Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Apology to the Pumpkin Patch

Over at Aiming Low, I wrote about how and why it always sucks to go to the stupid pumpkin patch with your kids.  You know, it's always crowded and hot or rainy or otherwise stupid and sucky, and it takes too long to get there, etc., etc.

This year, we went on a lovely, partially cloudy Monday, and didn't have to fight traffic or stand in any lines.  Here are some pictures demonstrating how miserable it was.


Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What every parent should know: How to make adjustable seats for plywood trikes

You might remember, I don't know, maybe not: but almost two years ago, for the twins' 2nd Christmas (they were 1.5 years old), I built them some trike/bike contraptions out of plywood.  If you want to know the whole story, check out this post, and if you really want to get into the details about how I bent the plywood, made the axles and all that stuff, click here.  

They've been cruising around on the bikes ever since, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, depending on how distracted they are by their other hobbies.

Well, one of the things I have been meaning to do with these bikes is to remodel the saddles so that they actually fit the girls, who, as children are wont to, have grown quite a bit in the last 22 months.

They've taken a renewed interest in the bikes since I bought them new helmets that look like kitty cat faces; and I just couldn't stand to see them riding around with their knees bent at unnatural angles anymore.  So last Saturday afternoon, I decided to take care of the problem.  It would only take a couple hours, right?  I mean, we're just talking about little kids' bike seats.

When I first built the bikes, I wanted to keep the saddles as low as possible, because of the dinkiness of my kids.  So I just screwed a little wooden platform onto the frames and upholstered them with pieces of a garment bag I got at a thrift store.  Then I slapped the sissy bars on just for the heck of it.  That system has worked well for a surprisingly long time.

But now that the girls legs are like twice as long as when they first got the bikes, I had to follow through with my plan to figure out how to create some kind of adjustable seatpost situation.

I started the figuring out process by taking the saddles off.  That went pretty well.

Original saddle components: plywood, naugahyde, piece of old dog blanket, screws

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vietnamenglish Fairy Tails: The Dirty King Guy

I used to boast that we were raising our kids to be bilingual.  My wife spoke to them mostly in Vietnamese, and I spoke to them mostly in English.  There was a time when they knew almost the same number of words in each language.  The problem is that everyone else, aside from their Vietnamese relatives, spoke to them mostly in English too.  So the Vietnamese has fallen by the wayside.  They still say a few random phrases in their mother's mother tongue, like "earrings" and "go to work" (much to the confusion of their preschool teachers), but, yeah, they're pretty much monolingual.

And yet, they continue to love the Vietnamese books that we got for them when they were younger.  Every once in a while, Mom reads the books in their original language; but more often, the girls want me to "read" them in English.  Since I only know enough Vietnamese to get through about a third of the menu at a Banh Mi shop, this entails making shit up.  It's kind of fun, but a lot more difficult than saying words that are already written while daydreaming about pie.

The following is a "translation" of one of their favorite Vietnamese books, which I call:

The Dirty King Guy

(The Dirty King Guy)

 (There was once a boy named Jeremy, who loved more than anything to have his father sit on his back while he did push-ups.  Jeremy was very strong!  But one day, a worm popped out of a loaf of bread and said, "Hey old man--either that kid goes, or I do."

Since it's very bad luck to disagree with a worm, Jeremy's dad sent the boy out to fend for himself.)

 (Jeremy learned to live on fungus and owl guano that he found near the cottage where he used to live.  Hoping that the worm would allow him to return home one day, Jeremy never wandered far from his father's house. 

But one day, he followed a mysterious trail of marzipan balls deep into the forest.

After hours of walking, he came upon a moonlit grove, where six other little boys, all of whom were also victims of tyrannical invertebrates, wept.

"What's wrong, you guys?" asked Jeremy.

"We hate eating mushrooms," they all cried.  "We want turkey.")

 ("Don't worry, fellas!"  Jeremy said.  "We can follow this trail of marzipan balls back to my father's house.  He might have some turkey!"

It was a good thing that George Washington, dressed as a clown, was at that very moment giving Jeremy's father a magic turkey leg!)

 (Jeremy's father used the magic turkey leg to make the best dinner Jeremy and his friends had ever tasted, with turkey, apples, pears, two different kinds of grapes, bread and soup.

"Son--I sure wish I could ask you to stay the night, but, you know, the worm..."  His father said.  Jeremy sighed.  "But hey," said his father, "why don't you and your friends take some floppy hats when you go!"

The children shuffled back into the forest with their new hats.  Jeremy was surprised to see a group of birds eating some delicious cashews.")

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rampage Week

Last week was pretty exciting for me, because of a couple weird flukes.

In between building a deck and doing the usual dad stuff, I made a TV appearance and got a piece published on The Daily Beast.

Early in the week, I found out that this dad blogger I kind of know, in an internet sense, was getting all kinds of international notoriety for announcing on his blog at that he favors one of his kids over the other.  The "story" kept feeding on itself: The more people gave him opportunities to back off of what was originally almost an offhand comment, the more he dug his heels in and insisted that it was fine to have a favorite kid, and to admit it publicly.  I saw him humblebragging about his fame on Twitter and made a snide comment.  My buddies at HLN saw the tweet and were like, "Hey--you're our go-to dad blogger, and you seem to have something to say about this controversy.  Can you do a skype interview in like 2 hours?"

So I did.  My buddy, who's a videographer, rushed over with some lights and helped me set up my laptop so I didn't look like a bloated version of Two-Face, as I had in my other HLN interviews.  Then he kept the kids and dog distracted while I bashed this other dad blogger on national TV.  The segment came out pretty well.  I must really like criticizing other people, because I was smiling and laughing instead of being Grumpy Robot.

Here are the answers to questions a few people have asked me after watching the segment: Yes, that's really what the playroom looked like when my friend came over to set up the lights.  He suggested we include the toy-splosion in the shot.  And no, there's not a stain on my shirt.  It's a really awesome dragon design. 

I did a little write-up about the stupid controversy, and why I got involved, on DadCentric.  There's a link to the video on that post.  Or you can just watch it here.

The way I ended up getting my story onto The Daily Beast was equally fortuitous.  Last year, I responded to a survey on about families where the wife makes more money than the husband.  That turned into an email exchange with the author of the survey, which led to a phone interview, which was to possibly be used in a future story.  I didn't hear from the author for a year, so I figured she wasn't going to use the interview.  But then she published a book, called The End of Men, about how we men are having our lunches eaten by women and how we suck at adapting to the new gender landscape.  I appeared in the book, and not in a very flattering or accurate light.  So I pitched my response to the book to a few different editors, and the people from The Daily Beast liked it!

The editor I worked with was great, and made me realize that I need a great editor all the time.  He got rid of about a quarter of what I had written, re-jiggered some stuff, and made the piece much better.  Anyway, here it is.  Please to enjoy.

And if you're not sick of me by now, here's a column I wrote for my neighborhood paper, wherein I discuss being a square parent in one of America's "hippest hipster neighborhoods" (according to  I think it's not too bad.



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