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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

Picture Book



If you're new here, be sure to also check out my photo blog.


 

Why Blog?

I received a nasty little note from an anonymous commenter who is obviously not a fan of stay-at-home dads. He chided me for lazing about all day playing with my kids and not having to do any work. If it wasn't so incredibly ignorant, I might have been upset.

But I had to laugh when he called my blog self-serving. Well, duh. What personal blog isn't self-serving? It's the very nature of the thing.

It got me to thinking about why I maintain this blog. There are dozens of reasons, but the top three are:

  1. It's a creative outlet for me. A place to stave off early senility.
  2. It puts me in touch with similar-minded moms and dads, who never fail to give good advice and thoughtful comments.
  3. There's a chance, a very very slight chance, that I might actually earn some money off this thing.

So, in a nutshell, that's why I blog. Why do you blog?


Monday, August 29, 2005

 

Bullies

There's new research about bullying in schools that shows it can be linked with violent and criminal behavior later in life. No big surprise, but what's interesting are the efforts to stop kids from being bullied and harassed in what's supposed to be a learning environment. 22 states have passed anti-bully laws (why not all 50?), but the United States still lags behind other countries in dealing with the problem.

One of the reasons is that too many people think bullying is acceptable. It's astounding to me that there are parents and teachers who think that it will make a child stronger. A quote from the article: "But there are a lot of people who believe that bullying builds character, that if you get through it, you're better off." I know a father who thinks this way and I just don't understand it.

As a victim of junior high bullying myself, I can tell you that nothing about my brief experience did me any good or made me tougher in any way, shape or form. All it did was permanently taint my remaining public school years. My grades dropped, I became very shy, friends drifted away, extracurricular activities no longer interested me. I'll do whatever I can to make sure that my own children never have to go through that.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

 

Cow Tunes

This CD was released five years ago, but we just recently discovered Brent Holmes' Cow Tunes For Kids disc. My kids took to it right away, and I have to admit that it's extremely inventive and catchy. The songs have a simple style and uncluttered production that make it easy on young ears. And who can resist a whole collection of songs about cows and ice cream?

Here are a couple of tracks from it:

Buy the CD here at Amazon.com



Saturday, August 27, 2005

 

Around The Dial

Something I've been meaning to do for awhile... Taking a little look at some of the blogs and web sites that I read on a regular basis. See all those mom and dad blogs over there on the right? I try to check in on each one at least once a week. Some I check more often.

Anyway, here are some interesting things I found tonight:

Amy at That's Life, Life Goes On is tired. Very tired. She's raising three kids, helping to run her husband's business, and holding down a night job at Wal-Mart.

Steve Vaught is The Fat Man Walking and has finally entered New Mexico on his cross-country walk to "get his life back." If you haven't seen this site before, there are a lot of fascinating journal entries to read. His trip has been full of surprises and disappointments.

Brett at Dad Talk has a post up about fathers becoming traumatized in the delivery room. Wimps!

Jay Allen has started a new blog called Parents Behaving Badly that is both horrifying and hilarious at the same time. Sure makes me feel better about myself, though.

Homer at Eccentric Father says we should all quit whining about high gas prices. And I agree with him. What good is it going to do to complain? We do what we have to do.

Clare's Dad laments long hours at work. At least he's lucky enough to have a really interesting workplace, one where his daughter can come and have some fun.

Cheryl-Anne at Treasure Hunting writes about "Grandma's Closet" items, those little gifts that are never opened or used.

Jennifer at Taste Everything Once writes about her prize-winning pie. I don't even like pie, and I'm getting hungry!

Some Cranky Guy survived Hurricane Katrina.

Dodge at My Old Kentucky Blog is feeling restless for some sort of major life-change. I suggested he have children. That'll do it every time.

Robot Johnny wishes Elvis Costello a Happy Birthday and remembers meeting the man a few years ago.

Eric at More Diapers reminds me what an awesome privilege it is to be my kids' personal comedian.



