5 blogs to definitely check out.

photo credit: Short Run via photopin (license)
photo credit: Short Run via photopin (license)

So, I once covered a cycling event for a newspaper.

I knew nothing about cycling.

I do know something about people, though, so I spoke with the cyclists as though they were people.

Novel concept, I know.

Continue reading “5 blogs to definitely check out.”


When first graders attack, at least they apologize eloquently

photo credit: #221/366 via photopin (license)
photo credit: #221/366 via photopin (license)

Pacifist prison wardens? Tenderhearted bouncers? Forgetful waiters?

You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine, brother.

For I am Lunch Dad. Hear me roar.

When the call goes out for volunteers to run herd during lunch, I answer.

The 30-minute drive to get there? Worth it, every time. Giving Grace’s awesome teacher a moment’s peace to nosh on a turkey club? Surprising Grace in the chow line for a steaming tray of chicken triangles and a carton of chocolate milk?

Being bear-hugged by Ewoks? Storytime and Hangman and making origami?

photo credit: Tempting... via photopin (license)
photo credit: Tempting… via photopin (license)

A stellar afternoon. Usually. But on this particular day, it felt like Alcatraz.

One day later, I received a gift from the class: A paper-clipped stack, an eighth-of-an-inch high, of that little blue-and-red-lined paper – you know, the stuff that helps guide us as we scribble lower-case W’s and practice that swinging loop on our cursive F’s. A blue-lined sticky note clung to the top of the pile:

Mr. Pacheco –

Please find apologies from our class. I do believe that they are truly sorry for their actions. I hope you come back again this year!


Mrs. S

Red Apple

Check out my lunch-dad stats: 3,294 hugs received. One kiss on the forehead. 2,103 heart-felt hand-holds. 973 go-gurts, Sunny D’s and thermoses opened for kids. 77 delighted squeals, give or take a dozen, spread over nine years on the job.

Oh, and a cupful of praise from teachers along the way.

Mrs. S felt the need to defend my honor as if I were some sort of noble Occupy Classroom martyr.

I’d been sacrificed, among:

  • the ghosts of butt-shaking dances
  • kids perched on tables and chairs
  • piggy-back rides given, or taken
  • sneaky maneuvers past me to erase names of boys and girls cited for naughty behavior
  • utter misuse of bathroom privileges
  • gross misconduct with strips of yarn
  • a spirited auction for a mini puffed-rice treat, drizzled with chocolate
  • and the un-American and inexcusable (but admittedly funny) humiliation of a simple white-bread hot dog bun  – all in the din of tiny voices that find power collectively busting through that level 3, 4, 5 – (5,000?) speaking voice

No bleeding. Minimal crying. Moderate tattle-taling. One child, shattered because she didn’t hear the story read that she picked. Another kid, remorseful when I scrawled her name on the board for inciting Los Angeles-caliber rioting.

But let’s see your average Lakers fan rioter pen notes as sweet as these:

Dear Mr. Pacheco,

I am sorry for what my friends did. We really hope he comes back to do lunch again. My apologies.

Apology accepted. It’s very big of you to apologize on their behalf. They owe you one.

Dear Mr. Pacheco,

I’m sorry for the things I did today. It won’t happened again. I really hope you will come back.

Thanks. The doctor said my limp will last only a few months, and my memory will return.

What’s your name again?


Mr. Pacheco,

I am sorry for being not at a level 0 for the 15 minutes. My behavior will not happen again.

Aw, that’s OK. I’m at a level zero all day at work until I have a Coke Zero. I feel you, kid.


Dear Mr. Pacheco,

I am sorry for talking. The behavior you saw will not happen again. We want you to come back.

Now you have me worried about what I didn’t see. What happens after the weenie dance?


Dear Mr. Pacheco,

I am sorry for rampaging, getting mad. I won’t do it again. I promise.

I’m willing to forgive and forget because you used the word “rampaging.” Well done, lad.


Dear Mr. Pacheco,

I am sorry that my class was so talky today at lunch. That won’t happen ever again.

Talky is fine. Ask the hens around me where I used to work. Oops. They read this column! Next.


Dear Mr. Pacheco,

I am sorry for yelling. Hope you can come back. I am very, very, very sorry you feel bad.

