Archive | June, 2012

They Aren’t All Great Weekends

25 Jun

y sweet angel had a monster week last week – 5 days of girlscout camp from breakfast to dinner. Until then the beefiest time commitment of her life was kindergarten, which typically ran from 8-12. We’d gather her up, give her time to play with her friends, take her home and let her decompress with some down-time on her own. Her little 6-year-old body needs that time to recover and recharge. Without it she’s running a rest-deficit, and it affects everything else in her life.

That down-time didn’t happen this week. She went full-boar from 8-5, toughed the traffic home, then it was a mad scramble to get dinner and a bath before bedtime. She even mentioned it a couple times towards the end of the week, “I just want to draw before dinner. I didn’t get any time to draw”. But knowing the effect that less than a full-night sleep would have, down-time at home was in short supply that week. Combine that with the fact that she stubbornly insists on waking up (through sheer force of will/stubbornness/moxy) no later than 6:30 and you have a recipe for disaster.

It all came crashing down Friday night. To our credit when we signed her up for a solid week of camp we anticipated the crash afterward and planned accordingly light for the weekend. Predictably though, this past weekend wasn’t a good one.

She was combative. She was confrontational. She was difficult. She was snotty. She was rude. She was tearful…

She was tired.

It all came to a head on Saturday afternoon when she was supposed to go to a friend’s birthday party. She was dawdling drawing (having the down time that her body and mind need) and despite several head-up warnings wasn’t dressed or even remotely ready to leave for the party. Never mind the time it would take to get to the party. The party started at 2:00 and here we were at 2:10 at home still arguing about brushing her hair and changing out of her dirty sweatpants.

Even DorkDads… ESPECIALLY DorkDads fail at parenting sometimes.

Tempers flared. Voices were raised. Frustrations peaked. The affect around the house was generally nasty and as I look back as a rational adult I didn’t do much to help the situation. I was ticked-off too. I raised my voice too. I expressed disappointment and frustration to my 6-year-old daughter in a way that really wasn’t constructive. We finally decided that she was in no condition to go to a birthday party, and in a huff I left the house to deliver my daughter’s regrets and the present to the birthday girl and her parents.

After making the delivery I went to Home Depot to cool off by walking around browsing for bits and pieces for my son’s Halloween costume project. As I parsed out the pre-party clamor it became pretty clear that I failed in my part at almost every point. My contribution didn’t do anything to make things better – quite the opposite. I lost my cool, and that stoked the fires. Now my daughter was at home upset and disheveled — as tired as she was from the week’s activities I had to accept responsibility for my own contribution to the situation.

I walked around Home Depot feeling like a rotten father. After all, a parent is supposed to be their child’s advocate. A dad is supposed to know when his little girl is too tired for a birthday party and give her an out, not chastise her for being difficult. It was not my best parenting moment and as I put it in a text to my wife, I felt like “an all-around A-hole of a father”.

I got home and apologized to my daughter for losing my temper when I shouldn’t have. Daddy’s make mistakes too, and I loved her very much. “I love you too, Daddy”. We hugged and moved on. But she was still just as tired, and everyone’s nerves were still raw.

The rest of the weekend followed suit: bickering, yelling, high-drama. We managed to get away with the kids to see a movie as planned, but otherwise the hair-pulling lasted all the way up to bedtime when she protested that her younger brother always got snuggles first, and then couldn’t decide who she wanted to snuggle with her when it was her turn (one of us has to hold the baby). Finally my wife emerged from her room, exhausted herself. She reported as we made the baby hand-off “Your turn. She wants you now”.

I went into my daughter’s room to find her already 2/3 asleep. I looked at her sweet sleeping little body and felt like I had to do something. It truly was a terrible weekend for her. Even if she was the epicenter of the drama, I didn’t want her going to sleep thinking she was the cause of all the strife. That’s no way to finish the day, or the weekend. I’m her daddy. It’s my job to be her advocate. It’s my job to fix her hurts – to make things better.

