One of my absolute favorite things to do with my family is play board games. Im not sure when or how I was introduced to board games, but I love them. There is something so exciting about sitting around with my kids and introducing them to a game that they want to come back to over and over again. I love hearing, “awww…just one more game daddy?”
I know I’ve got them hooked.
My wife and I have more board games than we can count. I’m not sure how this became the go to gift for us, but it has. Every birthday or Christmas someone gets us a new one. We don’t mind it, but storage is not as readily available for these rectangular friends as it used to be. We still figure out a spot for them and keep on playing.
We first introduced our oldest, Claire, to board games at the age of two. Having her mommas brain allowed the kiddo to pick up rules pretty quickly. We have a Disney version of Shoots and Ladders that she got the hang off right away. As the years have gone by we have evolved to more complicated games that require strategy. Some of these games are pretty complex (for example, Settlers of Catan) however it all depends on your kid. We know Claire can handle complexity so we introduce her to more complex games. Cecilia is not quite there but she picks up on the excitement in the air and “plays” with mommy or I.
Playing board games have many advantages. Here are my top five reasons why you should play board games with your family.
1.) Strategy: Board games require you to use your brain. Strategy is something that even the most basic of games require and this can only occur by thinking. I love seeing my daughters rethink their strategy because the plan they thought was going to work is now not a possibility. This fires up those synapses and the the brain tries to figure out a new solution. Your kids learn via board games to think in a way that most classroom activities cannot teach.
2.) Winning and Losing: Personally I think we are living in a candy-ass culture that is absolutely out of touch with reality—especially when it comes to what is “fair”. Young people and grown adults pout over not getting “what they deserve”. Board games have clear winners and losers. This is very important. I love seeing my daughters confidence grow when she wins. I also love it when she loses. I love it because it gives my daughter the opportunity to grow in virtue, temperance and just being a good person all around. Letting our children learn from their loses is one of the best things we can help them with. Board games create a simple environment that can teach winning an losing. I think this is really important. If your kid doesn’t win a race or soccer game there are some real emotions attached to that. Personally, I believe that playing board games preps our children in an objective way that helps them to deal with their emotions and ultimately come to grips with the reality that sometimes you win some, and sometimes you don’t.
3.) Being patient: Daddy really struggles with this one. I have a very strategic mind which means I calculate moves two to three steps ahead. My wife takes forever, which leads me to say unhelpful things such as: “are you still playing?” “Do you need an assist?” “Hey, we want to put the kids down to bed before midnight”. My daughter Claire will usually respond with, “Daddy, be patient.” Claire has some of her daddy’s genes because she gets very excited especially when she sees that the next move could bring about a win. She will often times go out of turn and celebrate victory a little too soon. We have to remind her that it wasn’t her turn and this frustrates her. Daddy usually responds with, “Claire, be patient.”
4.) Quality Time: I know there are lots of ways of creating amazing moments for quality time. For us playing board games is one of those ways. When ever we finish playing a game there is this sense of bonding that has occurred. We immediately begin talking about that awesome move someone made, or how close so and so was to winning. There is a real satisfaction that comes about from playing board games. It is palpable and you know it has filled up your family’s quality time tank.
5.) It is fun: Yup, this is probably the top reason why you should play board games. They are just plain ole fun!
To close out this post I wanted to share some of our families favorite games. We definitely have some individual and family favorites. These are a lll games we play with as a family. Claire is now 6 and can handle all of these. As mentioned before, Cecilia (2 years old) “plays with mommy and daddy”. Cecilia doesn’t quite have the capacity that her older sister had at two years old. It is what it is, but Cecilia can spin things, roll the dice and move pieces.
Here’s a list of our favorite games to play as a family:
Two months ago I left my job in Youth Ministry. All of my adult life I have worked in ministry. I am part of a very small group of people that will ever be able to say that. A ministry job is unique in many ways. There is the typical workload, worries and “gotta get it done” activities that all jobs have. However, there is this deep human element that quite literally touches the soul. There is a level of intimacy that is built with people that goes so much deeper and farther. I really loved it.
