Father’s Day Reflections -2019

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As Father’s Day approached, I found a few minutes to reflect.  In a world where you hear constantly about “deadbeat dads”, I am lucky enough to have a dad who played a HUGE part in my life in SO many ways.  I have blogged about his musical influences on me (Which you can read here: https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/03/30/my-biggest-musical-influence-dad/) and wrote a blog for him on his birthday (which you can read here: https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/11/01/birthday-tribute-to-fred/).  I was truly blessed with a great dad.

One of the hardest jobs in the world is being a parent, I’ll be the first to admit that.  I will also say, though, that while it is a difficult job, it is also one of the most amazing things a man can do! As I look at my two sons, I consider myself blessed.  Being a father is one of the most satisfying, frustrating, fulfilling, and life-affirming things I have ever done!  I have been a dad for almost 18 years, and as I thought about my boys, I began to make a list of the things I love about being a dad.  I thought I would share that list with you.  Perhaps you can add to it or relate to mine.

Things I Love About Being a Dad

  • Your kids think you know it all.
    • If I had a dollar for every time my kids have asked me a question about something…LOL.  Many times, you know the answer, but sometimes, they ask you something that throws you for a loop!  They truly believe you are the smartest person alive!
  • Playing catch.
    • One of my favorite memories of my dad and I was playing catch in front of our house. I remember the first time he threw his “submarine” pitch to me and how much my hand stung when it hit the mitt!  Throwing the ball around with my sons is something I will never get tired of doing!
  • Coaching – Sports.
    • I was lucky enough to coach both of my sons in T-ball and baseball.  I truly wish they had both continued to play ball, but as they grew older, they lost interest.  I also helped the coaches out when my oldest son was on the bowling team in middle school.  I loved watching them play soccer and taking them to the driving range to hit golf balls, too. I only got to really go fishing with them a couple times, but I hope that it happens more in the years ahead.
  • Throwing them around in the pool.
    • We lived at one place that had a huge pool.  One of the thing I never got tired of was picking the boys up and tossing them back into the water in the summer.  I also loved letting them push me in the pool, thinking they had surprised me, when all along I was waiting for them to do it.  My oldest is as big as me now, and he still wants me to throw him around!  Pool fun is always great as a dad!
  • Your kids think you are the strongest person!
    • I remember arm wrestling with my dad and being amazed at how strong he was.  I remember “helping” my dad move things and struggling with my end of it because it was so heavy.  Dad wasn’t phased at all, though.  As kids, we are always amazed at how strong dad is!
  • Rocking and singing them to sleep.
    • Whether it is at the beginning of the night or in the middle of the night, I never grew tired of rocking my kids to sleep.  Holding them with their head on my shoulder and singing Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra songs is forever etched in my memory!  The songs changed from son to son, but some remained the same.  I used to sing “Bouna Sera,” “On An Evening in Roma,” “Watching the World Go By,” “Vieni Su,” “Cruising Down the River,” and other songs.  I used to love when they would sing them to me, too!
  • You become aware of your bad habits.
    • My dad used to smoke.  He used to say, “Don’t ever let me catch you doing this!”  He eventually quit cold turkey, whether or not it was because of my brother and I, I don’t know.  I do know that you are extra cautious about doing things or saying things you don’t want your kids repeating.  My dad always tells the story of driving while I was in the car seat behind him  Someone cut him off and he yelled, “You stupid prick!” and I said, “What did those pricks do, daddy?!”  “Sticks – there were sticks in the road!” was his response.  HA!
  • Play time and using your imagination.
    • I remember my dad coming into the bedroom and pretending to be a bear while my brother and I were under the covers.  I remember him pretending to be a wrestler and bouncing us on the mattress.  I remember pretending that way with my sons, too.  I remember playing superheroes with towels tied around our necks for capes!  So much fun!!!
  • Embarrassing them.
    • This gets more fun as they get older.  My dad did it to me.  I do it with my kids.  Just recently, we were walking down the street to go to the city fair.  On the walk I started skipping and both kids were like, “Dad!  Stop it!”  This one car was playing some song with a really loud bass, so I started dancing.  Again, “Stop it!” When the petting zoo came into view I screamed, “Oooo!  Look at the baby goats” and started running toward them.  They were so embarrassed!  It’s what dads do!!
  • Introducing them to things from your childhood.
    • For me, dad introduced me to a lot of music and such.  For my sons, I shared movies and music, but thanks to technology, I was able to share with them the Atari 2600!  They had some retro Atari that was loaded with 200 games or something one Christmas.  My oldest loved it.  He was always playing Maze Craze!  We used to hit the thrift shops and I would love when there was some old toy from my childhood there!  Of course, I passed down the Three Stooges to them!  I also introduced them to the Classic Scooby Doo cartoons, Hong Kong Phooey, and the Muppets.
  • True and unconditional love.
    • It’s a mutual thing.  I have never felt such an unconditional love for someone or from someone, until I became a dad.  Holding each of my boys for the first time, you melt!  The love just gushes out from you.  It is an amazing thing.
  • Hearing “I love you” from them.
    • This kind of goes with the above item.  As if you can’t love them any more, the minute they tell you “I love you” is just an amazing, emotional, and wonderful thing that you will never forget.  I still have voicemails from both boys as toddlers on my phone.  I need to find a way to get them into an MP3 or something.  I never want to lose those!
  • Halloween
