How to Incorrectly Give Advice

As a parent, giving advice to other parents is a tricky thing. Some people are extremely passionate about their own particular style of parenting and take strong issue with people who don’t wholeheartedly agree with them. Parenting has become a cautious subject, much like politics or religion and while everyone has the right to discuss their point of view on those subjects, everyone else has an equal right to disagree. You really have to be careful when talking about parenting. Even more so now that there are more and more men taking a very visible presence in the upbringing of the children. I’m in no way implying that fathers of previous generations had no tangible role with their kids, what I’m saying is that lately dads are making a stand against the idea that mothers make all the choices for the children. Sadly there are still negative stereotypes flying around insisting that the majority of men have no clue how to change a diaper or simply take a child for a walk.

I guess then, it might be a little surprising that on occasion people will ask for my advice on parenting topics. I really do welcome questions from people looking for my honest answer and not just some form of permission to continue doing whatever they are already doing. See, I’m not one to interject my opinion without question, and yes, I can see the irony in the fact that I have a blog filled with unsolicited opinions. This is different though. Out in public I don’t just flash my ID card and announce that I’m from the dad life blog – let me tell you the things I feel you are messing up with your kids. I really am happy to give advice when asked, but I also be sure to include the warning that kids are not a one way street. There’s a lot of paths to choose from, and it is gonna stay that way for their whole life. I can only offer people my side of things.

So what really bothers me is when I say something which in turn becomes true for the person and they act surprised. As if, “How could he possibly have been right? He hasn’t bought a new shirt in like five years, what the heck could he possibly know?”

Short example – I’ve told at least four couples that kids often force you to withdraw a little from the outside world, at least at the beginning. This can be as small as an almost pointlessly quick visit to a friend’s house just to have that quick connection with another adult. On the other hand, I sometimes feel trapped in the house. I’m not someone who takes my appearance too seriously, but on those rare occasions that Melissa and I try to fancy up a bit, I have a few options in the closet. I went camping this past weekend and knowing that it was gonna be a bit cold at night I needed to get to my jackets. They are in the farthest area away from the closet door which means I walked past my small collection of “nicer” shirts. THEY ARE DUSTY! I haven’t needed to upgrade beyond tee shirt in such a long time that my fancy button-up shirts are a worse option due to DUST! So again, telling someone that it gets lonely and I’m obviously around so please come over when you need some company, it’ll be good for both of us; only to hear those people say to me, “Wow, I haven’t seen anyone in so long. I wish there was someone a bit more on my schedule that I could hang out with during the day. Do you know what I mean guy with dust covered suit?” Well it’s a little sad.

Not everything with children is absolute, but there are certainly things that tend to echo for everyone. When our due date for William (our first) was approaching people often said things to us that were completely untrue. I heard many tales that painted a picture of the first few months as living in some dark dungeon that smells of poop and vomit. The newborn will scream, peeling the paint from your walls and causing such vibrations that your hair simply falls from your body like the first snow in winter. This sound will become trapped in your ears, a prisoner for eternity as you struggle against the will of god to sleep. As the days turn into months, your sleepless body will become fat and weak till one morning you finally emerge from your home, squinting as sun flashes against your eyes. As you raise your arm in hopeful victory, a majestic hawk will welcome you back to the world by defecating on your shoe and hat….and you will be a parent. My approach to advice has been more realistic, I hope.

Let me put it this way – In this forum, people need to walk the line between truth and entertainment, and that’s not to say that the truth is not entertaining at times. What I mean is when it comes to blogs, there’s often necessary fluff to a post. This is not a twitter feed and 140 characters just will not cut it. I can’t am not interested in putting up a bunch of posts with one or two sentences that read like, “What’s with these kids pooping all the time, am I right people? Meh! #TheDadLife”

I try to do my best to keep things honest when answering a question or concern about parenting, but perhaps the simple and truthful method just takes people off-guard these days. So in your own lives you might try something different to get your ideas across. Internet meme? Rewrite the lyrics to a popular song and sing it to the person? Flash mob your answer somehow? Maybe something elaborate like having an office building spell out your answer one letter at a time using the lights in the windows to create each letter.

In my experience, the direct approach to advice seems to be largely ineffective.

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Aww, look at the baby!

Age 32 – Realized I am no longer “cute” or “adorable”

Today we went to visit Mommy at work! It’s always good for the boys because there’s several people who genuinely like that two adorable, awesome kiddos have stopped in to break up the same old daily routine. Others politely ignore the small chaos tornado that rolls by, which is totally fine. I would likely do the same. Of course there’s a few people who give the subtle facial suggestion of, “GET THE HELL OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUT!!! NOOOOOOOOOWW!” which is difficult to pull off in a subtle way, but I understand that as well. We try to keep it brief.