So why did I leave you ask? Two reasons: 1) God said so. 2) I hit a financial ceiling.
As I referenced in my last post we’ve been doing lots of discerning in our household. The jobbie job discernment started about two years ago. Ministry was going great! My assistant had completed a full year and wanted to stay (thank God!). She is a go-getter and because of her, we were able to expand our ministry in a new way. All of our programs were doing well, families were happy and students were growing in their faith—all things that a Youth Minister hopes for.
One day I found myself hearing God say, “It’s time to move on.” Now, this wasn’t an audible voice. It was more of an interior thing. I wont go into too much detail here, but being someone who seeks to do Gods will you start to understand how God speaks to you. God definitely speaks to all of us. Unfortunately, many of us don’t pay enough attention to recognize the way He is communicating. I have not been perfect at this, but once I recognized howGod spoke to me it became very easy to recognize whenHe spoke. I’ll write more about this some other time. For the sake of this story, God spoke and in typical biblical fashion, I responded with, “no, Lord! You must be mistaken.”
Everything was going so well. Why would it be, “time to move on”? Again in typical biblical fashion, I ignored the voice of God and continued to do what I thought right. **Note this never ends well. **As the weeks went by I continued to get this sense from God that it was time to move on. Finally, I stopped fighting Him and began a discernment process. Discernment has many elements to it, but for the most part, it’s a consistent process. Here is one of my favorite sites that show you a step-by-step process for discerning.
Once I began discerning it was very clear that God was right—it was time to move on. Part of it was God telling me that I had done all that I could do. This was incredibly humbling. Essentially, I had taken this program as far as I could. I was blessed to see this and accept it. Sure, I could have ignored it and continued in ministry. I am sure there would have been some continued success. However, when God says its over its over. There are so many examples in history of what happens when a person refuses to listen to God. Essentially, God stops blessing that person and their ministry suffer because of it. I love my church and our youth program too much to let that happen. So this is reason #1 for leaving ministry.
Reason #2 was financial. For me ,it has never been about the money. However, when you have a family it is about money. My pastor paid me very well—I know for a fact that I was one of the highest paid Youth Ministers in my region. However, I had hit a financial ceiling. My salary was not going to get any higher beyond a cost of living increase. This was not due to my church being cheap. The reality is that most Catholics don’t tithe (give money to the church). They are the cheap ones. This lack of giving severely limits what a Pastor can do financially. Even though our parish is super amazing and generous there is a certain amount of money available. The other thing to keep in mind is that all professions have a financial ceiling. I hit mine.
As our family continues to grow and new needs arise (not of the vacation home, or yacht kind)we require more money. My wife works part time and we want that to shrink to ¼ time. That means I need to make more money and you can’t do that if you cant go any further financially.
Recognizing that I was called to leave ministry was part one of the discernment. The second part was figuring out what I was called to. That also took some serious discernment. My skill set was uniquely used in ministry. As I began to discover what my skill set translated into in the secular world the title, “Program Manager” kept popping up. So I looked into that and recognized that it synced up with what I did in ministry. Currently, I am not working as a Program Manager but that’s my goal.
I eventually got a job that I never thought I would do—which is the same thing I said about youth ministry. There is lots of room for growth both financially and intellectually. I am really enjoying it and I love the mission that I serve. Switching careers is always a challenge. I am excited to see where the road will take our family, but for now, I want the next couple of months to be a little more predictable and a lot less chaotic.
Daddy needs to chill out a bit.
The last few months have been filled with tons of discernment, choices, and changes. Our family has been moving at the speed of light, or at least it seems that way. Claire is now going to first grade and Cecilia turned two.
This past year Claire was having an amazing time at a small (3 student) Montessori school based in a private 20-acre farmhouse. The teacher has over 30 years of teaching experience and is an incredible and Godly woman. Claire fell in love with the place and in a short year had learned to read, write, and do pretty complex math for a 6-year-old. Claire picked up a plethora of other advanced learning like anatomy, science, rhetoric, and logic. I’m not sure if the logic stuck. Unfortunately, her teacher had some health complications and ended the school year early. The real kicker came when she told us she would no longer be able to do full-time school. We were crushed. Claire cried a lot.
