Time To Play

I know very few adults who wake up and jump out of bed with a ton of energy. Personally, I get up and need a cup of coffee in order to get the day going. My daughter, however, always seems to be up and ready for the day as soon as she gets out of bed. She’ll run out to the front room, go to her toy box and say, “Daddy/Mommy, do you wanna sit on floor with me and play Little People!?”

Back in January, I recounted my almost injury with Little People. You can refresh your memory here:

She will always ask to play when she first gets up, and while she will always ask to play with the “Little People,” any toy comes into play. This morning was no exception. My brother sent Ella a “Frozen” bath toy set and despite the fact that they are like 3 or 4 times bigger than the little people, they all interact with each other.

As this picture uploaded, I laughed out loud. At the bottom of the picture – Olaf, Elsa, Anna, and Sven from Frozen. Above that, you have Batman and Robin Little People mixed in with Little People from Little Mermaid, Rainforest Animals, and Barnyard mixed together with various toys from Happy Meals and random Disney characters.

You can only imagine the conversations that happen between the various characters. These conversations get finnier depending on who is playing each character. Today, Ella grabbed the big Anna from Frozen and said, “Do you want to build a snowman?” (a song from the movie) and Batman (me) replied, “I’d love to but the Joker is on the loose in Gotham City!” Ella usually looks at me dumbfounded and eventually tells me what I need to say!

Look again at the picture. You see the Bath Toy Olaf (snowman) and the Little People Olaf? Yeah, that’s what Ella calls “Mommy Olaf and Baby Olaf!” It doesn’t matter that Olaf is a snowMAN, it’s a mommy and baby! As a dad, I just roll with it and often find that this play time brings me tons of laughs.

Sometimes I think that adults should have their own toy box loaded with action figures, Matchbox cars, and things like that. Every day, for an hour or so, adults should get lost in pretend play and forget the troubles of the world. How would this be different that imagining that you are relaxing in a hammock on a tropical island somewhere?

Maybe I’m crazy, but I’d be the first to vote for the politician who mandated play time for adults! Bring on Go Carts, Dodge Ball, Mini Golf, and Laser tag!! The world needs a whole lot more fun.

A Typical Dad Day

(I’ve never read this book, but I may have to …)

Sam worked last night, so it was my day with the kids. What does a typical day with dad look like?

The day starts with Andrew up first. We take the baby monitor out into the living room so we can see when Ella wakes up. I make him a bottle and take care of diaper change number one. Within 5 minutes of finishing the bottle diaper change number 2 is in order, because he poops like clockwork.

We usually go to get Ella together when she wakes up. He thinks its funny to push open her door. I then have to grab whatever Ella wants to bring with her out of the crib. This usually consists of a nana blanket, maybe a book, maybe a stuffed animal, maybe a pillow, or maybe all of the above.

She gets a diaper change and it is time for breakfast. Somedays we eat eggs, others waffles, another day pancakes, and sometimes a smorgasbord of fruits and other things. Sam usually arrives home around breakfast time. Today she brought donuts for them. Ella loves pink dipped donuts, not that she ever eats the donut. She loves the frosting, though.

Depending on the day, we either read books, turn on the TV or play with her toys. This is when I usually make myself and Sam something to eat. I made us scrambled eggs and had to make extra because the kids were eating all of Sam’s!

Sam almost always brings out an outfit for the kids to wear. We ventured out on our morning walk and looked for our puppy friends. She now knows just about every dog in the neighborhood’s name!

When we returned home, she began to read books. Most of the time they are books off her shelf.

After reading one of her favorites, she told me to sit down so she could read me a book. The book? The Weight Watcher’s Cookbook!

She kept calling the sandwich in the book (shown above) a cheeseburger!

While she is reading to be, my daredevil son continues to find ways to hurt himself. He’s been climbing, so Sam thought it was time to bring the swing/slide thing we got for Ella a few years ago back upstairs. Well he can climb it, he just hasn’t really figured out how to slide down yet. So he gets up there and starts shaking the one wall of it and eventually steps on the slide and falls off.

He truly has no fear. Today alone, he busted open his lip three times. None of those were from falling off the slide! He just tripped over stuff and fell on his face. I swear if we have to go to urgent care again, they will have to put in a window just for him.