Goodnight my angel.

I laid down next to her as she nuzzled the ratty old teddy bear she’s had since she was a couple months old. I rubbed her shoulder gently, so as not to disturb her, but to let her know that I was there. In that moment the only thing I could think to do was to quietly sing the lullaby I’ve sung for her since she was born. She knows that it’s our song. It’s a father singing to his daughter, telling her he knows that it’s tough to be a kid, but no matter what, no matter how many tough days or how many years go by, that special magic that they share together will live on forever.

As I started singing, from the twilight on her way to sleeping she reached out and put her hand on my arm to tell me she understood. She loves me too. Neither of us had our best weekend, but tomorrow will be better.

Goodnight my angel.

-Dork Dad

We’re Brave

24 Jun

e managed to get out of the house to see a matine’e today. Thanks to Grandma for coming over and watching Episode VI for a few hours. You’ve got to do that sort of stuff when you’ve got kids, of course. Yes, it was a movie worth taking the kids out to see. It was filled with all sorts of Pixar-goodness including a strong heroine, the requisite dramatic plot points, a cameo by John Ratzenberger and more than one chuckle at the expense of nekkid CGI butt-cheeks. I could launch into a full-on critique of the movie-going experience and sociological relevance of the movie itself, but I have something more important to blog about. Through the entire movie the one thought that kept running through my head was, “Thank goodness there’s finally a Pixar character that looks like my wife”.

any resemblance between my wife and a Pixar character is purely coincidental.

Of course it’s been established that Pixar used my likeness for one of their signature characters long ago.

And obviously since Episode VI arrived our entire family bears more than a passing resemblance to the spandex world’s first-family.

Pointing out any and all similarities between me and Mr. Incredible is not appreciated.

 

Here’s hoping everyone had a good weekend.

-Dork Dad

A Year And A Century

18 Jun

n June 27th, 2011 I embarked on a little experiment to blog about the dorkier side of being a dad. I was positive that my enthusiasm would peter out by December after six or seven posts and I’d move on to something else. Surprisingly though, here we are a full year later in June of 2012 — and perhaps even more surprisingly, this is DorkDaddy.com’s 100th post. Dorkdaddy.com is a year old. I suppose this is as good an excuse as any to do something a little different.

Superkids

Now before you click away I have a personal favor I need to ask of you. The rest of this post is going to be a reflection on my experiences blogging over the year (something I told myself I’d never do because once a blog blogs about blogging, it really needs to think hard about whether or not it’s jumped the shark). I tell you this now because I need your help (before your brain signals “*BOOORING*” and you move on with your day). Please stick with me a little longer.

My experience blogging this year has been, among other things, rather profound. If nothing else it’s put into words some stories, sentiments and memories that, at least for my family, are worth saving for posterity. Shutterfly.com has a neat product where you can take images and arrange them into a hardbound coffee-table book. My intention is to take the past 100 posts and bind them together so that we can have a hardcopy gather dust in our bookshelf here at home. I want the pages of the book to look like they have been lifted right from the blog itself – stories, pictures, comments and all. The responses from the readers – those little comments at the bottom of each blog post – are the icing on the cake and in truth they are why I started this blog in the first place. Connecting with people who actually read and enjoyed the material was the entire point. So to you, the person sitting in front of your screen right now, I ask this favor of you:

If you have ever read and enjoyed this blog, and if you are comfortable doing so, please leave a response in the “comments” section at the bottom of this blog post. It can be as long or as short as you like, it can say whatever you like (sappy adoration, righteous indignation, scathing criticism) but it would mean the world to me to hear from you your thoughts/reflections looking back on a full year of DorkDaddy.com. I’d like to save them and make them part of the wonderful memories that these 100 blog posts have chronicled thus far. Please remember to identify yourself (to the degree you are comfortable) in the appropriate field, otherwise you’ll be immortalized as “anonymous”. And for those of you who like to respond in Facebook, as much as I appreciate it, in this case the Facebook comments won’t be included. So just this once, please leave your comments here (scroll to the bottom and click on “leave comment”).

