Daddy Blog Holiday Stories

4 Categories of Christmas Gifts for Our Kids

This year we decided to steal an idea from our lovely neighbors and only give our kids 4 gifts this year. We break the 4 gifts down into something you want, something you need, something you read, and something you wear. I like the simplicity of it. Plus, when you add in grandparent gifts and a sibling gift, Christmas is going to be just fine.

As part of this effort, last night each of our kids created a list for each of the 4 categories. It’s always fascinating to see what our kids put on the list. My favorite might have been our 6 year old who put a cheese head on the list. Last week we went to NYC for Thanksgiving week and we had a layover in Milwaukee on our way there and the kids all wanted to buy a cheese head. The funny part is that our 6 year old has no idea what it means, but he now really wants a cheese head for some reason. We’ll see if he gets it.

My favorite part of the experience was how few things my kids listed on the “need” category. It’s nice to think that most of their needs really are met and that they’re not lacking. Hopefully, they saw the same thing when we made these lists. They certainly had plenty of wants, but not many needs. That’s quite satisfying to see as a dad.

I was proud of my 6 year old son who put disc golf discs on his list of needs. It was on my needs list too.

Couple Trips Daddy Blog Holiday Stories

Niagara Falls Panorama

Last year my wife and I had a chance to go to Niagara Falls to celebrate our anniversary. We decided to hit Toronto and then Niagara Falls this year since we were in the area again. No DWTS Live this year (just missed it by a few days), but we did get to watch Cinderella in Toronto.

The show was fun, but the best part of Toronto for me was lunch with my good friend Colin. It was nice to meet his wife and for the Crash Wife to meet them too. Canada is interesting since it’s almost America, but there’s just enough that’s different that it feels slightly uncomfortable. Quite odd.

Anyway, on our way back we got a flat tire on the rental car (5th flat tire in the last 6 months for those keeping track at home. At least it wasn’t snowing or pouring rain. We changed to the spare tire and were able to swap the car out for a new one without too much incident (Thanks Alamo!). We did have a little nervous time on the freeway with a donut spare, but I digress from the original point of the post.

This post was really just an excuse to share this amazing panorama shot I took at Niagara Falls:
Niagara Falls
*Click on the picture to see it in all its glory

Isn’t this picture awesome? This was the first time I’d used the panorama feature and I just got a new phone (Nexus 6),so I was excited to see that it took such great pictures.

Waterfalls are awesome. Niagara Falls is extraordinary. There are few things I like more. Plus, the Crash Wife and I have some good history there. We found the bench where I proposed to her (and she said yes in case you wondered) and reenacted the proposal. Well, we reenacted the part where she was chilling and I couldn’t propose until she took her leg down and was ready for such an important moment.
Niagara Falls Proposal
Since I’m sure someone will mention it, I might need to take a moment to comment on my outfit. Yes, I am wearing some great flannel pajama pants with some custom designed dress shoes (custom designed by my children with a pen). No, this wasn’t the plan. I originally had on some really sexy khaki pants, but during the aforementioned tire change I decided to not ruin them and changed into these flannel pants. Not sure what it says about me (and the Crash Wife for that matter) that I didn’t change back to the nice pants.

Crazy Ideas Daddy Blog Holiday Stories

Showing Up at Restaurants Dressed Up As Their Mascot

As I mentioned in my last post about our restaurant Halloween costumes, we had some good fun this year dressing up as various restaurant mascots (not sure if that’s the right term, but you get the point). The Crash Wife decided to take it one step further and on Halloween she took each of the kids to their related restaurant to order some food (I was off playing in an ultimate frisbee tournament).

I guess the reaction was great when they walk in. She even took pictures of each of our kids behind the counter at the restaurants (assuming the counter wasn’t taller than the child). I guess Jack in the Box wins the award for the best reaction. They were over the moon that “Jack” showed up at their restaurant and decided to comp the whole meal. Well done!

