Tag Archives: children

To Hell With Normal

24 Mar

To Hell With Normal

 

letter OOoh, the adventures we had this past weekend. Not to put too fine a point on it, I took the big kids to the inaugural Silicon Valley Comic Con. On balance, the experience was not a new one for them. Last year I took them to the Star Wars Celebration (and have yet to blog about it. Can you believe it?) where they got a full dose of what it means to do a convention. The only thing that could have been bigger would be the San Diego Comic Con, and that’s still a few years off for them.

Prepare Yourselves

After posting pictures of our shenanigans on Facebook, my old Jr. High English teacher and life-long mentor, Kitty, left the comment: “YOU S#@$$%! How will your kids ever turn out “normal”? That’s right, they won’t. They’ll be extraordinary! Love ya.”

The kids got to meet Kitty earlier this year. "How did you like her, kids?" "She's super cool, but she has a potty mouth." "Yes. Yes she does."

The kids got to meet Kitty earlier this year. “How did you like her, kids?” “She’s super cool, but she has a potty mouth.” “Yes. Yes she does.”

Let’s just say Kitty shares my distain for all things “normal”.

Sharing vodka on the rocks with the woman who, 28 years ago, taught me a healthy disdain for authority.

Sharing vodka on the rocks with the woman who, 28 years ago, taught me a healthy disdain for authority.

I have no intention of giving my kids a “normal” childhood. I want their childhood to be AMAZING. This entire blog is dedicated to chronicling the pursuit of “amazing” while infusing them with a firm grasp of perspective and social-competence which, to my thinking, is the only really valuable component of “normal”.

Meeting The Shat

Meeting The Shat

When I learned that William Shatner was going to be signing autographs at the convention, I knew that it would be an experience my classic Star Trek-loving daughter would appreciate. Add that to the fact that Stan Lee would be making one of his last-ever public appearances (the guy is 94 after all) and I knew I would regret it if I passed up the opportunity.

OMG! Stan Lee!!

OMG! Stan Lee!!

So this past Saturday I loaded Episodes IV and V into the car and drove them to the San Jose Convention Center for a day of geek-tasticness. The show did not disappoint. The cosplayers were in full-force. The kids got to play with some virtual reality rigs, talk to the local R2D2 Builders Club chapter, spend their allowance money on super-nerdy collectables and on and on…

VRIV

R2s

There was even a bonus that we weren’t expecting. For the past few weeks my 7yo Episode V has been working his way through the book “The Martian” (because you can’t watch the movie unless you’ve read the book first). As we were waiting in line to meet The Shat(ner), Episode V was flipping through the convention program. Suddenly he went white and started shaking, pointing to a picture in the program, “Daddy! Daddy! Look! Andy Weir is here. Andy Weir is here!!”

andy

Andy Weir is the author of “The Martain”… the book that my 7yo has proclaimed as his favorite book of all time. So of course we had to make sure that connection was made. I tell you, Episode V was more excited to meet Andy Weir than he was for Captain freakin’ Kirk – and props to him for realizing early that authors are cooler than television/movie actors.

Got it

So here’s to all the parents out there doing everything they can to make their kids’ childhoods amazing. Say it with me now:

 

To hell with “normal”!

 

-Dork Dad

TREBUCHET!!

15 Mar

trebuchet header

 

letter There are times to be subtle and there are times to be awesome. There are times to sit inside and play video games and there are times to get outside and howl at the moon. There are times to be careful and there are times to scare the neighbors just a little bit. For those of you who feel the need to inject a little “awesome” into your life, who think the neighbors have become a bit too complacent, who need to take a step or two closer to the edge, I have the prescription for you:

 

Build a trebuchet.

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I have long been an advocate of getting power tools into the hands of children, and I make no secret of my love for augmenting the science curriculum at my kids’ elementary school. You might ask “How do you cap off a 2nd grade lesson on levers?” Simple. Construct a medieval siege engine/war machine, bring it on campus and fire projectiles at a couple dozen 8 year olds.

