Aquarium Lessons





In an effort to cut child care costs and spend as much of her first years with Alaina as possible, my wife and I re-configured our work schedules and reduced our hours so that one of us is usually home with her.  An unfortunate side effect of this is that that is much less time when we are BOTH home with her.  Kayla now spends much of her weekend  working and participating in church activities so when presented with a day last week when everybody was home during the day we took advantage by spending the day at Mystic Aquarium.

With some advance planning and a bit of time the aquarium can actually be a very educational experience. There is an Exploration Center that streams a live video feed from the submarine E/V Nautilus, a Titantic exhibit, and lots of hands-on activities focusing on different ecosystems and environmental awareness.

Most of that we skipped so that we could fit in lunch before daddy had to go to work, but I did manage to learn a few things over the course of the day:


1.   Alaina is very well behaved in the car with me, even on longer rides, but 45 minutes is beyond her ability to resist repeatedly kicking her mother’s seat in front of her or doing everything she could possibly think of to annoy her sister seated next to her.

2.  A good portion of the aquarium’s exhibits are outside. If it seems like a brilliant notion that clouds and light rain will keep most other people away, others will come to the same conclusion.

3.  For all the negative publicity that Sea World has received in recent months, I still think there is good that can come from maritime parks. I’m not impressed with Sea World’s efforts, but there are many other aquariums and oceanography institutes that participate in thousands of rescue, rehabilitation and release efforts.  Zoos and aquariums need to be held to very high standards of care for the animals they display, but just because not all do doesn’t mean that they are all bad. I don’t find it necessary for animals to put on shows for me to appreciate them.

4. Penguins are pretty damn cute




5. We need more days like this.  Both children seemed to enjoy themselves quite a bit but finding things to do with both of them isn’t always easy. They are twelve years apart in age but that gap is going to seem larger as they get older. We have a small window of time that we need to take advantage of as much as we can.











Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson has now been officially reinstated into the NFL after missing most of last season without pay. He was indefinitely suspended after an arrest on child abuse charges.  Peterson will be forced to continue counseling and any further violation of the league’s personal conduct policy could lead to him being banned from the NFL for life.

I don’t have an issue with him being reinstated. The state of Texas accepted a plea deal that dropped his charge from a felony to a misdemeanor and also mandated counseling. I don’t think it’s the league’s place to deny a man his right to make a living and support his family, especially one with at least six kids from multiple mothers.

He’ll be headed back to a Minnesota team that drafted him 7th overall in 2007. While playing there he was selected to six pro bowls and was the league MVP in 2012.  There seems to be some dissension within the organization about his return, but the team has said publicly that they plan to welcome him back.

This I do have a problem with. The charges against Peterson originated because he beat his four year old son with a tree branch, causing cuts and bruises to his thighs, back, and testicles. The child told authorities that he had been previously punched in the face and that the leaves from the switch were shoved in his mouth to prevent any further crying out. This took place in Peterson’s “whooping room”, a dedicated area of the house just for punishment.

There have also been allegations of Peterson leaving a scar over another son’s eye for cursing.  His response was that he “never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.”  I try not to judge other parents.  I’ve yet to find a hand slap or smacked ass necessary and hope I never do, but I see a dedicated “whooping room” in a different category.

So I am judging Adrian Peterson. I think he’s a piece of garbage.

Peterson is almost thirty years old, the age when most running backs historically begin to show decline in production.  Prior to his suspension he had off season surgery three years in a row, including an ACL repair in 2011. The Vikings will pay him 12.75 million dollars for 2015.

But he’d only cost them 2.4 million against the salary cap this year if they just simply cut him.  He has said repeatedly that he doesn’t want to return to the team that he doesn’t feel supported him strongly and publicly enough. I understand the concept of trying to trade him away in order to receive some compensation for his loss, but it doesn’t seem likely. Cutting him now makes sense from both a moral and football operations standpoint.

I started off by saying that I don’t believe the NFL league office has a right to deny Adrian Peterson employment. The team owners and general managers do have a choice, however. They should choose to send him to the unemployment line.


A Thin Line Between Lies and Imagination


Logic will get you from A to Z. Imagination will get you everywhere. -Albert Einstein


Several times this week I’ve caught myself doing nothing but sitting and watching the toddler play with her toys. One of the most fascinating things about her continuing development is the expansion of her imagination. The way her varied little “people” interact with each other and the dramas that play out between them are growing increasingly complex and varied. This has led not only to a much appreciated increase in independent play, but has made it more tolerable to actually play with her.

We’ve always done our best to try and encourage imaginative thought. Between family and friends we have assembled a pretty sizable book collection for her. She gets a story every night before bed but there are other times she is encouraged to look at the pictures in a book and make up her own story. These are often wildly surprising and entertaining.

She’s also in the early stages of learning how to lie to avoid consequences. When accused of wrong-doing or questioned about how something happened she will now sometimes either deny culpability, or worse, blame somebody else.

So far she is not very successful at it. Most of the actions she is denying have been done within the sight of the person she is denying it to. It only takes a few times asking before she will smile sheepishly and admit to the crime. Because her cousins are younger than her they tend not to be as well behaved, making them good scapegoats. It seems to surprise her when her credibility is questioned, but blaming somebody that was last at the house a week ago for something done that morning isn’t overly effective.




