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Saturday, May 31, 2008

 

We Can Be Heroes

Growing up I didn't have many positive male role models. Come to think of it, I didn't have any positive male role models. Not a one.

My dad left us, my brother died, there were no grandfathers, uncles or cousins around... No teacher took me under his wing, our pastor was a womanizer who eventually divorced and left the church... It goes on and on. I was surrounded by neutral or negative men during my formative years.

So who were my role models through the early to teen years? Cuz every boy has to have some, right? Mine were men I didn't even know. John, Paul, George and Ringo... David Letterman... The dad on "Land of the Lost"... Mister Rogers... Walter Cronkite... George Lucas... John Denver... Andy Griffith... Pa Walton... I took a little bit from each of these people (or characters, in some cases) to figure out who and what I was supposed to be. Sad, I know.

The biggest influence on me as a father today came from the character I consider to be the best TV dad ever, Charles Ingalls.



There he is... Wasn't he great? I mean, was he the perfect dad or what? Do men like that exist in real life? I hope they do. At least I'm going to strive for that kind of perfection with my own family. I can't quite get the quivering lip thing down like Michael Landon did, but my kids know I'm not afraid to be honest and emotional. They know that I'm always there, always reliable, solid as a rock. They can talk to me about anything and I will always listen and communicate.

I am the role model to my kids. They'll never have to wonder why there were no positive male influences in their lives. I know I won't be the only one, but I want to be the best one. I want to be my kids' hero. Nothing else matters... It's the foremost thought in my mind as I teach and guide my children through to adulthood. They are always watching me, learning from my actions, listening to my words. It's a monumental responsibility, one which some men shirk from too easily. But it's worth doing, and the payoff is immense.

So, who were your heroes growing up?


This post was originally published on May 11, 2005. Summer is a good time for reruns, right?


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

 

Baby Giveaway

We're in our last days of school. I'm incredibly busy helping my son finish up 4th grade. We'll both be very happy Friday afternoon when the last test is graded and we kick off three months of summer.

Until then, I have a contest for you.

Last week I reviewed a book called The Baby Bonding Book For Dads. The author has generously provided me with a copy to give out to one of my readers.

Leave a comment if you'd like to have this wonderful book. It would make a great gift for a new dad.

I'll pick a winner after the weekend.

Oh, speaking of winners... My previous giveaway, for The Adventures of Indiana Jones DVD Collection, goes to:

Whit

Thanks to everyone for your comments!


Monday, May 26, 2008

 

My First Podcast







Or, right-click here to download for later playback.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

 

Lunch Lady



My daughter made me lunch today.

That's cherry yogurt (with shredded cheddar cheese), peanut butter bread, sliced radishes (with a dash of salt), and a banana.

Yummy!


Friday, May 23, 2008

 

Weekend Whatnot



The new Indiana Jones movie opened today. My son and I were first in line at the noon showing. A special treat for him after a couple of weeks of hard work in school. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is definitely worth the long wait since 1989's The Last Crusade. It has everything you could want in an adventure movie, including non-stop action, impossible stunts, extreme villains, and mysterious hidden ruins. We both give it a big thumbs up, and have already talked about seeing it again next week. One warning to parents: Although the violence is cartoonish, it is rather extreme in a few places. There are a couple of bloody fistfights that go on too long, and one scene involving an insect that was shocking even for me.

Speaking of shocking movies, I'm making room at the top of my Most Hated Movies Of All-Time list for No Country For Old Men. I can't even describe how much I loathe this film after watching it the other night. It's shocking because I'm a fan of the Coen brothers. Fargo and Raising Arizona are classics in my book. The problem with No Country For Old Men is that its exquisite direction, acting, and cinematography are overshadowed by an absolutely horrible plot. What a huge disappointment.

One more week of homeschooling for my son, and then his summer vacation begins. We're both happy to see the bright light at the end of the tunnel. He needs the break, while I need to get back to my basement project. Not to mention my deck, overhang, and storage shed projects.

My daughter is very brave, apparently. She fell down on the playground and badly scraped her knee, so a teacher took her to the office for first aid. She told me that five different people said to her, "You are very brave!" for not crying. So, then, why does she scream like a banshee when I brush her hair?

Two more weeks of public school for my daughter, and then her summer vacation begins. Come fall, she'll be home with us, enjoying the kind of freedom and fun that her brother has experienced over the past two years. I can't wait to watch her develop a passion for learning.

