How A Hip-Hop Album Got My Kid To Like Broccoli

November 24, 2014 Leave a comment

As an enthusiast of Hip-Hop, I’ve found it hard to share this love with my son. Similarly, fellow dad blogger Dada Mike wrote about this struggle as relates to mainstream rap music and his daughters, but even among the artists I consider more conscious with positive messages, there are still too many adult words and themes. This leaves us with the world of “kid-hop”, which I have my struggles with embracing.

Fortunately, there’s album out there that combines the best of both worlds: The Dino-5. Done by authentic artists that I respect for their adult music, the album is the perfect way to get some real yet kid-friendly Hip-Hop in your child(ren)’s ears.

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When listened to front to back, the album’s sequence of songs tells the story of oversized Dino T-Rex (played by Chali 2na of Jurassic 5) and his struggle to fit in with the other Dino kids at school. They’re afraid of him because of his size and the fact that he’s a meat eater by nature. But T-Rex, tired of his stuffed bunny being his only companion, isn’t looking to eat anyone. He just wants to have some actual friends. He gets his chance when Billy Brontosaurus (played by Wordsworth of eMC and Lyricist Lounge fame) musters up the courage to approach him. They find out they have some stuff in common, and Billy invites T-Rex to hang out with the rest of the crew, which includes Tracy Triceratops (played by Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets), beatboxing pterodactyl Teo (played by Scratch of The Roots), and DJ, the stegosaurus turntablist who only communicates via his records (played by Prince Paul).

The others initially object to Billy’s inclusion of T-Rex, but persistent Billy successfully convinces the others that T-Rex is cool and should be included. After finding out they all have a mutual interest in Hip-Hop, they from the supergroup The Dino-5 and enter the school talent show. They lose the contest to a burp-talking dinosaur, but win in life because lasting friendships and music are made.

Standout tracks on the album include the dinosaurs playfully rap-battling each other on That’s Funny, a guest appearance by Posdonous and Dave of De La Soul on Jump, and The Dino-5 Theme Song, which the group performs at the talent show.

Finally, this album really did get my formerly broccoli-hating kid to eat it. On the track Yeah, Me Too, T-Rex and Billy go back and fourth talking about their interests. They find that in general, they have a lot in common, except that T-Rex is a meat eater and Billy is a plant eater. Billy drops a line about liking broccoli, and when T-Rex disagrees, Billy replies “WHAT? How can you not like broccoli? It’s the most nutritious plant, vegetable…it’s SO GOOD!” The line is a favorite for my son and I to repeat together, and after hearing it enough times, he asked me if we could have broccoli with dinner one night. Figuring it was a longshot but worth a try nonetheless, we obliged, and just like that we now have a broccoli-liking kid. Your results may vary as far as broccoli consumption goes, but if given a chance, I can much more confidently predict that the album (and its wholesome message of inclusion) will be a hit in your home and car.

Categories: Uncategorized

Plane Trips: A Guide for New Parents.

November 20, 2014 1 comment

 

When you move far away from your family, you need to go back home to visit. Sure, they can come to you, but then you miss out on seeing friends and going to your favorite places. We’ve been taking our four year old on planes since he was not even three months, and I’ve even done it once without my wife, so I’ve learned a thing or two. Pay attention.

The golden rule is to Get there EARLY!  My parents were the type to leave early for everything, so for plane trips we left earlier than early.  It’s new to my wife, but I’ve convinced her to at least humor me.  Besides leaving a time cushion for unforeseen traffic or a long security line which you hopefully won’t have to go through (see below), there’s a couple of other good reasons to get there early:

1) That “feeling rushed to make a flight” thing sucks, and with kid(s) it’s even worse. There are lots of extra things to leave time for. Slower legs if they’re on foot, bathroom/diaper changes, bottles/snacks, and the fact you have extra luggage/stroller/carseat/etc, all stuff that you didn’t need pre-kid, to carry around.

2) If you are traveling with an under 2 year old and you didn’t buy him/her a ticket, you can’t use the boarding passes you print out at home or show on your phone. You need to go to the counter where you check bags and get yourself a boarding pass with the name of your child as a “lap infant”. TSA won’t let you through security without this, at least not in my experience.

Speaking of TSA, we’re batting about .650 in the “getting to skip the long line and going through the much shorter special first class security line simply because we have a little one” game.  I’m not sure if this is officially in the TSA training or not, but it seems many TSA workers have a soft spot for babies. Truthfully, that other family with the seven year old who won’t stop straying from the line to see what’s in the gift shop while the twin five year olds simultaneously hang from each of their parents arms as they try to manage their luggage and keep the seven year old from booking it probably need this benefit more than a couple with one newborn/toddler. Well guess what…they’re not getting it.  But you might, so take advantage if the situation presents itself. Overwhelmed looking faces, either real or fake, can help. I’ve even had a case where one TSA officer told us to stand in the long line, but when we got back there and told another officer what we were told, he was like “she said WHAT!?!?…with a BABY!?!?…come on over here right now…” and off we went to the first class area to skip the line.

