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    Over the past year or so we've had the opportunity to watch our niece Sparrow once a week.  She was only a few months old when we began. It has been fun seeing her grow and learn to do things like walk, talk, and eat on her own.  It has also been rewarding for me, as a dad, to see our boys play with her and take on some of the responsibilies of caring for her.  

    The other day when she was here, she started crying a little after waking from a nap; and the boys rushed into the room to cuddle her.  She actually stopped crying right when she saw them, so I just grabbed the camera and snapped a couple pictures to remember the moment.  It's one of those stories I look forward to reminding them of in the future when they are all grown up.  

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    My wife is incredibly creative and talented when it comes to decorating for birthday parties. As a result, our boys have had some pretty amazing themed parties through the years. Recently, we've tried to temper the birthday celebrations, a bit, as we realized it was becoming a topic the boys talked about incessantly; even when their birthdays were months away. While we want to celebrate and commemorate that special day, we want to help foster grattitude as well; and we don't want "the next party" or "the next thing they want" to be all they talk about day in and day out.

    That being said, we still desire to create fun, memorable moments with them, so we agreed that on cetain "milestone" years, the boys would be able to have a party and choose a theme for it. This past week our little man Kai turned 5 (which we deemed one of these milestone years), and chose to have a Jurassic World party. I was pretty impressed with the ideas Danielle came up with to turn our spot into a prehistoric party pad, so I thought I'd share them on here in case any of you get Jurassic World party requests from your little ones in the near future.

    These trunks, cases, and fabrics were things we already had around the house because Danielle loves decorating, but most of them were purchased from thrift shops. When you have a theme in mind, you'd be surprised what you can find for cheap with a little digging. 

    I'm not a major sweets guy, but these cupcakes were ridiculous! (Link to recipe here) The little dinos came in packs at the Dollar Store and the Jurrasic World rings were from Ebay. The kids loved that they had little toys to take home with them after they were done eating.

    We put all our dinosaur toys out for everyone to play with in one room. The boys have been dino fans for a while so we've accumulated quite the collection through the years, but again, they can be found for great deals at thrift shops or garage sales.

    These orange Jello cubes were meant to look like amber with raisins inside as the dinosaur DNA

    We hung a few of our favorite photos of Kai through the years...can't seem to get over how quickly they grow.

    The menu was simple; finger foods like french fries, dino nuggets, chips, and the amber Jello. Not the most healthy options, I know, but you have to break the rules a little bit at parties, right? And there were some fruits and veggies too.

    The party ended up being "the present" from us - though we did help Aiden get a small gift for his brother - but family and friends were kind enough to bring gifts too, and he was clearly excited about these Jurassic World hero mashers.  

    In the end, we were all grateful for the fun memories we got to make that day, and the time spent together with friends and family.  

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    This summer has been pretty amazing in terms of weather here in the Pacific Northwest. I've lived in this area my whole life and I don't think I remember a summer that had as many 90-plus degree days as we've had this year. I'm not complaining though. I love summer and I'll take as much as I can get.

    The boys have really enjoyed it too. One of their favorite activities has been playing in the pool. We stayed at my parent's house for a couple weeks while we were waiting for everything to close on our new place; and the boys went in the inflatible pool they have there practically everyday. They looked like they were having so much fun, I had to jump in there with them a few times! I'm about 6 feet 3 inches tall, so the water only went up to about mid-shin for me, but Aiden and Kai kept telling me I had to get "all the way in" the water so I had to lay down with my belly flat against the bottom of the pool in order to satisfy their request. I have to admit I wasn't really into it at first, but after I saw how much they loved having me get down at their level I remembered how fun it is to have an adult, especially your dad, play with you in terms that you initiated. I never want to be too cool to remember how fun it is to be a kid, or too disconnected to get down on the boys level and share those special moments with them. I don't get it right all the time, but I'm grateful for their persistence that always helps bring me back.

    Once we got to our new place we set up our own little pool in the backyard (Don't judge the lawn, we just moved in and it needs some work :) . These photos are from the boys innagural dip in it. I stayed on the side and took some pictures with my phone this time, but I'm sure it won't be long before I'm figuring out how to cram myself "all the way in" this one too.

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    If you follow me on Instagram or any of my other social media platforms you may have seen me sharing that we recently moved into a new home.  Finally getting into a place of our own was big for us because we've moved 4 times in the past 3 years.  Through all the moving, we've learned that home is wherever we are together, but it will be nice to have a specific place to go along with the sense of home we've been able to build.  

    The process of purchasing this house was pretty crazy, and I'm working on a way to share more of that story on here very soon. In the meantime these are a few candid shots just after waking up on our first morning in the new place.

