Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oscar season never ends

I can't help thinking that Shakespeare had intimate knowledge of children and their dramatic interpretations of people looking at them the wrong way, or of a sippy cup that's the wrong color, or of a peanut-butter sandwich that oh-so-mysteriously finds its way into the VCR (yes, we still have a VCR). As I'm writing this, my daughter is in agony about having to wear a warm blue dress to church instead of the flimsy red one that she wanted. That it's nearly freezing outside makes no difference to her - 'cause she's the lead actor in a greek tragedy about fripperies and frocks, and she's NOT going to let down her audience. And when she gets in character, she STAYS in character. Devotion to her craft: this girl has it.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Spunky birthday

Happy fourth birthday to this kiddo. We knew she was going to be a handful from day one.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Pablo Neruda was not as brave as my daughter

Disclosure: Piggyback Rider sent me a product for review, which was the genesis for this post.

A gate stands between us and Forest Road 89. A few steps and we pass out of (relative) civilization, away from paved streets, mailboxes, and chain-link fences. We pause at the threshold, pondering this weighty step we are about to take and we . . .

Later, dad!

. . . throw caution to the wind! My daughter is not one to wait quietly. Thresholds be damned! Because why stand still when you could be running? To have the wind blowing through your hair, tousled fondly by invisible hands. To feel your legs burning, pistons pumping, thumping, little engines of locomotion. To have your feet strike fresh, untamed ground, and strike it again, and again, thrusting into that great unknown with the impulsive courage of an explorer. Pablo Neruda said,
. . . life definitively ends at my feet,
what is foreign and hostile begins there:
the names of the world, the frontier and the remote,
the substantive and the adjectival too great for my heart
originates there . . .
But Pablo was a man, and not as brave as my daughter. Her heart is bigger than the world. It swallows up the frontier and still craves more. Onward! Stronger! Faster!

Until, that is, her seemingly infinite reserves suddenly run dry. The perpetual motion machine stumbles and collapses in a quivering heap. I'm left no option but to carry her tiny form in my arms, letting her soak the sun's rays while she moans about impossible distances and insurmountable barriers. And my arms grow heavier. And heavier.

I love taking walks with my daughter, but we mostly stay close to home. My daughter knows nothing of pacing herself. Hers is a personality of extremes. Her primary setting is full throttle, and so when she hits a wall, she hits it hard. The idea of being miles from home with a thirty pound melt-down on my hands makes my palms sweat. Which is unfortunate, because before I got all domesticated, I was a bit of an outdoors fiend. I'd disappear into the mountains for weeks at a time to get away from people, schedules, and modern "convenience."

As a parent, I've had to alter my expectations. I'm probably not going to be hiking twenty miles per day out into the wilderness with a three-foot-tall person in tow. Responsibility, and its attendant anxieties, has moderated my ambitions ("moderated" may be an understatement). But I want to prime my girl for a future of dad-daughter outdoor quests. 'Cause she's an adventurer at heart. She's my little Amelia Earhart, my Edmund Hillary. A love for the outdoors, a desire to reconnoiter our surroundings -- these are impulses we have in common. If only there were a way to "boldly go" without having to risk utter, soul-crushing defeat.

So I did some research and procured a "Piggyback Rider." It's a simple product, offering a lightweight harness and platform on which to stand a melodramatic "I can't walk anymore!" three-year-old. It's the mechanically perfected version of a piggyback ride, but a version that doesn't destroy your neck or back, and that allows the carrier full use of his or her hands.

I squat and let my daughter climb onto the inch-wide platform that rests just below my hips. She leans her head against my neck as I attach my harness to hers. Her hot little breaths blow into my ear. I stand and begin walking, and as she clings to the hand-holds on my shoulder, she offers me advice and constructive criticism.
"Go that way!"
"Your hair smells funny."
"You should go faster. I said FASTER!"
With her attention removed from the complicated task of putting one foot in front of the other, she's even the first to see the bird of prey. "Look, a eagle!"

A hawk, actually

It's good to get outside, but more than that, it's good to get out beyond the sanitized "outside" that's formed from sidewalks, playgrounds, and mowed lawns. It's a way to show my daughter that there's more to the world than can be found on a road map. That trails can be blazed beyond the paths that the masses travel. That having a picnic in the sand puts fun crunchy things in your snacks.

