What Dad REALLY Wanted For Father’s Day

7 Jul

fathers day header

letter So now that Father’s Day is firmly in the rear-view mirror and Dad has had a chance to drink coffee in his new kid-painted coffee mug, or perhaps even wear the new tie(s) he got, it’s time to let the world in on a little secret.

As much as we appreciate the little tchotchkes, and we really do, we dads secretly hold out hope that the Father’s Day Fairy will bring something just a little different next year. These are things we’ve likely tripped over on the internet and inadvertently slipped into an hours-long “dude, how cool would that be?” daydream while we pretend to work.

So the next time Father’s Day (or a birthday, or an anniversary, or Christmas) rolls around and you want to do something completely irresponsible for the DorkDad in your life, consider one of the following gifts. I guarantee you you’ll get the wide-eyed “Oh my GAWD! That is SO FREAKING COOL!!!” reaction. When it happens, be sure to get a video and share it on Facebook.

Without further ado, here are three things he REALLY wants for Father’s Day:

 The DL44-Blaster from Episode IV.

The “Maker’s Movement” has seen a huge rise in hobbyists crafting their own fandom. If you want that movie-accurate iron man armor there are countless tutorials on YouTube to show you exactly how to make it in your own garage. You want to make a classic Star Trek communicator, no problem. Here’s where to get the parts and how to put them together.

In that vein I recently came across DL44blaster’s Instagram page and instantly I knew “I must have one.” There he showcases photos of the most movie-accurate replicas of Han Solo’s original blaster from the original Star Wars film you will ever come across. This prop replica may not mean anything to you, but a true Star Wars enthusiast will know it immediately.

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As opposed to the toys you can buy in the store these are cast metal, so they have some real heft to give them authenticity. They also have a locking hammer and functioning trigger and they feel damn real. Rest assured, they are only cast from the original Mauser pistols, so the external detailing is exquisite, but the barrels aren’t even hollow. They don’t shoot bullets, but I can personally guarantee that the *pew pew* works perfect.

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DL44blaster himself is a hotel hospitality worker, who builds these things as a hobby in his spare time, and what you realize very early on is that more than quality parts, these prop replicas are made with pure love. Mine sits on my desk at work (I really need to figure out a display stand/case) and it gives me joy every time I look at it.

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Head on over to DL44Blaster’s ETSY page to see what sort of awesomeness you can get Dad next Father’s Day. And if you’re really interested about how crazy the “Maker’s Movement” can be, take a look at Adam Savage’s one-day-build for the same prop.

The Hat

Let’s be clear. We dads wouldn’t change anything about our lives. We love our families desperately. They are our dream come true. But parenthood can be taxing and you can’t blame us for remembering with fondness the wild-stallion days of years (decades) gone past. If we were wild stallions in our youth, sometimes the drudgery of parenthood can make you feel like that moth-eaten pony at the carnival who keeps going around and around in circles, walking in his own poop. If the DorkDaddy in your life needs an infusion of bad-assness, I’ve got the prescription.

The success of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and its sequels suddenly made the fedora relevant again. Fanboys could try to get a little of the Indiana Jones swagger by donning a replica brown fedora. But replicas are just that – replicas. Even the ones they sell at Disneyland just never looked right.

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As it was, the company in England that made Indiana Jones’s original fedora closed down shortly after the release of the original move. There were enough copies of the hat made to get through the two sequels, but the original templates and techniques used for his iconic hat were lost for all time. Over the years one hat maker, Steve Delk of the AdventureBilt Hat Company, became known as the best at replicating Indie’s iconic look. He used tradecraft from 100 years ago (who knew beaver felt was even a thing?) to make an Indie fedora that was without peer. When it came time to select a hat maker for Indiana Jones IV, Steve’s hat was chosen and his hats went from being the best Indie replicas to being the *ACTUAL* hat.

