Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Men are from Mars... and Women are Too?

This week Men's Health Magazine published an article titled, "How to Talk Sports with Women Who are Not Interested" and it set off a firestorm. The cyber world went crazy with tweets and blogs about how sexist and short-sighted this article is in its  portrayal that most women care more about the personal story lines in sports more than they do about stats.

There was so much back lash that Men's Health Magazine deleted the article an apologized for writing an article that "suggested women are inferior to men in sports... or in any other way".

While I cannot defend everything in the article (it is no longer available for closer examination anyway), I am dumbfounded at the backlash towards a men's magazine for writing articles directed towards men. It is true that this magazine should not suggest that women are inferior and somehow unable to even understand what is happening on the field of sports and, like any article, it should also not assume all women see the game one way just like it should not assume that all men see the game one way.

But writing an article to address men who love sports and are dating or married to women who do not like sports is not an evil, misogynist, sexist attack. The article said things like, "women see the game differently than men".  When we watch sports my wife hates seeing the agony of defeat on the guys faces because she thinks of them as "somebody's little boy". I see them as the guys who are professionals and who have to deal with the fact they just lost to someone who outplayed them. We have different reactions because "we see the game differently".

The article also said "women need story lines" and "they don't care about stats". It should have said "some women" instead of generalizing but let's be honest, SOME women do care more about the story line than the stats and MANY guys do not care about the story line. Consider the fact that TV ratings for the Olympics show an unusually high amount of female viewers compared to other sporting events. At the same time the Olympic coverage is nearly unwatchable for MANY guys because it wastes so much time on the back story of every athlete. Men don't want the story line, we want the action and we want the results. (Actual stats show 56% of Olympic viewers are female compared to 56% of Super Bowl viewers being Male). 

While it is true that the lines for many traditional gender roles are blurred and equality is more valued than in the past, this does not mean gender differences cease to exist or that we should be afraid of talking about those differences. The point is that it should not be considered an awful thing for Men's Health Magazine to give suggestions for men wanting to talk sports with their female partners. Just as it is not an awful thing when magazines designed for women offer advice for dealing with men.

If we take this outrage to an extreme and get rid of any article talking about differences based on generalizations of the sexes then we must be outraged over ideas that suggest "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus" and marketers should denounce statistics and advertise products equally instead of catering to typical gender preferences. Film makers should be outraged at the idea that men and women are different so action movies that attract male audiences should feature more talking and character development and love stories that attract larger female audiences should have less talking and more visual, gratuitous action.

The point is when we get so worked up over articles that acknowledge differences between sexes we are ignoring scientific realities of gender and we are confusing the fight for equality with the affirmation of distinctness. So let's all take a deep breath, let's continue to ensure that men and women are given equal opportunities, let's acknowledge that one gender is not superior over the other, and let's be okay with the fact that "equal" does not mean "the same".

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Getting Away From Your Kids

Last weekend my wife and I took two nights to get away from the kids to enjoy our hometown of San Diego. Since we don't have family in town it is not always easy to pull off the logistics but when we are able to get our parents to fly down from Seattle we love to get away.

Getting away with your significant other is not only fun for you, it is an important piece of parenting your kids. Taking some time to get away from your kids while you enjoy vacation comes with the added benefit of teaching the following values to your kids:

1) How to treat women (for boys) or how to expect to be treated (for girls).

Our kids need to see how healthy relationships function. They need to see that healthy relationships require intentionality. They need to know that once kids are in the picture the relationship does not go "on hold" for the next twenty years. You may feel guilty or selfish for enjoying life for a weekend without your kids but you are actually not doing your offspring any favors by never leaving their side.  One 2011 study found that healthy relationships between parents directly correlated with healthy relationships between those parents and their kids.

Getting away and investing in your relationship with your wife teaches your boys that they will one day need to keep investing with their spouse. It teaches your girls that they should not settle for a guy who does not want to keep pursuing them. It is no surprise that the behaviors you display in marriage are often the behaviors your kids will repeat in their own marriages so feel free to model a marriage where you take time away from your kids to be with each other. (One day you will be grateful when your own kids ask you to hang out with your grandkids so that they can get a vacation). 

2) You teach your kids they are not the center of the Universe.
Most of the free time (I use the term free-time loosely) as a parent is spent helping kids with homework, watching/ coaching/ teaching recreational activities, helping out at school or church events, or other work related to raising kids. This involvement is important for the development of our kids but if we are not careful we may unintentionally teach our kids that they are the center of the universe.

Some parents actually believe their kids are the center of the universe but a day will come when they discover that this is not the truth. The sooner we help our kids learn that other people have needs, desires, and pleasures that may not directly benefit them the better off they will be.

When we take time to focus on our own relationships as parents, our kids learn that thinking of others is okay and not always getting what we want is okay. In a healthy situation your kids will know you love them and they will learn that loving them does not mean you never take time for yourself. When they learn the importance of allowing others to have needs fulfilled, they learn to be people who are able to naturally think of others and make sacrifices for the good of others. Parenting involves a lot of teaching perspective and getting away is a very practical way for your kids to learn perspective.

3) Extended Family is Important. 
Having your parents or siblings help out with your kids while you get away also helps your kids build relationships with the people who helped shape you. I understand that for some of you this is not possible or even desirable so in those cases your family might include long time friends. For us, we love when our kids get to be with their grandparents and they always like those experiences as well.

My parents dumped me off with the grandparents every summer and would send post cards from places like Hawaii and the Carribbean. I never felt angry or jealous that my parents were enjoying some travel while I enjoyed the beautiful mosquito and humidity infested summers of Minnesota because I was having fun with my cousins and other family members. Your kids will likely afford you the same freedom so go for it.

