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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

 

I'm Bugged



I don't care what the reviewers say, I had a great time watching the new Herbie: Fully Loaded movie. I think most of these critics forgot to bring their kids with them. All I had to do was look over at my 4-year-old clapping her hands and shouting, "Go Herbie!" to know that this was a fun film. It reminded me of those old Disney classics of the 60's like Now You See Him, Now You Don't and That Darn Cat. Simple, harmless, funny, feel-good. My son went on and on about his favorite scene (see photo above) when Herbie was chased by a monster truck.

Attention Disney: Make more movies like this please!


Saturday, June 25, 2005

 

Memories Can't Wait

The other day my son asked me about cereal and who invented it. I had the answer to that one, telling him about W.K. Kellogg and his accidental invention of corn flakes, which was the first popular "milk and cereal" combination to change the way Americans ate breakfast.

That reminded me of the cereals I used to enjoy as a kid. My favorites were Cocoa Puffs, Captain Crunch, Boo Berry, Sugar Smacks, and Honeycomb. And whatever had the best stuff to read on the back of the box.

And thinking of those cereals made me realize that there are certain memories that can't, and shouldn't, be re-visited. It only leads to disappointment. Yes, I've sampled some of those cereals recently. Hard to believe I used to get all "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" when I was 8 years old. These days the mere thought of eating chocolate first thing in the morning makes me want to reach for the Tums.

It's like that with memories. Many of them are best left as just memories.

I was so excited to buy H.R. Pufnstuf on DVD to watch with my kids. In fact, they did enjoy the series just as much as I did when I was a kid. But the grown-up me was aghast that the little kid me could actually sit through the show. Same with old kid faves of mine like Lidsville, Wacky Races, Gilligan's Island, and Land of the Lost. I don't have the patience for stories like that anymore, and my happy childhood memories have been tainted by my grown-up judgements and critiques.

It's the same with certain movies from the past. As a kid, I loved Disney films like The Cat From Outer Space and Escape To Witch Mountain. But my palate has become too refined for the ancient special effects of those years. My own memories have been replaced by the ones of my kids laughing and enjoying those movies, so it's not necessarily a bad thing to re-visit those old loves. My kids don't notice the strings and fake blue-screen effects just as I didn't notice them way back when.

The memories that I'm most uneasy about re-visiting involve friends and family. My favorite images of childhood include playing hide-and-seek with my cousins on my Grandma's farm, building cardboard box forts with my neighborhood pals, playing kickball on the playground in 2nd grade, and making silly home movies with my best friend in elementary school. In recent years, I've met up with some of those old friends and relatives. And, for the most part, my cherished memories of them have been completely demolished. In the worst case, an old friend from junior high who always used to make me laugh grew up to become a director of gay porn. Now there's something I really didn't want to know.

I think I'm going to leave most of my old memories alone. And go make some new ones with my kids.


Friday, June 24, 2005

 

Strange Boat



I'm back from a three-day road trip with the family and my brain is on empty. I don't sleep well in strange beds, which is something my grandparents always used to talk about. Uh-oh, another sign of getting old.

Above is a rare sighting of me and my son trying out a kayak on the lake. By rare, I mean I don't usually put photos of me and my kids on this blog. But it's a great photo, and you can't really tell what we look like unless you're Nick Stokes at CSI sitting in front of a ridiculously fast and expensive computer with the latest top-secret imaging software.

I had something else to say, but POOF it's gone! I hate when that happens.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

 

Must Be Summer



You know it's summer when the teenagers start believing they're invincible.

I took this photo during a Father's Day stroll along Tubbs Hill on Lake Coeur d'Alene. A beautiful day!


Friday, June 17, 2005

 

Father's Day Thanks

On the occasion of Father's Day, I'd like to just say a few words of thanks to my own father...

Thanks for never playing catch with me so I would realize how healthy it is to be active with my kids. Whether it's throwing a ball around the yard or tossing a frisbee back and forth, children long to play with their dads and develop the physical skills needed to succeed in sports.