Spiderkids.

And now, on with the show:

A Year And A Century – reflections after 100 DorkDaddy.com posts

I wouldn’t pretend to offer any advice to prospective bloggers other than the advice that my amazing cousin (who pioneered the blogosphere for our family before I ever dipped my toe into those waters) offered to me at the outset. That advice is the following:

Nobody cares.

That’s right. I said it. The act of blogging is inherently egotistical. The notion that you have something to say that hasn’t been said before – something that another person would actually WANT to read and might actually find interesting or profound is of course, ridiculous. Naturally there are always people in your life who, because of their relationship to you, are interested in your life – and then naturally, by extension, your blog. The comment statistics in the administrative section of my blog certainly bear that out. Next to me, my mother has the highest post-count followed closely by my two amazing 7th and 8th grade teachers who I’m happy to still be in touch with. When DorkDaddy.com is in its final death throes, Mom, Mrs. M and Mrs. D will be the final three readers who stick it out to the bitter end. Ladies, for that (and so much more) I love you.

Lanterns.

Ultimately we blog about the things that are important to us, not necessarily the things that are important to anyone else outside our own little bubbles. That’s probably the best explanation why my blog readership and Facebook follower numbers have plateaued. I’m not spreading virally. Word isn’t getting around. The things I write about aren’t so appealing that people simply have to share them with the entire world. That’s OK. I’ve made my peace with it. There are bloggers out there who are much better at blogging than I am, and their readership reflects that For a good example check out Anna’s blog “My Life And Kids“. She started blogging just about the same time I did. She’s got HUNDREDS of followers and her posts get dozens of responses. Why? Because she’s really, really good at blogging. She’s very relatable, and very amusing. People spread the word. It probably helps that most of her posts are under 200 words, where try as I might to keep them short, most of mine turn into 2000 word epic tomes of loquaciousness.

If readership is the ultimate goal, I did learn one very important blogging lesson earlier this year. My old friend Carlos put it into words best: “Figure out who’s trending in pop culture, blog about them, perhaps get them to read it and then let the virus spread”. In early January I wrote a post about watching science-oriented television shows on TV, reflecting on the shows I watched as a kid and the ones I watch with my own kids today. I titled it “From Marlin Perkins to Adam Savage” and on a whim tweeted it (more on Twitter later) to Adam Savage’s personal Twitter account. Well, Carlos was right. Adam read it, and re-tweeted it (which means he shared it with the thousands of people on twitter who follow him) and this is what happened to my blog:

The Adam Savage effect. Gotta wonder how many of those visitors stuck around.

There are dad-blogs out there that actively encourage their readership to spread the word. I just can’t bring myself to do that. Ultimately we write to be read, and nothing means more to a writer/blogger than when someone else thinks your work is compelling enough to be worth sharing. To those of you who HAVE spread the word about my posts (or who might in the future), you have my most sincere and heartfelt gratitude. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

Another trap that dad-bloggers tend to fall into is turning their blogs into a de-facto diary. I have tried to stay true to the mission of my blog. Those who know me know that I have very strong thoughts and feelings about all sorts of things (read: religion/politics), but I have worked very hard to keep those elements out of these pages. More than anything else the most important thing in my entire universe is parenting, and I have tried to use this blog to give the slightest glimpse of how much I love my children as seen through the lens of my own personal dorkisms.

bedtime reading

That was not necessarily the original vision for DorkDaddy.com. Originally I wanted it to be a place where parents could come together and share the love they have for their own kids via *THEIR* personal dorkisms. I imagined the Oakland A’s fan sharing how he sits his kids down to every game on TV, collects all the baseball cards, and dresses them up in full team-regalia complete with face-paint when they go to the stadium. I pictured the model-rocket dad sharing how-to links and videos with us. I pictured dads putting together a list of kid-friendly events at Comicon. I pictured insiders sharing a “heads-up” when a new awesome lego set was in development. I wanted to build a community – all of us taking cues from each other, sharing the ferocity with which we love our kids, filtered through our own dorkness. I even set up a “guest DorkDad” page to encourage other DorkDads to share their stories.