In Claire’s 6 short years of life, she had switched school three times. She was not pleased.
After lots of praying, research and back and forth we narrowed our school search to two. One school was right at our price point and the second was not going to happen money wise, but we still wanted to check it out. We visited both schools. The more expensive choice was a Montessori school. If you don’t know about Montessori schools they are pretty amazing. Check them out here.
We applied to both schools and asked for much needed financial aid. We expected the Montessori school to call and ask if the amount we wrote down was a joke. Actually, we were so convinced that we were not going to be able to send Claire there that we submitted all the paperwork for the other school we first visited. After a few days, we heard back from the Montessori school and they accepted our proposal for financial aid.
I was stunned.
I asked my wife if she had written the numbers right. We called and clarified. We spoke really slowly, and loudly to make sure there was no misunderstanding. The secretary confirmed that they had accepted our amount. I literally placed my hand behind my back to catch myself as I sat down on the couch. I could not believe it. The school has a barter system built into it, so the school uses the skill set of the parents to get school business done. The landscape business owner cuts grass and weeds and gets a discounted rate. Part of the application asked what skill sets we had. I imagine my wife will get a chance to use her nurse powers and I’ll do something as well.
We are pretty pumped about this school and so is Claire. Since Montessori learning is very hands-on and has specific physical elements they use for teaching students, Claire was really excited to see that most of those elements were present in the new school. We are excited to know that since this school goes all the way to high school level Claire may not need to ever switch schools again. Mom and Dad just need to keep increasing their incomes to make that happen, which will lead to our next post. Stay tuned.
A few weeks ago we had to put down our lovable dog Rocky. We had Rocky for 8 years. He was a great dog.
Rocky started losing weight pretty rapidly. Our first visit to the vet revealed that he was having heart issues. I took Rocky home and began a wet food diet to get him to eat, which worked. After a few days, he started to swell up like a balloon. His sides were huge. Apparently, this is due to the heart not working properly and causing certain liquids to not leave the body.
My wife and I knew that Rocky was nearing his end and so we started talking to Claire about it. Claire, I believe, has a certain understanding about death. I don’t think she fully grasps the totality of it, but she knows its a going away of sorts. We had several conversations with Claire to prepare her for the inevitable. Claire seemed to get it. There were a few moments of sadness and one time where she cried a little.
I took Rocky to the SPCA for one last checkup and the vet confirmed it was time. Rocky would not get better and the combination of his age and condition did not justify the cost of treatment that would give us a few more months with him. I scheduled Rocky’s appointment to euthanize him and went home. It was one of those weird moments that you never expect to have to do. “What time is best to kill your dog?” “Hows Tuesday?”—It was weird.
When I got home I told my wife the news and she was very upset. Jess has grown up with animals all her life so losing one has always been difficult. We spoke with Claire and told her that she had a few more days with Rocky and then she would not see him again. I’m not really sure what went through Claire’s head, but you could tell there were conflicting ideas. In some sense, she wanted to spend time with Rocky, but she also wanted to go and play—her normal thing. On the last day, we had Rocky, Claire had to go to school so I had her go say goodbye to him. Claire hugged Rocky and gave him one final treat. Then we went to school. Claire wasn’t upset at all.
After dropping Claire off at school I took Rocky to the SPCA. For the most part, I was fine, but once I walked into the room and we laid him on the tabletop where they would administer the meds I got choked up. The vet was really great about explaining everything and making sure I was ok with every step. The vet asked me if I wanted a few minutes with Rocky and I said, “no I’m ready.” I placed my hand on Rocky’s head and stroked it. “He’s in a better place now”, said the vet as he checked for a heartbeat.
It was over.
I left the SPCA sad, but once I got into the car I realized this was necessary. Rocky had been miserable the last few days. I went home trying to guess how Claire would react once she got home and didn’t see Rocky there. Would she cry? Be angry? Possible responses to her questions ran through my mind.
