Archive for June, 2014

This Summer’s Project


It’s been awhile since the kids have accompanied me for a grocery shopping trip.  Frankly, its easier for me to do it while they’re at school.  Anything I can do to minimize the time spent in the grocery store is worth it.

Today, though, they both accompanied me.  Neither of them would let me push the shopping cart.  This seemed fine initially…

…until both had driven up my heels several times each. Grrrr.

Thus, my Summer project has now been determined.  They will learn how to pay attention to what the hell is going on around them with a grocery cart even if I have to have reconstructive heel surgery by Summer’s end.



The kids were rather subdued this morning.  Probably wondering what the point is of going in today.  The teachers pretty much mailed it in on Monday.  Plus, today’s only a half-day.  So basically, we’ve got a 3rd and 5th grader on our hands.

They should be happy when they get off the bus in 10 minutes or so.

Happy Father’s Day



On the left, the boy’s handmade card and “The Maze Runner” series of books.  He wants to read that series soon, but it needs to be pre read to make sure it’s age appropriate.

On the right, a water bottle full of mixed nuts along with the lass’ handmade card.  What Dad doesn’t like mixed nuts?  The water bottle will come in handy during karate classes.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there.

The Boy in Crisis


The boy experienced the extreme emotions of the thrill of accomplishment and the agony of big mistakes. Unfortunately, the big mistake happened after the thrill of accomplishment and that’s the foot his school day got off on.

Did I mention this happened over a game? Clash of Clans to be precise.

It all started with a seemingly innocent offer. I told the boy he could check on his village and play for 15 minutes this morning. The nice thing about the game is you don’t need to sit in front of it for hours and hours. A few minutes spent at a time can be sufficient to keep your position in the game moving steadily forward.

He started playing and immediately went on a raid for his Clan. He won the raid easily and earned a bunch of stars for his Clan. This is a status marker within the game and he was rewarded with 50 gems for his efforts. This was his thrill of accomplishment moment.

I headed up to take a shower. Several minutes later, the Wife appeared and said the boy was hysterical because something had happened to his gems. She had brought the iPod, as a safety precaution, and in the background I could hear the wailing and lamentations of the boy.

First, a word about gems in CoC.

Arguably, they are the most precious resource in the game. They can be earned, in small amounts, through completing different achievements in the game. They can also be purchased via actual money on a credit card. The game is a timer based game. Everything takes time to be built and upgraded. Gems allow the timers to be shortcut, so if a defensive unit typically takes a day to build, it can be built immediately for some number of gems. Gems also are the only way to get builders, arguably the most important character in the game. The builders are used to create a village and upgrade its parts as a player advances in level. Everyone starts with 2 builders, but another can be had for 500 gems. Having more builders means being able to advance more quickly through the game.

Alright, back to the boy.

My own play had convinced the boy to start working towards getting a 3rd builder. Prior to my participation in the game, he had been spending his gems to complete building projects more quickly. Now, he was saving them for a 3rd builder.

The boy mistakenly traded 150 of his gems for gold this morning. I’m not entirely sure of the sequence, but it was a bungle on his part that cost him all of the bonus gems he’d gotten earlier and then some.

This being a completely unimportant video game and all, the boy was completely inconsolable. His initial reaction was tears. Lots and lots of tears. And screaming too, as well as not a little bit of wailing. There was probably gnashing of teeth. You know, the full gamut.

This crisis occurred 15 minutes before school, which is not nearly enough to to allow the strong emotions associated with such a momentous event to run their course. He was still in tears when I finally loaded them into the car and he was stewing in a nasty fury when he got out of the car to head into the school.

Hoping to try and break his fever, I told him “Your friends won’t be impressed when you get in there. Don’t make things worse by making another mistake that’s more costly than the one you made in a game.”

I’ve been in his shoes before. Both when the trigger was something completely stupid like a video game and when it’s been something far more significant. I’ve had that response of fury at myself for making the mistake. It’s the confusion created as the mind tries to come to grips with the fact that it’s a mistake that cannot be undone. I know the “self-immolation” that goes on as you try to figure out how such a thing could have come to pass. I also know that all the consoling in the world will not convince him that the game is not that important. Simply put, it was important to him and his emotions need to run their course.

