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Thursday, December 03, 2009
If Nautical Knowledge Is Something You Wish

One of the joys of parenthood is when your children begin to utter their first words. While it's usually difficult to pinpoint these thing exactly, from what my wife and I have been able to determine here are the first words (in order) that our youngest boy has recently began verbalizing:

- Mama

- Daddy

- Dog

- SpongeBob Squarepants

Goes to show that you can't underestimate the power of a catchy theme song. Next up, we'll be working with him on saying "David Hasselhoff."

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009
You Like-a da Juice, ah?

If I may intervene in Chad's home life for a minute, the following approach may also prove effective in the juice request department:

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Juiced

With three small children underfoot, my wife and I are constantly fielding requests for food and beverages. The most common of the latter is for "juice." Kids do love their juice. We try to somewhat limit the amount of juice consumed every day by cutting it heavily with water. This dilution makes the juice a little less sugary for the kids and saves us a few bucks, although we still go through a significant volume of it every week.

We expect the children to frame their juice requests properly and politely. That usually ends up with a deliberate and staccato-like, "Can...I...have...juice...please...___ (mom or dad)?"

But kids being kids, sometimes the desperate need for juice overwhelms their training and instead we get the demand, "I want juice!"

To which I've developed a couple of responses.

The first it to reply in my best Jack Nicholson voice (which is in fact really bad), "You want juice? You can't handle the juice!"

The second is to break into song (again quite badly) with a revised version of the Beatles I want you (she's so heavy):

I want juice
I want juice so bad
I want juice,
I want juice so bad
It's driving me mad, it's driving me mad.


Both responses usually result in a blank stare from the kids and a weary headshake from my wife if she's within earshot. Hey, if you can't humor yourself, what's the point?

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Monday, November 23, 2009
Oddfellows

I'm not big into superstition and certainly not numerology, but I still find the following rather interesting to consider.

If I was asked to choose a lucky number, I would have to go with three. The other contender would be two and therefore combinations of them--23, 32--would also be lucky for me. Not sure why I settled on those particular numbers as being fortunate for me, but at some point in my youth I determined that they were.

Three could possibly be explained because I was born on the third of July. I also happen to now have three sons. The first was born on July 23rd. The second on May 3rd. The last entered this world on September 13th. All born in odd numbered months and all born on a date with a three in it. Just like their father. Odd, isn't it?

SISYPHUS DOES THE MATH: The probability of a person being born in an odd-numbered month on a day ending in three is 18/365.25 or about 4.9%. To find the probability for 4 out of 4 people, raise (18/365.25) to the fourth power. Therefore, the odds of the Elder and his three sons all being born in an odd month on a day ending in three is about 1 in 169,539. (If you allow any date with a three in it -- meaning you include 30 and 31 -- the odds drop to 1 in 28,955.)

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Pining For That What Never Was

With three youngins underfoot in our household we receive a fair number of catalogs featuring products for the younger set. Some are from clothing companies seeking to have our children outfitted in the latest styles from the Swedish countryside. Others are home furnishing companies who have specially tailored children's versions of their adult offerings (Pottery Barn Infants, Pottery Barn Toddlers, Pottery Barn Kids, etc.) Then there are the safety product catalogs which seek to prey upon your deepest parental fears to protect your kids from every possible calamity--nothing says "I Love You" like encasing your child in our exclusive "Baby Bubble," which prevents injury from common household accidents as well as defense against nuclear/chemical/biological agents and nearly every communicable disease known to man.

The only ones that I have much interest in perusing are the toy catalogs. No matter how mature you pretend to be, you can't deny that you still get a thrill checking out the toys. For a moment, you're transported back to a time when dreams of acquiring this or that special toy dominated your thoughts especially as you approached a birthday or Christmas.

Just the other day a catalog from Back To Basics Toys arrived at our home. They have an especially cool collection of toys including some classics from the past. When you page through it, you recognize many of these "oldies but goodies"--either as toys you had, toys that your friends had, or toys that you always wanted, but never were within your reach.

It's easy to fall into a spell of misty nostalgia when the memories of these old toys are rekindled. However, when I reflected a little deeper on the items in the catalog I realized that some of them really didn't merit such fond recollections. In fact, some of these "classic" toys were in reality quite lame.

Toys like Rock'em Sock'em Robots:

Still Rockin' and Sockin' after all these years! A classic since 1966. Remember the fun you had competing for the title? Two contenders control the plastic boxers every move until the winner knocks loose the other's spring-loaded head. Lots of action and competition. Will Red Rocker or Blue Bomber prevail?

This was a much sought after toy during my days of youth. The television commercials made it look like so much fun. My brother and I imagined the many hours we would spend trying to knock each other's blocks off (not in a literal sense for a change) and looked forward to the day when we too would be able to Rock and Sock 'em. Finally, our parents were able to get one for us (pretty sure it was from a garage sale). And after all that anticipation we discovered that the toy...

...pretty much sucked. It wasn't nearly as exciting as portrayed on TV. The robots barely moved, you couldn't really connect that well with a punch, and when you did the results were disappointing. I think we were bored with it within a matter of minutes and rarely went back to it again.

Or the Electric Football Game:

Classic Electric Football brings home 3-D football action. A classic game since 1947. Plug in the unit, set up your players, and the vibrating board does the rest. Features 22 players (including a full-action quarterback), working scoreboard, and magnetic first down marker.