    • There were a few years I worked nights and missed out on taking them out trick or treating.  I was able to be at all of their Halloween parades at school.  I loved being able to help pick out costumes with them.  Pulling them around the neighborhood as babies was something very fun.
  • Gibberish talk.
    • As parents, we all do this. Especially when they are babies.  I wish I could remember all the things I said to my kids, I don’t.  I know there were gibberish phrases that I used for each boy, though.  I used to love saying them to make them smile.
  • Making them laugh.
    • My kids were always my best audience.  “Do it again, Daddy!”  There is nothing like making your child laugh.  Their laughter is like music!  Even as they grow up, I still love listening to them laugh.  They may not laugh at it everything like they used to, but that’s ok.  It’s still fun to make them laugh.
  • Roughhousing.
    • It’s a bit different now that they are older, and have the potential of kicking my butt!  I love when they want to rough house!  I remember my mom yelling at my dad, “Stop that rough housing!”  Why?!  It was fun for all of us!
  • Being silly.
    • Adulting sucks.  Sometimes, you just have to be silly!  Being a dad allows you to be silly.  Silly is good.  Sometimes, you have to break away from the serious and embrace the silly!
  • Letting them win.
    • Oh how many games of cribbage did my dad let me win?!  With Uno, he wasn’t so nice.  I think he used to love putting down that Draw 4 card – much like I do with my kids today!  Sure, I have let them win occasionally, and there is some satisfaction in watching him and his brother brag about how they beat dad at the game.  Every once in awhile, though, you gotta show them you can beat them at it too!
  • “Caving” at the store.
    • I don’t do this as much now, but I used to.  You know how it is – you go to the store and there is that “can we get this?” or “I need this!”  All too often, I would cave and buy whatever it was.  Now that they are older, they understand a bit more when you tell them you don’t have the money to buy that right now.  they younger they are, the easier it is for dads to cave!
  • Getting beat at video games.
    • I love spending time with my boys.  They love their video games.  They have this one called Super Smash Brothers.  I really don’t understand it, but the gist is that you are a character (there are many) and you beat each other up until someone wins.  They kept asking me to play, so I did.  They wiped the floor with me.  Both of them were laughing as they beat the snot out of my character.  I was just pushing buttons trying to make it hit or whatever.  All of a sudden, my character started to light up and did this crazy punch/kick thing!  My youngest said, “Dad, you figured out how to use the special!”  There was some special move – every character has one!  They just neglected to tell me about it and let me lose!  LOL!  Smart boys!!  I don’t care whether I win or not, I just enjoy the time with them.
  • Carrying them on my shoulders
    • I remember as a kid, loving when my dad carried me on his shoulders.  I used to hold on to his hair!  My boys did the same thing!  I would give anything to be able to carry my sons again on my shoulders.  I used to love walking through the store with them up there.  I loved taking walks in the park with them up there.  I wish I had more pictures of them up there.
  • Snuggling/Hugs
    • I have always been a hugger.  I love hugging my kids.  I miss the days of snuggling up next to them for a nap.  I miss holding them while we watch TV.  I remember many times trying to get up from the couch, trying not to wake them because they fell asleep.  Those moments are so special for a dad.  I love when they come up and hug me for no reason.  It is still an amazing thing.
  • “Pull my finger”
    • This is probably the one thing that is exclusive to dads.  Not many moms do this!  Farts, dads, and kids mean laughs.  It’s probably such a huge annoyance for moms.  Dads fart.  Kids laugh at farts.  I remember one time my friend and I were outside in the front yard playing with Matchbox cars.  Dad came home from work and as he was walking in the house he made the “finger gun” with his hand and “shot” it as he farted.  We still laugh about that!  The fart will always be a funny thing that dads and kids both laugh at together.
  • Looking at your relationship with your kids and being able to connect it to memories you shared with your dad.
    • Go back and read how many times I mention something I love about doing with my sons, and how many times I can connect them with something my dad and I shared!
  • The “bond” that is eternal.
    • There will never be anything that can come between me and my kids.  I love my sons with all that I am.  They are my flesh and blood and will forever be my little boys.
  • The firsts and lasts
    • Those firsts stay with you forever.  The first steps.  The first words.  The first day of school.  The first concert.  Both of my sons are still in school, but if social media is an indicator, the last day of school is just as emotional as the first!  Watching each of my sons get on the bus for the first time was very emotional for me.  Big days – big emotions.
  • Artwork
    • Back when I had an office at work, I used to have countless drawings that they did in school.  I used to have a macaroni bee that my oldest son made.  The noodles eventually broke on it.  I still have some paintings they did and the coffee mug coasters that each boy made me for Father’s Day in kindergarten or first grade.  Those little things hold special meaning for me.
  • Bedtime Stories
    • It starts as you reading to them.  I don’t know how many times I read “Goodnight Moon” or “I’m Thankful Each Day” to my sons, but I enjoyed it every time.  I am sure there were other books, too.  “Snowmen at Night” was a favorite, too.  I used to love when they would read to me!  I wish the video games weren’t so accessible, because I really wish they would find more time to read.  I loved when they would tell me about a story of book they read in school.
  • The emotions that they make me feel.
    • They make me proud.  They make me happy.  They make me cry (both happy and sad tears).  They make me worry.  They make me thankful.  They make me feel a never ending love for each of them.  I am not ashamed to admit how emotional I have gotten watching them in a play, a band concert, a baseball game, or during an awards ceremony.  God help me, when they graduate, get married, and have children – I can barely hold it together now!!

