Category Archives: play

Time Out for Minecraft!

It’s been pretty crazy watching the world of MInecraft taking over so many households, including mine!  Kids can spend hours and hours in front of their computers and/or tablets creating virtual worlds that they can take part in with others inside the game.  At first, I just couldn’t believe kids could get into a game with such bad graphics.  Then, the realization set in that my own son was swept up in it, and there was no turning back.  As I watched Malachy play in Creative Mode and how he created different worlds and structures, how he watched YouTube videos to see how others used their inventories to create “new” items, I saw some of the positives in this game.  We limited his playtime, but we saw how it took over his drawings, his writing, his conversations, his Lego Building, etc.  There was even a New York Times article talking about the obsession and some of the benefits of it.  I was living it and witnessing it with my own very eyes. 🙂

Recently, LaunchPadToys came up with an awesome Minecraft contest using their Toontastic App called Toon Academy: Minecraft.  It’s like they read his mind when they designed this contest!  After telling Malachy about it, I knew he would go for it.  He’s already gotten so much support and encouragement from the online community, thanks to social media.  Very cool!

His video presentation demonstrated to me all the vocabulary and skills he was picking up through the course of his play.  It also made him really think about how to convey his message to others in a way they could better understand why he’s so passionate about Minecraft.  It took a few takes, but it was all him, and he put hard work into it.  It’s what engaged learning is all about.  Impressive.  Contest ends on Thursday (October 17th), so we’ll just have to wait and see… 😉

Time Out for CEOs (Child Empowerment Organizers) and EPDs (Emergency Play Dates)!


CEOs - Take Two
The CEOs at their EPD (Emergency Play Date)…

A group of six-year-olds taught me the about power of networking this weekend.

After work on Friday, I get a text from my wife asking if I had the phone number of one of the parents in Malachy’s class. I asked her why she needed it and she texted back, “Wondering if they are around tomorrow or Sunday — the kids planned a secret meeting – LOL.”  I couldn’t wait for her and Malachy to come back from Karate class to explain what was going on.  They got a ride back from one of Malachy’s Karate classmates, who is also in his class at school and part of the secret meeting club.  Shien tells me that his classmate’s mom told her during Karate class, that her daughter told her after school that she HAD TO pick up 3 other friends tomorrow and drive them to our place, so they could have their secret meeting.  A designated chauffeur!  Shien immediately started texting and e-mailing the other parents to see if they knew or heard anything about it.  I’ve never heard of these Emergency Play Dates (EPDs) disguised as secret meetings before, and I was intrigued.  The kids were so certain that it was going to happen, and now, it looked like it was going to happen!

Of course, when I first asked Malachy, he says, “I can’t tell you what it’s about Dad.  It’s a SECRET meeting.”  I could tell that the wheels immediately started spinning in his head after he said that out loud to me, because we agreed that there were to be no kept secrets from Mom and Dad… EVER.  He paused and said, “You know, Dad.  I told you about it before.  It’s about the Fighting Club.”  Ah yes, the Fighting Club or the Fight Stoppers Club.  He and a few other of his classmates were tired of the play fighting and conflicts that occurred during recess.  Sometimes, they were the ones being bothered while playing together, so they started helping each other out and would try to help others in need of mediation or consolation, too.  Amazing.

So, after a few more texts and e-mails, it was all arranged.  1PM Saturday at our playground.  They met… and they PLAYED for 3 hours!  I stopped by the playground to check up on them, and there they were with all their socks and shoes off, one on each swing. They said they were trying to climb the rainbow sprinkler poles, and it was easier without shoes.  It was about an hour into their play, and I asked if they had their meeting yet.  Not yet.  I asked the other parents about it, and they were telling me how they would always tell them about the seriousness and importance of these meetings after school sometimes (i.e., playing in the playground), and they would talk about needing to meet during the “meeting,” but they never really had “the meeting!”  When the parents said it was time to go, they would then say, “But we haven’t had our meeting yet!”  GENIUS.  Our kids often hear about us adults telling them that we have have to go to meetings.  They know we need to talk through things and discuss things.  They get it.  Our kids sense the importance of them, and the message is very clear from them, too.  Kids play is IMPORTANT.  Kids need to meet.  Kids need to connect.  Kids need to network.  Kids need time to PLAY, and it’s SO much better without the disruptions.  It’s so awesome that they have created this safe place and group for themselves.

When Shien and Malachy came back three hours later, I asked how the meeting went, and he said it was good.  I asked him if they came to any big decisions or ideas during their meeting, and he said, “Yes.  We decided to create BIG obstacles, so the people trying to bother us won’t be able to get to us.”  I wanted to ask how they were planning on doing that, but I guess that’ll take another secret meeting or two in the future.  They do all the organizing, and we the adults are there to… 😉

Time Out for Bike Riding…

It’s one of those vivid ingrained memories in my head… learning how to ride the bicycle.  I remember it being a big deal the day the training wheels finally came off!   I don’t know how accurate my memory is, but I remember I was five and my cousin, Karmin (thanks, Karmin!) held on to my bicycle as he helped to teach me how to ride.  First, he held on to the handlebar on the side, as I went up and down the block in front of our apartment building in Brooklyn.  Eventually, he started holding on to the back seat of my bicycle, where he was out of my peripheral view.  I remember that really well, because at one point I thought he was holding on to my bicycle, and when I looked back, he was halfway up the block!  I was so shocked that I did it on my own that I went crashing onto the ground.  The thrill, and then the agony…

I learned to look forward and to trust myself.  I learned that fear and dwelling on the past (looking back) prevented me from enjoying the ride and looking forward.  I learned that life is sometimes about learning how to fall.  I remember using this story of learning how to ride the bicycle in my college essay to Columbia almost 25 years ago!