I picked Claire up from school and told her Rocky was gone. Claire was sad but she was ok. Surprisingly, Claire was totally fine as the days went by. I figured Claire would be ok after a while, but I never expected it to be this fast. My wife and I were definitely more emotional than Claire. As we prepared for the inevitable loss of Rocky in our mind all we kept thinking about was Claire and here she was moving on with ease. I am always amazed at how resilient kids are. Thank God for that.
Today was a normal day. My wife and I woke up and got the kids ready. We prayed. Breakfast was made. Diapers were changed. As I sat on the couch killing a few minutes before we had to leave it struck me. I’m not really sure how it happened but today my eldest began kindergarten. I stood up and knew I wanted to capture the moment. I found a piece of paper and threw together a homemade sign announcing the news. A picture was taken and I am now feeling like time is slipping by.
I’m not one of those fathers that don’t spend time with his kids. I pride myself in giving a lot of my time to my kids. Yet, no matter how much I give of myself to my girls they are still growing up so fast. It seems like just yesterday I brought my firstborn home. How can she already be in kindergarten? Cecilia my youngest is walking and doesn’t want to be rocked to sleep anymore. We use to rock Cecilia to sleep all the time and now she pushes away to lay down and fall asleep on her own.
I see the transformation in these girls moment by moment. Every day I encounter my girls and relish in their new gained knowledge, discoveries, and wonder. I am always amazed at how much they can do. Claire played her very first game of Settlers of Catan yesterday. She tied with me for first place. Anyone that has ever played this game knows that nobody wins their first time. Cecilia can do sign language when she wants more food. She can sign for milk and water. Amazing. I can barely speak English most days.
I recognize that a milestone like entering primary school is a big deal for most. Maybe that’s why there is this nostalgic feeling of “where did my little ones go?” I don’t want time to freeze so that my girls stay little. I want them to reach their full potential as God intended it. However, I wish there was a way to hold on to these younger years a little longer. Hold on to them and rest in them.
On days like this, I thank God for the gift of my girls, my wife, and the blessing that they are. Praise the Lord for life, for children, for growth. There are definitely some bittersweet moments with these gals. I love seeing them small, but I also wish they could wipe their own behinds. I love listening to Claire talk about all the cool things going on with her, but sometimes I wish she would just pause and not say anything for a few minutes.
It is all gift friends. Gift.
The wiping of butts. Gift. The ongoing nagging and whining. Gift. The having to go into the bedroom one more time because there might be a monster. Gift.
I hope that I can be aware of the giftedness I have been given. All of the time.
Well, as I began to look at an average day I recognized that there was much interaction with each of my girls, but I could not really call it quality time. On the way to school, we may chat about random stuff, or depending on Claire’s mood sit quietly the whole way there. We always eat dinner together, but between one kid breaking down because they are tired, and the other declaring they don’t like our food it certainly doesn’t feel like quality time.
I realized very quickly that on an average day I am not really spending much quality time with my kids. It was a really depressing realization. I Googled this “15 minutes a day” thing and sure enough its a thing. I’m not gonna lie it feels cheap. 15 minutes of quality time in a whole day and that’s going to make a difference? Well, the reality is that it does work. Here’s what I’ve learned from putting this into practice:
Any parent worth their weight in diapers isn’t going to limit their interaction with their child to just 15 minutes a day. This is the minimum time we should have with our kids. It sounds pathetic since the average amount of time browsing Facebook in the US is 40 minutes a day. What I have found is that the 15-minute rule is a minimum that helps me to be intentional about making sure I spend quality time with my kids. I aim to spend more quality time with them but at the very least each kid will get 15 minutes a day.
One of the problems we have in our society is the inability to slow down. We are always running a million miles an hour. This is especially difficult when you are commuting, or living in a city that instigates never slowing down. I find that the 15-minute rule helps me slow down and recognize that I need to be present to my girls and that these 15 minutes must not be rushed through. When I am intentional about slowing down I am able to recognize how important this time is for my girls but also for myself.
There are so many things in my life that have “top shelf” priority. It really is ridiculous. Spending time with my girls (my wife included) is, and should always be top shelf. The reality, however, is that some days I get home and just want to check out. The 15-minute rule is helping me to recognize that my little beauties are one of the main reason why I exist. My life has to be ordered so that they get quality time no matter how hectic the day is.