4) Marriage is fun.
There is no doubt that kids raised in homes with both of their biological parents tend to do better in school, engage in fewer destructive behaviors, become more successful in their careers, and in turn, have healthier marriages of their own and continue the cycle of raising healthy kids.

When we take time to get away with our spouses, we increase the joy we have in our own marriages and we provide happier, healthy environments for our children. They will see the benefits of loving marriages and will be more likely to believe in the institute of marriage and provide the same environment for our future grandchildren.

My wife and I love travel and we love food. When we get away we can do the things we love to do together thus strengthening our bond. Plus we have the added benefit of eating the food we like regardless of what our kids think (even though are kids are also foodies and usually like what we like) and the other added benefit of being able to afford dinner with three fewer mouths to feed.

If you have not taken a weekend or a week away from your kids in a while, look at your calendar and do your kids a favor by doing your marriage a favor. Find a way to get away and teach your kids these valuable lessons. You might also find some other very nice benefits of being in a hotel without wondering if your kids will walk in your room in the middle of the night. (That last one is for you and your spouse to figure out on your own). 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When Parenting Styles Differ

The Following is a brief article addressing differences in parenting styles. I am a cross between a "authoritative and permissive" parent... oh, and sometimes authoritarian. I guess I have a lot to work on. 

The original article can be found here on WEB MD
WebMD Magazine - Feature

When your parenting style differs from that of your partner, tensions can run high.
Take the case of Leigh Henry, 37, of San Antonio, Texas. Leigh doesn't always agree with her husband, Ryan, also 37, on how best to parent their toddler and preschooler. Ryan, an attorney, makes "empty threats," she explains. "He'll threaten to not take our son on a promised adventure if he doesn't behave -- or to leave him in a store. But he won't really do it. He believes that's OK because that's how he was raised." Stay-at-home mom Leigh, conversely, believes in following through on consequences and can't bear the idea of threatening to abandon a child in a public place.
Her dilemma isn't unusual. Many couples differ on the best way to raise children and are often surprised at how strongly they feel about the matter. "Most of the couples I see who have children have differences in parenting styles," says Barbara Frazier, MSW, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Gainesville, Fla. "It's really a matter of how great the difference is," says Frazier, who also founded The Successful Parent web site. 

Three Kinds of Parenting Styles

Family counselors divide parenting styles into three categories: authoritarian (a parents-know-best approach that emphasizes obedience); permissive (which provides few behavioral guidelines because parents don't want to upset their children); and authoritative (which blends a caring tone with structure and consistent limit-setting). 
In an ideal world, both parents have an authoritative style, because that's what fosters the healthiest relationships. What makes differences in parenting styles particularly hard is they often stem from forces that are "largely unconscious," Frazier says. "Some people study up on parenting before they have kids. And some consciously work against what their own parents did. A lot more people unconsciously act out exactly what they saw their own parents doing.
"Having differing parenting styles can be a good thing," she adds, "as long as styles aren't too far apart. This gives children a wider view of grown-up values and a chance to have a special relationship with each parent. As long as parents come together as a united front, it's healthy."
Leigh and Ryan aren't yet entirely united. But "we've been working on offering the kids clear messages about what we expect from them and what the consequences will be," she says.

Coping With Different Parenting Styles

What can couples with different parenting styles do to help their kids thrive? Frazier offers moms and dads these pointers:
Get counseling. A professional therapist can help both parents understand how their upbringing drives their parenting styles, as well as how to handle disagreements in a healthy way.
Keep the kids out of it. Asking children to take sides -- or arguing in front of them -- is incredibly destructive, Frazier says. Instead, agree to disagree later, when the kids are out of earshot.
Read all about it. Frazier recommends Between Parent and Child by Haim G. Ginott, MD, and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, PhD, with Joan Declaire.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Renaissance Dads

Renaissance: re-nais-sance. n. :a period of new growth or activity.  (French word for "re-birth"). 

Let's face it, being a dad today is different than it was for my dad and his dad. I wouldn't say it is more difficult because the task of being a hero, a role model, a faith instructor, a teacher, a coach, a dicisplinarian, a drill sergeant, a mechanic, a gardener, a punching bag, a sensei, a confidence builder, and a how-to-treat-women instructor has always been a tall task for every man daring to attempt success at Fatherhood.

The difference is the wired and connected world we live in raises the stakes for each task we face as dads. On one hand we have increased access to knowledge so we are better equipped to succeed (Youtube has saved me thousands on car repairs), and on the other hand we are bombarded with the images and stories of dads who are more fit, more stylish, more successful, and who have perfect kids. The connected world has allowed us, or possibly compelled us, to expand our interests and develop in multiple disciplines as we read stories and see images of our peers being loving husbands, involved fathers, gourmet chefs, professional coaches, expert travel agents, community activists, and all-around-perfect people. Filtering through the noise and learning to be the best version of who we are (and not what we see in others) is the most important and perhaps the most difficult thing in this era of information overload.

During the Renaissance of the 15th Century in Europe, mankind was experiencing a "re-birth" of culture as great gains in science and the arts led to another explosion of information. This new access to a range of information led to the existence of the "Renaissance Man". This was a person who acquired knowledge across multiple disciplines rather than simply focusing on one area of expertise.

Fatherhood in the 21st Century is experiencing the same re-birth that occurred in the 15th Century.  We live in a world where the lines of traditional gender roles are blurred and where equality and independence are prized. The new reality compels us to pursue our own interests while at the same time it calls us to look for ways to support our wives and our kids as they pursue the things that make them thrive.

