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Bored? Check out these ridiculous ways to pass the time!

Summer Smorgas-Bored


Already bored this summer? Have you run out of energy or ideas with what to do with yourself or your family in between summer camps, summer school or family trips? Introducing the summer smorgas-bored! A top 10 list of completely random things to do when you don’t want to learn a musical instrument, go to the library, go swimming again or go see local tourist attractions (because…you live there…and you hate tourists)!

So here it is. All ideas certified by me to come completely off the top of my head without any research, planning or higher purposes.

Bored? Check out these ridiculous ways to pass the time!

10) Look up a famous actor, actress or director on IMDb and watch the first major project that person was involved with, if you can find it.

IMDb (Internet Movie Database) is 19 years old. In the summer of 1996, it was an amazing discovery that my college roommate and I found and we spent hours watching movies we wouldn’t have normally known existed. We were inspired by Kevin Bacon. Who wasn’t? My roomie devoured IMDb while I got bored after 1-2 days of this and moved on. Still, if you don’t know that Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey got their first major movie break in the same movie, you should find out and watch it. It’s a classic.

9) Count the number of peanuts there are in the peanut jar.

This is arguably a boring task but it can also be incredibly versatile. If it’s just a time waster, it’s still one that doesn’t involve a screen, a thumb or a controller, so that something. If you have 5-6 year olds, you can practice counting AND safety with small objects all at the same time! If your kids are a little older, you can make it a guessing game and the closest guesser can win a prize, like ice cream – which is also an excuse for everyone to go get ice cream!

8) Make an old board game new again

Sick of playing the same game over and over again? Make up 5 rules off the top of your head. Play the game with the new rules. For bonus points, make up a completely new game with scrap paper and poster board. Need help coming up with rules? It may not work the first couple of times you try it. There are some rules that are common and necessary to all games to make sure they go smoothly (how to start a turn, end a turn, etc) If you’re not feeling creative and need a couple of examples:

  • Compliment the player to your right before every turn
  • If you roll doubles, sing a song lyric

7) Event a catchphrase and use it for a weekend: could be awesome, could annoy your kids – it’s a no-lose situation!

The good news about this one is that you don’t have to be creative to come up with a catchphrase. It doesn’t have to be contextual, It doesn’t have to make sense and it doesn’t have to be words. Random sounds can do the trick, especially if combined with high-fives. You’re kids will either adopt the catchphrase or try to disown you – either way can be highly satisfying. Triple bonus: public catchphrase + high fives to random strangers. Upload to youtube.

6) Send a text message to 5 people in your contact list that you don’t normally chat with that says “OMG, did you see the last episode of Rizzoli and Isles”?

Okay, so my Mother-In-Law is in town and I’m currently watching reruns of R&I on TNT. In fact, the only time I watch R&I is when she is visiting. It may or may not be a good show. Apparently it was the most watched show on cable television last week (shows in 2nd-4th place were 3 episodes of WWE Wrestling) so there is a shot that your shout out to your long lost contact may result in a meaningful dialogue. If not, just claim that your text was meant for someone else and move on.

5) Write down all of the things that need to be picked up around the house. Then play a scavenger hunt with your kids using the list.

This may be my favorite one, because It is equally tidy and sneaky. The optimist in me thinks that this could become a go to way to clean up the house without it feeling like such a chore. The downside of this one is that it might only work once or you may have to continually up the ante on the reward for the winner. Plus – high degree of colluding could occur if you have multiple older children who like to team up against their parents.

4) Have everyone find anything in the house they can use for a drum. Have a family drum circle.

We’ve done this several times and it is fun every time. It’s loud, obnoxious but also sweet and hilarious – depending on your family’s ability to keep rhythm or make up songs if you don’t know enough tunes together to cover. If it’s too noisy for you indoors, take it out to the deck or back-yard, then go on vacation to avoid your neighbors for awhile unless you invited them over for the drum circle. Bonus points: Front-yard in the evening — encourage passers by and neighbors to join in.