Thursday, August 25, 2005

 

Tetherball Dreams



You ever have one of those moments where distant memories come unexpectedly rushing in, like a technicolor waterfall, to the forefront of your mind, full of sounds, sights, smells, and feelings?

I had one of those yesterday. We were at my son's school, signing him up for second grade, when I noticed a tetherball on the playground. I hadn't seen or touched one of these for thirty years. I told my son that it was a fun game and started teaching him how to play. First hit of the ball around the pole and that flood broke through. I actually had to take a step back and catch my breath for a moment.

You see, back in first and second grade tetherball was my game... It was my one best thing. I was out there playing tetherball before school, during recess and lunch, and sometimes after school. My mom even got me a tetherball pole set in concrete that I could wheel into the front yard to take on all the neighborhood kids. My brother and I would play all the time. Given our six-year age difference, it was one of the few things we played together.

The highlight of my early school years was a lunchtime challenge against a kid named Johnny Mann. The two of us were considered the best tetherball players in the second grade. Surrounded by dozens of cheering kids, we battled it out and I emerged victorious -- Undisputed Tetherball Champion of Santiago Elementary.

After second grade, we moved to a different town and nothing was the same. Two years later, my brother died and I never touched a tetherball again. Until yesterday. Here I am making new memories with my son, and out of nowhere comes that blast from the past. You just can't top a day like that!


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

 

X Parents

A few weeks ago I turned on the TV to catch the end of Letterman and found myself watching a band called The Knitters. They sure did look familiar, but it took me a minute to realize that it was members of the bands X and The Blasters. I hadn't seen them since 1982 when I saw X live in concert. But there was John Doe, DJ Bonebrake, Dave Alvin, and Exene Cervenka on my TV, some 25 years after they tore through the LA music scene.

I hopped on the Internet to catch up with what these guys had been doing over the past couple of decades and found this interesting interview with Exene in which she discusses motherhood in a powerful way:

Having a baby is without a doubt the best and the worst thing you can go through in life. It's a physical upheaval from the time of conception to the end of breastfeeding and it's a constant challenge. You don't care about that, though, when the hormonal stuff takes over -- the only thing you care about is you and your kid. This is hormonal stuff, ancient, protective stuff, and it's like "get out of my way, I have a baby inside of me." You’re so profoundly in a state of awe of the human body, and the mind goes from one extreme to another in ways you can't conceive of unless you've experienced it. The miracle of conception and birth is beyond any other experience, and the idea that your baby could die at any second if you screw up is beyond any fear you could have. And, the love you feel for that baby is beyond any love you could feel for another person. The agony of day-to-day parenting can be so intense that some days you just want to kill yourself because, although you can walk away from anything else in life, you can't walk away from a crying baby or a child going through a difficult phase.



Sunday, August 21, 2005

 

Violent Video

It doesn't surprise me to read that most research shows that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior in children. I've watched kids play a variety of those games, from fantasy swordplay to military strategy, and they always seem to get emotionally involved in the action. How easy it is for those feelings and responses to cross over to real world situations. My kids play educational computer games, some of which are actually more about fun than learning. I just see no reason why kids need to sit in front of the TV screen blasting people and creatures into oblivion.


 

Cooling Off

We've found yet another way to cool off during these hot August afternoons... A little water-play area was recently installed in a nearby park. Why didn't they have stuff like this when I was a kid?!





Wednesday, August 17, 2005

 

Big Red Wagon



My 12-year-old nephew is visiting from the Seattle area, and both my kids think he's great. Especially when he volunteers to pull them around in a wagon!

Speaking of wagons...



If you're ever in the Spokane area, you have to visit the Big Red Wagon in Riverfront Park. Yes, it's really big. That's me up there with my daughter, with my son about to barrel down the slide. I heard someone got married in the Big Red Wagon a few years ago. There's a carousel nearby, and gondolas that travel over the river and falls.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

 

Who Are You Worried About?

Next time you see a stranger looking at your child, and your heart beats a little faster and you grasp your child's hand a little tighter, just remember to save some of your cautiousness for where it really counts: 89% of sex crimes against kids happen in their home.