The task of supporting our kids and wives, as well as pursuing our own interests, leads modern dads to a broader range of experiences. A typical week for me often includes coaching baseball, cooking dinner, praying with my boys, being the homework police, fixing something on the car, reading with my boys, surfing with my friends, walking on the beach with my wife, volunteering at the school, working in the yard, and watching "Burn Notice" with my oldest son. All of this does not even mention the routine tasks at home or work. (I know the women out there will say this is what many of them have been doing since time began but this site is about dads so please sustain judgment for the time being.)

This variety in the week is the same for most of my friends experiencing Fatherhood. We are Renaissance Dads who get to, and often are required to, acquire knowledge and experience across disciplines. It is part of the process of loving our wives and our kids and it is often more rewarding than sacrificial.  Being a Renaissance Dad is a challenging and rewarding endeavor but one that real men, modern men, will embrace with fervor.

So welcome to this site about Renaissance Dads. Laugh with us at our failures, find encouragement from our stories, and accept the challenge to be a man and do what it takes to love and support the people in your life that God has blessed you with. Feel free to join the conversation and be a part of the re-birth of Fatherhood.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Summer Corn Chowder


The end of summer is near so it is time to take advantage of the last of the summer ingredients available. (Never mind that I live in San Diego and can get any ingredient, any time of the year).  This week I wanted to make some corn dishes and I stumbled upon a great recipe that only needed a small amount of tweaking. (The original recipe is courtesy of The Amateur Gourmet )

Ingredients

  • Kernels from 4 ears of yellow corn (rinse and slice off all kernels as close to the cob as possible). 
  • 5-6 slices of bacon (5oz) (use fewer slices for less fat) , cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 red pepper, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 5 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric (gives everything a nice yellow color)
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (Add more potatoes if preferred)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (enough to cover everything)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives (Plus more for the garnish) * Can use green onions as a substitute

Instructions

  1. Start by rendering the bacon in a 3 to 4-quart heavy pot over low/medium heat. (I do not add any oil to this but you can add a tiny splash of neutral oil (canola, vegetable) to get the bacon going.) Turn up the heat to medium and cook until the bacon is crisp. Pour out all but a tablespoon of bacon fat.
  2.  Add the butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin, and turmeric along with a pinch of salt. Continue to cook for about 8 minutes, stirring every so often, until the onion is translucent. 
  3. I love the colors in this dish. I used half of a red pepper and half of an orange bell pepper just for the visual appeal. 
      This is the best part when all the aromatics fill the pot.... and the air.  
  4. Then add the corn, potatoes, and stock; turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Smush some of the corn and potatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon to thicken the chowder. * The original recipe calls for corn starch but I do not like adding it to soups and it really does not need it. If you prefer a very thick chowder, take the time to smash most of the potatoes and it will thicken up the soup. 
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and taste for salt and pepper. Off the heat, add the cream and the minced chives, and adjust for salt. Serve immediately in bowls with the chopped chives.

I prefer chives but did not have any this time so I used green onions as a garnish. 

This is from the first time I made this. This version used chives and slightly more cream.                                      

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

How to Let Your Son Know You Are Proud of Him

Check out this clip of a dad finding out his son raised his grade in Math from an F to a C.




The cynics out there will say the father over-reacted. Some will say the problem is he is putting too much emphasis on one grade. The point here is not whether the whole system of giving grades is effective or a worth while measurement of this boy's abilities. 

The point is, as dads, there are times we need to push our kids to achieve more because we know they can do it. In these times when our kids make a change and progress in their maturity, we need to let them know that we are proud and we do not care how emotional we get when letting them know that. Kids love to please those who love and care about them so go ahead and let them know when you are proud of their efforts. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dads Who Stay Involved

The following is a great article about the role of a father published by Huffington Post..


