Archive | September, 2012

Attic Shopping

28 Sep

‘ve mentioned before how all of my childhood toys are squirreled away in our attic. My kids, Episode V in particular, are very well aware of the treasures that lay hidden up there. Whenever we have occasion to go up in the attic my son stands at the bottom of the ladder and stares up into what I imagine in his mind has to be Valhalla, The Promised Land, The Land Of Milk And Honey. He knows that every once in a while his DorkDaddy will come down with a rare and priceless artifact, resurrected from the distant past and delivered into the eager arms of a little boy in today’s world.

(Pixar, are you listening? “Toy Story 4” should be about the day that Andy pulls all his old toys down from the attic and gives them to his son)

Just some of the treasures to behold.

Stairway to heaven.

And on the rarest occasion, every blue moon, I have allowed Episode V to climb up the stairway to heaven and poke his head through while I dug around up there for one knick-knack or another. You see, my son has seen The Promised Land. He knows exactly where it is (above our garage), and he will do anything to get there. So it was this morning.

Tonight is the homecoming football game for my high school 20th reunion. I’m going to bring Episode IV and V and we’re going to get dressed up in whatever high school gear I can dig up. (Yes, I still fit in my letterman’s jacket. Don’t ask me if I can button it up in front. I don’t know and I’m not even going to try.) I went up to the attic to find some of my old jerseys for the kids to wear and for the first time I let Episode V come all the way up into the attic with me. He sat there totally rapt, spellbound, completely stunned and unable to absorb the magnificence that lay before him (thankfully he didn’t notice the Xmas presents hiding in the corner just out of sight).

Thousands of comic books.

You see, in the attic are all the collectables I have managed to save over the better part of four decades. There are literally thousands of comic books, all bagged and boarded, neatly packed away in boxes and just waiting to be read when the next generation is old enough to appreciate them. There are autographed pictures of the superheroes of yesteryear (Adam West, Burt Ward, Mark Hamill, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels…). There are tubs filled to the brim with mint-condition, carded Star Wars action figures from 15 years ago, and a mountain of well-loved, well-worn Star Wars action figures from 15 years before those. There are movie posters, baseball cards, puzzles, boardgames, models, spaceships, playsets, books…

One of many bins stuffed to the gills with mint-contidion, never opened Star Wars action figures.

In all honesty I struggle with when (*IF*) I’m going to bestow all these treasures on my progeny. Someday I know I’ll use much of it to decorate Episode VI’s Star Wars themed bedroom – whenever we can scrounge up enough money to add a bedroom onto the house. The rest will have to wait until my kids are old enough to appreciate all those treasures for what they are and take care of them appropriately.

A rare and well-loved vintage.

But today at least, when I was up there with my 4-year-old boy, watching him sit there mouth agape, eyes blinded and watering from the pure brilliance of it all as if he was staring into the sun itself, I had to smile. Where my wife sees our attic as something out of an episode of “hoarders”, and I see it as an extension of the Smithsonain Natural History museum, I imagine Episode V sees it as something akin to the final scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – a warehouse filled with the world’s most precious and valuable treasures beyond the comprehension, completely overlooked by the rest of the world, the contents of which are only known to an elite few and accessible to even fewer. Indiana Jones didn’t know it way back in 1981, but he would return to that warehouse in 2008 for the opening scene of his 4th movie, just as someday my son will return to the attic above our garage to claim its riches for his own.

 

The attic.

 

-Dork Dad

Media Dads

26 Sep

hen I got into dadblogging I dove into the larger dadblogging community to see what was out there, what the culture was like. We were still feeling the pain of the Great Recession, many fathers found themselves Stay-At-Home Dads (SAHD’s). Instead of pouring their souls into a 9-5 job for a paycheck, they put everything they had into the 5-9 job of raising their children. For many of them their blogs were a release, and a way of connecting with a broader community of like-minded people, and in doing so they found that one of the things they had in common was the fact that they took exception to the way dads were generally portrayed in the media. These were fathers who were giving everything they had to being the best fathers they could be. They justifiably took a lot of pride in that fact, and suddenly realized that the media at large tended to give fathers (and fatherhood) a bum wrap.

