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Friday, September 30, 2005

 

Thanks, Dr. Laura

Driving to the store with my daughter the other day, I was flipping through talk radio stations trying to find something interesting. I landed on the Dr. Laura show and she was talking about this impatient man who caused his stepdaughter's death by driving around lowered train crossing barriers and into the path of an oncoming train. Dr. Laura loudly pronounced, "This bastard! That's what he is, I'm sorry, but he's a bastard!" Okay, so I agree with her sentiments, but don't really want my 4-year-old to learn that word just yet. I quickly changed the station and glanced in the backseat to see if my daughter was paying attention.

Later that evening we were finishing with stories and saying our goodnights when my daughter grabbed her Little Pony and said, "Daddy! This one's name is Starcatcher!" She was so proud of herself for remembering the name. I noticed there was another Little Pony on the bed and asked, "What's that one's name?" She looked down at it, frowned, thought a little bit, then said, "That one I'll call Little Bastard."

Thanks, Dr. Laura.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

 

Attention, Bad Parents!



 

The Lucky Winner



My fifth, and final, column is now up at the San Diego Reader. I kind of wrap things up on the whole stay-at-home dad experience with a few thoughts on memories and being a good father.

Now that my stint as a magazine columnist is over, I can finally reveal my incredulity at the whole situation. When the editor first contacted me, my reaction was, "You want to pay me what?! For what?!" I am not a writer (you all knew that already). I've had a bit of training in radio news and business writing, but the key concept I learned was to keep it short and simple. No big words, no descriptions... Get to the point, quick! I had a professor in college who would read our work and, no matter how short it was, throw it back at us demanding that it be leaner. Dr. Del Mar, wherever you are, thanks for making me feel guilty about writing too many words.

And that was the problem with The Reader... They wanted something in the neighborhood of 800 to 900 words and I usually average about 200 to 300 words with my blog posts. I was able to cobble together some thoughts from previous posts and expand upon them, but trying to come up with original material that was actually long enough was not easy for me. I kept hearing Dr. Del Mar telling me, "If you can't get your point across in two sentences, then don't bother!"

But I got through it, and I think one or two of my columns made some sense. I still had to wonder why exactly the editor chose me, of all the millions of bloggers out there, to reward with a nice little payday. I knew it wasn't my writing ability that attracted her to my blog. She finally told me that they had been looking for a stay-at-home dad to feature. She must not have looked very hard, I thought. There are dad bloggers out there who are a lot more literate, funny, creative, clever, serious, and analytical than me. I'm also nowhere near being as hip, cool, or up-to-date as some of the popular dad blogs.

So why the heck did she pick me? Ahhh, they were trying to kill two birds with one stone. They wanted a blogger from Idaho. Seeing as how I'm the only stay-at-home dad blogger in the entire state of Idaho (that I know of)... Ding ding ding! I was the lucky winner.

After a lifetime of being the odd man out, last player picked, third wheel, etc., it sure felt good to actually be wanted for something, even if I was the only choice available. I hope somebody enjoyed my writing... It was an interesting experience, and a good exercise for my brain. Now I can sit back and relax, knowing that this kind of thing will probably never ever happen to me again.


Monday, September 26, 2005

 

Would You Believe?!



Ah, another TV icon from my childhood is gone.

I think I liked Maxwell Smart better than Gilligan (Bob Denver passed away several weeks ago). Agent 86 was inept at times, but he never stopped trying to be more clever than the bad guys at KAOS. I used to see Don Adams on shows like Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and his 1975 series Don Adams' Screen Test, but it was never the same. He was, and always will be, secret agent Maxwell Smart.

Relive a few memories with this MP3: Theme From Get Smart


Sunday, September 25, 2005

 

It's Just A T-Shirt

I've been noticing these t-shirts... You know, the ones with sarcastic, rude, and self-ridiculing sayings on them that all the kids are wearing?

Most of these shirts are funny and harmless, but some of them are downright mean.

What I'd really like to see is a line of t-shirts for bad parents. With sayings like:

    I ignore my kids, and so should you.
    Build more jails! My kids are almost adults.
    It isn't easy being a terrible parent. Oh, wait... Yes it is.
    Homework, shmomework! Go watch TV!
    I'm teaching my kids real world skills - shoplifting and streetwalking.
    My kids make mistakes because they were mistakes.
    Career, golf game, porn, my family... I have my priorities straight!
    I have no idea what my children are doing right now.
    Proud Parent of a Juvenile Delinquent.
    Twinkies and Pepsi - It's what's for dinner!
    I spent my son's college money on a trip to Europe with my girlfriend.
    My kids may be stupid and ugly, but they are nice tax breaks.
    Children make the best drinking buddies!
    "Shut up!" means "I love you."
    Proud Parent of a Future Porn Star.
    Do not insult, degrade or humiliate my children! That's my job.