Sounds exactly like the one I had. Metal field, plastic players, out of scale little foam footballs that you threw, kicked, or jammed under a running back's arm. Like a real football game, there was usually very little actual action going on. You spent most of time picking up the players, lining them up, and then trying to figure out how you would use the ball. At last, you'd flip the switch, the table would vibrate, players would topple, and ten seconds later the play would end. Then you'd turn it off and start all over again.

Considering what was available at the time I suppose it wasn't that bad of way to simulate football. But when you can play Madden in hi-def, why would anyone bother with Electric Football?

Another clunker was Shoot the Moon:

Defy gravity by moving the ball up the adjustable steel rods as far as possible for the highest score. A great skill game for children and adults. Made from solid hardwood. A classic since 1920.

This was usually what you ended up stuck with when you went over to visit your parents' friends who didn't have any kids. Say, you kids want to do something fun? Try this game. Five minutes later you were frustrated, fed-up, and wondering how it was possible for anyone to live in a place as boring as this.

Lastly, we have the Slinky:

Marine engineer Richard James invented the Slinky in 1943 when he accidentally knocked a metal spring off his desk. He was amazed at how the metal spring traveled end-over-end across the floor. After more than 60 years, Slinky is still traveling end-over-end across floors, down stairs and into children's hearts.

Who doesn't have fond memories of the Slinky with its simple design and catchy theme song (Slinky, Slinky, oh what a wonderful toy...)? But how much fun did you really have with it? My Slinky NEVER went down the stairs like the ones they showed on TV. While it was amusing for a time to move the Slinky back in forth between your hands, after a while that got old and before long your Slinky was kinked up and sitting at the bottom of a toy box collecting dust.

There were toys from our childhoods that did live up to expectations and provided untold hours of joy. And they deserve to be considered classics. But there were others that don't really hold up that well when you bring a little more focus to the hazy lenses of memory.

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Monday, June 29, 2009
Don't Get Me Wrong

Long week of not working begins today. My employer has decided to shut the facilities down this week to save money and mandate that people use up their vacation time. Any and all complaints about the situation are directed to the department of "You're Lucky To Have A Job." The way things are now with the economy if companies asked workers to come to work in frilly dresses with silly hats riding unicycles, the only response from employees would be "How frilly?"

Oh well. If you have to take an unplanned vacation the week of the Fourth of July is probably the best time to do it. On tap for today is a trip to the Minnesota Zoo with the kids. Haven't been there for many a moon, but can still recall referring to it as the "New Zoo" for years after it opened. I do look forward to hitting the petting zoo with the children before a big meaty lunch.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The Daddy Daughter Dance

JB heps us to an interesting survey from across the pond. Fathers of daughters become more left-wing, academics claim:

Economists claim to have found a correlation between the number of daughters and sons in a household and their father's political views.

By analysing data in the British Household Panel Survey, they found that 67 per cent of parents with three sons and no daughters voted for Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

Professor Andrew Oswald, from Warwick University, and Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee, of York University, wrote in an unpublished article that has been submitted to an economics journal: "This paper provides evidence that daughters make people more Left-wing, while having sons, by contrast, makes them more Right-wing."

Professor Oswald said that having daughters made men "gradually shift their political stance and become more sympathetic to the 'female' desire for a ... larger amount for the public good".

"They become more Left-wing. Similarly, a mother with sons becomes sympathetic to the 'male' case for lower taxes and a smaller supply of public goods," he said.


Whew. A lot to unload here and no time to do it. For now, let me just note that I have three sons and JB has two. And you thought we were right wing before...

UPDATE: I imagine that one exception to this rule would be the father's stringent belief in the right to keep and bear arms, especially in the presence of hormonal teenage boys.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Skippito

Took the urchins to their first book signing/reading yesterday at Galleria. The author in the spotlight was Judy Schachner, who has penned and illustrated the very popular Skippyjon Jones series of children's books. They're entertaining books that our kids enjoy greatly (again & again & again) and they're also fun to read, which every parent knows is a critical aspect of good kidlit.



Her popularity--or maybe Skippyjon's--was evidenced by the impressive turnout of harried parents (mostly moms) and excited kids. The chairs and free handout kits ran out quickly.

The scene was--as you imagine--one of chaos. Kids of various ages wearing the cardboard Skippyjon Jones masks that came in the handouts. Parents trying to keep their kids in one place on the floor. Others trying to find a place to park their strollers. Parents lining up to buy more Skippyjon Jones books or get numbers for the post-reading book signing. In the background, the constant din of kids chattering in nervous anticipation and parents barking commands, occasionally punctured by a plaintive wail from an aggrieved party (mostly kids).

And then the Skippyjon Jones mascot arrived (this pic not from yesterday's event). What had been somewhat controlled chaos became bedlam. In theory, the idea of a lovable children's character come to life in a cute costume sounds like a dream come true. In reality, when children get a glimpse of a larger than life animal coming at them in a goofy suit, it can be a nightmare. My experience has been then that about 25% of kids love seeing their favorite characters in costume, 25% are absolutely terrified to the point of hysteria, and 50% are cautiously on guard as they keep a safe distance while carefully observing the mascot for any sudden movements (much the same way that adults behave in the presence of Anderson Cooper).

My offspring were content to look at Skippyjon Jones without getting close enough to touch. One youngster near us began shrieking in terror as soon as Skippyjon appeared and continued until his mom (grandma?) finally wheeled him away from the monster. She attempted to bring him back a couple of times although I'm not sure if he ever recovered his composure. Bet he slept well last night.

Before the reading and signing, Judy Schachner lead off with an introduction and brief Q & A session. It was apparent that she's proud of her work (and well she should be), but I got the impression that she was talking more to the parents--making sure we understood how clever she was--than the kids and that was a little off-putting. I also think she could have left out a few of the background details she mentioned--did we really need to know the real life cat who Skippyjon was based on has since passed away or that her daughter went to the University of Pennsylvania to be a paleontologist?

