A Father’s Day Celebration (Ep. 146)

Father’s Day is coming on Sunday, and in today’s episode, Nic takes the opportunity to celebrate dads and how they can help raise creative children. Nic’s husband Tim comes on the show to share stories, strategies, and an appreciation for creativity.  Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Nic: Today, I wanted to highlight our dads. I actually inquired my team and I said, “Hey, does anyone have a dad that you want to highlight or experience with a father like figure that helped you in your creative endeavors?” and I was trying to do kind of a quick turnaround and didn’t get a lot of response, and I was telling my husband about it and as I’m telling him, I’m looking at him and I thought “Oh my goodness, you’re the most creative dad. You have given our kids so much love for creativity and problem solving, why don’t I just interview you?” So that’s what led to this interview today. We are going to be talking to my husband, Tim Hahn, and learning about his background as well as our teamwork to create creators in our household. This is Everyday Art Room and I’m your host, Nic Hahn.

Hi. Thanks, Tim, for being on today. Would you please introduce yourself to our audience?

Tim: Yeah, I’m Tim Hahn. I am an industrial tech teacher, graduated from UW-Stout, grew up in a small town in the middle of nowhere and Northern Wisconsin and graduated with a class of 100 students, and that was one of the biggest classes going through the school, and the actual town that I was from had 100 people in the town.

Nic: Then you went to school to study technology education.

Tim: Yeah. I went to UW-Stout to study technology education, went to my first job which was over in Eastern Wisconsin, kind of by Green Bay, a little town called Kiel, and after that first job, I wanted to try to get out of the education field and I moved into construction management because in the summers, I had done construction a lot, so I was able to slide right into construction management position in the Twin Cities where we live now for a local builder here. Did that for three years until the housing market took its first crash in 2004, and we also had our son and I watched my wife have fun with our son the first summer, and I was going to work 60 to 70 hours a week. That’s when I decided to jump back into education. The stars aligned and there was a position that I liked and I went back into teaching engineering, architecture, and woodworking which were my three areas of high interest in industrial tech to get.

Nic: You had some good opportunities as well teaching with students that had mental health concerns that were coming from correctional facilities in that position.

Tim: We did. The woodworking side was at the alternative high school and they serviced a residential treatment facility for mental illness which was a inpatient treatment facility, so those kids never got to go home, and then we also serviced a correctional institution, their students as well. It was kind of their last shot before they were going to go to jail as youth, so it was a very interesting position. I only had six to seven students in a class in woodworking but we were turning tools on and getting them try to turn on to tools and try to do something of interest because school really wasn’t their thing, and I really learned a lot about myself as a teacher and how to deal with students that haven’t been given the opportunities that I have.

Nic: High trauma most often.

Tim: Yup, all high trauma. That’s where I really learned that if children aren’t taught how to deal with anxiety or stressors, they really are at the age that they stopped getting taught that, so I had a lot of high schoolers in that class, because that was a mixed class all the way from seventh grade to 12th grade, I had a lot of high schoolers throwing temper tantrums that were like two year olds, and it was an interesting process to learn how to walk in the next day and you got to still teach that kid and you got to forget everything that happened yesterday because that kid did and move forward and still be able to teach that kid, and so you have to have a really short term memory to be able to do that and that’s a great thing to learn as a teacher is to have that short term memory. What happened yesterday is yesterday and today is moving forward.

Nic: Yup, and still giving them that love, not holding any angst towards the child and towards the situation. Absolutely. I’m grateful that you had that experience because it really did play nicely into our lives. We’re now working at the same district and we were talking about all of our timelines as we were preparing for this, and I don’t know, we’ve been together for 20 some odd years. We’ve been married for 17 and the current job that you’re working at is at the same district as myself and that’s for 12 years?

Tim: Yeah.

Nic: You kind of have a new role recently, if you just want to mention that.

Tim: Yeah. I was teaching at the middle school for the first 10 years teaching industrial tech, teaching engineering, teaching woodworking, kind of getting kids jazzed up and ready to go so that they could go be creative in high school and make some of those choices. I always talked to those students about making choices. I didn’t care which area they were in, but as long as it was in an area other than just straight academics to try to figure out A, what they want to do in life, and B, to have a little bit of fun in high school, so I said tech ed might not be your jam right now, but go do something. Go take an art class, go take a foods class, take a business class, take all those different courses that you’re not going to get to take once you get older and have a little bit of fun with them.

