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.”

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.

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

stormtrooper me today need my office
That’s me in that picture, getting ready to take on the short-track at Hickory Motor Speedway, back in the day.

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. Before all this, though, there’s TV.

Fiction. Non-fiction. Animation.

Before you join the workforce, 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.

Continue reading “📺 5 for Friday: TV dudes and women who shaped my childhood years”

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”

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’”

5 For Friday: 5 things I hate

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc
photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

I’m usually one to love. Write about love. Loving things.

But like vegetables, shin splints, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, love can’t exist without a dose or three of hate.

“Leave hate for Hitler,” I like to say. (OK, I don’t say it, yet, but I heard it in a movie, and it sounded cool.)

Inspired by the hateful words on tidbitsofchaos.com (the author isn’t hateful – she’s honest, insightful and funny), here’s my list of 5 things I hate (I’d considered making it 10, but it didn’t make sense to double the dose on my Five For Friday theme that I got from another blogger, Krafty Kat).

1. Every country that goes against the U.S. in the Olympics.

 

The kids have picked up on this one, and it’ll mean talk about the difference between American pride and, um, being openly racist. It’s actually a fine line. We can stew over a Russian gymnast celebrating an American mistake, and rightly so, but the following exchange happened between my oldest two and me, in the presence of my sister, who was appalled:

Me: Dangit, the American didn’t win.

Elise: Who won?

Me: The French dude.

Elise: I hate the French.

Marie: I hate anyone who isn’t American.

They’re just learning about this great big world. Of course we don’t hate the French; of course, we don’t hate anyone who isn’t American. But the seeds for a healthy disdain for your rivals and the seeds for hating your rival sometimes get mixed in the same pack.

We’re working on that.

As American women’s soccer star Alex Morgan pointed out, “I wanted to beat Canada SO BAD.” This isn’t a bad thing to feel or say. As I said, we’re working on it … because it’s OK to really, really dislike your rivals.

2. The rivals: the Dodgers, Raiders, red wings, and lakers.

It’s OK to have rivals. That team you can’t stand. That school you have nightmares about your daughter choosing. I’ve always felt if the Broncos went 2-14, and beat the Raiders twice, it’s a great season.

I wonder how many of you noticed I won’t even capitalize the teams’ names. Rivals, though, are what gives sports such depth. They make winning sweeter, losing more bitter, and the desire to get back in and play again overwhelming.

Been part of a rivalry? You know how it feels. For every kid who wears a Duke jersey for a trip to Chapel Hill, or helps carry a rival-inspired trophy out of a stadium, or who has celebrated a title on a rival’s playing grounds, it’s a rich and delicious fabric in sports.

The Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry has been explained as “just plain hate.”

I can associate.

3. Buying tortillas in the store.

I’d rather buy maxi pads or Preparation H. There’s just something fundamentally wrong. I’m no longer Catholic, but I’m fairly sure there must be a saint in the Latino Catholic church that watches over the coconut – you know, the one who is brown on the outside and white on the inside.

Saint Masa Trigo, forgive me my sins. I know I should be home making them myself.

My penance? Three Our Fathers, six Hail Marys, and 50 homemade tortillas.

During a shameful trip to Wal-mart, I felt self-conscious taking the white, er, easy way out with tortillas prepackaged in Trenton, N.J. When I decided on the even-cheaper Wal-mart brand and put down the Old El Paso, I did so in the presence of a young Latina.

She shook her head slowly and shopped on. My Latino card had been revoked.

What would abuela do?

Like I was no longer permitted to yell “aye! aye! aye!” during a Spanish polka song (OK, so this isn’t something I have the opportunity to do every day, but still … ), or to bark out “primera a la pelota!” during a soccer game (translated: “first to the ball!”), or to order enchiladas in the Mexican restaurant and use a Spanish accent.

4. Jacking up a favorite shirt by slopping on it.

It’s one thing when a little butter seeped through the end of my tortilla, or pizza sauce dribbled. It’s somehow all the more tragic when the offending spot-creator is something as deplorable as Italian dressing.

I mean, I’ve just relegated a shirt – probably a favorite – to the charity/yard sale pile, all because I thought I’d go all Dr. Oz and douse my salad (what am I doing eating salad in the first place? I’m a carnivore. It better have had bacon bits) with Italian dressing and pass on the Thousand Island, Buttercorn Ranch or Super Creamy Oh So Dreamy Caesar dressing?

Man, I’m getting all steamed up just thinking about it.

Damn salads. Trouble. Leave them for the rabbits.

5. Losing a golf disc to a sneaky kid. Or forest snake. Or wilderness nymph who doesn’t even grant me wishes.

 

More likely, it’s just someone who happens by and decides not to call the cellphone number I’ve scrawled in Sharpie underneath. (Who am I kidding? Half of the discs in my bag have someone else’s name and number on them, and I never call them. It’s the one Old Testament part of me. You know, eye for an eye. We’ll get into this later).

Not to be insensitive to those who’ve lost pets, but when you have to walk away from a thicket or creek without one of your discs, and it’s because you made a lousy throw, it kind of feels like coming home from the vet without your pet.

You feel empty. You’re mad at the world and mad at yourself.

You stew over your emotions. Place blame. On Dodgers fans or Latvians. Or whoever invented the machine that can make tortillas in mass quantities and the companies that are big enough to sell them for 99 cents a bag.

