Are We Still Putting Soap in Their Mouths?

a-christmas-story-soap2 Are we still doing the soap in the mouth thing?

I may need to go out and buy a bar of soap.

Better yet.

Amazon Prime. Soap please.

We use liquid soap here. Body wash really. How does that work? Do I loofa his tongue?

The six year old said his first bad word the other day.

Wait, shit. His second bad word.

About a year ago while we were watching Monster Truck videos on Youtube he said, “Well look at that damn thing!”

It was pretty fitting really. Trucks… John Deere hats. Lots of testosterone in the crowd. I may have been drinking a beer from a bottle. He pointed to a truck and said “Look at that damn thing!”

Actually, I was drinking a beer because I recall nodding my head and tipping the bottle towards him in acknowledgment.

From upstairs his mom yelled, “Don’t feed into it!”

And I didn’t. Well shit, I did. I winked and whispered, “Yep, those are some pretty sweet damn tires.”

It went away for a year. That is until the other day when his potty mouth came out of hibernation. And oh did it mature while it lay dormant.

He said something filthy while I was away from the house. I was made aware of it via text.

No emoji needed. It was pretty funny without adding a pictorial representation. Point made.

When I came home I confronted him about it.

“So what bad word did you say?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” He answered.

“I understand but I need to know what you said so I can tell you why it’s bad.”

And then he unleashed it on me.

The following isn’t edited for content.

This is exactly how it went down.

Hold on.

Make sure no children are present.

“I said, Hate and Suck and Stupid and Fart and Farty Face and of course, Mr Farty Face and Poop Head and Oh yeah, I also said Mr Poopy Head.

“Those are all really bad words. Really bad. But I heard you said something else.”

“I also said, Well Fuck It Then!”

“Wow! That is bad too. Those are all really bad words. We don’t say those words. We especially don’t say those words when we are mad. Okay? We talk about things. Diplomatically and politely.”

I think he got it.

I told him if says a bad word again he will go to his room.

His reply. “For how long?”

“This isn’t a negotiation.”

"What about diplomacy?"

"Not in this case." I answered.

“Will I go to my room for just a little bit? For a long time? Will I go to my room until I am old? How will I eat? What if I have to go to the bathroom?”

“For a hour! Say a bad word and you will go to your room for an hour.”

“An hour isn’t so bad.” He replied.

I guess I need to go buy a bar of soap.

We're taking it up a notch here.

Fuck it.

He Already Thinks He's Smarter Than Me

What else
What else

He's only four and he already thinks he's smarter than I am. He's learned how to give the look that says, “Seriously? I wasn't born yesterday you know?”

I give him the look back that says, “In the grand scheme of things... close enough.”

He's given me that looks twice in his life and they both happened last week. The first time he may have misinterpreted my amazed facial expression as defeat. I wasn't as much impressed with his problem solving skills as I was in shock that at such an early age he already thinks I'm full of shit.

The second time he gave me the look I was prepared and let him think he outsmarted me. I'm playing the long game. No need to sprint.

“Well played son.” Is what my face said. But my mouth added, “Listen little man. From your very first day of life when I turned powdered formula into food through a science you can't comprehend I've been smarter than you.”

The first debate that arose this week revolved around the construction of a Thomas the Tank Engine track. I've been building these tracks for literally more than half his life. He can mock my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but I'll be damned if I'll let him question me on my track construction.

The tracks on all these train sets are a one way affair. One side of the track only fits into the opposite side of a connecting track. We own a few switches that allow the tracks to branch off into extra segments but naturally you need another switch to connect that offshoot back to the main railway. Obviously, You Can't Have an Odd Number of Switches! Train tracks can't end in a dead end! Unless you have a roundhouse or a rail yard. Both of which we do not. We're not the Rockefeller's.

He was insisting on having 3 switches even while complaining that the line wasn't connecting. I tried explaining and rationalizing and drawing a diagram on paper and even ran off into a little bit of tangent with a premature birds and the bees talk when I demonstrated the “female” vs “male” ends of the tracks. “It won't work this way!” I yelled.

He added a fourth switch connecting the lines and said, “See daddy. It's easy.”

And that's when I gave him the face that said, “This is precisely what I've been trying to tell you. This isn't your idea you know?”

And he gave me the face that said, “What else don't you know?”

Now the second confrontation.

It's bed time and he wanted to read an E-book on a Leappad tablet. The battery was nearly dead (“like the goldfish Daddy?”) the night before and we finished the book just in the nick of time before I had to explain to him the difference between the alkaline batteries in his tablet vs the lithium ion batteries in daddy's cell phone. This is how conversations end these days. They start with, “Why daddy?”