Thanks for never sitting down and having a conversation with me so I would know how depressing it is to not have a father to discuss things that young boys need to talk about. Communicating with my children goes hand in hand with loving them. They know that they can ask me about anything and I will take the time to talk with them, not at them, no matter how busy I think I might be.

Thanks for not being interested in my friends, hobbies, school, and future dreams so I would learn to never be a clueless dad who has no idea what kinds of people my kids are becoming. I have to put aside many of my own interests to be involved with theirs. It's not always fun to listen to endless Wiggles songs or to watch a Blue's Clues video for the tenth time, but being interested in their world lets my kids know I care about them and what they think.

Thanks for spending my college money on a trip to Europe with your girlfriend so I could learn how important it is to start college savings accounts for each of my children. When they first entered this world I promised to help them go as far they desired with their education.

Thanks for cheating on my mom so that I could witness firsthand the emotional devastation that an extramarital affair can inflict upon both a spouse and a family. I learned how important it is to remain faithful and strong, and to pass these qualities on to my kids. A man who loves his kids will love the woman who created them.

Thanks for losing touch over the years so I would make a mental note to, in the future, never let a week go by without letting my grown-up children know I love them and that I am still here for them no matter what.

Finally, thanks for being such a good dad to your new family so that I would realize you did, in fact, have it in you to be a loving and attentive father. Just not to me. Which means that everyone makes choices in life, and that I can overcome your poor example of fatherhood to become something admirable to my own children. If I do nothing more in life than be my kids' dad, I will be able to call myself a true success.

Happy Father's Day to all the good dads out there! You know who you are.


 

Father Is Best

With Father's Day approaching, here's a wonderful column about the importance of fatherhood. Lots of great statistics to make us involved dads feel good about ourselves.

Give dear old traditional dad his due. He might not be cool, but he's important. We need more of him.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

 

The Art of Conversation

Tony, a North Idaho blogger, has a great post about teaching kids the fine art of conversation. If your children can learn this skill, they'll be far ahead of most people. I rarely meet good conversationalists. These days, it seems like most people just know how to watch TV and have forgotten how to carry on a prolonged discussion on a wide range of subjects.


 

May The Birthday Be With You



Today my son celebrated his seventh birthday. We planned a big party for him, the first to which kids from his school were invited.

My son was very picky about who he wanted at his party... "Only the good kids," he said. Of the five invitations mailed out, one mom called us last week to RSVP. A second mom responded this morning, two hours before the party, and also asked us if we could drive her son home afterward. The other three invitations went completely ignored.

I was very disappointed, but I refused to pass that feeling on to my son. We made sure he was more than satisfied with the party. The atmosphere was extremely positive and we did not dwell on the no-shows. I doubt he even noticed the other three boys weren't there.

The party itself had a Star Wars theme, with Darth Vader masks, Yoda balloons, Anakin Skywalker napkins and plates, light sabers for the boys to battle with, and various games we made up, like "Death Star Soccer" and "Jar Jar Sponge Fight." A good time for all. The favorite was the pinata, which was a big yellow star covered with pictures of Darth Vader. The kids donned their Vader masks and for twenty minutes whomped the living heck out of that thing. Vader vs. Vader! The kids didn't stop to contemplate the paradoxical aspects of that.

Later we brought out the Star Wars cake, courtesy of Wal-Mart, and opened presents. My son increased his Star Wars figures collection by seven, including the most dearly sought-after Destroyer Droid, which he later brought to the table as his partner in a game of Cadoo (they won).

They made lots of noise -- the elderly neighbors remarked that they thought we had a dozen or more kids in the backyard. Much running, jumping and bouncing was enjoyed. We had Meco's "Star Wars Disco Theme" on the boombox, set on repeat. I'll be hearing that song in my dreams for a week.

A great day for my son. And that's all that matters. I'll probably never understand what goes through the minds of some of my fellow parents. I just have to make sure that their low standards do not infringe upon my child's well-being.

Next week my son gets another birthday (with the grandparents). I have a feeling there will soon be more Star Wars figures coming to my house.