Anyway, back to the list:

3) Once you make it through the line, if you’re doing the lap infant thing or didn’t get to pick seats together when you bought tickets, go see the person at the counter near your gate and tell them your situation. They will do their best to give you a three seat row to yourself so that you have more room and no chance of getting seated next to a baby-hater.

So you got there early and everything went smoothly? No problem. Killing time is easy. If your kid is like mine, a huge fan of “big things that GO!”, what better place to be than the airport? One trip we even did the bus/train/plane three-peat…took a bus from the satellite parking lot to the terminal, went on the “train” that goes from terminal to terminal, and finally the plane itself. Even just looking out the window at the planes, fuel trucks, and luggage carts, is built-in entertainment.

Kid not interested? No worries. If they’re mobile, let them run around the terminal a little (or a lot). Some even have dedicated play areas, but these are optional to me. The more they expend energy, the more tired they get and the better the chance they fall asleep on the plane. And if you haven’t yet figured it out, getting them to sleep on the plane is the ultimate goal.

Lastly, on the plane. With infants, the theory is that you let them nurse to try to circumvent the pressure in their ears.  With kids old enough to play with toys, you’ll want to have something new that they’ve never seen before, and a tablet with some pre-downloaded kids shows and movies. A while back there was a popular blog post in which someone made goody bags for the other passengers as a preemptive measure for when the kid cried.  However, fellow dad blogger Mike Julianelle mocked this idea, and he is correct that this is an unneeded gimmick.  You have every right to be on the plane.

Planning ahead and knowing a few things can make flights with little ones less daunting.  And, while there are no guarantees, with the right pilot, your kid just might get to have a personal flying lesson to top the whole thing off:

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The Worst Rule Ever (and 9 reasons why)

November 13, 2014 3 comments

Some parents have a dreaded rule forbidding their kids to play ball in the house. In some ways it makes sense, but let me explain why “No playing ball in the house” is actually the worst rule ever.

1. It’s going to happen anyway. Sportscenter legend Dan Patrick has a catch phrase that goes “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.” The same is true when you have sports-loving kid. They’re going to find ways to play ball in the house, and times to do it when you’re not looking. So instead of banning the fun, you may as well just try to set some reasonable guidelines, such as limiting it to a certain area of the home, not playing too rough, and not using balls that are too hard.

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Our indoor baseball field, complete with bases and a batter’s box.

2. Things are going to get broken anyway. I’m guessing that one of the motives behind parents legislating the “no playing ball in the house” rule is that they don’t want things to get broken. That’s fine in theory, but in reality, while I don’t have hard evidence that there isn’t a kid alive who has never broken anything, I’m going with the educated guess that most kids have broken stuff, regardless if indoor ball playing was involved or not.

3. Kids are going to get hurt anyway. While we never want catastrophic injuries, kids get hurt. Whether it’s purely accidental, such as falling down the stairs, or self-inflicted, such as trying to jump off the back of the couch and landing wrong, kids bang things and scrape things. I’d argue the potential for major injury is greater while playing outside as opposed to inside.

4. Playing outside is awesome, but not always possible or practical. We just had the clocks shift back an hour, which means that by the time we all get home from work and school, it’s already dark, and depending where you live, cold. Kids still need/want to be active. Plus, being able to play indoors allows things like the quick 5 minute game before dinner to happen, whereas if it was outside only, they’d have to start in with tying shoes, putting on jackets, etc. and it would be time to come in before they ever got a chance to actually play.

5. Playing ballgames in the house sparks creativity. While I wholeheartedly respect houses with built-in gymnasiums, let’s face the fact that they’re only a fantasy for those of us in the 99%. So instead, kids are limited to smaller areas and have to be more creative and think outside the box when it comes to rules and boundaries. Household items enter the mix, like when laundry baskets get placed on their side to become goals, or clothing items become bases. Pseudo-sports such as “hall ball” or “balloon tennis” (both made up by my brother and I when we were kids) become realities.

6. Speaking of creativity, there’s nothing like indoor games of Nerf basketball H.O.R.S.E. Those of us who are old enough remember that classic McDonalds commercial where Larry Bird and Michael Jordan play horse and create shots over the rafters, off the scoreboard, etc. With nerf basketball, shots like “off the wall, off the ceiling, swish” are tricky, but entirely possible.