The Important Role of Dad




DADS

While almost any man can father a child, there is so much more to the important role of being dad in a child's life. Let's look at who father is, and why he is so important.
Fathers are central to the emotional well-being of their children; they are are capable caretakers and disciplinarians.
Studies show that if your child's father is affectionate, supportive, and involved, he can contribute greatly to your child's cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement, a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity.
How fathers influence our relationships.
Your child's primary relationship with his/her father can affect all of your child's relationships from birth to death, including those with friends, lovers, and spouses. Those early patterns of interaction with father are the very patterns that will be projected forward into all relationships...forever more: not only your child's intrinsic idea of who he/she is as he/she relates to others, but also, the range of what your child considers acceptable and loving.
Girls will look for men who hold the patterns of good old dad, for after all, they know how "to do that." Therefore, if father was kind, loving, and gentle, they will reach for those characteristics in men. Girls will look for, in others, what they have experienced and become familiar with in childhood. Because they've gotten used to those familial and historic behavioral patterns, they think that they can handle them in relationships.
Boys on the other hand, will model themselves after their fathers. They will look for their father's approval in everything they do, and copy those behaviors that they recognize as both successful and familiar. Thus, if dad was abusive, controlling, and dominating, those will be the patterns that their sons will imitate and emulate. However, if father is loving, kind, supportive, and protective, boys will want to be that.
Human beings are social animals and we learn by modeling behavior. In fact, all primates learn how to survive and function successfully in the world through social imitation. Those early patterns of interaction are all children know, and it is those patterns that effect how they feel about themselves, and how they develop. Your child is vulnerable to those early patterns and incorporates those behavioral qualities in his/her repertoire of social exchange.
It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of dad. For example, girls who have good relationships with their fathers tend to do better in math, and boys who have actively involved fathers tend to have better grades and perform better on achievement tests. And well-bonded boys develop securely with a stable and sustained sense of self. Who we are and who we are to be, we are becoming, and fathers are central to that outcome.
Changing family roles.
Only 20 percent of American households consist of married couples with children. Filling the gap are family structures of all kinds, with dads stepping up to the plate and taking on a myriad of roles. When they are engaged, fathers can really make a difference. He may be classically married, single, divorced, widowed, gay, straight, adoptive, step-father, a stay-at-home dad, or the primary family provider. What is important is that he is involved.
The emergence of women into the job market has forever changed how society views the traditional roles of fathers and mothers. Feminism and financial power has shifted classic parenting trends, and today approximately 60 percent of women work. Add to that, the shift in marriage, divorce, lowered birth rates, and family structures of all types, and you can see the emergence of a softening and changing of traditional parenting roles. This transition in economics, urbanization, and sexual roles has led to more opened, flexible, and undefined functions for fathers.
A recent study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development(NICHD), indicates that dads are more engaged in caretaking than ever before. The reasons for this are varied, but they include: mothers working more hours and receiving higher salaries, fathers working less, more psychological consciousness, coping skills, mental illness intervention, self-worth issues, intimacy in marriage, social connection, and better role modeling for children.
Further, children who are well-bonded and loved by involved fathers, tend to have less behavioral problems, and are somewhat inoculated against alcohol and drug abuse. Yet when fathers are less engaged, children are more likely to drop out of school earlier, and to exhibit more problems in behavior and substance abuse.Research indicates that fathers are as important as mothers in their respective roles as caregivers, protectors, financial supporters, and most importantly, models for social and emotional behavior. In fact, a relatively new structure that has emerged in our culture is the stay-at-home dad. This prototype is growing daily, thanks in part to women's strong financial gain, the recent recession, increase in corporate lay-offs, and men's emerging strong sense of self.
Even when fathers are physically removed from their families, there are ways for them to nurture healthy relationships with their children. For instance, recognizing the important role fathers play in daughters' lives, Angela Patton started a program in which young girls went to visit their fathers in prison for a father-daughter dance. It was a successful program that has spread across the country and helped not only daughters find connection, love, and support from fathers, but also for fathers to feel important in the lives of their daughters.
When fathers are separated from their children after a divorce, there are many ways they can remain bonded with their children. Though divorce is traumatizing to boys and girls alike, strong, consistent, and loving parenting from fathers can help make the transition successful.
Thanks, Dad.
Finally, on this Father's day, it is important to recognize and reward dads for being there, and actively teaching important life skills to children. It is important to their children, and meaningful to dads everywhere when you say "Thank you, job well done." This, after all, is what makes life worth living. This is your true legacy: ensuring the health and well-being of your children, that future generation to be.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to Make a Kid's (Father's) Day

Two Major League Baseball players rose high in my personal rankings last week when my son and I attended the Padres vs. Nationals game. Like many times before, we arrived early in hopes of catching a ball during batting practice and possibly even getting an autograph or two.

As the players from both teams headed off the practice field and into their clubhouses to prepare for the game, two Washington National pitchers (Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzales) stopped by a young boy who was calling their names and requesting a signature. My 10 year old son quickly joined him and was able to get autographs from these two popular players.

Each time a major league player signs an autograph for a kid he is doing something more than offerring him a valueable collectible. This simple act of taking time to acknowledge that kid and his request is creating an inspired moment for the young fan. It sounds cliche' but one look into my son's eyes after receiving the signature says it all. These players validated my boy's respect for them as people and it gave him a sense of importance to have these "big names" stop and look him in the eyes.


Players who take the time to sign a few autopgraphs and pose for pictures demonstrates their understanding of the responsibility that comes from being a star. These guys play a game for work and in doing so have the eyes of thousands of young people on them everyday. Their job teaches kids about working hard and having fun. It says, "dreams can come true" and, "don't forget to appreciate life as it passes by".

Taking a moment to make a kid's day says, "I remember being young and dreaming of making it big. I remember having heros and how much I looked up to them. I do not take this privilege lightly."

So thank you Strasburg and Gonzales. Your act of kindness last week created a new fan... actually two new fans if you count my son.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Good Intentions Down the Drain?

The latest social media craze includes dumping an ice bucket over one’s head with the purpose of raising awareness and money for ALS research. It seems that everyone I know has taken this challenge including former President George W. Bush (his video by the


way, shows why he and Bill Clinton are so much more likable than President Obama). Like all social media phenomenons, there is a lot of good that could come from all of this and of course, there are also a lot of naysayers.

First of all, let’s understand the origins of this craze. It appears that the challenge began with professional golfers challenging their friends to dump ice on their heads or donate $100 to any charity of their choice. In July, Greg Norman challenged NBC’s Matt Lauer so when Lauer followed through with the challenge on the Today Show the craze began. 

Sometime along the way, the challenge became associated with ALS and to date, ALSA has raised over 46 million dollars. This is incredible news for the more than 30,000 Americans living with this disease and for the researchers searching for funding as they seek a cure. 

But this is the new age of humanity where not even good things escape the line of critics and experts with opinions. 

One of the biggest criticisms I have heard so far is that “millions of gallons of water are being ‘wasted’ in this challenge”. I understand the difficulty of explaining this waste to the 3.4 million people who die each year from a lack of clean water and it is a bit difficult for those of us living in the severe drought conditions in California but let’s think this through. 