Comedy continues to ensue with Ella. Today she grabbed her winter coat and winter hat and asked to wear them. She had me help zip up the coat and said, “I’m already for winter and then asked to watch Frozen.

We watched it like 7 times today. I will be singing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” and “Let it Go” in my sleep tonight!

Lunchtime this week has brought the same answer to question, “What would you like for lunch today?” “Grilled cheese and crackers!” That answer has also been offered up to “What would you like for dinner?” and “What would you like for breakfast?” I’m glad that Andrew isn’t able to answer that question yet. When they both start asking for different meals, it’s gonna drive me crazy!

After lunch, it is nap time. Today, thanks to the neighborhood dogs and open windows, the nap was cut short. Shortly after wake ups, Sam woke up for work. She said some packages she ordered were on the porch and Ella went with her to get them.

They were the Halloween costumes they are wearing this year. I won’t say what they are here, but hers involves a dress. She wanted to wear it. Sam told her she had to wait until Halloween. This was not what she wanted to hear, so Sam offered up another dress for her. My friend from work gifted us some dresses that her daughter has grown out of. They are going to be perfect for holidays or family photos. Anyway, she spent the rest of the evening wearing one of those dresses.

Earlier I had thrown some chicken in the crock pot for dinner. Sam cooked up some buttered noodles to go with it for the kids. I took the chicken out and started cutting it up. I tried a piece to make sure it had cooled down enough and it tasted funny. I can’t even really descibe what it tasted like – but you know how they always say, “it tastes like chicken?” This didn’t. I wound up throwing it away.

After Sam left for work, Ella said she wanted a snack. So she handed me one of those applesauce pouches. Andrew got one, too. They both had like three of them! Ella kept asking for more and when I got her one, he wanted one, as well.

After playing with toys for awhile, more diaper changes were needed and it was pajama time. I was lucky enough to be able to get pajamas on her tonight. I really thought that she was going to want to wear the dress to bed! I’m sure I would have let her…

She took a book to bed with her, we said prayers and I closed her door. I brought Andrew with me and tried to rock him and sing him to sleep. He had the funniest case of the giggles and it took him forever to fall asleep. Once he was asleep, I put him in his crib and took a shower.

Reflecting back on the day:

7 outfit changes. 5 poop diapers. An unknown amount of pee diapers. 3 times sweeping the floor. 2 times picking up the same toys and putting the in the toybox. 2 times vacuuming. 7 viewings of Frozen. 3 busted lips. 8 bumps on the head. 12 crying fits. 2 bad pieces of chicken. 3 cheese omelets, 2 grilled cheese sandwiches. 3 video chats. 7,953 times I heard, “Daddy!” 2 sleeping kids.

Add it all up and it equals one amazing day for a very blessed Dad!

National “Let It Go” Day

National Let It Go Day is celebrated on June 23 of every year. On this occasion, forget every regretful situation and the things that play on our minds and lead us to become angry, frustrated, hurt, guilt-ridden, or even embarrassed. It is time to let them go.

This is one of the most valuable lessons I learned over the past 4 years. There are just some things you need to not focus on. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Favorite Films – The 2010’s

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As I looked back over the last year’s worth of blogs, I was reminded that I had yet to finish a series I started on my favorite films. The premise of the series is to pick a favorite movie (that you have seen) for every year of your life. This series started with 1970 (the year of my birth) and was broken up by decade. I concluded in November with the years 2000-2009. It’s time to finish up this series….

2010

2010

In 2010, my oldest son would have been 8, and my youngest son was 3. Many of the movies I watched were kid movies. Some of them were good enough to rank as my favorite films.

Among the kid films I watched in 2010 were Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, How to Train Your Dragon, and Toy Story 3. I guess Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 could almost be classified as a kid’s movie, but I know how much adults loved the series, too. As someone who loves time travel movies, I was left a bit disappointed with Hot Tub Time Machine. Date Night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey probably should have been a whole lot funnier, but it wasn’t. Iron Man 2 was a decent sequel. Grown Ups had potential, but was kind of a flop. The King’s Speech was a very good film. I enjoyed it a lot, but the film that stands out as my favorite is Shrek Forever After.

