Christmas Love/Hate

I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas.

I love setting up the Christmas tree, lights, and assorted decorations.

I hate taking them down just because they never seem to fit back in the boxes I took them out of!

I love looking out at the snow.

I hate driving in the snow.

I love giving fun toys and games to my kids.

I hate that nobody ever gives ME fun toys and games anymore.

I love listening to Christmas music.

I hate listening to Christmas music, ’round about midnight of December 25th.

I love the looks on my kids’ faces when they open their presents.

I hate having to figure out where to put all this new stuff they’re getting.

I love the cookies and treats.

I hate that my clothes won’t fit right for weeks after.

I love watching A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and Christmas Vacation with my kids. And, after they go to bed, watching Love, Actually with my wife.

I hate that there are so many horrible Christmas movies out there, like Deck The Halls and Jingle All The Way.

I love egg nog ice cream.

I hate peppermint ice cream.

I love forgetting about the world’s troubles for just a few days.

I hate that the troubles seem to always return in a worse way.

What do you love/hate about Christmas?

Our Culture of Fear

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we’ve been so credulous.” – Carl Sagan

I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m feeling a little bamboozled lately after reading various reports about the realities of crime and child abduction in this country.

After all, I have long recognized that America’s mass media thrives upon the Culture of Fear that it helped to create. But still, when it comes to the safety of children, I’ve been first in line to sound the alarm and spread the word about caution and awareness.

So now I learn that out of the roughly 800,000 kids that go missing in this country each year, the FBI estimates that only 100 to 200 of them are victims of the most serious type of non-family abductions, news of which fills parents with dread and distrust toward any stranger who looks twice at their children.

Better yet, violent crime in our country is at an all-time low and has been on a steady decline for the past thirty years. But you won’t see that in the headlines. TV and newspapers seem to be only interested in scaring us, rather than informing us of the real level of risk. And why would they want to do that?

Maintaining a certain level of fear and anxiety is good for corporate profits. Because behind every good newspaper, magazine, and TV station is a corporation that has something it wants to sell that will make us feel better about stepping out our front door into that great big scary world.

And the media is only giving the people what they want. Viewers are fascinated with stories of missing, murdered or abused children. It could be that busy parents, who shuttle their kids from one organized activity to another, may actually turn to these horrible news reports to comfort and allay their feelings of guilt over losing control of their own children.

Whatever the explanation, it certainly seems to be a vicious circle of corporate marketers, mass media, and viewers/readers. I don’t believe those first two entities are willing to accurately analyze and report the reality of our world, so it’s up to the audience, especially parents, to refuse to be bamboozled.

The first step is to stop watching TV news, the worst offenders of exaggerating the incidence of child abductions. After that, find news organizations that deal in facts and figures. Become more optimistic and seek out the truth about the world around you. It’s not such a bad place.

The Electric Shave

My first experience with shaving was trimming a few chin hairs with a pair of dull safety scissors. I was 14 or 15, and my cheeks were slow to start growing any kind of facial hair. The scissors sufficed for a few months, but eventually the 5 or 6 stray hairs turned into dozens, and then hundreds. I found my brother’s old electric shaver in a bathroom drawer and started using that to groom myself. 30 years later, I still value the speed and efficiency of an electric shaver.

Now, my son has signaled that he’s ready to join the long line of electricians in his family with a request for a shaver of his own. Luckily, Philips Norelco was willing to set him up with their new Click & Style. It’s an all-in-one shaving and grooming tool and, quite frankly, it’s the best shaver I’ve ever seen.

Norelco Click and Style

The beauty of the Click & Style are the three separate attachments. First, a shaver attachment, with rotary blades. Second, a beard trimmer. And third, a foil style shaver/trimmer. That really covers all the bases for whatever body hair needs to be groomed. All three attachments give you ultimate control and precision for a clean, smooth shave.

