Homemade Gifts from Dad: Lego Picture Frame

My frugality knows no bounds. OK, it knows a few. I don’t reuse floss and I never divide a baby wipe more than once. Half a wipe is my limit. Thirds? No way.

I’m not an Ebenezer, but I do raise my right eyebrow at the commercialism of the holidays. Thoughtful homemade gifts get major bonus points. Almost as priceless are thrift store treasures.

My first attempt at a hand crafted gift is a Lego picture frame. It took 20 minutes to build, and the geometry worked out nicely. Who knew that a 3 x 5 photo would fit perfectly in a 13 x 18 dot Lego grid? It was meant to be. Some flat rectangles as the base, an inner border of thin 1 x 4 and 1 x 6 pieces, and the photo is held in place by the bricks on the front.

A Lego picture frame… brilliant. I have no idea who to give it to. My son would destroy it to make a lava boat robot gun ship. My wife would put it on her nightstand, and once my son found it he’d destroy it to make a laser flier digger booster mobile 3D.

Winter Bicycling: Essential Attire

Fall snow

Last week it dropped into the single digits here in the Twin Cities. My wife shed a tear, which froze to her cheek. That only made it worse.

So we didn’t play outside on Thanksgiving, since it got well below 20° (Outdoor Thanksgiving Activities with Kids). I’ll be honest – the winter is going to kick our butts with its frozen foot, as always, but at this point I’m saying “Bring it on, punk!” I feel like lieutenant Dan on the Bubba Gump shrimpin boat, shouting into the hurricane.

One way I stick it to the winter is by biking to school, right in its face. Here, and in the next post, are some considerations for any fair-weather bicyclists or pedestrians who’d like to give it a shot.

For clothing, you don’t need anything fancy like spandex or gortex, even for the -30° temps that we’ll soon have in Minnesota, unless you want to be speedy or stylin. On the coldest of days my attire consists of:

  1. Thermal underwear – top and bottom
  2. Wool socks – heavy duty
  3. Jeans or dickies
  4. Waterproof low-top boots, or high-tops for deep sloppy joe snow
  5. Fleece – either light or heavy, depending on your jacket
  6. Jacket – insulated, hooded windbreaker. A shell is fine if your fleece is thick
  7. Ski mask
  8. Beanie, stocking cap, whatever you call it
  9. Scarf or neck warmer thing
  10. Mittens, not gloves

Note, I only bike 2.5 miles each way, so I could walk if I had to. I think 5 to 7 mile commutes are still bearable in the city with this much gear. Longer rides require more layers in case of an emergency, like a freakish wind chill or blizzard, wherein shelter is hard to find.

Note also that my eyes are exposed. This hasn’t been a problem, even at extreme lows, but on longer rides you might enjoy ski goggles.

Finally, some encouraging links:

Opposite Day Rules

In times of extreme boredom, like after watching movie trailers online for 2 hours, my wife and I may resort to declaring an Opposite Day. It’s foolproof fun. Except, we often just argue about whether or not it’s Opposite Day:

No, because today’s Opposite Day – I’m surprised you didn’t know that.

Wait, today’s not Opposite Day.

You’re wrong, it’s not.

No, you’re right. It is.

Maybe it’s not so foolproof.

So, what are the rules of Opposite Day? You’ve likely asked yourself the same question. Wikipedia provides some guidance:

Usually, a person would say, “After this phrase is over, it will be officially Opposite Day,” and then Opposite Day will be officially started. Opposite Day can also be declared retroactively to indicate that the opposite meaning of what was said should be inferred. Opposite Day games are usually played by schoolchildren. Opposite Day is historically the first Thursday of the Month.

Historically? Schoolchildren? I really like the retroactive option – arguing about whether or not it was opposite day is much more controversial than arguing about whether or not it is. But, you shouldn’t have to qualify it with “After this phrase is over…” Those two guidelines seem contradictory.

And so, the definitive list of Opposite Day rules:

  1. No lying
  2. No biting
  3. No preemptive warnings are necessary because you can never actually initiate an Opposite Day, only remind someone what day it is. Hence, the statement “today is Opposite Day” is invalid, when Rules 1 and 2 are in effect. There is only one way to declare an Opposite Day: “today is not Opposite day.” However, this statement, on its own, has no meaning since it can be made on any day of the year, Opposite or not.

Yes, today is not opposite day. Yes, I’m lying.

How to be two fun parents

Parents often seem to work together as a yin and yang, that is, polar opposites, rather than as Mr. and Mrs. Smith or She-ra and He-man, counterparts with similar strategies and techniques. In the latest episode of “Modern Family” the yin, dad, is super fun, and the yang, mom, super not fun. And so, the question around the blogosphere is, “Can you have two fun parents in the family?” (e.g., Momania).

The answer of course is, yes. And the real question is, how can both parents avoid being super not fun, concurrently?

  1. Dads aren’t innately more fun and this dichotomous parenting isn’t “natural” or “normal,” except in sitcom land. Tim the Tool Man was just clueless, sometimes even when it came to tools, but he tried to be responsible, when his wife threatened him. Wait, that’s a bad example.
  2. Don’t hog all the yin. Parents have to share both the fun and responsible sides of parenting. Clearly, if dad takes up all the yin, mom is more likely to pick up the slack, all the yang (e.g., Mrs. Doubtfire). Instead, each parent takes half the yang, and then spices it with some yin when they dish it out to the kids.
  3. Both parents should be stay-at-home at least metaphorically, or metaphysically, or something. This is a continuation of number 2. Often the working parent focuses their responsibleness on their career, while the stay-at-home parent directs theirs to the kids. This might force parents into a fun/boring dichotomy. Sometimes after a long day alone with the kids I realize I need to step it up with the yang and help my wife out.
  4. You might have to play good cop, bad cop, but take turns. Sometimes I find myself filling in where my wife leaves off – if she gives second chances, I take them away, if she’s unrelenting, I’m lenient. Maybe we’re catching the kids off guard – she lures them in and then I attack. It’s teamwork. Taking turns seems wise. Of course, when the poop hits the fan you may have to play bad cop, bad cop.
  5. Go camping more often.

Outdoor Thanksgiving Activities with Kids

A quick list of things to do with your kids, especially the younger ones, on Thanksgiving, outside:

  1. Anything, so long as your out of the house and out of the kitchen. Significant others will give you thanks.
  2. Get outside. Our minimum outdoor playing temp here in MN is 20°, so we might be good to go. Find some space and play catch the turkey, i.e., tag with a pilgrim theme – I just made that up.
  3. Hunt a real turkey. Never done it, so I’m not sure what it entails. Projectiles and licenses to use them I guess. Maybe just stalk a turkey and learn to appreciate your dinner a little more. In case you don’t have access to wild turkeys, pigeons would do. I’m sure you don’t need a license to hunt a pigeon.
  4. Reenact the famous and probably made-up story of the pilgrims and the American Indians. Some neighbor kids could help – maybe they have costumes and fake weapons. Spice up the story with a battle for survival, emaciated pilgrims versus hungry wolf pack. Then, the Indians save the day with arrows flying.
  5. Made-up or not, Thanksgiving is a great way to teach about sharing and gratitude. If you don’t reenact it, at least tell the story, or the ideas behind the holiday. I recommend telling it while hiking or on a scenic drive, or with visual aids – shoot, you might try all three. These profound life lessons are extremely boring to children.