How to Plan The Perfect Family Night In

Family nights are one of the best ways to help you curb the lockdown boredom. But anyone who has kids understands that getting everyone together to enjoy a Friday night together is easier said than done. This is why you need to know how to plan a family night that will go down in history as the best ever, so here are four ways to do that. 

Take It In Turns to Choose 

No one likes or wants to be the family night dictator that chooses what everybody does every week. This is a straightforward way to make your family dread the coming Friday before it has even begun. Instead, you can let everyone take it in turns to choose what they want to do. They might decide to watch a movie, play video games, or get everyone around the dinner table for a board game night. Some kids might even prefer baking to anything else, which gives you something for dessert once you’ve finished tour pizza. 

Offer Some Variety 

Variety is the spice of life, and this is no more crucial than when you’re stuck inside with nothing to do. If your kids aren’t old enough to make decisions (or you flat-out don’t trust them to pick something sensible), you can create an illusion of choice by offering a variety of things to do. For older kids, you might want to introduce them to tabletop RPGs, and if so, you should try SkullSplitter Dice to make them even more interested in the game. You never know, this could be the beginning of an exciting Dungeons & Dragons campaign for the whole family. 

Don’t Force It 

Sometimes, everyone might feel too exhausted to do things, or they might have other stuff to do such as schoolwork or ready-made plans with their friends. If so, you mustn’t force everyone into the family night no matter how much you want to do it. No one will be in the mood and this can make them wary of other nights in the future. So, if people don’t seem into it, don’t be afraid to take a week off. 

Tidy Up Together 

Ordering pizza, baking cakes, and munching on snacks all night is all well and good, but it isn’t any fun for the person who needs to clean and tidy up after everyone. As everyone has been involved in the family night, you should make sure that everyone pulls their weight and cleans up after themselves. Assign jobs to each other such as wiping down the surfaces or vacuuming crumbs from the sofa or floor before going to bed. Not only is this fair, but it also means you can wake up to a clean, tidy house tomorrow morning. 

Family Fun 

These family nights are a fantastic way to create memories and bond with each other. It gives the kids a chance to feel like they’re more adult, staying up later than usual, and it allows the parents to treat their kids like buddies, rather than children. Not every night will be a hit, of course, but with proper planning, you can expect it to be a success more often than not. 

This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.

St. Louis Dad Favorites of 2020

What a cluster of a year it has been. With all of the tragedies, pain, and anguish 2020 provided, how about I lighten the mood and tell y’all about some positives from 2020.

A couple of the items on my list did not originally come out in 2020, but when you have a lot of downtime you revisit things you may have missed in years past. So you may see a few things listed that arn’t actually new. But this is my blog so yeah… Let’s get started!

A good portion of this year has been spent in front of the television. We’ve watched so much content. Shows, movies, videos, etc… But the two shows that stood out the most for me this year were, Hell on Wheels and The Mandalorian.

First let’s start with Hell on Wheels. Holy cow! That show was phenomenal. I am kind of happy I skipped it while it was airing because binging it was what I needed at that time. The story, while based on reality is littered with fiction, but that doesn’t make the show any less enthralling.

Next of course is The Mandalorian. My favorite space western. Story telling is what this show does best. Jon Favru has put together this amazing story and unique way of pulling it all together into the entirety of the Star Wars universe.

While we did watch a lot of movies during this pandemic, we only went to the theaters once, and that was before the shutdown began and nobody had even heard of Covid-19. We went and seen Sonic The Hedgehog and let me tell ya, that movie was awesome. Yeah it is for kids but growing up with Sonic, it was for people like me too. It was a great family comedy that definitely deserves a sequel.

Speaking of sequels, Bill and Ted Face the Music also came out this year. My mind was blown with how great that one was. I felt the same spirit from the first two Bill and Ted movies. Face the Music stamped this trilogy as something that will now get a yearly rewatch.

Other honorable mentions for movies this year are Tenet. A great movie by a great director. It’s not as good as Inception, but it is one of the better movies coming out of 2020. I also had time to finally watch the Before trilogy by Richard Linklater. These three movies capture a moment of time between two characters that shape the rest of their lives. All three are very powerful, yet simple films. It would be cool to see a fourth Before movie, but I am happy with how Before Midnight ended, and I think it caps off the story perfectly.