Know when you told me, “You won’t write me down. You don’t even know my name?” I cheated by asking one of your classmates for help. It wasn’t really magic. Just kinda.


Mr. Pacheco,

The “one-hour drive just for nothing” will not happen again. I will not do the stuff I did again.

I’ve been quoted! I forgot I was wearing a teacher microphone. Good thing I didn’t cuss.


Dear Mr. Pacheco,

You can feel safe to come and not see or hear us do it. I hope you will feel comfortable to come.

I was SO very brave; were you the one stroking my hair as I hid under the desk?


Dear. Mr. Pacheco,

I am sorry for shaking my booty. I promise it won’t happen again. I hope you come back.

At least once a soccer season, I mutter that too: “I am sorry for shakin’ my booty.”


Dear Mr. Pacheco,

I am sorry about lunch. Will you come back? I hope we’ll never do it again. Please come back! Because you are silly and fun! Come back!!!!

If ever a letter clinched the deal, here it is. I’ll be back, sweetie.

I won’t desert you. Remember the boy yelling “Come back, Shane!” in that movie? I’m not about to become Shane. It’d be like being a window washer, who’s afraid of heights. A baker, who hates to wake up early. A Bobcats fan, who likes to mingle with thousands of friends.

I am Lunch Dad, after all. Hear me roar.

5 for Friday: Go ask daddy about reproductive science, canine cancer, and the power of a woman’s legs

photo credit: IMG_0541 via photopin (license)
photo credit: IMG_0541 via photopin (license)

Ah, more questions.

They never cease, from the kids; this keeps we dads mentally sharp. It’s sudoku without the math. Kind of.

One question came whistling in from left field recently – about whether girls can marry girls.

It came on mom’s watch, so she got to field that one, and did quite well.

The rest were mine:

1. Do animals ever have twins?

photo credit: david and isaac via photopin (license)
photo credit: david and isaac via photopin (license)

Technically, when I see a litter, I’m thinking, twins, triplets, quadruplets, and whatever sphere Kate Goesling and the Octomom reside. But technically, those aren’t twins, triplets, quadruplets, Goselingets or Octomomets. Twins happen only when zygotes split in half, says science. And the Internet.

See, when a critter has a litter, it’s the result of multiple female gametes being released. It’s like when they first open the doors at Wal-mart on Black Friday. Only far less deadly. Only one other animal – besides humans – gets to enjoy the feat of monozygotic twins: The armadillo.

And with the armadillo, you’ll sometimes get not twins, but quadruplets, from two binary fissions of a single fertilized oocyte. I know, I know, way technical. There’s a period of arrested development, too, just after the embryo develops to hatchling blastocyst, therefore …

Ah, heck with it. The trivia answer is armadillo. Let’s move on.

2. How can you tell if a person was a boy or a girl if all you have left is a skeleton?

photo credit: Skeleton - French anatomical engraving via photopin (license)
photo credit: Skeleton – French anatomical engraving via photopin (license)

Well, boys are tall, and girls are short, but apparently, this isn’t the fool-proof method. Plus, you know daddy’s skeleton will be shorter than, say, Kerri Walsh’s. (Let’s not think about daddy’s skeleton for now. Or Kerri’s. Or why they’d be found together.)

First, like with young, skinny Elvis, it’s all in the pelvis. We fellows have titled-forward sacrum; you girls’ are tilted back. Your ilia are also spread more, to give you a bigger pelvic outlet (presumably for birthing). Ours is all closed off, like our minds, sometimes.

So, what if the pelvis is out of the picture, and you have only a skull? (Let’s break here to hope that you’re never in a spot, unless it’s forensically or scientifically, in which you’re shifting through bones to identify gender. OK, back to the program.)

We guys have more pronounced occipital protuberance and mastoid process. Basically, thicker skulls. Also, our teeth are bigger, our jaws more square (yours are more gracile and beautiful), and our brows are heavier. This is to remind both genders that we’re more closely linked to Cro Magnons, somehow.

Man, these answers are getting heavy. Let’s just go with this: If the hips are narrow and the skull is thick and caveman-like, it’s probably a dude.

