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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.

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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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Loving the Library

June 5, 2014 2 comments

Note: This post is written in conjunction with the #DadsRead campaign.  Learn more about it here.

About two years ago, the Montessori we send my son to called us early on a Monday morning.  Over the weekend there was a plumbing failure, and for the whole weekend water had been collecting on the floor.  It was a nightmare for the owner, who had to close the school for a week and a half and to get everything dried out and cleaned up, and for licensing to be satisfied there was not a mold issue.

It was also a burden for us parents, who all of a sudden didn’t have a place to take our kids.  My wife and I both work full time, so we had to split taking time off from work to be home with our son while the school was closed.  For a few days, I became a stay at home dad, and quickly had to figure out what to do all day.  Through some online searches, I learned about all of the benefits of my city’s public library system.   We love books, and my son’s bedtime routine includes us reading three books to him each night, so we are not strangers to reading.  What I was a stranger to was all of the awesome programming the libraries do during the day for kids.  I’m sure this is old news to stay at home parents who might be mentally writing me a late pass right now, but I had never sought this out before.  I found that each branch runs several story time activities each day, with different sessions targeted for different age groups.  At that point my son was not even two, and for that age group the sessions consisted of reading some short stories and mixing in some singing and movement to nursery rhymes.  Then at the end they bring out a bubble machine, just because toddlers love bubbles.

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Bubbles stuck in my son’s hair during the end-of-storytime bubble machine madness.

During that time, we went to almost every branch in the city to participate in what each of them offered.  Each branch’s story time was a little different, but all within the same theme, and all with the beloved bubbles at the end.  For older kids, the libraries had even more to offer, including puppet shows and programming related to animals and science. And it was all free.

Being full time working parents, we try to make the absolute most of our weekends and do lots of different things.  We don’t use the library programming in the same way as we did during those days off, as most of their programming is during the week.  We take my son occasionally to check out some new books, and we still keep our eyes open to what they offer from time to time. When we saw that one of the branches was having a party based upon Mo Willems’ Pigeon Character, we were there.

Fast forward to two nights ago, and the evidence that the library experience has stuck with my son.  I mentioned that I needed to return the book Spork, which I had borrowed to read to my son and also to review it for my post on culturally themed books.  When I mentioned that I had to return it sometime this week, my son’s face lit up and he asked if he could come with me when I went.   I have some extra time off from work this week, so I picked him up early from school yesterday and we went.

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Yesterday at the library, kicking back and reading some books.

 

Unfortunately with budget cuts, some cities’ libraries are being threatened with reduced hours and services, and even closure.  I was proud of my friend and then-Boston City Councillor Felix G. Arroyo when he stood up to threatened library closures in my former city.  It’s up to all of us to show our cities and towns that our libraries have our support, and if you haven’t checked out all that yours has to offer, go for it!  If you’re a dad, check it out during the #DadsRead campaign and let me know what you find.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

I think we all have certain teachers who were special to us and we remember fondly throughout the rest of our lives. I wrote about one of these teachers of mine, Mr. Tefft, in a post you can find here. My 11th grade English teacher is another who, as long as my memory stays sharp, will always be with me. For one thing, the dude’s actual first name is Brainerd. I’m pretty sure there’s a rule in the universe that says any time you have someone whose name is some combination of the words “brain” and “nerd” they must grow up to be in academia. True to his name, Mr. P. LOVED books. Thinking back, it seems like every day he was talking about some new-to-him first edition he found by accident at an obscure used bookstore. Moreso than his name or his book collection, I remember the passion with which Mr. P. taught. In high school I was much more of a math and science guy, and English and Spanish were my worst classes.  But with Mr. P., English became my favorite class that year.  He wouldn’t have it any other way. I fed off his passion to really try to see what was so great about the books we read, and to try to understand them on a level that I could write something about them that Mr. P. would find compelling. Mr. P. was a tough grader too, and I was always walking the line between a “B” and a “C” in his class. When my final grade came out to be a “B-,” I felt proud of that, and stayed more proud of it than I was of the “A” I pulled off in English the next year, with a teacher who went through the motions and wasn’t nearly as tough or engaged.