Thus, the tact the Wife and I took was to merely to try and contain him and to keep him from doing something he would find even more regrettable. Thankfully, the lass knew better than to try and chip in and she politely kept her distance from her distraught brother. We didn’t try to tell him it was no big deal, though we did try to emphasize it was only a game. For the most part, considering the raging emotions he was dealing with, he allowed better judgement to prevail, the occasional door slam not withstanding.

The temptation to repurchase the gems for him is strong. They are not that expensive (~$5 for 250 if memory serves). But that would undermine the larger lessons available. Being a parent sometimes requires us to fix things. Other times, it requires a life lesson to play out and we can just hope that he learns the right things from it.

Being the Bad Guy


We had a really nice evening, the kids and I. Putting them to bed was an entirely different matter.

With the lass at dance, the boy only had a couple of things we wanted him to do. One was to study his spelling words. The other was to put aways laundry. Given those two things, he was allowed to play Clash of Clans for awhile. Not all of the laundry was done and it was taking forever to dry the towels. So he put away his clothes that were folded, studied his spelling and then I let him play his game.

He and I discussed different strategies and how we liked to approach different aspects of the game. He liked to completely destroy other villages. I like to raid them for loot so I can afford to upgrade my own village. He likes to attack one way, I like to attack a different way. Mostly, I think he enjoys having the game in common with me as something to share.

We picked up his sister and came home to have a little dinner. The lass helped by getting the silverware and dishes out for dinner and the boy finished playing his game. After dinner, the lass cleaned up while the boy learned how to fold towels. I was able to put the final load of laundry in the dryer.

We played a couple of games and I let them turn on an episode of Scooby Doo on Netflix. While the watched that, I kept tabs on the clothes in the dryer. Things timed out reasonably well with their episode ending and the clothes completed drying right around their bed time. I sent them both upstairs with folded clothes to put away. Then, it was in to bed.

I could hear them yelling at one another from downstairs. The lass screamed at one point and someone either kicked or threw the laundry basket. After the past 2 weeks where every morning we have to listen to them snipe at one another, I’d had enough. I went upstairs and informed them they had both lost game privileges for tomorrow. The boy would not be playing Clash of Clans and the lass would not be allowed on the computer. I informed them I was tired of their inability to control themselves and their mouths and they were going to start paying for it.

That was bad guy, Part 1.

Bad guy, Part 2 was much worse and arrived only a couple minutes later.

After I went back downstairs, my expectation was they would finish putting their clothes away and get into bed without any more incidents. It wasn’t more than a minute later that the screaming and sniping started anew.

I didn’t go flying off the handle, but I was more than a little upset by the time I got back upstairs. To make sure I got their attention, I kicked the laundry basket. I then stated my disbelief at how I could have just punished them both for the exact same behavior they were currently engaging in. I stormed through one room and then the other. I went on for a few minutes and ended with the dire warning “God help you both if you do this tomorrow morning…” By the time I’d finished, both of them were sniffling and trying to hide tears.

On the one hand, I hate doing that. I take no pleasure in the yelling. I take no pleasure in punishing them. Every time I’ve done it, I replay the whole thing in my head wondering if my actions fit their crime. Tonight was no different. I’m still doing it as I write this post.

On the other hand, I firmly believe there are moments where a clear point has to be made. Where a line has to be drawn with florescent marker so they know the time has come that they have to start accounting for their behavior, and change it.

Sometimes, that requires a bad guy.

The Boy’s JBB


Technically, the boy earned his Junior Black Belt a couple of weeks prior to Friday. Friday was the day he was officially granted the belt, though.

He was rightfully proud of the achievement. Four years of training, patience, and not a little frustration finally culminated in a moment he’d been seeking.

The instructors hold a graduation for all students whom earn a new belt. This particular graduation was “The Junior Black Belt Show” as there were 4 new JBB’s including the boy in addition to all the other graduates. It was a nice chance to showcase to the lower belts what they had to look forward to as well as allowing the JBB’s to shine in front of the lower belt levels. There was a pretty clear contrast in the abilities and I’m sure the instructors were pleased to see it. It’s one thing to tell a kid “stick with it and you’ll get there,” it’s another to actually show them the money, so to speak.

When it was done, the instructors already started planting the seeds for the next level of achievement. They challenged the boy to become a better sparrer as he works his way through the remaining full black belt curriculum.

He’s managed this far. I’ve little doubt he’ll be up for the remainder of the challenge.

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