Something happens every time we visit that makes me laugh. Sometimes it happens a couple times, but always at least once. There’s always that moment during the conversation where someone glances over and notices that the escaped midget sloth has been standing there the whole time. It usually winds up like this:

“Oh Melissa! The boys are so big, and soooo cute. You guys make such cute babies! And William is 3! I can’t believe it, and now look at you! You’re so thin and beautiful, I can’t even believe it.”

*Carter bashful face*

*William panic face, wants to go watch cartoons at Mom’s computer*

“Oh, hey Ev. How are you?”

“Pretty good, I -“

“LOOK AT WILLIAM’S SHOES! SO CUTE!”

———–

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are people in the office who like me. If that’s even the right word. Heck, one of Melissa’s co-workers was one of the first followers of this, my version 5.0a (let’s hear it for several consecutive days of posting people, I’m on a roll) blog. Still, it’s gotta be hard to figure out what to say to the overly shy, quiet, Michael Cera stereotype guy, who shows up like 4-5 times a year. I do appreciate the effort. It just dawns on me that I’ll never get back to that place where people made a big fuss about me. I’m just not that cute or adorable anymore.

I may need to start having my birthday parties at McDonald’s again.

Damnit. I hate McDonald’s.

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The Blame Knight Rises

I went to midnight showings for two movies. The first was the release of episode one of Star Wars. I did that completely legit. I waited in line for hours, I got my tickets, I saw the movie, I went home and cried for a few hours about how bad it was. The second time was for the first Lord of the Rings movie. A friend who was the manager of the theater got me in for the employee viewing.

I never got into the idea that seeing a movie sooner made it better. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand why people think it’s cool to say “First” in comment sections of…everything. I don’t like lines and I hate feeling like my personal space bubble has been popped forever. I think I understand why other people do it, and why some choose to dress up as characters from the movies, but it’s not for me. If it were possible, I’d love to go and always be alone in the theater or just have a few friends with me. Perhaps that’s why lately we tend to wait for the DVD release, or even the TV premier.

I have wanted to write a little on some current topics that have been floating around lately, and the shooting in Aurora is one of those topics. I’m still very new to blogging and sometimes I get the urge to run before walking, but something told me that people were going to be popping out write ups pretty fast. I guess I didn’t realize how quick that would happen. The morning after the shootings, as more and more information was making itself public, many bloggers were clacking away at their keyboards, salivating over being the first one to click publish on their post. As a steady outflow of posts began to make it’s way on to my twitter feed, I was reminded of a time when I was young. I was maybe ten or eleven and one of the neighborhood kids and I were having ourselves a heated little argument. Since I was so young at the time, I assume it was about which was better – bomb pops or orange push-ups. As the tension rose to the point of emanate fighting, I started to lose it a bit. I was so angry that everything I said was utterly stupid and made no sense at all. I would get my words out of order, and everyone watching would laugh, adding to my frustration of trying to explain how upset I was getting.

It doesn’t matter what happened afterward, for the point of what I’m saying here is reacting to anything at your highest point of anger doesn’t work. Reacting to things before you really know what’s going on is dangerous, and desperately rushing to react at all will often leave you stumbling so bad that you lose the entire point of what you wanted to say.

I can’t say if anyone regrets their knee-jerk posts or if they feel compelled to add or subtract from their statements. I will say that I was really disappointed with the theme of posts that were pumping out before the dust had even settled inside the theater.

Not surprising, it was all about who to point the finger at.

Blame Hollywood. Blame Warner Brothers. Blame Democrats. Blame Republicans. Blame the guy’s parents. Blame local police. Blame the theater. Blame the people who were inside the theater.

Sadly, many of these posts became a feeding ground of comments and finger pointing. Many people noted the baiting headlines and subject matter. As I stated, I’m new to the blogging world, and perhaps I’m just not sly enough to realize that if I really want people to read my work, I need to use titles like “Women are stupid,” “Shut up women, there’s a man about to talk,” or “10 reasons why men are just better at everything ever.” I find it a little sad that there’s a need to resort to trick tactics in the blogging arena to become “popular” but perhaps that’s why I don’t get many views each day (be on the lookout for my post next week: “You, yes YOU, don’t know how to do ANYTHING cause you are a DUMMYHEAD!”).

I’m going to close this with a story from my recent camping trip. A friend of mine received some heart wrenching news while we were on the trip. A troubled co-worker had killed himself. I’ve been in his shoes before, and watching him go through the instant pain of hearing the news was hard and brought up some of my own memories of dealing with that type of loss. In the middle of so much pain, it seems to be the natural human response to reach out for something to blame. A way to put an image in your mind of where to direct all the anger. The question of “why” becomes a sort of quest, as if the answer will make everything better. We talk about how we would have done things so differently, so much better, and so much smarter. We talk about our own adversities and how we’ve managed to overcomes them and be so well adjusted. I think we do this to distance ourselves; to pretend that in our world, tragedies of such a horrible nature never happen. We’re all very smart and in control of our lives. Reality is normally much more simplistic than the worlds we see in movies. It’s supposed to be. Movies are meant to offer a place of joyful escape be it thrilling adventures in space or spontaneously finding true love in a diner, but our lives are no more Gotham City than they are Mayfield.