3. Can a dog get cancer from second-hand smoke?

photo credit: mom, i thought we were staying home this year? : folsom street fair, san francisco (2012) via photopin (license)
photo credit: mom, i thought we were staying home this year? : folsom street fair, san francisco (2012) via photopin (license)

Yes they can, especially pooches with long snouts (which ought to spur scientists to study whether people with big noses are more likely to get cancer this way). Dogs have other worries, too, such as toxins in their vaccines and the plastic used to make their food dishes. Not to mention electric fences and dog catchers.

(Studies are still being done on these threats, though. The food dishes, not the electric fences.)

Second-hand smoke will affect anything with lungs, and it’s a great way to spread the love if you’re a smoker. Like that lady in the car with the panting dog that brought this question up in the first place.

4. What are lightsabers like? Are they so hot they melt things?

OK, my little Padawans, I knew this question would come at some time. Every father should have the Jedi talk with his children, preferably before they’re old enough to join the Rebel Cause.

Lightsabers are plasma weapons, meaning that they are designed, in part, to cut metal. Therefore, it would be irresponsible for me to have one in the house. Despite how I vote, I’m fine with others keeping weapons in their home, but I’ll defer, especially with something as potent as a lightsaber. It’s one thing to keep the bullets to your gun in a separate cabinet; it’s quite another to have a lightsaber around kids (I don’t think they even have safety switches).

Yes, lightsabers are so hot they melt things. I was confused at this as a boy, when Darth Vader cut down Ben Kenobi in that fateful duel on the Death Star. When Vader’s lightsaber hit Ben’s cloak (Ben totally gave himself up), Ben vanished into thin air. This is a Jedi trick, not the science of lightsabers. In reality, a lightsaber is so hot that it will cut through anything – metal, marble, Jedi limbs, and, I presume, roast beef.

Did I really just spend three paragraphs explaining lightsaber safety? I did. And I couldn’t have done it without help from this very cool website.

5. How come a girl can get a taxi by lifting her dress like this, and a guy can’t?

photo credit: A Jedi stopped by my house today and forgot his thingy...  It's mine now! via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Jedi stopped by my house today and forgot his thingy… It’s mine now! via photopin (license)

Man. I think I’d rather have fielded the question about girls marrying girls.

Legs. Well, they’re sort of the universal language. Hmm. (shifts uncomfortably.)

See, I know you saw Nancy Drew on The Hardy Boys hail a cab by showing a little leg. (Grace even demonstrated the technique.)

I think I have terrific legs for a 40-year-old guy, but I know flashing them won’t get me extra sprinkles on my ice cream, let alone a cab ride. This has nothing to do with my musculature, a little to do with how hairy my legs are, and mostly to do with supply and demand.

You know how on really cold soccer mornings, you’d love to have hot chocolate? It’s appealing. So too is ice-cold lemonade on your hottest soccer days. People will do whatever they can to get it. But try to sell the chilled lemonade in the winter or the hot chocolate in July, and, well, you’re not going to beat down any doors.

So dad’s legs – and most guys’ – are like hot chocolate on the Fourth of July. Nancy Drew’s are more lemonade on July 4. I know, I know, we both need the ride, so why the difference? And why does this matter?

Nancy Drew did this in the 1970s, as actress Pamela Sue Martin, whose cuteness really tends to grow on you. To me, and to the cabbie. But in 2012, it still happens. The London Daily Mail recently ran a story all about actress Scarlett Johansson nabbing a cab by just looking fly in in a skirt. (I have a feeling you might ask me next what “fly” means.)

But because you’re 7, Grace, and because my “male feminist” card trumps any prior or expired “leg man” card in my wallet, I’ll try and be a little cautious in my response: Cabbies will break for women who show a little leg because … well, it comes down to this: You know how we saw that rainbow the other day, and couldn’t stop looking at it?

Or how kids always pick the doughnut with the brightly colored frosting?

Or how the girl bird always picks the boy bird with the flashiest feathers?

Well, it’s kind of like that.

Scarlett Johansson’s legs are prettier than your dad’s.

Hers are the brightly-colored frosting, the flashy feathers, that will stop the cab in its tracks.

She’ll win, every time.

Unless your dad has a lightsaber.

