Olan Suddeth

Dad. Computer geek.
Homebrewer. Disney nut.
Would-be crafty guy.

HomeBrew Dad


a blog about making all sorts of things while raising a large family

Baseball Teaches Life Lessons

Youth baseball. Cheering, screaming, and blind umpires that obviously have it out for your team. Snack duty, fighting a losing battle to get red ballpark dirt out of those pants, and practice, practice, practice. The pride of knowing that is your child who just made that play, the agony of sharing their mistakes and losses.

 

Noah running for home


For the past sixteen years, I have been involved in coaching Dixie Youth baseball in some capacity, from leagues ranging from tee ball to teenagers and back again. As my seventeenth such season comes to a close, it felt apropos to dive into my motivations behind donating my time and effort again and again.

Don't get me wrong. Like virtually every such parent, I do this to be involved in my kids' lives - I have now had four boys play the game. It doesn't hurt that I love the sport of baseball, and that I enjoy teaching fundamentals and skills. I enjoy being around kids and working with them (more or less a necessary trait in someone with as large of a family as I have). But more than X's and O's, more than the love of the game, more than just any excuse to spend time with them, I also happen to strongly believe that baseball is a great teacher of life lessons.

Disclaimer: I am well aware that most of the points that I make about baseball could be said of other organized sports. I am also aware that sports are not the only method to impart these lessons, and I am not denigrating those children who are not involved in athletics. Indeed, Jonah (my nine year old) simply does not care for the pressure of sports, so he doesn't play. Every kid is different, I get that. None of the above lessens the value of what I feel kids can learn...

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Tags for this post: Parenting

Teaching My Sons to Be Real Men

Silas the pirate
Why can't life stay this simple?



A week or so ago, I was driving my seven year old son, Silas, to baseball. We were talking about this and that, as usual, when he mentioned to me that he had found something he liked, but didn't know how I would feel about it. I reassured him that I was sure that I would be fine with it, so he explained to me that it was a new game he had installed on his tablet... where the point was taking care of little "cute" animals. Feeding them, bathing them, playing with them, giving them different toys or looks, and so on.

My first reaction was to laugh - not at him, but at the idea that I would have a problem with that. After all, I *am* the guy who blogs about sewing burp cloths, baby blankets, and sleeping bags for dolls. I'm the grown man that ranks getting his photo taken with Friar Tuck at Disney World as a true "magical moment" of his life. Had he forgotten who he was dealing with?

But as we talked, it became clear that he was worried that liking something like this would be too "girly", that it wasn't "tough enough", that it would be received as a fault in his character. Realizing that made me a little sad.

This is a kid who will sacrifice his body to lay out to stop a...

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Tags for this post: Parenting

Corn Dogs and Capri Suns, or, Emotions Following a Traumatic Birth

I want to admit that I have been really struggling of late. It may be shallow or foolish for me to feel this way, given how good Donna and Kalani are doing... but mentally and emotionally, it has been really tough on me.

We had these months of worry of whether they would even survive or not. Listening to the doctors say again and again about how her condition was "life threatening", and us looking at the mortality rates for moms with placenta accreta. All of the side effects that could come from a surgery that would remove her uterus and part of her bladder - pain, diminished quality of life, forced menopause, and on and on. Donna making me promise this or that in case she didn't survive... up to and including her demanding that I promise to perform an emergency c section in the event that she had a serious bleed (as it had been spelled out to us that she would almost certainly not survive long enough for us to get her to the hospital). There are youtube videos, she told me, instructing me that I had to hurry, that there would be nothing I could do for her, but that I could not let the baby die. I was to take my pocket knife, cut down from the belly button, only cut through the thick white layer so as to not hurt the baby, pull the baby out, dry it, wrap in a new towel...

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Tags for this post: Family Life

How to Sew Baby Burp Cloths

Babies spit up. This is a fact of life as inevitable as death and taxes. Obviously, most of us would prefer that the freshly regurgitated stomach contents of our precious little ones to NOT go directly onto our clothing, hence the creation of the burp cloth.

While you can of course use a tee shirt, towel, or receiving blanket for the job, it's always nice to have a tool specifically designed for a given task, and burp cloths are no exception to that rule. Naturally, there are many places that you can purchase attractive burp cloths, but you can make them yourself for less than two dollars apiece with even the most novice level sewing skills. Since baby number nine will be here in less than a month, I have started making some of these to prepare for her; read on to see how it works.

The supplies you need
The needed supplies are very simple.

All you need, supply wise, is a plain white cloth diaper and some scrap fabric. Cloth diapers come in packs of ten for just over a dollar each. I used fat quarters of cotton fabric for my burp cloths; these cost a dollar or less, and can be found at any craft or fabric store; these came from the fabric department of my local Wal Mart. With that said, feel free to raid your scrap bag or scrap drawer, as any piece that...

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Tags for this post: Sewing

Review: Cat-tastrophe!, a Game from Imagination Generation

This past Christmas, Wynter (my four year old) had several board games on her Christmas list. All told, I think that she made some good choices; I'll eventually get to all of them.

Today, however, we are going to focus on Cat-tastrophe!, a game by Imagination Generation.

As for the basics - this is a game for two to four players; the recommended ages on the box are five and up. With that said, my girls (ages three and four) had zero problems understanding or playing the game, and they both enjoyed it a lot - as did my seven year old and eleven year old sons.

Elowyn plays for keeps
Elowyn (age three) plays for keeps.

The concept is very simple. A kitty cat is stuck at the top of a tree, and it's your job to get her down. The "tree" consists of a stack of little colored wooden dowels painted to resemble tree branches and leaves. Each player takes turns using a thinner dowel to push their chosen piece out of the pile. If the pile crashes and the kitty falls to the ground, you lose.