I am sure if I had a few more minutes, I could add many more items to this list.  Being a dad is the greatest thing I have ever had to do.  My sons have been tremendous blessings to me and fill my heart with joy and laughter.  I love them so much.  If and when I am blessed with another child, I will look forward to reliving some of the things mentioned and creating new memories with that child, because being a dad is one of the coolest, most special, and fulfilling things I have ever done, or will ever do in my lifetime.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Fun and Games

Trivialpursuit-boardgame

“Life is more fun if you play games” – Ronald Dahl

Over the holiday, we had a mini game night at my aunt’s house.  It was a lot of fun.  Game nights are something that I feel are missing today.  Oh, sure, there are plenty of video games, but families are missing out of creative fun with board games.

I remember growing up and always playing board games.  We had some at home and we had some up north.  I remember playing Clue (which I was never really good at), Connect Four, Yahtzee, Battleship, Sorry, and Life (which I really never understood as a kid). Battleship and Sorry were probably my favorites.  They were easy to play and didn’t take 9 hours to play (like Monopoly, which we hated)!

There were also two card games that were favorites up north and at home:  Uno and Cribbage.  According to Wikipedia, Uno was developed in 1971 and became popular in the 80’s.  This would make sense as my first memories of the game are during summers in Caseville.  Cribbage was also a game I played up north with my grandpa and my dad and eventually played at home and with friends once I got my own board.

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In the mid-80’s, Trivial Pursuit was THE game to play!  I think I read somewhere that it sold over 20 million copies in one year.  There were various editions that came out after the original success (Sports, Entertainment, and Baby Boomers to name a few).  I’m not going to lie, some of the questions were damn hard!  The game was a staple at radio stations, as many of the questions were used to give away prizes.  Today, you can find three to four copies at any Goodwill or Salvation Army store.