We all need accountability. Better yet, we need accountability that is accessible, and practical. The 15-minute rule keeps me in check so that I am the father I need to be. If I come home and its almost bedtime my mind knows that I need to give my gals their quality time. This accountability for me is amazing.
At the end of the day, the 15-minute rule is a tool to help us be intentional. You might not need this tool because you are always spending quality time with your kids. Maybe you have a different type of tool that keeps you on track. Regardless of whether you use this rule or another, spending quality time with each of your kids is key and something all fathers need to make a priority.
I am so sad that the US didn’t make it to the World Cup. There is so much I could say about this but at least one out of my two teams is playing.
As I watched the Argentina vs Iceland game my daughter stared at me in wonder. I can picture the thoughts going through her head:
– Why is papi jumping up and down?
– He is suddenly speaking a lot of Spanish. Huh?
– He just punched the couch pillow. Thats weird.
I tried getting Claire to sit and watch the game with me. “Baby this is an awesome time of the year!” Claire just looked at me as if I were crazy and responds with, “But I wanna watch Paw Patrol”. I shake my head in disappointment and sit her next to me as Iceland attempts to score. I jump off the couch in shock. Claire gets accidentally pushed off the couch and watches me as I yell, “NO!” Claire asks whats wrong. I turn to her and tell her that Iceland has scored and it is now a tied game. “You don’t yell like that at my game, papi.”…Awkward moment.
My hope is that Argentina will go to the finals again. Now that Claire is 5 years old she can really get to see the beauty of the game and enjoy this with me. My plan is to offer her lots of snacks during the games, a little juice and maybe just maybe she will sit through a whole game with me and enjoy herself.
Hopefully I wont knock her off the couch again.
I’m not really sure how it happened. One day Claire was born and now she’s on the verge of turning 5 years old. Time didn’t zoom by, it just happened and here we are.
The last few months have been pretty amazing. Claire started at a Catholic Montessori school where she is learning at a rapid pace. There’s a good chance she will be smarter than me by next week. We chose to send her there instead of the parochial school attached to the parish because we are big fans of the Montessori model as well as the small student to teacher ratio (she is one of three). Claire has her momma’s brain and is learning so much. At some point Claire and I went from having one word conversations to now going back and forth regarding what animals are vertebrates. Again, time didn’t zoom by and bring us to this place. It just happened and here we are.
Last week Claire came home and said she had a loose tooth. I thought to myself, “umm…did you get into a fist fight? You’re too young to be loosing your teeth.” Claire’s first tooth has come out and I am once again standing in awe at the reality that this little girl isn’t so little anymore. There is sadness in some ways. My first born whom I held and took naps with is now this tall, spunky kid who can pour her own milk, and make herself a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Now, don’t get me wrong I like not having to make breakfast, but dang…
The sadness I am experiencing is a bittersweet kind of thing. Yes, my little girl isn’t so little, and that piece is fading away. However, this new little girl is bringing into life all kinds of beautiful experiences and memories that I cant help falling in love with her all over again. It is quite the thing to have your child grow up.
Cecilia, our second daughter is almost 10 months old. Our experience with Cecilia has been very different. We got all the new baby stuff down from our first born, and we are enjoying Cecilia more than we did Claire. I guess that when we had our first-born there was so much newness to the experience that we were hyper vigilant about everything. Now, with Cecilia, we are calmer and able to experience her with that knowledge we got from our time with Claire. However, I am in awe that 10 months have gone by. Cecilia is crawling and interacting with her amazing little personality. It is definitely awesome.
Again, time didn’t zoom by, it just happened and here we are.
In between all of the above, and switching out car seats for both kids (another wow moment) I am glad that I can pause and be grateful for all the experiences I have with these kids. My wife and I try our best to make sure we savor the moments we have with them. Time isn’t zooming by for us because we are trying as best as we can to live in the moment with these kids. Yet, no matter how intentional we are about our time with the girls we still have these moments where we recognize that they are older, taller, smarter, etc. It just happens and we look at ourselves wondering how?
But here we are. And we love every moment of it.