  1. The 2-5 gallons of water dumped over a head cannot be shipped to the people around the world in need of safe water so dumping a bucket on one’s head in Minnesota does not add to the global problem of insufficient clean water. 
  2. If you live in California and turn off the water while brushing your teeth, get into your shower before the water is all the way warm, or even skip one toilet flush a day (If it’s yellow let it mellow) you will save even more water than what you just poured on your head. If you pour the water while standing in the grass and turn off your sprinkler that day you will actually help the drought rather than exacerbating the problem. 
  3. More than half of the United States are actually experiencing an incredibly wet summer and are in no danger of running out of water so dumping a pitcher of water over one’s head is not a problem whatsoever. 

Another criticism to this phenomenon is, “This is just a trendy thing to do and people are not actually learning about ALS”. 

I understand this concern to a point. In fact yesterday I asked a young man why he did the ice bucket challenge. He told me it was to raise awareness for ALS. I then asked, “What is ALS”? He told me it was a disease but that was all he knew.  

At first I was critical of his involvement because he did not actually learn anything or help promote ALS research and then I discovered my kids did this challenge and passed this on to others. My kids were not previously passionate about ALS research and did not donate money to the cause, but they did take a moment out of their day to think about the needs of others who are hurting. 

This, I think, is the great thing about this movement. People from all walks of life are giving and accepting challenges to dump ice on their heads in honor of a worthy cause. It really doesn’t matter the cause. Consider that this movement began being about “any” charity. Nearly 500,000 people in the US are living with AIDS, over 400,000 kids are living in foster care, close to 3 million men have prostate cancer and over 3 million women are living through breast cancer. The amount of causes in the world are plentiful but the point is that people are turning their attention away from themselves and towards others. 

Today my wife said, “Our kids and their friends are dumping ice on their heads for a cause rather than hurting other people. That is a great thing”. I agree. From Ferguson, Missouri to Mosul, Iraq people are divided, they are selfish, and they are bent on causing harm to others. So why should we be critical of millions of people who don’t want to cause harm, but rather do good? 


So for those who are critical of the “ice bucket challenge”, ask yourself what is the real harm in participating in the trend of doing good? It may not be perfect and there are certainly some who are doing this merely for attention but let’s be careful not to throw out the “baby” with the ice bath. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kids Gone Wild- Grocery Store Edition

The following is an excerpt from the Matt Walsh Blog on dealing with kids when they throw temper tantrums in stores. Since, as Matt puts it, "grocery stores are designed to send kids into crying fits" I thought this was worth sharing. 