Although he’s not even four yet, RJ has already had a variety of teachers. I’m not sure if this is typical of Montessori or just something his school is working through, but there seems to be a high turnover rate. His favorite teacher last year left the school abruptly after a dispute with the owner, a month before RJ was scheduled to move on to the next level of classroom. When he did move, the particular classroom he went into was having such a hard time finding a consistent lead teacher that the director is currently teaching the class herself. There is a new teacher hired to step in and take the lead role, although secretly I wish the director could just stay there. She’s to preschool Montessori what Mr. P. was to 11th grade English. I often can’t help but to think beyond the preschool years to wonder what RJ’s schooling will be like once he moves into the public school system. We plan on having him in public schools for elementary through high school. I see what both kids and teachers have to deal with in the “Stakes is high” ((c) De La Soul) environment of public education, with standardized testing results serving as a measure of performance for both students and teachers.  I see the emphasis that schools are putting on the testing at the expense of other things.  As I write this, I’m wondering how Mr. P., and some of my other favorite teachers would have done things in this current era of standardized testing.  I wonder if the backdrop of standardized testing would have stifled any of the creativity with which he taught, in favor of making sure we knew word definitions and analogies.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to all teachers out there.  You clearly have your work cut out for you and you have my respect and admiration for rising to the challenge.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas, from all the dadas

May 12, 2013 1 comment

THE COLLECTIVE MOTHER’S DAY CARD FROM DAD BLOGGERS

“The most important thing a father can do for his children is love their mother”. – Theodore Hesburgh

This quote gave Scott Behson the idea for a collective Mother’s day card from a great group of Dad Bloggers , of which I am proud to be a part, to the moms in our lives. So here are our collected mother’s day wishes:

First, Mine…

Happy Mother’s Day to four special women: To my mother, for unconditional love always, no matter what I ever did or said. To my mother in law, Nana, for the love and support. Seeing RJ with his Nana warms my heart. To my grandmother, matriarch of our family four generations strong, and enough love in her heart for many more. And lastly to my wife, Tiffany. RJ and I are so blessed to have you in our life.

And now, the rest…

Scott Behson. Fathers, Work and Family blog. www.fathersworkandfamily.com

You know how revved up Nick gets on nights you come home late and he gets out of bed, hides/jumps out to surprise you, runs around like a loony, and can’t get enough of cuddling and laughing with you? I feel that way too.

Happy Mother’s Day to the best wife and mom I could imagine. You have given me the gifts of true love, the amazing life we’re building together, and of fatherhood. I can never repay what you have given me. But I’ll spend every day trying.

Concretin Nik. DadLabs.  www.DadLabs.com

“Mother is the word for God on the lips and hearts of all children.” – Eric Draven

The greatest thing that’s ever happened to me is a direct result of the second greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, TheBoy&HisMother. I love you both. Happy Mother’s Day!

James W. Naturally Daddy. http://naturallydaddy.blogspot.com/

“Who ran to help me when I fell,

And would some pretty story tell,

Or kiss the place to make it well?

My mother.”

~Ann Taylor

Mom, you taught me too much to explain all of the happiness that you brought into my life. To my wife, you are a very special woman and I could never imagine being in your shoes and our daughter could never have a more loving mother.

-James

Scotty Schrier, Dads Who Change Diapers http://dadswhochangediapers.com/blog

There are only 26 paltry letters to describe the most important women in my life:

The one who gave birth to me and left this plane before meeting my sons.

The one who married me and gave birth to the two most amazing little miracles I have ever seen.

And the one who took my mother’s place and made me one of her own.

There are no words that can describe the debt I owe these women. I only hope that my actions can show them how much I truly care. For without them, I would be but a pale image of the man I am today. I love each and every one of you with all of the ferocity of a thousand suns. Thank you for putting up with me and loving me back. Especially when I didn’t deserve it.

Eric from Dad on The Run. dad-on-the-run.blogspot.com

My Mother looked life’s greatest obstacles in the eye and kept on trucking while I grew up with little understanding of that. Over the years Mom’s physical abilities have deteriorated due to her ongoing battle with MS. However, her mental steadfastness and unconditional love have remained unchanged. Her love is an anchor during any storm and it taught me what love could be and what I could find in a wife, which brings me to another great mother in my life. The love and encouragement my wife can deliver to another human amazes me and when she focuses those gifts on our children they light up in very special ways. Of course, I also have to thank my wife’s mother for raising not one, but two, fantastic Mom’s and I look on with pride and great expectations to my own sister who is a new Mom this year!  Thank you to these mothers, and all great mothers, for what you do for your children and the world every day.