If you like something here, take it at the high school. Don’t just try to pack your schedule with all academics. It really makes for a difficult high school career and maybe not as enjoyable. I was working on that and then I got involved with what’s called CTE or career and tech ed and that’s basically teaching to careers. What’s involved in CTE is business, facts or culinary, that type of stuff, and then industrial tech is all CTE and we developed an internship program, so our goal is to have every student eventually, before they leave high school, get to kind of try before you buy a career to see if they want to go to college for that or go to-

Nic: Tech school.

Tim: Or tech school or extra learning. I really feel we’re doing a little bit of a disservice by just sending kids to college that say “I don’t know what I want to go to college for, I’ll figure it out there.” That’s a lot of money to spend for “I don’t know”. I always tell the students.

Nic: Yup, sure is. I really feel like all of these experiences between the two of us have led us to at least doing the best weekend as parents, and that’s what we’re focusing on today in this interview. I wanted to highlight how you specifically have brought our kids to be creators and makers and lovers of the experience and process.

Let’s get started with kind of our son was born in 2005 and our daughter Matisse was born in 2017. Sawyer is our son.

Tim: 2007, not ’17.

Nic: Yup, that’s right. Thank you for that. So Sawyer is now 14, right? Am I right?

Tim: Yup.

Nic: Matisse is 12, so we have two middle school students, and let’s just reverse to kind of some of our inspirations of what led us to creating creative kids.

Tim: Creativity has been a big part of my life all the way through. I always loved working with wood and making stuff. I took all the shop classes. I won’t lie, in high school, I didn’t take any of my art classes because I did not feel successful in art, but I had been doing woodworking for my entire life. We had a shop in our basement. We had an unfinished basement when I was growing up and my dad was very creative. He made every cabinet in our house, he made every piece of furniture in our house. I remember specifically getting our first computer, our big tower computer and making the computer desk and learning how to measure everything up and make sure the monitor, the gigantic monitor would fit in the computer desk and then how to make all the little drawers and doors and all that type of stuff was fun with my dad, but I was kind of let go and just turned loose down in that shop to create whatever I wanted.

As long as there was scrap wood around, I was making stuff.

Nic: Which there was because he lived in Wisconsin.

Tim: That’s right.

Nic: In the middle of the woods.

Tim: My dad worked as a window factory engineer, so I’d go in there and we’d always go and I dig through the scrap piles at his shop at work and then I’d bring a bunch of stuff home, and one of the biggest ones that I made was for my great grandma. I always liked kind of being helpful and my great grandma took care of me and my brother, which was a tall order because we were not the best children to take care of by any means, but my poor old frail great grandma, she’d always sit there with their hand up in the air because she was blocking the sun. We’d sit there and drink tea together and the sun was coming in and she’d blocked the sun with their hand in the air, so I thought I’m going to really be a nice, great grandson, and I went downstairs and I took this giant piece of board and I nailed two handles on it.

Nic: That’s helpful.

Tim: Because I knew she couldn’t hold the board up without a handle, so I nailed these two great big handles on it and I presented it to her and she… I remember being so proud presenting it to her and she’s like, “Oh thank you.” She did try it because she a good great grandma, but she could only hold the board up for about 10 seconds.

Nic: So you made her a sunblock.

Tim: I made her a giant sunblock.

Nic: That’s very good. I think that’s always the stories I hear of you. You are and continue to be a very helpful person, and that’s a creative way to do that. You’re saying you have some experiences with creativity in your own background, correct?

Tim: Yup, and I was given the freedom to be creative by my parents. They always believed in and being creative and exploring and letting me go. We had 80 acres so I was in the woods all the time exploring, making forts. I remember I was cutting down trees one day thinking I was going to build a log cabin in the backyard.

Nic: That makes sense.

Tim: My plans were always a little bit bigger than reality.

Nic: Really, the interesting part is that we met each other at Stout, and what’s interesting about that is that we have a lot of arts and tech ed couples that came out of Stout and us being one of them, and I think there is that like that common interest of making and creating that probably brought us together.

Tim: For sure.

Nic: That brings us forward, well I mean I know I was like “Whoa, that guy’s got skills,” and I can design anything. There’s my honey-do list for sure. Just kidding. I also love you. So then we had a couple of kids.

Tim: Yes. As we were raising kids, we first lived in a townhouse, but I remember one of the biggest things is we were always outside because it’s a little bit snowy here in the winter time.

Nic: I’ve noticed that.