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My kids loved the Shrek movies. I did too. Shrek the Third was really the worst of the series. I really hoped that this final film in the series would be good – and it was! The idea of an altered universe was such a great story line. It was fun to see Fiona as this great warrior and Puss In Boots as a chubby cat. It was a fitting wrap up to a fun series. I am hoping that my daughter will want to watch them with me!

2011

2011

2011 brought me to many more kid movies, including Rango, Rio, Kung Fu Panda II, Cars 2, and the terrible revival of The Muppets. The Harry Potter series wrapped with Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows. Crazy, Stupid Love was more serious than I thought, but wasn’t a bad film. I enjoyed Limitless with Bradley Cooper a lot. Sequels included Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Hangover II, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (which was ok), and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (which I really enjoyed. I thought Robert Downey Jr. was good in these, despite the hate many reviews had for him). Cowboys and Aliens was a waste of time. Horrible Bosses was just ok. Bridesmaids was played up as this huge comedy, and while there were some funny parts, I really think this was more of a drama. I didn’t think it was as good as all the hype. My favorite film of 2011 was Puss In Boots.

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It was neat to see the origins of this character. I am glad he got his own movie. Antonio Banderas is just perfect as the voice of this character! Just like in the Shrek movies, we also see some of the fairy tale characters. Who knew Humpty Dumpty was such a bad guy!? Loved this film!

2012

2012

2012 brought us The Avengers, The Hunger Games, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The kids and I watched Brave (which was a very good film) and Hotel Transylvania. As a fan of the Three Stooges, I was apprehensive about seeing the 2012 movie. It was not great, but kudos to Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos, who all did great as Larry, Curly, and Moe. Seven Psychopaths was actually a very good movie – Christopher Walken is excellent in it! Anthony Hopkins is very good as Alfred Hitchcock in the biography Hitchcock, but it was another biographical film that gets my vote for favorite – Lincoln.

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I know many folks found this film long and boring, but I found it fascinating! I remember the first picture of Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln – wow! It was amazing! They really made him look like him. I read often about Lincoln’s Assassination (and JFK’s, too). His story is so intriguing to me. The supporting cast was just as good.

2013

2013

2013 had me at the movies with my kids for The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, Turbo, and Frozen. Sequels included The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and A Good Day to Die Hard. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was less than incredible. We’re The Millers was quite a disappointment. Identity Thief was not as funny as everyone said it was. Simon Pegg was in two films I saw in 2013 – The World’s End and Star Trek: Into Darkness. I enjoyed Gangster Squad, but my favorite film was the biography of Jackie Robinson – 42.

42

Robinson is played by Chadwick Boseman, who would go on to play James Brown in 2014. As we look back, we know how amazing a player Robinson was, but this film really shows just how difficult it was for him. I really liked this film. Harrison Ford is also good in this movie.

2014

Year-2014

More kid films in 2014 – I watched Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Maleficent, Penguins of Madagascar, and The Lego Movie. I really liked the Lego movie. I found myself laughing out loud a lot. A Million Ways to Die in the West was just ok – Liam Neeson was a good bad guy in it. The Doc Brown cameo is a highlight. The Hobbit trilogy wrapped up with The Battle of the Five Armies. Guardians of the Galaxy was actually better than I thought it would be. Chadwick Boseman nails James Brown in Get On Up! He was perfect! A movie which surprised me was Kingsmen: The Secret Service. I don’t know what I expected it to be, but it was very good. However, for my favorite film, I will pick an oddball comedy – What We Do In The Shadows.

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In the documentary style of TV’s The Office, the movie follows some vampire roommates around as the live their lives as vampires in modern times. I really laughed out loud at the wackiness of this movie. It was so good, they have a TV series based on the film.

2015

2015

Kids movies I watched included Minions (a sort of Despicable Me sequel), Goosebumps, and the Peanuts Movie. A kid movie which was so good it almost made my favorite – the Shaun the Sheep Movie. My kids would watch these cartoons on TV and I found myself laughing as hard as they did at them. I bought them all the DVD’s and we’d watch them together. This full length movie was very well done and is one to take the kids to! Great movie!! Mr. Holmes was a very good film which focuses on the aging Sherlock Holmes (played by Ian McKellen). Jurassic World was yet another sequel to the dinosaur series Jurassic Park. Tom Cruise returns in another IMF movie – mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. My pick for favorite – Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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The saga continues! It was so good to see Harrison Ford back as Han Solo with Carrie Fisher returning as Leia. There were old favorites and new characters to further the story and we learn all about Han and Leia’s son gone bad. It was better than I anticipated, and at times the action was hard to keep up with, but as a Star Wars fan, it was satisfying.