By way of example, check out how the dads are depicted in this movie trailer:

Fathers in sitcoms were typically portrayed as perhaps well-meaning, but ultimately incompetent dunderheads. Fathers in children’s movies rarely played a positive role, if they were present at all (there isn’t a father-figure to be found in the “Toy Story” films). Television commercials were aimed primarily at women/mothers, and if fathers were depicted at all they were shown as absolutely incompetent, facepalm inducing idiots who are completely flummoxed by adhesive diaper tabs, who check sports scores on their phones during their kids’ recitals, etc… In real economic terms, major corporations were investing in mommy-blogs (Disney now owns Babble.com), and reaching out to the mommy-market. Fathers were largely overlooked (as opposed to “men”, who are aggressively marked to by beer, nudie magazines and the NFL).

I’ll be the first person to admit I feed into these stereotypes. I joke with my patients all the time about how without our wives we men would be a bunch of feral animals roaming the streets – it’s the women in our lives who civilize us. Whenever I lecture I show a picture of me and my wife and make the joke “My life is like almost every sitcom or commercial you see on TV — some fat slob married to an incredibly hot chick. Every day of my life is like an episode of ‘King of Queens’ or ‘Accordng to Jim’. I don’t know why the universe works out this way, I’m just glad it does.” Of course I’m joking, but from the perspective of the dad-bloggers who came before me, my jokes are part of the problem.

The King of Queens

At first I thought dadbloggers’ outrage (Perhaps the word “outrage” is too inflamitory, given the current political environment in our country. But I’m about to make another political reference so we’ll go with it.) was a little like sentiment behind current efforts to contain voter-fraud on the national stage – which is to say outrage towards a problem that really doesn’t exist. But now that I was aware that it was “a thing” I was more in tune, and I saw what the dadbloggers were reacting against.

Maybe it’s the scientist in me, but being “in tune” means seing both sides of any equation. As I consume media with a little more of an eye towards how dads are portrayed, my attention is also drawn to portrayals of dads doing it right. Some time ago I posted about how fast my daughter is growing up, and I linked to the following two commercials which I think paint dads in a really good light.

This blog was originally intended to be a celebration of dads doing it right. I realize how self-serving that sounds given the fact that I usually blog about me and my family, but I try to bring in as much external stuff as I can. In that spirit I’d like to share a few more examples of commercials I’ve run across that reflect well on fathers and fatherhood. Watch and enjoy:

This Dorkdaddy.com blogging experiment has put me in touch with innumerable dads who are consistently doing it right. In fact just last week through a mutual friend on Facebook I met a dad who, not even a week after I published what I thought was sure to get me a nomination for “Father of the Year“, published his own bit of digital fathering awesomeness that totally blew mine out of the water (/shakes fist at R.F). They are an inspiration and validation for dads everywhere. If nothing else they are shining examples of the notion that there is very little in the world more valuable in the life of a child than a father who’s all-in.

To all you dads out there doing it right, I salute you.

Clark Kent’s Lunchbox

& Squatch Makes 3

A Daddy Blog

Always Jacked

How To Be A Dad

…and so many more.

-Dork Dad

Parents Are Stone-Cold Gangsta’s

20 Sep

ll you mutha’s and fatha’s in da house, you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout. Ah yea. Das right. You ‘da schizznit.

*ugh* Enough of that. I think I just broke something.

What is it about parenting that draws so many parallels to the Thug Life. Maybe it’s the chilling blood feuds between warring factions (kids v. adults). Maybe it’s the constant, rhythmic repetition — saying the same things over and over and over and over and over that makes us all sound like gangster rappers.

Maybe it’s the fact that we like to roll up in a dope new ride tricked out with all latest spinners, hydraulics, tinted windows and bullet proof paneling.

Or maybe it’s that soul-chilling dead look behind the eyes that comes only after witnessing countless horrific atrocities beyond the scope of normal human existence; when a life outside the current reality is less than a distant memory and you know in the core of your empty, hollowed-out soul that your life has absolutely no meaning.

What? You aren’t a parent?