Tim: I go a little bit nuts because I grew up outside, so we were always outside and then anytime the snowplow would come, make a huge pile, me and my son would go outside and we would dig the biggest snow forts out of the big snow piles. So it was like big igloos and they would fit everybody, our whole family could fit inside those, and I’d bring my ice fishing heater in there and we’d roast hotdogs and we’d put candles in there so that we had light and everything. It was always kind of cool and magical place for all the kids of the neighborhood.

Nic: The windows that we’d make too.

Tim: Yup.

Nic: We’d take ice and put colored food coloring in there and then freeze it and create windows so we had some stained glass in our little forts as well. It was pretty fun.

Tim: Going from there, we’d supported our kids in creativity. Nicole was always doing art projects. Once she said “I’m going to paint with the kids” and I was like “What? And there are babies?” I couldn’t figure this out and then she showed me that she was going to do pudding painting with them and let them play with colored pudding, and it was pretty amazing what she would do with them and kind of inspire them creatively with her art background that she had. So we were kind of instilling our creative backgrounds on our children as we were going through.

Nic: Yup. Really highly exposed children, that’s for sure. Then we did do house daycare for many years, which was a great experience, but at one point, we were forced into looking at more of a-

Tim: Daycare center.

Nic: Center, right. We fell into Monarch Montessori. Neither of us had ever heard of Montessori schools to be honest, but it was a really amazing experience.

Tim: It was. They were really focused on basically our values of kids can do things, and we learned so much there. I remember the first day, we were kind of there on a tour, and I looked around the room and although they had the lessons and the kids get to choose when to do the lessons but they’re guided on what lessons they should try to do, but all the lessons were in these cute little ornate glass containers, and to say the least, our daughter is not the gentlest.

Nic: We’re grateful we didn’t name her Grace.

Tim: She is very creative, but you know how sometimes creative people are a little bit messy? That’s her. That’s her to a tee. So I’m looking at all these little glass things and we’re going around and all of a sudden, we see a kid drop on and shatter it on the floor, and these are three to seven year olds, and I kind of jumped back and freaked out a little bit and I’m like “Oh my gosh,” and the Montessori teacher walked over, brought the student over actually, said “Okay, you got to put these gloves on, and here’s a dust pan and a broom. Now we just got to clean up what we broke.”

Nic: Yeah, and the kiddo did it.

Tim: The kid, the four year old kid cleaned it all up, cleaned that broken glass, and amazingly that opened our eyes to what kids really can do if we let them.

Nic: Through that school, we learned that our four year old could use a sewing machine on his own. We learned that they can make food so they helped us all the time in the kitchen, so they were cracking eggs and peeling hard boiled eggs. We bought a special cutting tool that allowed them to cut carrots, and this was all really driven by our experience with the Montessori school.

Tim: Yup, it was. It was also a mind shift for us, we had to really understand a slow down. If our number one job as parents was to teach our kids how to be independent, we had to be willing to slow down and let them do it and let them make their mistakes and let them learn from their mistakes-

Nic: And even expect mistakes and be okay with that, expecting the mistakes that happen.

Tim: Teaching them that mistakes are okay and are going to happen and are expected, how do you push through that.

Nic: We’ve talked a little bit about bringing our kids outside and bringing our curriculum in, but let’s talk about that just a little bit more with your background of tech ed and my background of art. What are some of the things that you were able to provide for our kids, some of the experiences, because of your job as a tech ed teacher?

Tim: It was always fun. I would bring our kids in. If I go in on the weekend to work on something, I’d always bring them in, and they’d have the same experiences that I did as a kid. They’d see the scrap barrels and I know that I had about 20 minutes that I could work and then I had to spend the rest of the time being with the kids and working with the kids on their stuff. They gave me 20 minutes and I gave them an hour or two hours sometimes or whatever they want to try to make, and that made it a really safe space for them when they did that. They got to do that. Also, one of the other things was was like I had to develop how to make tissue paper hot air balloons for class, and they were in the middle of that, helping me with that, and we got to figure out how to fly these hot air balloons up into the air with all the neighbor kids. So we brought our kids out and had all their friends come around and we were flying hot air balloons.

We did a lot of rockets when they were growing up, so we made model rockets, and I know it’s a lot of the pieces of letting them do it. Sometimes, like I had a friend once that said “Oh, I always like to get a new Lego set for my son at Christmas time, because it would be all put together for him underneath the Christmas tree,” and I thought, “Is that a Lego set for your son or a Lego set for you?”

Nic: He would buy a new Lego set for his son but put it together prior.

Tim: It was all those things that we had to learn to allow them to make mistakes. It’s not going to look perfect, it’s not going to even look good, but if you eventually want to look good, you need to practice. It can’t be somebody else doing it for you.