And this is who's committing those crimes.



 

Last Days of Summer



Excuse me for sparse blogging over the next few weeks... We're enjoying the last wonderful days of summer before school starts.

Hope you're doing the same.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

 

Another Fine Mess



The common refrain I hear these days is, "They just don't make enough family movies!"

Looking at the line-up of new fall movies, there is no doubt that families will have a hard time finding something for kids under 10.

But who needs new movies when there's 80 years of cinema history to explore. We've been doing that lately, viewing classic film comedies by Danny Kaye, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Abbott & Costello, and Charlie Chaplin.

However, my son's favorites by far are Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. We rented a collection of their films on DVD which includes Laurel & Hardy shorts County Hospital, Busy Bodies, and The Music Box as well as the longer Sons of the Desert. Each of these is near-perfect, and my son just couldn't stop laughing at some of the lines, which he now repeats at all hours: "Hardboiled eggs and nuts!" and "Here's another nice mess you've gotten us into." I am now known as "The Exhausted Ruler."

There are so many classic old movies that you can watch with your kids and not have to worry about language and sex. Some of those old comedies do feature their fair share of punches to the nose and slaps to the face, but I explained to my kids that "People used to think that was funny, but now we really don't" and they understand not to start going all Three Stooges on each other.

Rather than look ahead to the disappointing slate of future family films, it's exciting to look back at the huge treasure trove of old films now easily available on DVD.


Friday, August 12, 2005

 

Unappreciated

I really should be used to it by now, but somehow I can't shake the feeling of disappointment I feel toward a culture that dismisses parents who choose to stay at home with their children. By doing what is undeniably the best thing for our kids, we open ourselves up to criticism and belittlement. Where is the admiration for stay-at-home moms and dads in our media? Where is the praise from our friends and family? I don't see it. And thank God I don't need it.

I've noted before that my sustenance comes from my kids and my wife. Not a day goes by without a hug or a kind word or a pat on the back from them. So why is everyone else reluctant to recognize the incredibly positive results that come from having one parent at home? Yet they are so quick to admire the careerists who are unwilling to sacrifice a paycheck or promotion for the sake of their children.

If you're a stay-at-home mom or dad, do you feel this way? Unappreciated and undervalued by society at large? Or am I just loopy?


Thursday, August 11, 2005

 

Humor Break

A man asked his wife what she'd like for her birthday. "I'd love to be six again," she replied.

On the morning of her birthday, he got her up bright and early and off they went to a local theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride in the park: the Death Slide, the Screaming Loop, the Wall of Fear, everything there was! Wow! Five hours later she staggered out of the theme park, her head reeling and her stomach upside down. Right to a McDonald's they went, where her husband ordered her a Big Mac along with extra fries and a refreshing chocolate shake. Then it was off to a movie, the latest Star Wars epic, and hot dogs, popcorn, Pepsi Cola and M&Ms.

What a fabulous adventure!

Finally she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed into bed. He leaned over and lovingly asked, "Well, dear, what was it like being six again?"

One eye opened. "You idiot, I meant my dress size."


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

 

Bamboozled

"One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge -- even to ourselves -- that we've been so credulous." - Carl Sagan


I shouldn't be surprised that I'm feeling a little bamboozled lately after reading various reports about the realities of crime and child abduction in this country.

After all, I have long recognized that America's mass media thrives upon the Culture of Fear that it helped to create. But still, when it comes to the safety of children, I've been first in line to sound the alarm and spread the word about caution and awareness.

So now I learn that out of the roughly 800,000 kids that go missing in this country each year, the FBI estimates that only 100 to 200 of them are victims of the most serious type of non-family abductions, news of which fills parents with dread and distrust toward any stranger who looks twice at their children.

Better yet, violent crime in our country is at an all-time low and has been on a steady decline for the past thirty years. But you won't see that in the headlines. TV and newspapers seem to be only interested in scaring us, rather than informing us of the real level of risk. And why would they want to do that?