Dear parents, you need to control your kids. Sincerely, non-parents
To the fan I lost yesterday:
I don’t owe you an explanation, but I thought I’d offer one anyway. I do this more for your sake than mine. You see, maybe, as you later suggested, I was in a bad mood. Maybe I could have been a bit more polite about it. Maybe I’m more sensitive to it now that I have kids. Maybe I’m just sick of hearing these comments about parents. Maybe I know that my wife has to take the twins with her when she goes grocery shopping sometimes, so she could easily be on the receiving end of your sort of bullying. Maybe I took it personally.
Whatever the case, there I was, walking down the aisles of the grocery store looking for the ingredients for a new chili recipe I wanted to try. I heard the kid screaming from a distance; the whole store heard him. It was a temper tantrum, a meltdown, a hissy fit — it happens. Toddlers are notorious for losing their cool at the most inconvenient times. Nobody likes to hear it, but it happens. You’re out running errands with your little guy, everything is fine, and next thing you know he’s in full-on rabid poodle mode. It’s humiliating and emotionally draining, but what can you do? Pull out that large glass sound proof aquarium you carry around and stick your kid in it so nobody can hear him shriek? That’s a possibility, but the logistics don’t always work. Slightly more realistically, the peanut gallery probably expects you to drop all of your groceries and immediately run into the parking lot, so as to save them from having to deal with the spectacle. But it’s not always that simple; maybe you don’t have time to shut down the whole operation just because Billy’s gone nuclear.
It wasn’t that simple for the mother of this kid. I finally came across her in the beans aisle. She had a cart full of groceries, a kid riding along, and another one walking beside her. Well, he wasn’t really walking so much as convulsing and thrashing about like he’d invented some bizarre, angry interpretive dance. He was upset about something, from what I gathered it had to do with a certain lucky cereal he wished to acquire, but which his mother refused to purchase. I felt his pain, poor guy. My mom never bought me sugary cereal either — “breakfast candy,” she called it. She used to get us Cheerio’s — “breakfast cardboard,” I called it.
I felt the woman’s pain even more. She could bribe her kid into silence, but she was sticking to her guns. Good for her, I thought. Sure, if she’d only meet his ransom demands, my bean purchasing experience would be a bit more pleasurable, but I was rooting for her nonetheless. Not everyone felt the same way, apparently.
I’d met you a few minutes earlier. You told me you were a fan. We spoke for a moment, you seemed nice enough. Then we crossed paths again there by the beans and the screaming toddler. I guess you thought we were friends, you thought you could confide in me your deepest thoughts. You glanced toward the mother and the kid, then at me, rolled your eyes and said in a loud voice: “Man, some people need to learn how to control their f**king kids.” The lady could definitely hear you, but I guess that was your intention. You had this expression like you were expecting a high five. “Yeah, put it here, dude, you really told that young mother and her three year old off! Nice!” Is that how you thought I’d respond? What is it about me that made you think I would react that way? You’re the second stranger in the last few months to say something like that to me about a mom with a tantrum-throwing toddler.
Yeah, I didn’t respond the way you anticipated. Instead, I offered my own helpful suggestion: “Man, some people need to learn how to shut their mouths, watch their language, and mind their own business.” You looked at me like I hurt your feelings, then you muttered some choice words under your breath — as cowards are wont to do — and walked away. Later that day you sent me an email, threatening to tell everyone that I’m “abusive” and “crappy” to my listeners. Well, now I’m one step ahead of you. Now, everyone knows about my shameful “abuse.” Let them decide who’s the bully: the guy who vulgarly insults a woman while she’s dealing with a difficult child, or the guy who tells the guy who insulted the woman to shut up and go away?
After you left, injury was quickly added to insult when her kid bumped into a display and knocked a bunch of stuff onto the ground. I started to help pick it all up, but she said she wanted her son to do it because he’s the one who made the mess. Touché, madam. Nicely played. A lot of people would buckle under the pressure of having sonny going psycho in aisle 7, while, seemingly, the whole world stops to gawk and scrutinize, but this lady stayed cool and composed. It was an inspiring performance, and it’s too bad you missed the point because your feeble mind can only calculate the equation this way: misbehaving child = BAD PARENT.
I’m no math major, but that calculus makes no sense. A kid going berserk at a grocery store doesn’t indicate the quality of his parents, anymore than a guy getting pneumonia after he spends six hours naked in the snow indicates the quality of his doctor. Grocery stores are designed to send children into crying fits. All of the sugary food, the bright packaging, the toys, the candy — it’s a minefield. The occasional meltdown is unavoidable, the real test is how you deal with it. This mother handled it like a pro. She was like mom-ninja; she was calm and poised, but stern and in command.
See, I figure there are two types of people who mock and criticize parents whose children throw tantrums in public. The first is — from what I gathered based on your age (you looked about 19? 20, perhaps?) and what you said in your follow up email — your type: the non-parent who thinks, if they ever have kids, they’ll discover the secret formula that will prevent their hypothetical son or daughter from ever crying in front of other people. Then they promptly scrutinize and chastise real parents for not having this fake, imaginary, impossible, non existent formula. This sort of non-parent doesn’t realize that, unless they plan on using a muzzle and a straightjacket, there is nothing they can do to tantrum-proof their toddler.
Fine. Ignorant non-parents, who don’t know what they’re talking about, imposing ridiculous standards on actual parents because it makes them feel superior. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. As bad as you people are, you’re not nearly as horrible as the second type: actual parents with grown children who judge other parents, as if they haven’t been in the exact same situation many times. I had an older guy complain to me recently about babies that cry during church. He said: “Back when our children were babies, you didn’t have this problem.” Interesting. Apparently babies didn’t cry in the 50′s. The whole “crying baby” thing is a new fad, it would seem. These folks who had kids a long time ago seem to have a rather selective memory when it comes to their own days of parenting young kids. They also tend to dismiss the fact that modern parenting presents unique challenges, some of which didn’t apply several decades ago. I always love the older folks who lecture about how THEIR kids weren’t as “attached to electronics” as kids are nowadays. That’s probably true, but mainly because, well, YOU DIDN’T HAVE ELECTRONICS. You had a toaster and a black and white TV with 2 channels, both of which were pretty easy to regulate. But, sure, congratulations for not letting your kids use things that didn’t exist. On that note, I have a strict “no time machines or hover-boards” policy in my home. It is stringently enforced. I’m thinking of writing a parenting book: “How to Stop Your Child From Becoming Dependent Upon Technology That Isn’t Invented Yet”
Anyway, listen, I don’t think you, of all people, should be telling other folks what they “need to learn.” If you just shut up and paid attention, you’d realize that YOU could learn plenty from mothers like the one we both encountered yesterday. I know I have lots and lots to learn as a young parent, which is why I’m always prepared for a more experienced parent to take me to school and teach me a thing or two, even if they don’t know they’re doing it. Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do. You shouldn’t scrutinize parents when you aren’t one, for the same reason I wouldn’t sit and heckle an architect while he draws up the blueprint for a new skyscraper. I know that buildings generally aren’t supposed to fall down, but I don’t have the slightest clue as to how to design one that won’t, so I’ll just keep my worthless architectural opinions to myself.
That’s a strategy you might consider adopting.
In any event, it was nice meeting you.

Read more at http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/09/15/dear-parents-you-need-to-control-your-kids-sincerely-non-parents/#Kwd7O64Gg5uWAPfs.99

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween and Jesus

Approved Christian Costume
Halloween is one of those events that generates discord among Christian parents and churches. Some advocate total abstinence from any hint of this celebration, some compromise and attend church "harvest" festivals and dress their kids as cute little puppies and Bible characters, and others dive right in with the rest of the community. 

Before I say another word I will "show my hand" and let you know that I am in the third category. We carve pumpkins that sometimes look ridiculous and that sometimes look scary. Our boys go "trick or treating" and I steal all the Butterfingers and Peanut Butter Cups from their loot. Past costumes include pirates, zombies, The Headless Horsemen, Egyptian gods. cute little puppies, dragons, magicians, and Jedi Knights. In preparation we watch movies like Spiderwick Chronicles, Aliens in the Attic, and of course It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. 

Costume of Crazy Bible Guy
Halloween is one of those activities that most people in America celebrate and I think it would be a shame if every Christian hid inside our doors on this night. It reminds me of the time Jesus took his young disciples to Ceasarea Philippi where it was known that people sacrificed to the god Pan and to Caesar. At this place where true evil was taking place, Jesus told his disciples that "on this Rock I will build my church". Jesus declared that the collective gathering of Christians would grow in the very places where people were desperate for hope and prosperity and where they turned to false gods for comfort. Jesus knew He would triumph over evil so instead of being seclusive, He was present. 