3) Make a 3-minute movie

Don’t over-think this. Go with the first ideas that pop in your head. Don’t perfect it. Actually, aim to make 3-4 movies and host a film festival in your living room! Bonus points: Submit to Sundance!

Example for movies:

  • Miniature car chase around the living room furniture
  • Dump all your trash on the ground and shoot a dystopian eco-humanitarian tear-jerker using action figures, Lego figurines or tongue depressor people.

2) Choose 5 ingredients in your kitchen that you would be willing to eat together. Have a cooking contest with the 5 ingredients.

This is less about teaching chemistry or cooking and more about finding your limits on what you will willingly consume from the concoctions that your kids (or other family or friends) make. Cooking is by its nature creative and affirming – just ask about the mixture of vanilla, chocolate syrup, milk, sugar, etc that I found sitting in my freezer from when my oldest son decided to make a frozen dessert for us one night.

1) Create a world from the moles and freckles on your belly: Connect the dots in the form of a new nation-state!

Give yourself a capital city and a benevolent dictator or problematic bicameral legislature. Draw some terrain or some industrial centers. Expand out to border nations or maybe Frecklandia is an island? Give your kids a civics lesson. Stay away from import/export discussions or ports of call. You could quite literally get into sensitive territory there.

The End, but not the Ending

Hopefully you are no longer bored and you found something in my top 10 list that was enticing or motivating. But, you see, it’s not really about the specific list. It’s about everyone’s ability to think of completely random things to do, doing them and then surprising yourselves with how much fun these random acts can be! Not everything has to be the best thing ever and most things won’t be. But if you’re looking for something memorable, think back to your childhood and try to remember the silly, spontaneous and inane things you use to do. Then, try to remember the time you tried to teach yourself the piano. Now, go enjoy yourself and your family this summer!!

Asthma, Not Ass-ma

Asthma, Not Pronounced Ass-ma


Asthma, Not Ass-maIt’s Asthma Awareness Month

It’s “National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month”, so it’s time to be aware of asthma. In general, I’m not a fasthma-156094_1280an of awareness campaigns. Like billboards, I assume they achieve just enough to keep folks coming back but I refuse to believe that we’re saving lives as effectively as possible. That’s my cynical side typing. My ever-positive side, on the other hand, knows that any spark that causes one more research donation or one more vigilant friend or parent has to be a good thing – so I write about asthma.

The first bit of awareness: we need the “th” in asthma. In all likelihood, the “th” prevents us all from pronouncing it ASS-MA. I’ll leave that right there for you to decide whether that’s for the better.

Giggles aside how do we respond to someone when they mention their asthma? Someone says “Oh, I have asthma” or “my kid has asthma” and we usually respond with a reaction somewhere between hearing about someone’s fender-bender and hearing what someone had for lunch yesterday. Asthma, for most of us, is perceived as a condition in which someone has an issue, inhales some medicine and feels better. Many of us have witnessed a friend or someone who has paused what they were doing, taken their inhaler, and gone about their day.

I will admit that before becoming intimately aware of asthma because of my son, I thought of asthma in much the same way even though my brother has asthma and I remember childhood nights when I would wake up to the sound of an air compressor forcing asthma medicine into my brother’s lungs. Still, he took medicine, and got better, and I was a kid so this is how my parents explained it to me. No big deal.

When my son was hospitalized with asthma before his first birthday, I started wondering if I hadn’t been underestimating asthma all these years. Still, I wasn’t sure at first if I was worried just because I was a new parent. After all, doctors are leery to diagnose asthma. Here was how our conversation went in the hospital room:

Us:       We’re confident that our son has asthma!

Dr:       Well, we don’t diagnose asthma this early. It may not be asthma.

Us:       His birth-mom and birth-dad have asthma and his biological brother and sister both have asthma.

Dr:       Okay, then he has asthma.

This didn’t happen over the course of multiple conversations. The exchange lasted as long as it just took you to read those 4 lines. And just like that, my son had asthma. Just like that!!