Monday, June 13, 2005

 

Ten Commandments of Fatherhood



In his 1998 book Tommy and Me, Ben Stein chronicles his feelings of frustration and joy of being a father. It's a short book, at 152 pages, and contains many insights into parenting that made me stop and think. I especially enjoyed his concluding chapter. Here it is (in abridged form):

Ben Stein's Ten Commandments of Fatherhood:

1. Time is of the essence. Spend large amounts of time with your child. Kids don't want "quality time"... They want you to be there all the time.

2. Share your strength with your child. Be an ally, not an adversary. Share with him stories of your own fears, failings, and anxieties and how you overcame them.

3. Do not expect your child to make up for your own losses when you were a child. Let your kids pursue their own hopes and dreams.

4. Look for the good in your child and praise it. Children are nurtured by praise as plants are nurtured by water. Deny it to them at their peril and yours. Children who are told that they can succeed in fact usually do succeed.

5. Do not allow your children to be rude. Being polite is a basic foundation of human interaction, and kids will not succeed in life if they're surly and disrespectful.

6. Patience is indispensable. Children's behavioral flaws cannot be corrected by flipping a switch. It takes a long time and a lot of patience to teach positive behaviors. If you are an impatient, demanding, short-fused dad, you will get that irritable, demanding kind of kid.

7. Teach your child and let him teach you. Children will tell you what they want and need. Dads get into trouble when they do not listen to their kids and dismiss their feelings as not important. Also, your child should get the benefit of your wisdom and experience about life, so tell him what you know about the world around you. Learn from your children and let them learn from you.

8. Value your child for what he is, not for what you think he should be. I want my son to know that whatever he becomes in the future, he is prized just for being my son, right now.

9. Raising a child is a job for Mom and Dad. Children with absent fathers are wounded for the balance of their lives. Dad should and must be in there pitching along with Mom, helping out as an equal partner in the tough job of raising children. The true heroes of our generation are at home with their kids.

10. Being a Daddy is priority number one. When you decide that your kids come before your sales quota or your poker-playing schedule or your overtime to make partner, then you will find that all of the other pieces of Daddyhood fall into place - teaching and learning, patience, looking for the good and praising it. When you put your kids first, you are far less alone in this world. What's more vital, so are they.


Friday, June 10, 2005

 

School's Out For Summer



Last day of school today! I don't know who's more excited, me or my son. My wife made Summer Cookies for his class. They also had candy, donuts, ice cream, muffins, and root beer. Oh well... They've got all summer to work off that sugar high.

I'm one of those people who looks forward to having my kids home all summer. We have many things planned... Crafts, reading, hiking, learning about bugs and snakes, gardening, exploring our town, swimming in the lake. Fun stuff, much of which I'll probably be blogging about. If you see me counting down the days until the new school year then you'll know something's gone horribly wrong.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

 

A Letter To His Son

I stumbled upon a blog I'd never seen before, One Child Left Behind, and found an incredibly beautiful and humorous post, On the Event of Your Seventh Birthday. It's an open letter from the author to his son.

Two short excerpts:

"One time, after sending you to the corner, I realized that parents need discipline more than children do, but there’s no one to give it. So the next time I made a mistake, I told you that you could punish me. You sent me to the corner, and you made me stay there a loooong time. It wasn’t fun, but I found myself playing with the light switch. Just like you do."

"Part of me almost hopes that you’ll do something incredibly stupid, like sell my truck to the neighbor for a plate of spaghettios, just so I can look you in the eye and tell you, ‘It doesn’t matter what you do, I’ll always be here for you, in forgiveness and gratitude for being a part of your life.’"


Go and read the whole thing. It's long, but well worth it (have a tissue nearby). I wish I could write like that to my son, who turns 7 this month. Maybe I can. Maybe I'll try.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

 

Tree Huggers



Down at our local city park are some beautiful tree carvings. A good use for diseased and dying trees!

See more pictures at my Tall Trees photo blog.


 

They Just Don't Understand

I rarely listen to the radio these days. I learn about new music from friends, MP3 blogs, and magazine articles. My "radio station" is my iTunes library, randomly shuffling through over 18,000 songs.