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As cool as the science-factor is, the real benefit of a project like this is the time you get to spend with your kids. It’s about learning how to use power tools. It’s about countless trips to Home Depot (and the amazing hotdogs from the cart outside). It’s about researching and planning. It’s about learning from your failures and adjusting your strategy accordingly.

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I will happily admit I’m not cool enough to engineer a trebuchet on my own, from scratch. But I am cool enough to go on the internet, find a well-made tutorial (which you are welcome to use yourself here) and adapt/modify it to meet my needs. Remember, the value here is not in having a functioning war machine in your garage (cool as that may be). The value is in FAILING along the way, and in learning from those failures. As you can see, we had to go back to the drawing board more than once on this little project.


 

 

 

 

You don’t have to have scientific super powers. You don’t have to be world-renowned in your field. You don’t even have to like other people’s kids. In whatever way possible, in whatever capacity you can, help out in your kid’s classroom. Kids spell “love” T.I.M.E. and there is nothing like the pride on your kid’s face when they see you there in front of all their peers. It’s like they’re saying without words “See? That’s my daddy and he’s the most awesome daddy in the universe.”

 

 

…of course it helps if you can bring a trebuchet to class with you.

 

-Dork Dad

Halloween 2014

31 Oct

Happy Halloween to all the dorks out there.

 

family halloween 2014

2 Cups Of Love

12 May

2 cups of love title

letter In the DorkDaddy household my ability to screw-up Mother’s Day (or anything else for that matter) is legendary. I would like to think that given infinite time and infinite resources I would be able to knock it out of the park every year, but I’ve come to believe that there’s something in my DNA that practically *requires* that I blow it somehow.

instructions

Truth told, genetic predisposition aside, I’m sure my epic Mother’s Day screw-ups would be less “epic” with just the smallest incremental increase in the free-time-factor. Between work and kids, our agendas are scheduled right up to the bleeding edge. I see patients from 7am to 6pm, with about 30 minutes (at home) for lunch. Dinner is at 6:15, then it’s bath time, pajamas, stories, bedtime… suddenly it’s 9:00 and I have just enough time to fall asleep in front of a TiVo’d rerun of “Big Bang Theory” before it’s time to wake up and do it all over again. Weekends are packed with soccer games, swim lessons, birthday parties, homework projects, play dates… Needless to say, as Mother’s Day 2014 crept up this year I hadn’t had the mental bandwidth to dedicate one brain cell towards planning something special for UnDorkMommy.

egg1

May is T-ball season, and this Saturday just happened to be the day we were in charge for snacks/drinks for the team. Naturally neither of us had the time during the week, so Saturday morning rolled around and UnDorkMommy sent me out to the grocery store in my pajamas to buy oranges, crakers and juice for 15 (and Starbucks for UnDorkMommy).

beater1

I spent more time than I care to admit roaming the aisles ((where the **** do they keep the ****ing Pirate’s Booty?!?!)) Eventually I found myself in the baking section and a solution to my Mother’s Day problem presented itself. Thank you Betty Crocker.

cleanup

On the way back from the store I dropped off the supplies at my MIL’s house (she’s just around the corner) and informed my wife that after the game I would be taking the big kids with me for an hour or two after the baseball game. Game finished, I swept up Episodes IV and V and we disappeared over to Grandma’s house for a little lesson in following directions, kitchen life-skills and last-minute Mother’s Day shenanigans.

frosting

All told, the experience turned out great. We had a ball on our little project. I was amazed to see how well the kids managed the eggs, measured the ingredients and handled the electric beater. When we were all done it might not have been the prettiest cake ever made, but it was made with an overabundance of love. When we presented it to UnDorkMommy Sunday morning (DorkDaddy knowing full well that she doesn’t particularly “like” cake) she had to admit that the extra helping of love made it the best cake she’d ever had.

siding

 

-Dork Dad

cake

Why We Have ‘Em

25 Sep

Recently fellow dadblogger and friend of the blog, Alan Kercinik (find him at Always Jacked) just had his third (boy). Inspired by his news I thought I’d share my thoughts, now that UnDorkMommy and I are on the other side of our childbearing years, on what the motivators were behind the decision to have each of our children. To be clear, the decision of when to have children, how many to have and why we have them is incredibly personal and different for everyone. The intention behind this blogpost is not to make judgments on or espouse values onto other people, but rather to express my own thoughts as they relate to my own life.