But watching my infant child cough and spurt and struggle to breathe changed my perception of asthma, of course, and my understanding continued to evolve with every hospital visit, in-home treatment and pulmonary function test over the years. It’s hard to change awareness with pamphlets, infographics or tons of data; so instead, I leave you with some ways to shift your understanding a little bit.


One Breath Every Second

When my son was still an infant and having an acute asthma attack, we would time his breathing over the course of a minute. We would hope for 20-30 breaths per minute. We would wince when it would hit 60.

stopwatch-153398_1280If you have a moment and you’re not around anyone who might think you need medical attention, try inhaling and exhaling every second. Ready. Go. For me, it takes about 5 seconds for my brain and body to wonder what the hell is going on. It’s not comfortable, yet this is a typical of an infant suffering from an acute asthma attack.



Sometimes my son needs help to breathe

Do you respond differently to the two following statements?

“I have asthma.”

“Sometimes, I need help to breathe.”

We know that asthma is a lung condition and that breathing is a fundamental, involuntary thing we do, but our reactions to an asthma attack and someone visibly struggling to breathe are different. Obviously an asthma attack and choking are two very different episodes with different medical responses. However, we gain a better understanding of asthma when we remember that our friends and family with asthma sometimes can’t get enough oxygen in their lungs without assistance. I’ve only struggled to breathe once in my life and it terrified me. I slipped off the top of a fence in my friend’s backyard and landed flat on my back. I had the wind knocked out of me for the first time in my life and I absolutely thought in that moment that I was dying. When we need help to breathe, it’s kind of a big deal.


Carbon Dioxide Retainers keep poison in their lungs

 Here’s a quick breathing primer: We need oxygen, we make carbon dioxide, we get rid of carbon dioxide as fast as possible. This last step is important, because carbon dioxide is poisonous to us and doesn’t belong in our bodies. Carbon Dioxide in your lungs is like a Nick Jonas song in your ears. You have to un-hear it as immediately as possible or bad things happen.

Unfortunately, while some asthmatics struggle to take in oxygen, carbon dioxide retainers struggle to expel carbon dioxide. The result is that CO2 then lingers around potentially causing long term damage. Retainers face a higher risk of mortality, in part because the issue isn’t as noticeable to a parent, friend or doctor trying to listen for a cough or wheeze.


The inhaler is not an accessory

Cough, wheeze, chest tightening, puff of albuterol, and all better…

…is not exactly how it goes.Photo

The infamous inhaler that sometimes identifies the weaker adolescent co-stars of Hollywood coming-of-age movies IS a first-responder medical device that is necessary in an emergency situation. It is NOT a complementary fashion accessory to a pocket-protector.

During an acute asthma attack, it is used to slow down, stabilize or reverse an inflammatory reaction that is blocking air from getting where it needs to go.

Sometimes, this may be all a patient needs. In severe cases, what follows could be an ER visit or overnight hospitalization. Either way, parents and kids then deal with days or weeks of steroid doses and round the clock treatments and breathing tests to monitor progress. The medicine has unkind side effects, the routine is exhausting, the situation is demoralizing.


Moving Forward

So as you close the laptop lid or put your phone back in your pocket, go forward with a little more empathy and a little better understanding for the tumult and tenacity it takes to live with asthma.

As you watch a friend or loved one pause what they’re doing to grab their inhaler, keep in mind the extensive protocols in the hospital and home that you don’t see.

Next time you take in your first deep breath of the day, keep in mind that sometimes infants need 60 breaths per minute to get oxygen and remember that getting air out of our bodies is just as important to getting air into our bodies.

If nothing else, keep in mind that asthma isn’t inconvenient, it is life changing.


The Kids are Roughhousing Again

The Kids are Roughhousing Again


My Introduction to Roughhousing

My introduction to roughhousing probably started when I tried to bowl over my older brother when I was 9 or 10. That didn’t go so well for me. Through the years of our youth, my brother, 2 years my senior, and I would continue wrestling each other in episodes sparked by…complete randomness. By random, I mean it The Kids are Roughhousing Again
was never sparked by the need for retribution or to seek punishment for some wrong committed by the other. That fraternal judicial system was a completely different one that involved a warning and a punch in the arm. And the punch in the arm always followed the warning because any younger brother worth his salt never heeds the warning! Roughhousing, on the other hand, isn’t about anger or fighting.