Well, that didn’t happen – for the better I think.

Here’s another little blogging universalism I’ve learned that, if my blog had any legitimate readership, might throw the blogging-elite into a conniption – ready for it?

Twitter sucks.

I have 131 Twitter followers (pathetic by Twitter standards), compared to 70 Facebook followers (again, pathetic). When I publish a new blog post I throw the link on Facebook and Twitter at the exact same time. Later when I look at my administrative statistics to see where my blog traffic is coming from, for every hit I get from Twitter I probably get 30 from Facebook, if not more. In the dad-blog-twitterverse people follow you not because they like your blog, but because they’ve got a blog too and they want you to follow them in return. Ultimately my Twitter-feed is a frenetic mess of bloggers screaming “Read my blog. No, read my blog. No, mine. Mine. Mine.” There are, of course, a few gems out there that I look forward to, but the rest is just noise. You could make the argument “what about the Adam Savage-effect? If you weren’t on Twitter that wouldn’t have happened.” True, but I’m very dubious about how many people who peaked through the window that day are still around now. In any case, the 1:30 Twitter:Facebook referral ratio is enough to close the case for me. I now pronounce my judgment:

Twitter – good for Arab Springs (and Adam Savage-effects), bad for dad-blogging.

We have pi.

All told though this year, this experiment, this experience has been resoundingly positive. It gives me a chance to scratch the creative itch and take my inner dormant Liberal Arts-major out for walk around the block on occasion. What feedback I’ve had has been overwhelmingly positive – even touching. But I suspect the real value will come decades from now when the kids are all grown and we pull the book off the shelf, dust it off and look it over fondly. I can see it now, “Wow, I’m so glad we wrote those things down. Look at how small the kids were. Oh my goodness, I totally forgot about that. Woah! Look at how much hair I had”. If the internet suddenly disappeared tomorrow, my year with DorkDaddy.com is definitely something I would want to remember.

That said, where does DorkDaddy.com go from here? I told myself I would shut the project down when and if it ever felt like work. I’m happy to say that day hasn’t come yet. I’ll keep going for the foreseeable future, although I may post with slightly less frequency. As a birthday present to myself I’m going to relieve myself of that oh-my-goodness-I-haven’t-posted-anything-in-a-week feeling. I’ve found that the ideas for blog posts present themselves pretty reliably, but the opportunity to actually sit down and craft them is far more difficult to come by. When I started this blog I had two kids who were relatively self-sufficient. Now I’ve got another, along with all the demands on my free-time that come along him. Additionally, next month I’m finally fulfilling a longstanding promise I made to myself to get back to teaching at the University one day a week. I feel guilty enough about the time that that will take away from my family.

Darth Cutie

After all that I think it’s only appropriate to close out a year of blogging with a few thank-you’s:

ANDREW RAASTAD– I’ve never actually met the guy in person, and our views on politics and religion couldn’t be more opposed, but our paths crossed in a way that could only happen in today’s Facebook-world when he married an old high school friend of mine. In addition to knowing his wife, he and I have one other thing in common: he is a hardcore Dork Dad. He has consistently contributed to the DorkDaddy facebook page (something you are all encouraged to do). When his wife suggested that I write a book about how to be a dad, it was his comment “I’d read it” that ultimately planted the seed. If you have ever enjoyed one of my posts you have him to thank for putting the idea to start a blog in my head in the first place.