You can do a more advanced version of the game, as well, that tallies points as you go... but the base game is a simple variation on Jenga, and it works.

The craftsmanship for the game is excellent. All of the pieces are solid wood,... Read More
Tags for this post: Product Reviews

Holiday Beards and Self Esteem

I wear a beard. For most of the year, I keep it very short, but a couple of years ago, Donna made the mistake of showing me some online photos of guys decorating their beards with ornaments for Christmas. Now, I absolutely love the Christmas season; I love decorating, I love getting into the holiday spirit... and truth be told, I am certainly the biggest kid in our house. Much to my wife's surprise (and truth be told, dismay), I grew my beard out, bought some tiny ornaments, and hung them in and off of my glasses. It was a hit - I had people telling me how much they loved it, even stopping to take selfies with me at the mall on Black Friday. I even took them with us on our trip to Disney World, and when we attended the Christmas Party there, I wore them. That night, I had three different cast members in the parade stop and point me out, and got a ton positive feedback from people there. On our way back to the hotel, Donna looked at me and observed that it was over, that I was going to do this every year, wasn't I?

The answer was a resounding "of course!".

ornaments in beard
Who wouldn't want to look this festively awesome?

 

The thing is, Donna hates it when my beard is long, so I get up on December 26th and trim it back down...

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Tags for this post: Family Life

Indoor S'mores, or, Chaos Lurks in Every Corner

The record is very clear - we are all about big events in our house. As has been documented here before, we believe in big birthdays, in big Christmases, in big Disney World trips, and so on and so forth. However, life can't just be floating along until the next big event. You have to build those connections every day, you have to find the small pieces of magic to sprinkle into everyday life.

Last week, Donna got the idea of doing s'mores inside over our fireplace. The weather has cooled off quite a bit; a fire is now an attractive thing, and she thought that it would be fun to take a traditional summertime activity and put a little spin on it for the kids. So last week's grocery trip included me picking up graham crackers, Hershey bars, marshmallows, and metal skewers (so as to not have to scavenge sticks from the yard).

As an aside... I'm a fan of new and improved products, of products designed to fit little niches... but the fact that they now sell square-shaped marshmallows - which cost twice as much as normal ones - and market them as "s'more marshmallows" is just absurd. A well toasted marshmallow with a near liquid center spreads out perfectly fine on a graham cracker. Come on, marshmallow magnates!

At any rate, I wordlessly placed these ingredients on the dining room table, but refused to answer any questions about them aside... Read More
Tags for this post: Parenting, Family Life

Rockets and Drones, oh My!

My middle son, Jonah, is an inquisitive guy with quite a few interests; one of these interests happens to be the space program.  Since he turned nine this year, I felt like he would be very interested in model rockets, and after being chilly to the idea to start with, he asked for one for his birthday.

The past Saturday, I helped him put it together.  Now, Estes model rockets have been around for some time; I built several as a child, and I helped my oldest son, Caleb, build one some years ago.  I will say that these have improved over the years, at least when it comes to the ease of construction.  He and I put together this Taser rocket kit (which comes with the reusable launch pad and controller) in less than an hour. 

The box claimed that the rocket could fly to a thousand feet up, but the fine print indicated that this depended on the model of engine that you chose; this time around, Donna and I went with the B6-4 engines, which were the mid range selection (and still supposedly yielded around 550 feet of altitude).  The kit did also require some recovery wadding - aka fire retardant tissue designed to protect the parachute from being burned up. 

The concept is pretty simple.  You build this cardboard and plastic rocket, which includes a parachute.  The solid fuel engine goes in the bottom, which you ignite electronically.  It flies...

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Tags for this post: Family Life

Olan's Spicy Spaghetti

Spicy spaghetti!Olan's spicy spaghetti, served with a slice of garlic bread.


I have mentioned before that my wife, Donna, does almost all of the cooking in our house. And with good reason, mind you; the woman is a genius. She regularly tries new recipes (and often adapts or creates her own), and it's extremely rare for the result to not be something we want to repeat - typically, the reactions range from "that's really good" to "that's better than the majority of restaurants I have ever eaten at".

However, a few dishes fall under my domain; chief among them is spaghetti. This is one of the very few meals that every single person in my family (including picky Silas) enjoys in some form. While it does require both some prep work and a not insignificant amount of cooking time, it's not what I would consider to be a "difficult" meal, per se... and the results are perfect for anything from a romantic candlelit dinner to a full "feed the entire family" spread.

When I was a child, my mother stressed the importance of everyone being able to cook to some degree, as you can't always count on your mother (or wife) to do it for you, there are situations where you want to be the one providing the meal, etc. My spaghetti recipe is based on hers; indeed, for some time, I basically cooked it exactly like she did.

Over...

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Tags for this post: Recipes

Feeling Special in a Large Family

The fun of opening birthday presentsSlightly controlled birthday chaos.


Real talk time: our family is quite large. While we don't yet command our own TLC reality series, my wife and I do instigate double takes almost any time we mention how many kids we have (eight total, six aged ten down to infant).

Now, it may come as a complete shock to you, but for whatever reason, a fair number of people seem to feel obligated to comment as to why they personally disapprove of large families. Don't get me wrong - I personally think that these people can take their opinions on a long walk off of a short pier - but one that sticks out is a take we hear with surprising frequency where the windbag in question shares how they "could never have that many kids, as it isn't fair to them, that you just can't make things special for so many children."

Go ahead, imagine the expression of "I'm not going to bother hiding my contempt" on my face. I'm sure that you can picture it.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that we can dote on each and every one of the six younger kids like some single kid parents do with their one child. But to suggest that it isn't fair to them, that we can't make things special? This sentiment is not only deeply insulting, but is patently false.
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Tags for this post: Parenting

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