My son is finding it much easier to “manscape” with the Click & Style. So easy, in fact, that he can even multi-task while using it. Apparently, this is a thing. People don’t just stand at the mirror and shave anymore. They eat, brush their teeth, read, text, and play video games while grooming themselves. Continue reading

The Awesome Gift Guide For Dads

The season of giving and sharing is upon us. It’s a time of charity, of helping those less fortunate, and of extending a helping hand to our fellow man.

And when you’re done with that, it’s time to go shopping!

Whichever holiday you celebrate, from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa to Festivus, my Awesome Gift Guide for Dads might help you find just the right thing for the dads in your life. Many of the items on this list were suggested by my fellow dad bloggers. Continue reading

5 Ways To Communicate With Your Teen

You know the stereotype of the uncommunicative teenager.

The indifferent look, the rolled eyes, earbuds firmly in place, off in their own little world while mom and dad try desperately to find a way in.

It’s not impossible to communicate with your teen. There are five guaranteed methods for getting through to them.

And by guaranteed, I mean they work for me.

Sometimes. Most of the time. Hey, they’re better than nothing. Continue reading

Grocery Store Meltdown

In the middle of my grocery shopping yesterday, I was alarmed by a child’s ear-piercing gurgling scream of terror coming from one aisle over. It worried me enough to rush to investigate, thinking some kid had fallen from a shopping cart or, worse, was being attacked by a pack of rabid badgers (hey, you never know). With phone in hand, ready to dial 911, I ran around the corner into the cereal aisle.

Well, like they say, if you hear hoofbeats, don’t think zebras.

It was what you’d expect. A toddler wanted the box of chocolatey candy-coated sugar puff cereal, and mom was opting for the much healthier Cheerios.

It had been awhile since I’d experienced a grocery store meltdown, so it took me by surprise.

My own children were above such things.

No, they had their meltdowns at Toys R Us, like any respectable toddler should.

The grocery store incident reminded me of one time, however, when my daughter went off script and had a bunch of people worried.

It was ten years ago, when she was three…

We were in Sandpoint, Idaho, poking around the touristy downtown area. We stopped at the Cedar Street Bridge to browse the Coldwater Creek store there. I don’t know about you, but we don’t buy stuff at Coldwater Creek, we only browse… It’s much easier on the checkbook.

Anyway, in the middle of our browsing, our daughter started her little dance and whispered, “Mommy, I have to go…” so off to the nearest bathroom on the upper level of the bridge. My son and I looked at old photos on the wall while we waited. Soon a middle-aged couple and their friend stopped to look at the photos too. Just then, the screaming began.

“No no no! Aiiiieeee! Bwaaaaggghh! Gurgle! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!” Something like that anyway. I didn’t react at all. Why should I? I hear this stuff practically every day. But the couple next to us became very concerned, probably because of a recent child abduction that had brought national attention to our area. The woman didn’t waste much time and announced that she was “going to investigate!”

We waited a few moments, with a small crowd gathering, and me pretending not to know what’s going on. Pretty soon the woman emerged from the bathroom, spread her arms, palms out to calm the masses, and authoritatively stated, “It’s okay! Everything’s alright. She saw a spider web!”

Audible sighs of relief followed, and the crowd dispersed, glad in the knowledge that the screams of terror coming from the public restroom were simply a little girl freaking out over a dusty old spider web.

I’m glad those days are long over.

Try To Be A Man

If you’re a stay-at-home dad, then you’ve seen the disapproving looks and heard the snide comments. At first it bothers you, but after awhile you realize that the animosity usually stems from either ignorance or jealousy.

And where do these looks and comments come from? Oh, just about everywhere. Family, friends, men, women, stay-at-home moms… But the worst are the golf-playing, beer-drinking, Minoxidil-rubbing, weight-pumping working dads. They have their own personal definition of what a man is supposed to be, and it sure as heck doesn’t include vacuuming, changing diapers, and cooking a healthy family meal.

I bring this up because I heard from one of the Neanderthals today, in a forum devoted to news and issues concerning the town in which I live.