Another great moment in Scripture we see Jesus show up at the Pools of Bethesda. These were medicinal pools outside of Jerusalem. These pools became known as a place where the god of healing, Asclepion, was worshipped. Jesus went to this place where no Rabbi would dare be found and he offered healing to someone who was suffering for many years. If Jesus was afraid of being in a place where false gods were worshipped, this man's suffering would have continued. Instead of being exclusive, Jesus was present. 

Life-size costume of Moses.
The 10 Commandments are included!
I'm not trying to convince you to change your convictions, buy a demon costume, and play with a Ougi Board in the name of Christ. I simply want to remind you that Jesus came into a world full of people who are broken and hurting and He met them where they were. He was accused of being a drunkard and glutton and some attempted to insult him by calling him, "a friend of sinners". 

If your faith causes you to abstain from all things Halloween, by all means follow your convictions. But be okay with those of us who join in with our culture on a pretty fun night. Be happy that there are many of us who love Jesus, love dressing up in ridiculous costumes, and who love hanging out with our neighbors. (Even the neighbors who dress like Satan and try to scare the hell out of little children). Also remember that Jesus will build his church even in the most broken and desperate places on earth... and the gates of hell will not prevail. 

Happy Halloween! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day Two: The Little Things

Day two. 
In Texas where everything is big, you have to look for the little things to make your day. When you start off in Amarillo and know you and your three boys will drive 520 miles across parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri you try to savor every positive moment. With this in mind I was delighted to find the complimentary breakfast at our 1 star hotel included a waffle maker that made Texas-shaped waffles (positive moment number one). If that is not a sign of God's favor upon us, I don't know what is. 

With our bellies filled with Texas smothered in syrup we loaded up the RV and were on our way. Today is a travel day so we settled in for the road ahead. 

Another delightful surprise was found in the town of Shamrock, TX. I was attracted by the "Historic Route 66" signs and the shameless "As seen in the movies" signs calling all travelers to drop in. (If you want to properly travel across the country shameless tourists traps should always peak your interest.)

We discovered the one building in Shamrock that was built in 1936 and was used as a model for the movie, "Cars" (positive moment number two). Sadly, nowhere in town sold bumper stickers or magnets of Texas and Route 66 so our time in Texas ended slightly incomplete but luckily, Oklahoma awaited our arrival.

The highlight of Oklahoma was a stop in front of the state sign (positive moment number three). The boys climbed on the sign, the tree beside the sign, and they caught grasshoppers before getting back into the RV. Nothing else happened in the entire state of Oklahoma. Because our goal was to cover ground I will try to not pass judgement on the entire state for the lack of interesting stops along the way. (On a practical note, there are no easy stops for gas or food on Interstate 44 from Tulsa to the Missouri border. Seriously, there are none.) 

We crossed the border into Missouri (and took our photo), then took the first exit and drove a half mile into the state of Kansas so we could say we've been there... because we could (positive moment number four). Back into Missouri and we were in our campsite within thirty minutes. I booked our spot at this RV park a week earlier by sending one email and no deposit and received the response, "Gotcha down" from a guy named Rick.

 We arrived at our site, jumped in the pool, and met Rick (positive moment number five). 

Five solid positive moments on a day that included driving over 500 miles through cowboy country is a great day in my book. I am grateful for my great family and the opportunity to take adventures such as this. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Day One: The West


The first thirty six hours of road trip fun is all about getting out of the West. In the West the states are wider, the mountains are taller, and the scenery is mostly dry and bare.. That  means driving an RV though the often arid and barren lands takes longer. 

I'm not complaining, I really like driving hundreds of miles through Arizonan and Californian deserts while staring at Yucca plants and rocks but who wouldn't love doing that?

In my travels I have learned it is best to travel through the most barren and ugly pieces of land when the sun is down (sleeping kids make driving through deserts much more enjoyable) therefore Day One of our trip entailed leaving San Diego at 8PM.

The kids did what I hoped and mostly slept through the night (I had to wake up the older boys to get the obligatory photo in front of the Arizona state sign). By the time they woke up and were ready for the day we were in the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, Arizona. Painted desert is aptly named but the "petrified forest" should perhaps go by, "Sporadically Placed Pieces of Petrified Trees in the Desert National Park". I'm sure the name was considered but signage proved too costly. 

God blessed us with a little rain and no heat so we were able to hike a few miles and actually enjoy the park before any other tourists showed up. The blue, purple, greenish, red, and brown rocks and sand are pretty cool and almost worth the 10 hour drive. The two younger boys completed their Junior Ranger guide and received badges for the park (apparently my oldest is now too old for that). 

We were told not to take anything from the park so when I bumped into a Ranger I tried not to look too awkward while talking and slowly and inconspicuously releasing handfuls of purple sand from my pockets. That distraction proved worthwhile while the boys loaded a 100 pound petrified tree limb into the RV. (It didn't happen quite like that but the youngest did leave with pockets full of rocks. Judging from the view while driving the last 10 hours, the desert will survive with slightly fewer stones.)

The rest of the day entailed driving through New Mexico and served to confirm my two previous experiences in this state; 1. This state contains beautiful scenery and picturesque views and, 2.Albaquerque basically sucks for people under 25 years old.  

By nightfall we checked into a roadside motel in Amarillo and despite providing all pertinent information prior to check in, the young man at reception graciously introduced us to Texan speed and efficiency.




while he took twenty minutes re-entering our information into their system. 

1161 miles and 24 hours into the trip and all is well. We are thankful for good beginnings.... And for getting out of the West. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Because We Can


"Why would you do that" is the response I get the most often when I say I am driving across the country with my three boys. "How often did you sustain a head injury as a child?" Is the second most common response.

