VikingDad Pro-Tip #28 (Know Your Surroundings)

When you have a rambunctious toddler, like I do, it’s important to make sure they get some socialization and play time in that doesn’t hurt your wallet too much. Know what local restaurants have ‘Kids Eat Free’ days and what’s around them.

For instance, usually every Tuesday is “Kid’s Eat Free” at our local IKEA.  They also have a wonderful thing called Småland.   It’s where you can drop your kids off for an hour and they get to play with other kids.  There are some requirements, but it’s a great way to go if you want to have a “regular” thing your kids get to do.  After the hour is up, we then usually go upstairs to the cafeteria and he gets to have lunch, for free.  Me, I bring my ‘Free Coffee for Life’ mug and enjoy the atmosphere, get some ideas for household stuff and basically get an hour of Dad time.

There are a bunch of restaurants locally that offer the ‘Kids Eat Free’ thing and usually nearby places for them to have fun (like a park, a playplace, children’s museum, etc…) or really anything that you’re into that you want to share with you child.

If you need help, there’s a wonderful website I’ve discovered called Kid’s Meal Deals.  You can search locally but as anything you find on the internet: trust but verify (i.e. call ahead to make sure before you leave the house).

Good luck fellow berserkers… and Happy New Year!

Pink Shoes

Our son, Benjamin, is a little dynamo of a kid.  At three, his personality is oftentimes bigger than his body.  It’s delightful and frustrating and mesmerizing at once.  He’s a kid of varied interests: robots, planes, princesses, Star Wars, Jake & the Neverland Pirates, baby animals, jewelry, Legos, the colors blue and pink.  He likes to throw himself down, pretending to “die”.  He rough-houses with his father.  His current best imaginary friend is Princess Leia, who more often than not is symbolized by a Lego minfigure he constantly “dresses” with different torsos, feet and hair styles.  She always, however, has one of the two girl heads we have.*

We took Benjamin shoe shopping last month.  As his current pair of sneakers were being held together by the sheer force of his personality, it was time to upgrade.  Thanks to the generosity of others, we hadn’t needed to go shoe shopping for him before.  We hit the local Meijer and headed to the kids’ shoe section.  Upon arrival, Ben immediately pointed out the pink shoes.  He didn’t even look at the others: those were the ones he wanted.

Watching my golden-haired boy, I felt a twist of fear in my gut.  I thought of all the articles I had read over the years about boys being bullied for liking My Little Pony, or for having long hair, or for any number of other ways they might deviate from accepted gender norms.  He’s only three, not even in preschool yet, but I was already preparing myself for the unkindness the world could hurl at a person who is different.  I hated that fear.  We are trying to raise Ben to be free of gender norms, to be himself and to feel free to express himself without fear.  But I couldn’t stop the reluctance inside of me, even as I said, “Okay.”

Stephan agreed.  If his son—who is constantly mistaken for a girl—wants pink shoes, then pink shoes he’ll have.

We were getting ready to go check out, when another pair of shoes caught Ben’s attention.  They are blue and light up.  The first pair, no matter how pink and pretty, couldn’t compare to shoes that light up.  Ben changed his mind.  And I felt relief.  And I felt betrayed by my relief.

Raising Ben (and Charlotte) as we are is a constant learning—and unlearning—process, one we are committed to.  Should Ben want pink shoes the next time, it will be a little easier, I think.  Baby steps.  Or in this case toddler steps.

*That we only have two girl heads (three if you count the Lego McGonagall, which Ben doesn’t) and 3 billion + “boy” heads is pretty damn annoying.

VikingDad – Minecraft Blues #74 – Tools, Lava and Death

The shield-maiden often laughs aloud when our ten-year old daughter and I play Minecraft together on the Xbox 360.  Here is one of the situations that caused one such outburst:

She and I were deep underground, digging around some lava pools (aka Layer 11, where all the goodies are) and her avatar inadvertently fell into one of the lava pools and burned to death before we could get any water on her, though it was not her in-game death that was outburst worthy… it’s what came after.