CHRIS “RELAN” FISHER– For many years now Relan has been my go-to guy when I get a harebrained scheme in my mind that vastly surpasses my computer/graphic/web skills. I imagine the eye-rolling on his end when his instant messenger pings at work and he sees it’s a message from me. A year ago it was “*ping* Hey, I want to start a blog. What do I do?” He’s the one that pointed me to WordPress. It’s worth noting that I’ve noticed he’s spent more time logged out of his instant messenger during the days lately.

RON MATTOCKS– Another guy I’ve never actually met. In the dad-blogging world he’s a sort of luminary (if there is such a thing). Take a visit to his blog “Clark Kent’s Lunchbox” and you’ll see the DNA we have in common. I discovered his blog early into my own experience, and it vexed me that his blog looked EXACTLY like I wanted mine to look (Relan narrowly escaped another instant message headache there). It motivated me to dig deeper into the mechanics of my blog to give it the “feel” I wanted. A quick makeover and I had something I could work with for the rest of the year. More than that though, reading Ron’s blog and following his story, he has earned my respect as a man and as a father (indistinguishable in my book). As my own blog has matured I have looked up to him as a sort of big-brother in blogging.

ANDE DAVIS– Dude #3 I’ve never met in real life. Ande is another dad-blogger “Squatch Makes Three” – or at least he will be when his little Squatch is born in about 3 weeks and he officially, legally becomes a dad. It’s as simple as this: Ande reads my blog and he almost always drops a line in the comments when he does. That is EXACTLY the sort of connection I wanted to make when I started this project. I have come to anticipate his responses and I’m thankful for that. Bonus – I read his blog too and genuinely enjoy it. It was his idea to designate my kids Episodes IV, V and VI (a reference to the original Star Wars trilogy for the un-Dorks out there). Plus, he’s a Giants fan. Ande must have come to me from Twitter, because he gave up on Facebook some time ago. Dude, you really need to get back on the FB scene ’cause you’re missing the updates as I build Episode V’s Halloween costume. Here’s a preview:

…part of this healthy breakfast.

MY DAD– If I do anything right raising my kids it’s because I learned it from you.

MY KIDS– You three are the reason I wake up in the morning (literally and figuratively). You are my inspiration. Nothing has given my life more purpose, more meaning, more fulfillment than you three. It is a gift to be your father and I am humbled by it. Raising you is so terrifying and so joyous. I don’t even remember who I was before you came along. I try as hard as I can to do right by you, and to show you how much I love you. I promise, whatever I manage to get across doesn’t even come close to what I feel in my heart.

MY WIFE– For putting up with this experiment at all. For putting up with me at all. For lowering her standards enough to marry me in the first place, and for staying married to me for 10 years (our anniversary is next month). For finally relenting and agreeing to let me offer this bonus DorkDaddy.com post to those of you who stuck it out through this entire post. Marrying her was the smartest thing I ever did.

my mom says there’s room for more babies in this picture.

Again, thank you beyond words to all of you who’ve read, enjoyed and even contributed to the DorkDaddy.com experiment. 100 posts in a year isn’t too shabby. There will be more.

May The Force be with you all.

-Dork Dad

Celebrating Dads who are “all-in”.

Level 85 Badass

18 Jun

badass

his woman is either:

A) reaching for a toy that fell on the other side of the car.

B) untangling her hair from the seatbelt.

C) breastfeeding her child in the back of a minivan.

Hint: 30 seconds earlier this baby was screaming his head off.

Dads, remember this:

No matter how cool you think you are, the mothers of our children will always be 10x more badass than we could ever hope to be.

-Dork Dad

DIY Dorkdad

12 Jun

t’s summer time, and that means we’ve got to keep the kids entertained. For my money it also means it’s time to try some crazy DIY projects I’ve been ruminating on over the past year. Now I am by no means a “handyman” – at least in the manner that I would define the word. But I am comfortable around power-tools, and my professional life requires a certain degree of competency in mechanical engineering. Needless to say, whenever there is a new piece of furniture in the house to assembled, the responsibility is mine. In truth, I look forward to that sort of stuff, especially when the project is big enough that I have to call my dad in and we get to spend the better part of a day working on something together.