Although, the funniest part my wife told me is that they came out after and asked if they could take a picture with Jack. My wife’s thinking about going back in there with “Jack” every month 😉 Enjoy some of the pictures from the excursion:

Crash Kid #1 – Jack from Jack in the Box

Crash Kid #2 – Wendy from Wendy’s

Crash Kid #3 – JD Pickle from Jason’s Deli

Crash Kid #4 – Fireman from Firehouse Subs

Side Note: There’s no Chick-Fil-A in Las Vegas yet, so Crash Mom couldn’t wear her outfit.

Crazy Ideas Daddy Blog Family Food Holiday Stories

Our Restaurant Halloween Costumes

Last night we had a trunk or treat at church and so we got a chance to take a picture of all of us in our Halloween costumes. This year the kids thought it would be fun to do a restaurant theme. I think the idea started with Crash Kid #1 saying he wanted to be Jack for Halloween. It just ballooned from there and here’s the result:

Crash Dad – Creepy King from Burger King
Crash Mom – Cow from Chick-Fil-A
Crash Kid #1 – Jack from Jack in the Box
Crash Kid #2 – Wendy from Wendy’s
Crash Kid #3 – JD Pickle from Jason’s Deli
Crash Kid #4 – Fireman from Firehouse Subs

No, we didn’t all dress up as restaurant mascots as a ploy to get these restaurants to sponsor Crash Dad. Although, we definitely eat at all of these places, but probably eat at Jason’s Deli the most.

P.S. I love that my kids are all barefoot and that my daughter snuck her doll into the picture.

Dad Instincts Daddy Blog Holiday Stories

Letting Kids Be Who They Are

This summer Crash Kid #1 attended his first camp. Since he’s only 11 years old I attended with him. We had a great time, but before we went to the camp he had to decide which merit badges to take. As he looked through the list he started picking merit badges like leatherworks, metalworks, art, photography, and chess. As he was working through the list he got to horsemanship (my favorite merit badge by far) and he quickly said, “Oh no. I’m not doing that.”

At first my heart was a little broken that he didn’t want to do the best merit badge out there. I love horses. They scare me a bit, but I love them. They’re so powerful and so extraordinary. My gut reaction to him immediately discarding horsemanship was to try and convince him to change his mind. After I took a deep breathe I decided that this was his scout camp and not mine. As I thought about it more, I was proud of my choice to let him be who he wants to be.

That’s not to say that on occasion we shouldn’t expose kids to new things, but sometimes it’s clear that kids have an affinity to some things over others. Of course, I was shocked when later they had a special horseback riding excursion that two of the other boys were doing. I asked Crash Kid #1 if he wanted to go with them or not. I was shocked when he said he did want to go with them. To be honest, I wasn’t that excited since it’s basically follow the butt in front of you horseback riding. However, there was no way I was going to say no when he said he was interested.

I saw this same principle reinforced when Curtis started planning his birthday party. Yes, his birthday was in April, but we’d been traveling so much we didn’t get to it until many months later. Regardless, Crash Kid #1 started going into full on party planning mode. He’s totally addicted to planning and creating things. A party was the perfect place for him to invent new games, plan variations on other games, and fully decorate our home for a minion birthday party including a box of shame (which all the kids loved!).

While I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a sharp object than do all this party planning, Crash Kid #1 was in his element. I think he enjoyed planning the party more than the party itself. Once again I was reminded of my need to let him be who he was and enjoy the things he liked. That’s not always easy as a parent.

Of course, as I was thinking about these incidents and Crash Kid #1’s love of art, inventing and creating, I came across this image:
Kids and Art

Freedom Holiday Stories

Happy 4th of July!

This rendition of Amazing Grace by Condoleezza Rice & Jenny Oaks Baker was a perfect way for me to celebrate the 4th of July this weekend. I hope it will be a great way for you to celebrate it too.

As I side note, I have many fond memories of Jenny Oaks Baker playing at church and stories from my best friend doing a semester in Jerusalem with her. It’s amazing to see how she’s been able to go so far.