Now, I should set the scene before I go into much more detail.  We had found a naturally formed cave, had limited tools (as we were burning through them collecting all the goodies) and were a good distance away from our home (which she built, looks awesome but seems to draw mobs like there’s no tomorrow)… a home that is FULL of useful things like wood and tools, by the way.  This will be important later, so remember this.  In any case, we had no crafting table, no wood, no chests, and our inventory bars were pretty full with all sorts of natural resources like Iron ore, gold ore, diamonds, etc.  While we had all that great stuff, we could do nothing with it.  Now, back to the scene:

So we were mining in this cavern, me on one side and her on the other with the cavern floor interspersed with lava pools.  We are playing split screen, so I could, if I had wanted, see what she’s doing and vice versa.  At that time, I was pretty focused on not dropping a ton of gravel on my head and not really paying attention to her side of the screen until I hear her go, “Ouch… oh FUDGE! Help help help…”

I look to her side of the screen just in time to see an immolated Tuxedo Steve (her chosen skin) hop out of the lava pool and continue to jump up and down in the same spot, repeatedly (something I do NOT recommend for someone who is actually on fire).   Inevitably, Tuxedo Steve succumbs to the flames and perishes, the avatar vomiting a plethora of natural resources and stone that had about as much mass as the Sun.

“Get my stuff, get my stuff…” She frantically yelled, even though we were sitting next to one another.

“OK OK…”  I chuckled as I started doing the dance of emptying out the less useful items out of my inventory (and into the lava pool) to make room for the important ones (to her) while NOT falling into the lava pool and suffering a similar fate.  I was successful in both.

A minute or so later a freshly re-spawned Tuxedo Steve is down in the mines as I finished my dumping and gathering.  I toss her the stuff and then ask if she brought anything down with her.

There was a pause.  Remember that thing I told you to remember from earlier?  Yeah, it’s important now.

“Did you bring anything with you?” I asked, hopeful for some wood at least, to build a crafting table and a chest to avoid this setback in the future.

“I brought a shovel…”

“A shovel… A… Ah… A singular shovel.”


“You went all the way back to our house… where all our tools and resources are, and all you brought back with you was a single shovel?”



So, remember kids, when you are mining with a partner and one of you dies, use that opportunity to bring supplies back down into the mine with you.  It will save time and mean you can get more resources so you don’t have to make a separate trip back.

Making it Work: The First Obstacle

Our plan is pretty solid: I sew like a despondent Disney princess.  Then, instead of hitting multiple small conventions throughout the year (as I did before) I only vend at one or two large conventions.  In theory this gives me time to make plenty of stock, and will let us walk out of a convention with a fat stack of cash.  There’s plenty of risk with this plan, though.  It means that our cash flow is severely low for months.  As we are living hand-to-mouth as it is, we don’t have any room for the unexpected.

Which, of course means the unexpected happened last week.  I was working in the workshop when my cutting table collapsed.  It was a slow motion sort of disintegration, like a building that had been dynamited.  I stood next to it torn between laughter and annoyance. Continue reading Making it Work: The First Obstacle

A Christmas present from the Potty Chronicles

It’s Christmas Eve as I write this and for the best effect in visualizing my mood, imagine this post as a victory roar much like the one at the beginning of the movie ‘Gladiator’.

It’s been several months, several frayed nerves, several sighs and several tears since we had started potty training Benvolio, and now, finally, we can say that he is fully potty trained.  I feel like the shield-maiden and I deserve a week on a remote island somewhere with no internet connection and unrestricted access to a substantial library and a fully stocked bar.

Those readers who have gone through this process, I salute you.  This was my first (and last) attempt.  These words are meant to be not only a record of our success, but also a guide to help those who have yet to go through this process.  To those about to sigh(and curse), I salute you.

We started with videos like Potty Time and Potty Pirate (which had more of an effect on him than any of the others).  We purchased him his own smaller potty from IKEA.  We offered rewards and books and hours spent with him in the bathroom.  After a month or two of defeat, we finally started rewarding successful uses with M&M’s.

Success.  Sort of.  He started using it to pee.  It was a victory, though not a complete one. We were happy and as ground-breaking as it was, we knew we still had some distance to travel to get where we are today.

He refused to poop. At least not in the potty.  He would wait until his nap time or bed time pull up.  There were lots of interesting dances and excuses, but never any results.

We offered more chocolate for successes.  Still nothing. Then, one day, out of nowhere…

…Success!  He went on his own.  Huzzah!   We danced, we sang, we were giddy! We thought we were done!  We were… premature.