why we have em

1We had you because we dreamed about you our entire lives. It was the promise of the joy you would bring and the thrill of unknown adventures. It was all the stories of all the parents who’d come before. It was our naïve (though ultimately, totally justified) enthusiasm of youth. It was as much our own selfish desires as it was the timeless pull of instinct. Every decision in our lives we made with you in mind. Step by step, decision by decision, choice by choice, we worked our way towards you. Even before you were here you were at the very center of the life and the home we built together. We waited as long as we could, but no longer than we had to. We knew, just as we’d always known, that every other dream we had took a back seat to the dream of you, and if none of our other dreams came true, realizing the dream of you would make everything else worthwhile. We couldn’t imagine our lives without you, even before we met you.

For this reason, you are the most wanted child in the world.

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2We had you because as amazing as the first experience was, we quickly realized (and to some degree always knew) that it just wasn’t enough. Without you there was always something missing. Whether it was learning to share, squabbling in the back seat, the happy-squealing sounds of play in the backyard, or the challenge of balancing another totally different personality, in our hearts we knew our family needed siblings. We knew you would need each other to tell and keep secrets, to challenge you when you might not be right, to learn to balance the needs of other people, to grow through life together and to commiserate with when your parents get old and crazy. We knew we needed to balance the equation – to make sure the kids had at least as many seats at the table as the adults. We knew that, at least the way we imagined things, we needed you to make us feel like a family.

For this reason, you are the most wanted child in the world.

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3We had you because we wanted you – plain and simple. Although it meant stretching things a little tighter and putting off retirement a little longer let’s be clear, like an extra scoop of ice cream after dinner, you were a luxury. Although three children are more than anyone has a right to hope for, the experience of the first two was so amazing, so wonderful we just couldn’t bear the thought of never doing it again. We had you out of pure selfishness. We wanted more love in our lives, more happy chaos, more notches on the growth chart, more art on the wall and more pictures on the fridge — despite the fact that all of it comes with more daily loads of laundry. We were a little older and a little wiser. We knew what having another would mean and we decided it was absolutely worth it. We had you because we could.

For this reason, you are the most wanted child in the world.

-Dork Dad

Humble Pie

12 Aug

letter So what use is social media if not for bragging about your kids (or fomenting revolution)? In general I’m not particularly calling for any revolution — except perhaps against dental insurance companies. Seriously people, you have no idea how much you are being taken advantage of; even those of you who think you have “pretty good coverage.” But I digress. That means the only thing I have to offer the internet of any value is bragging about my kids.

I make no apologies about it. Heck, I’ve got an entire blog dedicated to them. They are the only thing I have given the world that has made my time here worthwhile. They are my life’s work and the metric by which I measure my success and value as a member of the human race. They are amazing kids, all three of them, and I am justifiably proud of them. And ultimately that’s what keeps me coming back and wasting so much time on social media.

It isn’t the “Candy Crush” time wasters, or the fast-track to news on the latest Batman casting rumors. It’s sharing with the people in my life (past and present) that which I am most proud of – that which is quintessentially me – that which consumes my every thought and informs my every decision: my family. Because let’s get real – I really have no life, and therefore nothing to offer, outside of my family.

So share I have since the first day I set foot in Facebook back in 2008. I’m the obnoxious, in-your-face guy spamming your newsfeed with pictures “Look at this awesome picture she drew. Isn’t she amazing?” or “Look at them on the roller coaster. Aren’t they amazing?” or “Here he is wearing his sister’s clothes. Isn’t he amazing?” or “Check us out posing outside the gates to Skywalker Ranch. Aren’t my kids amazing?” For those of you who only follow this blog’s FB feed, you may think it’s bad. Trust me. My personal feed is ten times worse.