Don’t even pretend you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

-Dork “D-money” Daddy

 

Project: Optimus – More Than Meets The Eye

18 Sep

awesome

 

 

letter while watching an episode of the classic 1984 animated “Transformers” with my 4 year old son I had a moment of insanity. “Hey buddy,” I said. “You want me to make you an Optimus Prime costume for Halloween?” It was like I was removed from my body, watching the words come out of my mouth without stoping to think about the complexities of the promise I was making. Naturally I couldn’t take the offer back, and my son agreed on the spot; and just like that…

…I was committed.

Here is the evolution of the costume as it developed over the past few months.

Step 1. Proof Of Concept

I started off just wrapping my head around how to build Optimus. It seemed to me the chest/body was the right place to start. So purely as a proof of concept I slapped together a few cereal boxes I cobbled together over the course of an hour or two just to see if it had a hope of working. If nothing else it gave me a starting point and a little direction. Right away you notice the chest/windshield is out of proportion. On version 2.0 it would have to be reworked.

Step 2. Shoulders/Pauldrons

When we passed the proof-of-concept the next logical extension was the shoulders. At first I thought they seemed out of proportion as well and would have to be downsized later. Turns out they were just right and carried through all the way to the end.

Step 3. The Important Part

When my son figured out I was serious about this Optimus Prime costume idea, his first question to me was “Can I have Optimus Prime’s gun too?” (naturally) A quick trip to Home Depot for some PVC pipe (and a ton of hot glue sticks) was all it took to build this. The intention was to spraypaint it black. Turns out the gun was just a little too big and heavy for my son to manage, especially with the gloves that you’ll see later in the project. He has since lost interest in the gun.

If the project warranted a trip to Home Depot, I supposed it was worth getting serious about. So here you also see the re-engineered, re-scaled chest/windshield and front grill. The dimensions here looked good enough to move on with the project. I made two more pieces to finish out the torso… an “abdomen” that fit inside the chest piece behind the grill, and the pelvis which slipped just over the “abdomen”. All parts were independent of one another and stayed attached with heavy-duty velcro purchased at the arts and crafts store.

(note how clean the countertop is in this picture. That changes pretty dramatically)

Step 4. Das Boot

If my kid was going to be trick-or-treating in this getup, mobility was going to be key. Initially I planned on making the feet independent from the rest of the boots, to maximize mobility. As it turned out, with that arrangement there was nothing to keep the “boot” portion from spinning around his legs while he walked. It became very cumbersome. Eventually I wound up fixing the feet to the boots. Hot-gluing a pair of old crocs that my son didn’t like/wear into the feet, and attaching those feet to the boots gave him infinitely more control while he walked. No more spinning boots.

For effect I extended the height of the boots above his kneecaps in front, but lowered it below the knee’s natural bending point in back. Walks like a champ in ‘em.

Step 5. Survey The Damage

It’s generally not smart to charge ahead too quickly with these sorts of things. You need to stop periodically to look at the project as a whole, get your head around the challenges, and think strategically about what’s next.

Note: “what’s next” did not involve cleaning up the countertop.

Step 6. Arms Race

Next came the arms and hands, which again took a little trial and error engineering. I made the two pieces attach in the crook of the elbow with another piece of strong velcro to allow for proper bending. The upper arm portions were otherwise completely free. I tossed around a number of ideas for the hands, but ultimately settled on some cheap-o felt gloves we found at Toys-R-Us on clearance. It turns out that was the right way to go. A 4-year-old’s dexterity isn’t developed enough to adapt to anything more bulky than simple gloves. Hockey gloves may look more robot-y, but the kid has to be able to manage a trick-or-treet bag afterall.

Step 7. Beta Testing

Captain Cereal Box

With all the major pieces built it was time to try them on all together, to see where the kinks were. Notice the bend at the top of the shoulders that required reinforcing. It was also clear that the upper arm segments were restricting his arm motion. He was compensating well enough, but the arms were going to require some more thought, either to make them more articulate, or to re-engineer them completely.

We picked up an Optimus helmet at Toys-R-Us this day just so he could “complete” the costume. It was tempting to say “this is it” and skip making the helmet alltogether, but this costume was going to be strictly G1 Transformers (1984), and the helmet was obviously Michael Bay-Transformers, so it was just a stand-in. On the plus side, it did have a button you could press to hear Peter Cullen’s voice say, “Autobots, roll out!” and “Decepticons are on the move! Transform!” and “I am Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots!”

