Friday, May 27, 2011

New stuff on Aiming Low and TLC Parentables: Playgrounds and In-laws

Over at Aiming Low,  I wrote about the playgrounds I take my kids to.  Really it's about the freaks I encounter at the playgrounds, but I pretended that it's a rhetorical analysis of a public space.  So I sound like less of a dick.

Playground Profiles

Of course we all know that stereotyping is wrong, hurtful, and horribly inaccurate.  All it does is isolate us from each other, foment tension and distrust, and prevent people from reaching their potential.

That's why I would never, EVER, use broad strokes to describe a "type" of person.  There are no types. Just people. That's what I always say.

But geographical locations are different.  Places don't have feelings, hopes, dreams, aspirations.  They're just bits of dirt, rock, and architecture.  They're fair game.

With that in mind, I have prepared a description of the different types of playgrounds we have within a 3-mile radius of our house.  These are the facilities that my kids and I visit almost daily, so I feel that I'm eminently qualified as a critic of these public spaces.

Some kid on a slide


Also, on TLC Parentables, I wrote about my nine-year secret courtship with my wife, and how I came to appreciate the meddlesome ways of her parents.

Go Ahead and Meddle in Your Children's Relationships...They'll Thank You for It Later

Whenever I write about how I met my wife, I have to include some winky/nudgey passages like this: We met in college and for the next 9 years were good pals who didn't date and would never have considered cohabitating because that would have been wrong and immoral and her parents would have been completely justified in disowning her, which is exactly what they would have done.  That little disclaimer is in case of the very, very unlikely event that her parents would read something I published on the interwebs.

The snarky synopsis above encapsulates the official story as it appears in the annals of my wife's family history.  We met in college, and I was the friend who sometimes fixed her car.  I started a little construction business while she applied to medical school, and continued to drive nails while she worked toward her degree.  Years later, after she had graduated from medical school, I approached her parents in the usual manner--you know, came to their door with my parents and six close male friends bearing gifts including a roast pig, betel nut, wine, and fruit--and then negotiated with the family elders for permission to begin our courtship.  After permission was granted, my betrothed and I moved to California where she did her residency.  We lived in separate houses *coughcough* while I did construction work and went through adult catechism so that our eventual marriage would be recognized by the One True Church.

Of course, the extended version of the story is much more complicated.  I would love to tell it to you one day over some beers, well out of earshot of my in-laws.


Happy Memorial Day weekend!  Don't forget to think about all the dead folks who made it possible for you to enjoy your distilled beverages in a free country!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Biker Chicks and Dog Wagon Rides

 Photos by one of my many talented sisters-in-law

Cobra on her homemade trike

Butterbean gazing into the horizon

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I have taken a new mistress, and her name is Parilla

It was only a few short weeks ago that I was singing the praises of the cast iron skillet, and scoffing, as I do, at those chumps who cook over open flames.

Now, it seems, I am eating my flame-broiled words, and leaving my trusty skillet to languish in the cupboard.

It all started when my wife went to Target to pick up some paper towels and throat lozenges.  When she returned, she was straining under the load of this:

Friday, May 20, 2011

SCAR (Stupid Careless Accident Report), Volume 1, Issue 2: Nail Gun

This is the second in an occasional series of stories about manly derring-do, and the injuries that 


It was getting close to lunchtime.  Or farther away from lunchtime, I guess, depending on when you eat lunch.  I always wanted to get to a stopping point before taking lunch, to finish some kind of task so I could feel good about my morning's work.  So sometimes we would work until 2:00, or until my partner said screw this--I'm taking lunch, whichever came first.

We were working on a tract house on the outskirts of Charlottesville.  It was one of five or six models that were repeated ad infinitum in this development, so we had the routine down pat.  Hang the siding, do all the exterior trim, build the deck.  My buddy and I were one of a bunch of subcontracting crews that performed various phases in fleshing out the suburban sprawl there in the foothills of the Blue Ridge  Mountains.  

I was up on the scaffolding, working on the cornice--eaves in layman's term--you know, that part where the roof hangs over the wall.  Back East, on those Colonial style houses, the cornice was pretty elaborate, consisting of a frieze board, a vented soffit, a fascia board, and crown molding.

