Nice shootin', Tex.

The temperature flirted with 40 degrees today and it was sunny so I asked the kids if they wanted to go outside and shoot some targets. A very enthusiastic "YEAH!" was the reply.

So we did!

John shooting the bb gun

Started off with John going over the rules of handling firearms and then it was time to shoot. He's fairly small for his age and the bb gun is too big for him to shoulder correctly. But it's light enough that he can do an unconventional hold on it. Working with him on the mechanics of holding a rifle and how/why to support it correctly.

He's actually a decent shot and while he likes shooting at paper targets that he creates, he really enjoys more reactive ones. Soda cans are good, especially if they're full and shaken, but his favorites are some of his little plastic dinosaurs. I can't help but smile when he gets a hit and shouts "Yeah! Take that dinosaur!"

He's getting mature enough to start coming to a real shooting range this summer. I'm trying to decide if it makes sense to get a youth .22 rifle, maybe a Cricket, or if I should get a .22 pistol instead. I think even a Cricket might be a bit big on him even now.

Oh well, if that's my biggest problem, I certainly can't complain!

It's all fun and games ...

Oh wait, if you teach them right, it CAN be fun and games!

John got a bb gun for Christmas last year and he's had a blast getting out in the backyard to shoot it. Zoe finally expressed interest in joining her brother so we grabbed some targets and headed outside.

John shooting

Zoe shooting

They both took turns shooting and insisted on running up after each shot to debate who had the closer hole. Zoe still has trouble pulling the trigger by herself but she's got the enthusiasm! Paper targets were a lot of fun but they got to see how dangerous a bb can be when we shot some unopened soda cans - seeing them fall over and soda jet out of the hole left an impression.

John is just about old enough to get out to the real shooting range - now I just need to get a better .22 rifle for him to shoot. Poor me - another good reason to buy a rifle.

Damn it, Jim, I'm a father, not a babysitter...

"Oh. You're out with two kids by yourself? You must be very brave!"

"Ah - wife is at work? You're stuck babysitting the kids, eh?"

"Where's your wife? At work? Wow - I don't know if I'd take two kids out by myself..."

I hear that quite often. Most recently today when I took my two kids, ages 3 and 5, downtown to the Pittsburgh Regatta. My wife had to work, like she does most weekends, so I grabbed a backpack, tossed in some water bottles and some snacks. Grabbed the kids and we headed down to Point State Park. Just the three of us. From some of the comments I got, you'd think I was undertaking one of the most dangerous journeys known to man.

I'm not sure if this is due to the incredibly rude and unruly kids out there (usually do to a lack of parenting) or if it's due to the wussification of the father figure in our culture - likely some of both - but I'm tired of hearing it. Being a father is more than just being a sperm donor. It's more than just bringing home a paycheck. It's more than just yelling at the kids when they interrupt SportsCenter. Being a father is an honor, a privilege, and most of all a responsibility and it can actually be fun, not just a chore.

Kids need strong role models in life and that's one of the main responsibilities of being a father - setting a good example. If you're too weak to handle taking two kids out in public by yourself, they'll recognize how it are and certainly learn to both exploit it and think less of you for it. If your kids are too wild and crazy to be out in public without you AND your wife, then you're not doing a good job raising them.

Dads - get off your asses, get your kids out for some bonding time, and stop using your wives as crutches to limp through your kids' lives.

Moms - stop letting your husbands just come along for the ride.

And all you judgemental types - stop assuming that, just because kids and fathers on tv are morons, my kids and I are too...

New Shooter - Don't Shoot Your Eye Out Kid!

My son has been asking when he can come to the range with me for quite some time. I figured I'd ease him into it so I suggested to my brother that a BB gun would be a good gift idea. Well, he certainly took that idea and ran with it!

What did he open Christmas morning? A Crosman BB/Pellet rifle! To say he was excited would be an understatement.

John on Christmas morning

In the backyard

Got him out this morning to shoot it for the first time. Lined a few empty cans and an empty milk jug at about 30 feet. While not a natural (yet!), he managed to hit about 50% of the targets the first time! He's a bit small to really use it well - we will see how well he grows into over the next few years before we upgrade him to his own .22 rifle.

I was one proud papa this morning!

I Can Haz Camping?

I took my son camping this weekend - just me and him - and we had a blast. I think that getting out in the woods and doing things, rather than watch other people do things on TV, is very important. And I get to - slowly - teach him some skills and values that will be helpful later in life. Doing it while camping just makes it more fun for both of us!

We stayed one night in Raccoon Creek State Park, just about 45 minutes west of Pittsburgh. The campground there has quite a few nice, somewhat secluded, campsites for a modest fee. I can't wait for him to be a little older so we can go backpacking, but for now we'll use a tent at a real campsite until he's ready.