Totally worth it.

Step 8. Time For Paint

With all the major pieces fine-tuned, the next logical step was the paintjob. I don’t mind saying that when I put the painted pieces together for the first time I totally got the chills. This was the point when I knew the project was going to be a success. I couldn’t stop giggling to myself as I took pictures and texted them off to my interested friends. It would not be the last time.

Tee Hee

Step 9. Detailing

Some paper towel and wrapping paper tubes worked perfectly for some of the detailing. I canibalized some tires off of an old tonka truck and hot glued them on to finish the boots. Gotta say, they worked out perfectly. I printed out the sky-ish reflections to use on the chest/windshield, put a layer of plastic over that to make it look glassy, and laid the red frames around the windows to give it a little depth. All this was done while the kids were at swimming lessons. When they came back my 6-year-old daughter said “Daddy, how do you make it look so real?”

Step 10. Performance Art

Cutemus Prime

I wanted to see if the new details effected his mobility at all, as well as assess any potential weaknesses that would need to be addressed. It turns out 4-year-olds in cereal boxes aren’t naturally aware of how much wider they are shoulder-to-shoulder. Not surprisingly he kept knocking off the shoulder mounted exhaust pipes. Lesson learned. More hot-glue is better on those things. Additionally you see here just how constricting the upper arm segments were. This was the point where I decided that we were going to do away with them entirely and replace them simply with a long sleeved red shirt.

We got a little silly on this photo shoot, complete with “Optimus Jazz-Hands” and big sister photo-bombs. The good news is the outfit passed muster with Big Cousin’s visiting French Bulldog.

Ferdinand, transform and roll out!!

Step 11. Head Games

There was no way to avoid it. The next portion to attack had to be the helmet/facemask. The helmet portion was simple enough. A quick trip down to the used sporting-goods store for a batting helmet was the perfect choice for both comfort and stability. The earpieces though, those were the buggers. It turned out those were the most difficult part of the entire project. Initially I imagined they would be all one piece, and I went crazy designing a pattern that would fold up into just the right shape. As you can see they came out rediculously bulky and flared away from the face, which wasn’t going to work when it came time to add the mask.

Despite the oragami heroics I went through (yes, those ear pieces are one solid piece of cardboard cut out and folded up just-so) I had to ditch the design and rethink it completely.

Step 12. Headgear

So I attacked the headgear from the perspective that the ear and face segments would be seperate. After working the ears and antenna it was pretty clear that this was the right way to go. They hugged the head much more like what I was going for. Naturally this necessitated an entirely new round of oragami heroics to make the faceplates, and making in such a way as to accomidate the mask that connected them both. Ultimately I think it worked out pretty well though.

Step 13. Face-Off

This was the second time I got a chill up my spine during the project. Paint applied, I stepped back and looked at the helmet and thought to myself “Sh*t just got real.” As it happens, making the earpieces and the facepiece seperate has the advantage of being able to remove the facepiece for comfort and candy-eating, while keeping the helmet on and staying in character. Bonus! Originally I thought I might have to fabricate a cardboard “nose” going from the mask to the inside of the helmet just behind the bill to stabalize the facepiece. A couple of well-placed pieces of that extra strength velcro at the base of the ears to hold the facepiece in place and it stays surprisingly well.

Another bonus: Now that you have two Optimus Prime helmets in the house (remember the Toys-R-Us stand-in), you and your buddy can totally geek-out together.

Step 14. Fine Tuning

Some thigh-pieces hot-glued to a tired pair of sweat pants perfectly filled in the last missing piece of the outfit. After that, a little paint added to the pelvis and toe caps, followed by the most important detail of all on the left shoulder, and suddenly we’re in business.

Oh… and see those lights mounted on top of the windshield/chest? They really work. Keychain lights from Ace Hardware. $1 a piece.