By that time, our middle un had decided that he had enough of the crowd and the sitting still and so my wife took him and the youngest for a stroll around the mall. I held down our position with the eldest boy as we hunkered down what we had come for, the reading. Which of course was of a book that we didn't own. Given how much children savor the familiar, this lessened his enjoyment of the experience somewhat.

After the reading, we elected not to wait to get a book signed. Holding position number twenty-six, we reckoned that it would mean waiting at least half an hour in line and at that point the idea of further waiting had little appeal. My wife bequeathed our number to a woman holding a forty-four, moving her up a little in the line.

It was good to attend such an event to get an idea of what they're all about. It may now be a good while before we decide to attend another.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Dreams of the Green Fairy

Last summer, we had a birthday/house warming party at our abode. Our realtor kindly presented us with a bottle of Lucid Absinthe Supérieure as a gift. I placed the bottle on the top shelf behind the basement bar for future consumption and it remained there undisturbed until last week.

That's when our eldest son happened to notice the bottle, in particular the rather creepy green eyes. My wife explained to him that it was just a bottle and there was nothing to fear (at least until he gets much older and is actually able to drink absinthe). But when a child of that age gets fixated on something it's hard to get them to let go. Rather than risk further toddler terror or have to answer further questions, she took the bottle down and placed it underneath the bar, eyes facing away.

While celebrating Easter on Sunday I was behind the bar mixing up a few cocktails for guests. In the course of that activity I must have moved the bottle and turned it around. Because today when my wife had the kids in the basement, eldest son once again managed to make eye contact with the bottle's creepy peepers and was once again a bit freaked by their look.

So now the bottle of Lucid--which from I understand is a pretty high quality absinthe--has been relegated to the laundry room. Sharing shelf space with Tide, Woolite, and Bounce seems like an undeserved fate for a spirit of that reputation, but the warm blanket of childhood security should be preserved when possible. Besides I would hate for him to grow up with an unfounded fear of liquor bottles.

There are some very legitimate reasons to tread lightly with a bottle of absinthe. The menacing glow of green eyes is not one of them.

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Friday, April 10, 2009
Cheese Tonight

My wife just e-mailed to report our eldest son's (he turns four in July) most recent reworking of songs.

To the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb":

Mary has a minivan, minivan, minivan
Mary has a minivan
Jesus lets us go

And to the tune of MLK by U2:

Cheese, cheese tonight and...(I couldn't understand the rest)

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Thursday, April 09, 2009
Small Comfort

Sometimes all you can do is laugh. Like when you read this story, headlined "Secret to marital bliss? Don't Have Kids":

Parents all know that children make it harder to do some of the most enjoyable adult things. Bluntly put, kids can get between you.

Now scientists have attached some numbers to the situation.

An eight-year study of 218 couples found 90 percent experienced a decrease in marital satisfaction once the first child was born.

"Couples who do not have children also show diminished marital quality over time," says Scott Stanley, research professor of psychology at University of Denver. "However, having a baby accelerates the deterioration, especially seen during periods of adjustment right after the birth of a child."


This really isn't news as past studies have also shown a diminished marital satisfaction levels among couples who have kids. However, it seems like a quite a leap to go from that to concluding that being childless is the key to marital bliss as the headline implies.

The story did provide some solace to those of us who have elected to help keep this civilization thing going:

Children don't ruin everything, Stanley points out.

Whew. It's good to know that there are actually some--very few I imagine--positive things about having children.

At First Things, Ryan Sayre Patrico agrees that having a baby "accelerates the deterioration" of "marital quality over time":

Sure. If by "marital quality" one means selfishness, self-centeredness, or egoism.

Just the other day, our priest remarked that he believed that those who chose not have children were often incapable of ever fully maturing as adults. It might come as a surprise to some people--like the MSNBC headline writer--to learn that bliss and personal satisfaction are not the most important things in life.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009
Let Them Eat Cake

Andrew e-mails to hep us to article about kids who fear food and the parents who foster such madness:

SODIUM: that's what worries Greye Dunn. He thinks about calories, too, and whether he's getting enough vitamins. But it's the sodium that really scares him.

"Sodium makes your heart beat faster, so it can create something really serious," said Greye, who is 8 years old and lives in Mays Landing, New Jersey.

Greye's mother, Beth Dunn, the president of a multimedia company, is proud of her son's nutritional awareness and encourages it by serving organic food and helping Greye read labels on cereal boxes and cans.

"He wants to be healthy," she says.


"He" wants to be healthy? You mean, YOU have a warped obcession with him being healthy so you've installed baseless fears in his mind to make yourself feel better. Nice work mom. By the way, what the hell kind of name is "Greye" anyway? If this kid isn't getting his arse kicked on a regular basis on the playground I'd be shocked.

I'm forty and I don't give a rip about sodium, calories, or if I'm getting enough vitamins. Why? Because I've been blessed to be in good health, I eat in moderation, and squeeze in exercise when I can. The fact that an eight-year-old even knows why sodium is supposed to bad for him is sick, just sick.

Dunn is among the legions of parents who are vigilant about their children's consumption of sugar, processed foods and trans fats. Many try to stick to an organic diet. In general, their concern does not stem from a fear of obesity--although that may figure into the equation--but from a desire to protect their families from conditions like hyperactivity, diabetes and heart disease, which they believe can be avoided, or at least managed, by careful eating.