Blame won’t bring anyone peace. I would offer instead the idea that when tragedies like this arise, it is a great time for thoughtful conversation, not angry ramblings. It’s a great time to remind yourself of the people you love and the need to make your time with them special. It’s a great time to try and push forward, not stand still and scream. This tragic shooting, and situations like it, are not rational, and they are not carried out by rational people. Trying to connect the dots of “why” is a long, unending road because you won’t find reason where it doesn’t exist.

I doubt anyone who I took note of as a person who felt they had the entire situation figured out during a time when many news organizations were still using the term “alleged shooting,” actually reads my tiny blip of internet. However, many people read their blogs, and from time to time that includes me. I have to say, sometimes the successful people in any given field, suck.

Seriously, the fact that people were writing hateful, insensitive, blame-crazy things to those who had just lost loved ones, including kids…is disgusting. No one deserves that.

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The Music of the Field

Music has always been a major part of my life. Now that I’m a dad it’s funny to think that had it not been for the actions of several parents, I would likely be working as a band director. What might have been.

Now, this post is not to rehash points I have made before but more to highlight a specific event that not only needs support, but showcases the talent that youth of this and many countries possess.

It’s no secret that I was in marching band for a long time. I began in high school, attending band camp before school had even started. All tired “American Pie” flute jokes aside, I signed up for band the same way I signed up for any other class, so going to school before any of my friends had even thought about setting their alarms for the first time could have been a real rocky start to high school…had I not loved it so much. I continued marching in college and even instructed for a period of time. I even moved up to the big leagues. Marching band big leagues? Yep, because what the majority of the population doesn’t know is that every summer since 1972 marching groups have competed all over the country under the title: Drum Corps.

The competition, known as the World Summer Music Games, operates under the governing body of Drum Corps International. Ask anyone who has marched what “drum corps” is, and you’ll get a wide variety of rehearsed answers. Truthfully, it’s not that difficult to explain. It’s marching band. Though woodwind instruments (clarinet, flute, saxophone, etc.) are not used and it is much more on a professional level. That’s it really. An extremely well rehearsed marching band. The problem is…it’s so much more than that, so people who have given their time and body to one of the almost 50 current marching groups, don’t want to give such a simple answer. In addition, people have a general stigma regarding marching bands which generally stems from underwhelming performances from high school bands during half-time at a football game. So people within the drum corps community try to avoid the marching band label.

I should mention, the people you’ll see in a drum corps show are the absolute best of the best within their ages (kids start as young as 10 in some groups and you become ineligible after 21). How so? These people go through rigorous audition processes, which from the start includes an audition fee. As there are not drum corps groups in every state, and people often want to march for a specific group, they pay extensive travel bills just for a chance  to maybe get one of 150 coveted spots. Should you be offered a spot, it comes with a very hefty bill (more on that in a moment) and once a month practices for which you pay more travel bills. After several months, you give up your life for the summer to tour from June to August, culminating in a week of finals competitions.

Why the major bills? Two reasons really. The first is fairly simple to understand. It takes an enormous amount of money to do what these groups do. Once you move in with your group, everything is taken care of for you. You are fed three meals a day, with additional snacks. You are given a place to sleep, which by and large means sleeping on a gym floor of a local high school at whatever city you happen to be in that night. You are provided with world class instructors to help you be the best you can possibly be through countless hours of practicing. You are given a uniform, which is altered for you and cleaned for you. Lastly, they transport you everywhere. If at any point over your summer you notice a large number of charter buses in your area, this could be why. Most performing groups make a little bit of money at every show, but it’s nowhere near enough. So in order to march, you pay “dues” which today almost always means a couple thousand dollars. Drink that in. The second reason, is interest. Which is why I’ll be asking you all for a favor shortly. The kids who march in these groups are mostly from America, and the tour itself stays within American borders (in past years there was a single stop in Canada), but while groups play throughout the country all summer long, most people who are not tied to marching bands in some way, never hear about it. Advertising is expensive, food for these kids is expensive, this is an expensive activity. So getting the word out, and proving that this is an exciting event to anyone who gives it a chance has proven difficult. However, technology has allowed us a very cool opportunity.

Live on the big screen, this is the quarter finals for the drum corps community and will showcase the top 12 groups based on scores leading up to the event. This is a chance to see these groups at their peak, and if you’re a fan of marching band or even if you just want to support music education and the arts, you’ll walk away happy. Check the site, it’s almost a guarantee you’ll find something in your direct area. With our rough economy and the rising price of keeping these kids safe while on the road, four groups have needed to pull off tour during the season this year due to financial issues. Keep this great organization that has been a dream for many kids, up and running.