Friday, September 23, 2005

 

Blue Meanies

I was reading this great new blog called KittyBean and her post about mean kids, and it reminded me of two incidents from the past month.

We were at the park a few weeks ago and this 5-year-old girl, whom we've never seen before, comes up to my 4-year-old daughter and says, "Your parents don't love you."

My daughter dutifully marched right up to me and reported this. I couldn't believe it! Where in the world would a girl that age learn to say something like that, and why say it to a stranger? Can you tell I am no student of child psychology?

Last week, at school, my son had a thermos full of chicken rice soup, which he really likes. A kid across the table looked at it and said, "Your lunch looks like baby food." Now my son only wants sandwiches.

I don't understand why children do and say mean things. Shouldn't they be all simple and innocent? Here I am teaching my kids respect, integrity, and good manners, and they run up against other kids who are learning just the opposite.

Makes me want to take my family and go live on a mountain in the middle of nowhere.


 

Vote For OK GO

Remember back in the 80's when MTV just showed videos, and those videos were simple and fun, and the musicians were having a good time?

The band OK GO must remember those days... Check out their new music video for one of the funniest dance routines since Napoleon Dynamite.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

 

Child Wrangler

I love it when a blogger makes me laugh out loud. Jen, over at Child Wrangler, has this funny post about working with kids.

And how did I forget to add her to my blogroll? Oops! Anyone else out there want me to add you to my list? Let me know.


 

Quality Of Life



In my fourth column for the San Diego Reader I talk about the high quality of life we have here in North Idaho. I thought the people of San Diego would like to know what they're missing out on. Plus, I don't get nearly enough hate mail.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

 

Gone Missing

Why is it that no matter how carefully you pack and label boxes during a move, something always goes missing?

In this case, I have no idea where three things are: cellphone charger, checkbook, digital camera.

I feel naked without even one of these, let alone all three!

And why is it that not a single dang one of my kids' toys was lost? I tried, I tried...


 

Breaking In The House

Brett over at DadTalk has this great post which will have any mom or dad nodding with empathy. We've all had days like that. Too many of them sometimes. Those are the days when we wonder why exactly we took on the responsibilities of parenting. Wouldn't it have been easier to just stick with two cats and a rabbit?

I had a day kind of like that today. My lovely four-year-old daughter wasted no time breaking in our new home. First she had an "accident" on the living room carpet. Second, she found some yellow dye in the pantry and dropped it on the wood floor. Third, and thankfully last, she spent about fifteen minutes drawing pictures on the wall of the family room with a pencil while we moved boxes from the garage.

Five days in the place, and it's already got that "kids live here" look.


Monday, September 19, 2005

 

Twilight Zone

I'm bruised and battered after a long long weekend of moving furniture and boxes. The kids are having fun in the new house. It helps that we visited the place almost every day during construction so there is very little adjustment for them. I'm actually having trouble sleeping because of all the new sounds in and around the house. Yes, I'm one of those listeners who hears every barking dog, squealing tire, and creaking floor and must get up to investigate.

Last week we went to the Open House at my son's school. The initial greeting from the principal was via the school's closed-circuit TV system. Two minutes into the viewing, we had one of those unbelievable Twilight Zone moments that just blow my mind. Okay, maybe I have a really thin skin when it comes to manners and respect, so I might have been the only parent in the room with open mouth and gawking eyes. Two minutes into the speech, a mom's cell phone rang. Instead of simply silencing it, as most people would, she actually answered it. And then, here's the really amazing part, she stood up and walked to the front of the room right next to the TV that we were watching. She stood there and carried on a conversation for a full minute. "Oh yes, I'm at Austin's open house. Uh-huh, right now. Yes, we're watching the principal on TV. Oh, I don't know, we'll probably be done around 7:30. What are you doing right now? Sounds great. Want to come by the house later? Okay, well... How's everything been going?"

Blah blah blah... it went on. She now had a room full of about 40 parents watching her instead of the principal. I was about to stand up and throw a textbook at her big fat head, but I think the person she was talking to had the good sense to say goodbye.