While scarcely any expert would criticize parents for paying attention to children's diets, many doctors, dietitians and eating disorder specialists worry that some parents are becoming overzealous, even obsessive, in efforts to engender good eating habits in children. With the best of intentions, these parents may be creating an unhealthy aura around food.

"We're seeing a lot of anxiety in these kids," said Cynthia Bulik, the director of the eating disorders program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "They go to birthday parties, and if it's not a granola cake they feel like they can't eat it. The culture has led both them and their parents to take the public health messages to an extreme."


For God's sake people. They're kids. They'll have plenty of time to be obcessive food freaks when they're older. For now, let them be kids. And let them eat birthday cake.

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You're Good, You're Good

My wife and I often sprinkle pop culture references in our daily conversation. And like many of our generational cohort, these references are often from episodes of "The Simpsons" or even more frequently "Seinfeld." Again this is not an uncommon behavior as many of my friends do the same. In fact, --according to reliable reports--some years ago when Saint Paul, Atomizer, and JB took a junket to London, they managed to set a unofficial four-day record for making such references, leaving them spent and nearly speechless on the flight home (except for Atomizer who managed to summon up the intestinal fortitude to get well into his cups--again).

Therefore it probably shouldn't come as a surprise to discover that the acorn indeed doesn't fall from the tree. Our eldest has recently begun employing television refs in his regular banter. Naturally, they aren't sourced from "Seinfeld" or "The Simpsons." No, he's pulling his material from a program he knows all too well; Sir SpongeBob of the Square Pants.

Interestingly enough, in recent years my wife and I have found ourselves dropping SpongeBob lines on a increasingly regular basis. The little yellow square dude isn't approaching the Seinfeldian depths of seeming to have an appropriate riff for nearly everything you encounter in life, but you'd be surprised how often a nugget from the show proves usable. Now that our son has discovered the joys of the well-timed television reference, I expect we'll be going to that well even more often.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Last Hurrah

A while back my wife noted that passing of one of those bittersweet (more sweet than bitter) milestones of parenting. When our oldest son first attained the ability to speak, he developed a novel approach to voicing an affirmative indication. Asked if he wanted something--juice, milk, chicken nuggets, crackers, etc--he wouldn't say "Yes" or "Yup" of "Yeah" or "Okay." Instead he would respond with "Hurray." We weren't really sure where he came up with this, but it was undeniably cute and precious beyond belief.

Even more so when it wasn't expressed with the usual enthusiasm or excitement that one would expect to be associated with that word. If his first three-and-a-half years are any indication, our son is not a morning person. Most mornings he drags himself from bed, limps (often literally) into the living room, and plops down on the couch rubbing his eyes and looking like he's just come off a long weekend bender. At this point, we typically ask him if he'd like some juice to get the blood again. And he used to--in a strained, barely audible voice--croak out a "Hoo...ray." It never failed to bring a smile to our faces.

But like many things in life, this simple joy proved fleeting. And we never really appreciated how much we enjoyed it until it was gone. One day, my wife mentioned that he had stopped saying "Hooray." I hadn't noticed, but paid close attention when the next opportunity presented itself and discovered that she was right. Instead of "Hooray" he know says "Okay" or sometimes "Yes". I coaxed a "Hooray" out of him the other day for old times sake, but it seemed forced and just wasn't the same.

It was another lesson that reinforced the maxim that all parents know at heart, but find all too easy to forget in the moment: Enjoy the days while you can, because the years go by all too fast.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009
Hit The Ice

Monday night was the eldest son's first skating lesson. And it marked the first real foray into organizied sports activities with our children (other than "swimming lessons" he took a couple of years ago which were really more like "hold your baby in the water and sing songs lessons"). I'm sure it won't be the last.

It went about as well as could be expected. All the kids in his group (3 to 4 year old beginners) really did was practice trying to stand from a sitting position and stand on their skates using their arms for balance. The days of chairs or other devices to help stablize beginner skaters are over. They learn to stand and fall (often) on their own right from the get go.

One of the more amusing scenes occurred when the kids first took the ice. Instructors helped ferry them to the boards, where they placed their hands on top of the side walls and told them to hang on. And hang on for dear life they did. It looked like a bunch of non-swimmers clinging to the side of a pool. One by one they dropped off and fell to the ice where most of them remained laying or sitting until the actual class began.

It made me think back to the days when I learned to skate and realizing that I recall nothing of the experience at all. Since neither of our parents skated, JB and I just went to the rink by ourselves, strapped on the blades, and through a process of trial and error (a lot of the latter) figured out how to make it work. No one ever told us what to do or not to do. It was all learning by experience, hard experience.

You can see the pros and cons of that method and the way kids learn most things today. I'm not sure which is better. I just my son enjoys the stride as much as I did (and still do).

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Thursday, January 01, 2009
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This is the first year that the eldest son (almost three and a half) has fully embraced the Christmas season. He enthusiastically belts out carols (Jingle Bells, Rudolph, and Santa's Coming Tonight, Tonight from "SpongeBob"). He loves reading books like Rudolph and the Night Before Christmas. He digs the lights, decorations, and most of all of course Christmas trees. He was glued to every television special that we tuned in and has become quite a fan of "The Grinch" after getting the DVD on Christmas Eve. He knows and oft repeats the standard greetings "Merry Christmas," "Happy New Year's" and "Ho, Ho, Ho." And for the last few weeks, he's informed us on a regular basis that "It's the holiday season."

Tonight, while eating dinner he started singing a new song. To the tune of "Happy Birthday," he crooned "Happy Christmas to you Charlie Brown." A new tradition is born.