Support music!

If you have further questions, leave comments below!

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He is Happy!

Lately, William has made bedtime a struggle. I’m not just talking about our little scare the other night, which by the way has not happened again, the new safety door lock is amazing. No, it’s much more than that. When we close his door at night, we do so with the understanding that the room we saw as we left will not be there in the morning. William has taken to a variety of tasks before actually falling asleep. Things like putting on extra clothing, flipping his mattress over, or taking the majority of his clothes out of the dresser. In the end, I’ll take cleaning up the clothes over finding that he’s been playing outside while everyone was asleep, but it would still be nice of him to cut me a break. A little one?

He is growing up, no doubt about that, and with new levels of expectations comes new levels of stressful situations. Potty training is proof of that. When your kids are very young there is always a lot of discussion of milestones or normalcy for their age groups. We as parents are trained, in a way, to expect certain things to occur with our kids within a set time frame. Tonight I was reminded that I’ve never thought to ask if my son was happy. No one told me at what age I should check into that. I see his smiling face and hear his laughter which indicates happiness, but even though I know William doesn’t say very much (although lately he has been kicking that habit), it’s only fair that I would ask him at some point.

Tonight while I was washing some dishes, Melissa came downstairs and announced, “You need to come look at your son.” Melissa and I have a general rule when it comes to the boys, and I think it’s a pretty common thing for parents. Phrases like, “That’s my boy” are for when we want to personally take credit for something. On the other hand, “your son” is generally followed by something not necessarily bad, just something we want to pretend doesn’t stem from watching us. Considering it was well past the time he should have been asleep, I was assuming it had something to do with dad’s inherited “angry sleeping face.” Yeah, I sleep with a very displeased face.

I was informed that he had put on a pair of underwear over his pajamas, which really isn’t that bad. It was so much better! He had put on six totally different socks, three on each foot. I’ll admit that I like to keep the house a little on the cold side, I run hot, but 3 socks per foot seems like overkill. He was in fact wearing underwear over his pajamas…backwards. Awesome. Also my personal favorite, a single sock on his right hand. It’s the kind of outfit women think of when the picture that perfect guy. William is way ahead of the curve.

Melissa woke him up, as he had pulled the top mattress off again. We got him all settled in and Melissa walked out of the door, saying good night. I stood for a few moments with a big grin on my face. Stuff like this, is the kind of ridiculous that makes people want to have kids. I believe that. I leaned in, gave him a tight squeeze, and a kiss. With one more stupid grin moment, I turned to leave saying, “You look silly, buddy.”

From a rather sleepy face, “I’m HAPPY!”

So I’ve got that goin’ for me…

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A Therapeutic Note

Every year I go through the phase of “What if I had continued on with my music education degree?” I have no regrets really, because in the end I wanted something that really wasn’t being a band director. I wanted to work with bands without administrative red tape. There are jobs within most band programs that fill that idea, but not many, and not full time.

I love music in most forms, and I feel it’s a bit of a “cause” for me because of how important it has been in my life, and how I believe it truly helps people. Which is why I was really excited to find that a good friend had taken a route with music that not enough people think about – music therapy. There’s a feeling as you approach college as a music student that your options are either to teach music or play music, but that’s just not the case. So I’d like to shed a little light on the work done by Metro Music Therapy and while they may not be in your area, perhaps you or someone you know could benefit from the services offered by groups like them to people of all ages.

Music therapy has been around about as long as instruments have. Through the centuries it’s been said that music could rid a person of demons, delay madness in mental patients, purify the soul, or even aid with healing of diseases. Modern music therapy really began with veterans from World War I and II. Musicians, some quite famous, were sent to hospitals to play for soldiers suffering from mental and physical trauma as the result of battle. The results of these musical interactions were discussed for years. William Congreve wrote that now famous (often misquoted) line, “Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast…” but did you know it goes on to say, “…to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” Congreve was on to something there, music takes hold of people in an almost indescribable way.

So what is modern music therapy? From the website, “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. It is an established health service similar to occupational therapy and physical therapy and consists of using music therapeutically to address physical, psychological, cognitive and/or social functioning for clients of all ages.” In short, music therapists work with people who have any number of disabilities and use music to help in the way they live. If you are a mother who had a special “labor mix” on your iPod, you have used music therapeutically. So this is an idea that many people have used in their life while perhaps not knowing it. I took this opportunity to ask my friend, Mallory Even – who owns and operates Metro Music Therapy, a few questions that go outside the realm of the information provided on the website.

My first question was the one I was most interested to hear the answer. As a former music education major, I’m well aware that music therapy is not an obvious choice to most people. It’s something Mallory aims to change for other students.