Before we turned the tablet on I planted the seed that would flower in the garden of his disappointment. “We may need to come up with a plan b here man. I think the battery is dead and before you get all fired up let's come up with a solution.”

“Dead like the goldfish?” He asked.

“Yes.”

“It's not dead.” He said as the tablet booted up.

“I know... but it may run out of power soon so just start thinking about what real book we will read when that happens.”

The tablet started up and we got to our E-book and the bedtime routine began. We were making good progress as I gave him the cliff notes version of some of the pages while I watched the battery indicator blink red. Time is of the... it turned off.

“Okay, the battery died. Let's find a real book to read.”

He tried to explain to me it wasn't dead and I fought back saying it was and he said it just needed to rest like the cats do and we went round and round until he demanded it wasn't dead and that all we had to do was turn it back on again.

Which he did. And it powered up. And he said, “See daddy. It's easy.” And he gave me that look again. For the second time this week.

Naturally it powered down soon there after but I calmly took it away before he saw that so he'd go to bed thinking he was right.

I did tell him though that he didn't need to use the stylus to push the power button because it is mechanical and not touch sensitive like the capacitive screen.

“So there.” It was my face said.

And we both won that one.

On Fatherhood: Almost 40 With a 4 Year Old

headphones

How different his world is in 2014 than mine was when I was his age in 1978. This is the blessing of the late blooming father. Had I begun the child rearing phase of my life a decade or more ago things would be different. We could enjoy the Hunger Games together, we could both simultaneously suffer from Bieber Fever and I could have eaten all of his leftovers without worrying about calories. Not so when 35 years separates us.

Now I can easily justify saying, "When I was your age."

"When I was your age, we called a thirty second video clip a commercial."

Will I be able to teach him to appreciate the things that made me who I am today or is he too far removed from my generation? Will the coming of age moments for me be relevant for him? Will the movies, books, video games and music mean anything now or will they be campy and ironic to him?

I've begun compiling a list of media he will need to consume (and appreciate) as he matures in order to continue calling himself my son.

When he comes home from school with awkward adolescent struggles and feelings of not fitting in I will sit him down to watch Weird Science to understand my 80's awkward. We had to watch our back then. When we (the nerds) weren't doing so we were fantasizing about a time when we could control our destiny with computers. We were on the front lines. "Back in my day, nerds weren't cool like they are now. Who knew it would take something like Glee to allow us to come out."

HughesHit_slideshow_604x500

Who knows where he will be and what he will have seen by then but when he is in high school and surely feels trapped, he will read On The Road and dream about wandering. He will not read it digitally. He will not listen to it. I will get him the book. I will encourage him to write in the margins and dog-ear the corners. I will teach him that the scuffed up pages with take him back to the spot where he scuffed them up. He will remember the book but more importantly he will remember where he was and who he was with when he reads it again later.

When I first started playing my fathers records, naturally I was drawn to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". It became mine when I heard the tracks that weren't overplayed on the radio. That album came out only 7 years before I  was born but seemed from another time. If my son does the same, maybe he will stumble upon my Nirvana "Nevermind" CD. That album came out almost twenty years before he was born! Twenty years! What a gap. If 7 years was a lifetime for me then... what will a two decade spread sound like? The Beastie Boys album "Licensed to Ill" was one of the first tapes I bought on my own. A quarter century before he was born. To him... vintage. But the lyrics are timeless right? "Don't step out of this house if that's the clothes you're gonna wear. I'll kick you out of my home if you don't cut that hair."

As an avid collector of classic video games whether he will enjoy the games from a simpler time is a grey area for me. Will he have the imagination and patience left to be able to experience games in anything less that HD?  When we start playing together, where to begin? Do I introduce them after the fact as being retro and nostalgic or slowly trickle them out in chronological order so he can watch them develop as I did but on a much faster scale. If so, we need to start playing Pitfall on the Atari 2600 soon. He's not too spoiled yet to think those green splotches are alligators and naturally you need to jump over them.

pitfall-1

Will these things hold up? Will he tell me to turn that old stuff off? Who knows. My only hope is that he can appreciate them and although it's decades later maybe they will resonate with him at the right time and the right place as they did for me. Then again... maybe it will be his turn to teach me something.

 

 

I Fear My Son Will Think I Don't Read

Bookshelf-Wallpaper
Bookshelf-Wallpaper

I fear my son will think I don't read... or listen to music... or vacuum since that task has been assigned to the robot.

It's been years since I bought a physical book and I can count the number of physical CD's I've purchased in the last decade. I have neither of these things laying around as conversation starters for him to ask about. That being said, I read on my Kindle every day and spend hours around the house with my Ipod and at least one earbud jammed in my skull.