You know the first thing I did after the Open House was to find out her son's name and tell my son not to play with that kid! We'll know where he learned his bad manners from.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

 

The Right Stuff



My third column is up at the San Diego Reader. You can read it here. In it, I talk about a subject near and dear to many people's hearts - having too much stuff. Decluttering our lives seems to be a neverending quest. Most days it's about all I can do to simply keep up with a certain level of livable clutter. I think I'd like to just live in a giant ball pit, with a bathroom in one corner and a kitchen in another. All the toys, books, papers, widgets and doo-dads would sink down to the floor and I'd never have to look at anything except colorful plastic balls. My kids love the idea. That's my daughter in the photo, about three years ago.

I'll be out of it for a few days. I'm sure that after connecting the ol' PC up to a broadband connection I'm going to need some oxygen and a stretcher. I'll also be worn out from moving furniture and boxes to our new house. I'm looking forward to moving... it's a great way to get rid of some clutter!


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

 

Forever Changed

Remember how your world was forever changed on the day your first child was born? And again when the next one came along?

Nothing quite prepares you for the way in which your view of life is forever altered by the introduction of something so monumentally wonderful and different to your home.

Well, it's about to happen to us again. Tomorrow, in fact.

No, it's not a third child. We're finally getting high-speed broadband Internet.

I'm as giddy as a little girl at the pony store. Wish me luck as we enter a whole new world.


 

Getting Better

Tuesday was a better day for my son at school. He admitted that he had a good day and even met a friend from his old school on the playground. Interesting thing... Four second grade boys, including my son, changed from one school to another because their families moved to new neighborhoods. All the boys were familiar with each other from kindergarten and first grade, not to mention the playground. So what did the new school do? They put each boy in a different second grade class. It's almost like they did that on purpose to keep them apart. But then I see that in my son's class there are two girls named Mikayla. There are no other Mikayla's in the other three second grade classes. That tells me that distribution of the children to each teacher was random.

We'll be learning more about my son's teacher tonight at Open House. But here's a funny story he told me... The teacher read "Walter the Farting Dog" to her class, then asked the kids to write a few sentences and draw a picture about the story. My son really dislikes dogs. I don't know why, but he just hates everything about them. So the last thing he wanted to do was write about a dog or, God forbid, actually draw a picture of one. He sat at his desk and tried to think of something else to write but couldn't. When the teacher came around to collect the papers, tears welled up in my son's eyes and he explained that he couldn't think of anything. The teacher told him he could just draw a picture of something from the book and give it to her later. He thought a long time and finally drew something that he likes better than dogs: Germs. The stink germs from Walter's farts. That's my boy, always thinking outside the box. Or, in this case, outside the dog.


Monday, September 12, 2005

 

Five Days Down

Hmmmm... Five days down at school, two of them ending in tears... A teacher who allows kids to be teased in the classroom... Two weeks of reviewing simple addition and subtraction from last year... Parents pressured to sell candy bars as a fundraiser... A stolen lunchbox... A bored and unhappy second grader...

Home schooling's looking better and better.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

 

Screaming For Ice Cream



I took the kids to a new ice cream place today. Gourmet stuff, more expensive than most, but you get what you pay for. Did you know that Americans spent more than $20 billion on ice cream last year? Ice cream is my number one treat. I don't do cake or pie. I don't even care much for brownies and cookies anymore. Give me a simple banana split sundae and I'm happy. My kids also love ice cream, but we all have to be careful because it's loaded with fat. The more fat, the more flavor. So, we save the ice cream for special times, maybe twice a month. The key is to not have it at home where it's a temptation to eat all the time. Instead we'll splurge for the gourmet shop where we can sit, relax and enjoy, and then be done with it.

For a great article about ice cream at Science News For Kids, click here.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

 

Fallen Angel

My daughter recently started her "terrible two's"... Problem is, she's 4 years old.

We're kind of wondering what happened to our cheerful little angel. She's become this moody, scowling, foot-stomping, tantrum-throwing devil child. Not all the time, thank goodness. But a couple of times a day is enough.

I have my suspicions as to why she's doing this. It started about a month ago when we first started packing up our belongings to move from our rental house of the past two years to a home of our own. Things have always been a bit tight and cluttered because of the lack of storage space, but for the past month it's been something close to chaos. It's all piles of stuff, waiting to be sorted and put into boxes, and I know it's been frustrating for both kids to have things get put away where they can't be easily reached.

