Sunday, May 31, 2009

My kid, the rock star!

Our munchkin has been munchin a lot lately. Apparently teeth accelerate the food consumption process.

Anyway, Nate's at the age now where (most) everything is really cute. Sans the incessant groan/grunt/whine/gutteral moan-scream to get attention; he's quite the entertainer.

He waves at everyone. Even grumpy old coots at Wal-Mart simply cannot resist the Nate-wave. I never noticed how much people scowl until I started watching the reactions to Nate's greeting - ignore it, ignore it, for heaven's sakes that kid won't stop waving....a crack of a smile....the obligatory wave-back. To see the change caused just by one little tyke's wave is amazing!

Not to mention when he starts blowing kisses....grown men are standing in line, clutching their Marlboros (no filter), 10-gallon hats on, Kodiak cud and Harley Davidson chaps waiting to pay for their fuel fill up at the gas station when all of sudden Nate puckers up and tosses an air kiss. Suddenly Mr. Scar Face-Terminator-Rambo-Tough Guy is speaking baby babble catching air kisses and blowing them back.

Quite a site to see. (slightly akward)

But that's not what makes my boy a rock star.


It gets even


Because last weekend we pitched our tent out in the wildnerness (local county park) in the elements (a manicured campsite) among wild animals (chipmunks) and really roughed it (ate junk food and store-bought treats like slobs, capped off by the burley "Tenderloin Steak over the campfire" meal!)

So Mr. Best-Friend-to-everyone comes crawling over. And I notice he's eating something (not unlike mom & dad) - but he seems to having a rough go of it.

Eventually he spits it out on the dirt.

His delicacy?

Rock. Not rock candy.

R-O-C-K, rock.

Greeeeeeat. I was wondering why his tooth chipped. I guess now I know.

Rock on!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

pronouns and curse words

Last week my niece graduated with a Master's Degree of some specialty. This particular branch of the Kocian family tree is sagging mightily with all the college degrees. My eldest sister returned to school as an adult and not only finished her undergraduate, she went to attain a master's. Apparently that started some kind of race within her clan of who can acquire the largest amount of school-loan debt; no, who can earn the most degrees. My side of the tree however, is lighter....much lighter....

Anyway, we're all sitting at a fancy Italian restaurant, awaiting our super-sized portions of simple carbs when I say to my nephew,

"Do you know what a verb is?"

I get a look that only 2nd graders give when highly insulted by such innocuous banter...


Me: "Well, what is it?"

Him: "An action word."

Little does he know I'm setting him up. As a child I always found great humor in what I am about to entrap him with.

Me: "Ok smarty-pants, how about a pronoun, do you know what those are?"

The eyes roll back in the head, an exasperated sigh, followed by a pained grimace...

Him: "Duuh, yeah."

Me: "Give me an example of some pronouns then."

Him: "He, She, It.."

Me: "Huh?"

He's getting really torqued off now...

Him: "He, She, It"

Me: "What did you sayyy?"

Him: "HeSheIt"

A quizzical look...

Him: "Heshe it"

a pause....

a smile....

Him: "He..."



Everyone at the table gasps, the patrons look over at the rude exclamation, he looks at me...

And I wink.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"You're grounded"

Those have to be some of my favorite words. The elicit such a definitive and swift punishment, so much finality and authority.

I, unfortunately have learned that I say it about as often as "good morning!" Homework not done? You're grounded. Dogs not taken out? You're grounded. Back talking? Grounded. Rude? Grounded. Crabby? Grounded, grounded, grounded! WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WON'T SCRATCH MY BACK?? YOU'RE GROUNDED!

Ok, I'm just joking around here, but really I've gone to that well far too often. See my last post about an all-time low I hit by going to the lame-brain "double-grounded" card.

So we are going to go back to an idea that we tried once that worked well (so why didn't we keep doing it? I'm asking myself that same question...).

When someone is grounded, they have to right their offense and the duration of grounding on a piece of paper. Then they attach it to their magnet on the fridge (each family member has their own magnet, a cool Christmas gift - available here: - search for family character magnet) - they look like these:

So we're going to try it again. It shouldn't be long before all the names have something attached to them....


Friday, May 15, 2009

Check the K-dar

I'm quick to take things away from the kids. Too quick, actually. I've threatened to leave a child home from some great activity we're about to do together (while in the car) knowing full well I'm not really going to leave the child out. I'm betting the threat of punishment is enough to correct the bad behavior, and usually it works.


Last week we had a stealing episode, followed by the look-you-in-the-face, promise-I-didn't lie about it afterward issue. That's a beaut. Your kid looks at you with those puppy dog eyes and convinces you that not only did they NOT steal, they most likely have NEVER done anything wrong! It sounds crazy, but you begin to think your child is saintly.


there's a crack in the dam, a hole in the story, a slip of the tongue....

and it all comes crashing down.

Let me stop here and interject how emphatically I believe trust is a MAJOR issue in any family, and especially a fused family like ours. Many a time the kids have saved their proverbial bacon by confessing the truth before I hear it from the teacher/neighbor/friend/fill in the blank here. They know EVERYONE makes mistakes (including mom and dad), and it's not the mistake that hurts (or heals) as much as how we deal with it. Everyone in our clan knows this, which makes the unraveling of the story even worse...

Finally we get the truth, and although it's sandwiched between some exaggerations, it is still evident.

Waterworks (tears), hugs, bingo-bango, we move forward.

That is; after my obligatory, special-edition, especially long-winded diatribe on honesty, integrity, and trust. Then before I knew it I had put myself right smack dab in the middle of an enigma. You see, this child was already grounded.