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Steve lives in Missouri and is still making hats. Each one is custom fit and hand-made for the wearer. In a world filled with assembly-line, factory made, mass produced junk, there is something very magical about putting on something of this quality – even without the connection to Indiana Jones. If you think the DorkDaddy in your life would appreciate *THE* Indiana Jones fedora, head on over to Steve’s Website.

The Hat

I promise the Father in your life can’t help but feel like a badass when he puts this hat on.

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Almost two years ago, in anticipation of my 40th birthday, I wrote this blog post about a group of fans who restored one of the original, most iconic set pieces of the original Star Wars movie way out in the wilderness of Tunisia. I the piece I quipped about how I needed to see these places before I died, how my 40th birthday was the perfect excuse, and lamented about how I had nobody to go with me and actually make it happen. Then my amazing cousin sent me a text message and long story short, 10 months later she and I were walking in the real sands of Tatooine (or Tataouine as the actual Tunisian city is spelled).

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Simply put, if the DorkDad in your life is a Star Wars nerd, there is no holier ground than South West Tunisia.

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Yes, the American media has given a lot of air time to Middle East unrest spreading into the largely Westernized, primarily Mediterranean Tunisia. In conversations with my contact there the question was asked “Would you tell someone not to visit France because of what happened to Charlie Hebdo? Would you tell them not to go to church in the United States because of what’s been happening in The South of your country?”

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I can’t speak to any of that. All I can say is that Tunisia is an amazing place. The people there are generous, and friendly and my experience there was nothing short of life-changing.


Now think about the DorkDad in your life. You have nearly 6 months until Christmas… a year before next Father’s Day. Imagine the look on his face when he opens his present to find a shiny new DL-44 Blaster, authentic Indiana Jones fedora, or plane ticket to Tunisia.

-Dork Dad

DorkDaddy Strikes Back!

12 Jun

PopSecret Header

 

 

letter I generally try to limit the sponsored posts on this blog to truly worthy material. Goodness knows I certainly don’t blog for the money. But recently an opportunity came my way that I just couldn’t say “no” to. I knew that if everything worked out the way I hoped, it had the potential to become one of the most EPIC experiences in this whole blogging adventure.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, there’s a new Star Wars™ movie coming out in December. The entire dorkosphere has been buzzing for the last 18 months and as we get closer to the release things are reaching a fever pitch. Brands who want to tie in to the movie’s release have to do their groundwork NOW so that they’re ready when the movie launches. So it was with popcorn mogul Pop*Secret, who recently approached the Life of Dad Network to help promote their new Star Wars™-theme line of pre-popped popcorn as part of their #PopWars campaign. The folks at Life of Dad, knowing full-well my Star Wars™ fandom qualifications, approached me and a few other dadbloggers to get the job done (for which we were compensated — full disclosure).

 

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Our task: to get the word out that

  • Pop Secret enhances at-home movie nights with family and friends, especially if that movie is from the Star Wars™ saga.

  • Pop Secret’s new pre-popped popcorn line, with delicious flavors including: Salted, Homestyle, Kettle Corn, White Cheddar, and the new Extra Cheesy, makes movie time a cinch since the snack is already made!

  • Pop Secret’s new packaging features favorite characters from the Star Wars™ saga and fun trivia to test your knowledge.

  • Pop Secret delivers quality products that you can be happy to share with family and friends.

Our instructions were to craft a video showing how eating Pop*Secret brand Star Wars™-themed pre-popped popcorn gave our families The Force (as if I needed an excuse to make a Star Wars™-themed movie staring my family) and man-oh-man did the dadbloggers come through. At the bottom of this post you will find links to their various submissions.

But let’s just put it out there:

You don’t just tell this DorkDaddy to make a Star Wars™-themed video starring my family and not expect me to knock it out of the park!!

Suffice it to say, we pulled out all the stops. For one glorious afternoon my kids and I filmed a script I’d whipped up two days before. Special thanks goes out to UnDorkMommy who had to put up with us taking over the house for an entire afternoon, and even more thanks to my buddy Ron Fugelseth who got as excited about the project as I was. We tried to get his kids/family into the project but alas, time wouldn’t allow it. Thanks also needs to be given to my sister, “Auntie Lala” who makes a guest appearance, the addition of which makes the entire project that much more Star Warsy.