When you get far enough away from "civilization," you start thinking more seriously about self-sufficiency, about the things you want versus the things you need (Hint: water. Water should always be at the top of the list. And gummy bears). And when you have to carry all of those things, it gives the process of winnowing down a necessary urgency. Given that we don't make a lot of money, these are lessons that are really important for my daughter to learn. And for me to re-learn, in the process of trying to teach her.

'Cause in the end, most of the things that should make us happy, or keep us alive, are pretty simple. My daughter seems to get this.

Even with a clever device, trying new things with my daughter is not always easy. I used to think that I was an easy-going chap, back before I had responsibilities to anybody but myself. Now that I'm a parent, my sense of calm is very closely tied to routine and to the comfort of successful repetitions on a theme. Which is one reason that being a parent is such a growing experience. I know that even as my daughter and I benefit from setting achievable expectations and meeting them, there's something important for her and for me in trying things that are harder and riskier than our normal fare.

See, I relate to Pablo Neruda's anxieties about the "frontier" and the "remote," especially in the abstract sense. But with the help of a brave companion by my side (or on my back, as the case may be), there's something heady about the possibility of pushing at the boundaries that mark hostile territory, to ever expand our domain until it includes countries, until it includes worlds, until it includes universes.


Disclosure: Piggyback Rider sent me the NOMIS: Standing Child Carrier System in exchange for my thoughts about using the product. It should come as no surprise that my thoughts went all philosophical, so if you have any additional questions about the product, I can answer them in the comments! My opinions are my own.

All in all, this simple thing made our hiking experiences appreciably better. "Riding the bar," as the company puts it, requires the rider to stay alert and engaged, at the same time that it offers a nice break from having to hoof it every step of the way. By this same token, it encourages a kid to get down and continue walking when they're ready, rather than just falling asleep like they might in a different type of carrier. While there's a place for a more substantial, cocoon-like product, the Piggyback Rider is the one that I like for getting my daughter used to outdoor adventures in which she has to remain an active participant. 

SPECIAL GIVEAWAY: Piggyback Rider is offering a chance to win a free child carrier, just for my readers! All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment here and then post an image to Piggyback Rider's Facebook wall using the theme, "Why I need a Piggyback Rider," and mention my blog. And without having to wait for the contest results, you can get free shipping immediately by using the code PBRSHIP when checking out on their website.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Oh the weather outside is frightful . . .

Which means there's nothing to do but light a fire, and be ready for whatever nature sends your way . . .

Friday, January 31, 2014

My favorite posts of 2013

I posted my favorite blog posts of 2012 in January of last year, and as another January is nearing its conclusion, it's time for the 2013 edition.

Before the "favorites," I thought I'd recap just a few highlights in blogging for 2013. I kick-started things with a single guest post in 2012, but in the last year I've started showing up in a few more places on the internet. I was asked to participate on other blogs:

At Andrew Cardon's blog, Mommy's Busy, Go Ask Daddy

At Tommy Riles' blog, The Life of Dad

At Christopher Lewis' blog, Dad of Divas

At John Kinnear's blog, Ask Your Dad Blog

I've also had some of my posts re-published at a few sites, namely here and here at the National At-Home Dad Network blog, and at Comic Strip Mama.

And if you've seen any of my stick-man comics floating around, it's probably because they've been shared around a lot on Facebook and Pinterest. One of my comics was seen by over a million people. Crazy, right?

Without further ado, here's the round-up of my favorite blog posts of 2013, with commentary from both my soon-to-be four-year-old and myself:


Seeing things new, or how the important things punctuate all the rest

My three-year-old: "I don't like this one because my head is kinda erased. I'm like an erased-head."

Me: It's a strange moment when your daughter starts channeling David Lynch . . .

This post involved me trying to put aside grown-up concerns and see with the eyes of an eraser-head child (Also, that's actually sunlight that she's reaching for, not her head being erased).

Brand new day


Me: Sometimes my daughter's exuberance is amazing and inspiring. Sometimes it's migraine-inducing. This post is mostly about the former, and my daughter's vehicular nostalgia is the latter.

Some thoughts on aliens and the meaning of life

My three-year-old: "Why don't they have any color? I wish everything was pink."

Me: Of course she does. The comic included in this post about motherhood is my most-shared comic. It also inspired a lot of (inexplicable) anger.

