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Thursday, July 31, 2008

 

Deep Purple



When you're picking huckleberries in the wild woods of North Idaho, your fingers will quickly become stained purple.

Just be careful where you sit...



Wednesday, July 30, 2008

 

Shark Attack

News of American Idol's Ryan Seacrest being bitten by a shark last weekend reminded me of a particularly horrifying memory from my youth.

When I was ten years old, I witnessed a series of vicious, bloody shark attacks that left four people dead and a community in shock.

Um, yeah, it was on the big-screen.

Summer, 1975.

Jaws.

I don't know what my mom was thinking, letting me go see that.

Or maybe I snuck in with a friend when we were supposed to be in theater 2 watching The Apple Dumpling Gang.

Steven Spielberg's epic shark tale scarred me for life. Thirty years later I still can't swim in the ocean. Heck, I can't even swim in the lake without the brief, but completely irrational, thought that something might nibble on me.

So, what did I let my 10-year-old son watch the other night?

Jaws.

He's not one to let a movie scare him, though. He only jumped once (the head in the boat scene), and talked through most of the scary parts, analyzing the special effects and camera work.

Will the movie have a lasting effect on my son?

In a few weeks, we're taking a family trip to the ocean beaches of Washington.

We'll see how close he gets to the water.



Monday, July 28, 2008

 

Guest Post: Discovering Dad

Today's guest post is by Jeremy Biser, from Discovering Dad, a relatively new site devoted to learning what it means to be a good dad. Which, not coincidentally, is the title of Jeremy's guest post, in which he offers up some sage advice for fathers both new and experienced.

Learning What it Means to be a Good Dad
by Jeremy Biser

You've probably heard it said before, "Anyone can become a father, but not everyone is really a dad." To me, the term 'father' is one of both respect and biology - it is patriarchal and physiological. I respect my father, but I don't call him by that name. I call him "Dad" because he was always very involved and present in my life. He wasn't just a figurehead in our family, instead he was a playmate, teacher, mentor and inspiration to me. I'm lucky to have such a good role model.

I've been a dad now for almost 16 years, and I've learned a lot in that time. I've made mistakes - a lot of them - but I've also learned from my mistakes and tried to consistently grow in my role. My experiences as a dad have come to shape and enrich my life in ways I never would have expected, and I consider myself to be a fortunate man to have a loving wife and three incredible kids.

When I look back over the years, there are a few key things I've learned that really stick out in my mind:

Be Consistent. Kids love surprises when it comes to birthday presents or summer vacations, but they don't like surprises when it comes to interactions with their parents. They like predictability - it makes them feel comfortable and safe knowing what to expect from you. The world is a big place, but it's also a chaotic place. Kids don't want to have chaos at home too. As a Dad, I always try to make sure that I'm consistent with my kids.

Be Fair. Nothing upsets a kid more than feeling like a parent favors one sibling over another. It creates a situation in which your child's self-talk and self-image turn negative, and this oftentimes leads to bigger problems with discipline, disrespect, lack of motivation or other forms of rebelling or acting out. As a Dad, I try to make sure that I divide my time and attention equally among my kids, or at least let them know verbally how much I care about each of them.

Be Genuine. Kids are young and inexperienced but they're not stupid. They can tell when you're not being genuine with them. Putting on a fake smile or being overenthusiastic is apparent even to a 2-year-old, and always talking in that "parent tone" comes across as condescending. Just be yourself - your kids can handle it. Yes, you might need to filter some of the things you say or do, but it is important to teach your kids to be happy in their own skin. How are they going to learn this if Dad is always putting on an act around them? As a Dad, I let my kids see who I really am - warts and all - and I encourage them to be genuine with me too. If they don't, I call them on it. If I don't , then I expect them to call me out too.