My first podcast is on its way. Many months ago, it was suggested to me that I should try my hand at one. It took me awhile to find the right software, music, and microphone, but it's finally done and will be ready for public consumption (and ridicule) on Monday.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

 

Thumbs Down To Thumbs Up

From thumbs down to thumbs up.

Amazing what an exciting and well-crafted movie can do.

First, let's back up to October of 2005, when I wrote a post about reading The Chronicles of Narnia books to my son. He absolutely loved them, until the very end of the last book, when I had to explain to him what was happening in those concluding pages. The ending of The Last Battle didn't sit too well with him, and he gave a huge thumbs down to the entire series, telling me to throw all seven books in the garbage.

He grudgingly went to see the first Narnia movie a few months later, but wasn't enthusiastic about it.

Fast forward to last weekend. We went to see Prince Caspian. From beginning to end, it was a thrilling adventure, with huge battle scenes and daring swordplay. And something about it really lit a spark in my son.

He turned to me right after the movie and gave me those familiar thumbs, only this time they were pointed up.

Best of all, when we got home he asked, "Where are those Narnia books?"

"You mean the ones I was supposed to toss into the garbage?"

He wanted to read them again.

Good thing I didn't actually throw them away.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

 

Go Fourth!

Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me...

Or is it an anniversary?

Either way, I've been blogging for four years now. My first post appeared on May 18, 2004.

It took about a year for me to find a good mix of things to write about: fatherhood, parenting, kids, and family life. I added homeschooling in 2006 when we made that leap with my son.

Writing this blog is still a fun and creative outlet for me, but best of all it's a way to connect with and seek advice from other dads. I actually spend more time reading other blogs than I do writing my own. I have to give a shout-out to just a few of the dads out there who have been entertaining and enlightening me over the years: Brett, Steve S., Jeff, Philip, Darren, Tim, Mike, Dan, Steve, Kevin, John, Whit, Mitch, Chris, William, Brian, Tim, David, Henry, and Ed. I know I missed about a dozen more dad bloggers. Thanks to all of you for your insightful, intelligent, and humorous writing. I hope I've given out as good as I've taken.

In honor of my anniversary, I have a contest! The last four years have been a real adventure, so what better way to celebrate than to give away the greatest adventure movies of all time. It's also a nice coincidence that the latest sequel opens this week.

That's right, it's The Adventures of Indiana Jones DVD Collection, featuring widescreen editions of Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade. Plus, a bonus disc with special features.

All you have to do is leave a comment. If you feel like it, I'd like to know if anything I've written over the last four years was memorable enough to have stayed with you.

I'll pick a winner next week. Good luck!



Monday, May 19, 2008

 

Bonding With Baby

It's been nearly ten years since we brought my son home from the hospital. I remember thinking that I wasn't ready to have a newborn in the house. After all, I had never been around babies before. My whole life I held a baby once, for about 30 seconds. I'm pretty sure I didn't drop it.

So I was completely unprepared for being a father. I had to go out and buy one of those step-by-step photo books that showed how to hold a baby, change a diaper, buckle up a car seat, and other simple, but daunting, procedures.

I wish I'd had more. I wish I'd had The Baby Bonding Book For Dads.

Written by the husband/wife team of James di Properzio and Jennifer Margulis, the book is specifically for clueless dads, like I was, who have little or no experience in taking care of babies. But it's not just about the nuts and bolts of caring for children. This is about building a real emotional bond between father and baby.

Oh yeah, it does have all that instructional stuff in it. Chapters about diapering, napping, travel, and exercise are all quick, fun reads filled with practical information. The authors then go beyond that to talk about how the experience of caring for a newborn helps dads forge solid relationships with their kids.

None of the topics in this book are a surprise to me now, but I've had ten years to learn it on my own. I wonder how much easier my job would've been if my eyes had been opened to a few of these concepts much earlier on. It's really simple stuff, but sometimes men don't want to see the simple truths staring them right in the face.

And when's a better time to form a bond with your child than the first day they become a part of the family?

If you know any new, or soon-to-be, fathers, The Baby Bonding Book For Dads would make a great gift. At 92 pages, with lighthearted text and charming photos, it's sure to soften the hearts of even the most stubbornly clueless men.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

 

Is It Spring Yet?



My daughter celebrated spring by taking her hamster out for a walk in the backyard.