So how or why do siblings end up rolling around on the floor so often?

If you do a quick google search for “why do kids wrestle”, you get several links about the benefits of play fighting, a book entitled, The Art of Roughhousing, and pleas from wrestling organizations to help keep the sport alive. If you’re feeling more zoological and you search for “why do animals wrestle” you’ll learn a little about professional wrestler and WWE Hall-of-Famer Road Warrior Animal, aka Joe Laurinaitis or the fact that the WWE has a Hall of Fame. In other words, there are not tons of people searching for why young kids, teenagers and even young adults spontaneously wrestle each other. It’s like we don’t care why it happens. We just want to know whether we should let it happen and when we should stop it. That’s the practicality of parenthood.

Play-Fighting or Serious Business – Hey there, Anthropology!

My own children’s roughhousing can sometimes look more like my two dogs going after each other (a 2.5 yr old female and a 10 mo old boy puppy). My dogs bear teeth, nip faces and legs and the older one will sometimes drag the puppy around by his collar. Yes!! This sounds a little more like my two boys! It’s a funny comparison but when our pets wrestling each other, we accept that they instinctually have to establish an alpha role. Do our kids need to do the same? As parents, that’s not an easy question to ask much less answer. Play fighting or roughhousing sounds innocent and developmental while establishing dominance seems callous and bullying.brown-bear-cubs-wrestling_w560_h700

Should we make room for the type of roughhousing that’s more Animal Planet and less Sprout?

Back to my web browser and focusing more anthropologically, I came across a study entitled “The Logic of Animal Conflict”, printed in 1973 in Nature and I’m thinking YES!

Indeed, you will read about intraspecies “limited war” in which winners “gain mates, dominance rights, desirable territory, or other advantages that will tend toward transmitting its genes to future generations at higher frequencies than the loser’s genes,” and I’m thinking YIKES!!

So now I’m backtracking and thinking that maybe my kids aren’t like my pets. We’re animals but we have frontal lobes. Plus the article doesn’t even broach the subject on humans because it’s purpose is to explore the evolutionary benefits of play-fighting to individuals and species and we’re a species of individuals undecided about evolution, but I digress.

Evolution or Egg Shells

Desirable territory? They chose their own bedrooms!!

Access to resources? Steak dinners and ample closets!!

Dominance rights? We love our kids equally!!

But wait!!

One of those needs isn’t like the others. As parents, we remove the need for our children to define their territory by giving them their own spaces, especially when they’re being particularly annoying. We provide food and clothing until our fashion choices for them become socially unacceptable.

However, we don’t help our children establish dominance. In fact we do and say whatever we can to discourage this. We assure our children that they are all equal in abilities and when age and experience surface to the contrary, we explore and highlight enough variety in abilities to balance the equation so that no one is better or worse than anyone else when considering the sum of everything. Parents are the ultimate spin doctors.

Unlike our animal counterparts who seemingly don’t have feelings, us human parents cringe a little when our kids broach activities meant to establish dominance or bragging rights with sports or martial arts maybe being an exception. We move quickly to hedge against any gains or losses that one achieves over another. The problem is this: We can hedge and protect and insulate all we want, but our children will still constantly one up each other. Evolution for the win!

What Establishing Dominance Looks Like

Poking, pushing, bumping or otherwise taking up the other person’s space.

  • Where we see this: The backseat. It’s mandatory for rides over 10 minutes
  • Parent will say: “Keep your hands and feet to yourself!”
  • Ability to stop: That’s not a serious question, is it?

Quizzing each other on math, or sports factoids or Greek mythology – whatever subject one is sure that the other doesn’t know.

  • Where we see this: Dinner table
  • Parent will say: “You’re both smart in different ways!”
  • Ability to stop: Fairly easy, but why would you? You’re learning so much.

The scrum that looks like someone is going to injured at any moment.

