Monday, April 30, 2012

A Family of Gym Rats

I no longer have any excuse for not going to the gym, and as a consequence I...have actually been going there.

I know.  I'm shocked too.

The reason my excuses have dried up is that my kids now love going to "Kids' Club"--the child care facility at the gym--almost as much as they love going to Sea World.  Pretty frequently now, we'll actually go to the gym in the morning, eat some pizza, and then go to Sea World in the afternoon.  This is made possible by the somewhat tragic abandonment of the afternoon nap.  But that's another story.

The girls' love of Kids' Club is due in large part to their new found passion for Dora the Explora, who I have wisely (I'm pretty sure) led them to believe exists only inside the magic glowy box there, and not on Mommy's iPad, which only knows how to play Elmo and Barney (which I unwisely allowed to happen).  But that's another other story, which I will call "Dora Turned My Kids into Zombies: My fight to get the childcare providers at the gym to pretend the TV is broken."

This story is about how, after a three year absence, I went to the Saturday kickboxing class that my wife and I had attended regularly for at least two years before the kids were born.

I've been going to the gym pretty regularly for the last few months (kids in tow), but I've only been lifting weights and occasionally using cardio machines.  Which is, of course, bass-ackward since I should be trying to lose the twenty pounds I gained the moment I became a SAHD instead of cultivating the beer-gut-at-the-gun-show look.

Anyway.  We asked the kids what they wanted to do on Saturday morning, and in unison, they replied, "Kids' Club!"  My wife has been going to the gym quite a bit lately too, which is a development I am behind 100%.  With the stars thusly aligned, we headed to our gayborhood gym.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Crop Rotations

I am a vegetable gardener.  Not a particularly skilled or successful one mind you; but I seem to be afflicted with the compulsion to grow food in my tiny back yard nonetheless.  I can't help but note the paradox inherent in spending $120 on seedlings and garden dirt and organic soil amendment and fertilizer, etc., etc., in order to grow maybe $75 worth of produce.  And when I harvest the crops, I often don't enjoy them as much as I should.  Instead of confidently saying This is sooo much better than that store bought crap! You just can't get produce any fresher than this, I'm thinking, I hope I got all the earwigs off of these greens...I wonder if you can taste E.Coli...does this salad smell like dog piss? 

Part of me feels like keeping a garden is an homage to my rugged agricultural forebears for whom every crop was a life-or-death crap shoot.  I can imagine my grandpa looking up at the hot summer sky over Northeastern Montana and wondering if his wheat would get dusted out and if it did how he would be able to afford seed for the next years' crop.  I get that look in my eye sometimes too, when I'm stressing over the future of my 100 square feet of arable land.

The back 40. Not pictured: one more 6'x2' bed. The white building is our garage

A lot of genuinely cool things have come of having a garden though.  We've been eating tons of leafy greens for the last several months, which we would have done a lot less of had they not been so close and free (sort of).  The kids love grazing on raw chard, spinach, mustard greens, and peas right out of the garden.  They're not always quite as excited as I had hoped they would be about weeding and watering, but it's definitely a regular part of their day-to-day experiences, like feeding the dog and the fishes.  We collect rainwater and the water that comes out of the shower while we're waiting for it to heat up, and that's been enough to irrigate our crops, so the girls are growing up to be good SoCal water misers.

Last weekend, we had to pull up some of the greens and root vegetables we had grown so we could make room for tomatoes.

Every bit as good as Shrute Farms beets

Friday, April 20, 2012

How do I explain dreams to my kids?

The girls are fast approaching three years old, which is unbelievable for a couple reasons: a) The usual one--I don't know how they went from tiny, squirmy proto-humans to mini-people with complicated needs and modes of expression in less than the span of time it has taken me to re-organize my garage (which might not actually get done before they go off to college or trade school or the merchant marine, but it's something I've been meaning to do since right after they were born.)  And b) I realized that I don't feel like the novice parent anymore.  I'm giving advice to new parents, shaking my head at the poor suckers who are doing it all wrong, and not worrying too much about how screwed up my kids are going to be because of the mistakes I make.   It might be early yet, but it seems like they're gonna be all right.

As their communication skills snowball to the point that we're having conversations more sophisticated than most of the ones I had in high school, I'm getting much more access to what's going on in their heads.  They say hilarious stuff (at least I find it hilarious) constantly, as you know if you follow me on Twitter. (Recent example: We were driving and a van pulled up behind us.  I heard a voice from the back seat: "That car is chasing us! That car is chasing us!"  "Why is the car chasing us?" I asked.  "It wants to tickle our car!" the voice answered.)  Sometimes they do stuff that's calculated to get a laugh, and that's hilarious too, even if the joke doesn't work, because it demonstrates what they think is funny, or what they think I'll think is funny.

I'm not sure how it came about--maybe I introduced the idea to them in my quest to peer into their consciousnesses--but they have started talking about what they're thinking about.  Butterbean will be gazing into the middle distance and I'll ask her what she's doing.