2016

2016

Kid films from this year that I saw included The Angry Birds Movie (which was not very good), Sing (which was full of some great music), Trolls (which I fell asleep watching), Moana (which was good), and Finding Dory (which was better than I thought it would be). Deadpool was pretty funny – but inappropriate to watch with the kids. Star Trek Beyond was a worthy sequel. The favorite pick, though, takes us back to the galaxy far, far away – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

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What makes this such a great film is the fact that it links up the prequel trilogy to the original trilogy. You see these unknown characters in a battle to get the Death Star plans to Princess Leia. It was really an amazing film. Some people had issues with the CGI characters, but I didn’t. I thought it was awesome!

2017

2017

2017 was a year of sequels – Star Wars had The Last Jedi, Guardians of the Galaxy got a second installment, The Kingsmen had The Golden Circle, and Blade Runner took us to 2049. I sat through The Greatest Showman – a musical which was ok, but nothing I would have picked to see by myself. I’ll go back to kids movies for my pick for favorite – The Lego Batman Movie.

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Admittedly my favorite character from the 2014 Lego Movie, I was glad to see Batman get his own film. Will Arnett is great as the voice of Batman. I liked this one a lot – and I hope it gets a sequel!

2018

2018

As the decade gets closer to wrapping up, I noticed more movies that I wanted to see and didn’t. In 2018, I wanted to see Stan and Ollie and Solo: A Star Wars Story and never saw either. I guess I need to get to the video store. Movies I did see were Deapool 2, The Hate U Give (a very good film based on the book), and Won’t You Be My Neighbor (A fantastic documentary on Mr. Rogers). Bohemian Rhapsody was just amazing! The comparison between the real Live Aid footage and the film footage was so amazing to watch. It was a very good film, and almost my pick. I had to go with The Incredibles 2 as my choice.

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I waited SO long for this sequel. I hoped that it wouldn’t suck and it didn’t. I was glad that it picked up where the first one ended. It focused a bit more on Mrs. Incredible, which was ok because that led to some very funny moments with Mr. Incredible at home with the kids. This could easily be a franchise – it should get more sequels in my opinion.

2019

2019

How sad is it that I only saw one film last year!? Really! ONE movie!!! There were plenty of remakes (all of which I didn’t want to see – Dumbo, Pet Semetary, Aladdin, Lion King)! Sequels I didn’t see – The Lego Movie 2, Toy Story 4, and Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. I never saw Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Addams Family, Midway, The Joker, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Knives Out, or 1917. One movie I am anxious to see is The Irishman. I read the book and just need three hours to watch it! So what movie did I actually see? Urgh – I am embarrassed to even share it. I wouldn’t call it a favorite. It was ok. It was better than I thought. My kids had to explain half of it to me. But, since it is the only film I saw last year – it has to be the pick, right?? At least until I watch some of the others from 2019…..

The film I saw in 2019 – Pokémon Detective Pikachu.

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See the look on his face? That’s how I feel about only seeing THAT movie!! URGH!

I really need to watch others so I can alter this …

Final Thoughts

Despite the way the decade ended … I had fun looking back through all of the various movies I watched over my lifetime. It helped me realize many movies I have always wanted to see and jot them down. It also served as a reminder of all the bad films I have seen – LOL!

I hope you enjoyed this series of blogs. you may now make fun of me about that last one!

Cheers!

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“Let It Go!”

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With the upcoming birth of our daughter, my wife will often quiz me on Disney Princesses. This will be my first daughter and princesses are kind of a big deal! When Sam is getting ready for work she will often listen to her Disney Pandora channel. When a song comes on, she will ask, “What’s this one from?” Sometimes, I get it right, and sometimes I get it wrong. I have titled this blog “Let It Go” because it ties in with Disney Princesses and the apology I am about to make.

Remember Dana Carvey’s “Grumpy Old Man” character on SNL?