Nic: Right, and that rocket kind of leads us into just kind of a side note of what our celebrations are in our household and kind of our philosophy on that. Talk about the gifts that we give our kids. We’re not huge gift people.

Tim: We aren’t. Our family in general, both Nicole and I aren’t really big on gifts. We’d rather spend time with each other or do things with each other or spend the money on experiences, travel, that type of stuff that have a thing. We learned early on, probably like anybody with children, is Christmas time becomes, especially early in their lives comes, becomes a flood of things, and pretty soon your house becomes overrun with things, and every holiday means two days later, a trip to Goodwill to get rid of half the old toys that have got played with once to replace it with new toys. We really converted that to getting kits, getting things that they could do. One that the kids always talk about and they always hoped to get.

Even as 12 and 14-year-olds, they’re hoping to get a bubblegum making kit again. It comes from a local hardware store or home improvement or a farm supply store and they have all these kits, and they just love making this horrible tasting bubble gum.

Nic: It is not good, no.

Tim: If you guys ever remember bubble gum out of baseball cards, think about that, only harder and more bad tasting. It’s just miserable gum, but they loved doing that.

Nic: The experiment and the discovery of that. We really give them full range in the kitchen as well, so our Christmas celebration involves assigning them a recipe. Now guys, this is a good tip for everybody because we’ve really enjoyed this a lot. We do kind of that, what is that show called?

Tim: Chopped.

Nic: Chopped? So we give them a bag and a recipe with all the ingredients in it and we say “Okay, you’re going to make the chicken today or the turkey and you’re going to make the sweet potatoes,” and then they have to do that for us, and they love it. My goodness, we spent four hours, and Tim and I sit back and we were available for questions, but they’re creating. Creating those experiences is really important.

Tim: With all those kits and craft supplies and everything that we’ve given our kids for gifts, our kids have really turned into understanding that we want them to be creative and we want them to figure these things out. Although I think they figured out the whole Christmas meal thing this last year, they might’ve looked at us like “Oh.”

“Wait, what are you guys going to be doing? Watching us again?”

But they still did it and it was great, and it’s a good way to teach your kids how to be really creative, or we found our kids to be creative, and I don’t want to sound like our kids are the most creative kids in the world because there’s a lot of creative kids out there. It’s just options out there, and believe me, there’s a lot of things that I won’t talk about for parenting.

Nic: But we have made conscious efforts to create creators. Yes, that’s why we’re doing this one.

I think the last thing that we should probably talk about is the most recent thing. It was distance learning 2020 and with two educators and everybody learning how to be in distance learning just like everybody else in the world was, getting thrown into it, it was intense at home I’m sure as for all of you as well, and it was finding that balance and finding work with our two kids at home that are pretty independent, but it was finding that balance and it was so much fun, and thank goodness we are where we are and our governor gave us two weeks to prepare for it, so we were done teaching and you just had two weeks where you could get ready for distance learning.

Tim: In that two weeks, we do our schoolwork all day, but then in the afternoons, we’d switch and we’d be a 100% working with the kids, and we wanted to make them be creative in this and we wanted them to make a space in our house that they could do distance learning as well, because Nichole and I both made our own home offices in different levels of the house and we wanted them to have that same thing.

Nic: Right, and we should mention, during those two weeks, there was nothing for our students. No assignments, no any, so there was nothing to focus them at all. We had to find something for them to really focus their energy in so that we could continue to work. We had a space downstairs, it was a really cool space, kind of my favorite thing so it kind of broke my heart to get rid of it, but when we moved into this house and finish our basement, we had a larger closet I guess we could call it. It’s a smaller room, and we created this two story Playhouse where the kids could walk up a ladder to get to the second level and we had a train that went around the top and it was just very sweet and very utilized for a period of time, but being my kids are both larger than me now, they weren’t ducking down to get into this playhouse anymore. So we gave them that space and really step back.

Tim: Yup, we did, and we asked them, and Sawyer really likes interior design and designing spaces and that type of stuff. Matisse just wants it to be designed for her and she wants it to be done and look really good. So it kind of works out pretty good because Sawyer likes to do the stuff and Matisse doesn’t.

Nic: She likes to help.

Tim: Right, she likes to help. What we’d ended up doing is taking down that two-story playhouse, and the first two days was them taking all the nails, all the screws, all the staples out of all the lumber so that we could reclaim this lumber and turn it into something else, and they wanted to make two big L shaped desks and kind of brighten up this room with that.