As maddening as it may be when they try to “help”, it’s important to me that my kids feel like they’re part of any project like that. As they move through life they need to have some basic handyman skills. They need to know the difference between a Phillips-head and flathead screwdriver. They need to know the difference between a crescent and allen-wrench. They need to know the right way to use a hammer, and they need to be comfortable with a power drill. These are skills that will carry them through their lives – and if they’re working on a project with me, hopefully they’ll carry some memories with them too.

Takin’ my son to the place of worship.

In that light I’d like to present two summertime DIY projects they recently “helped” me with, with the hopes that some of you readers will use/steal the ideas to share with your own kids this summer.

They’re “helping”. Quotes very much intended.

ZIP -LINE!!

When Episode V and I were picking up his sister from kindergarten he told one of the waiting mommies “My daddy is building me a zip-line in my backyard!” The mom looked at me with disbelief and said,

“Oh my goodness. If my kid asked me to build a zip-line in the backyard I would have no idea what to do. I’m just not that person. Are you that person?” she said to another dad who was nearby.

“I’m not that person” he said putting his hands up in the air.

Taking flight.

I’m here to tell you, there really is no “that person” involved. It’s as simple as fixing a line from point A to point B, making it as taut as possible, and putting a pully, PVC pipe and a few carabiners together with a little rope to make a handle. Now most blogs would give you step by step directions on how to build it yourself. I’ll spare you the details. If there’s something you can’t figure out from the pictures I’d love to give you the step-by-step. Email me at clarkkentdds@gmail.com for the details. But I will pass on a few bits of knowledge to save you a trip or two to the hardware store:

1)      Don’t use climbing rope for your line. It’s made to stretch (if you fall off a cliff), so you can never get it taut enough for a zipline. It winds up sagging and your kids bottom out on the grass before they get far enough. Use vinyl coated 3/8” wire line instead. At $0.35 a foot it’s the most expensive part of the project, but it doesn’t stretch to avoid sagging, and the vinyl coating protects from corrosion and frayed wire splinters.

2)      You can’t rely on muscle-power to get the line taut enough. When you’re getting supplies buy some luggage racheting tie-downs (you only need one). Use mechanical advantage of a lever to your advantage. (c:

Better than duct tape.

3)      Most of the hardware you’ll need is rated for about 250-500 lbs of tension (except the tie-downs and wire line of course). For my part, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with a kid weighing more than about 55 lbs on this rig. Adults (and kids), ride at your own risk.

When you’re all done and your kids think they’ve done everything they can with the zip-line, throw a sprinkler under there on a hot day and take plenty of pictures that will humiliate them when they’re teenagers. This weekend is supposed to be especially hot. We just got a new backyard blow-up pool. I’m gonna put that thing at the end of the line for some splash-down action.

I feed my son, I swear.

BACKYARD-ROCKETS!!

On the surface this one looks like it takes a M.A. in engineering to put together. Not even close. If you can buy some 4” PVC pipe at the hardware store, the appropriate adhesive, and if you’ve got a tire-pump in the garage, you can do this.

pump it up

My son and I recently had the opportunity to do this project at his friend’s birthday party. I give serious credit to the boy’s father who was running the project, who is of Middle-Eastern descent. When a man of Middle-Eastern descent is teaching a bunch of 4-year-old boys how to build high-pressure backyard rockets, there is just no way to avoid the Dept. of Homeland Security jokes. Instead of being touchy about it he embraced it, and had all the other dads in stitches the entire time:

“OK folks, gather around. This one is straight out of the little-terrorist’s handbook”.

It all starts out with tape.

“Now watch this. Here’s how we build the warhead… er, um, I mean nosecone”.

Warhead… er, um… nosecone.