With so many career choices involving music, what made you choose music therapy?
“I actually thought I wanted to be a band director throughout my time in high school, so I started out as a music education major my freshman year at Florida State. During one of our general music courses, Dr. Jayne Standley came to speak to our class about her work as a music therapist in the NICU. I had never heard of music therapy before,which I now think is sad and have made it a mission of mine to educate high school students about music therapy as a career choice. I was completely amazed that there was a field that combined my love for music and my passion for helping people. That same day, I walked into Dr. Standley’s office and told her I wanted to change my major.”

Dr. Standley has done some amazing work with pre-mature babies. Her research and efforts with The Florida State University has found them third in the nation for music therapy programs. You can learn more about Dr. Standley and her work right here.

How would people find out about music therapy groups in their area? Would it be doctor referral, internet/word of mouth searching, little of both? 
“If searching for a music therapist in your area, I would start with either The American Music Therapy Association or the Certification Board for Music Therapists – both have databases to help people find music therapists throughout the United States. A doctor’s referral is always a plus (especially if you are hoping to have insurance coverage for music therapy services), and even speech, occupational or physical therapists in your area can be great resources since a lot of music therapists network with those other therapeutic disciplines. (Of course, the internet/word of mouth is always a good option, too!)”

An important thing to reinforce there is that many insurance companies cover some or all of the costs of these therapy sessions.

I’m sure there are tough days (right?), tell me a story about a good moment that keeps you going.
“Definitely tough days … not only while working with challenging clients, but also as a small business owner in a field that can still be considered “new” or “different” by the general population. But, the work that we do is so rewarding that it makes it all worth it. One of my favorite moments as a music therapist could have been easily overlooked by an outsider – as a lot of our “it” moments can be – but, luckily my five-year-old client’s mother was in the room during our session that day. This little girl, we’ll call her “Bella”, was hearing impaired and had recently undergone surgery for bilateral cochlear implants – a surgery that is decided upon by a lot of families only after much thought and consideration for their child’s future. As usual, I started our session with the “hello” song (a simple song I had sung so many times before while Bella would look at me and smile, but usually never make a sound) … “Hello Bella, Hello Bella, Hello Bella, it’s time to say hello!” That morning Bella waved and smiled, but didn’t vocalize anything with me. I told Bella I wanted to sing the song again, and this time I wanted her to try really hard and sing her name with me. “Hello Bella, Hello Bella, Hello Bella, it’s time to say hello!” After I was finished singing that phrase, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Bel-la.”

“Yea, Bella! That was wonderful!! Let’s do it again!!” And we did. We must have sung the “hello” song ten times that day. Bella’s mother remained very quiet and got very teary-eyed as we continued to sing, and finally looked at me and said, “That is the first time she has ever said her name.”

There are so many touching moments that make up a music therapist’s career. The elderly dementia patient that can’t remember their name, where they live, or who their family members are, but who can sing every word to the song, “You Are My Sunshine,” and who smile for the first time in days because you brought that musical memory to them; the child with Autism who remains isolated and withdrawn in their usual daily activities, but engages in eye contact, close proximity to peers, and appropriate social skills during the instrument-play activity in their weekly music therapy group. The changes evoked through music can sometimes appear to be subtle, but as a whole, music therapists are doing some big things.”

Ya know, it’s easy to dismiss a profession that traces back to ideas of tribes performing rituals of song and dance to cure illness. Yet, we live in a world that has blamed death and tragedy on music time and time again. It’s clear that people know that music is a powerful thing, but I’m not sure people know how beautifully powerful it can become when channeled in the right way. We all have a song that brings a smile to our face, ones that makes us feel calm or remind us of a perfect moment, and using that idea to help people is pretty special. These amazing people design programs for each individual person which can even include instrument lessons. It’s clearly rewarding and an industry that deserves a little spotlight.

If you know of someone who might benefit from music therapy. Look into it, please!

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I just want to like the stuff I like!

Melissa and I read several books leading up to the birth of our first son. We sort of, glanced, at them again prior to the birth of our second. I would encourage any to-be parent to read up on the process, but there’s just things that no book or even person is going to tell you. Now, while I highly suspect that anyone reading this knows me personally, I secretly want to believe that on some occasion you’ve told a friend that you know a guy who started a blog, and it’s funny (or kinda sad)…check it out! So for those theoretical friends of friends who didn’t get this bit of highly personal information…I used to be a baker.

The reason I mention this, is for a bit of perspective.

I may have accidentally been in the perfect profession as a lead in to being a stay at home Dad. The hours were generally long, and always started early in the morning. I was often ignored or given little respect. I was constantly expected to clean up another person’s mess. I would get stuff on my hands that I couldn’t wait to clean off. I was always indoors, with lots of noise, and almost always on the move. Lunch was always a test of speed, and most of the time…I kinda needed a hug.

The more thought I put into it, I realize that there seems to be only one thing my former job did not prepare me for when I made the jump to Admiral Von Homedad: TV.