I'm not so sure my daughter fully understands everything that's going on. When I ask her what toys she wants to put in boxes, she bursts into tears thinking she'll never see the toy again. When I remind her that she'll have the toy again in X number of days, she says, "But I might want to play with it before then!" So, we've packed up most everything except toys, books, dolls and puzzles. Our house truly looks like a daycare right now.

Soon we'll know for sure if the chaos of our current situation is what has caused my daughter to turn to the dark side. We close on the new house next week and should be moving in over the weekend. I hope that once she sees a house free from boxes and clutter she'll calm down. There's something to be said for living in neat and organized surroundings. It can certainly have a positive effect on one's outlook on life. I'm looking forward to having a little elbow room and knowing where everything is in my house.

But mostly I'm looking forward to getting my little angel back.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

 

Lost In San Diego

When I was 7 years old I got lost at the San Diego Zoo. It was only for a minute, not even that. My family was standing at the railing of the elephant enclosure and I remember being so mesmerized by those great lumbering animals that I didn't notice they'd moved on to the next animal around the corner. I turned to say something to my mom and found myself talking to a stranger. Talk about scary! I backed away and felt a rising panic, but a brief moment later my mom came to the rescue. That's my "being lost" story. Not as good as this one, of course, but it sure stuck in my memory.

The city of San Diego has been in my mind lately because of my columns in The Reader. I have fond memories of several trips we took there, to the zoo, the Reuben Fleet Science Center, Sea World, and the Hotel Coronado. My favorite was Sea World, where at one time they had real live Japanese pearl divers. You'd pay your money and they'd dive into a deep pool to retrieve a pearl-filled oyster for you. Probably all fake, but to a 7-year-old it was exotic and fascinating.

Memories play a part in my second Reader column, which is now up on their web site. You can read it here. Let me know what you think.


 

Horse Sense

I'm beginning to wonder, at what point would it be cheaper to buy a horse and feed it hay than to maintain my car and feed it gasoline?

Speaking of horses, I realized this evening that I'm either too old or my kids are too big for me to give them horseback rides. My hands and knees can't take it, especially across hardwood floors. I can still give them piggyback rides (why is it called piggyback?) until they're teenagers or my spine collapses.

Speaking of pigs, here's a picture I took at the fair last weekend:



Monday, September 05, 2005

 

Hurricane Relief

I was out of town most of the weekend, so missed out on all the activity over at the Been There blog, which is acting as a clearinghouse for those who want to donate material goods to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Head over there if you have toys, clothes, or other supplies that you'd like to see put to good use. If all you have to donate is money, look no further than the Red Cross.

It hasn't quite sunk in with me that an entire US city will be evacuated, shut down, and empty for many months, maybe even years. I'm fortunate to be raising my family in an area of the country where large-scale natural disasters are rare. I can't imagine what the people of New Orleans are going through.


 

School Daze

Tomorrow is a sad day for me. School starts up again, and my son is headed to second grade. Shouldn't I be happy that he's embarking on wonderful learning adventures? Of course, but I can't shake this nagging feeling in my mind that I'm not doing what's best for him. I have very little faith in this country's public schools. Most of the teachers do their best, but there is only so much they can do when their time and attention are spread out over the needs of 24 students. My son has, on more than one occasion, said to me, "We waste so much time because the teacher is busy with the goof-off kids." He's a good student, and I think we've instilled in him the value of learning. He can certainly do well in the crowded classrooms because he can motivate himself. The difference between him and other kids is that he has a mom and dad who are willing to work with him at home. It's something that I actually enjoy doing. Homeschooling is an option we've talked about, and one we'll implement if the public school system loses any more of my confidence.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

 

Hello San Diego!

I'm pleased, and honored, to announce that I am the Blogger of the Month for September at San Diego Reader Magazine. The Reader is the largest alternative publication in the United States, with circulation numbers approaching 200,000, and has long been known as a showcase for San Diego's best writers and artists.

So, naturally, they chose a North Idaho stay-at-home dad to pen a few thoughts about family life and children. I can already hear thousands of 20-somethings smirking in their frappuccinos as they skim over the first few lines of my introductory column, which you can read here.

I'm not sure what the editor saw on my blog that made her think my musings were right for the Reader. I just hope I've done okay by the other stay-at-home dads in the blogging world. It was quite a thrill to be chosen for this, but the bigger thrill was waving that check in my wife's face and gleefully announcing, "Honey, pack the kids in the car. We're going shopping for school supplies!" (Translation: I'm getting myself an iPod)

By the way, the magazine messed up my photos. Accompanying the first column was supposed to be this image:



The picture of the three kids was for next week's column. Oh well.