After setting up our tent, we headed down to the lake and rented a canoe. We paddled downstream for the first twenty minutes or so and stopped often to investigate anything and everything. Several branches from a submerged tree broke the surface and quite a variety of marine life was darting in and out. Paddling beneath a willow tree that angled out over the river was a treat – it became our fort and we staged several attacks on the ducks that attempted to invade. After an hour or so of cruising around the lake (paddling solo is definitely more work!) we headed back to the campsite and got our fire going.

We bought a few bundles of firewood but there wasn't enough dry kindling to scavenge, so I got to show him how to use a knife - Benchmade Rant 515 - to baton some of the logs into various size pieces for kindling. Possibly overkill for what we needed, but he got to see different ways that knives can be used as tools. He is very familiar with knives as I always have at least one on me. He will be the first to tell you that knives and firearms are tools, not toys, and that they should not be played with – only used when needed. It was awesome letting him help use them correctly and help him get some tangible experience to back up the verbal lessons he gets at home.

After dinner we sat by the fire and toasted some marshmallows before heading to sleep.

One of the highlights of the trip - for both of us - was when I gave John his first knife - a Kershaw Squaw Creek with a two-inch blade and rosewood inlaid in the handle. He was very excited and wanted to use it to cut everything. I reiterated the dangers of a knife and how to use it safely and he was thrilled when he got to use it to cut up his hot dogs at dinner. It now lives in his tackle box at home.

I'm proud of the kind of guy John is becoming and hope that he continues to be interested in camping, hiking, and boating in the years to come!

New Toys

So, in preparation for my newbie hunting initiation during next falls group hunt hosted by ZerCool, my family and I made the hour long drive to the West Virginia Cabela's today. As a complete hunting newb, I need to get some gear, some clothing, and a shotgun. Cabela's was having a sale that sounded decent in the email spam they sent out. I had high hopes of accomplishing at least some portion of the needed procurement.

Unfortunately, I struck out on all counts. Their clothing sale had been thoroughly picked over and I couldn't find anything really worth buying. Heading over the gun counter, I was surprised to only see a few people waiting for help. Didn't take long for Bill to call my number and give me a hand. The goal? Acquiring a Mossberg 500 turkey/deer combo at a reasonable price. Bill worked his computer magic and determined that they DID have such a combo in stock. Taking me down to the Mossberg section, he let me fondle an all black Mossberg 500 with a basic 3-9x32 scope. After confirming that this shotgun included both barrels, I told him to start the paperwork! Bill headed to the back to retrieve the shotgun from the vault ...

... and came back with disappointing news. Apparently he misread the computer screen and they did NOT actually have that combo in stock. After crushing my hopes beneath his boot, we left Bill and headed over to let John try his hand at the laser shooting gallery. John had a great time and we ended up picking up a toy ping pong ball gun for him prior to the one hour return trip home.

My wonderful wife suggested that, since we were out already, we might as well stop at Dick's Sporting Goods just to see if they happened to have what I was looking for. And that was a most excellent idea. Kathryn, the sales lady at the gun counter, really knew her guns and was quick to locate exactly what I was looking for. After 15 minutes worth of paperwork, I was the proud new owner of a Mossberg 500. Now I just need to get it to the range!

Thanks ZerCool for giving me the justification to finally pick one of these up!

John and I with our new "toys"

Christmas 2010: The Aftermath

My wife and I are very fortunate to have two wonderful kids. Not only are they well-behaved, they play well together. And one of the first things they wanted to do this morning is build a fort and use the new sleeping bag my son got for Christmas (thanks Mom and Dad!)

Our Christmas morning went very well. The kids slept in until 9am (I was the one itching to get up and go downstairs!) and we had a strange mix of hectic and relaxed as the morning wore on with the presents finally opened sometime after dinner. The kids got spoiled by both sets of grandparents and my brothers and sisters went overboard too. One of the bonuses of having the first kids in the family I guess!

We're very thankful that we all are in good health, that my job is going well, and that we don't want for much. It truly was a wonderful Christmas.

And now my wife is at work juggling returns and crazy shoppers at L.L. Bean and keeping a smile on her face while I hand out with the kids and watch the snow start to fall!

Family: September, 2010

Things have been pretty busy as the summer rolls into fall.

The last of the WWII LSTs sailed into Pittsburgh. Surprised (and heartened) to see so many people turn out to tour the ship. After an hour and a half wait in line, John got to climb around on quite a bit of history!

John's first day of school
Kicking off the first year of pre-school (or is it pre-pre-school?)

Fire Prevention Day
West View Fire Department holds our annual Fire Prevention Day.

Air Show
Saw the Thunderbirds perform at the 2010 air show at the Pittsburgh 911th Airlift Wing

Hiking in North Park

Looking forward to an exciting fall season!

Family Update

It's been a fun month so far - Zoe is 2 months old and smiling a lot and starting to laugh (sort of). John is 2 years old and is a very fun little dude to hang out with!