Be Loving. Kids need love more than anything else in this world, and they need you to show it to them daily. The way you treat your child greatly affects how your child treats themselves and others. If you want your child to love and accept themselves, then they must feel loved and accepted by you. If you want your child to treat others with respect and dignity, then they need to learn this behavior from the way your treat them and others too. Withholding love and affection from your child does not make him tough, rather it makes him vulnerable and callous. As a Dad, I shower my kids with hugs, kisses and praise on a daily basis. Does this mean that I'm a softy with them? No. I believe that there is no true love without accountability, so in addition to telling them I love every day I also hold them accountable for their actions. Affection and accountability go hand-in-hand in being a good dad and loving your child.

Be Present. Kids benefit from having a strong relationship with their dad. Some statistics have shown that involved dads greatly reduce the risk of children getting involved in gangs, drugs, alcohol, sex and crime. More importantly, though, having a dad that's present in a child's life sets a good example for that child as they grow older and leave the home. There are too many kids in the world whose father's are no where to be found. Deadbeat dads are costing society billions of dollars every year, and personally, I find that reprehensible. Kids need to have their dad present in their lives. A good male role model provides balance, security and self-confidence in a child. It's not OK to spend all of your time working either - it may be necessary for your family, but it does come with a cost to your kids. As a Dad, I can't be all things to all people, but I can be present for my kids as one of my top priorities. Having said that, it doesn't always have to be the quantity of time spent with your kids - quality time is definitely more important. In my experience, a good dad makes quality time and being present a priority for his kids.

These are just a few of the big things I've learned about what it means to be a good dad. What are some of the big things you've learned? Did you have to learn them the hard way (I know I did)? Please share your experience about what it means to be a good dad.

Be sure to visit Discovering Dad for more insightful articles and discussions about fatherhood.


Friday, July 25, 2008

 

Weekend Whatnot


My mom's homemade huckleberry cheesecake.

Huckleberries are here. Or at least, that's what I've heard. It wouldn't be summer in Idaho without endless searching through the forests for those elusive little purple prizes. Huckleberries make everything taste better!

Our garden is pretty much a bust. Everyone was excited about planting it, but nobody wanted to maintain it. We will get some beans out of it in another month, and two pumpkin plants look healthy. Too bad we can't eat weeds. Those grow strong and tall.

Do you RSVP birthday party invitations? I sent out six invites to my daughter's birthday four days ago, but nobody has responded. I'm going to be optimistic and plan for six kids to show up. We might have a lot of leftover pizza and punch.

I can't believe I told someone, "I'll be glad when school starts." Most parents say that because they're tired of the kids underfoot all summer long. But for me it's because during the school year my mind is almost totally focused on homeschooling. I like feeling focused. This summer I'm all over the place, thinking about and working on a dozen different projects at the same time. I may actually get them all done before September, but it sometimes leaves me feeling muddled at the end of the day.

The whole family went to see Journey to the Center of the Earth, and it gets thumbs-up from everyone. Complete mindless fun, with a simple storyline, cute special effects, and harmless scares. You don't see a film like this without a kid in the seat next to you. It's for them, but the grown-ups should have a bit of fun with it too. Just remember to turn off your brain when the lights go down.

Daddy A Go Go has finally made his first video, and it's really cute:



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

 

All You Need Is Ringo



I've been a Beatle fan since I was 13 and my mother took me to see Beatlemania ("Not the Beatles, But an Incredible Simulation!").

The very next day I raided my brother's record collection for the two Beatles albums he owned.

I was instantly hooked.

Ever since then I've been a bit of a fanatic about the Fab Four, hanging posters on my wall, reading every book about them, attending Beatles conventions (in my younger years), and obsessing over the details of the band that changed popular culture forever.

So, imagine my delight when I learned that Ringo Starr was heading to Spokane for one of his All-Starr concerts. It would be the first trip by a Beatle to the area. I couldn't miss this opportunity to see a legend perform.

And I certainly wasn't going to miss out on taking my kids, who have become Beatles fans themselves after repeated viewings of A Hard Day's Night and Yellow Submarine.

Imagine my disappointment to learn that Ringo's Spokane concert was at a casino that did not allow children in the theater.

Hmmmm... What to do? Dress them up in grown-up clothing and pass them off as Little People?

Thankfully, I found a better solution. The very next night, Ringo was performing in Woodinville, Washington, just outside of Seattle.