Why Dads Come in Second – but a Strong Second

photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc
photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc

Moms are smart.

They’re brave. They’re instinctive. They’re inspiring.

They’re giving and forgiving. And we dads – and men, in general, regardless of your status of having or having not spawned – must give them their props.

You have the inside track on parenting, in nature. Babies grow inside you. They are nourished by you. They’re suckled and protected and taught by you.

Dads, no matter how intent our actions, or sharp our awareness, or keen our sense of our place in a family, can’t know parenthood from that perspective.

Not even as a seahorse.

That doesn’t make it any easier.


photo credit: johnb/Derbys/UK. via photopin cc
photo credit: johnb/Derbys/UK. via photopin cc

Someone hit a goose with their car on my way home a few months ago. I passed by just after it happened.

This is just part of spring – you’ll see small birds chasing hawks to protect a nest; baby birds fallen out of nests, relying on nature and luck to survive; a family a ducks walking, mom in front, dad in back, babies in between.

My first thought was, “I hope that was the dad. So that the babies have their mom still, to survive.”

Plus, wouldn’t it be the dad who wandered out on a four-lane road, most likely?

I know our rep.

But being exterior, not possessing the instincts you do, isn’t always a convenience. Sure, it must be for guys who can just leave their mark and move on. Nature lets us off the hook sometimes.

Sometimes, we don’t want to be let off the hook, though.

I remember Jason. I’m pretty sure he’s passed on long ago. He was a ladies’ man, and made no bones about it. He was a real rover. He made his rounds around the neighborhood, spreading his seed in a wide radius. There were many pups out there who kind of looked like this tallish, cocoa-brown muttish player.


photo credit: Perry McKenna via photopin cc
photo credit: Perry McKenna via photopin cc

He was a dog. Literally.

And there were many puppies who could have called him dad. He didn’t have to stay. He didn’t have to park it in anyone’s dog house but his own.

Not all dudes are wired this way. Even when we struggle, even when we get things wrong, even when it looks as if we’d rather be doing something else, there’s something innate about being a dad that is so intertwined in who we are, that job – as dad – can’t possibly wander far from the center of our hearts.

Even when we’re, for all the world to see, mismatched. We know we can’t do things the way mom does. That’s OK. We’ll do things the way dad does. Even if it’s the remedy of putting down newspaper on every spill and mess, like Adam Sandler’s character in “Big Daddy,” we’re at least doing something.

Sonny Koufax, Sandler’s character in “Big Daddy,” decided at one point to allow the child in his foster care to do whatever he wanted to. Dress the way he wanted to. Even pick out his own name – Frankenstein.

“You can do whatever you want to do, buddy,” Sonny told the kid, “and I’ll show you some cool sh*t along the way.”

I’m not sure we dads should do it like Sonny Koufax (or at least, openly admit it), but when we let the leash out a bit and allow the kid to learn from her mistakes, it’s by design, often, and not just apathy.

No, it might not be the mom way.

That’s a tried and true way.

A way that probably has a great deal to do with the human race even existing today.

But, like mom, we dads will “show them some cool sh*t along the way.”

5 for Friday: TV dudes and women who shaped my childhood years


Influence. On who you are. What you think. What you like, hate, want, aspire to be.

There’s so much of it. Advertising. Social media. News media.

Family. Friends. Your work environment.

braids,girls,household,leisure,remote controls,watching television,women,switching on,entertainmentBefore all this, though, there’s TV.

Fiction. Non-fiction. Animation.

Before you join the work force, or the social media realm, or even the dating world, these influences have prepackaged you to an extent.

Like to partake in fisticuffs and treat your lady as a prize? Perhaps you watched a fair share of Popeye.

Live in a land of make-believe, and change your shoes when you get home? Maybe you were a product of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

Find yourself chasing your rival with mallets, butcher’s knives and explosives? Watch Tom & Jerry or Roadrunner much?

I avoided a life of reality avoidance and violence with blunt objects and blades, but fictional characters definitely made their presence known to me.

Whether it was for better or worse is up to society and a handful of therapists and perhaps local law enforcement to decide.