Nic: And the colors and the paints, right?

Tim: Yup. We did that, we had them take all that stuff apart, and then we designed from my background, I started showing the kids, “Okay, now this is how you design on a program called SketchUp, so that you know how much material you need, what it’s going to look like when we’re done, what each board looks like,” and took them through that initial design process with us. I didn’t just design it, I didn’t pull up a plan, we went through that process, and I think that was really eye opening for the kids about “Whoa, this is what design looks like.”

Nic: Yeah, because it evolved. The design evolved throughout time, and yeah, it was powerful. They really enjoyed that.

Tim: Then we were out in the garage and we were building it. I don’t have as extensive as the wood shop at home as I do at school or I don’t have a whole basement like I did growing up, but I have enough tools at home that we-

Nic: Yes, you have enough tools at home.

Tim: You could always use more though.

Nic: Continue. Yes, we could accomplish the design with the tools that we had at our house.

Tim: How about I call them “art supplies.” They’re my art supplies, then there’s not enough ever.

Nic: That’s true.

Tim: So we went to work and we got it done, we got it built, and we got it stained and finished, and when we came out the backside of it, the kids said “That was a lot more work than we expected it to be.”

Nic: Right. It definitely took the two weeks if not longer of working every single day from start to finish.

Tim: Yeah, they work on it all day long.

Nic: We painted the walls, they put hexagons on the walls. There was more involved than just the desks, but the desks were kind of most of it. That’s true.

Tim: It was a good experience for them to understand the design process all the way to carrying it out and how to be creative that way and how to think and process what you’re actually doing and how to plan before to make sure you’re not just throwing a bunch of material away, and it was a great-

Nic: And recycle. We did some recycling. It was a great experience for the kids and it was kind of this current evolution of all the steps that we’ve taken along the way to create independent children who are makers and creators and thinkers, and it is something that brings great pride to both Tim and I.

Tim: Yeah. We’re excited to see what they come up with and what they think about and what they do, so it’s a great place to be when you can sit back and look and be proud of what your kids are doing, and it was so helpful during distance learning that we had done it all the way through that they were fairly independent by that time. Just kind of wrapping that up, our big things where we inspired them from all the way from little on to be thinkers, creators, make mistakes, get messy, get dirty, we can always clean it up. If you break it, we can always fix it, and moving all the way through and raising that up and being in a mind shift for us to slow down, it’s okay for mistakes, remind ourselves that as well.

Nic: Every day is a new day. Those lessons that you learned at your past jobs, every day is a new day, even if you argue one day. All right. Well, thanks. That was great. Thank you for sharing and joining me today on the podcast. Did you know I had a podcast? Is this new news to you?

Tim: This is the first episode, right?

Nic: Yeah, right.

We heard a little bit about Tim’s parents in the podcast. They definitely encouraged him in so many ways, just really looking at his interests and making sure that they provided an opportunity for him to explore the interests that he had, and they did that for his brother. Even though his brother had different interests, they definitely provided what their boys were interested in. I want to highlight his mom. We didn’t talk about her as much because I think her crafting her way of expressing herself is maybe more of interest to me than Tim. I know that Tim always helped out with different tasks like cutting ornaments for Christmas or whatever it was, he was always helping his mom because he loves her, but I love who and what she creates. She is a painter, a watercolor artist, she is a beater, she makes beautiful jewelry, she is excellent at Zentangles and she’s always willing to continuously learn, and that’s something I truly respect in Miss Mary Hahn.

Then I want to talk about my parents. Since we are celebrating people that raised creatives, I wouldn’t be the person that I am right now if I wasn’t raised by Coleen and Tom. My mom always sewed us dresses. I have three younger sisters and we always had matching dresses to go to church with, and all of our toys were homemade, just very, very creative family, and then my dad, he can look at any scrap and make it into something spectacular. He is a very resourceful person. The way he looks at this world is big picture. He and my mom both looked at me and realized that I was going to have difficulties in schools. They realized that very early on, and then they looked at what my interests were, so they always encouraged me to be creative.

All of my gifts revolved around art. I went to classes when I was younger that encouraged my art and it was because of their values and their modeling of being creatives that really led me to who I am today. We hope that we’re doing the same thing for our kids and I bet if you thought about your life and who influenced you, you’re going to find people that brought you to the creative individual that you are today as well. Be sure to thank them today, and if it’s your dad, make sure that you give them an extra big hug, social distance hug if needed for father’s day, and thank them for making you the creator you are today.

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