It would involve the extra cost of gas and a hotel room, but that was a small sacrifice to make for a Beatle.

The Saturday concert was incredible. It was at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, on a sloping lawn under clear skies. A perfect place to take the family for a concert of any kind. The weather was near perfect, and the lush grounds of the winery had us all in a relaxed state as we filed into the amphitheater.

When Ringo hit the stage, the crowd of over 4,000 was electrified. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Even my kids sensed the excitement and went wide-eyed at the sight of him. There he was, just thirty feet away, big as life, breathing the same air as us.


Ringo Starr, with Billy Squier and Gregg Bissonette, at Chateau Ste. Michelle, in Woodinville, Washington

Even if you're not a big Beatles fan, there's something about a legend like Ringo Starr that is magical. The man was part of the greatest band ever. His solo career has spanned music, TV, movies, art, and more.

Heck, he was Mr. Conductor on Thomas the Tank Engine!

Ringo rocked right from the start with "It Don't Come Easy," "What Goes On," and "Memphis In Your Mind," then let his All-Starrs take a turn with their big hits.

Billy Squier blazed through "Lonely Is The Night" and "The Stroke," Edgar Winter had fists pumping with "Free Ride" and "Frankenstein," and Colin Hay brought a nostalgic teenage smile to my face with "Down Under" and "Who Can It Be Now."

I was genuinely surprised at how good these retro rockers sounded. Billy Squier, who I saw open for Queen in 1982 and hadn't heard anything from since, was a madman on the guitar, giving everybody's songs a modern bluesy touch. Hamish Stuart, on bass, bounced around the stage like a teenager. Edgar Winter impressed me the most, doing double duty on both keyboards and saxaphone.

All I can say is, old guys rock!

But it was Ringo who was the star of the show, with solo songs like "Photograph," "Choose Love," "Oh My My," and "Liverpool 8," and Beatles classics like "With A Little Help From My Friends," "Boys," and "Act Naturally."

The best moment of the entire night, for me and my kids, was an obvious one. The crowd was launched to their feet as Ringo sang the familiar words to a song that has been a part of my life since I was a toddler.

"In the town, where I was born, lived a man, who sailed to sea..."

For the next three minutes I was out of my body, singing "Yellow Submarine" at the top of my voice as Ringo conducted me and 4,000 other delirious people.

It's the only time my son hasn't tried to stop me from singing in public.

It was the best first rock concert I could imagine for my kids. The night was over two hours of peace and love, as Ringo likes to say, and the crowd reflected it.

If you ask my daughter what her favorite part of the concert was, she'd probably say, "When you bought me a Ben & Jerry's ice cream." But then her second favorite part would be when Ringo sang "With A Little Help From My Friends" and she knew most of the words.

I'm just thrilled that when my kids are older, they'll be able to say, "I saw a Beatle in concert!"

Actually, come to think of it, the 68-year-old Ringo looked so young and healthy, I wouldn't be surprised if my kids get to take their kids to a Ringo Starr concert in twenty years!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

 

Walk This Way

Eight hours after publishing the previous post about the high price of gas, what do I go and do?

Bundle the family into the car and drive 300 miles for a weekend getaway to Seattle!

But we had a very good reason, and his name was Ringo.

More on that later.

Right now I want to remind you that there are only four more days until Dad Walk 2008. It's this Saturday, the 26th. All you have to do is go walking with your kids on a trail, path, track, sidewalk, or whatever you can find to spend a little quality exercise time with your children.

Just be thankful you're not walking 78 miles in 6 days, like Dan and his friends, who set off tomorrow on their monumental journey for charity. They'll be averaging 13 miles each day for a very good cause -- The Joseph Salmon Trust.

Dan has raised, just on his own, over $5000 for the charity. But he'd like to raise a bit more, so go on over to his blog and read more about the Dales Walk.

You can donate any amount through PayPal. C'mon, I know you have an extra $10 in your pocket.

It's not often you hear about someone giving up a week of their life for charity. My hat's off to Dan not just for his unselfish efforts in creating this fundraiser, but for standing up as a role model to fathers everywhere.