My Favorite Games

In 2019, I am making a vow to spend more time playing games.  Whether it is with my kids, my wife, or with friends.  Here are some old favorites and some new ones (not including the ones mentioned above).  Game nights can be filled with laughter and the world needs that.  So here is my list:

  • Scrabble.  Yes.  The word game.  Grab a dictionary and start spelling.  Get to know the words that use “z”, “q”, and “x”!  Every now and then, change it up and allow common nouns, dirty words, and onomatopoeias!  I still love playing this game.
  • Pictionary.  I suck at drawing, which makes this game even more fun to play.  Charades with a pencil!  Love it!
  • Scattergories.  This remains one of my favorite games.  I love the big honking die with all the letters on it.  My version is probably the original version, so I still have the original categories.  I hear that the newer version has some new ones.  Either way, I love the challenge of coming up with answers that no one else has.  I love trying to come up with Double and Triple point answers.
  • Apples to Apples.  Random things on cards that you match with a subject card.  You have to be real creative sometimes to make it work.  Sometimes you have the perfect card, sometimes you have to go with a card that means nothing, and sometimes you just have to play to the judge.  A fun game that my kids love too!
  • Cranium.  What I love about this game is that it takes some aspects of other games and combines them in one.  It has four categories:  Creative Cat (which may involve drawing or sculpting), Word Worm (which may make you spell a word forwards or backwards, solving anagrams, fill in the blank type answers, or word definitions), Data Head (which is your basic trivia stuff or true and false questions), and Star Performer (where you play charades, impersonate celebrities, or hum a song in hopes that someone will guess it).
  • Taboo (and Celebrity Taboo).  What is great about this game is that you have to get your team to guess the answer on the card without mentioning the five things most associated with the answer.  I haven’t been able to find Celebrity Taboo for some time, but I liked it better!  Imagine trying to get someone to guess John Lennon without saying: Paul McCartney, The Beatles, Yoko One, Imagine, or Twist and Shout!
  • Guesstures. Someone described this game as “Charades on Speed”, and that really is a great way to describe it. Cards have easy and hard words on them.  harder words are worth more points.  There is a timer device and the player has about a minute to get his team to get the answers before the timer eats the cards.
  • Catchphrase. It’s come a long way since the original version.  Now, it is electronic.  It’s a battery operated disc that generates random words and has a timer.  Each time tries to get their members to guess the word on the disc, and when they do, they pass the disc to the other team.  Whoever gets caught with the disc when the timer goes off loses the round.
  • Can You Name 5? (sometimes called Name 5).  This game was a lot of fun.  The name says it all. Random categories have teams naming 5 baseball teams, classic rock groups, types of running shoes, and more.  You can play as a team, against a team, all play and other ways.  some categories are not as easy as you might think.  Great time for sure!
  • Scene It.  If you love movies, TV, Disney, or Harry Potter…you will love this DVD game.  The best stuff is when you have to watch a TV show or movie clip and answer a question about it, but there are other categories too.  Sound Clips, fill in the blanks, what’s missing, and other fun stuff.  My kids love playing this game….just be sure you haven’t lost the remote to the DVD player!

While all of these are tons of fun, I have two absolute favorites:

  • Balderdash and Beyond Balderdash.  The original was all words.  The goal of the game is to bluff and get others to think your answer is the right answer.  The word might be “Glacket”.  Maybe it’s that little ball in the spray paint can?  Maybe it’s the plastic piece at the end of the cord on window blinds?  With Beyond Balderdash, the categories include words, dates, movies, initials, and people.  You can really get creative with this game and I absolutely love it.  I still have pervious answers saved in the box that made me laugh out loud!
  • The Game of Things.  Much like Balderdash, you have to create an answer, but the twist is that the reader reads all the answers and people have to guess who wrote what answer.  All of the topics start with “Things …” (Things you shouldn’t wear to a funeral, Things you shouldn’t kiss, Things you wish you could get for free…).  As you can imagine, the answers can be very funny.  One of my favorite cards was “Things you shouldn’t put on the kitchen table”.  It was hilarious that every single player wrote something about an “ass” as their answer!  Lots of laughs that night!!

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So, what board games are a must play for you?