We finally have shorts and t-shirt weather, which means spending a lot of time outside walking, playing, and, oh yeah, pulling weeds, spraying wasp nests, and dodging dog poop on the sidewalks.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

 

No Babysitter Needed

When we moved into our new house a few years back, one of our neighbors came over to welcome us with a plate of cookies.

She also wanted to let us know that her daughter had recently passed some sort of babysitter test and was "ready and willing to sit for your kids!"

We'd never used a babysitter before, and didn't foresee any need to use one in the near future.

Every time we'd see that neighbor, she'd remind us about her daughter. "She's very caring and attentive!"

Well, I'm sure she is, but I'm not running a welfare service here. I'm not going to create a parents' night out just to put a few bucks in some teenager's pocket.

So, my kids are almost 10 and 7, and they've never had a babysitter. What's the big deal?

Some people have a problem with this. I've actually watched friends become angry when I told them we have no need for a babysitter. "You have to spend time as a couple or your relationship will suffer," they yell at me, as if the health of my marriage depends upon a weekly date night.

The truth of the matter is, my wife and I probably see too much of each other anyway. I'm always around the house, night and day. If anything, I'm surprised she's not sick of me yet.

As for date night, we have one of those practically every night after the kids are asleep - watching DVDs, working on projects, talking, ordering pizza, or just sitting in front of the fire.

It's so much cheaper to just stay home. When we do have extra money for a movie or concert, it's usually one we want to see with the kids. So we go as a family.

No babysitter needed.


Monday, May 12, 2008

 

Carell on Children

In the latest issue of Wired Magazine, actor Steve Carell (The Office) gives his tongue-in-cheek advice on how to be a super genius.

His thoughts on children:

"Children are very smart, in their own stupid way. A child's brain is like a sponge, and you know how smart sponges are. My children are like little processors. They pick up all kinds of things, then process that into information. And what is knowledge, really, but processed information? We must always strive to be overly processed, like our children."


Go here for the rest of the article.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

 

All This Time

My son had state testing this morning. Three hours of language skills and reading comprehension.

Which means I had three hours as well. To do whatever I wanted.

My question to you non-homeschooling stay-at-home parents is... What in the world do you do with all that time?

I cleaned the kitchen, folded laundry, vacuumed, cleaned the cat litter box, and all the other daily chores that I usually perform at night.

That only took up the first hour.

After that I drove to Best Buy and browsed around, trying to think of something to get my wife for Mother's Day, but only managing to find a dozen or more things that I want someone to get for me for Father's Day.

That took up the second hour.

I was so bored out of my mind, I ended up sitting in the parking lot at the testing center playing Scrabble on my iPod for the third hour.

You moms and dads who have six hours a day, five days a week all to yourself... Man, do I feel sorry for you.


 

The Hot Latin Giveaway

It's hot!

It's Latin!

Do I have your attention now?

It's a diet!

Wait, come back. It's The Hot Latin Diet, a new weight loss book from Dr. Manny Alvarez (medical correspondent for Fox News).

Penguin Books sent a copy for me to give away to one of my readers. If you'd like to have it, simply leave a comment here.

So, what is The Hot Latin Diet? It revolves around the Seven Latin Powerfoods, which are: tomatillos, garbanzo beans, avocado, garlic, cinnamon, chiles, and cilantro.

In the book, Alvarez incorporates these foods into a diet plan that includes flavorful recipes, fitness advice, shopping lists, and stress busters. The Latin food angle is an interesting approach in a field that is crowded with a dizzying number of diet books.

We all know what it takes to have a healthier diet and lifestyle: Eat better and exercise more. The Hot Latin Diet follows that mantra and just might be the plan to help you lose weight and keep it off.

Again, if you'd like to have this new book, just leave a comment. I'll pick a winner after the weekend.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

 

Soccer Screamers

My kids are playing soccer again through the city parks and rec programs. It's the eighth team for my son and the fourth for my daughter.

They like it because it's fun. Everyone gets to play, and nobody keeps an official score or team standing. The highlight of each game is still the snack at the end.

That's the way the kids like it, even the 4th graders who are becoming a bit more competitive. If they want to take soccer seriously, they can move on to Sting and its long season, strict practices, and parents who dream of college scholarships.

Parks and rec kids just want to have fun.

Sometimes the parents forget that. Last week I had my first experience with a screamer at my son's game, a dad who was berating his kid for some improper footwork.