If you believe in it, you can do it. Thanks, Dan, for reminding me of this.

The Dales Walk team will be on my mind during my own brief 2-mile walk with the kids on Saturday.

Walk proud, Dan!


Friday, July 18, 2008

 

Freedom Lost

I've been somewhat oblivious to the rising gas prices this past year.

My attitude has been, "What am I going to do about it? We still have to put gas in our car."

Last winter, I had planned several long road trips for the spring and summer. Nothing was going to make me change those plans.

Besides, every time I filled up my gas tank, the price didn't seem that bad. It was always around $40.

That's because I haven't been letting the tank get less than a quarter full before filling it up again.

Last week the car was running on fumes and I finally experienced pump shock when the total price hit $65.

Wow, welcome to reality.

Now I start making sacrifices!

This will be our first summer in five years that we don't go on leisurely drives up into the mountains or down through the Palouse country. All of those little 100-mile road trips, exploring the backroads of North Idaho and Eastern Washington, will have to wait until next year.

We'll be walking and biking more, sticking close to home. All of a sudden the family car doesn't look like freedom.

Has the price of gas affected your travel plans?


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

 

Ten Years After

This week I'm marking another anniversary. It's been ten years since my wife and I made the decision that I would stay home with the kids.

Ten years as a stay-at-home dad.

Or, as my in-laws have said, ten years of being a bum.

That's a decade of being involved in every aspect of my children's lives, from diaper changes to school work. Of course, that's also a decade of folding laundry, doing the dishes, planning meals, vacuuming, picking up endless clutter, cleaning toilets, and everything else that has to be done to keep a house from falling down on us.

The only thing I don't do is bring home a regular paycheck.

Other than that, I'm 100% responsible for every single aspect of the raising of my kids and the running of our household.

After all these years, I'm exhausted.

But happy. And extremely fulfilled.

It's a job I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

Three years ago I wrote a column for the San Diego Reader about being a stay-at-home dad. Here it is again, just as true now as it was back then:


Hi, I'm a stay-at-home dad. Now, before your eyes glaze over and you slowly back away, let me just tell you why I am one. Most boys don't spend their childhood dreaming of one day changing diapers, emptying dishwashers, washing pee-soaked bed sheets, kissing boo-boos, and learning to make chicken broccoli casserole. They want to be firemen, baseball stars, soldiers. As they get older, most men strive for career, status, and a lower golf handicap. Me, I had early dreams of a Hollywood career, collaborating with the likes of Spielberg, Lucas, and Coppola. Later, after grad school, there were visions of corporate ladders and hostile takeovers. But once my first child was born, everything changed, and my focus was placed squarely on the infant in my arms. Soon, my wife and I realized that one of us had to be home with him permanently. By financial default (my wife made more money than me), I was the lucky winner. At first I had no idea how to be a father. Not having one around as a kid, I had no male role models to look to other than the ones I'd seen on TV. So I thought, "What would Charles Ingalls do? Or John Walton? Mike Brady? How about Darren Stevens?!" Actually, I discovered a really good role model on TV in Fred Rogers. I listen to him most carefully still. He's not just talking to pre-schoolers when he smiles into the camera and doles out sage advice... He's talking to us grown-ups too when he says things like "You don't have to look like everybody else to be acceptable and to feel acceptable." I learn a little wisdom from The Neighborhood most every single day. Plus, it's fun to see how graham crackers and crayons are made.

So I found myself in this new role, and it didn't take long to discover that it's one of the most difficult, exhausting, emotionally-draining jobs in the world. It's also the most rewarding. I get paid with hugs, smiles, and the occasional funny quote from my kids, like when my son learned that some animals are herbivores and some are carnivores, so he figured, "Hey, Daddy, I'm a Candyvore!" I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing than to be my kids' dad. It's how I introduce myself to people when they ask what I do for a living. And it sure feels good to say that. I must be pretty good at my job, since just the other day my son said "When I grow up I want to be a daddy too!"