"Mmmm...just...thinking," she'll say.

"What are you thinking about?" I'll ask.

"Watching Dora," she'll answer, about 80% of the time. *

So I think it's safe to say that they understand, more or less, what "thinking" means.

Talking about dreaming is a little trickier.  I'm sure they have dreams, of course.  They wake up gibbering in the middle of the night, and sometimes I try to get them to talk about their dreams, just out of curiosity.  I don't press it though, because mostly I want them to go back to sleep.

But they have a lot of books (have I mentioned that they love books?) that feature characters going to sleep and having dreams.  This is usually represented by the good ol' thought bubble, which they haven't quite gotten their heads around yet.  They're kind of attached to the idea that it represents a physical presence in the scene, and they have all kinds of questions when they encounter that particular kids' book convention.

I try to answer their questions about the the dream bubble by talking about real dreams.  I explain them as "what you think about when you're asleep."  And when they ask about dreams in general, I use examples from books: "You know, like when the pigeon falls asleep and dreams about a hotdog party..."

A couple days ago, they were pretending to take naps (which is about as close as they come to actual napping nowadays), and they started saying that they were dreaming.  They pointed up above their heads and exclaimed that they could see the dreams up there.  They've done that routine a number of times since then.  I caught it on video yesterday:

I've always been amazed by how easy it is for kids to understand what's being represented in books.  Elephants are drawn a thousand different ways, and yet kids almost always recognize them as elephants.  It's equally fascinating (and gratifying, since I'm a fan of books) to see them applying, or even misapplying, what they know from books to what they're trying to understand about the real world.   

*We still don't have an actual TV, but they watch some kids' programming on the iPad, and they watch Dora at the Kids' Club (daycare) at the gym, where I've been taking them a couple times a week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On DadCentric: The Most Absurd Act of Vandalism I Ever Perpetrated

We had bonded over music in ninth grade gym class.  I was one of three punk rockers in our enormous school, and Bill was what appeared to be a normal kid, except that he wore a David Bowie t-shirt from the Aladdin Sane period.  You know, the Bowie with poofy hair and the lightning bolt going down his face.  This was in Virginia in 1982, when I used to regularly get punched in the face for having spiky hair and an earring, so I saw anybody who wore a band t-shirt featuring something more daring than Lynyrd Skynyrd as a potential ally.

I was trying to get my shit together in the ninth grade.  Eighth grade had been fun, but I couldn't keep up that pace forever, you know?  Inspired by the burgeoning D.C. "Straight Edge" punk movement, I had sworn off cigarettes, weed, and drinking.  But I was also under the influence of unprecedented amounts of testosterone, which was far more intoxicating and stupefying than anything I had experimented with before that time.
One of the effects the testosterone had on me, when mixed with the social isolation due to my eccentricities, was anger.

When I think about my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I usually cast myself as a complete angry asshole.  I latched onto any influence that made me feel better about myself when compared to my classmates.  I was going to a lot of punk shows in D.C. and even though Ian said skinheads were bad, I was attracted to the violence and the simplicity of their worldview.

Read more on DadCentric...


I also wrote about what I thought was a new phase in my parenting career, but now seems to be pretty much over.  Read Sweet, Sweet Boredom on Aiming Low


Friday, April 13, 2012

Stuff on the internet that's inspiring, even to haters like me

The main thing I did on the internet this week was take a huge dump on something that millions of people read, and hundreds of thousands of people thought was inspiring enough to "like" on Facebook.  I even went on an internet TV show thingy to further promote disdain for the allegedly inspiring blog post in question, as well as its creator. 

And yet, my heart is not made of stone.  I can be moved and inspired by things, even if lots of other people like them.

Cases in point:

The Oatmeal makes fun of desperate Facebook-love seekers, but the bigger message is that we should actually create cool stuff that makes people want to share it instead of just browbeating them into clicking "like."  Inspiring.

And look!  Here's something really cool that somebody has created!  And here I am sharing it!  

On a whim, Nina Katchadouri started taking photos of herself in airplane bathrooms in the style of 15th century Flemish portraiture, using props like neck pillows and toilet seat covers.  The result is Seat Assignment: Lavatory Self-Portrait in the Flemish Style.  

It's just the best when stuff is brilliant and absurd at the same time. (She has a lot of other cool, whimsical stuff on her website too.)

Music from this old cat's youth reanimates him.  So cool.  There's something about old black guys that makes me immediately weepy.  It's probably racist.  You do the math.  Also, Oliver Sacks is the most badass neurologist ever. 

There are a lot of things about Libertarians that I find a little scary and crazy.  But fighting for our right to drink (and cook with) 4 Loko is something we can all get behind.  This inspires me to cherish and defend our basic liberties.  The video features Kennedy from the Music TV channel.  Remember that thing?