Hut, hut, hike! A birth story

My three-year old: "That baby is cute! That baby is sad because its parents are not giving it what it wants!"

Me: No, that baby is sad because it just squeezed its big 'ol head through the eye of needle. In this post I get real about how the birth of our daughter was both beautiful and traumatizing.

Fatherhood: A reason to make things right.

My three-year-old: "I sure wish those guys had hair. That little guy is me, and the big one is you, and we really don't have any hair. We need hair to be happy!"

Me: My daughter probably should have been born in the seventies, so she could have been a young woman in the Big Hair era of the 1980s. But this post isn't about hair. It's about dads who screw up, and the reasons they want to change.

Hand in hand, into the great unknown

My three-year-old: "The bigger one is helping the little guy walk because they are friends. Which means they say please and thank you. My bunny and I are friends. But sometimes he just hits me in the face. And kicks me. He needs to hold my hand and say sorry."

Me: Though I'd never hit her or kick her in the face, my daughter's on-again, off-again relationship with her bunny probably is a little like the relationship between a kid and a parent, what with all the disciplining and screaming fits and time-outs. But in the end, if you're doing it right, your kid's gonna remember you as the one who held her hand -- the one who gently supported her (and traveled with her!) on her greatest quests.

Tire swings and quiet moments

My three-year-old: "In this picture I am thinking about sad things like when Grammy and Gramps are far away. Also, getting bug bites makes me sad. And I think about that a lot."

Me: In this post I take some time to think about a quiet moment during the normally frenetic day of my three-year-old. Ah, quiet moments. I heart them.

A million splashes

My three-year-old: "I love throwing stuff! Rocks, little pieces of bread, snow, balls, fish, and telephones!"

Me: It's true, she never met a fish she didn't want to throw. In this post, I think about how throwing my daughter into a pond gets me right in the feels.

On falling down

My three-year-old: "They are so happy because they are building a palace. They are going to build them all the way to outer space!"

Me: Mine was a castle, actually, not a palace. 'Cause then I can sneak in this Thoreau quote: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

9-11 is a tough day for a lot of people. But it was easier to deal with when I was doing constructive things with my daughter.

The Raven

My three-year-old: "That's where I'm saying the poem! The poem where you say, "Never more, quoth the Raven! Nevermore! Nevermore!"

Me: This was an epic project, one I'm pretty proud of. We only intended to do the first verse of Poe's The Raven, but it just seemed a shame not to continue on. It took place over several nights and involved more than one lock of her hair being singed. But it was worth it.


My three-year-old: "Ooh, what am I reading? I think the story is about princesses who play musical instruments and climb trees."

Me: There's almost no sight I like better than watching my daughter read in a patch of sunlight. It makes our house feel like a home.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

An award for keeping my daughter alive (and writing about it)

So, I haven't announced it here on my blog yet, but I won an award recently. Not for my looks, but thank you for thinking it (I've always felt that my bald noggin was particularly well-shaped). And not for curing cancer or solving the global warming problem (I'm working on it, people, these things take time). I also did not beat anyone else in a high profile track event (unless you count races with my three-year-old high-profile, 'cause I can totally beat her some of the time) or release a critically acclaimed album (although I DID recently improvise a version of "This old man" replacing "this old man" with "Add-i-son" that was reasonably well-received by a single three-foot-tall groupie). I also also did not save another's life while under fire, unless you count the fact that my daughter is still alive after nearly four years of her believing that she is invincible. Actually, I think you should count that last one. That stuff ain't easy, folks. And I'm told keeping them alive involves cleaning them, and the messes they make, from time to time. Which I totally do. From time to time.

So, I received an award from the parenting web site, which is owned by Disney, for being one of 2013's Top 100 Bloggers, and one of 2013's Top 10 Parenting Bloggers. Which is basically an award for keeping my daughter alive and writing about it, sometimes with humor, sometimes with curmudgeonliness. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who reads what I write (or who just looks at the pictures), because without your support I might not write so much, though I'd probably still try to keep my daughter alive. And if you stick around, I promise to write/draw more things, and to continue keeping my daughter alive for years to come.

How's that for a New Year's Resolution?


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Workin' out our issues.

We pass this root every day walking to the park and the library. It'll be sad when she's too big to fit in it.