Note: This was scheduled to appear on the 3rd, but it looks like I accidentally added a 1 and it posted the 13th. Oh well, the video is still amazing a week after the 4th of July.

Dad Instincts Holiday Stories In-Laws

Second Christmas is Awesome!

This year we made the great decision to fly across the country to spend Christmas with my in-laws in upstate NY. The great part is that we avoided any major snowfalls and for a large portion of our trip it was colder in Las Vegas than it was in New York. I’ll consider that a serious answer to prayer.

We had a great time enjoying all the Christmas traditions that my wife grew up doing. I was glad we did it since we’d never had a chance to do it before and I’m not sure how long my in-laws will be there for us to do it in the future.

Since we were traveling across country with 4 kids, we decided to leave all our family presents at home and just let Santa and the crash grandparents give gifts in New York. Luckily we flew Southwest and had 2 free checked bags per person (yes, that meant we could have 12 checked bags). We ended up only using 8 checked bags, but that was still far more than we’re used to taking. A year and a half ago we “moved” to Hawaii for a month and only checked 2 bags for the entire month (aren’t we awesome?). Turns out that Christmas gifts and snow clothes and gear takes up a lot more space.

We had a great Christmas gift opening extravaganza in New York since the crash grandparents went a little lot overboard on the gift giving. It’s hardly something to complain about since it’s a really kind thing for them to be so generous. Plus, our kids didn’t seem to mind too much either. Who am I kidding? They loved it.

With that said, I was especially excited to have our “Second Christmas” at home. I think my excitement for the second Christmas mostly came from the one time I visited my grandparents as a kid and my parents did the same thing for me. If I remember right, I got a recorder at my grandparents house. However, I remember the wild anticipation of my siblings and I as my parents got our second Christmas ready. I was hoping to create a similar memory for our kids.

Since we flew in late, we decided to do our second Christmas similar to a normal Christmas day when the kids woke up to Christmas. Here’s a look at the spread (sorry it’s not in better focus, but I was tired when I took it).
Second Christmas
It felt just like Christmas morning back at our house even though it was January 2nd. It was awesome to see the kids excitement two times in one year. However, it wasn’t the tree or presents above that got the best reaction. Just off to the right of the above picture was what caught the kids eyes the most:
Huge Stuffed Animal Christmas
Yes, those are some big huge massive stuffed animals. They’re literally bigger than our children. When I saw them, I knew they’d make for a great Christmas morning. I was definitely not disappointed. How can you really argue with a pink unicorn that big? We’re going to have tons of stories with these animals I can already tell. I’ve been told, for example, that the boa has choked out the pink unicorn, but that story is unverified.

You might also notice in both pictures is a really massive box. The day of our second Christmas, Crash Kid #1 had mentioned about how the size of some of the boxes indicated a good present. He’ll learn over time that the most expensive things come in small packages, but he’s not there yet (thankfully!). With this idea in mind, I decided to give him the biggest box we had for Christmas. Not just any box of course. It was the biggest box and as you can see it’s pretty large. You could probably fit one of the stuffed animals in it. Plus, we loaded this big box full of all the other boxes we’d received (Thanks Amazon).

In case you’re not sure you’re reading this right, Yes, I gave my son a box full of boxes for Christmas! Aren’t I sweet? Some of you might be wondering about my choice of gifts. Lest you think that my dad instincts are out of whack, guess what the first gift Crash Kid #1 started to play with after opening his gifts was? That’s right…the boxes!

Everyone always said that the kids loved the paper and boxes more than the gifts themselves. I just cut to the chase and made the gifts the boxes straightway. You can be sure if he disobeys you’ll hear this echoing through our house, “You better obey or I’m going to take those boxes away.” Have you ever seen how attached kids are to their box creations? It’s a powerful thing.

We closed out the second Christmas with our traditional swim through the wrapping paper and a lovely blueberry muffin breakfast with bacon, eggs and grape juice.

Man I loved my second Christmas!