This weekend was nothing different. We went up to visit my parents at the lake for Episode V’s 5th birthday, and I fully expected to spam all my FB followers with scads of obnoxiously cute pictures of that weekend’s activities, chief among which was an hour spent with Episodes IV and V on jet skis, something we’ve never done before. We mounted our jet skis and I went out of my way to get just the right shot of us ready to head out. I posted the picture with the title “Episode V’s 5th birthday of awesomeness” and we headed out for an hour of thrills on the water.

family

When we got back and the kids were all packed up in the car I thumbed the FB app on my phone to obsessively see what had happened while we were out. A comment under my recently posted picture grabbed me.

“I am jealous. You give your kids things I couldn’t even dream of.”

Yikes.

Maybe my FB friend thought we frivolously bought and now owned two jet skis just for the sake of my son’s 5th birthday. I wanted to make it clear we don’t roll like that.

“Rentals. Rentals,” I replied.

“Still, it’d take nearly three months of paychecks to get that done”

That short little exchange stuck with me all weekend. I went to bed last night thinking about it, and it was on my mind when I woke up. All I wanted to do was share my joy with the people in my life, and in so doing I had inadvertently made someone else feel marginalized.

The last thing in the entire world I want to do is make someone else feel bad.

I’ve known these people for the better part of seven years. They are good people, all-in parents (and hardcore dorks to boot). They pour everything they have into raising their kids. They work very hard to make ends meet and they deserve all the dignity and respect that comes with that kind of commitment.

…but when you’re excited about something, as I am about my family and was about our little jet skiing adventure, it’s easy to lose sight of just what a luxury it is to “have” anything at all to pour into raising your kids.

Being a dad doesn't suck. But flaunting it might.

Being a dad doesn’t suck. But flaunting it might.

I am very, very cognizant of how fortunate I am to be in the position I am. My career affords me more free time than most, latitude with how I use that time, and the ability to rent two jet skis on short notice should the opportunity present itself. In fact, that’s precisely why I chose this career over others that I might have enjoyed more but didn’t provide the fringe benefits that this one does. Every day I am aware of how lucky I am, and I never ever take that luck for granted. It gives me the ability to revel in what gives me joy (my family) and I want to share that joy with the people in my life. For crying out loud, I’ve got an entire blog dedicated to sharing that love.

But perhaps, in my enthusiasm, I’ve lost sight of how that same enthusiasm can come across to other people. There are people in my newsfeed who I know would love more than anything to have a family and children, but for whatever reason it just hasn’t materialized. The last thing I want is for my constant “I love my family!” posts to be a droning reminder to someone else about something that they want but don’t have.

There are people in my newsfeed who would kill to go to Comic Con… even once. Perhaps my “*Sigh* Comic Con isn’t what it used to be” posts are the sort of 1st world problems Veruca Salt would complain about.

There are people in my newsfeed who would love to take a little mini vacation on the weekends. The last thing I want is for my “look at this Optimus Prime costume we made” or “check out what I brought home this weekend” or “build a hovercraft in your backyard for around $200” posts to bring someone down because making ends meet doesn’t leave room for those sorts of extras.

What I don’t want to be is that guy who says “Look what I got. Neener, neener, neener!”

stark-car

Obnoxious.

As with anything, moderation is always the best way to go. There’s no shame in being proud of your family. There’s no shame in proclaiming your love for them. I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong, necessarily.

But as with all things, I’ve got kids to bring up. If you subscribe to the argument that the best way to teach a child is to lead by example, then it can’t hurt for me to stop down before I do something and think about how that might come across from someone else’s perspective.

I suppose the lesson here is that turning the dork-volume all the way up to 10 really isn’t necessary when 9 will get the job done just as effectively.

-Dork Dad

humble pie

What I Want

14 Jun

letter My wife asked me a few weeks ago what I wanted for Father’s Day. Seriously, I have everything I ever wanted… or at least everything I ever needed. I don’t want for much, and if I do want something I’m lucky enough to be in a position to just go out and buy it (except the Porsche).