BE WARNED! I will at some point do a posting of my over analysis of the shows on the Disney Channel. You people need to understand that in the almost 3 years now that I’ve been at home with the kids, I’ve spent a highly disproportionate amount of time with the characters on these shows versus people in real life. I suspect that all stay at home parents get that problem.

But no, when I say “TV” I’m not talking about the kid shows that try to throw in the clever “adult joke” from time to time. “huh huh, get it? Jimmy Moo? It’s like Jimmy Choo? Remember Sex in the City? That Clairabelle Cow is such a Samantha!” Furthermore, I’d like to ensure everyone that we don’t just watch TV here all day, neither my kids (who have much more pressing matters in the form of play destruction…hmm…playstrution? plastroy?) nor myself (aftermath containment unit) have time for that. I do though, get TV going as background noise for cleaning/mental unwind time.

Specifically I’m talking about the commercials. I’m sure there have always been bad commercials, and probably the idea of a line of commercials for a particular product. However, I’ve noticed that being in drastically more contact with certain ones have caused me to not only loathe those commercials, but to swear off those products altogether.

My biggest issue is with the current onslaught of Kit Kat commercials where everyone is just sound eating the already annoying theme song. Know those? I have a huge problem with overly loud eating. I used to go upstairs when my wife would eat chips or,oddly enough, cereal. I love my wife more then I could ever put into words, and I respect her right the eat however the hell she wants. So I didn’t do it in a mean way, I’d just disappear and come back when the carnage was over. My wife, who loves me an amazing amount for reasons I cannot seem to grasp, has made huge steps to bring down the volume. It’s when you’re able to make these types of compromises that you’ve got a strong marriage. Anyway, while it is mostly for that reason that the Kit Kat commercials make me want to live inside Kenny G’s saxophone for a year. The other thing that gets me is the locations. Offices, libraries, whatever the hell else; in every situation I would have been screaming at people to stop eating rocks and old chunks of metal. No one should ever make that much noise while eating, and NO ONE should be that self involved so as to completely zone out to the fact that, “Oh hey, look at all these people around me trying to work, read, or pay their respects at a funeral. Oh well, it’s time for me to have my barrel of bolts and roofing tiles!”

There’s like 4 of these commercials, and while I know that people are still buying Kit Kats, I have to believe it’s because people like Kit Kats and not because of the sound of a cement mixer going through a wood chipper. Much the way I don’t think women switch tampon brands because of a lady jogging.

The books just never said I’d slowly go crazy from commercial exposure.

Also I think they should bring back 3D Doritos.

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Art to Adorable

In a long list of things we needed to finalize in Florida before we moved to Idaho, I was told very sternly to get into my father’s attic and clean out several boxes of random items that had been kept from my childhood. There was an endless pile of drawings from all throughout my life. Melissa insisted I keep a few from my high school art classes, but did not object to getting rid of my detailed blueprints for a spaceship. One unfortunate side effect of divorce, something the psychiatrists won’t tell you, is that your childhood scribbles and memorabilia tends to split up as well. While that’s all perfectly sensible, parents seem to go through a stage in life where hanging on to a picture of an unidentifiable blue mass is no longer important. So after feeling I’d seen the last odd box containing an MC Hammer concert ticket at my dad’s house, I was a little frustrated to start the process over with a steady line of packages sent from my mom.

There was some element of fun in looking through all the drawings and school projects, most of which I had long forgotten. Still, I was not compelled at all to keep any of it and most ended up in the trash. I meant no offense to my parents by it, I’m sure at some point those things held meaning, but I couldn’t help but think how long that stuff sat around waiting to be thrown away. I just barely want to show the boys the stuff Melissa made me keep, let alone proclaim, “Yes! Daddy was the one who drew…that.”

We have one art project that William did adorning our refrigerator door. He wanted to decorate a cake like daddy does, isn’t that sweet? So we found a cake picture from a coloring book and he went nuts with it. Outside of that, the boys are not at an age yet where they’ve attempted to actually draw anything.

I got to thinking a little bit, and I don’t want this to come across as insensitive. I was wondering how long you need to keep something on the fridge before it’s acceptable to take it down. Not that I’m saying parents ever get bored with seeing the artistic stages of their children displayed, but seriously, you have to run out of space eventually right? I’m sure not everyone is like us, but we keep a great deal of information on our refrigerator because it is a major focal point. Keeping things like important phone numbers, any number of reminders, or just a nice simple family photo takes up valuable real estate. Of course there’s the technology to consider as well. Undoubtedly Apple will come out with the iFridge because we’ve all been there in the moment when you realize that you can’t check facebook while opening the door and getting all the breakfast necessities out for the kiddos. I’m pretty excited. Likely we’ll be able to store billions of their pictures in some kind of app, but there’s nothing quite as personal as seeing the drawing in real life.