Holiday Stories Mormon

He is the Gift Christmas Video – #ShareTheGift

As a mormon and a social media nerd, I’ve really loved the #ShareTheGift hashtag this Christmas Season. One of my favorite things has been the people on Instagram who are holding a sign that says “I Will #SHAREtheGIFT By…__________” and then they fill in the blank. Here’s one such example:

Amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas, I love the reminder that the most joy comes from sharing with others. This video is also a great reminder of the reason for the season:

Merry Christmas everyone!

Holiday Stories

My Take on Christmas Lights

I must admit that I’m really really torn on Christmas lights. I’m talking about Christmas lights on my own home. I really enjoy coming home to Christmas lights on my own home. However, I really don’t like to go to the effort to put them up. Yes, I know this probably means I should just hire someone to put Christmas lights up for me. Seems like a simple solution, but a part of me enjoys the lights on my house because I did it.

In the past we’ve been putting lights on our palm tree (yes, I get the irony and still love living in Vegas). I really love the way a palm tree looks when it’s lit up nicely. Although, sadly I could only get about 10 feet up and so it looked about half done. We would also run a string of lights along the roof. We almost always fell just short of enough lights to really finish off the whole line of the house.

This year I got a bit radical…Correction…I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to get the ladder out to put up the lights on the Palm or the roof line of the house. So, I decided to use the same lights I’d been using for the Palm and the house to do this edge bush that we have (we live on the corner). I realized pretty quickly that I wouldn’t have enough colored lights (roof) to do the full bush. That’s when I decided to put the white lights on the top of the bush after doing the colored lights on the side. Of course, I was still a few lights short.

I have to admit, that lights on this side bush were 100 times easier than the palm or the house and my kids could actually help me (their too short for the other options). I think I might have found my new solution. From now on I’m only decorating the bushes at our house. Although, next year I’m going to have to buy a lot more lights to get to more bushes.

Then again, one of our friends dropped off a nice Christmas gift for us. As she was leaving she said, “I just love your Christmas lights. They make me happy every time I drive by them.” Maybe half finished lights aren’t that bad after all. People can still enjoy them and it will make them feel better about their fully finished lights. I guess that’s my little Christmas gift to them.

Crazy Ideas Holiday Stories

The Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas Greeting Choice

I decided to mix things up this year (I’ve been known to do that) for the holidays. I’ve never been fond of sending a Christmas Card (Holiday card if you prefer) or an email with a link to some Christmas Card to my work colleagues, partners, customers, etc. I understand the intent is very good and thoughtful, but the execution just really seems to be lacking. Something doesn’t feel great about getting the same Christmas Card from someone or some company that you know is being sent to all of their customers, partners, etc.

Let me be clear about this. I don’t have a problem getting them, but I’m not sure it really makes much of a difference. I like to do things that make a real difference. I should also clarify that a Christmas picture and letter from friends is quite a bit different than business Christmas Cards. Those are often fun to see when you haven’t seen your friend’s family in a while or heard any updates. However, a generic Christmas card from someone you work with doesn’t light my tree up at Christmas time (figuratively speaking of course).

In the past, since I’ve felt this way, I’ve mostly just decided to do nothing for the holidays. That always felt wrong to me also since there are a large number of people that I work with that I care about deeply and really wanted to show appreciation for what they’ve done for me and my company throughout the year. With that in mind, I think I found a solution. We’ll see if it works or not.

Sorry. I can’t tell you what it is until I do it. I want it to be a surprise for the people that get them and I believe some of them read this blog. If it goes well, I’ll be sure to share what I did with you all. Who am I kidding? If it goes terribly, I’ll share it with you also.

All of that is prelude to the challenge I faced when reaching out to all these people. In many of the cases, I was torn on whether I should use Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or both. I finally just decided that I’d use one or both or whatever I felt like at the moment. Then, I came across this gem on Facebook which helped me realize I made the right decision:

Merry Christmas Message

If someone wants to get angry with me when I’m trying to do something nice for them, so be it. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that the people I work with will understand this principle really well. We’ll find out. Either way, I’m excited to see the results.

Plus….Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!