For all he knows though, I'm watching My Little Pony on the tablet or doing "the letter game" since that's what a tablet is used for in his world. And for physical copies of music, I listen to vinyl with him since he likes to watch the turntable spin around. He probably thinks the evolution of media is from cassette to CD and then on to vinyl. I'm sure he assumes the retro Fisher Price turntable Target sells was just recently invented too.

Fisher-Price-Record-Players
Fisher-Price-Record-Players

I've wondered how his world will be different as we've moved to digital media.

We don't have cable so he doesn't know about channels nor does he have any concept of having to wait for his show to start. He chooses the programs he wants to watch on Netflix by pointing to the TV and saying "That one, Please" while we select it with the clicker (we don't call it clicker). It starts immediately.

He doesn't know what commercials are and has yet to be programmed to want a particular toy for that reason (See This Great Old Blog Post I Wrote About This). The only thing we watch that isn't streaming is the "News" at 6:30. "It's your turn?" He will ask. "Are you going to watch the NEWS?"

Since it's an over the air digital broadcast it gets pixelated when it rains unlike the streaming HD he is used to. He must assume we are so old fashioned with our fuzzy screens and non-voice activated clickers.

I'm thinking about buying up some of the cardboard books they have on display at IKEA to show off their bookshelves so at least we can have a lesson on the printing press.

"You can keep the shelves, I've got plenty of empty ones at home. How much for the cardboard books?"

Better yet, maybe I'll buy bookshelf wallpaper.

You Say You Want A Revolution?

image There will certainly be a time in our sons life where he will think he is cooler than us and rebel against the way we chose to raise him. He will be on his way to becoming a Jedi of his own. In an attempt to limit the damage to his ego and curb his embarrassment when he realizes he is, and will always be, less cool than his parents, I will attempt now to predict the ways in which he will play in opposition to our interests. This way, how can it be his revolution if I called it first?

Note, on this day in 2013, I predicted he would go through these phases and also predicted they won't last long.

-Dad. I'm really digging this new band. Actually... The whole genre. I'm really into Christian Rock now.

-Dad. I like wearing white tank tops because they really show off my gold chains.

-Dad. I know you like watching Seinfeld but that show is thirty years old. Can I please turn on Sports Center?

-Dad. I can't believe you were around when The Fast and Furious movies had their theatrical debut and you didn't go see any on the big screen.

-Dad. Can we get something really messy for dinner tonight? Like really wet barbque ribs? I really like finger licking food now.

-Dad. I don't need to know what their voting record is or what their values are... They are Republican and that is all I need to know.

-Dad. It was just a few beers. I really like the taste of High Life.

-Dad. I don't know what your problem is. Everyone jaywalks.

-Dad. I thought you'd like the lights under my car. It's retro. Like the cool kids did to their cars back in your day.

-Dad. It clearly says we have the right to bear arms.

-Dad. Sometimes (Unintelligible sound of talking with a mouth full) you and mom (unintelligible sound of talking with a mouth full) that first year. (Said while talking with a mouth full.)

-Dad. I think I just read my last book. I've pretty much learned all that I need to know.

-Dad. We've had this conversation before... Pink Floyd sucks.

-Dad. I don't have a problem with it. If I'm not doing anything wrong I have nothing to hide from the Government.

-Dad. I really hate video games... And Star Wars... And airplanes.

Automated Chicken Coop 2.0 - Off the Grid

coop
Years back when Mrs. Stork said she wanted chickens I agreed as long as I was able to build the coop. Actually, I said no for years and finally caved when I started lurking in the dark corners of the internet and learned about automated chicken coops. Actually, I've always spent time in the dark corners of the internet... I just didn't know there were chicken people there. Now that we are being honest, I should have caved long ago. My wife was right about how much fun being a chicken farmer is. Storks make good chicken farmers. Who knew?  

Okay. Automated chicken coop? During the day the hens are free to run around their enclosed space but at night they hang out in their coop... Their safe house where they are protected from elements and predators like foxes, rodents and shirtless neighbors.

Predators
For the record, our friend was checking in on the hens while we were away in the above picture. Except, we were no longer away and a few days of confusion ensued as we queried the neighbors as to the identity of the shirtless man in high waisted pants.

Back to the chickens. What's amazing is they go up into their coop naturally. The first day we put them outside they went upstairs on their own at sunset. I figured you at least would need to train them a little with a water gun and some candy corn? Nope. Sun goes down and they're ready for bed. Last call. Lights out. Goodnight John-Boy. Goodnight Jim-Bob.