Taking on the role of Daddy meant giving up a few other things that once defined me, including a few friends who didn't understand why I was no longer sitting at a desk and earning an income. But I don't really miss the old life. This new one brings new adventures and challenges every single day. And I go out and solve the problems and figure out the challenges, every now and then seeking advice from the memory of some old TV show, like Little House on the Prairie when my daughter tells a fib, or The Brady Bunch when my son teases his sister.

I've long given up attempting to explain to people I meet what I do and why I do it. Most folks just don't understand. They're either confused, condescending, or highly critical. Surprisingly, stay-at-home moms are the worst, almost like I'm attempting to gain membership into their exclusive club. The moms don't accept me, the dads don't understand me. Luckily I meet enough welcoming parents, including other stay-at-home dads, who also realize that having one parent at home with the kids is the best way to raise them. Daycares are fine for single moms and dads who have no other support, but when a child has two parents in their lives it should have at least one of them as the daily caregiver.

So, I'm a stay-at-home dad. You don't have to be afraid. You don't have to feel sorry. I love what I'm doing (except for folding laundry) and, more importantly, I love my kids. Doing right by them is just about the only thing that's really important to me. Why would I want to do anything else?


Monday, July 14, 2008

 

A Family Bikes Through It



We're unbelievably lucky to live in a place with so much natural beauty right outside our front door. Getting around in it just became so much easier.

Our city opened up a beautiful new biking/walking trail that runs for five miles along abandoned rail lines. It allows us to safely ride from our house all the way to our favorite beach at the lake in about twenty minutes.

I am so much more relaxed when I don't have to worry about the kids battling traffic.



Friday, July 11, 2008

 

Young Me, Now Me

Have you seen the Youngme/Nowme site?

It's where people find a picture of themselves when they were young, then try to recreate the same pose, background, props, etc. to make a "Then and Now" set of photos.

Some of the recreations are hilarious, especially the three brothers who donned grown-up Superman pajamas to match the ones they wore as children.

My kids loved the site so much, they made me join in the fun.

So, here I am, separated by a gap of 40 years...



Now it's your turn.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

 

Dad Man Walking

Did you know that Saturday, July 26th, is the very first International Dad Walk Day?

What is Dad Walk Day?

It's simply a day for all you dads to get out and walk with your kids. Walk, hike, stroll, shuffle. Whatever it takes to get out with your children for an hour or two.

It doesn't matter where you walk. Just that you go for a walk. With your kids.

Oh, and golf doesn't count. Neither does walking to the ice cream aisle at the grocery store.

So, at some time on Saturday, July 26th, celebrate Dad Walk Day by taking a walk with your kids.


Monday, July 07, 2008

 

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.


This post was originally published on June 13, 2005. Summer's a good time for reruns.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

 

Better Get A Bucket

How was your 4th of July?

Mine featured quite the colorful display of explosive projectiles.

Coming out of my mouth.

Yeah, I got slammed by a stomach bug early in the morning of the 4th. The same one had hit my wife and daughter earlier in the week, but not as violently as it hit me.

Apparently, it was saving its best for last.

I don't think I've ever vomited quite so ferociously before. I felt like Mr. Creosote, from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

My little illness ruined plans for the day. Instead of lounging at the beach, enjoying a picnic dinner, then watching fireworks over the lake, we spent the holiday around the house.

That night, a couple dozen of our neighbors provided a dazzling display of illegal fireworks that made up for missing out on the lakeside show.

It wasn't the day I had hoped for, but at least we spent it together as a family. That's enough for me.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

 

Divers and Skeeters

It's a sure sign of summer.

The teenagers are jumping off the cliffs at the lake, and the mosquitoes are buzzing me in the backyard.

I can think of worse places to get a mosquito bite, but having three bites on the bottom of my left foot and two bites on the bottom of my right is about as aggravating (and itchy) as it can get.

My daughter keeps telling me "Don't scratch it!" but I (sounding like a 7-year-old) just reply, "But I can't help it!!"

As for the teenage cliff divers, Jeff's recent post reminded me of this photo I took back in June of 2005. This could be any summer day on Lake Coeur d'Alene.