I also found myself getting sucked down Youtube holes, which eventually led me to a very uniquely filmed documentary titled Alan Zweig’s VINYL. Alan meets with several vinyl record collectors and discusses with them their motives and more behind their collections. It looks like it was filmed on an old VHS recorder, but it’s so captivating that you cannot look away.

As we move on from movies and television shows, let’s take a look at my favorite things we did that involved going somewhere. First up is the St. Louis Aquarium & St. Louis Wheel. We were invited to help with the re-opening after some places were allowed to reopen with limitations. Masked up and ready to check out this new St. Louis attraction, we quickly found out how cool it is. Plus a ride on the wheel, it made for a great day out of the house.

We also ventured outside of St. Louis and found dozens of trails for hiking, and we even did some camping! I think 2021 will find us back out on the trails and back in the tent. Sometimes it is just nice to get away from everything and just get a break. Which leads me to my last favorite adventure of 2020, and that was Bull Shoals. We try to visit the lake as often as we can and heading down in 2020 was much needed. Not much has changed where we stay, we just know that it was a break our entire family needed before wrapping up this crazy year.

One of my favorite things we did this year at home was growing a garden! Starting back in late February, early April, we ended the growing season with dozens upon dozens of cucumbers, 1 great looking pumpkin and a few other items. Growing the garden was an accomplishment on it’s own and I am so happy to see the results of several months work.

I used alot of those cucumbers to try my hand at making pickles. Using my grandpa’s recipe I made some delicious bread and butter pickles that my wife could not get enough of. Next year I will need to plan on making even more!

Back when the pandemic started and the kids were forced to stay home. I developed a lesson to make sure my kids knew all about the great East Coast vs West Coast rivalry with Biggie and Tupac. The discussion was fun but also led to some good conversation about respect, bullying, and other important life lessons.

Any moment with my mom was definitely a highlight of 2020. If you’ve been following along you’ll know that she is no longer with us, and I am thankful that during a crazy 2020 I was still able to make a few more memories before she left.

I am sure there is more, but these are just a few of the best moments from this past year. I am more than just a little excited to get this year over with and move on to 2021 with a refreshed focus and outlook on everything.

Helping Your Children Discover Their Strengths and Passions

Your child may be too young to decide on a career path or life goals right away. But this doesn’t mean they don’t have that thing that makes them tick-that interest or hobby that excites them and make them feel fulfilled. Your job as a parent is to help your children discover their passion. Sure, their interests and talents may change as they learn and grow. But their passion for one or more things will remain for years.

Here are some ways to encourage your child to explore their strengths and passions:

Nurture their natural talents

Whether it’s dance or Lego building, your child’s natural talents will develop over time. Once you see it, you must help nurture them. After all, the innate gifts of each child should be celebrated.

So, does your child love to sing? How about enrolling them in vocal lessons? If they show interest in playing musical instruments, consider letting them take guitar, piano, or drum lessons on weekends. Music uses many different parts of the brain at once to process rhythm, movement, and emotions. Children don’t only get to develop their passion for music, but they also improve their cognitive functions.

If your child likes to draw or paint, art classes can be a fun way to let them discover their passions and strengths, as well as the beauty of the world. Drawing and painting can also help children develop motor skills and learn more about shapes, sizes, spatial relationships, and even mathematical concepts.

Even if your kid doesn’t become passionate about their natural abilities, that’s still alright. Their experience learning to play the piano or paint in watercolor can lead them to the path of their passions.

Challenge your kids

Once you’ve discovered your child’s innate abilities, encourage them to try things they’re not skilled in. For instance, a drama club can be a good outlet for creative kids, including the shy and timid ones.

Does your child find it fun to read and learn things about the world? How about pushing their boundaries by encouraging them to enter their school’s debate team? Debate clubs can help your kid discover more information, develop clearer communications skills, and better organize their thoughts. Plus, being part of a school club means interacting with many different people and meeting new friends.