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Monday, December 01, 2008
Parents Say The Darndest Things

A few years ago there was an e-mail making the rounds that featured a list of phrases that a mother of boys had uttered over the years. Phrases that she would never have imagined herself using before becoming a mother. It was a rather hilarious view of the trials and tribulations of life with small boys.

My wife and I could have complied a similar list based on our experiences over the last couple of years. On a fairly regular basis one of us will catch ourselves or hear the other say something that at the time seems deadly serious, but in hindsight is ridiculous for its sheer absurdity.

The most recent example was Saturday, when my wife addressed our eldest son with the admonition, "Don't eat Christmas ornaments!" This is just the latest in a long line of "Don't eat _____!" or "Don't chew on ______!" warnings with just about anything and everything you can imagine filling in the blanks.

Another one of my favorite fill in the blanks is "Don't use _____ as a weapon!" Again, you can hardly begin to imagine the infinite variety of things that fill the bill for toddlers in this area. Prisoners are often renowned for their imagination and innovation when it comes to weaponizing the most of innocent seeming items to use against the screws. But they can't hold a candle to a determined child looking for a way to tip the balance of power in the never-ending struggle for sibling supremacy. Anyone who still believes that humans are born pure of heart has never witnessed the obviously malicious intent as the most innocent-looking of children will take advantage of an opportunity to knock his brother upside the head with _____.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Twenty-Three Skidoo

Today is the third birthday of our eldest son. At times it seems like only yesterday he was but a bald, bowling-ball headed baby, squealing and kicking like mad as we bathed his little body. Where did this talking, walking running, curly-haired boy wonder in our house come from anyway?

At others, it seems impossible to imagine a time when he wasn't part of the picture. Those BK (before kids) days seem part of a long ago hazy-memoried past. It's hard to believe that it was only three years ago.

These time paradoxes are common for parents, as someone once told me that raising children is all about long days and short years. We try to savor the days (even the really LONG ones) and not think too much about the years. So far, they've all been great ones. Happy birthday.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Keep Blood Between Brothers (redux)

One of the many interesting aspects of having kids is watching their growth and development play out in everyday life. It's like your own little human lab experiment unfolding in your living room. Nature versus nurture, genetic dispositions, birth order, gender differences, etc. it's all happening right in front of your eyes. If only my wife was more open to my idea of raising the next one in a box...

Anyway, after recent close observation of my particular subjects interacting in said environment, I've been able to confirm a theory that I first postulated more than thirty years ago:

Little brothers are annoying.

It would actually be more accurate to say, little brothers are incredibly annoying. Given all the frustration and pain they cause their older siblings, it's a wonder that they survive long enough to reach adulthood. From the moment they first achieve mobility, they're into everything and anything of their brother's. Their time, their space, their food, their drink, and most egregiously of all, their toys.

The older brother had become accustomed to a world of order and routine. Now, in the form of his younger sibling, utter chaos has entered it. His understandable reaction is to resist this intrusion, but he quickly discovers that his ability to effectively respond is limited by the parameters of allowable physical contact imposed by his parents. He also learns--much to his dismay--that despite his relative inexperience, the younger brother has a cunning appreciation of said limits which he plays to his maximum advantage. A mere inadvertent touch on the arm will cause his brother to flail about wildly before crashing to the ground in order to feign injury in a dramatic performance most reminiscent of an Italian soccer player (only with less crying).

So he has little choice but to come to recognize his brother's right to not only exist but also to annoy. It really doesn't seem fair. Then or now

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Anyone with children knows just how silly the modern feminist delusion that there are no inherent differences between men and women is. The notion that gender differences are programmed into children by society is proved absurd early in your child's life and proof of that absurdity is reinforced on almost a daily basis thereafter.

The most recent example of this for my wife came about the other day when she was out in the yard with the kids. Having just moved into our new home, lawn care has not yet been much of a priority for us so far and portions of the yard are fairly thick with the hated and oh so pesky dandelion. Now while adults full well recognize a dandelion for the infernal weed that it is, children look at a dandelion and see a yellow flower.

My wife was counting on this when she pointed out the dandelions to our eldest son, "Look Nathaniel, some flowers." Now, being of the female persuasion herself and perhaps remembering her own experiences with dandelions as a child, my wife expected him to then pick the dandelions. After all, if

dandelions are flowers

and

you pick flowers

then

you pick dandelions

Perfectly sound logic. For the feminine mind. So what did Nathaniel do?

He ran over to the dandelions/flowers and began joyously stomping them into the ground. For a male, stomping is much more fun than picking. I mean, what are you going do with the dandelions/flowers after you pick them? Look at them? Smell them? Seems pretty pointless when there's a good stomping to be had instead.

It reminded me of the first time that Nathaniel saw a bug (at least I think it was the first time). I found an unusual type of beetle on our patio and called Nathaniel over to take a look at it. He took one glance and immediately squashed it under his foot. I don't think he thought about it either. It was just a natural reaction. You see a bug and you stomp it. No programming required.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008
Nurturing Nature

Our company offers what they like to call "brown bag" parenting seminars over the lunch hour. Number that I've attended so far? Zero.

A number not likely to change after reading this description of the newest session being offered:

Richard Louv's new ground breaking book, "Last Child in the Woods," claims that children are becoming nature deprived. He provides new insights into the rise of childhood obesity, attention disorders and depression claiming that many children suffer from nature-deficit disorder.

In this session we will talk about this rising body of research and talk about practical ways to add "nature activities" back into our children's lives for healthy physical and emotional development.