Now what am I supposed to do? I've never had to ground an already-grounded kid, think fast.....

"You're double-grounded!"

A perplexed look as if to say, "huh?"

I maintain my posture, sure as ever and trying to sell that this is a much more serious state than the normal grounding. I don't flinch, and suddenly I'm gaining ground. Questions appear to fade, as the reality of double-grounding settles in.

Now of course I have to figure out what this means....

So I go with it for a day, and the jobs that normally Andrew has are now relegated to Hannah (the double groundee). But not all the jobs. Just some...and which ones exactly? I'm straight up improvising at this point.

Everyone is confused, including the dogs who apparently didn't get let out - so they show their disapproval for my intuitive double grounding tactic by relieving themselves - indoors.

Luckily my wife intervenes and privately asks, "can we have a more definitive schedule of who's doing what?"

We'd been talking about it for some time, and now this is the perfect opportunity to unveil what I've dubbed the "K-DAR!"

'K-Dar?' you're wondering, 'what on earth is that?'

Simple, the Kocian DAily Routine!

Every child's name is on the list, with jobs simple and beyond (from brush teeth to do dishes, and understandably - take out the dogs!) It's broken in to day parts - before school, after school, after dinner, before bed.

Everyone clearly understands what is expected, and everyone seems to be enjoying it thus far (probably a honeymoon phase, and that's o.k!)

Even Nate (who's 1 1/2) made the K-Dar. Here's his list:

Before school - sleep
After school - sleep (nap)
After dinner - play
Before bed - cuddle

The perfect day!

The K-dar bought me some time - to figure out what exactly the double grounding is anyway!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Do Your Best

Our kids are entirely different. This has nothing to do with DNA, last names, or anything of the sort. They're just wonderfully unique in so many ways. One particular arena that reveals each child's singularity is school.

For a long time my wife Jill and I would place a premium on the highest grades. Not only would an A be rewarded with verbal accolades, some highly coveted greenbacks may also accompany the congratulatory backpats. This system worked fine and well in preschool, kindergarten, 1st and even 2nd grades, but 3rd grade challenged our ko-losophy (kocian philosophy).

Around age nine, it became apparent that A's are no longer a given, and that there are certain subjects each child both excels and struggles in. As the oldest progressed through school (sometimes barely!), we found the younger kids facing the same hurdles at the same age.

Another obvious revelation (it took us years to recognize!): each child has their own strengths and weaknesses that translate to good (and no so good) grades in particular subjects. One child aces math and breezes through hardly cracking the book earning an A+, while another studies nightly just to squeek by with a C-.

What to do??

It doesn't seem right to just reward the high grade, because we feel there's more to life than straight A's. So I think back to my own upbringing, and the words I heard so often when I found myself facing a goliath sized battle,

"do your best."

So simple, yet so profound. Let's face it, we all can't be in first place. Some people are more talented, smarter, faster, stronger, and on and on and on than us. But that does not give us a license to give 60%, 80%, or even 90%. All we can do is all we can do. And around here, there's nothing more celebrated than doing your best.

It doesn't guarantee an A+, first place, or even honorable mention; but in our home it will get a hug, smile, and the words everyone loves to hear, "I'm proud of you!"

I never in a million years thought I'd be excited over a C-, but when I know all the effort and determination that has gone in to earning that passing grade, I could not be more pleased! Why? Because they did all they could, and I will never fault anyone who eagerly accepts any challenge with the "do your best" attitude!"

Monday, May 4, 2009

What's my job, anyway?

I didn't quit the job. I couldn't, and although sometimes I'd love to (at least I romanticize the idea), I'm quite sure I wouldn't.

I'm over it. I'm mostly over it. It still bothers me. Man, I'm still mad. Only kidding here, everything is fine. The resolution came slowly, but culminated not with sorrowful repentance, but by being the parent and pouring about 20 minutes of the good stuff in to a very impressionable young man.

So I'm back to my job. Parenting. That's the job. Not really a job description other than, "Looking for someone to love unconditionally, despite being taken advantage of, deceived, manipulated, and (at times) despised. Benefits include hugs, kisses, laughs, tears, and a bond that if applied properly will never be broken. Must be financially resourceful. Vacations mandatory, sick days often."

I'm making light of the responsibility side of parenting, but we all understand the gist here, right? But when you add being a stepparent, there's many different opinions on what the job is, and who's supposed to do what. So I got to thinking, "what's my job, anyway?"

I'll let you in on a family secret here. Although our family is fused, we strive to eliminate all barriers and hindrances by treating everyone age-appropriately, equally loved and disciplined. We don't consider 'step' this or that, we are simply the Kocian family.

Now, I've been advised by many people that I should "remember my place," and that in the end our "approach is destined to fail." Geee, thanks for the encouragement!! It bears mentioning that as parents we're not denying the existence of the other birth-parents. On the contrary, we are supporting the parenting by building up the qualities that are in alignment with our approach (biblical). I also concede that it's been the historical norm for stepparents to step aside with their stepchildren. To us, this is just impractical, outdeated, and from what we've seen, not the best for the kids. So we're trying something new! As mentioned in a previous post, unconditional love is our highest goal.

So if we were that typical step-family, the job would be much easier. I could focus much more on myself and not get as caught up with what feels like an uphill battle. But around here, we don't much care for 'typical' (see this great post At the end of the day, when your (step)child looks at you an says, "I love you, thanks for everything. I feel better," frankly, there's not much that tops that! We're not the typical fused family (by design), and we wouldn't have it any other way!

I love this job.