Help them with schoolwork

Passions can come in various forms. When you assist your child with their schoolwork, you might discover a less traditional passion they have. Perhaps, they are not fond of music or art, but they love math, science, or foreign languages. Maybe they thrive on figuring out solving challenging questions. With a little help, your child might learn that it’s the things most kids dread doing that they like best.

Continue the conversation

Keep the conversation about their interests, hobbies, and passions going. Getting to the varsity team or debate club doesn’t mean that’s it-that they have already discovered their passion in life. Keep an open dialogue; constantly ask your kids whether they still find their current activities fun and whether they want to keep doing them, develop further skills on the said activity, or try a different activity next time.

Besides, having a regular conversation about your child’s interests and challenges can keep them engaged in relationships with you, themselves, and others. That, alone, can help them grow well.

For most people, passion can be equated with life’s purpose. Once they’ve discovered your passion, they can pursue it wholeheartedly and let it bring infinite joy to their life. The same goes for your kids. As young as possible, they can start exploring activities that they can pursue and have fun doing.

This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.

I Don’t Want to Man-Up, I Just Want a Hug

Suck it up, be a man, deal with it, grin and bear it, push through it, take it like a man, take one for the team, buck up, face the music, knuckle up, man-up.

These are the things pretty much all boys hear while growing up. Either from their parents, siblings, friends, movies, or games. There is this idea that has been around since who knows when that boys, men, guys in general should just deal with something, such as pain or misfortune, without complaining. The thought that emotions are only for women and to express yourself emotionally as a man somehow magically knocks you down a peg and requires you to turn in your man-card.

I wish it was easier for me to talk about my feelings. I think it gets easier with time but it should never have been difficult in the first place. “Toughen up and wipe away those tears” may not have been the best approach for dealing with a young boy’s display of emotion. But it’s ingrained in me to bottle it up, to hide my feelings, and to keep a strong poker face. “I’m fine” and “nothing is wrong” are statements that mask what me and probably many other men are really feeling. We’re afraid to be open and vulnerable with our friends and family, so we play it cool. But in reality it’s not cool and we are dying inside just struggling to get out the words. Nobody realizes anything different, and life goes on.

Unlike other men that may have a partner that needs them to be strong, to never show emotion, or be that protector/provider that is romanticized so often, I am lucky to have a wife that actively engages me to talk about my emotions, and even then it is still so hard because of how I was brought up. She’s cracking me though, it’s a hard shell but she has not ever given up and I love her so much for that. She knows these walls exist and she is so patient in allowing me to take small steps in opening up.

Now with a son of my own I am doing everything I can do not fall into this same pattern. Letting my son talk about his feelings and not shutting him down. He is such a sweetheart, so I think we are doing a good job. I suppose we will find out later on down the road.

It’s not about machismo. It’s about the training every man has received from the age of 12. That is about the time when young boys start to realize that our worth is no longer tied to our existence but to our sacrifice. As we go through our teen years, the narrative of male disposability inundates our very being. Those messages flood every aspect of the media we are exposed to. From the movies and TV we watch which extolled the virtue of heroic sacrifice, to the social pressures we face to relegate our own safety as secondary to that of the women around us.

We are trained that stoicism is the only acceptable emotion. That showing vulnerability is shameful. Not because a man who does so is lesser but because it is viewed as attempting to claim inherent worth. A man who dares to show emotion is seen as trying to rise above his station.

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Being strong when all I want is a hug and to break down and cry is a battle I have been facing for months. It’s difficult, with a cracking voice I try to get out the words but only excuse myself to escape the situation. Then I bottle it up and bury it deep inside, knowing that’s not the best way to handle these emotions, but it’s all I know. Since my mother’s death the shell that my wife has started to crack has opened up a lot. This time last year I would have never written a post like this, but so much has changed in just a years time.

Stoicism has it’s place, it’s a great personality trait to have when it comes to being a leader or when it’s time to be brave, but it is only a tool to hide emotion, and it’s how we use these tools that can determine how our mental well-being is cared for.

Here are some resources you can check out if you’re needing some help with your mental health.