  • Where we see this: Any open space inside or outside.
  • Parent will say: “watch it, stop it, careful, get off your brother, someone is going to get hurt!”
  • Ability to stop: Only if you witness desire to harm, but by then it’s a matter of seconds before someone starts crying and it’s over anyway.

Roughhousing in Action

On a recent trip to New Orleans, my Father-In-Law and I took my two 10-year old boys to Audubon Park for some exercise. We brought a spongy football with us. Before we got out of the parking lot, a silly toss towards the backside of one of my sons turned into “lets peg each other”. The ball and the tosses weren’t dangerous, no one was getting hurt and there was equal give and take until….

My younger son (younger by 8 months) felt a little picked on. He was losing this subtle form of roughhousing so he started hiding behind trees. Part not wanting the game to be over and part sensing an opportunity, my older son gave chase, still playing peg. Soon afterwards there was some de-escalation typical of roughhousing dynamics until….

The younger son rushes at the older one and jumps on him. No anger, tears or yelling. Just the younger determined to get the older onto the ground. Within 10 seconds, the younger was himself on his back with my older son walking away. The score: 0 people hurt to 1 point made.

And then the Younger decided to keep at it!

Charge! Grab! Tug! Get dumped on the ground! Charge! Grab! Etc!

The pattern repeated until the scorecry was about 0 to 5 and it was time to step in. Frustration was setting in as the younger wasn’t getting the results he wanted. He tried a different tact: “Dad, Davis keeps throwing me to the ground!” Knowing that Patrick (the younger) responds really well to logic, I tried “This seems like your own doing. If you don’t want Davis to drop you on the ground, you probably shouldn’t jump on him.”

And here is really where it turned from family sitcom to nature documentary:

After several seconds when I thought tensions were eased…

Charge! Grab! Get dumped on the ground!

Patrick rushed again at Davis and once again found himself among the dirt and leaves.

Now, if my boys were my pet dogs, this would have ended with them drinking out of the same water bowl and taking a nap together on the couch. Still a funny comparison, but my dogs don’t have feelings – or at least human feelings so it takes a little longer for my sons to reconcile.

But since I didn’t step in, blame Davis for Patrick’s dirty knees, face and back and since I didn’t otherwise reestablish equality between them, Patrick’s only recourse (in his own mind) was exasperation and a declaration of his exit from our family as he turned and walked away. He had initiated all of the action but he had trouble dealing with the outcomes.

Oh feelings.

Don’t Stop Wrestling, Learn From It

Replaying this in my head while I walked after my kid, my mission became clear. It wasn’t the wrestling that was the problem; it was Patrick’s (and Davis’s) ability or inability to learn from it.

It took almost 9/10th of a mile walk with Patrick to convince him of the same. Back at the house and after some decompression, we had a family huddle (my wife, the kids and I) so that we could all process it together. As I remember, the family huddle interrupted the kids playing again, so there’s that.

My prevailing impressions during this entire episode were NOT of fighting, aggression or anger but rather of Patrick’s stubbornness and Davis’s restraint. It wasn’t harmful or scary for either Davis or Patrick. We specifically asked about feelings of fear. So no physical or mental scars and no relationship chasms had occurred. Responses from the boys to our questions in those 10 minutes were answered with about as much concern as if we had asked them their favorite colors. The just wanted to get back to playing.

The lasting reality in all of this is that our kids are constantly figuring out for themselves where they rate in this world. Roughhousing, wrestling, or otherwise establishing dominance are all just data points that help them make sense of who they are and where they stand with each other. They’re far less concerned about thir need to do this and far more concerned about what it means in the grand scheme of things. This is where we need to focus as parents. Any efforts by us shouldn’t be to quell these roughhousing or contradict the results, but rather to help our children process the information.

“Wow, you’re sister really kicked your butt but I still love you.”

Not exactly, but if we allow our kids to have these matches and we’re there for them to deal with the results, without contradicting the results; everyone will be better for it.



The Logic of Animal Conflict (1973). Nature. Vol 246