It was a typical Friday afternoon. I was running around with the girls getting groceries. Claire was hungry so we stopped at the Costco eatery and grabbed a slice of pizza, and a hot dog. I was tired from running around and Cecilia (#2) was in need of a bottle. We sat on the white plastic picnic table and I said, “Lets pray.” We made the sign of the cross, and asked God to bless our food. We crossed ourselves once again and Claire proceeded to devour her hotdog. Cecilia pounded her 4 ounces of milk like it was going out of style. I had a bottle in one hand, and a pie slice in the other.
As I awkwardly fed my daughter and myself I noticed an elderly man looking over at us. I figured I looked like a big dumb animal with the way I was handling the pizza and baby bottle—it must’ve been entertaining for those around. The man finished his pizza slice and I continued to feed the kiddos. Claire was talking about some book with a dinosaur and a shrinking machine. Cecilia was yelling at me in baby jibber jabber—I think she wanted my pizza.
We were almost finished when the elderly man came up to us. I was bracing myself to hear some lame, “dad’s on his own” joke. The man stopped, and looked at me with a smile and said, “thank you for praying with your children.” I responded with a simple, “your welcome.” The elderly man began to tear up. He tried to speak again, but choked up. Finally, he was able to let out, “you have no idea how important this is.” He smiled a simple smile, and walked off. I could tell that he had not expected to get so emotional.
I paused and looked around the Costco eatery. There was a bunch of people there. Families, elderly couples, single men and women. For an instant I wondered what was going on in all of their lives. Were they ok? Were they happy? Suffering? I caught a last glimpse of the elderly man as he walked out of the store. I wondered if he had lost a child. Maybe.
I’m not really sure what was going on in that mans heart and mind, but I do know that the simple act of praying with my daughters for 30 seconds was enough to powerfully impact his day. You just never know what simple gesture, word, or action can be a blessing in someone’s life.
A few months ago I was really struggling with anger and patience. There had been a lot of changes in our family routine. I am a creature of habit and so too much change at once without some kind of normalcy is not good for me. The anger and lack of patience was mostly unleashed on my four year old. I was really hard on her and it culminated one day after mass where Claire was being particularly difficult. It was a Saturday night after 7pm and Claire was tired and hungry, which led to her bad behavior. I was so angry after mass that I grabbed Claire before leaving the cry room, slapped her bottom and shook her as I yelled. Claire immediately started crying and my wife almost unleashed her second-degree-Shotokan-Karate-black-belt-skills on me.
We went home, and I was angry—more with myself then anything else. My wife was pissed off and my daughter was upset that the man she looks to as a source of love and protection had just mistreated her. Needless to say it was a low point for me. My wife took Claire upstairs and put her to bed after calming her down. I sat on the couch with tears in my eyes.
My wife and I talked (no Karate involved). We decided that I needed to go and speak to a counselor. This had been something that I had been considering for a few months, but for a number of reasons I kept pushing it off. I got an appointment pretty quickly and saw my counselor for about 4 months straight (once a month).
It was great.
I know there is a lot of taboo regarding counselors and psychiatrists. As a Hispanic man I have always heard people shun mental health professionals in my culture. “People will think you are crazy”, is one of the many things I heard growing up. The reality is that if I hadn’t gone to a counselor I probably would have erupted again, and gone crazy.
Counseling was great for me. It was like going into the mechanic and getting regular maintenance done on the car. Some of the fluids needed to be topped off, a few alignments were made here and there, and I was back on the road. There was no discomfort or frustration. The counselor heard what I had to say and he made some recommendations. I applied the said recommendations and things got better. I still struggle here and there, but there is a huge difference between then and now.
There are lots of men—particularly fathers—that could benefit from seeing a counselor. There is nothing worse than going to the mechanic and hearing that if I would have brought the car in months ago for regular maintenance I could have avoided the catastrophic damage that I now have on my hands.
So maybe you think counselors are for the weak, yuppies, or stupid people. Regardless of the possible bias you may have, the potential benefits of seeing a counselor vastly outweigh those biases. Our families need strong men that can lead, love and serve them mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. So be a man and go in for some maintenance.