Mark, over at the Families & Technology blog theorizes that maintaining a certain level of fear and anxiety is good for corporate profits. Because behind every good newspaper, magazine, and TV station is a corporation that has something it wants to sell that will make us feel better about stepping out our front door into that great big scary world.

Dick Meyer, at CBSNews.com writes that the media is only giving the people what they want. He offers several theories as to why viewers are fascinated with stories of missing, murdered or abused children, including the idea that busy parents who shuttle their kids from one organized activity to another may actually turn to these horrible news reports to comfort and allay their own feelings of guilt over losing control of their own children.

Whatever the explanation, it certainly seems to be a vicious circle of corporate marketers, mass media, and viewers/readers. I don't believe those first two entities are willing to accurately analyze and report the reality of our world, so it's up to the audience, especially parents, to refuse to be bamboozled. The first step is to stop watching TV news, the worst offenders of exaggerating the incidence of child abductions. After that, find news organizations that deal in facts and figures. Become more optimistic and seek out the truth about the world around you. It's not such a bad place.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

 

Art On The Green



Our town had their annual Art on the Green this past weekend. My kids always like to hit the free children's area where they can paint, sculpt, carve, and string things together. My son painted a lovely rainbow, while my daughter mixed all the paint together into such a swirling psychedelic mess that eventually the paper disintegrated!

Meanwhile, this man and his newborn had the right idea...



Monday, August 08, 2005

 

Itsy Bitsy Spider



An hour ago it was panic time in our house... It was not unlike that scene from Annie Hall when Alvy goes to Annie's apartment to smash a spider "the size of a buick."

What we found scurrying across the living room floor was an Aggressive House Spider, also known as the Hobo Spider. I figured this out after about thirty minutes of intensive Internet research. You can guess what I'll be dreaming about tonight.

My wife is very worried now, but I keep trying to tell her how rare these bites are. We just need to take steps to prevent the spiders from entering our house and to clean, vacuum, and dust those areas where the Hobo Spider might be likely to take up residence.

This is how our house gets really clean... We either have guests coming over, or my wife sees a spider!


Saturday, August 06, 2005

 

Valeurs De Famille

A few statistics to chew on:

  • Americans work an average of 1,966 hours annually. More than any other industrialized country.

  • According to a 1997 study of families with working mothers, 41% of children under 5 years of age spend 35 or more hours a week in non-parental care.

  • Over the past thirty years, working couples lost an average of 22 hours a week of family and personal time.

  • Nearly 20% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 have to regularly care for themselves.

  • For married couples with children under 6 where both parents work, the total number of combined hours worked rose 16 hours a week between 1969 and 1998.

  • There's something wrong here. In this country we constantly hear the phrase "family values" from political, corporate, and religious leaders, yet the statistics reveal that our priorities include everything but what's good for our families and children. The United States is a country of stressed-out working parents who increasingly feel that in order to maintain their career they must spend more time at work pleasing management and stockholders rather than seeing to the needs of their spouse and children.

    Why are we headed in this direction? We like to talk a lot about strengthening family and home life, yet our leaders will not encourage these behaviors at the cost of decreased profits and productivity.

    In his New York Times column, Paul Krugman highlights one European country that actually supports the family institution with tangible policies and laws. French workers have shorter work weeks and longer vacations, a result of government regulations that allow families there to spend more time together. The trade-off is a lower income, but since they have learned not to be such voracious and mindless consumers, the money is never missed. And besides, what price would you place on time spent with your family?

    I've heard of corporate workers in the US who are actually afraid of taking their vacation time. Their fear is that they will somehow be punished for having a life outside of work. These fears are rarely allayed by management, which rewards the aggressive careerist who toils the long hours with little regard for family, friends, illness or stress.

    Honestly, I'm surprised more people don't rise up and demand a change in our cultural priorities. Why are we not shocked that working hours have increased so dramatically over the past few decades? Why are we not angry that so much importance is placed on the health of our corporations while we turn a blind eye to the health of the American family?