All I ever say to my son is, "Have fun."

He's not the fastest kid on the field, and he's never scored a goal in eight seasons, but he enjoys being a part of the team and honing his defensive skills.

I hope the screamers and their kids move on to something more challenging. Parks and rec soccer is not the place for them. My son only has three years left to play it, and I just want to see him out there having a good time and getting some exercise.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

 

Go, Speed Racer, Go!

Good news for those of you who are looking forward to taking your kids to see Speed Racer when it opens this weekend. Over at Ain't It Cool News, Quint has posted his review of the new movie. Sounds like it's a cool kid-friendly family flick. Here are a few quotes from the review:

"I'm amazed at what the Wachowskis have done with this film. It's a kid's film through and through, make no mistake. But it's a kid's film that succeeded in making me a kid again while watching it."

"The real surprise for me was the incredible heart the film has. The racing is incredible, of course, but the quiet moments were literally a love letter to the family unit."

"The film isn’t just a love letter to family, but a valuable lesson on how to treat those that love and support you as well as letting the kids know to look out for those who put on a friendly face when all they want is to use you."


Read the rest of the review here.

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Summer Blockbusters

I was looking at a list of the big summer movies being released this year, and I marveled at the number of potentially exciting blockbusters. I do this every year, but never seem to learn that most of them will end up being duds. When it comes to Hollywood, hope springs eternal.

The big question, though, is which of these movies do I get to see on the big-screen, and which ones do I just wait to see on DVD in the fall? Since we only go to the movie theater with one or both of the kids in tow, I have to seriously consider the content of these films from a child's perspective.

Basically, can my 6-year-old and/or 9-year-old handle it? Both of them can differentiate between real and make-believe. I always show them the "behind the scenes" clips on DVD, so they can see how the special effects are made and that the characters are played by actors. It's more a matter of how intense the storyline and subject matter might be.

My son has already watched all three Indiana Jones films, so the new one is a given for him. Wall-E, Kung Fu Panda, and Space Chimps all look like sure things. Prince Caspian and Speed Racer show some promise, although the extreme action and effects of both films might be too much for my daughter. The Dark Knight is definitely out. The others, I'll just have to read the reviews.

How do you decide whether to let your kids see a popular movie?

Here are the movies that I'm looking forward to seeing this summer. Click on the title to watch the trailer. We won't see all of them, partly because of the content and partly because it would cost a small fortune to take a family of four to every single one.

Speed Racer
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Wall-E
Get Smart
Iron Man
Kung Fu Panda
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
Space Chimps
The Incredible Hulk


Saturday, May 03, 2008

 

Wounded Knee

Two days ago, my wife strained the ACL in both knees and has been unable to walk without pain ever since. She's spending most of her time in bed, but has hobbled downstairs a couple of times and then wondered why she put herself through the ordeal. She'll spend a third day in bed and hope that's enough time for the ligaments to heal.

I'm running up and down the stairs to make sure she has what she needs. Instead of ringing a little bell, she just calls me on her cellphone.

I wonder what life is like without stress?


Friday, May 02, 2008

 

Weekend Whatnot

29 more days... That's what my son said to me at bedtime tonight. You see, homeschoolers may have a lot more fun, but they still count the days 'til summer vacation just like all the other kids. Truth be told, I'm counting the days too. I have an unbelievably long to-do list.

Normally, I don't play computer or video games. There's just not enough time in the day. But lately I've become addicted to Scrabble on my iPod. It's a powerful little game that gives my mind a good workout. And, it's only $5 at iTunes!

Overheard in the kitchen: "You are a beep-beep-beeeeeeep-beep!" "Oh yeah, well you're a beep-beep-bebeep-beep!" Sigh. No more episodes of Ice Road Truckers for my kids!

Vlasic Pickles is launching an interesting contest this month. All families giving birth to a baby in May 2008 can submit their baby’s name, height, weight, etc. with a photo and an entry about why their baby should be the Vlasic Stork Baby. The winning baby receives a $20,000 savings bond. But what makes it really interesting is that if you give your baby the middle name of "Crunch," then you get an extra $5000.

Speaking of contests, I had a couple of them this week. First, The BummKinn Band CD goes to... Oda Daddy. Enjoy the music!

My other contest was for the photo caption below. You all made me smile, but in a very close finish it was ImPerceptibility taking home a first place prize of $10 to spend at iTunes.