But that doesn’t help UnDorkMommy when it comes to Father’s Day. She wants to do something nice for  me, and she knows she doesn’t have the nerd-cred to know what it is I really want. It’s my obligation as a loving husband to help her out in uncomfortable, difficult situations like this. So here you go, Honey. Here’s a short list of some things that I would genuinely appreciate for Father’s Day:

AC-Cv869_solicit

 

Five simple things I want for Father’s Day

(each should be pretty easy to come by)

1) I want security – security to know that I will be able to provide for my family for as long as they need it, and that no horrible tragedies will befall the people I love.

2) I want to be able to share the things that I get excited about with my wife, like the new Superman movie, or the microbrewery that just opened nearby, or the latest Star Wars Lego set — because having a 15-month-old and two other kids makes it so easy for both of us to do things together as a couple. ((not))

3) I want the seasons for “Game of Thrones” and “Walking Dead” to be much, much longer than they already are.

4) I want to resolve the terrible guilt I feel taking time away from my family to take care of myself, and the terrible frustration I feel taking time away from myself to take care of my family.

5) I want to finally be picked to be a volunteer on “Mythbusters,” especially since I’ve tried three times already without getting the call, and my sister tried only once and totally got picked — and she doesn’t even watch the show, dammit!!

You should be able to handle those things, right Honey?

You thought I was kidding about the Mythbusters thing, didn't you?

You thought I was kidding about the Mythbusters thing, didn’t you?

-Dork Dad

FDAY

You’re The Fun One

18 Apr

letter This weekend UnDorkMommy said something to me that broke my heart.

First, a little context:

Three days earlier I came home late as I always do on Wednesdays, just as the kids were finishing up books and snuggles before bed. We’ve recently been edging ever closer to finishing “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (remember, you can’t watch the movie unless you’ve read the book first). They can taste the finishline (and a new movie to watch), so they’ve been extra-special excited about bedtime reading lately. On Wednesdays UnDorkMommy has to handle the bedtime routine alone, and of course part of that is reading books to the big kids. We got the kids all tucked in and sat down to touch base as husband and wife. “So, how was your day teaching?” she asked.

Finishing up "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"

Finishing up “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

“Fine, fine,” I replied. “Were the kids good tonight? How far did you get in Harry Potter?”

“We didn’t read Harry Potter. We read something else.”

“Really? Why not?”

She looked at me with disapointment in her eyes. “They told me they don’t want me to read Harry Potter to them anymore because I don’t do the voices like you do.”

***

For a little more context, fast forward to this Saturday:

This weekend was the local Mountain Bike Fair. We live in an outdoorsy place, so mountain bikes are kindof a big thing. It’s the sort of place where parents post on facebook “Just took Jr. for his/her first time on the pump track!” (For those people out of the know, a pump track is a dirt track with mounds, and moguls and banks etc). There’s a bike store near our house with some amazing pump tracks out back for all levels. We pass by the tracks whenever the family goes hiking and I’ve used the pump track as an incentive for the kids to learn how to ride their bikes.

“As soon as you’re good enough on your bike, I’ll take you to the pump track.”

Six or Seven months ago Episode IV finally got off her training wheels, and we’ve been working on getting her competence and confidence up to pump track levels. A few weeks ago Episode V finally got off his training wheels and we’ve been practicing out at the park every opportunity we get. To spur his interest and get him motivated I took him out to the Mountain Bike Fair to watch the pros go flying into the air X-games-style. I expected we’d be there about 30 minutes before his attention span puttered out and we’d be off to the next thing.

Nope.

So. Freaking. Rad.

So. Freaking. Rad.

It was like walking into Disneyland for the first time. We weren’t there for 5 minutes before he spotted the bunny-hill pump track just for little kids that they built specifically for this event. That was that. We walked back to the car, got his bike out of the back and three hours later we’d watched the pro aeronautics, gone on the kids’ pump track (twice), ridden a real off-road trail, checked out all the vendors, sat on a hay bale eating pizza and popsicles watching a racing event, and acquired some impressive sunburns. In short, it was amazing! He even got a medal. Episode V and I came home totally pumped (no pun intended), totally exhausted and totally overstimulated.

“OhmygoddidyouseethewaythoseguysflewintheairIcan’tbelieveyoudidthepump-trackforthefirsttimewasn’titawesomeIcan’twaittogodoitagain!!!”