We stopped using pull-ups at night (Yes, I know, I like to live dangerously).  After the third night in a row of being woken up in the middle of the night to clean up messes and start laundry, we went back to them.

He stopped then, using the potty, except to pee. To the point of holding it for five days.

We got seriously worried at that point and finally consulted our pediatrician.   She suggested two things that, in retrospect, made me think that if we had done it sooner we could have done this victory dance much sooner (if “if’s” and “buts” were crisps and nuts…).

So, for those having issues with their toddler who won’t poop, for those who are getting into potty training for their toddler, I have this wonderful tactic that was recommended to us:

Miralax and Fiber Gummies (NOTE: consult your pediatrician, of course, before doing anything like this, please).  We started with half a dose of both (1/2 capful of Miralax with water and one gummy) with the direction to move to a full dose after a week and then, once we had three straight days of success, taper it back down for another week.  We were told to make sure he drinks plenty of water.

Sounds simple enough… and trust me, it was.  I was expecting results in another month.  Not two days later.

It has now been five days (seven days since we called) straight with him using the potty for both businesses and five nights of no accidents.

We all have leveled up… the shield-maiden and I are booking our flight.

I hope this helps you all with your toddler’s potty problems, or at least, with a little bit of entertainment and laughter.

Embroidered Gift Tags

The thing with being crafty is that you are always looking for new things to try.  You find yourself with a bunch of chipboard from various projects and you found a couple of bin full of embroidery thread you stashed away years ago and you wonder “What the heck am I going to do with all this?”  These days, you can just head to the Internet and find someone, somewhere, who has done something cool with those materials.*  Which led me to the embroidered card tutorial over at Design Sponge.  After I had made a couple, I found myself with lots of leftover chipboard.  Too small for cards, but too large to just chuck.  With the holiday season coming up, I decided to try my hand at making embroidered gift tags.

Continue reading Embroidered Gift Tags

A Day in the Life – VikingDad

This site, this blog, was intended to display our creative outlet for those who are interested in what we do, those that are in similar situations, or just looking for information on those sometimes Herculean obstacles we overcome in our life’s journey.

What would that be without having some insight into who we are and what it is we deal with on a daily basis but words on a page?

To dispel that notion, let me share with you what an average day in the life of VikingDad looks like:

Midnight – I will have been asleep for about an hour or so at this point, so not much going on.  I am a light sleeper, so I wear earplugs.

4:30AM – Generally around this time, Enya, one of our elderly dogs generally wakes up at this time and tries to get us to feed her.  Now, this time is fluid.  It’s sometimes as early as 12:30AM, and rarely ever is it after this time.  Granted, on those days she gets us up before 4:30, it’s due to her ears (she sometimes has infections so they need to be cleaned regularly) and just letting her out and then sleeping with her on the couch until 4:30 does the trick.  The shield-maiden usually takes the bulk of this (thankfully for me) as the couch is just a bit too short for me to stretch out.  Alternatively, I get up and take Enya for a jog at this time, usually two to three times a week. For simplicity sake, let us say that this is not one of those days. So currently I have gone back to bed.

6:00AM – Benvolio wakes up.  This is also fluid. Sometimes it’s as early as 5:00, other times, it’s as late as 7:00, but this is the general time frame.  He then comes looking for me.  We get up and I relieve the shield-maiden from couch duty to let her go back to sleep in an actual bed.   I get moving, feed Trixie, the other elder dog, and then go about getting breakfast ready for both children.  Charlotte is often still asleep at this time (though there are the infrequent mornings she gets up at 4:30 or 5:00 to come out and get some alone time with Minecraft on the Xbox).  For simplicity sake, let us say that this is not one of those days.  I also, at this time, make sure that Charlotte’s lunch for school is packed.  We try to make sure she has at least one veggie and one fruit, doubling up on one or the other to accompany her sandwich.  I am also certain to have prepped the shield-maiden’s caffeine (Wild Strawberry Crystal Light Energy packet).

7:00AM – Breakfast.  Charlotte and Ben and I have breakfast to the sultry sound of Clone Wars on Netflix.   I make sure that they stay on task and not get too enraptured with the television.  I also make sure that Charlotte is ready for school.

8:00AM – Charlotte is off to school, Ben is being occupied and I am organizing my day (and doing some form of calisthenics), taking care of administrative tasks (either doing a rune draw, or filing requisite paperwork, answering email and doing research).