Step 15. Teaser

This was the teaser I sent to some close friends and family who were following the costume’s progression day-by-day:

Step 16. Transformed

transformed

And here it is, all done. I can’t even tell you how stoked both me and my son were when he finally put on the finished costume. The neighbors laughed at me when I started this project back in June. But we’ll have the last laugh when we ring their doorbell in a month and a half with the most kickass Optimus Prime costume the neighborhood’s ever seen.

It’s worth noting that the person in the house most excited about the costume wasn’t me, or even my son wearing the costume. It was my baby son. When his big brother walked into the room in full Optimus Prime regalia, the baby jumped up and down in his exersaucer like a jackhammer and screamed with delight.

“My brother is a Transformer?! AWESOME!! I *knew* it!!”

And there you have it. That’s how I built an Optimus Prime costume in my own garage over the course of 3.5 months.

-Dork Dad

Dante’s 10th Level

10 Sep

f Dante had lived in the 21st century he would have written about 10 levels of Hell instead of 9, and the last ones would have been called “Violence,” “Fraud,” “Treachery” and “Costco on a Sunday afternoon”. Normally Costco on a Sunday afternoon is something to avoid like Dennis Rodman’s “delicates” drawer, but there are times you just can’t avoid it.

So it was that I found myself there yesterday, taking the Costco bullet for my wife. As anyone who’s been to Costco knows, they wisely set up the mancandy just inside the front door while you’re still feeling flush and upbeat, before the beat-down that occurs over the next 40 minutes until you’re waiting in the checkout line with $350 of cheese sticks, pasta sauce and toilet paper. I walked through those big gaping doors to find myself face-to-face with an 80-inch piece of paradise trapped like a jewel in the blackest night of Dante’s 10th level. For a brief moment I could hear the angels sing as I basked in the radiant glow of the promise of eternal happiness.

Pictures of surgically-sculpted, scantily-clad swimsuit and lingerie models have remarkably less effect on me since I married the perfect woman. But this… this is the sort of thing I could stare at a picture of and fantasize about for hours and hours when my wife is fast asleep, or when nobody else is looking. Sure, I feel a little dirty about it, but I’m only human… and a guy. You know how it is. Guys have needs.

I snapped a quick picture of it on my cell phone and texted it to a few people who I know would appreciate it. The texts I got back were amusing, and worth sharing. Be advised though, some of them are a little off-color. If that sort of thing offends you perhaps it’s best that you don’t read any further.

Here was the photo I sent out, and the text responses I got back throughout the day:

 

I have a new yardstick with which to measure my manhood… and it measures 80″

 

Captain Finland: Dear lord. That’s huge…

…that’s what she said

 

Brew-meister: Did you buy the 80”??

Me: I wish. It comes complete with divorce attorney referrals.

Brew-meister: 10-4

 

Lurch: Uhhhh LCD uhhhhhhhh (drooling) *

*(note: I’ve known Lurch since high school. This is the most articulate he’s ever been.)

 

Mr. Practical: I need surround-sound first before I can have something that big. That would take family movie night to a whole new level. *

*(note: as practical as this response was, Mr. Practical managed to hit “reply all” when he sent it, which in turn sparked off an entirely different tier of levity)

 

Me: I have a new yardstick for measuring my manhood <<picture>>

The Bachelor: Yardstick? Impressive! Costco baby! Chris Harrison never loomed so large.

 

Then my favorite exchange of the day:

Me: I need this to be a better person <<picture>>

Assistant: Yes, I’m glad you finally found what it means to be a good person.

Me: It’s cheaper than a Porsche.

Assistant: But you can’t take it to brag and schmooze to other dental offices like you could a Porsche. Plus, you’ll only get about 10 minutes in front of it in the evenings before you fall asleep.

Me: There’s a joke there.

Assistant: I know. Your poor wife. ;)

 

Then this one came through from my wife:

UnDorkMommy: You need to clean up that puddle of drool by the big screen and get some juice boxes 100% juice while you’re at it.

And with that needle-scratch off the record the fantasy was ruined. The balloon was deflated and back into Dante’s 10th level I went.

 

-Dork Dad

No Good Deed…

5 Sep

o we had this brief moment of zen this weekend. My daughter came out of her high-drama, ego-centric, 6-year-old-world for a moment and took notice of her baby brother (she’s actually pretty good about him, but the world of a 6-year-old can be incredibly narrow and self-centered).