Needless to say we had the time of our lives. There was more laughter than anything else, and after one amazing afternoon of shooting, and a couple weeks of agonizing post-production work, I’m proud to say this is our finished product:

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But wait, it gets better. Our video submissions are part of a contest… a contest which *YOU* are encouraged to enter yourself. You too can create your own video showing how Pop*Secret’s Star Wars™-themed pre-popped popcorn gives your family the force, and submit it to Life of Dad’s Pop*Secret page. At the end of the #PopWars campaign the creator of the winning video will receive a prize worth more than $1000 in Star Wars™ merchandise. Be sure to plaster #PopWars all over your social media outlets when you share it.

If you do submit a video, please also don’t forget to share it with me here. Put a link in the comments of this post and I’ll happily share it on DorkDaddy.com’s facebook/twitter pages.

 

-Dork Dad

 

Ask Your Dad Blog’s video

Designer Daddy’s video

DadNCharge’s video and his Epic Trailer

Raising Sienna’s video

The Rock Father’s video

Dad Of Divas’s video

GayNYCDad’s video

Post Post Modern Dad’s video

Dad And Burried’s video

Metaphor For Life

27 Feb

Metaphor header     letter A few Saturday mornings ago Episode IV and I were snuggling together in bed talking about her upcoming birthday: “So you’re going to be nine pretty soon” I said. “That’s pretty cool, huh?” “You know what that means, Daddy.” “What?” “That means I’m half way done with living in your house.” *input the sound of a grown man getting punched in the solar plexus* Before I go on any further, watch the video below. The reveal happens at about 0:09. I promise it isn’t what you think it’s gonna be. That’s how it’s always been with her. One day when she was 16 months old she just decided “Today is the day I’m going to start walking”. No lead up. No rehearsal. No preparation. Just *BOOM*. Off she went. “See ya, folks! I’m out’a here!” When she learned how to ride a bike it was pretty much the same thing. When this girl decides she’s going to do something, there is absolutely nothing in the world that can tell her she can’t do it. My mother likes to tease me that it wasn’t my academic prowess that got me into dental school. I got in on pure moxie. She’s probably right. It’s no mystery where Episode IV got it. If you knew her, the fact that she asked for a unicycle for Xmas wouldn’t surprise you… in the big picture. In the moment though, sitting there over raviolis and mashed potatoes when she made the request, I’d be lying if I said that UnDorkMommy and I weren’t a little shell-shocked. We exchanged looks as if to say “WTF?!” because seriously, what 8yo girl asks for a unicycle for Xmas? Apparently mine does. So courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa, a unicycle is exactly what she got. in the store I was convinced it was going to go one of two ways. Either she was going to try it once or twice, figure out that it was too hard and move on, or it was going to be 6 months of Saturdays at the elementary school basketball court while my little drama queen got mad at the unicycle for not doing what she wanted it to do.   As it turns out it only took 4 practice sessions. That’s it. Done. Off she went.       I love that my girl doesn’t accept the notion that there are things in this world she cannot do. When she makes up her mind how things are going to go, there is no discussion. That’s just the way it’s going to be. That will serve her well in life, in this world that is tougher for women than it is for men. I am especially proud of the fact that, as opposed to her slacker father, she is willing to put in all the hard work necessary to make it impossible for anyone to tell her “no”. So consider this a warning: If you happen to sit on the admissions board at Stanford University in about nine years, be advised. My daughter is coming for you, and she won’t take “no” for an answer.   -Dork Daddy

For Oren

24 Feb

Oren header

letter Our friend Oren is done. There is no more treatment. There is only precious little time for goodbyes and impotent words to describe the feelings.

To everyone who helped raise funds for his family through our t-shirt campaign, you have my immeasurable thanks. Between our efforts and those of so many others, over $30,000 was raised, and it made a huge difference. But I’ll tell you who made a difference.

Oren Miller made a difference.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I started this blog because I was lonely.

It wasn’t that there weren’t any people in my life. It was that there weren’t a lot of people who could relate to the specific life I was having… the life of an engaged, caring (dorky) husband and father. I had visions of this blog becoming a hub for other nerdy dads to come together and share their love for nerdiness and fatherhood.

And then I found Oren’s group. It’s a community of fathers and bloggers that started off small and has grown to over 1000 members strong. It’s a support group where we can come together for advice. It’s a therapy session where we can find a virtual man-hug if we need one. It’s a safe place for us to share our victories, our failures, our laughter and a well-placed dick joke. It’s a community. It’s the community I needed. It’s the community more than 1000 of us needed.

Brent Almond at Dad 2.015

Brent Almond at Dad 2.015

Oren built that.

Not two days after hundreds of us returned from a powerfully positive, uplifting, life-affirming dadblogger conference, sharing our stories and our pictures and our misadventures, Oren – our friend and leader – shared with us the news:

The treatment wasn’t working. His body can’t handle it. There are no more options. The fight is over.

We love Oren and he has many legacies. Of course he has his children who, although they may not remember him well, have been immeasurably affected by his influence on their lives. Of course he has his writing, which exists on a talent-plane beyond the reach of all but the very best of us and will live inexorably on as long as there is an internet. But he also has this community, which he cobbled together. He built this community that I needed, that so many of us needed, and for that I can only say two words which sound so desperate, so weak, so insufficient:

Thank you.

Oren, count me among the chorus of lives in which you have made a profound difference. May your remaining time be spent with love, warmth and comfort. May you feel your children’s kisses on your face and may your ears be filled with the sound of their laughter. May you feel ever more clearly the warmth of your wife’s embrace. May you feel the sun as spring blooms and know peace in your heart. Know that there are men, writers, fathers all over the world holding you at the front of their hearts, grateful for the fact that you walked on this planet.

We love you. We will miss you.

Shalom.

Oren and son.

Oren and wife.

Oren and daughter.

Oren and family.

Your friend,

-Sam

Mycology

28 Dec

 

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letter Hiking is part of the routine around the DorkDaddy household. With three kids of varying maturity levels (and a dog with absolutely zero discipline) nature walks are usually more of an exercise in keeping your cool than they are Zen communing with nature. We live in the most spectacular redwood forests in California and it’s important to us that our kids learn to appreciate the natural world as much as the material world.

Episodes IV, VI and DorkDoggy.

Episodes IV, VI and DorkDoggy.

When our troupe isn’t bickering loud enough to scare away the wildlife, the redwood forest is a great opportunity for this DorkDaddy to display my encyclopedic knowledge of middle school-level science, and hopefully spread my enthusiasm for the subject. At this point Episodes IV and V could teach their own teachers a thing or two about banana slugs (arliomax californicus), ferns, conifers, life-cycles, photosynthesis, adaptations and natural selection. But on the down side, we’ve been through these forests so many times we’re running out of new things to discover and talk about.

A UCSC student having a mind-altering experience.

A UCSC student having a mind-altering experience.

This Christmas Eve morning we woke to a perfect, cloudless blue sky and decided it would be best for everyone to get out of the house for a walk before launching into the family obligations. Episode IV was already bitter about being forced to attend a church event for her cousin later in the day, so I was prepared for another bicker-fest hike, and indeed that’s how it started.

A beautiful cluster of... I don't k now the taxonomy here.

A beautiful cluster of… I don’t k now the taxonomy here.

“But I don’t want to go. Why do I have to go? It’s not fair that you’re making me go. We *ALWAYS* go to all of her things…” and on and on and on.

Zen communing with nature? I don’t think so.

Concentric fungal growth rings.

Concentric fungal growth rings.

But sometimes all it takes is a little bump to scratch the needle off the record, and as we walked (bickering) we began to notice that something was different about this trail we’d hiked a hundred times before. On past expeditions I’d taught my kids about producers (plants), consumers (animals) and decomposers (fungi, etc.) and in so doing explained that fungi flourish in a warm, dark, moist environment (like your gym socks). Recently our area had experienced torrential downpours, followed by unseasonably, ridiculously pleasant warm temperatures. Combine that with the decomposing leaf litter on a redwood forest floor and you have a fungal perfect storm.

We checked for Smurfs. There were none.

We checked for Smurfs. There were none.

Just like that we were shocked out of our standard bicker-fest and into a reverent (Zen communing with nature) frame of mind. There by our feet, along the trail we’ve walked countless times with jaded eyes, was a fungal firework display the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Anyone with their eyes open couldn’t help but bathe in wonder at nature’s splendor, and in the presence of such a marvel it was impossible to be snarky.

Lacy, jaw-droppingly beautiful fungi.

Lacy, jaw-droppingly beautiful fungi.

We walked the trail moving from discovery to discovery, indulging as much time as we wanted at each stop to take it all in. Episode IV and I waxed poetic about lifecycles, natural variation, and survival strategies. The conversation transitioned quite organically into the different ways that people choose to live their lives. Only now, as opposed to the snarky footing at the beginning of the hike, our conversation came from a more observant, philosophical posture. Instead of counting the minutes until we could get the kids back into the car, we lost ourselves in conversation, surrounded by a once-in-a-lifetime natural event.

We chose not to focus on what these were growing on.

We chose not to focus on what these were growing on.

For my part, I was able to have what I could only describe as the perfect outdoor experience: an intellectually stimulating conversation with someone I love, surrounded and inspired by natural wonder I have never seen before. For her part, Episode IV was able to come to an understanding about people who exist on different, sometimes seemingly incompatible points along the religious spectrum. She was able to reconcile how doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing and ultimately later that day she happily attended her cousin’s church event with no bitterness.

Standing sturdy and proud in the leaf litter.

Standing sturdy and proud in the leaf litter.

Not bad for a couple of silly mushrooms.

Best. Hike. Ever.

 

-Dork Dad

"Daddy, that one looks like it's made out of butter." Notice the banana slug sprinting away from us in the background.

“Daddy, that one looks like it’s made out of butter.” Notice the banana slug sprinting away from us in the background.

Editor’s note: I’m aware that this post comes off as more-or-less a photo blog. That’s OK. Every one of these pictures was taken within the scope of a single 60 minute hike. If anyone out there has some legitimate scientific knowledge about the species I’ve shared here, please pass it along. My reverence at the experience was almost matched by my frustration at the holes in my knowledge about what we were looking at.

Not all fungi look like umbrellas. These look more like antlers.

Not all fungi look like umbrellas. These look more like antlers.

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It was almost like they were breathing through their gills.

It was almost like they were breathing through their gills.

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We called this one "the brain."

We called this one “the brain.”

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These tiny mushrooms seemed to cascade down (or up) the wood.

These tiny mushrooms seemed to cascade down (or up) the wood.

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A funnel.

A funnel.

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I believe the yellow growth isn't fungi. If memory serves, it's what we call a slime-mold.

I believe the yellow growth isn’t fungi. If memory serves, it’s what we call a slime-mold.

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Pretty sure this is a slime-mold too.

Pretty sure this is a slime-mold too.

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I bet this one would give you some interesting dreams. (do *NOT* even think about it)

I bet this one would give you some interesting dreams. (do *NOT* even think about it)

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We had pancakes for breakfast. You can guess what we called this one.

We had pancakes for breakfast. You can guess what we called this one.

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Mushrooms the size of dinner plates.

Mushrooms the size of dinner plates.

 

 

 

Spending Season

9 Dec

spending season header

 

letter Tis the season when it feels like there’s money constantly going out the door and relatively little going in. Between end of the year expenses, property taxes and Xmas gifts and all the little unforeseen incidentals, it’s easy to feel a little financially deflated at the end of the year. As my dad used to joke when we were kids, as long as there are checks in the checkbook there’s money in the account, right?