Makes me want to add extra bacon bits, and maybe creamy French dressing, to my salad.

Oh, wait.

Not French.

hate

Go Ask daddy About Water Sports, Chalky Hands and Gridiron Legends

photo credit: #290/366 via photopin (license)
photo credit: #290/366 via photopin (license)

Ah, minds of wonder.

They’re always asking. Inquiring. You know, wondering.

My oldest now has an i-Pod, so perhaps her days of inquiry have ended when it comes to dad. Why ask D-A-D when you can just type in G-O-O-G-L-E?

I take note, and each time I do get the privilege of being asked to explain something in our wonderful and complex universe, I’ll do what any (blogging) father would do – I’ll say, “good question, honey. Let me research it, and I’ll blog about it. I’ll send you a link.”

Continue reading “Go Ask daddy About Water Sports, Chalky Hands and Gridiron Legends”

5 Ways to Give Your Kids Confidence (Without Becoming an Ogre or Doormat)

 

photo credit: lawndart via photopin cc
photo credit: lawndart via photopin cc

 

There’s this delicate balance we want to establish in our kids. No, I don’t mean popular in school, without living like a starlet.

Or being the star of the team, without regard to the concept of team.

Or brilliantly smart, without knowing when to take time from the books and be a kid.

Come to think of it, we want those things, too. But that’s not the purpose of this particular blog.

There are three other things we want to instill in our kids, at some point between the moment we cut the umbilical cord to when we take the training wheels off the bike for the first time to helping to pull their jeep out of a lake after college homecoming (what?).

I want my girls to feel …

Young Boy in Confident Pose - Centro Habana - Havana - Cuba

Confident, but not entitled.

Self-assured, but not self-centered.

Happy in their skin, but not oblivious to the world around them.

It’s like trying to balance an egg on one end on Arbor Day (or is that Winter Solstice? I forget.

The generations before were just as perplexed, from the era of Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard to Kids Are Just Little People to Let’s Idolize Our Child With Bumper Stickers Declaring Their Academic Brilliance, Window Stickers With Their Jersey Number, and Cost Of Private Lessons In Anything They Choose To Do Recreationally.

What is right?

There’s more validity in action than theory, as parents know.

These are a handful I try to put into action. The less you speak, and the more you do, the better. I even asked the kids for their input on this. After their initial suggestion that I instill confidence by buying them i-Pod touches were squashed like an Eva Longoria romance, we got down to business.

1. Hype it up, with good stuff

athletes,horse races,horseback riding,horseracing,jockeys,men,persons,riding crops

Grace told the world (or at least her first-grade class) daddy yells at her during soccer. No, not spittle-spewing, vein-popping, profanity-laced discourse, but something really simple: “Go Grace, go!” My sideline sounds are mostly confined to prodding the kid bringing up the rear.

I won’t scream “reverse field!”, “get to space!” or “Pass! Shoot!”; but, kind of like the horse crop on the flank, just a little prodding to get the lead out.

This happens to work, not as effectively, to finish school projects before bedtime (at which time they become parent projects. Definitely thoughts for another blog).

2. Pay attention. Always. Completely.

animals,lizards,nature,Photographs,reptiles,salamanders

If your nose is still in your Louis L’Amour novel while she’s telling you about the salamander she found in her school lunch, she’s gonna be bitter. That wacky play he’s dreamed up for the next soccer game that involved sliced lemon and a hedgehog? Take notice.

When they ask to help mush up the hamburger meat for dinner, tell them to wash their hands first, then let them get messy with you.

Honestly, when there’s these sweet familiar brown eyes fixed on you, how can you look anywhere else? I can’t confirm this scientifically, but I feel like if I listen to them, they’ll listen to me.

3. Get behind them – in a real way

brass instruments,entertainment,music,saxophones,valves,leisure,arts,tools

Drive the distance to be at the game. Switch shifts. Praise the effort, not the result. Make sure she has cleats that don’t pinch her toes. A saxophone that the b flat doesn’t sound just like a C. Think about it: If you feel someone cares about what you do, doesn’t it make you want to do it better?

4. Shoot straight

goals,nets,soccer balls,sports,equipment,scores

Not even a kid wants blown smoke. If it wasn’t her best game in goal, no need to call her Swiss cheese and an embarrassment to her heritage, but don’t also tell her she’s the next Hope Solo. “Those were great opportunities you created to shoot today,” you could say, “and I think with a left-footed shot, you might have ended up with a hat trick.”

Now, you can both work on that left foot together.

Beats the heck out of telling her you thought you saw the other team’s goalie driving herself to their U-12 match.

5. Love, Love, Love.

Soccer Ball Cake (2)

I had a goalkeeper who let in the tying goal with 10 seconds left, then missed a penalty shot, and gave up with winning PK. Lots to swallow in the span of 3 minutes, 37 seconds when you’re 10 years old and away from home.

She got hugs as she cried on the field afterward; no words would have done it justice. I’m talking from not only her parents and coach, but parents of other players. We all couldn’t help but think of our own kid in that very spot.

It’s really what makes us want to look into their eyes and root for them and listen to their ideas and watch their mouths move and eyes light up and just get as close to them as you possibly can, because they’re like a really, really awesome little version of you before you knew anything about mortgages and failing transmissions and downsizing.

Plus, love’s the easy part, right?