      

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    Now that school is out for the summer the boys are excited about playing all day, staying up late, going on camping trips, and all the other fun memories that come with the season.  While we definitely plan on indulging in all those "fun" things, we want to make sure we dedicate some time to learning as well. Our hope is that we can instill the mindset that learning and self improvement can be just as fun as everything else they get to do in the summer.

    We got some great help from Aiden's teacher, who provided a packet of Math Games and worksheets, as well as some fun activity books that help them work on their writing skills.  What the boys are most excited about though is the Summer Reading Club put on by the Tacoma Public Library.  

    As members of the Summer Reading Club, the boys log each book they read (or we read to them) in their online profile.  At the end of the week they are eligible to win prizes like tickets to baseball games, the Washington State Fair, Northwest Trek, and other fun local activities.  For each 10 books they read their name is entered into a drawing to win a new tablet.  There is also a party at the zoo, near the end of Summer, for everyone who participated.  

    The other day, we went and checked out several new books and then headed over to one of our favorite local parks to read and play together.  We got some good reading in, and we had a great time together as a family as well.  We're all definitely looking forward to more fun reading outings like this in the weeks to come.

  • In honor of Father's Day, Tacoma Podcast series Destiny & Grit put together a feature called Dad's Are Awesome. I had the privilege of sharing about some of my experiences as a dad as well as some things I learned from fellow dads, Nick Laparra and Galvin Milloy when I interviewed them for my 'Im A Dad' series. Thanks to Whitney Henry-Lester for putting this together. She has tons of other great stories about Tacoma on her site as well, so make sure to give those a listen too.

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    Mom was sick today and just wanted to get some rest so the boys and I decided to take a walk around town.  We didn't really have a plan, but the boys always love looking at the murals and various Spaceworks sponsored storefront art installations.  So we grabbed some Freeze Pops at the corner store and hit the streets for our own little art walk. 

    Aiden says the guys on this wall remind him of the Egyptian hieroglyphics but kind of like a minion version of them.  

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    It had been about four years since Aiden had a haircut.  Part of it was because we loved the curls so much and didn't want to let them go; but I think he was also a little afraid of cutting it, so he always said he wanted to keep it long too.  The daily grind of trying to maintain long curly hair finally got to him though; and apparently, some kids at school were teasing him about looking like a girl, so he told mom he was ready for a change.  

    We talked about the way kids tease each other and how it was going to happen no matter what.  I told him even if he cuts his hair some kids will still find something to tease him about, so he has to just learn to be confident in who he is and not let other's opinions determine how he sees himself.  He still wanted to cut it though, so Danielle, who happens to be a DIY Jedi, watched a few YouTube videos, grabbed the clippers, scissors and a spray bottle, and went to work.  Aiden was definitely pleased with the outcome and was excited to show off his new do.  

    As we walked home today, he told me he did get some compliments, but several kids still made fun of him.  This time they said he was trying to look like another kid in class; and some pointed out a tiny bald spot in the back of his head which he's had since birth.  It was so hard to see how disappointed he was.  A big part of me just wanted to go beat those kids up and tell them to leave my son alone. I also thought about helping him come up with some insults he could throw out at each one of the kids teasing him, but I figured neither of those were really great options in the long run.  I did tell him some stories about how I got teased for having to wear glasses and an eye patch when I was younger, and how some kids made fun of me for being so much taller than everyone else.  I was able to relate an understanding of how much it hurt to be made fun of, and I think it helped him to know that Dad had been through that too.  We talked about the process of learning to be happy with who you are regardless of what other people say.  I told him its something I'm still learning to do too, and we decided we'd make it somethng we could both continue working on together.  

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    These are the tickets from the first Sonics game my dad took me to back in 1990.  For a ten-year-old kid who spent hours in the driveway each day pretending he was an All-Star forward for the hometown team, going to a real game was a dream come true.  

    When we walked in to the Coliseum, an attendant handed me a media guide with coach K.C. Jones on the cover.  Inside were biographies about each player.  I immediately looked up my favorite player; the X-Man, Xavier McDaniel.  That guy played with so much passion an energy.  Other teams fans probably hated him, but if he was on your side, you couldn't help but love the guy.  

    I remember sitting on the metal bench seats packed in tight with all the other fans.  Bonds were built instantly with strangers as we high fived when Dale Ellis 3 pointers and shouted "Bull Sh*t....Bull Sh*t...Bull Sh*t" in unison when the refs made a bad call.  That cracked me up because I wasn't really allowed to swear, but my dad was joining in, so I did too. 

    To be honest, I can't recall whether or not we won the game, but the whole experience was something I never wanted to forget.  I guess holding on to these tickets was one way for me to help make sure I didn't.  

    Unfortunately we lost the Sonics back in 2008 and haven't been able to get a team back in town since.  Im hoping one day we do so my dad and I can share another first Sonics game experience with my boys too.