You've probably seen this.  I had heard the title, Caine's Arcade, mentioned a lot during the last few days, and was, of course, skeptical.  But then I watched it, and, I'm ashamed to admit, I got choked up at about four different points.  I showed it to my wife, thinking that it wouldn't affect me so much when I watched it for the second time, but when Caine says, "I felt proud" in the end, I made an ugly gasping sound that caused my wife some concern.   

Finally, I have to give another shout-out to my pal, The Didactic Pirate, who rocked the dadblogging world with his coming-out-to-the-internet story.  Read it if you haven't yet.

But even better than that is the post he wrote for DadCentric a couple days later, telling the story of how he came out to his daughter.  It's poignant despite of, or maybe because of, its simplicity and elegance.  It's absolutely perfect.  And if you don't get snotty while reading the comments, then you are a monster.  As is the case with Caine's Arcade, the public support is every bit as moving as the thing itself.

Have a great weekend!


Update: That post from The Didactic Pirate is now on the front page of the Huffington Post "Parents" Channel.  Check it out there, like it, share it, leave a nice comment!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Is Single Dad Laughing's "A Teen's Brave Response" Story a Hoax? Does It Matter?

You've got the Facebook, right?  Okay.  So you've definitely seen a link to a heart-warming, tear-jerking story about a boy who was inspired by a blog post to come out of the closet to his close-minded momma and their close-minded town.  You know the one.  It's got a stock photo of a cute kid with floppy hair and a gleaming smile.

If you clicked on the link, you were not alone.  According to the latest calculations of Dan Pearce, the guy who writes the megapopular dad-blog-that's-so-much-more-than-a-dad-blog, Single Dad Laughing, upwards of eight million people have read that post.  The little icon next to the title indicates that almost 300,000 people (probably many more by the time I publish this) have shared it on Facebook.

In case you don't want to check it out for yourself, here's the premise:

Dan wrote a post a couple months ago called "I'm Christian, unless You're Gay," in which he exhorted everyone to be cool to The Gays, even if their religion recommended otherwise.  As is often the case with his "deep and powerful" (his words) writings, it went mega-viral and was shared all over the web.  Then, just as the buzz from "I'm Christian..." started to level off, Dan posted his latest blockbuster, "A Teen's Brave Response to 'I'm Christian, unless You're Gay'," which consists of what was supposedly an anonymous email from a mother whose son came out to her after having completed a high school class assignment that required him to read "I'm Christian..." and write a response to it.  The mom had always been just the kind of fundamentalist Christian homophobe Dan portrayed in "I'm Christian...", but after reading her kid's essay (which is pasted into her email) in which he comes out of the closet, and more importantly, Dan's "I'm Christian..." post, she does an about-face, accepts her son's sexual identity, and begins working with the boy to fight prejudice in the unnamed bigoted hellhole where they lived.

When I read the "Brave Response" post, my first reaction was, "Seriously?  An anonymous email that paints Dan as savior and superhero?  A teacher in a small conservative town who assigns a pro-gay blog post as class reading?  A lifelong fire-and-brimstone bible-thumper who is converted by a single Single Dad Laughing post?  Now who could have dreamed this one up?"  (It was Dan.  Dan dreamed it up.  That's what I was thinking, in case I wasn't clear just now.)

Let me also be clear that I am 100% behind the general message of these posts.  I don't want any kid or adult to ever have to suffer because of the gender of the people they are hardwired to be attracted to.  I want same-sex couples to be afforded every legal, financial, and cultural advantage that straight couples enjoy.  By sheer coincidence, a dear real-life friend and fellow dadblogger came out to his blog readers at almost the same time as this Single Dad Laughing post exploded.  My friend's post, however, was indisputably real.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


My kids are literally playing in the bathtub right now.  Yeah, I'm that kind of parent.  So I'll make this brief.

My real life friend and compatriot in dadblogging, known as The Didactic Pirate, has written a post that he has been thinking about for a year.  Okay, I'm gonna go ahead and spoil it.  He's coming out of the closet officially to the internet.

When he first told me he was gay, I thought it was a ruse.  After all, he had never hit on me after all the times we had hung out.  Never so much as a sidelong glance, even when I was sporting my suave 'stache during Movember.

But now he has finally convinced me that he is legitimately gay.  He just has terrible taste in men.  Apparently he thinks Ryan Reynolds is cute.  Whatever.

The important part is that you guys all sprint over to his site, read his post, give him some internet hugs and support (he's freaking out a bit, as he does), and share his story.  The more coming out stories that are celebrated, the fewer people will languish in the closet.  That's my theory anyway.

Here's the link again.

I'm super proud of my friend and I hope you'll give him your support.


In other news, I wrote some stuff elsewhere.  You know, in case you need something light after reading DiPi's post.

On DadCentric, I wrote about how I prefer comparing myself to Stalin rather than to my dad, because it makes me feel better about myself.

And on Aiming Low, I wrote about how you can furnish a child's bedroom for under $20,000!  (Seriously--did you know there are twin beds that cost 5k?)


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