That’s what I thought anyway…

Till I saw a feature on one of my favorite websites promoting a company called “Child’s Own Studio” and if you’re like me, you’ll be blown away at what they do. Clearly companies like this have been around for some time, which is sad because I have plenty of friends with kids but I’ve never seen them mention this type of service. I think this is the type of thing parents love! I looked through a mountain of drawings I had done over my life and felt no spark of attachment, but I think having the one stuffed toy based on a drawing by me, that was special to my parents, would certainly be a bit of a treasured item. Needless to say it would be one of those items that the boys are not allowed to touch until they understand how to not destroy everything.

I became very excited by the prospect of turning artwork into something the boys could hold, sleep next to, and find comfort with. Sadly, with the amazing gallery must have come popularity as described on the studio’s contact page saying they are working their way through a backlog of orders and are therefore not accepting new orders at this time. So perhaps even more awesome of Child’s Own, they have provided a list of alternative places where you can find this type of service. That’s if you’re not willing to wait I assume.

I am so very fascinated with this so please, if you have used a place like this before or you, like me, are intrigued and go forth to have a toy made, leave a comment! Let myself and all the readers know how your experience was, and by all means send me a picture of the finished product!

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Don’t Concuss at Me

One of the most dangerous things you need to worry about as a parent, is your child. Kids have a seemingly natural tendency to “express their love” by unconventional means. Not all the time. You get the hugs and kisses, sometimes without even asking for them, but there are those times when you also get smacked a little too hard in the back or receive a swift kick to the nuggets. I’m not saying you should feel unsafe at the top of the stairs or at a subway platform when you are alone with a toddler, but I think you should be careful. As a rule. An accident happens by accident so you have to be aware that even your most trusted friend can cause you a great deal of pain without meaning to hurt you.

My junior year was my favorite year of high school. I had a very tight-knit group of friends who would get together frequently. From going out to eat to spending hours hanging out at someone’s home, we had fun doing simple, harmless things. I can only hope our parents took note of that, because even our most wild night was tame. I developed friendships over that year that have stood the test of time. We would never to anything to hurt each other. Right?

Anyone who is familiar with band nerd protocol is probably aware that before school starts, you go hang out in the band room. Over the course of high school, your band mates are the people you see the most, so it makes sense that the people you form such a strong bond with are also the first people you want to talk to as the day begins. Likewise the band folks who drove to school would try and park as close as possible to the band room door, knowing that it would be the door they would use at the beginning and end of the day.

So it was not surprising that as I pulled into a parking spot very close to our special door one morning, I looked over to see two of my very best friends parked in the next spot. Their eyes were closed, listening to some music and patiently waiting for the doors to be unlocked so we could pile in the band room and regale each other with tales of things that had occurred in the 12 hours since we had last seen each other. Clearly I must have had something to talk about that couldn’t wait, because that morning I exited my car and found my way to their driver’s side window. I remember wanting to give my friend in the driver’s seat a bit of a scare, and so as they both sat there with their eyes closed, I took position with my face close to the window, waiting for his eyes to open to my ugly mug inches from his place of rest.

I don’t remember how long I was waiting, but I was willing to put the time in for my little joke. His eyes remained closed, as did his passenger, one of our close female friends. Eventually she opened her eyes and greeted me with a big smile. She began talking, but with their windows up I couldn’t hear a thing from inside. I assume she was going on about how I was right outside the window, and how clever and funny that was of me, and how so many girls in school wanted to go out with me, you know, things like that. He remained sitting with his eyes closed and began to grin in an odd way. Evidently at some point she told him to open his door really quickly. My very good friend, who would go on to be the best man in my wedding party, did not question this idea because…well, because boobs. So in complete trust of her advice, he pushed the door open with as much strength as he could gather at that time in the morning.

And then I don’t remember things that clearly.

I know I was in the band room getting a very concerning talk from my band director about something on my head. Whatever that means. I know I had a similar conversation during my first class because I couldn’t “focus.” Then there was some kind of drama involving my mom coming to school to get me and that I was not to be allowed to sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. Either way, I got a few very nice phone calls that evening asking if I needed anything. Isn’t that nice?

A similar incident happened over the weekend with Carter.

Carter has a new favorite toy. It’s one of those toys that has an arrow pointing to one of a bunch of different animals, and if you pull the lever on the side you hear something along the lines of, “The cow says, ‘moooooo” You all know the one. A speak and say. Carter decided that when he’s ready to play with it, he would let me know by slamming it down on my lap with a massive smile on his face. The smile is to make sure I’m aware that it’s done in a happy way, not an angry way. Since he has managed to avoid hitting me in the dangle thus far, I have been very tolerant of his method. So all was well and good till this weekend when I was taking a well deserved moment of rest on the couch. William was in a rare mood of actually sitting still to watch some cartoons and Carter was running around playing with whatever struck him in the moment. His sights must have set on his speak and say at some point because I remember seeing the quick flash of a cow and a goat, but it all goes fuzzy afterwards. I know that Melissa said something about a thing on my head, and then she was going on about a doctor’s appointment and something my eyes were doing. I don’t know, it was hard to focus.