And to keep the bad guys out... it's nice to have a door that shuts behind them. Those dark corners of the internet are a mess with ideas on how to solve this simple feat. Sun goes down = door closes. Sun goes up = door opens. How hard is that? One farmer has an entire Rube Goldberg setup with a timer on his garden hose that opens a valve in the morning to fill a hanging bucket of water that pulls down the door as it fills. A second timer at night does the same to another bucket that then closes the door.

I was looking for something a little less wet. Plenty of people talk about a drapery motor that people use in the house to automatically open and close miniblinds. It's a simple pulley that is on a timer that can be placed in the coop to operate on the same principle as the bucket method.

The motor has become so popular in chicken coops since I bought ours a few years ago the company now sells a modified version of it specifically for coops. Rather than a pulley, this one is more like a fishing reel that with winds or unwinds a cable attached to the door.

So, we've had this up and running beautifully and have only had a few hiccups during the occasional power surge to the house AC power supply. The door motor reverses direction whenever power is sent to the device. Ideally, at sunrise and sunset per the timer but after a power failure to the house, when power is restored, the motor would trigger and the door would close at noon if that is when the power returned.

Worse yet, the door would now open at sunset plus the time difference the power was out. Say, sunset plus 30 mins. And then close at sunrise plus 30 mins!

Chickens don't like being locked up all day and are ready to fly the coop.

To avoid this issue and ensure happy chickens and healthy eggs, I searched around those dark corners again for a battery/solar power option.

Automated Chicken Coop 2.0
12v DC motor attached to a 12v DC timer attached to a 12v DC battery attached to a 12V DC solar panel. The timer has a digital battery level display plus an override to manually run the door off cycle. For the time being, a visual indicator shows coop door position from the house or webcam but Automated Chicken Coop 3.0 will have a magnetic reed switch on the door which will send a signal to a raspberry pi computer that will push the door position to a website.

The chickens on the other hand are much more analog. They send out an old school tweet of sorts when they lay an egg. Maybe it's more of a cluck.

Yes, Here Comes the Story of the Hurricane

8141678110.jpeg

In Florida, before man made global climate change, we had hurricane drills in grade school. We'd learn where the best place to hide was and how to skin, cook and eat alligator. This was before the internet... and apparently before satellite radar. Didn't they have advanced warning in the 80's? Did we learn nothing from the Seminoles who we took the land from?

Why would we learn how to ride out a storm in school? We were either tougher then or the storms were less severe? Maybe by launching the satellites to better forecast the storms we upset the balance of nature making them more severe? Mother nature said, "I'll show you! You can have all of that down there but the attic is mine."

band of brothers

Or maybe the storms are scarier because I am older with more responsibilities, a house to maintain and a family to care for? When the winds were beginning to whip the trees around and the rain was coming down sideways, I wished I was the college kids next door who were undoubtedly drinking warm beer and celebrating no school. Warm beer? No, this was before the power went out... they haven't had a working refrigerator for many months now. Ah to be that carefree again. We'd have to serve the toddler his yogurt on ice. "Your breakfast, sir. May I draw your bath?"

I admit, I was hesitant of the storms severity as it approached. The news seemed to be getting carried away with their predictions and getting way to excited about the potential doom and destruction. I have a hard time believing emotional journalists. Maybe they've cried wolf too many times or I remember the days when TV news warned you before the editorials.

We did buy supplies for the house and gas for the generator and cleared the yard of potential projectiles. And then we hunkered down as the first bands of wind hit.

Rain and wind and the power went out and we all slept on the first knowing that if a tree fell it would take out the upper reaches of the house first. Over the sound of the generator I listened to the storm while the family slept. All night I was awake assuming the worst and waiting for a tree to crash into us. Again, adulthood? Years ago, I may have relished the adventure and maybe even hoped for a free skylight until the landlord came to fix the damage?

All in all, our damage was minimal. A leak in the kitchen that I thought I had fixed and a little water in the basement and no power. It could have been much worse and luckily we didn't have to cook up any alligator.

Everyday... it's something new

All those stories about them learning something new everyday... are true. A few days ago we taught Judah to throw and chase a soccer ball. Now he is kicking it around like a pro. And looks much more natural at it than I ever did after five scoreless years playing soccer. In the 80's, and probably still now, soccer was the game parents made their unathletic kids play when they spent too much time inside.Lesson learned. We are spending spring break week at the beach and we've been 'running it out of him' everyday. Unlike my childhood soccer memories, he seems to enjoy it.

He is Chasing Planes Around Already

Judah has the aviation bug... already he has begun chasing planes around. I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. Specifically, it may have started when I was single digits sitting in my fathers office watching people fly RC airplanes in a field across the street. The obsession culminated during many summers at Space Camp not learning about poison ivy like most kids.

