Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Really Strong Chewy Noodle

My kids are book-crazy.  They would make me read to them all day if I didn't drag them out of the house.  They get on kicks where they'll read a particular book over and over until they have it memorized, and then they'll continue reading it until I can't take it anymore and have to hide it from them.  They correct me when I get lazy or try to take shortcuts by leaving out words.  Today I got busted leaving out the word "tattered" in describing a character's robe.  This was a book we hadn't read for a couple weeks.  I don't think either of the girls had ever said the word "tattered" aloud before, but they definitely noticed when it went missing, and surprised me by shouting it out.

Lately they've been into these Vietnamese books that we picked up when we were more invested in teaching them their mom's mother tongue.  But they don't want Mom to read these books to them in Vietnamese.  They want me to make up stories to go with the pictures.  "Talk to it, Daddy!" they demand.  "What's the piggy say, Daddy?  What's they guy say?  What's the flower say?" 

I don't mind making up the stories, but recently I've been turning the tables on them, and asking them to tell me what's happening in the books.  In addition to interpreting the pictures, they borrow character names and tropes from other books.  When they get stuck, I give them some guidance, usually in ways that make the story more ridiculous.

Through this method of collaboration, we have come up with a pretty consistent narrative for this book, whose title translates to something like Strong Chewy Piece of Noodle.  Most of the dialogue was created by the kids.  I'm better than them at exposition. 

The Strong Chewy Noodle

One morning, Raja the red elephant was taking his noodles to the restaurant in the village.

As he walked, the end of his noodle got caught on a mango tree.

He crossed the ravine and the noodle kept unraveling.

By the time he got to the restaurant, the bowl was empty.  "Hey!  Where's my pasta?" said Mr. Hippo

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The first time I said "I'm proud of you"

I told my kids I was proud of them for the first time last week. 

They'll be three in June.

Sure, I've felt proud of them before; but there are a couple reasons I've never said it.  The first is that there's no way they would understand what being proud meant.  The second is that I'm not entirely comfortable with the concept.

Here's's first definition of pride: a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
That's how I usually think of it: high or inordinate.  Probably because the things that people tend to take pride in most vociferously really have little to do with them.  Proud to be an American?  Or a Californian, a Southerner, an Irishman?  Why should anybody be proud of being born somewhere?  Did they have anything to do with the location of their mom when they popped out?  I can see being proud of the place you're from when its leaders or people do something noble; but being proud of yourself for being from that place makes absolutely no sense to me. 

I could go on.  But suffice it to say, the notion of pride has always been vexing to me.  So despite spoiling my girls like crazy, I'm hesitant to praise them for things they don't really have much control over, which, as 2.75-year-olds, is pretty much everything they do.  
I tell them that I love them all the time, because that's more about me than them.  But I don't often tell them they're pretty or smart, for instance.  I encourage them when they do things that make them appear pretty and smart, but I guess I don't want them to think they're better than anyone else because of their profusion of beauty and brains (which may or may not reflect on me, but which is really just the luck of the DNA draw regardless.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Disequilibrium in Texas: The Dad 2.0 Summit Recap

The ride of the Muskrat
When I was getting my teaching credential, I learned about this concept called "disequilibrium."  It refers to the state achieved when a student's previous beliefs, habits, or understandings are challenged.  According to the theorist who coined this phrase, it's during this state that a student is most susceptible to learning something.  The vernacular equivalent: "being out of your comfort zone."

I went to Texas last weekend, which is something I've never done on purpose before.  It was Austin though, the cool part of the state, and the reason for my visit was to attend and speak at the first real dadblogging conference ever.

I had been away from my kids overnight exactly once since they were born, and hadn't been among large groups of males since the days when I worked on big construction sites.  So, yeah--disequilibrium.

Here's how it went down:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How Dudes Pack for Blogging Conferences

If you've ever been to a mommyblogging conference, or even if you just read lots of mommyblogs, you will be familiar with the "panicking about what to wear at the conference" trope.  There is much hand-wringing surrounding this topic whenever the big conferences roll around.

Well, I just wanted you to know that dadbloggers are pretty much the same way.  I'm heading off to Austin TX at 7:00 a.m. (five hours from now), where I'll be speaking, listening, and partying with a bunch of other bloggers and parents and marketing types at the biggest dad blogging conference in the history of forever, Dad 2.0 Summit.  You may have noticed the badge over in the right margin.  Check out the website to see what it's all about; and rest assured that I will be reporting in great detail when I get back.

Anyway, I just got done selecting my wardrobe for the conference, where I will be trying my darndest to impress people with my professionalism and stylishness, as you can imagine.  So picking out just the right thing to wear was essential.   I spent almost as much time agonizing over my sartorial decisions as I did working with the other guys on my panel (Jason Avant, Whit Honea, and Mike Adamick) to put together a seamless and pretentious presentation for the adoring multitudes that will attend.

This is what I came up with:

Pretty daring, I know.  But you really have to take some risks to get noticed.


I know I haven't actually left the house yet, but I miss the kids already.  Even though for the last couple weeks I've been saying that we really need some time apart.

They've been pretty trying at times, as, no doubt, have I.  But they've also been hilarious.  I'm often surprised at how complicated they are for such little critters.  Take this video for instance.  Cobra is sitting on my lap after bathtime, talking about "dicky birds," a phrase that comes from the "Simple Simon" nursery rhyme.  They're really into nursery rhymes right now, and make me read literally for hours a day from this Disney-fied anthology that we got somewhere.  And then they repeat the silliest phrases from it throughout the day.  I haven't seen them so obsessed with anything since they got their first hit of Elmo.

When I took the video, all I wanted to do was get Cobra to say "water" in this particular way that always cracks me up.  I swear she sounds just like Christopher Walken when she does it.  That's another development I find impressive: the desire to get a laugh.

But she never really came through on that, because she got distracted by another preoccupation: potty related matters


One last thing.  I wrote a little something on Aiming Low.  It's an actual parenting tip that could be helpful if you're trying to teach children to share.  Plus some complaining about triflin' kids.

A'ight.  I'm gonna try to shut my eyes a bit before I get on the big airplane.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How Auditioning for a Reality TV Show Made Me a Better Parent, Briefly

I don't watch much TV.  We haven't owned a set for about 12 years now.  But because of the magic of the Inter-Net, I'm watching more now than I have since we ditched our old Zenith: maybe an hour per week.  Even to me, it's pretty obvious how reality TV works.  Participants are manipulated, tape is edited, drama and humiliation inevitably ensue.  Very few come out unscathed.

Unless there's a lot of money in the offing, it doesn't seem like there's any reason to get involved.  That's what I've always maintained anyway.

A while ago, an old friend who has been almost famous for most of her adult life (she was just on a reality show herself), found out that there was a casting call for a show about stay-at-home dads.  She signed me up.  She hoped I didn't mind.  Of course I didn't.  It would be a lark. 

When I talked to the casting agent on the phone, as I was walking around Sea World with the kids, he laughed at the responses I gave to his questions.  He had read my blog.  He found me interesting, which I find irresistible.

Of course I would never actually allow a film crew to set up shop in my house and follow my family around.  Would I?


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