My wife, however, stubbornly continues to scan through music radio in the car thinking she's going to hear something decent. And sometimes she actually does. She rushed in today to tell me about this great new song she heard. I looked it up on Google and found this fascinating, and emotional, story behind Sawyer Brown's new single, "They Don't Understand."

I haven't heard the song yet, but I do like the lyrics... Here's a part of them:

A mother riding on a city bus
Kids are yelling kicking up a fuss
Everybody’s staring
Not knowing what she's going through
Somebody said don't you even care
And do you let them do that everywhere
She slowly turned around, looked up and stared.

She said, "Please forgive them
They've been up all night
Their father struggled
But he finally lost his fight
He went to heaven
In the middle of the night
So please forgive my children
They don’t understand."

Everybody's busy with their own situation
Everybody's lost in their own little world
Bottled up, hurried up, trying to make a dream come true
They don't understand
Everybody's livin' like there ain't no tomorrow
Maybe we should stop and take a little time
Cause you never really know what your neighbor’s going through
They don't understand.


Monday, June 06, 2005

 

Summer Family Films



This summer's slate of family-friendly movies is a mixed bag of comedies and adventures. We already know about the recently released Madagascar, Kicking and Screaming, and Revenge of the Sith, but here are seven more upcoming films that look interesting:

June 10 - The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D
June 22 - Herbie: Fully Loaded
June 24 - March of the Penguins
July 1 - Rebound
July 15 - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
July 29 - Sky High
August 19 - Valiant

Check out the full summer movie schedule at Rotten Tomatoes.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

 

Make Up Your Mind

When I was a kid we started learning about how bad certain foods were for us, so my mom cut back on things like butter, eggs, red meat, and salt.

As I got older we learned that those same foods were actually not so bad for us... Butter and eggs are now considered essential natural foods. Red meat is the basis of several popular diets, and salt is something our bodies cannot do without.

In recent years, carbohydrates have gone from being evil to being not so bad.

Now I read that people who are modestly overweight actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight. So is fat going to be the new health trend?

It all makes my head spin. I try to feed my kids a well-balanced common sense diet. If I were to pay attention to every food study that comes out, I'd probably be afraid to feed my children anything but oatmeal and water. Of course, now I'm reading news reports about drinking too much water! So I guess nothing is safe anymore.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

 

A Day At The Lake



Today was my son's big end-of-the-year class field trip, so I spent the day helping shepherd about seventy first-graders around Farragut State Park here in North Idaho.

Dads were well-represented, with eight of us helping out on the field trip. One mom. Something about hiking and the outdoors kept the moms away, I guess, because they usually dominate on class outings and parties.



I'm amazed at how much energy these kids have... We went through the visitor's center, the old Navy brig (the park was a Naval Training Center in the 1940's), and hiked over a mile along the lakeshore. Then we hit the playground and the children suddenly found new reserves of energy to climb, slide, play baseball, and chase ground squirrels.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

 

Sleep Deprived Parenting

Lack of sleep is not just annoying. It can be dangerous.

You may be suffering from Chronic Acute Brain-Dysfunction Insomnia-Related Neo-Parental Fever.

Click here for more information!


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

 

Lullaby and Goodnight

When my first child was born we loaded up on kids' music CDs, especially those that advertised themselves as "soothing" and "relaxing" for babies. Most of them are great, like the classical Brahms At Bedtime and Jason Falkner's brilliant Bedtime With The Beatles.

Our most favorite of all, and one we still listen to on a regular basis, is an Australian compilation called Lullaby and Goodnight that features soothing and playful songs by popular musicians from down under, including Paul Kelly, Colin Hay, Paul Hester, and David Bridie.

This disc is, unfortunately, out-of-print now. But it's well worth seeking out on eBay or through other used CD outlets on the Internet.

Here are two songs from the disc...

Listen: Martin Plaza - "While You Sleep" MP3

Martin Plaza is a member of the Australian band Mental As Anything, which has a new Best Of CD worth checking out if you like quirky 80's music.

Listen: Joe Creighton - "So Still He Lies" MP3

Joe Creighton has been a longtime session bass player and backing vocalist for artists such as Kylie Minogue, Crowded House, and Olivia Newton John, as well as a solo artist in his own right.