It's a common question in the cockpit during a round of self loathing. "Are you going to encourage your kids to work for the airlines?"

There is a lot of complaining in the cockpit and galley. I'm sure all industries have their issues but I can't imagine their workers complain as much as we do. Maybe it's because we have so much downtime in the cockpit to "Monday morning quarterback" company decisions and stir up plans on how we'd make things better if we ran the place. "All hotels would have free breakfast... and good shower pressure."

I knew a guy once who had his non-aviation dad up in the cockpit for a flight. He told him to act like a pilot in front of the passengers so they would think he was just a jumpseater. The story goes that when he boarded the plane he said to the flight attendant, "Yep, scheduling F'ed me over again!"

That's all he knew about airline life.

Would I want my son to work for the airlines? Of course. If he wanted to.

I will do what my father did for me... encourage him to pursue his dreams. I love being a pilot. I couldn't imagine doing anything else. It's all that I've ever wanted to do for a living and honestly, all I know how to do. Although there are many up's and down's (stupid pun) I love it. It's more than a job... it's a lifestyle. A wiser man that me once said, "It's not work if you enjoy what you do." He then added something about things in Vegas staying in Vegas but that's not the point... I think?

As a kid I would always look to planes flying overhead and wonder where the pilots are going. Now I know. The same place they've been a thousand times!

But maybe at least their airline puts them up in hotels that have free breakfast.

For a Moment, I Was a TV dad. And not a cool one.

For a Moment, I Was a TV dad. And not a cool one.

"Hey Fellas..." I said when they opened the door at 4pm and from the looks of it, hadn't made much of the day yet. "Sounds like you guys had a really rocking party last night. I would have totally come over but the baby had an ear infection and I may have eaten some bad edamame. So it was lights out for us pretty early."

Read More

I plan on being my son’s Don Draper

I plan on being my son’s Don Draper

I also plan to splice in some retro commercials from Youtube into our viewing routine to manipulate his ‘wants’ and convince him hand me downs and toys from Ebay are the must have holiday gifts. One year he’s gonna go crazy for Furby’s while the next he won’t be able to live without Castle GreySkull.You can by a 1985 Teddy Ruxpin (with 2 cassettes!) for 15 dollars on Ebay.

Read More

How Indiana Jones Has Made Me a Better Father

How Indiana Jones Has Made Me a Better Father

When the baby falls asleep in my arms, I recreate this old scene in reverse as I do my best to place him in the crib and extract my arms without him rising. I learned from Indy... one swift movement. His eyes are closed and his body is limp in my arms and I get him as close to the mattress as I can. I yank my arms out from both sides so that he slides in without changing position. Often, it ends up like Dr. Peter Venkman's attempt in Ghostbusters to pull the tablecloth out from under the dishes and we start over back in the rocking chair.

Read More

A Fully Loaded Bjorn!

It's rare that I try pants on when I buy them but if I do the only thing I am looking for is pocket depth. I don't really care how they make me look or even if they fit right. I'm interested in how much stuff I can carry around when wearing them. This is something they should put on the sign - I don't care if it's a boot cut or an ankle cut... I want pocket capacity on the label.

Since having a baby I've become a big fan of the Bjorn! When he's not it in I like to wear it and pretend I'm an off duty cop wearing my gun vest around the house. I want to load it up with gear and go to a bar and have them hang it on an antler while I knock back a few pints.

I'm looking for the perfect accessory to the Bjorn. A friend suggested a fishing vest or an ammo jacket. In the meantime I'm fitting it the best I can with my gear... bottles and burp cloths and charged containers of powdered formula, my Ipod. And, of course, the baby.

The giving tapestry

Early on in college I bought a tapestry to hang on the walls of my dorm room. Since then it has been many things to me. I've used it on the walls and the ceilings of many rooms and I've taken it in the woods camping when I was too young to care that it didn't provide much warmth. I've taken it to wine tastings and concerts. Last year we took it to Bonnaroo and made fabric walls to hang along the sides of our canopy to keep the sun out. The other morning, while feeding Judah, I found a new use... one I doubt I would have ever considered when I bought it from the "Wooden Nickle" in Tampa in the early 90's.

Read More

Don't you want your own baby? Adoption isn't Plan B.

"Don't you want your own baby?"This is my favorite. If you asked this, don't be ashamed. I'm not "outing" you. It's a common question. I hear it about as often as I hear, "Can't you guys have your own?" How about this one. "You're so great to save that baby." We're not saving anyone... we're starting a family.

Read More