Practical ways, eh? Try these four words: GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Example # 768 Of How Kids Change Everything

Actually it's two examples of the changes wrought by having children that are related.

- When you or your wife wish to employ a humorous reference, you now quote a line from "SpongeBob" rather than "Seinfeld." And you both get it too.

- You start using lines from children's movies for the titles of your blog posts.

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Monday, November 12, 2007
Rescue Me?

You know the stories about toddlers accidentally calling 911 when playing around with a phone? Well, apparently they're not that unusual, as Grandpa and Grandma discovered much to their chagrin yesterday when our eldest son inadvertently dispatched a police cruiser to their home. At least we hope it was inadvertent.

UPDATE-- Andy e-mails with more:

In August, I left my kids to play while I stepped into the shower before work. I've got a 7yr old and a 2 1/2yr old. While I was drying off, I heard the phone ring, I stepped out of the bathroom to hear my littlest answer the phone. As I walked closer I heard, "Is your daddy home?". My son handed me the phone, IT WAS 911!! The pleasant lady on the other end said, "Don't be to alarmed sir, We get calls from kids all the time. We always give a call back first before we send out an officer." So it happens all the time. Well needless to say that kid comes in the shower with me now.

This is actually the same thing that happened with us. After my son was punching buttons on the phone, Grandpa hung it up, and it rang almost right away. "Probably 911 calling," I joked. It was. He explained what happened and the dispatcher understood. But apparently an officer was nearby and responded immediately anyway.

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Friday, October 19, 2007
Lord Love...A Dog?

What else can you say about this other than pathetic?

A "growed" woman cannot work or function because a dog was taken from a friend of hers.

She is apparently bed-ridden, so filled with canangst (coined!) that she can't even function normally (define your terms!).

We are at the point where dogs are as important to some extremely disordered people as babies. Kind of a sign that there are serious problems in our culture, no?

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Ellen DeGeneres' talk show was put on hold for a day because of her emotionally wrenching dog-adoption drama.

"It's been a long week and a tough week and we decided to take a long weekend and be back on Tuesday," said Laura Mandel, a spokeswoman for Telepictures Productions, which produces "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

DeGeneres was scheduled Thursday to tape shows to air Friday and Monday. Instead, the tapings were canceled and reruns featuring Jessica Alba and Queen Latifah will air on those days. A new show is planned Tuesday.

The battle over Iggy, a Brussels Griffon terrier mix, pitted DeGeneres against an animal rescue agency and, at one point, had her in tears on her show. The agency's owners complained of receiving death threats over the dispute.
DeGeneres adopted the dog, then gave it to her hairstylist's family after the dog, despite training, couldn't get along with the comedian's cats, her publicist has said.

Marina Batkis and Vanessa Chekroun, owners of the nonprofit Mutts and Moms agency, claimed that DeGeneres violated the adoption agreement by not informing them that she was giving the dog away and removed Iggy from the hairstylist's home Sunday.
DeGeneres pleaded for Iggy's return to the hairstylist on Tuesday's show. She said her hairdresser's daughters, ages 11 and 12, were heartbroken when the dog was taken away.

But Mutts and Moms' owners were adamant about their decision, and a spokesman for Batkis said she wouldn't be "bullied around by the Ellen DeGenereses of the world."
At a taping of the show Wednesday, DeGeneres told the audience she wouldn't talk about the matter again unless Iggy was returned to her hairdresser.


In a similar vein, I was listening to Jason Lewis last night and during the news segment at 5:30 Jeff Manasshol (heheheh) told us that two deer were found murdered on the side of a road in northern Minnesota. He read the news piece as if they were people that were found.

I wonder how many abortions took place yesterday in Minnesota alone...

Can you imagine if the media provided that information on a daily basis like they do with the soliders killed in Iraq? Would the constant drumbeat of death news do anything to change minds?

Anchorette: It was another bloody day today in Minnesota with increasing violence targeted at innocent children who have no say in the matter. We begin our team coverage in Minneapolis where Julie Adams is at the Planned Parenthood in Uptown, Julie?

Julie: It was indeed a bloody day here with 19 children already aborted today and the clinic doesn't close for another 3 hours. This is the bloodiest single day in Minnesota since abortion was made legal in 1973. It now brings the total number of babies aborted in this long, drawn out and some say unnecessary conflict to 48,987,231 babies.

Back to you.

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Monday, October 08, 2007
Heavy Rotation

Barnyard (2006) is currently topping the charts on my son's movie play list. Which means I've probably seen parts of it twenty-five or thirty times in last few weeks. Not that I'm complaining. My wife's exposure is likely at least double that.

This is the sixth movie that's caught his fancy since he really started politely asking demanding (you don't see the words "polite two-year old" together for a reason) to watch particular films. Once he's locked in, he'll usually go for at least a few weeks of almost exclusively viewing one movie. As a parent, you quickly learn to appreciate movies that wear well and grow to despise those that don't. Here's a recap of what we've picked up so far:

Barnyard: Very good the first time you see it and so far it's holding up pretty well. The animation (or whatever you call it now) is excellent, there's decent humor, and the music is good. If you only watch a movie once, you may not ever notice the music. When you see it thirty times, you start knowing songs by heart.

Shark Tale (2004): One of the rare movies that I actually came to enjoy more after repeated viewings. Initially I wasn't all that impressed, but it grows on you. The humor is above average and the music is too. I'm surprised that it wasn't more popular when it was released.

Madagascar (2005): Good but not great. My son really dug this one for a while, so we've watched it A LOT. Again, the humor is good and the tunes are too, especially the dance scenes. There's a point beyond which it's very difficult to get anything more out of a movie and we probably reached it here.

Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006): Blah. This movie was mediocre the first time around and it didn't take long to get annoying in a hurry. A dull plot, lifeless writing, and characters we don't care about combine to make this a very long slog, especially when viewed repeatedly.

Finding Nemo (2003): A decent movie that holds up surprisingly well. Great graphics definitely help. The only downside is that at one hour and forty minutes, it's way too long. The last couple of scenes were unnecessary and made the ending anti-climatic.

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004): Let me start by saying that my son is a HUGE SpongeBob fan (as to a lesser extent are my wife and I). I've noticed that when it comes to SpongeBob, people either love it or hate it. In my opinion, the differences are between those who get it and those who don't, but now's not the time for that debate. If you like SpongeBob, you'll like the movie. The animation is pretty weak (except for the creatures in the trench), but no one watches SpongeBob for that anyway. The writing is very good and the music grows on you. I was a little surprised that I was still able to enjoy it after multiple viewings, but it has held up well. At least so far.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007
Civilizing The Little Barbarians

Tony Woodlief--himself a father of four--talks about the realistic approach to parenting in a piece at OpinionJournal (free for all):

Another school year has sprung itself upon us, which is always an occasion for my wife, a former Detroit public-school teacher, and me to remind ourselves why we home-school. Part of the reason, in addition to my wife's expertise in this area, can be found in Thomas Sowell's "A Conflict of Visions," published 20 years ago. Mr. Sowell contrasted the "unconstrained vision" of utopians, who want to radically improve humankind, with the "constrained vision" of realists, who begin with the proposition that man is inherently self-interested, and not moldable into whatever form the high-minded types have in store for us once they get their itchy fingers on the levers of power. Mr. Sowell's book has been influential among conservatives for its compelling explanation of the divide between people who want to reshape us--often via large intrusions on liberty--and those who believe that the purpose of government is to protect institutions (like markets and families) that channel our inherent selfishness into productive behavior. It is also a handy guide for parenting.

While some mothers and fathers stubbornly cling to the utopian beliefs of their childless years, the vision of humans as inherently sinful and selfish resonates with many of us who are parents. Nobody who's stood between a toddler and the last cookie should still harbor a belief in the inherent virtue of mankind. An afternoon at the playground is apt to make one toss out the idealist Rousseau ("man is a compassionate and sensible being") in favor of the more realistic Hobbes ("all mankind [is in] a perpetual and restless desire for power"). As a father of four sons, I've signed on to Mr. Sowell's summation of a parent's duty: "Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late."

The constrained vision indicates that world harmony and universal satisfaction are mirages. People are innately selfish, and they'll always desire more goodies. This means that tradeoffs between competing wants are inevitable. My wife and I therefore forbid our children to use the word "fair." Parents still in the thrall of the unconstrained worldview are prone to manipulation by their kids, who like little human-rights lawyers insist on fairness as an imperative. And don't get me started on the damage that an exaggerated sense of fairness and entitlement has done to public schools. In our house things are much simpler: That last piece of cake had to be divided somehow, and in this imperfect world your brother got the extra frosting. Deal with it.

While the unconstrained worldview teaches that traditions and customs are to be distrusted as holdovers from benighted generations, those of us with the constrained view believe it's good to make our children address their elders properly, refrain from belching at the table and wear clothes that actually cover them. Mr. Sowell noted that some benefits from evolved societal rules can't be articulated, because they've developed through trial and error over centuries. This reveals the sublime wisdom in that time-honored parental rejoinder: "Because I said so."


Parents of young children, and those considering becoming parents, are advised to read the entire piece. And to pick up Thomas Sowell's book.

A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles

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Monday, September 03, 2007
Going With The Grain

Sage child-rearing advice from John Derbyshire in the latest issue of National Review (sub req):

Human beings are not, after all, infinitely malleable. No one who has raised a child could think so. A human personality has a grain, like wood, that cannot be ignored. The trick with raising kids is to discover their grain, their innate inclinations, and encourage those that are healthful and civilizationally positive.

And not assuming that their grain is the same as yours. Much easier said than done.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007
Lessons Learned

The people who are now pointing at Norm Coleman and screaming "Hypocrite!" because he used to smoke weed in college and now opposes the legalization of marijuana are the same idiots who ask how they can tell their children not to do drugs when they inhaled in their own days of misspent youth. Apparently concepts such as learning the hard way, older and wiser, and maturity escape them.

Most of us did things during our days as teenagers and young adults that we now regard as reckless, unfulfilling, and yes downright stupid. Why? Because we were immature, inexperienced, and thought we knew a lot more than it turned out we really did.

There's no shame in admitting that and no hypocrisy in telling your children not to make the same mistakes that you did. In fact, not passing on the lessons that you've learned or standing by and refusing to steer your children away from the pitfalls that you know all too well because of some misguided notion about integrity is a disservice bordering on negligence. Isn't it the wish of every parent that your children have a better life?

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Ball Possession

Memo to parents, relatives, guardians, day care providers, etc:

The last time I checked we were not living in a socialist commune. Rather our system is capitalistic in nature, based on a firm foundation of personal property rights.

So next time you're down at the park and the child you're responsible for (at least nominally) comes over to OUR wagon and starts messing with OUR basketball, I expect that you will have the decency to instruct them to cease and desist, possibly taking the opportunity to briefly explain the concept of ownership: that ball is not yours, put it back. I understand that toddlers are far too young to understand why they should not take something that does not belong to them. However, it is your job as a responsible adult to teach them to respect the property of others.

If, for some reason, it is absolutely imperative that your little darling play with OUR basketball, I expect that you will seek our permission, which would almost certainly be granted. It's simply common courtesy to do so. It is not courteous, but I'm discovering all too common to look on silently while the child in your charge takes said basketball out of said wagon and begins rolling and kicking it around the park, requiring us to monitor the status of OUR basketball so that it doesn't end up in the street.

We're trying to have a society here people.

JB Smartly replies:

Funny The Elder should be talking about such a subject, since he does more ball handling in 5 minutes than Steve Nash does all night.

L'Elder moons for rebuttal:

Updating a ref from "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"? Not bad.

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Monday, May 14, 2007
Keep Blood Between Brothers

Our eldest son continues to struggle adjusting to the reality that he's no longer the absolute center of our universe. He's actually doing pretty well considering the magnitude of the change that's just shaken his little world. My wife read that the sudden appearance in the household of a younger sibling has a comparable effect on a child to that that her husband's ex-girlfriend moving in would have on a wife. Ouch.

In some ways you do have to sympathize with the little guy. He probably looks at his younger brother and wonders what all the hype is about. After all, his sibling is boring and pretty much helpless. He can't communicate at all and is physically uncoordinated. And he spends most of his day suckling at the teat and wallowing in his own filth.

As an elder sibling myself, I can relate to my son's confusion. In fact, thirty-seven years later, I'm still wondering.

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Friday, May 11, 2007
The Parent Trap

Being a parent is a wonderful experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. However, there is one area of parenting that I've come to despise: parental small talk.

Whenever you're with your childrens in a public area, you're always in danger of falling into the trap. One minute you're happily pushing your urchin in swing without a care in the world. The next another parent has sidled up next to you and out of the blue asks, "How old is he?"

"Uh...nineteen months," you reply. Now you're in the quagmire of forced conversation. You don't really want to, but you feel obliged to ask about their little pride and joy:

"And how how old is he/she?"

It becomes really awkward from this point out. You really have nothing in common with this person other than the fact that you've both figured out how to successfully breed. I imagine moms are much better at this sort of this things than dads because they have more experience at it. I simply have no desire to "talk kids" with some complete stranger.

It's even worse when they open the exchange by paying your child a compliment:

"Wow, he's really a cute little guy."

What do you do now? For some reason it seems incumbent upon you to respond in kind, even though sometimes you want to be completely honest and say:

"Thanks and you have a lovely little troll there yourself."

But you don't. We're trying to have a civilization here, right? So you offer some insincere compliment of your own to even the score.

"Thanks, he/she is a little cutie too."

Then, you're again you're left with the same question of "where do we go from here?" and maybe more importantly "WHY?".

There's no reason for these painful social encounters. Just because I see you at the park/mall/store/whatever and our kids are in near proximity physically and age-wise doesn't mean that we need to communicate in any manner other than a shared glance, a knowing smile, and acknowledging nod of the head. Anything more is just going down a road that has no happy destination.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006
The Strange Sea Monster of Strawberry Lake

Catching up on the April edition of First Things last night, I came across an article by Joseph Bottum which brought me back to the days of my not-always-misspent youth:

In 1961, however, there appeared in the magazine Boys' Life three stories by Bertrand R. Brinley: "The Strange Sea Monster of Strawberry Lake," "Night Rescue," and "The Unidentified Flying Man of Mammoth Falls." Four more stories joined them to make up The Mad Scientists' Club, which the publisher MacRae Smith brought out in hardback in 1965--and which Scholastic Books quickly added to its paperback catalogue, along with the five additional stories that formed The New Adventures of the Mad Scientists' Club in 1968.

Boys' Life, Scholastic Books and the Mad Scientists' Club? Talk about fond memories. I loved ordering books at school from Scholastic. Choosing your selections from the catalog, convincing your parents to pony up for a couple (which probably meant all of $5.80), the agonizing wait, and the excitement when the shipment finally arrived in the classroom.

No doubt the foundation of some of the appeal of finding an Amazon delivery on my front steps today was laid by Scholastic Books. And for an adventuresome young lad, it didn't get much better than the Mad Scientists' Club:

What Brinley layers on top of all this, however, is a kind of late 1950s or early 1960s gloss of something that he calls science, though it isn't really. The stories pay ready lip service to the experimental method, the glories of theory, and the high calling of the scientist. But what they are actually after is, instead, the simulacrum of science that is old-fashioned science-boy science--invention, in other words, and the problem-solving of elegantly and cleverly applied technology. Each story is like the latest patent-worthy plan for yet another genuine American apple-peeler, though in the case of The Mad Scientists' Club, the apple to be peeled is some traditional challenge of literary boyhood: adults to be bamboozled, rival clubs to be defeated, adventures to be had, dragons to be slain.

The decline in the later book-length tales is proof, perhaps, of how surprisingly delicate a thing Bertrand R. Brinley pulled off with the early stories. They had comedy, and comradeship, and wish-fulfillment fantasy--and, most of all, they had that science-boy thing of chemistry sets that got used instead of gathering dust in a closet, of walkie-talkies that proved useful instead of being lost in the basement when their batteries died, of junkyards where you could actually find the eight-foot steel bar you needed to bring one of your ideas to life.

Hopefully, no matter how much the world changes, there will always be a place in a boy's imagination to dream about the kind of adventures detailed in the Mad Scientists' Club.

UPDATE: Jeff e-mails to remind me that the Mad Scientists' Club series has been reprinted by Purple House Press and is available for sale.

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TALK O' THE TOWN
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