Before we even got to the trim though, we had to do some 2"x4" blocking to form the framework for the pretty stuff.

So I was twenty feet up on the pump jacks, a rickety scaffolding system that consists of two or more (three, in this case) 4"x4" posts set upright and attached to the roof on top, with brackets that hold a walkboard spanning the distance between the posts.

My partner, Bill, was down on the ground, cutting the the 2x4s.  Because we were paid by the job, not by the hour, it behooved us to work as quickly as possible.  We would get into a rhythm where Bill would throw a block up before I was even done measuring the next one, so when I turned around, it would be right in front of my face and I could grab it out of the air, turn, and--BAM--shoot it in place with the nail gun, while yelling out the measurement I had just taken for the next block.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gardening, Childhood Memory, McMansions, The Dreaded Second Birthday Party

We've been doing a lot of gardening lately.  We've got seven different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, three different kinds of cucumbers, a mess of zucchini, and a ton of scalloped squash.  The criteria for deciding which crops to grow were that they had to be high-yield, low-maintenance, and something we would actually eat.  There's not a whole lot of room to grow stuff--just the raised beds I build a little more than a month ago--but the produce is really taking off!  

I think the combination of raised beds and the magic of worm compost is making the difference.  We've had pretty decent vegetable gardens in the past, but they often got weed-choked and eaten by bugs and other critters.  Of course, it could partly be that since it's become a regular activity with the kids, we pay more attention to the garden.

We harvested the first batch of peas the other day, and the kids ate every single one of them.  They would pick a little basket full, devour them, and then go back for more.  I wish I would have planted more peas.  Now they're hard to get.  I guess you're supposed to plant them in the winter or early spring.

So here's what the pea feast looked like:


I've got a post up today at Aiming Low, about how much I'm dreading the party for the kids' second birthday.  I just know they'll get inundated with Disney Princess paraphernalia, and become impossible to live with.  Here's a link to the post: Pessimistic Party Planning.

I also have a couple of posts up at Parentables, the TLC parenting site, where I just started writing.  You probably already read the one about non-traditional families, or boycotted it to protest my terrible self-promoting.  If not, there's a link below, as well as links to the other things I've written there this week.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Mel Gibson and I Have Grown Apart

Oh, hi!

I haven't posted here since last Sunday, and now here I am posting right around quittin' time on a Friday afternoon.  That's what we in the blogging business call "strategery".

No, actually, I was busy with a bunch of stuff, and then I was going to post on Wednesday night, but--wouldn't you know it--Blogger, the host of this and fifty kerjillion other blogs, crapped in its pants and was in "read-only" mode until just a few hours ago.

I did manage to publish a couple other posts on non-Blogger platforms though.  For instance, rightcheer, on Aiming low, I wrote about how cooking steaks on a cast iron skillet is every bit as manly as being a medieval blacksmith.

And then, over on Parentables, I wrote about how non-traditional families (e.g., at-home dads/breadwinning moms) are good models for how family labor can be distributed equitably.

Oh yeah, I guess I hadn't mentioned that I would be contributing to TLC's parenting website, "Parentables".  When I was at the mommyblogging conference in New Orleans, a nice lady who attended the panel I was a part of came up to me afterwards, and was all, "Hey--you're a dude, right?  Take this card and email me later.  We need some dudes to write for us."  So I did.  That's what we in the blogging business call "networking".

Okay.  Enough with the links and the boring news updates.  Here's the story I wanted to tell:


Mel Gibson and I have Grown Apart

The plan was to go to the aquarium.  The girls and I have been talking about "fishies," and "seahowsies" all morning.

But one thing and another delay our launch, and by 10:30 we still haven't left the house.  