Recently we encountered a situation that defied easy classification. Over the past several weeks, Alaina has been telling her teachers and classmates stories about her little sister Ally. She’s regaled them with tales of helping change diapers, how much her sister cries, and how mushy and gross her food is.

The problem, of course, is that Alaina doesn’t have a little sister. Her teachers, recognizing that my wife never appeared pregnant, asked her multiple times if this was true or if she was telling them stories.  Knowing her tendency to come clean fairly quickly when confronted with a lie, they were understandingly confused. Impressed by the depth and sophistication of Alaina’s story, as well as at her ability to keep her details consistent, but confused.

A week later I still don’t know what to make of the whole situation.  She was reminded that she shouldn’t tell things that aren’t true, but as there was no self-serving aspect we didn’t think it made sense to treat this necessarily as “lying”, a concept that is still new to her.  Alaina often pretends that her baby dolls are her little sister. I’m just going to chalk this one up as an overly long make-believe session.  Apparently the line between fibbing and imagination for a three year old is thinner than I had imagined.

There is some cause for concern. The teenager is a terrible liar. I’m not going to give away any of her “tells”, but very rarely does she get anything by us. If the little one is going to be good at it, we may be in trouble.



Daddy Knows Everything


Like most fathers, mine has very rarely uttered the words “I don’t know.”  To his credit my dad actually does know quite a bit about a lot of different things, more than enough in most cases to at least be “in the ballpark” of the correct answer.  On the occasions when he is completely BSing, he does so with such confidence that I’m not always sure whether or not he knows what he is talking about.

I like to think of myself as possessing above average intelligence and make a great partner in a trivia contest, but lag far behind my father in “practical knowledge.” I have very little idea how things work and even less idea about how to fix them. Renaissance man that I am, I leave such matters to my wife.

Like my father and most other fathers I know, I have determined that my children will think that I know everything for as long as I can get away with it. I may not have inherited my father’s mechanical aptitude, but his unmatched ability to BS has been genetically transferred successfully.

Technology makes this easier with the teenager. Whenever she asks a question that I don’t have an answer to, I tell her to “google it.” By making her search for herself I am both empowering her and teaching her independence. Because I have managed to remain pretty hip, I’m able to avoid the usual teenage assumption that I don’t know anything because  I’m so old.

It amazes me that teenagers don’t seem to realize that their phones have this capability. They literally have the answer to any question attached to their hands at all times.  It seems technologically impossible to do poorly in school.

The toddler has asked approximately 100 questions a day for about a year straight now.  Most of the time they are pretty straight forward and she accepts whatever answer is given. “You can’t wear shorts to the store because it’s too cold.” “The lines in the road tell me what side to stay on.” “That little boy isn’t in a carriage because he listens”, ect.

That’s not to say she doesn’t argue with me.  After asking what time it was today,  Alaina spent twenty minutes arguing with me about what the numbers on the clock signified. I’m not proud of the fact that I spent twenty minutes arguing with a three year old about what time it was, but I confess to being a little proud that she thinks it’s funny to mess with me.  Being a smart-ass is a valued personality trait in this family.

So far there have been no metaphysical questions or anything about fixing the toilet, so for now Alaina still thinks daddy knows everything. When the time eventually comes when she may start to figure out my BS, I’ll just tell her to “google it.”



Eggs and Gametes


We were a week late due to my work schedule, but this weekend we hosted the family for this year’s Easter celebration. My parents were here, as well as my mother-in-law, my brother, his wife, and their twin children.

easter alains

Alaina spent the morning embracing her “girly” side.  She needed to find the perfect dress and badgered us repeatedly until she got her nails painted.  Kayla attended church.  I spent the morning cleaning the house and doing my best to stay out of the chef’s way.



After a quick egg hunt for the littles and a delicious ham prepared by my wife we all retired to the back yard to enjoy the fantastic weather and let the children tire themselves out.  One benefit to waiting the extra week was that the last of our snow had finally melted. Three kids under the age of four doesn’t seem like many, but their capacity for chaos inside the house isn’t to be underestimated. For someone too old and cool to participate in an Easter egg hunt, Kayla was more than willing to “help” and was also very good at “helping” catch bubbles. It’s always nice to see that teen angst facade drop for a few hours.



As is often the case on occasions like this, there was lots of talk about how fortunate everyone was to be in good health and able to attend these gatherings several times a year. I spent a lot of time thinking about how fortunate my wife and I were that our gametes fused to develop only a single organism.

The twin birth rate in the United States has increased 76% since 1980. Some of this can be attributed to advances in medical reproductive procedures but growth hormones in food also plays a part. My grandfather was a twin as are two of my cousins.  Alaina has out of state cousins that were single births but the six that she knows consist of three sets of twins. It always surprised me that she never questioned why there was only one of her.

I know there are many benefits to having twins. Couples that want two children only have one pregnancy to endure to get them. The tax benefits are doubled. Twins always have a special buddy with them to share their experiences and keep each other occupied. Watching her cousins I’m sometimes sad that Alaina doesn’t have that, though I’m not sure she really needs a permanent partner in crime.

None of this was crossing my mind as I watched my brother frantically chase a pair of two year old gremlins around my back yard, each one  determined to go in a different direction than the other. I was too busy laughing my ass off and thinking “better him than me.”





Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms