Archive | March, 2013

Sins Of The Father

18 Mar

letter In days gone by, I used to be able to wear a tux – and I mean *WEAR* a tux; not in the awkward way a prom-goer wears a tux when he has to put the plastic shoes on for the odd formal event. No, I could wear a tux with confidence and style. When other 20-somethings were figuring out the difference between a cummerbund and a boutonnière, I was bringing sexy back, channeling Connery and Bogart with the classic white jacket and red carnation.

Me and my dear friend Cindy at her sorority formal.

Me and my dear friend Cindy at her sorority formal.

So when the elementary school had a James Bond-themed fundraiser event, I knew exactly what direction I was going. UnDorkMommy went totally Bond-girl in a va-va-VOOM dress, showing off her endless legs with a slit all the way up to her ear, and I went to Men’s Warehouse to rent my trusty standby, the look that had done so well for me many times before.

Formal attire on, grandma babysitter firmly in place, my knockout, Bond-girl wife and I went out for a fantastic night of dinner, drinks, live-auctioning (won the party of 4, behind-the-scenes tour of Pixar Studios thankyouverymuch) and dancing until we dropped. We had a fabulous time laughing with other repressed moms and dads who obviously needed a night out as much as we did. There was a professional photographer on site and I looked forward to getting a great shot of me and UnDorkMommy all decked-out, doing our cheezy Bondesque poses against a cheezy Bondesque background.

Heading out.

Heading out.

I knew I was in trouble when I tried on the tux at Men’s Warehouse and I needed freakin’ suspenders. SUSPENDERS!!!

Good evening.

Good evening.

The pictures came up this weekend, and as expected UnDorkMommy looked *AMAZING*. But who was that guy she was standing next to? That tuxedo-clad, balding, portly dude with all the chins didn’t look anything like James Bond. He looked more like… Alfred Hitchcock (and no, I’m not going to post a picture).

Ultimately I could live with all the self-loathing that comes from the middle-aged metabolism shut-down, but I’ve got kids. I can make all the “King of Queens” and Alfred Hitchcock jokes I want. At some point I need to man-up and figure it out. It ain’t about me.

Specifically, I’ve got a son who worships the ground I walk on. He takes all his social cues from me. He sets his priorities to my priorities. He hangs on every word I say and adopts as many of my mannerisms as he can for his own. Clearly whatever patterns he falls into as he gets older will be influenced in no small way by the example that I set in his life. My wife pointed it out a few weeks ago. Look at the things Episode V’s aptitudes are swinging towards. These are the things he thinks are super cool:

Legos / Science / Comic Books / Video Games / Music / Movies

And where did he learn about these things? Who reinforces the cool-factor for those things? In every single instance, who opened Pandora’s box? Me. And none of those interests particularly involve cardio. For a kid who naturally skews towards the lazy direction, that’s a concern.

T-ball

T-ball

If my son’s childhood plays out the way mine did, he’ll be an active kid just by virtue of the realities of being a kid. His parents will sign him up for after-school sports and summer camps. He’ll spend plenty of time running around, doing normal kid stuff, learning life lessons from his father along the way, and he’ll enjoy the 0% body-fat that comes along with a supercharged metabolism that lasts through high school…

…when his patterns are set.

My job as his father is to use that incredibly potent power to influence his interests for good. My fear is that I will unwittingly steer them in the wrong direction. Growing up it never occurred to me that living a healthy lifestyle was something that took a lot of work. My own father was certainly too busy tending to our needs to pay attention to his own, a lesson I learned well from him and have apparently carried into my own parenthood.

And so I have made a choice. I have recommitted myself to being an example of an active, healthy lifestyle for my children. I have recommitted to the notion that no matter what, every single weekend will involve doing something outside, something physical with my children (OK, the golf clubs I got them didn’t encourage much cardio, but it was still outside and physical). But more than that, I looked into my soul and realized how important it is for my kids to see ME being active, eating right, exercising.

I fully endorse this sort of activity.

I fully endorse this sort of activity.

So last week I set up the goddamn treadmill in the garage. On both Saturday and Sunday I made a point of announcing to the kids “OK, Daddy’s going out to the garage to exercise” and heaved my fat ass up onto the goddamn machine for a solid 30 minutes of cardio, determined to be a good example for my kids.

And then something happened that I did not expect.

Suddenly I looked over my shoulder and realized that my son was there behind me, sitting quietly in a chair. He was just sitting there with his Jellycat. “Hey buddy,” I said, suddenly sucking it up so as not to let on to the 4 year old in the room how desperately out of shape I am. “You OK?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “I’m just watching you.” He was sitting there, watching me… watching me setting a good example purely for his benefit.

Who knows if my exercising will plant any seeds in his mind? Who knows if he’ll want to be like me past his 5th birthday? Who knows if I’m doing anything right at all as a parent? I’ve been bitching about being a fatass for years now, and I’ve never been able to find the motivation to do something about it. But in the past it was always about me.

If I can’t do it for me, I have to do it for them.

 

-Dork Dad

To Thine Own Self Be True

11 Mar

letter This past Friday was “Dress As Someone Famous” day at Episode IV’s elementary school. At first blush that sounds like an incredibly lame spirit-day as compared to say… pajama day, or favorite sports team day, or backwards day. But we went with it. You might think a 7 year old girl would want to be Brandy Chastain, or Hillary Clinton, or Princess Leia. Nope. We wound up as Frida Kahlo:

For the record, the shirtless photobomber isn't Diego Riverra.

For the record, the shirtless photobomber isn’t Diego Riverra.

Now you might be wondering how a upper middle-class, 21st century, Caucasian 1st grade girl from an uncomfortably non-diverse microcosm in California would want to dress up as well-regarded mid-20th century, female Mexican self-portrait artist (Don’t worry. I had no idea who she was until I married an art-lover who edumacated me up) Earlier in the week Episode IV came up to UnDorkMommy and said “Mommy, who’s a famous female artist?” My wife is an art-buff, and the best she could come up with was Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe. Kahlo had the more distinctive look, so that was the look we went with.

Frida, herself.

Frida, herself.

There are two things I love about this scenario. First of all, I love that my daughter is developing a sense of self-identity. She sees herself as an artist, and when given the task to dress up as someone famous she channeled the assignment through her own self-image to find someone she could identify with. It was totally self-directed. Good for her. It could have been Kim Kardashian, or Pamela Anderson, or Honey Boo Boo. Thank goodness it wasn’t.

But in addition to that, I also love the fact that she had the self-confidence to go to school in full-monobrow. Obviously there’s a long way between the social realities 1st grade and 7th grade, but I remember back to my early days in Jr. High during our first spirit event “nerd day”. I was on the student council and we were all supposed to come to school dressed in our best nerd-attire. I

Kahlo Self Portrait

Kahlo Self Portrait

remember thinking, “There’s no way I’m going to do that. I’m going to be only one to do it. I’m going to be the *ONE* person who stands out. Everyone will make fun of me.” So I came to school on “nerd day” in my normal clothes only to find the rest of the student council completely nerded-out. Naturally we had to take a picture for the yearbook that day. It was just as I feared. I was the *ONE* person who stood out; the one non-nerd in a fun group picture full of nerds which – joke’s on me – made me the one real nerd in the picture. (I then lived on to dedicate an entire blog to the greater nerd/dork arts). Nevertheless, Episode IV trotted off to school in the frumpiest outfit we could put together, in full-monobrow, full of excitement and full of self-confidence. Good for her.

A nerd among nerds.

A nerd among nerds.

As much as I poo-poo’ed the lame spirit-day theme at first, I now see the light. These are the sorts of assignments that give our kids a little touchstone to remember all their lives. In 4th grade when we did our President reports, I drew out of the hat James K. Polk (who? 11th U.S. President). Where his name doesn’t even register with most people, for my entire life whenever his name comes up my ears perk up just a little bit thanks to that 4th grade project. The same will be for my daughter and Frida Kahlo. She now feels a connection with the artist and the historical figure. It even sparked off a wonderful conversation about the historical context of Kahlo’s life and work.

From that perspective it must also be said how grateful I am that Episode IV didn’t pick Geortia O’Keeffe, who is largely famous for her paintings of flowers. Why were O’keeffe’s paintings so noteworthy? I remember seeing a traveling O’Keeffe exhibit at a museum with my wife many years ago. We were looking at the pictures on the wall and I made some under-enthusiastic comment like “Those are nice.”

O'Keeffe paints flowers.

O’Keeffe paints flowers.

“Do you get it?” replied my art-savvy wife, a twinkle in her eye.

“What do you mean?”

“Do you get it? Do you get what it is about all these paintings?” I looked around the room and had to admit there didn’t seem anything to “get”.

“What?” I said. “They’re all flowers.”

“No they’re not. Look again. They’re all vaginas.”

georgia

I will never look at a Georgia O’Keeffe painting the same way again. That certainly wasn’t a conversation my wife and I wanted to have when our little 1st grader asked why O’Keeffe was a famous artist. Frida Kahlo it is!

In any case, the “lame” spirit-day idea turned into a great learning experience and a touchstone for a budding young female artist. I humbly offer up my mea-culpa for judging the event too quickly.

On the subject of nerding-out and self-confidence, I have learned over the years that confidence is indeed the key factor in determining what’s “cool” and what isn’t. You can be whoever you want to be. If you do it with confidence you never have to worry about fitting in. If you do it with confidence, people will come to you. That’s a lesson I am so grateful to have learned, and I am so grateful to have had a specific group of peers, slightly older and perhaps wiser, who I learned that lesson from.

Readers, please permit me a brief digression, but in the off chance any of those guys read this blog post, it would be inappropriate not to thank them. Van, Roy, Leo, Ken, Kelly and Rick – a big part of who I am today, one of the parts about myself I like the most, I owe to you guys. Thank you for teaching me what we all know in 1st grade, and what we so easily forget as we grow up:

Be who you are, and love the people who love who you are.

To heck with the rest of the world.

-Dork Dad

The Great Supersuit Giveaway

7 Mar

ednaDorkdaddy, Edna Mode and the good people at T-shirts.com have partnered up to get a couple of you dork-readers outfitted in the latest supersuits. In exchage for a little promotion on this blog, T-shirts.com has graciously offered two free T-shirts to be given away to DorkDaddy.com readers. This entire blog is about celebrating the dork in everyone, particularly as it applies to raising children. By sharing dorky traditions with our children, we pass along our values, hobbies and interests to the next generation in one fell superman-esque swoop. So let your Dork-Flag fly, stand up proud and let it be known to the world:

What makes you a SuperDork, and how do you share your dork-powers for good with the children in your life?

To enter the contest simply scroll down to Edna’s super-computer at the bottom of this post and enter your vital statistics. Tell us how you share your dorkiness with your kids, nieces, nephews or any member of the future generation of geekdom (if we’re doing our jobs right, there should be many options!). DorkDaddy.com will accept entries through Sunday, March 31 and share the best entries in a blog post all to itself. Two winners will be selected, each of whom will get a certificate for a free shirt of their choice from T-Shirts.com. Sadly, the offer is only available to United States residents.

Here is just the smallest sampling of all the options available. Head on over to T-shirts.com for a viewing of the entire collection.

shirts

PREPARE TO SUBMIT TO BIOMETRIC SCAN FOR CONTEST ENTRY

**PLEASE LEAN CLOSER TO YOUR MONITOR FOR RETINAL SCAN**

identity

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**PLACE PALM ON MONITOR FOR BIOMETRIC ANALYSIS**

palmscan

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**ACCESS GRANTED**

Please submit credentials and vital statistics.

-Dork Dad

At What Cost Our Dreams?

4 Mar

letter I’ll be the first person to say I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I’m in the office 3 days a week, I teach at the university one day, and teach in the 1st grade class another. I’ve got three amazing, brilliant, healthy kids, a wife way above my station and a mortgage I can (barely) afford. People in my position are not allowed to complain. What follows is therefore most definitely *NOT* a complaint.

My dream was always the Norman Rockwell life – a beautiful wife, a house with a picket fence in a quiet neighborhood, 2.7 kids, a Labrador, and if at all possible to be able to support that family in a way that allowed for my wife to stay home with the kids if she wanted, and for me to be able to coach little league and video tape ballet recitals. Cheesy? Yes. For everyone? No. But ultimately, as of September when we finally put up the picket fence in front of the house, that’s exactly what I’ve got (even if the Labrador lives with my mother-in-law these days).

That’s it. Done. Living the dream.

But when you finish the checklist, what then? Dude’s still got to dream. Once Mazlow’s basic needs are met, the individual is free to address other less crucial aspects of survival. These, the “less crucial” dreams, are where dreams and reality come colliding into one another like subatomic particles at CERN. Here are a few “less crucial” dreams I’ve got floating around in my head – and the realities of living life that keep getting in the way.

When I compared the $’s of my “less crucial” dreams to the $’s of the interfering realities, some conspicuous coincidences seemed to pop up. I don’t know if the universe is trying to tell me something or what. I’ll let you decide.

Dream #1:

New mountain bike. Mine is from 1998 and when I take it out it gets me comments from other mountain bikers like “Wow. That’s retro.” Or, “I haven’t seen one like that in a long time.” It still works well enough. I don’t *need* a new bike. That’s why it’s a dream.

Cost: $1,900 out the door

Reality #1:

We need a new water heater in the house. There’s no telling how hot the shower water is going to be in the morning from day to day, and if it is hot it’s a safe bet it won’t last much longer than 15 minutes. If you’re the 2nd person to take a shower in the morning, good luck.

Cost for a new water heater: $1,900

bikevheater

Dream #2:

Vacation to Hawaii. It’s been too damn long. I need it so bad I can taste it. What I really need is two weeks, but I’ll take one if I can get it.

Cost for airfare and hotel to Waikiki for family of 5: $4,300

(Bonus Cost for production lost from me missing 3 days at work: $15-20,000)

Reality #2:

We’ve still got a balance on our home credit card after our last vacation. It would make things a little easier at home if we didn’t have to deal with that.

Cost to pay off the home credit card: $4,275

hawaiivcreditcards

Dream #3:

Porsche Carrera. Don’t think I’ve given up on this one. I find the *perfect* one on Craigslist, or Cars.com every 3 or 4 months. Manual transmission, convertible (of course), perfect colors inside and out. It’s usually somewhere around a 2003 model with mileage anywhere from 35-85,000.

Cost: $30,000 +/-

Reality #3:

Thankfully we aren’t underwater on our house, but the housing bust was brutal on our equity. Mortgage rates have plummeted recently, but in order to refinance to a friendlier rate (on a jumbo-loan… welcome to California) we need to have a better loan-to-value ratio. Guess how much of our old loan we’d have to pay off in order to qualify for a re-fi.

Cost to refinance our mortgage to a way better rate: $30,000

porschevmortgage

Dream #4:

The home theater system. Now mind you, I’m not talking about the ULTIMATE home theater of my wildest fantasies. For that we’d need a full-on addition to the house. No, I’m talking about a home theater that UnDorkMommy might possibly be able to live with in the living room. I’m talking about a top-tier, high-def projector, a 100+ inch projection screen that retracts into an recess in the ceiling, and the 7.1 channel Bose/TXH surround sound system to go with it.

Cost for parts and installation: +/- $12,000

Reality #4:

The house needs new windows. We’ve got the same single-paned glass windows that were installed when the house was built in 1974. The house is an icebox in the winter and an oven in the summer. Both sliding glass doors to the backyard have broken their mountings and are now grinding metal-on-metal on their tracks. It takes a team of horses to open and close them. We recently had an appraisal for new windows throughout the house. Guess what the tab was going to be.

Cost for new windows for the house: +/- $12,000

theatervwindows

Dream #5

Teaching at the dental school. I teach there because I love it, not for the $. In fact my 1-day-a-week gig there is essentially a volunteer position (technically it pays, but only enough for gas, lunch and parking in San Francisco). It keeps me current and the interaction with the students keep me stimulated and excited about what I do. When I committed to the school my office wasn’t busy enough to fill another full 10-hour day. We are now. So essentially every day I’m teaching I’m losing out on the potential production I could have been doing in the office.

Cost of teaching instead of working: 36 days/year @ $6,000 lost office production factoring in 65% overhead at the office: $75,600

Reality #5

Episode VI can’t live in the closet forever. His brother and sister both have their own bedrooms. We could certainly double them up if we need to, but it would be nice if they could all have their own rooms, and it would be nice if UnDorkMommy and I could have our own modern master bedroom. We actually had plans drawn up and investigated what it would cost to put the addition onto the house. Guess what the estimate was.

Cost to add a new master bedroom/bath onto the house: $70-80,000

teachvaddition

Dream #6

Spaceship charter on Virgin Galactic. An exclusive space flight for me and 5 of my friends. Pioneer status on all 6 seats. 6 seats for the price of 5. I mean seriously, who wouldn’t do this if they had the chance?

Cost: $1,000,000

Reality #6

I graduated from dental school in 2005. The cost of a dental school education has only gone up since then. Students entering dental school for the class of 2016 can expect to graduate with upwards of $400,000 in debt… before they work a single day, before they buy a home or a practice of their own. The value of a moderate general dental practice on the market in California is roughly $600,000. Thankfully my numbers aren’t anywhere near those, and even so I’m nowhere near paying off my student and practice loans.

Cost of a top-tier dental education and a private practice of your own: $400K + $600K = $1,000,000

schoolvspace

In each case the choice is clear, as is the fact that these quandries are purely first-world problems. I’m very happy with my life as it is, but still… dude’s gotta dream.

Tell me about some of the “less crucial” dreams you would indulge in if you didn’t have to be a responsible adult/parent.

-Dork Dad

Caption This: Preschool Art Fail

1 Mar

Add your caption in the comments below, and have a nice day. (c:

 

-Dork Dad

 

preartfail

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