We spent the second half of Saturday at the park with the whole family. The two big kids practiced off-roading on their bikes with me coaching and cheering them on, and UnDorkMommy spent most of her energy keeping Episode VI from eating sand and getting run over by his older siblings. By the end of the day everyone was exhausted, and all three kids went to bed relatively easily. After Episode IV was asleep, my wife came down the hall and walked up behind me as I was checking my Email. She put her hand on my shoulder. I could tell something was weighing on her heart. That’s when she said it.

“You know, sometimes it’s really tough” she said, a tremor in her voice. “…keeping up with you. Sometimes it’s really hard. You’re the fun one. I just can’t compete with that”

I had absolutely no idea what to say.

I wanted to say something comforting, something reassuring. I love her so much. I could appreciate how she was feeling, and how an idea like that could hurt once it took root. I wanted to be there for her – to say something meaningful that would put her at ease, reaffirm how amazing she is, how amazing and important she is to the kids. I should have been able to do that for her. But the words… the idea behind them… and the notion that I could be the root of that pain…

I fumbled.

There is no way anyone could describe UnDorkMommy as anything other than “fun”. She’s incredibly fun. She just isn’t a dork. She has no idea how to be a dork. It just isn’t in her DNA. Before we had kids she used to make fun of me and say “Man, you are a dork!”

And I used to respond with, “Yep. But someday our kids are really going to appreciate it.” It would seem that perhaps that prophecy has come true.

Sorry, kids. This is your daddy.

Sorry, kids. This is your daddy.

Let’s be clear, my wife is the most important, most amazing, most crucial element of this entire family. When I’m off figuring out how to get an arcade game into my house, she’s the one making sure the kids are having a healthy lunch. When I’m spending my time writing blog posts, she’s the one arranging their extracurricular schedules. She’s the one who makes sure they have a sweater when they leave the house. She’s the one who makes the sandwiches for their lunch just the way they like ’em. She’s the one who plans and makes dinners every night. She’s the one who gets them on time to doctor’s appointments, and swim lessons, and play dates. She’s the one who makes sure the milk in the fridge isn’t sour. She’s the one who makes sure their bedsheets are clean, that they take their medicine and that they play nicely with one another.

She’s the last person the kids want to see before they go to sleep. She’s the first person they want to see when they wake up. If they have a bad dream in the middle of the night, it’s her body they need to feel next to theirs that makes the monsters go away (and all that stuff goes for me as well).

Sure, I’m the one who does the epic lego marathons. I’m the one who knows all the words to all the Disney songs. I’m the one who does the lightsaber fights and dances to “Gungnam Style” in the livingroom. But when there’s a scrape on the knee, it’s her kisses that have the healing magic. On a rainy day it’s the cookies she makes that turn everything around. When someone is sick, it’s her arms they crawl into for comfort. She is the rock-center, the core, the heart of our family. She nourished those children in her belly. She birthed them. She nursed them as infants from her own body. She dedicates every waking moment to nurturing them as children and to helping them grow into compassionate, confident, amazing human beings.

How can I compete with that?

The truth is all this dorkiness, all this childlike buffoonery… it’s all for show.

I’m a dancing bear at the circus making a fool of myself in front of my children because — That’s. All. I’ve. Got.

It’s a desperate act to be relevent in the lives of my kids because ultimately the short-lived sugar rush of dessert isn’t what sustains you the way Mommy’s healthy meal does. It isn’t what keeps you alive. Sure, I have my role to play in nurturing our children. Sure, their lives are enriched because I’m demostrative, I’m involved in their lives and I’m totally invested in the family. Yes, their lives are immeasurably better because I love them so much.

But compared to the absolutely crucial, nourishing, healthy, dependable, selfless love that they get from their mother — the nourishment that none of us in this family, myself included, could live without — I have to put on the superhero T-shirts. I have to build the zip-lines in the backyard. I have to make the Transformer Halloween costumes from scratch. I have to do the voices when I read Harry Potter.

Because in all honesty, compared to my wife, I just can’t compete.

mommy

-Dork Dad

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