-Eric

Victor Aragon Jr of Fandads.com

This Mother’s Day is going to be a special one, because it will be our first one with our new addition.  Last year, my wife worked and our plans with family members fell apart, so it wasn’t a good one for my wife.  This year, I am hoping to erase that memory and hopefully have a great one.  My wife and I have known each other for over sixteen years.  In those years it seems like even with our ups and downs, we are constantly getting to know each other and our love keeps getting stronger.  I am thankful for having her in my life and for all the hard work that she does for me and the little ones.  Thank you for all you do babe, I love you.

There is another great woman in my life that if wasn’t for her I wouldn’t exist; my mother.  My mom is a strong woman and I am very thankful for all that she does for my family.  Even though I am not her little boy anymore, my mother still insists on giving me money for gas or to get something for my little girl.  My mom and dad have always gone above and beyond for my sisters and me and I feel that I am trying the best that I can to repay them for everything they did.  I would like to thank my mother for all her sacrifices and to tell her how much I love her.  Thanks Mom.

As always, thanks for reading.

Victor

DorkDad from DorkDaddy.com www.DorkDaddy.com

Because of the way you move through the room. Because of the way your smile sounds on your voice. Because every single curve on your body is in exactly the right place. Because of the way your hair smells and the way it tickles my face.  Because of the twinkle in your eyes when you’re making mischief, and the look on your face when you’re asleep. Because of the feel of your heart and the warmth of your skin when you’re holding me. Because of the magic you made with our children, and the magic you make with our family. Because everything I love about my life I can trace directly back to you.

Thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Dave Lesser, Amateur Idiot / Professional Dad, www.amateuridiotprofessionaldad.com

A Mother’s Day Haiku

Mother’s Day is here

I forgot a card again

Glad I’ve got a blog!

Mom, I love you. I don’t say it often enough, but you’re awesome. You did an outstanding job raising me (and those two other dudes who kind of look like me).

Allie, what can I say? You’re an unbelievable mother and an amazing wife. This whole family would be lost without you. Literally. I just cannot follow the turn-by-turn directions on my phone without you in the passenger’s seat. Again, this is not a metaphor. Well, maybe it is a little. I’m an idiot. But I’m your idiot and you’re stuck with me. You and the kids are my world. Thank you for everything, everything you do. I love you a super friggin’ jillion much!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Neal Call. Raised by my daughter. http://raisedbymydaughter.blogspot.com/

I just want to say a humble thank you to my mother, my wife, and to all women who bear or nurture these little seeds that bring purity and wonder into the world. The “bearing” part is pretty awesome and mind-boggling, but at least as important is the part involving raising these creatures; of sacrificing what you want for what they need; of protecting them so desperately and then encouraging them to spread their wings. These are things that anybody can do, male or female, but I’ve learned the most about them from the women in my life. So, thanks.

Jeff Bogle, from the internet. Specifically, but limited to: OutWithTheKids.com

My ability to find the perfect set of curtains for the dining room and my knowledge of how to wash them and hang them damp to dry without creases. My need to vacuum my way out of a room. And my dry humor that has served me, mostly well.  Most of what people like about me, I am because of you. And to this day I enjoy talking with you on the phone almost daily, even when it is you calling me because you, once again, cannot figure out how to properly interact with technological devices. I love you, Mom, more than I’ll ever be able to write down, because even though I string sentences together every day, for some kind of living, I have yet to be able to find the correct combination of letters and words to form the single sentence that does you justice. Thank you for everything, Mom.

James Rohl, Portland Dad, Trophy Husband, and favorite son, http://sahdpdx.com

Thank you mom for showing me how to be radically hospitable, fiercely loyal, and emotionally available. I am thankful to call you my mom, and proud to call you my friend. Happy Mother’s Day.

Colby Shipwash from Days of a Domestic Dad: DaysofaDomesticDad.com

You hug, you play, you teach, you love; you are their Mom and friend forever.

To my loving wife, and mom to our children, I want to thank you for being a wonderful mom all the time. A day doesn’t go by that I am not grateful for you, and that our kids are lucky to have you in their life.