35 years after learning how to ride the bicycle, here I am trying to teach Malachy how to ride!  Amazing!  Wondering how (or if) he’ll remember these days.  I know my back will never forget these past 3 days! 🙂  It’s such a rush for him, though.  I thought by day 3, he wouldn’t want to go back outside and try again (at least not 3 days in a row), and I know I wouldn’t have minded if he had said, “Nah, I’m not in the mood, today.   Let’s take a break, Dad.”  But instead he said, “Dad, I really like it!  I want to try to ride by myself again!”  Love his attitude!

So, there we were again today.  Me yelling at him and telling him to focus and to concentrate, to balance, to stop leaning and turning and singing and cracking up.  I know we both cracked up when he was able to ride for a few split seconds on his own.  The thrill of getting it.  It really IS cool.  You don’t remember when you learn how to walk, but you can remember learning how to ride a bicycle.  It’s a bit different nowadays.  I didn’t have a helmet.  And I remember falling over a lot harder and getting scraped and bruised.  I get so tempted to just let Malachy go, but I don’t want him to fall down so hard that he’ll get too scared to try again.  So, I hold on…

Eventually, I know he’ll get it, and I’ll feel proud that he learned and happy in being there with him! 🙂

Time Out for After School Thoughts…

A Childhood...

I was the first to line up in front of Malachy’s school to make sure he got a spot for an after school program, the day after Labor Day (before the sun was up and in the rain).   After only one day (plus an orientation), we quit the program. It would have been FREE (thanks to Uncle Sam) every day from 3:00PM to 5:30PM. How could we give up such a coveted spot?

Just looking at Shien during the orientation pretty much made up my mind.  There was so much talk about getting “points” for good behavior or getting suspended for bad behavior.  For snack, they got some juice and graham crackers after school.  (Sugar and more sugar.)  And no, you couldn’t supplement with your own snack because all the other kids would want some.  Your child had to have a book at all times because there would be many times when he would have to wait for the next transition.  (Before the orientation started [right after the program ended], all the kindergartners and first graders were sent to another table and told to be quiet.  That didn’t happen.)  We had to sign papers and were told to go over the rules with our children when we got home, because they also had to sign the “contract” tomorrow.


The thing was, we wouldn’t be able to pick him up early EVER. To be fair, you’re given three days out of the 180+, if you had a valid reason. I understood that it would be disruptive to pick your child up early, but to not have that luxury of picking him up when we wanted to or needed to was too much. Just today, seeing him break down much more easily than usual showed me how tired he was and how long a day it was for him. Multiply that by 180+ days, and I saw little good that could come out of that.


I know that for so many parents, it’s not a choice, and that’s what greatly disturbed me today. Back in the day, my mom picked my sister and I up every day after school. We got to go home and have whatever snack my mom prepared. We did homework at HOME. We got downtime at home.  After we were done with our homework, we got to play, either inside or outside.

For too many kids and parents, it’s so so hard now. Some kids as early as age 3 are going to school from 8:30am to 5:30pm! That doesn’t even include travel time! It’s no wonder so many of our kids are burnt out and bouncing off the walls. What has happened to play time? What has happened to childhood? Our children deserve better…

As for the next child in line on the wait list that takes Malachy’s spot, I really really hope it works out for that child and the family…

Time Out for Father and Son…

This weekend, Mommy was at a wedding in LA, so it was just me and Malachy this past weekend.  It made me feel that much more blessed to have Shien as a partner.  It was awesome hanging out with Malachy, but it made me that much more appreciative that we have a team.  When one of us is tired or bogged down with work, we have each other, and that makes a HUGE difference.  I thought about all the single moms and dads out there, or even the parents that go it alone most of the time, like stay-at-home moms and dads.  And… I only have ONE child! 😉  It makes such a difference when there is support.

So, Malachy and I got to eat take-out (more than once 😉 ), played in the tent, went to the library, played in the park, went food shopping at Trader Joe’s, ate out, and I even managed to cook chicken stew, and had Malachy doing his homework at the same time!  I got a glimpse of why some parents resent homework so much sometimes.  🙂  He even got to pitch in with the cooking after he was done.  It was a great feeling to have Shien come home to a hearty cooked meal, and a semi-cleaned up house.    Trying to be a good Dad, a good husband…  Priceless… 😉

Napping in the Tent...

Time Out for Playtime!


Weekends used to be a time for rest (B.M., Before Malachy), but with Malachy, we have to try to keep up with his energy and imagination. 😉  Forget about sleeping in anymore. We consider it lucky when he gets up at 8. And once he’s up, one of us HAS to get up. YAWN…
Lately, I’ve become the “chosen one” because he claims, “I’m the best snack maker ever.” Meanwhile, I’m the one who prepares a snack with no cooking involved. Just lots of “stuff” from the pantry – cookies, crackers, wafers, mini pretzels, rice crackers (American or Japanese), pizzelles, and granola bars. Some of the above, or all of the above. What else? From the fridge, there’s always milk and a bit of fruit.

Today, it was cold, and it would have been so easy to just stay home and vegetate, but we mustered enough energy to take him to the playground to get some fresh air and exercise.  Then, we went to the library to get some books.  We decided it’d be a good idea to go the library on Sundays, after brunch. I’ve been buying so many books and forgetting that we could actually borrow some! 🙂

This evening, dinner wasn’t easy, so I promised him that we’d pitch up the tent that he got for Christmas.  He had a blast!  Just loves to use his imagination.  At first, he said, “Make sure Mommy doesn’t come in,” but when I started watching football, he said to Shien, “Make sure Daddy doesn’t come in!”  He had a great time, moving as much stuff in there as he could, and then doing some buddy writing with Mommy.  Mommy temporarily dozed in there for a couple of minutes. 😉

More on Malachy’s prolific writing later… 😉