This is a subject that’s been on my mind a lot lately. The debt-load you need to take on to become a dentist is nothing short of crushing, let alone a practice acquisition loan and a mortgage if you’re lucky. Weighed down by all that red ink it’s tough to look past the nose on your own face. Debt-reduction becomes something of a desperate quest and although my accountant assures me that paying off debt is exactly the same as building savings, I am acutely aware that I’m basically in survival mode — which is to say I’m paying off my debt, but my savings account isn’t anything I would call “comfortable”.

I’m just a few days away from turning 41. At best I’ve got another 30 workable years in me… if I’m lucky. My oldest is about to turn 9. That’s the 1/2 way point. The years we have to get her ready for college are just as few as the years we’ve had since she was born, and those years FLEW by.

I have realized that there are things a responsible member of society must do no matter how painful: Pay taxes, take care of your health (re: exercise), and financially plan for the future. That means it’s time to stop living week-to-week like we did in our 20’s and 30’s and start thinking about our 70’s and beyond. It’s time to start thinking about things like 401-k’s.

In short, it’s time to start saving.

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When you’re a moderately successful blogger *snort* sometimes opportunities present themselves to you. Recently I was invited to attend an event put on by ScholarShare, an organization that runs 529 accounts (I know… my eyes glaze over too with talk like that. But I have pledged to make this sort of knowledge part of the new “responsible” me… just like exercise.) 529 accounts are essentially the same thing as 401-k’s, only where 401-k’s are retirement accounts, 529’s are college savings accounts. Essentially, just like with 401-k’s, you invest your money with higher risk for larger gains in the beginning, and then as you get closer to the time when you need the money it gradually moves into lower risk investments. What particularly strikes my fancy is that for three kids that have more toys/junk than they can ever appreciate, during the holiday season family members and friends can contribute to an existing ScholarShare account or create one for a child as a holiday gifting option for as little as $25.

 

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ScholarShare treated a bunch of bloggers to a fancy dinner to talk about 529’s and even offered a little compensation thanks to One2One Network (that was nice of them) if we shared the experience on our blogs. In truth, this is a talk I would have gone to whether or not there were blogger incentives. Saving for college is something I need to get serious about and I wanted to hear what they had to say.
The short story is the people from ScholarShare came off as very genuine and honest. I was wary of walking into a timeshare-pitch sort of evening. There was no salesmanship, nothing pushy, no used-car-salesman vibe at all. In fact, since they partner with TIAA-CREF they are a non-profit, so they don’t pay their bills with transaction fees like other financial planners. All they wanted was to get the word out that 529’s are the best way to plan ahead for college savings, and that they would love to be considered by anyone looking into one.

For my money, they seemed like a legit outfit worthy of consideration.

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That said, I’d like to try something a little different with this post.

For the sake of getting my head around how to financially prepare for my kids’ college, I’d like to start a little conversation in the comments below. How are you preparing for college expenses (or how did you prepare)? Do you think college is even an investment worth making in today’s world? (There’s a good argument to be made that it isn’t). What are your fears about saving for college/retirement? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

In the comments below share your knowledge. Share your fears. Share your questions. Maybe we can help each other out.

 

-Dork Dad

Dear Sephora

6 Nov

Dear Sephora Header

 

letter A text message flashed across my phone yesterday. It was a snapshot of a magazine ad my wife ran across that day… a magazine ad that my daughter had clearly come across earlier, and felt compelled to leave her social commentary for anyone else who should stumble upon it. This is what she saw:

dear Sephora

 

In case you need help translating 3rd grade handwriting it says,

“This lady is ugly. I think you should wear makeup if you want to, not ’cause you have to. Don’t over-do it.”

My daughter may be opinionated. She may be bossy. She may be dramatic. But nobody can say she doesn’t have a strong self-esteem, and there is nothing a young woman needs more, growing up in the world we live in, assaulted on all sides by magazine ads like this, than a strong self-esteem.

Way to push back, honey. You tell ’em what real beauty is. That’s my girl.

 

-Dork Dad

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