9:00AM – I have woken the shield-maiden up at this time and after making certain we have all eaten and are prepared for our day.  I’ve also usually started the laundry at this time.  Once all the requisites have gotten out of the way (and Ben has proudly proclaimed his successful use of the potty), we check our white board for our tasks for the day and start on them.  This is the start of where one or the other of us get the bulk of our physical work done (sewing craft for the shield-maiden and wood or chain craft for myself).

NOTE: We try to organize our weekly goals and daily tasks in order to achieve them on a whiteboard in our office.  It’s extremely handy.  The key to remember is to schedule the beginning heavy and the end light… and to be forgiving of yourself since things come up that limit what you can do in a day and if something needs to be pushed off until tomorrow, that’s OK.

12:30PM – By this time, one or the other of us have been on point with Benvolio so that the other can get work done, or he’s been able to entertain himself for a bit while we both collaborate on a task for a few minutes. I then go and prep lunch.  More often than not, it’s for the three of us, but occasionally there are scheduling things that mean it’s just for Ben and me. For simplicity sake, let us say that this is not one of those days.

1:00PM – LUNCH!!!! Not as exciting as I make it sound, but it usually takes forty-five minutes from start to finish for Ben to complete the entirety of his lunch.

2:00PM – QUIET TIME!!!!!!! OK, the theory of this is REALLY exciting for us parents.  Since Ben doesn’t nap any longer, he understands that this is his quiet time. Usually it means playing on his leapster, or getting to watch a movie or something, but that this is the time when (since one or the other of us have played with him for the better part of the morning) he entertains himself.  This is better in theory than in practice, however.  One or the other of us is working in the family room with him, so we’re in proximity while he does so.

4:00PM – RELEASE THE BENVOLIO!!!! Benvolio, who has been entertaining himself for the better part of this time is (usually quite literally) screaming for human interaction.  Charlotte is now home from school and she gets to work on her chores (emptying the dishwasher and her lunchbox) and then homework, after a short snack for her and Ben.  I then take point on Benvolio and the shield-maiden hits the workshop if she’s not there already.

5:00PM – Feed the hounds.

6:00PM – The shield-maiden then generally gets dinner started (NOTE: we’ve also got a whiteboard in the kitchen with dinner plans and grocery lists… yup, another whiteboard… sensing a theme?).  This time is also a bit fluid.  At this point, if Charlotte is done with her homework, she and Benvolio get some Xbox time together.  This gives me a bit of time to also catch up on email, social media posts, etc…

7:00PM – DINNER!!!!! We have a dinner together where we talk about our day.

7:30PM – Bath/Bedtime for the Benvolio.  I would normally put this in all caps, because really, it’s an exciting time, but I’m usually too exhausted by this point to be really excited about much.

8:00PM – Charlotte gets about half an hour or so of alone time on the Xbox.

9:00PM – PARENTAL FREE TIME!!!! I have regained a tad bit of energy and now am able to be excited about sitting down with the shield-maiden, having a glass of red wine and either working on collaborative projects or simply enjoying an episode of something on Netflix.

10:30PM – BEDTIME!!!! I try to be in bed at this time, but usually it’s more towards 11.

There you have it… a day in the life of VikingDad!

Honey-Citrus Granola

We get a lot of our groceries from Costco.  It saves money, but it means that we end up with things like 10 lb bags of rolled oats.  And there is only so much oatmeal you can eat.  After a round of oatmeal Craisin cookies or banana oatmeal bread, you still have five pounds of rolled oats staring at you.  Let me tell you, the Quaker Oats guy can give a mean stink-eye after a while.

And so I’ve been making granola on a semi-regular basis*.  The other night I pulled out my current favorite recipe from Mother Nature Network.  Unfortunately, I was short several ingredients: no nuts, limited cinnamon, and limited vanilla extract.  I excavated a bottle of orange extract from the back of the cupboard and found lemons and limes in the fridge from a recent grocery trip.  Add in the rather large jar of ground nutmeg and and idea formed: Citrus Granola.  That sounded breakfast-y!  Time for an experiment.  Below is the recipe I used.  The result was a granola with a very distinct citrus-flavor.  I have enough orange extract left that I will most likely make it again.

If you decide to make it, let me know how it turned out for you.

Continue reading Honey-Citrus Granola