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I’m not sure I have been quite as obnoxious as that character, but I know that I have gone against so many of the things I have posted in the past few months. I guess this proves three things (1) I am human (2) practicing what you preach can be difficult and (3) I need to always remind myself to “Let it go”.

I know for a fact that I have been in a “mood”, because I haven’t blogged as often as I have wanted to. My mind has been preoccupied with BS that I cannot control. I’ve never been able to really meditate or do “mindfulness” stuff, maybe because I can never seem to find a place and a time where there are no distractions. I wish I could, that might help.

So today’s blog is an apology, mainly to my wife, who knew things were bugging me and made me aware of it. It is an apology to my friends, who I have called and vented and ranted and raved to. It is an apology to you, because I am not a hypocrite, and need to practice what I preach. It is also an apology to myself, because I should never have let myself get to this place. I know better.

Time is precious, as I have stated in past blogs, so why spend so much time wasting it on worthless bullshit? I guess I have spent so much of my life doing it, that it is a hard habit to break. I have come a LONG way, but I was reminded this week that it doesn’t just go away, I still have to keep working on it. I’m an old dog, and this is a new trick. I must constantly be aware of the techniques I have learned to cope with certain situations and certain people. I must consistently practice them, not only for my own sense of well-being, but for those around me.

So I have gone back to my many notes and have compiled a mini-list of ways to “Let It Go”. They include:

Stop Talking About It

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Complaining is almost a natural response to being upset. Talking about it constantly isn’t going to help me (or anyone). Complaining basically stimulates my mind to keep thinking about it. Many times, as I have learned in hindsight, complaining can make a small issue, bigger than it is. Hey, sometimes you gotta vent and get things off your chest, but I guess the key to it is to vent and move on. Once it’s talked about, be done with it.

Put It In Perspective

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“What’s the most likely thing that can happen?” When you ask yourself that, you can see possible outcomes and even realize that you can get through it. We tend to think of the “worst case scenarios” and go there without ever considering the other perspectives. It’s hard to remember that you often think about would “could” or “might” happen instead of what actually will happen. A great practice I was told to try was to ask, “How much is this going to matter tomorrow?” “How much will this matter in a year?”

Let Go of Control

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The old saying holds true here: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” If life has taught us anything, it is that we cannot control the behaviors of others or the random events in life. What we CAN control is how we react or respond to those things! This is my biggest challenge. It is extremely difficult for me to use the “Gray Rock” method. I mean, I’m Italian, I talk with my hands! It goes against all that I have ever known, but I know that it’s the way to react to certain individuals.

Recognize the “Crazy”

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How appropriate is Mickey Mouse here? Disney! It all ties in! LOL!

With some people, you simply have to remind yourself of WHO you are dealing with! I have to remind myself that they probably suffer from some sort of mental illness. Perhaps it’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Bi-Polar Disorder (the signs are there for both). This person is like an angry teen who needs control over everything. When they do not get their way, there is a meltdown. “You need to treat them like an immature child” I was told. So true.

Understand that these people need “you to be the enemy”. This only makes them look better to those who don’t know your side of the story. They will elaborate and create stories to make you look bad. It’s what they do. It’s part of the mental illness. You can’t control this, and I have already talked about the things you can’t control. If you can recognize the “crazy”, it will help you to deal with the craziness that comes with interactions with them.

I love Maya Angelou’s advice, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Recognize who they are!

Set Boundaries and End the Drama

In some cases, communication has to happen with certain people. When vocal communication gets hostile, whether on the phone or in person, the conversation needs to end. If this happens regularly, then communications need to be done through text or e-mail. This will avoid (1) one person interrupting (2) yelling and raising voices and (3) the need to say sarcastic or under the breath comments or insults. This will (1) allow for a “paper trail” of the communication (2) no contact communication and (3) allows for short and concise communication.

Set the boundaries and stick with them. Don’t let others take advantage of you, use you, or guilt you into doing things or thinking things. Be the constant!

Closing thought

Someone sent me a Facebook message recently that said “you can’t let the behavior of others steal your joy. But if you do, it’s your choice. Focus on being the best and happiest that you can be – that’s where your energy should go. Set the best example you can and spend time and energy on people who lift you higher.” There is a lot of truth in that.

So in the words of Elsa, “Let it go!”

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