It actually reminds me of this time in high school! A really good friend of mine was sitting in his car with this girl. They were listening to the radio in the morning…..

My point is – Be careful out there parents.

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Are We Too Safe?

I feel like I don’t understand many things that seem to have happened over the 14 (yikes) years since I graduated from high school. I know I’ve talked about this before, but times have changed. Every generation has probably said that at some point, but I feel there’s something particularly relevant about that concept these days. The overexposure to people we have gained from social networking sites in addition to the continued wave of hypersensitive parenting styles, have made what I consider to be a larger than average stride between myself and younger crowds.

People have every right in the world to raise their kids in whatever manner they see fit, so long as they are not putting that child directly in harm’s way. The downside of that idea is when a parent makes a decision for their child with every good intention in the world, and it catches on so rapidly that society takes a seemingly harmless idea and forces the world to change around it in a harmful way.

The other day, a friend posted a picture on his facebook page. He, his wife, and their roughly two year old boy had taken some professional family photos. In one of the pictures, he was holding his son upside-down while he and his wife were kissing. Their boy had that kind of kid-smile that is infectious. It was a very sweet picture, but it wasn’t long before comments started flying about holding his child upside-down. How it was very dangerous and to consider what might have happened if he was dropped! Then came the attacks on the two of them as parents, of course from total strangers.

Look, if you as a parent decide that it’s unsafe to toss your child into the air and let them fall into your arms, or lock hands with them and spin around in a circle, or dip your child upside-down, that’s completely your business. Quite frankly, if you hear laughter coming from inside my house during the day I’d caution you to stay out since there’s a pretty high chance something like that is happening right at that moment. A higher level of caution when it comes to your kids does not make you a better parent than someone with a little more flexibility in that area. It also does not guarantee your kids unlimited protection from harm. More so, having an opinion on something doesn’t mean that every needs to bend to your view, and offering your opinion of what is “safe” is not the same as some blind rage comment on how people who differ from your view are wrong.

So what then? Do we need to put bubble wrap over every object in the house? Ban the sale of tables with pointed instead of rounded corners? How long are we going to hear about Steve Irwin’s son feeding crocodiles before we’re able to be okay that he’s someone who is growing up in a zoo with this lifestyle? Interesting to me, as I grew up in Florida just miles away from an entire park where young kids can come face to face with giant alligators for a price. Safety is really a frame of mind. I, for example, feel much more safe in a car than an airplane though statistics tell me planes are the way to go. So how safe are we? Too safe?

Something bugged me during a recent online search for a trampoline. One of William’s favorite movies is the newest “Winnie the Pooh” and while he certainly loves that willy, nilly, silly old bear, Tigger has inspired him to fill moments of his day with bouncing. I’m happy to join in, but that can only last for so long. So I thought, “Hey! He’d bounce for hours on a little trampoline!” A short time into my search I saw this little bundle of joy: http://www.walmart.com/ip/IronKids-Inspiration-250-Fitness-Playground-Metal-Swing-Set/16451443

I love how hard they work to imply that this is not just some fun plaything. It’s a fitness center! Complete with fitness slide! Better still is the level to which they have gone to convince people that it’s safe. You’re basically leaving your child to play with a cloud, while on a cloud. Everything is beautifully soft, rounded, contoured, and padded. There are nets to protect you from swinging too far off course. Best of all, the trampoline has a safety bar! Nothing says, “Have fun kiddo!” like a bar on a trampoline designed to restrict your movement and bounce height. Isn’t that why trampolines like this were invented? No springs to pinch skin, seemingly impossible to hit any part of the frame, and better shock absorption than most off-road vehicles. Still fun? Of course, but look at the cost of all that peace-of-mind.

We spend so much time worrying about our kids. Parents try to teach these little life lessons, but learning to pick yourself up is something often overlooked. For a time, William realized that the threat that he might be hurt would get attention. This led to fake injuries with fake emotional responses, something we then had to learn to ignore. When a child is learning to walk, falling is part of that process. Eventually the training wheels need to come off the bike, and falling is part of that process, too. What is it Dory says in Finding Nemo? “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.”

So perhaps there’s a sound logic to a company providing over-the-top safety precautions when there are parents out there who will simply ignore the most basic rules. Even if they are printed out for them, three times. Clearly there needs to be some middle ground established on this matter, and you just can’t account for people who will be brazenly careless with their children. We used a Bumbo for a while, it went on the floor and was surrounded by carpet and blankets to fall on. We have knives in the kitchen, we keep them out of their reach.

…and when I buy some little trampoline for William, I won’t be telling him to keep the bounces under two inches. Aerosmith taught me to live on the edge.

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