Here’s four fictional characters – and one real person – who made their impact on my impressionable years. Honorable mention goes to the likes of Maddie Hayes of Moonlighting fame, Jesus, and Cookie Monster, incidentally.

1. Maxwell Smart.

Why? When I was a kid, I just thought he was funny. And still successful. As an adult, he proved to me that you can bumble a bit, and still be a champ. Belittled by your peers, but still crack the case. Botch the works, miss it by THAT much, and still have an Agent 99 just roll her eyes and say, “oh, Max!”, and love you anyway. The gadgets helped. If T-mobile offered a shoe phone with a two-year renewal, I’d sign up. Even if they didn’t come with the cuff link cameras.

2. Jim Zorn.

Why? First off, he’s left-handed, like me. Second, he played for my favorite childhood team, the Seattle Seahawks, an expansion NFL franchise that played in a dome and uniforms in my favorite colors. Check out the video. Before I knew what the word “improvisation” meant, I watched Jim Zorn scramble and sling and slide and lead the Seahawks to, if not victory, at least a pretty decent highlight reel. That’s me, in life: I might not always win, but it’s usually an entertaining attempt.

3. Indiana Jones

Why? It feels like I’ve talked about Indiana Jones every week. My parents said when I was a little kid, I wanted to be Steve Austin – you know, the Six Million Dollar Man. I even told a grocery store cashier my name was  Steve Austin when she asked me (nothing like getting a head start on awful pickup lines). But Indiana Jones represented more than good machinery – he’s brave, intelligent, quick on his feet, and, I’m convinced, could kick ass against a trio of Crocodile Dundee, Honk Kong Fooey and Slater from Saved by the Bell, even.

4. Judy Jetson

Why? My first official crush. See, my friends didn’t have cute big sisters. Two had mean big brothers. They taught me a lot of stuff I’m glad to have forgotten. Judy, though … she was flighty, had that dreamy/obnoxious voice, flitted around like a teenager. I wasn’t even jealous when she drone on and on about one cute boy after the next at her star school, but maybe I should have been. Maybe she would have noticed. Being a 20th-century kid never felt so tragic.

5. Agent 99

Why? Understand, I was a 70s kid, watching something simultaneously cool and funny in “Get Smart.” Agent 99 was, well, an agent! She had all the special-agent gadgets and tools, and all the fashion impeccability a kid younger than 10 could understand. And she was all girl. Those eyelashes. That voice. Now, though, I realize the most endearing thing she did, for me as an 8-year-old or me as a 40-year-old, was that whenever Max screwed something up, was utterly wrong, or managed to combine both foibles into one, she’d just shake her head, bat her eyelashes, and say, simply … “Oh, Max.”

If you’re a guy who aspires to becoming a bumbling hero someday, you like things like this.

Dad in the kitchen? Here’s 3 recipes even you can’t botch

photo credit: ....Tim via photopin cc
photo credit: ….Tim via photopin cc

I love food.

I know, Captain Obvious. Thing is, I also like to *make* food. The results are usually good. I have had two failures that come to mind: A Sprite cake that somehow galvanized into a bundt-shaped anvil, and awful salsa burgers that didn’t impress my three little part-Mexican jumping beans.

Otherwise, the kidlets tend to celebrate my creations.

Never mind that I always forget to put on a pot of vegetables when I cook, or that the kitchen looks like Badgdad when I’m finished.

Grace and I even put on a pretend cooking show.

I know it’d be a hit – a dad and baby in their pajamas, mucking up a kitchen until a pile of waffles or mountain of wings commences.

Grace one year even asked Santa for a chef’s hat.

Here’s a list of some of our greatest hits, as decided upon by the little three:


Not So Awful Waffles

breakfasts,food,waffles,butter,snacksWhat you’ll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups warm milk

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What you’ll do:

Heat waffle iron. Beat eggs with whisk in medium bowl, just until they’re fluffy (I tried really hard to word this another way). Beat in the rest of the ingredients, but just until smooth. Spoon batter into waffle iron (did you remember to heat it?), and bake about 5 minutes, or until you see steam billowing out of the sides. Careful pulling them out – burned fingers aren’t a side dish.

photo credit: Food Thinkers via photopin cc
photo credit: Food Thinkers via photopin cc


Baked Chicken Wings (Extra messy for Elise)

What you’ll need:

1/3 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, pressed (don’t let the kids see you do this part)

1 tablespoon chili powder (optional)

2 teaspoons garlic powder

salt and ground pepper to taste

25 chicken wings

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 375. Mix olive oil, garlic, chili powder, garlic salt, salt, and pepper in large resealable bag. Seal and shake (the kids will fight over this job, unless the Wii is on, in which case it’s all yours). Add wings. Reseal, and shake it like your paycheck depends on it. Place wings on cookie sheet. Cook for 1 hour, or until they look crispy and sufficiently cooked.