Lunch has to happen by noon in order for naps to happen by 1:00 p.m.; and if naps don't happen by 1:00, all hell breaks loose.  With a twenty minute drive on either side of an aquarium visit, the math just doesn't work in service of a drama-free afternoon.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day! Here's a Nice Bouquet of Bullet Points

I'm a terrible husband and son.  I'm not nearly thoughtful enough.  I never give Mother's Day gifts to my mom.  I tried and failed to do something for my wife for Mother's Day last year, and this year I didn't even try.  I don't even get anniversary gifts for my wife.  I love them both like crazy.  I just don't care about presents, and they are kind enough to pretend that they don't either.  Also, I don't have any money.  I should probably make something though, some little trinket.  But it's a little late to be thinking about that now, at 1:07 a.m. on Mother's Day.

However, I'm going to do them the favor of not embarrassing them publicly by gushing about how in the absence of either one of them, I would have long ago been committed to the Unpleasant Institution for Men Who Can't Take Care of Themselves, eating mush and watching soap operas all day.  At best.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Poopy Jurbage: A Lexicon of Beta Family Pidgin

It just occurred to me that I haven't been keeping up with my childhood development reading lately.  I guess I'm getting less anxious about screwing things up.

It seems like everything is going pretty well with the girls as they approach their second birthday.  Their sleep is back to normal after a period of backsliding, they're eating well, they're as agile and lively as a couple of ring-tailed lemurs, they're trying to become more independent, and holy crap are they learning to talk!

As I said, I haven't been reading much scientifical stuff about baby brains lately, but nonetheless I've got a theory about this one aspect of language acquisition.  Ready?  Here goes:

Kids will have plenty of opportunities to learn the "right" way to talk as they become woven into the stultifying institutional fabric of school and work.  Allowing, and even encouraging, toddlers to develop their own patois nurtures their creativity and problem solving abilities, making them more productive, happy citizens.

That's why, when they form rudimentary sentences out of a mix of English, Vietnamese, made-up, and grossly mispronounced words, we reply to them in kind, rather than correcting them.  It has nothing to do with the fact that we find their bumbling attempts at grasping grammar and vocabulary completely adorable and want them to remain babies forever.  That's not it at all.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Me at Dad Centric: What Will the Garbage Man Think?

I've got a post up at Dad Centric today, where I get all self-conscious about what working stiffs think when they see me pushing a stroller around during the middle of the day. It starts a little something like this:

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, a good part of my parenting energy goes toward defending my twin toddler girls against the perceived threat of the garbage trucks that patrol our neighborhood.  I'm hoping the dread fear that leaves them sobbing and clutching at my legs and gibbering about "jurbage chucks" for much of those two days is just a phase that will soon subside.

In the meantime, part of my strategy to deal with their fear is to give them opportunities whenever possible to watch the terrifying machines, from a safe distance, while I comfort them and talk about what they're seeing: "Now the  garbage truck lifts up the the garbage goes in the truck.  Yay! Garbage truck is our frieeeeend."  That kind of thing.

One thing I try to do as part of this de-sensitization regimen is to get the trash collectors to wave at the girls, so the girls will understand that we like the garbage truck and the people who live inside of it.

I remember the first time one of the guys on the yard waste collection crew, who ride on the back of the truck, old-school style, and dump the containers by hand, waved at us as we stood on our front steps.  I was chirping away, trying to get the kids excited about the super-fun friendly truck, and flapping my hands like a cheerleader hoping to get the attention of the hunky quarterback during the big game.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Selling Out (With Poetry!)

You might have noticed some visual changes here on the eyesore known as the Beta Dad blog. Allow me to explain. If this does not interest you, I totally understand, and won't blame you for not allowing me to explain.

There are some advertisements flickering and flashing and distracting your eye from the page. I'm ambivalent about this.

I'm not averse to making a few nickels from the writing I do, and I hardly even notice ads on other people's blogs. But I'm really worried that you'll think I'm a sellout and a shill when you see salad dressing flowing down the margins of the page. And seriously, at my current traffic levels, I stand to make about five bucks a month in ad revenue, if my math is correct. Which it usually is not.

So why would I want to run these ads?

Well, a few weeks ago I was approached by an ad network called Federated Media, and they asked me if I wanted to be a part of this new thing they're doing called "Dailybuzz Moms," wherein I would be featured, along with a bunch of other parenting-ish blogs, on their website. Their site would direct their readers to our blogs and--BAM!--massive traffic would ensue! So what's not to like about that?


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