“There needs to be some weight in the nose, so we’re going to pack it with play-doh, unless you happen to have some Uranium-237 lying around”.

I let my child play with Uranium-237

“If anyone wants the schematics, we hacked them off of the NASA mainframe”.

schematics

Actually he was only partially kidding about that last part. This project was originally put together by NASA engineers to be a fun, very kid-friendly, backyard-level project to do at Space Camp (a program from which I am a proud alumnus… class of 1988). The schematics are freely available for download in PDF format. Click right here if you want to download it.

Where are those transmissions you intercepted? What have you done with those plans?!

Ultimately the concept here is to build an airtight vessel, build up the pressure (with the bicycle pump), and suddenly release all the pressure at once through a valve and out a nozzle which pushes the rocket up into the air. A couple of suggestions that don’t add any more difficulty if you want to go all Tim “the tool-man” Taylor on it:

1)      You’ll notice the NASA/Space Camp schematics have a manual valve at the very end of the pressure vessel to release the pressure and launch the rocket. For that to work you need to kneel down next to the pressurized vessel and manually “open the gate” by twisting the valve into the right position. With the simple addition of an automatic sprinkler valve, a 9 volt battery, and a button switch from Radioshack you can very easily adapt the rig to launch from a distance at the push of a button. It makes for a little more drama, and adds another dummy-proof layer of cool-factor.

Oh this is SOOOOO Adam and Jamie.

2)      If the bicycle pump isn’t doing it for you, the vessel can be pressurized in a fraction of the time by a gas/electric air compressor. I mean really – if you’re going to go badass, you might as well go all the way.

***

And there you have it: two dork-a-licious ways to scratch your inner Mythbuster this summer. Just remember when you’re done to let your kids play too.

…now who wants to take bets on how long it’s going to take Homeland Security to put this blog on the suspect list after the next time one of their agents Google’s “Uranium-237”.

-Dork Dad

Innocence Lost

2 Jun

o I’m getting episodes IV and V packed up in the car when they notice that Episode VI isn’t coming.

“Why isn’t the baby coming?” they ask.

“He’s staying here with Grandma while we go to the pool party” I reply.

“He’s getting a bottle while we’re gone,” the know-it-all 5-year-old says to her brother “because Grandma can’t feed him with her boobs.”

20120602-103316.jpg

“Excuse me?!” I returned, trying to reinforce the more child-friendly, albeit probably unnecessarily puritanical verbiage. “With her CHEST.”

The 3-year-old followed that one up with “Grandma has boobs on her chest.”

*sigh*

There’s one more line item on the list of childhood innocence to scratch off.

-Dork Dad

Brick-A-Brack

1 Jun

ttention Lego-phyles and Ringers alike, the “Lord of the Rings” series of Lego sets has hit the shelves!

(On the actual site the photo below is interactive. Here’s the link.)

On the actual site this picture is interactive. Good thing I gave you the link.

Alas, I was too late to get in on the Star Wars Lego goodness. While I was busy

getting an education, setting up a business and building a family all the best Lego Star Wars sets were produced, sold and discontinued (that’s right Dr. Vandewalker, I’m looking at YOU). Now the only way to get them is on Ebay at rediculously inflated collectors’ prices, and even *I’M* not dorky enough to cough up that kind of cash. (search “Lego 10179″ on Ebay if you want to see what to get me for my birthday). If you don’t follow this sort of thing, Lego did very well (and found new relevance) in producing an entire line of Star Wars sets, followed by Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean and now Avengers and Lord of the Rings collections. Naturally the timing of their releases is carefully coordinated with the release of the feature films and all the marketing blitzkrieg that comes hand-in-hand. Be cynical if you will. I’m just glad my kids are into Legos.

I just called ‘em “space legos” when I was a kid.