Serve with “blue ranch,” as my kids call bleu cheese, and celery and carrots. Put three wings on their plate, and refuse to serve a fourth until the celery and carrots are also eaten. I’m not above using these tactics.


photo credit: 3liz4 via photopin cc
photo credit: 3liz4 via photopin cc

Crepes, for Creeps

What you’ll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

2 eggs

2 pinches of salt (give or take)

Delicious fillers: chocolate chips, creme cheese, jelly. Nutritional value optional.

More delicious toppers: syrup, powdered sugar, strawberries, blueberries, and did we mention chocolate chips?

What you’ll do:

Whisk up the flour, milk, eggs and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Heat up a frying pan, and slide a bit of butter around it by tilting it around. (If you’re a child of the 80s, and you have a wok cluttering up your cabinets, I bet it would work really well for this. Not that I own a wok.)

Slap down about a hockey puck’s-worth of batter on the pan, and swish this around, too, to make it cover as much of the pan as possible. Use a circular motion, lest your crepes become the shape of Newfoundland and not the shape of a flattened-out hockey puck. It will take about 2 minutes for it to get about nearly as brown as your favorite blogger – then, it’s time to flip it, and get the white side right.

Keep it up until the batter’s gone. The French say you can freeze crepes by placing wax paper between them.

I don’t know about you, but there’s one term less likely to be uttered than “more broccoli, please” among my kids:

“What should we do with the leftover crepes, dad?”

This is America. Destroy your breakfast.

So, what recipes get rave reviews from your kidlets?

5 for Friday: Have a question, kids? Just go ask daddy

photo credit: #123/366 via photopin (license)
photo credit: #123/366 via photopin (license)

The questions never cease.

The girls are on to me, and know that I’m busy jotting down what they ask.

So sometimes, I don’t jot. I just answer.

Other times, I jot, and I research, and I answer. Maybe it’s no coincidence that this happens to happen with the coolest of questions, such as …

Continue reading “5 for Friday: Have a question, kids? Just go ask daddy”

Hispanic, Unemployed, and Yet, Republican


stormtrooper egg hatch

Every day feels like Saturday, y’all.

I feel like I’m 4. Or 94. I miss appointments. Forget which day the pool is closed. I could watch Price Is Right every day. (Not Saturday or Sunday, but I won’t know that until I try and tune it in and find Danger Rangers or This Week With George Stephanopoulos on the air instead.)

I’m not losing it, friends. I’m just, unemployed.


It’s given me time to work on my disc golf game (I shot 5-under at Mint Hill!). Play and run with the kids (they kick my butt, so I take them to a figure-8 track nearby so that the laps sort of meld into one another!).

Take a nap (such a good one that I woke up with a sore throat).

Continue reading “Hispanic, Unemployed, and Yet, Republican”

Five for Friday: Movies to watch with your kids when mom isn’t lookin’

movies lead
photo credit: DSC01754 via photopin (license)

I’ll buy chips for my kids on the way home from soccer practice.

Allow them to wrestle and chase each other. In the grocery store. Look the other way when they throw a little swagger in their soccer game. I’m a little funny, though, when it comes to movies.  My oldest is 14. She can watch PG-13 movies. But I cringe.

Not the language or violence, necessarily. But the themes. The innuendo. The … I dunno, sultry stuff.

Makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth and pee myself a little. I’d rather her see a car chase with a smash-up ending, hear more applications of the F-word, or get startled by a killer, zombie, or politician in the court room than to hear locker-room talk.

Continue reading “Five for Friday: Movies to watch with your kids when mom isn’t lookin’”