He responded to me with this:

Try to be a man (really). Get a job and go to work.

Ten years ago, this comment would’ve made me flustered, because I was still figuring out my role as a stay-at-home dad. But now? Well, I just have a giggle over guys like this. If he really is so clueless to think that a dad who stays at home AND homeschools his kids is something less than a man, then that’s his problem.

I won’t even go into the “go to work” comment. Some days I wish I had an outside job to run to so I could take a break from the incredible amount of work involved in running a household and overseeing the education of my children. A desk piled with papers in a quiet air-conditioned office sounds like a vacation to me.

Actually, a bulldozer on a busy construction site sounds even better. I could definitely burn off some stress with one of those bad boys.

The point is, as a stay-at-home homeschooling dad, I have more to oversee, organize, approve, and accomplish than most dads who clock into a regular 9 to 5 job. I’m on call 24/7 and rarely get a break from my duties.

But that doesn’t make me more or less of a man than anyone else. It just means I’m a busy guy who doesn’t have time to banter with clueless message board trolls.

So, what is a man? Outside of the obvious anatomical explanations, I have no idea.

He is who he is. And he does his best with what he has.

If you have a better explanation, I’d love to hear it.

A Bigger Worry Than Ebola

The Ebola Virus is all over the news, maybe all over Texas by now, but you really don’t need to be worried about it just yet.

No, we are just starting cold and flu season, which generally runs from October to May.

That’s what you should be worried about.

However, if you use some common sense and preventative care, you might not even have to worry about cold and flu viruses, which will free up a lot of time to freak out about Ebola.

Here are a few uncommon facts about the common cold, from Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University… Continue reading

Ben Stein’s 10 Commandments of Fatherhood

In his 1998 book Tommy and Me, Ben Stein chronicles his feelings of frustration and joy of being a father. It’s a short book, at 152 pages, and contains many insights into parenting that made me stop and think. I especially enjoyed his concluding chapter. Here it is (in abridged form):

Ben Stein’s Ten Commandments of Fatherhood:

1. Time is of the essence. Spend large amounts of time with your child. Kids don’t want “quality time”… They want you to be there all the time.

2. Share your strength with your child. Be an ally, not an adversary. Share with him stories of your own fears, failings, and anxieties and how you overcame them.

3. Do not expect your child to make up for your own losses when you were a child. Let your kids pursue their own hopes and dreams.

4. Look for the good in your child and praise it. Children are nurtured by praise as plants are nurtured by water. Deny it to them at their peril and yours. Children who are told that they can succeed in fact usually do succeed.

5. Do not allow your children to be rude. Being polite is a basic foundation of human interaction, and kids will not succeed in life if they’re surly and disrespectful.

6. Patience is indispensable. Children’s behavioral flaws cannot be corrected by flipping a switch. It takes a long time and a lot of patience to teach positive behaviors. If you are an impatient, demanding, short-fused dad, you will get that irritable, demanding kind of kid.

7. Teach your child and let him teach you. Children will tell you what they want and need. Dads get into trouble when they do not listen to their kids and dismiss their feelings as not important. Also, your child should get the benefit of your wisdom and experience about life, so tell him what you know about the world around you. Learn from your children and let them learn from you.

8. Value your child for what he is, not for what you think he should be. I want my son to know that whatever he becomes in the future, he is prized just for being my son, right now.

9. Raising a child is a job for Mom and Dad. Children with absent fathers are wounded for the balance of their lives. Dad should and must be in there pitching along with Mom, helping out as an equal partner in the tough job of raising children. The true heroes of our generation are at home with their kids.

10. Being a Daddy is priority number one. When you decide that your kids come before your sales quota or your poker-playing schedule or your overtime to make partner, then you will find that all of the other pieces of Daddyhood fall into place – teaching and learning, patience, looking for the good and praising it. When you put your kids first, you are far less alone in this world. What’s more vital, so are they.