselves to play some of these games in a friendly competition! Thus, “The 12 Games of Christmas” was born.

Taking the stack of cards, we randomly selected 12 games, and then randomized their play order. After scheduling our nights for the month, giving ourselves some nights to wrap and some nights to game, we had our first night of play tonight….the expansion to Martin Wallace’s Railways of the World, Railways Through Time.

My Kids Were Bullied Today…They Just Didn’t Know It

My children were bullied tonight.

After a long hard evening of finding a new Christmas tree topper (it wasn’t that long or hard), we decided to take the easy route for dinner and stop by McDonald’s. The one in our neck of the woods has a nice indoor play area with a spot for the families of the children to eat while they play. It was easy peasy. Grab a quick meal, let the girls play for a while to tire themselves out, head home and put them to bed. And while the night didn’t end poorly, I was more stressed during dinner time than I should have been.

The four of us walked in to find a seat, my wife and oldest (three) in front of myself and my youngest (two). As we are looking around for seating, the youngest bumped into a little boy, probably three or four. He turned around and raised his fist at her. You know, the way that Hollywood portrays a drunk neglectful father, right before he beats his child. My daughter just stared at him, almost as if she was deciding whether or not to ask this boy whether he wanted to play or not. She’s never seen this ‘threat’ before.

But thank goodness, the mother saw the indecent. She’ll step in and make sure nothing happens! Her response to him was “Not here. Let’s go.” and she continue to stroll back to her booth.

I’m not known for being the most “filtered” of individuals when it comes to my thoughts and the way that they travel out of my mouth. Let me tell you…

It took every ounce of my SOUL to not turn to that “mother” and say “What. The. Hell.”

However, that is not who I am, not who I was raised to be, and not the example that I want to set for my children. So we moved on and joined my unaware wife at our table.

Fast forward to after we’ve eaten our meal and we said “Go and play!” to my three- and two-year-old daughters. They gleefully run away to the entrance of the jungle gym, excited that they are FINALLY done eating and can go play. After the impression that I’ve gotten of this ‘mother’ and her son, I’m now watching for my kids with an eagle-eye, again my wife unaware of what transpired 15 minutes prior. It turns out that she has multiple children under her watch (assuming they are all her kids…the way she talked to them while she was messing around on a computer told me so) and I’m sad to say that they are all rotten, according to the 10-minutes that I observed their interactions with my children.

Now, I wasn’t up, climbing around, and following my kids down the slide and through the “American Gladiators”-style gauntlet of foam blocks and walls, but I was being observant. About 10 minutes into play, my oldest (three) was trying to climb on this disc attached to a rope (the best way I can describe it to make it at least interesting for the reader), and one of the older children (a daughter of this “mother”, around nine or ten) was climbing across the rest of ┬áthe rope discs and came to the one my daughter was struggling to get up on….you know….BECAUSE SHE’S THREE.

Instead of taking the polite and sensible route of avoiding my daughter, the bully barrels through, ripping the rope out of my daughters’ hands and shoving her by the shoulder out of her way, where my daughter just drops her hands to her sides…presumably waiting her turn.

We don’t tolerate any physical fighting in our household. None whatsoever. Judge me how you will, but it will not change. The way that I was raised was “Turn the other cheek.” So, if my kids know they will get in trouble for hitting, there is no WAY that they will strike another child, regardless of the other child’s size. But now, as I’m watching this exchange, if you want to call it that, I’m struck with a quandary of my own…

Does Lilly even know that she’s being bullied?

Did Alex even know that that little boy was threatening to hit her?

Once Lilly had determined that it was now officially her turn on the rope disc, since the child that was using it before had passed, she triumphantly climbed on the disc and I could see her smile. She was proud that she did it. But, unfortunately the bully wasn’t quite finished yet. She had reached the end of her path of rope discs and hand turned around to go back the other way. However this time, instead of a little kid that she could just blast past, that little kid was actually now in her way…ON the disc that she needed.

In my mind, I jumped 15 feet in the air, ripped through the netting and said to that child “DON’T YOU EVER LAY A FINGER ON MY CHILD AGAIN.”

In reality, I turned to my wife and said “I really want to go up there and help Lilly, but instead I want to see how this plays out…I need to know.”

We watched a ten year old violently shake the rope that my daughter was clinging to, attempting to jostle her from the disc so that SHE could continue on her mission.┬áLilly stood her ground. She didn’t run crying, she didn’t push the girl back, she didn’t scream for Mom or Dad. Eventually the bully checked her with a hip and moved on. And that was it.

All I said was, “Five more minutes and we are leaving.”

The night ended without further indecent, but I’m still rattled by what transpired. While I preach “turn the other cheek”, I know that I would stand up for my child if I had to. As the night wore on, I thought more and more about the questions I asked early of the comprehensive level of my two girls about what they were facing. The two year old…I’m still not quite sure. But, I’m positive that my three year old knew that she was being picked on and I’m positive that she was handling it in the best possible way that she knew how. And I’m proud of her for it.

I’m a DAMN good parent. It makes me sick to see other people SUCK so badly at parenting. This is not a case of me putting myself on a pedestal, looking down up all of those less than me. This is a case of common sense, raising good, responsible, respectable human beings. Tonight, I had to watch my two young children get picked on by kids years older than them.

And tonight, I had the privilege of finding out how good, responsible, and respectable my children can be.

“I’m an optimist, but I’m an optimist who carries a raincoat.” ~Harold Wilson

Giving It Another Go

I’ve got a lot to say, whether people want to read it or not.

Often, while I’m driving to and from work, I think about things that I’d love to actually sit down and elaborate upon in written form, rather than just rolling them around inside of my skull when I should be paying attention to traffic. By the time I get home, I’m distracted with husbandly and fatherly duties and the thoughts just disappear again into the ether (or at least the more fleshed out versions).

But I’m going to make a conscious effort to “put something down on paper”, metaphorically speaking.

If for no other reason than to cultivate my own ideas, discoveries and passions.

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