    Right now there is nothing that demands our attention more than our families, our children, and our own peace of mind. Americans like to say that we lead the world in areas such as health care, technology, agriculture, and human rights, but when it comes to the subject of family values, we have a lot of catching up to do.



    Thursday, August 04, 2005

     

    The Hardest Part

    I've found being a dad to be a naturally easy role to assume. It's a good fit for me. Most of the daily tasks I need to perform as manager of the household are not terribly difficult. Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, decluttering... I can be on auto-pilot for those types of chores.

    Being a "dad" to my kids is also easy. I've learned quite a lot over the years, and I have a lot more to learn, but I enjoy the process. Teaching, playing, loving, nurturing, listening...

    Uh, about that last one. That's where I have some difficulty. Normally I'm a very good listener. Better than most, I think. I can carry on a conversation with my kids for hours. I listen carefully and guide them through the give-and-take of a fun and healthy discussion.

    But there's this specific situation that throws me for a loop. Quite frankly, it makes me loopy. It's when my son, who has an extremely active imagination, starts telling me a long and drawn-out story about some fantasy world he's created. He does this almost every day. This morning it was a tale about the evil gray-white cat lord named Mr. Bean who was leading his cat troopers into battle against the king of the cats, King Milo. It was interesting at first, as all his stories are, but after about five minutes my mind begins to wander and my eyelids feel heavy.

    That, for me, is the hardest part of being a dad -- pretending to be interested in all the weird and wonderful things that come out of my kids' imagination. And since that's my only complaint, I'm just going to count my blessings and practice my listening skills!


     

    Is That You Thidwick?



    We were lucky enough to spend some quality time with this wild moose who showed up on a North Idaho farm this morning. What a thrill to be so close to this majestic animal.

    See more of my photos here.


    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

     

    World Wide Webbed



    My kids are fascinated by my feet. The two toes next to each of my big toes are webbed. No, I'm not a good swimmer.

    I'm proud to be the only one of my Grandma's 20+ grandchildren who inherited her webbed toes. I hope I've also inherited her longevity and immunity genes... She's 90 and still as sharp as ever, living in the same farmhouse she's occupied for over 60 years. Her secrets to a long and healthy life? Regular exercise and nightly reading. Oh, and a strict schedule of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune!

    I didn't pass on my webbed toes to my children, but I'm making sure to teach them about exercise and reading. It's important for parents to demonstrate these virtues on a daily basis. Not only do I read to my kids, but they also see me reading for myself. Same with exercise... We go on family walks and hikes, everyone being active together, and then there are times when I stretch, shoot baskets, or lift weights simply for myself.

    They see this and know that mom and dad practice what we preach. How could we possibly get them to listen to us if we did otherwise?


    Monday, August 01, 2005

     

    This Perfect World

    When my kids were still babies, they looked up at me and saw Perfect Daddy. Yes, that was me... The bravest, funniest, most handsome father in the universe. I had it goin' on.

    If only that golden light of perfection was still upon me but, alas, those days are long gone. My kids now see me as Near-Perfect Daddy, who sometimes makes itsy-bitsy harmless mistakes that he doesn't really want to hear about for weeks on end.

    So, after a wonderful afternoon at the beach today and the kids agreeing that it was one of the greatest days ever, we arrive at the car to discover that somebody had locked the keys inside. And by somebody I guess I mean me.

    It was heart-wrenching to see the confused and disappointed looks on my kids' faces as they gradually realized that their father was an absent-minded klutz. But I still have a few bits of grey matter left and was able to react quickly, staving off any further clouding of my good name by announcing, "Kids, this perfect day should never end. Back to the beach!" Crisis averted.

    An hour later, the locksmith arrives and we're on our way home. I'm thinking: Just how did I manage to lock the keys in the car?! And boy, do I hate looking stupid in front of my kids like that!

    My son made me feel better when we got home: "Daddy, everybody makes mistakes. You just have to learn from them so it doesn't happen again."

    I love it when they show me they've been listening all these years.