Thank You and Happy Mother’s Day

Robert Duffer, Editor of Dads & Families section of The Good Men Project,

Because you built a lego racecar ramp in our basement that would’ve made the Pinewood Derby and MacGyver proud,

Because you made your own pinata, your own decorations, your own party for 30 first graders,

Because your daughter handles a hockey stick like you, laughs like you, smiles like you, needs like you, plays like you, cares like you, loves like you,

Because you fly home when your grandparents are ill,

Because you adventure, you explore, you inquire,

Because you love without condition, and you care without self,

You are the most wonderful mother, a role model, a hero.

Love

Yet another Steubenville Fatherhood response…

March 22, 2013 Leave a comment

There have been so many responses to the Steubenville rape trial that I almost didn’t want to write about it.  When the Newtown, CT shootings happened, I chose not to, because I didn’t feel I had anything unique or compelling to say about it that wasn’t already said.  With Steubenville, I’m pretty sure I’ll be the only person to discuss the fatherhood aspects of the case by connecting the situation with what, in my opinion, is the best artistic piece about fatherhood, the song “Be a Father to your Child” by Ed O.G. and the B.U.L.L.D.O.G.S.  Being from the Boston area and a fan of hip hop, I’m biased, but in my defense this song was popular nationally at the time it came out.

If hip hop isn’t your thing and you don’t want to click above to see/hear the music video, the Cliff’s Notes on the song is that it’s a call to action to address the epidemic of single mothers raising children in the father’s absence.  

At one point in the song, Ed says “don’t front on your child if it’s your own, cause if you front now then you’ll regret it when it’s grown”. For those unfamiliar with the slang, he’s essentially saying if you have a son and neglect him, you’ll regret it.  It was widely reported that after the verdict was delivered, the father of one of the players found guilty felt compelled to speak to the court, saying that he wasn’t there for his son, and therefore took responsibility upon himself for what had happened.

The last line of the song is the more compelling part in relation to the Steubenville story, where Ed concludes by saying “It’s never too late to correct your mistakes, so get yourself together for your child’s sake and be a father to your child.”  There are two competing views on this one.  One point of view is that it’s indeed too late.  A life-altering transgression was committed by the son that there’s no undoing and no amount of apology or reparation can ever make right.  Another point of view is that even though what happened happened, It’s not too late for the father to become more involved, as the son undoubtedly has challenges he will need to face as he deals with the consequences of his actions, and perhaps the father can be there to ensure the son moves forward in the best way possible from this.

No matter how you view it, the absentee father thing only accounts for part of the story, though.  I can’t imagine that all of those kids, (and when I say this I’m including those who were watching/tweeting/videotaping along with the two who actually did the actions, and in a broader sense any kids who get into serious trouble), had parents who didn’t do the best they thought they could for their children.  In fact I believe most did.  This is what scares the sh*t out of me as a parent, that no matter how good we intend to do, our own influence can only go so far.  

Categories: Uncategorized

Nice try, dude… (part 2)

January 4, 2013 3 comments

As I wrote in this prior post, sometimes my son’s misbehaviors are really funny, and I know that laughing only reinforces them.  But sometimes I can’t help it.  One of the things he does that is really annoying but a riot at the same time is taking stuff he knows he’s not supposed to have.  I’m pretty sure that this started out as him being curious about some of our things, but I’m also pretty sure that I’ve reinforced this behavior into a game for him and that sometimes he takes things in order to get it started.  What he does is take something, for example my eyeglasses, and then when he sees that I want him to put them back he starts running away from me throughout the house.  Usually what happens is that he ends up running himself into a corner and then when he sees he’s caught, he throws the item on the floor, as a sign that he’s given up.  Yesterday he grabbed a marker and started to run around.  Except this time, when he got cornered, instead of giving up, he put his hand that was holding the marker behind his back and said “it went away”.

Then, there’s the case of the bitten foam.  We have those large, interlocking foam floor tile puzzle things in which each square is a letter of the alphabet.  My son loves taking these apart and biting the smaller pieces (such as the inner circle of the “O”), as much as we tell him not to.  A few days ago I caught him biting one and the consequence was to leave the room.  The next day when he returned, he found the bitten piece, and accused me of being the one who had bitten it.  He even tried to shove it in my mouth so that I would bite it right there and then and thusly prove himself right.

It’s been really interesting to see how his little mind works, and how he’s developing a tendency to advocate for himself.  I don’t mind that at all, the task now is just to help him use that for good rather than mischief.

Categories: Uncategorized