7. Playing and watching can happen simultaneously. Having just turned four, two things are true for my son: he learns by observing, and he doesn’t always have the ability to just sit and watch the game. No problem. If he sees a cool play in a football game, he doesn’t have to wait until he goes outside to mimic it. Also, playing indoor sports games is a great way to kill time during halftimes and intermissions of games on TV. Sometimes worlds collide, such as when I get named the Alabama Bruins on a Saturday in which college football and hockey are both on the agenda, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Floor hockey. Because the set only came with one goal, the other goal (not pictured) is a similarly sized cardboard box.

8. Playing ball in the house is a natural dad/kid activity. Of course, as dads we can always find different ways to spend time and do things with our kids, but for a sports-loving family, why eliminate something that’s so squarely in our wheelhouse?

9. IT’S FUN! I’m sure some of the “no ball in the house” legislators reading this are thinking of other things that might be fun, but not things they would let their kids do. I have my list also, for example I don’t let my four year old drive my car or paint on the walls, despite how strong his desire to do so might be. But as long as there are a few proper guidelines, indoor sports is not one of those things. So don’t be that parent who enforces the worst rule ever. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go play a quick game of floor hockey with my son. The Alabama Bruins need a win to remain competitive in their division.

Jellyfish and “The Routly”

October 28, 2014 Leave a comment

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You might wonder what I’m doing posting a picture of myself wearing my glasses (which usually never come out in public) and a Kangol hat, with my mouth wide open giving a thumbs up.  No, I’m not inviting flies to come into my mouth.  I’m doing “The Routly,” a pose made famous by fellow Dad Blogger Chris Routly.  I’ll let you guess which guy is Chris in the picture below:

Chris recently made an advance copy of his new book, Sometimes You Need a Jellyfish available for me to review.

I could have read it several times to dissect and analyze it.  I probably would have called it something like “wonderfully silly” and wrote that Routly’s creativity bursts off of the pages.  I’d probably talk about the how rhyme schemes worked really well and the words roll off the tongue when read aloud.  I’d say that Routly is onto a concept that could have longevity and be repeated over multiple books, similar to Numeroff and Bond’s If You Give a _______ a _______.  series.

However, instead of just diving into it myself, I wanted a completely unbiased and relevant opinion, so I did the only logical thing I could think of: I read it to RJ.

He stayed engaged throughout the book, following along with the silliness that leads up to the book’s punchline, at which point he laughed out loud and gleefully repeated the ending, which I won’t give away.  And then he wanted me to read it again.  And again. At four years old, he’s the perfect age for the book to be read to, although Routly’s use of some advanced words make it something that kids in elementary school could use to practice reading skills and build vocabulary.

Routly has self-published a few books before using a do-it-yourself online service in which the final product is a decent paperback, however with this project he’s trying to go all the way and do a formal hardcover edition of the highest quality.  He’s set up a kickstarter project for which the rewards vary from a copy of the book all the way up to an in-person reading and cartooning lesson for a children’s class or group of your choosing.  If you’re up for pitching in and getting a reward in return, check it out here:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1606880501/sometimes-you-need-a-jellyfish-childrens-book .  If you’re not the kickstarter type, stay tuned, because the book is expected to be released in early 2015.

Cousins

August 4, 2014 2 comments

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There’s something especially awesome about the cousin relationship. Somewhere in between sibling and friend, It’s beauty is in both it’s significance and it’s ambiguity. It can imply a straightforward familial connection, as is the case with first cousins, or it can also get more vague and harder to quantify once the various delineators (second, third, once removed, “cousin’s cousin,” cousin through marriage, etc) get thrown around. And if you’re like my wife and I, certain non-blood-related friends of ours get the honorary “auntie” and “uncle” status, leaving their kids to be our son’s technically unrelated, but unquestionably bonded cousins. They say you can’t pick your family, and this is true of cousins, but it’s okay to have some favorites, or feel close to them even when the actual relationship may not be the closest according to the family tree.

Growing up, I never lived close enough to any of my cousins to see them on a daily basis or be in the same school or activities with them. Our opportunities to interact were left to holiday get-togethers and family occasions, so when we had the chance we went all in. Age difference sometimes affected the nature of how things went down (my paternal cousins are all older than me, while my maternal cousins are all within four years), but through sports and games, or less structured fun and shenanigans, I always loved being able to see my cousins.

One of my favorite parts of being a parent is to see my son in these same cousin situations. It takes me back to when I was a kid. Like me, he has some who are significantly older, and others who are very close to him in age. Whether he’s playing age-appropriately with his similarly aged cousins, or engaging his older ones to bring the play down to a level that can include him, he has fun, just like I did with mine. And even at age three, I can tell that he understands that his cousins are special.