This idea doesn't really sound that bad does it? My boys and I are driving from San Diego to Maine and back in a twenty foot RV and watching Major League Baseball games during the hottest time of year. What could possibly go wrong with that?

The truth is I know this trip might be a little insane and some days will go on forever but some experiences have the potential to be amazing.  That is really the point... The potential to be amazing. Creating memories with my boys (memories that will surely get better as time goes on) is a unique opportunity that only happens when we just go for it.

So for the next three weeks we will enjoy all this country has to offer and try something unique simply because we can. See you on the road.


Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Benefit of Pain

Tomorrow I am speaking about the benefits of pain and I remembered this great post from my wife that relates well to my thoughts. One of the main points I will discuss is the fact that pain and trials in life bring things into focus. I think the following reflections from my wife during our last days living in Jerusalem are worth a re-post so here you are:


A Walk To Remember

Today Ryan got home in the late afternoon and did a "boy's night" and let me loose to walk the city of Jerusalem one last time. I grabbed my ipod and my purse (hey you never know) and headed out to retrace a route that has become as familiar to me as well...my hometown would be. I walked out of our apartment, down the steps and onto Gidon. I crossed over the train tracks and turned on Emek Refaim. Emek is a chic shopping street in the high end "German Colony" of Jerusalem. It is fun to people watch here- especially on the eve of Shabbat when everyone is racing to pick up their last minute challah from the bakery, good wine from the wine shop, and fresh bouquets for the table. Tonight the cafes were full of patrons eating kosher salads and drinking cappucinos and turkish coffee. Plenty of window shoppers walked the pavement and at this time, the breeze was still warm. I walked down to where Emek meets Derek Bet Lehem and King David Street and turned up King David. I did a quick detour into the (this is original) King David Hotel just to say that I had been inside the building where most US presidents and many world dignitaries have resided over the years. Then I turned down towards the old city - down a hill, then up again. Through a little concrete valley made up of fountains and steps, which ultimately leads to the base of the Jaffa gate entrance to the Old City.

Because it was "Sara night," instead of going through the gate at my right, I headed left, into the newly constructed, modern (and very Irvine Spectrum, California-like) outdoor mall. I gleefully walked from store to store thrilled to be sans children. As I exited the mall, up a steep staircase, I saw the Jaffa gate ahead of me and made a conscious decision not to head into the city tonight. We had been to the city as a family two days prior to say our goodbyes to the vendors we have befriended, and to say our goodbyes to the sights and smells that we have truly grown to love. I turned to walk away and was a little surprised to feel (gasp!) not a tear, but rather a pang. That little ache in my heart caught me off guard. At this point I also realized a song by David Crowder had come into my ear through my ipod earphones. The words "Take my heart, I lay it down At the feet of You who's crowned" are playing while I start to have a little panic attack. We are actually leaving! I cant go for a run and end up at the rock of Golgotha anymore.... I walk towards a cross walk and the "walking green man" immediately replaces the red one signaling me to walk and I think... but I want to stop! I dont know if I am ready to say goodbye... Meanwhile David is singing "Take my life Letting go I lift it up to You who's throned..."

I walk through my favorite park and at this point the sun is beginning to drop low in the sky. The golden hue of the evening sun is gathering in little pools of light under the olive trees. I start to walk up the stairs again, past the fountain, up towards my "thinking spot" under the bouganvilla, and I turn back to glance again at the old city. There is still so much we haven't done in Israel, I think. Ryan and I never came to this park just the two of us, to watch the sun set over Mt. Zion and the road to the Mt. of Olives. We could still get one more meal of our favorite arab salads and grilled meats. We could still spend more time in the West Bank with the orphans there, or in the refugee camps. I wont be getting good Israeli coffee with my favorite Jewish friend again to discuss theology and matters of the heart.
"Take my fret, take my fear All I have I'm leaving here Be all my hopes, be all my dreams You're my delights Be my everything (I have also during this walk put David Crowder on repeat mode...I figure the song is the perfect way to just swim in my emotional outpouring)."

David faithfully (he cannot say no to the ipod repeat button) croons out to God "And I will worship You, Lord Only You, Lord And I will, I will bow down before You Only You, Lord." And I actually laugh. Not because I think that worship of God is funny, but because I realize that God has done a funny thing in me this year. You see, there is this movie that I love called "A walk to Remember" about a pastors daughter and a "bad boy rebel cool kid." In the movie you figure the two will get together, but you think that eventually the girl will start to at least dress a little cuter or start acting a little "cooler" but she never does. The "cool kid" does fall in love with her and it is because he is changed by her inward qualities and I believe God in her.

Jerusalem has most definitely not changed this year but somehow Ihave. I have genuinely come to love Israel, and not because of its outward appeal. I love Israel because GOD HAS BEEN HERE with us this year...in the same way that He was with us in California, the same way that He will be with us wherever we are. I have cried out to God many times on the streets and alleyways of Jerusalem and He has answered me and embraced me. Despite the constant struggles (which I might add I have not been shy to blog about), God has faithfully, and lovingly kept my head up - even if barely enough...

I walk past the lion fountain and praise God for this year. I genuinely (yes, genuinely!) thank Him for our time here. I am excited because I know that He will be with us even next year as we enter into newer (and I think scarier) ventures in life. I can be moved to tears by the living, pulsing heart of God in Jerusalem. It's okay because it beats in California as well. And all the world! And my heart skips a beat as I walk through a crowd of some out of town, camera toting tourists, elegantly dressed muslim women with their children, a young Jewish couple with heads bent towards one another, and I hear David singing in my ear a love song to God, that I too am singing at this point "And it's just You and me here now -Only You and me here now- You should see the view When it's only You."