Seriously, who didn’t have a bucket full of Legos when they were a kid? I certainly had my share, chief among them was the “Alpha-1 Rocket Base” set which, although dinky by today’s standards, gave me more hours of imaginative play than I could count. My collection wasn’t small by any stretch, but my old buddy Daniel had the mountain of Legos to envy in the neighborhood (it didn’t hurt that he had an older brother who started building their collective mountain of Legos many years before Daniel was old enough to appreciate them). I’m happy to report that his mother had the foresight to save every single brick, and the entire treasure trove was inherrited by Daniel’s two sons who are now full-fledged Lego-maniacs. Daniel is a world-class Dorkdad in his own right.

Legos sort of crept into my kids’ lives rather organically. First it was with the giant “Duplo” blocks. Then on a trip to my parents’ house last year they discovered a small bucket of our old Legos my mom had kept over the years, and my kids were off to the races. At 5 my daughter was ready for the small bricks, but my son was not quite 3 at the time, and the small bricks were just slightly beyond his abilities. Now a year later, they’re arguing over who gets to use what pieces. Naturlly there’s the “Sweet! Let’s geek-out together over Star Wars and Lord of the Rings” factor. But as a parent there’s something else about my children playing with Legos that really speaks to me.

Notice Episode V’s tongue. Total concentration.

My bachelor’s degree is actually in elementary education, an odd degree for a dentist to have I’ll grant you. I even spent a few years teaching Jr. High before I launched into a lifetime of drilling teeth. I look at my childrens’ relationship with Legos from the perspective of both a dentist and as an educator and I have to say, the skills a child develops playing with Legos are so very applicable, so very valuable to real life. A dentist has to have a strong sense of 3-dimensional perceptual ability. You have to be able to see an object and be able to rotate it around to see all of its sides in your mind. It’s the same ability that lets you look at a blueprint on a piece of paper and see in your minds eye what the inside of a house will look like. The path into and through dental school is filled with all sorts of examinations of this sort, and during every single one I couldn’t help thinking to myself how it was all just another Lego assembly. Nothing teaches you better how pieces fit together in 3-dimensional space than building Legos.

Of course playing with Legos obviously develops fine motor skills as well. That’s an easy one. And the application of those skills is pervasive throughout life. But more importantly in the lives of a 5-year-old and 3.5-year-old is developing the ability to…

…wait for it…

..follow FREAKING INSTRUCTIONS!!

Follow the FREAKING INSTRUCTIONS!

Yeah, there are academic applications like writing your name on your paper and things like that. But for Pete’s sake, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been late getting out of the house because, after telling her to do it 5 times, my daughter STILL hasn’t gone to get her shoes (not to mention the times we’ve actually driven off and made it onto the freeway before turning the car around and heading back home after finally noticing that she didn’t follow instructions and get her shoes/teddy bear/backpack whatever). My son can’t even master “wipe/flush/wash”. Suffice it to say they can use as much practice following instructions as they can get. Lego instructions are ingeniously illustrated. No words. They’re purely visual, so even my 3.5-year-old can keep up with his (almost) 1st grader sister. And if you don’t follow the instructions the piece just doesn’t turn out. With respect to Lego instructions we have a rule in our house. Whenever we get a new set the kids have to sit down with Dorkdaddy and follow the instructions to build it to completion FIRST. After that they can destroy it and let the pieces mingle with the half-dozen other sets that have laid to rest in our Lego bucket (’cause you know once that happens the set is never, ever going to be put together again).

One benefit of Legos that I wasn’t aware of when I was a child, but is crystal clear in my mind now as a father of three: their direct application as impliments of torture. I propose that when the prisoners at Guantanimo Bay are sleeping we sneak in and sprinkle a few Lego blocks on the floor around their beds. Because I’ll tell you this – when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, or to hold the baby, or to let the cat in/out and I step on one of those bricks with my bare foot, I’ll give you the locations of three chemical weapons plants whether or not I know where they actually are.

Happy building.

Get a picture ’cause this is the last time you’ll see all these bricks assembled in the way they were intended.

-Dork Dad

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