Categories: Family, fatherhood Tags: , ,

Helping others.

June 24, 2014 3 comments

 

“I don’t know him that well.”

“I don’t have extra money right now.”

“I’m sure that others will help.”

Those three things are all true.  I have never met Oren Miller.  I’m aware of him via his blog, and the fact that he started an online group for us dad bloggers to connect to share ideas about both fatherhood and blogging.   I’m sure we’ve participated in some of the same discussions that have arisen over the years, but I can’t recall more than one time in which I wrote a message directly to Oren.

The part about the money is true as well.  While we are not even close to poverty, we tend to live paycheck to paycheck, and this month we got smacked with the need for repairs to both of our cars.  Still, when the next payday after I heard the news arrived, I consulted with my wife and we gave.

My assumption that others would help was true in this case but often not true in others.  When news that Oren was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer hit our group, the response was overwhelming.  I’m sure Oren got hundreds of cards in less than a week, and when Brent of DesignerDaddy started a GiveForward fundraiser to help raise money for Oren’s family, people stepped up.   While it was true in this case that others have helped, making that assumption in general is often what causes folks not to get help.  Called “Bystander Apathy,”  when everyone makes the assumption that someone else will help, the less likely it is that someone will actually step up and do so.

Bystander apathy is probably one of the reasons why gaining up the courage to ask for help can feel so difficult to do.  We all want to feel self sufficient, and it’s hard enough to gain the trust in others needed to disclose that you have a need without feeling shame.  Then when you add into the equation that with asking likely will come rejection, it’s no wonder that most folks will shy away from asking.

So how do we overcome this?  I’m no expert, but I think the insurance commercial which shows that helping others can be contagious is on to something.  Obviously we can’t do everything for everyone, but if more of us took opportunities to help out where and when we can, we would all be better off.  This will also show our kids the benefits and importance of helping and giving, and hopefully work toward reducing the stigma involved with making the decision to ask in future generations.

Note: While what I wrote above about others stepping forward to help Oren and his family is true, this is a long and hard fight and they have only just begun.  If you would like to read more and consider giving to Oren, please do so here. Sharing this and other posts about Oren is also a free and easy way to help. Thanks.

Richard Durrett

June 18, 2014 2 comments

I woke up to terrible news this morning.  While my son was eating breakfast, I went to Facebook and saw the words “Richard Durrett” and “died suddenly.”  It was a post in our Dad Blogger group by Carter Gaddis of DadScribe, who like Richard, was in the baseball media, but gave up what many guys would consider a dream job so that he could be around his family more often.  After reading Carter’s post, I just couldn’t believe it.  Shock quickly led to sadness, and that’s where I’m still at now.

I first became aware of Richard via Ben and Skin, two Dallas natives who host an extremely successful sports talk show.  At the time, their show followed Mike and Mike in the Morning on the ESPN Dallas affiliate, and Richard was often a guest whose appearance was preceded by this simple but unmistakeable intro song.  Richard’s appearances seemed somewhat out of place on the show.  The Ben and Skin show works so well because the two guys are engaging personalities and friends, and their brand of sports talk comes with lots of laughs in the process.  Richard, on the other hand, was plain vanilla in his delivery.  He just flat out knew his stuff.  He knew anything going on in baseball from both the on-field and front office perspectives and was able to break it down so that the average fan could understand.  With that as my intro to Richard, I periodically checked in to what he was writing on ESPN.com, and would read things just because he wrote them.

All of the above being said, I’m not going to front like I’m the world’s biggest Richard Durrett fan.  If he had gotten a better job in another city I would have been happy for him, but would have quickly gotten over his absence in the Dallas sports scene (which isn’t even really my scene, just where I happen to live now) without much further thought.  This is as much about Richard being a dedicated 38 year old father, just like me, whose time ended way too soon.  Calvin Watkins, a fellow ESPN Dallas guy, wrote that Richard was dedicated to his family first and foremost, with unique ways of balancing family time with the demands of his job.  Without knowing Richard at all, that’s not the least bit surprising.

While on the way to work today, I heard Colin Cowherd, another guy whose show Richard appeared on often, give a heartfelt tribute to Richard, ending with the words “a kick to the gut” to describe how he felt.  Obviously for Richard’s family and close friends, this loss is much more devastating than that.  However, for the rest of us, especially dads with young kids, it’s exactly how it felt.  A class act of a guy and a father was taken far too soon in a way that hit a little too close to home for me today.

Rest in peace, Richard.

 

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