She was in a good mood. He was in a good mood. I sat them together on my favorite chair and managed to get some pictures on my iPhone. It was like a dream. My normally camera-averse daughter and where’s-my-food baby were forging the loving bond of siblinghood right before my eyes. I was so full of fatherly love.

It started out so sweet – all smiles.

There was some posing for the camera.

There were some tickles.

You could see the moment when they forgot about the camera and were just there with each other.

It was a moment of perfection. They were happy, and into it. I was happy and getting the pictures. The clouds parted. The light poured into the room. The angels sang. Suddenly it seemed all things were possible. If a moment like this could happen, surely Democrats and Republicans can work together. Certainly Firefly could come back for another season. Surely the nations of the world could come together to end poverty and forge world peace.

Then this happened…

/THUMBEYESCREAMCRYDRAMA!!!

/facepalm

-Dork Dad

The Cupboard Under The Stairs

4 Sep

t around 1:30 yesterday afternoon my facebook status update read “Painting the baby’s new ‘room’”.

A friend replied “You need to stop doing all these projects. You’re making me feel lazy”.

My response, “We haven’t slept for 3 weeks around here. This is an act of desperation”.

All the “experts” tell you that right around 6 months is when a baby develops will-power. It’s good to know Episode VI’s development is right on schedule, because over the past three weeks he has definitely made his opinion known.

Sleep. Sleep is the primary bone of contention.

After doing cartwheels, and rain-dances, and goodness knows what else to get him down, he lasts for about an hour and a half before he realizes that he isn’t

A)    In our bed with us

B)     Attached to Mommy’s all-you-can-eat wet bar

And oh does he make his feelings known about that. We’ve read all the books. We’ve been to all the websites. We have the previous experience of two older kids to draw on. At 3:30am it’s all bullsh*t. After three weeks we were ready to break. Something had to give. Something had to change. It may not make a damn bit of difference, but we need to get the baby out of our room.

Ain’t that the truth.

When we moved into our house things were just right. We had two kids and three bedrooms, enough for everyone. When we found out we were going for the trilogy, the plan was to add a bedroom onto the house this past summer. The real estate market being what it is in California, we didn’t have enough equity to finance it with a re-fi, which meant the addition was going to have to be a cash project. Sadly, we didn’t have a spare $65,000 lying around so the project didn’t happen.

We could put the baby in with one of the other kids, plenty of people do it that way and do fine. But things are so dicy around the house, with parents being outnumbered by children, sleep-deficit at historic highs, an over-dramatic 1st grader adjusting to school and everything else on top, we just couldn’t entertain the thought of putting the other kids’ sleep at risk.

Things get ugly when Daddy doesn’t get enough sleep.

Where to put the baby? Where to put the baby?

The garage is spacious, but drafty.

The Thule box on top of the minivan might work, but it would be tough to get him in and out.

The playhouse in the backyard might work, but the cat brings all her half-mutilated rat/bird/mole kills there and leaves the gore for us to find 3 days later when the maggots and smell finally draw our attention. That place gives me the creeps.

Not our car, but you get the idea.

So with grim resolve my wife and I spent the long weekend moving out of our 6’x 8’ closet. She put all her clothes in my daughter’s closet that they will share for the foreseeable future, and all my stuff went in the coat closet by the front door so my neighbors can watch me get dressed in the morning through the living room window. By 4:30 yesterday the closet had a new, fresh coat of boy-baby colored paint, and by 9:00 my wife and I fell asleep to the smell of paint fumes coming from the closet 18” away. (Don’t worry, we didn’t sleep much. The baby still had us up every 1.5 hours.) This week UnDorkMommy will order some cutsie decals to babify the space, followed by baseboards to be installed by me and my father this weekend and then that’s right…

…we’re moving our baby into the closet.

Like Harry Potter, our son will be the boy in the cupboard under the stairs.

…except it’s a closet, not a cupboard. And we don’t have any stairs.

I have an old friend who’s a psychotherapist. I can’t wait to hear the ribbing she’s going to give me. If Episode VI ever needs therapy in the future, I imagine this will be the right place to start.

-Dork Dad

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