Getting that graduation gift doesn’t mean going for bust

image After reading about how the parents of LuLu Diaz gave their daughter $6,000 breast implants for her high school graduation gift, I couldn’t help but be shocked by the idea of a father agreeing to anything that would make his teenaged daughter more enticing to teenaged boys.

As luck would have it, I actually spent several years in my teens. Because of this I can tell you there are many teenaged boys who still haven’t made it past the “breast” portion of this column. Sadly, some may never finish reading it because, in order to break them out of their current hypnotic spell, it will become necessary for a close friend or family member to light them on fire.

Let’s face it: This is the nature of most men until the aging process inspires a level of physical maturity that dethrones sex as the main motivator. While there is no set timeline for this transformation, most experts agree it begins anywhere between six and eight months after death.

Until then, at least from a father’s perspective, men can’t be trusted. Continue reading

Autism awareness can lower a few raised eyebrows

I knew very little about the autism spectrum back in 2006, when I met the young boy who would become my son. My wife and I had been dating for several months when we decided it was time to introduce each other to our children. She explained that he had Asperger’s Syndrome and likely wouldn’t make eye contact — and to not take it personally if he avoided any physical contact like a firm handshake.

“And whatever you do, don’t tousle his hair,” she instructed with a squeeze of my hand. “He really doesn’t like that.”

Autism is a neurological developmental disability with symptoms generally appearing before age 3, impacting the development of the brain in areas of social interaction, communication skills and cognitive function.  Continue reading

Congress gets recess, kids get spring break — what about US?!?

imageIf you’re a student or educator, you are probably getting excited about the approach of SPRING BREAK! Wee-HOO! For students of all ages it means a week of crazy fun with little or no responsibility, whether you’re a fifth-grader planning a Spongebob Squarepants marathon to Bikini Bottom, or a college student planning a bikini bottom marathon of a different kind. If you’re an educator, it means a student-free week away from grading papers with so much red ink your desk resembles a sacrificial altar. Seriously, are they learning NOTHING between Tweets in class?!?

Even Congress gets what is referred to as “recess.” Let’s be honest: If I performed as poorly at my job as they have, I would get what is referred to as “fired.”

That being said, for the rest of us, spring break holds about as much anticipation as trash day or a release date for “Frozen 3.”

This is particularly true for those of us with teenagers at home, many of whom will openly mock us each day by selfishly sleeping in. Then, in an added display of thoughtlessness, they will still be in their pajamas and deciding on breakfast when we come home for lunch! The audacity! Especially since they misspelled “audacity” on their last quiz! Continue reading

Emotionally scarring your children is the Halloween ‘circle of life’

imageThough it’s been 15 years, I still remember my youngest son’s first Halloween costume. Because he was too young to walk, the choices were limited to things that could be carried under one arm and then planted on the doorstep. Eventually, I narrowed the options down to the following:

A pumpkin.
A legless pirate.
A meteor.

When considering the merits of each costume option and which elements should be incorporated into them, parents really have only one consideration:

“How do I get the most candy out of my child?”

To me, the sympathy factor for the legless pirate made it a no-brainer. However, I couldn’t overlook the power of cuteness — a quality that was missing from the legless pirate and meteor concepts. I eventually settled on “The Pumpkin, which I’m sad to say, fell short of my candy-yield expectations for that year.

To make matters worse, that was also the year my oldest daughter became an active member of Young Advocates for Keeping Kandy (YAKK).  Continue reading

Seven more minutes of childhood: a father’s wish on 9-11

imageI’ll never forget how I felt this day 15 years ago as an American, a firefighter and as a father — and how each held its own kind of hurt that has never completely healed.

But of the three, being a father watching the sparkle in my then six-year-old daughter’s eyes noticeably fade just a bit continues to be the memory that lingers most. Each year on this day, I post this in memory of those innocent lives that were lost, as well as for the loss of innocence we all experienced in some way or another…

 

My alarm clock went off the same as it always did back then, coming to life with the morning news — my preference over the annoying, high-pitched alternative of chatter. Instinctively, I swatted the snooze button and bought myself another seven minutes of sleep.

In the years since, I’ve thought a lot about those seven minutes, and how the simple push of a button postponed a bitter reality for just a little longer. When the news came on again, word of the first airliner crashing into the World Trade Center stopped my hand just short of another seven minutes of blissful ignorance — a time span that now seems like an eternity.

Lying there, listening to the details, I regretted not pushing the button one more time.

A hundred more times.

A thousand.

In that same moment, I also understood that the impassive gaze of terrorism could only be averted for so long, and that, eventually, I’d have to meet it — along with the questioning gaze of my daughter.  Continue reading

Today, I’m at Robert’s place baring my soul

imageI met Robert M. Goldstein two years ago at The Public Blogger, when we were both competing in “A Star is Born.”

I was immediately impressed not only by his talent, but also his integrity and commitment as an artist.

I’m honored to be his guest today, talking about writing, why I’m such a firm believer in the importance of humor, and baring my soul a little. In case you’re worried, I promise my soul is the only thing I’m baring today.

I hope to see you there, by clicking right here

I’d even be willing to settle for a Wallaby

 

imageI generally only watch nature shows on television when I want to appear as though I’m educating myself about something important, like the plight of the prematurely balding Rogainian monkey, when in fact I’m actually planning to do an independent study of the REM sleeping pattern on our couch.

However, while watching a documentary about the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs, Australia, I discovered something I never knew:

I want my own kangaroo.

As I watched three babies snuggle together in a blanket and play with each other’s big floppy ears, I inadvertently let out a sound that my wife mistakenly thought was a joyful whimper.

“Was that you?” she asked from the dining room.

“What? No WAY! Ha Ha! It was the kangaroo babies.”

“It sounded like it came from the couch.”

“Must be the Surround Sound,” I said.  Continue reading

The women in my life make every moment matter

imageSitting on the edge of the bed this morning, I looked over at my wife’s slowly stirring figure. I watched her stretch beneath the blankets and finish with that little squeal that means it was a good stretch. She yawned, covering her mouth with the back of her hand like she always does. Her eyes focused and she slowly smiled at me.

I smiled back, knowing in that moment I was exactly where I was supposed to be in my life.

Before heading to work, I slipped a note into her lunch:

You make every day better because of loving you.

It made me think of how the women in my life — especially my wife, daughters and mother — are a constant inpiration, and how the gift of their presence is something worth celebrating every day.  Continue reading

My kids know I don’t have a clue, geographically speaking

imageDuring my mini book tour to Watsonville, Calif., a few weeks ago, it became apparent that even as a 49-year-old I still have the directional sense of a standard windsock.

If not for the GPS system in the rental car, I would probably be outside of Reno looking for an on-ramp to Sacramento right now.

It’s a disorder many famous historical figures also suffered from, including Christopher Columbus, who discovered America completely by accident while looking for — if memory of sixth-grade history serves me — a faster trade route to WalMart.

I’m the kind of person who must enter and leave somewhere the same exact way in order to keep from getting lost, even if it means walking backwards out of a public facility, such as the men’s room at Safeco Field. I’ve actually had nightmares about being a contestant on The Amazing Race. In it, I am partnered with my friend David, who spent six years in the Marines and therefore still refers to distances as “clicks” — a unit of measure based on kilometers and the use of a special clicking device. Were I trying to find my way out of enemy territory, this device would be about as useful to me as, say…

A Superball.  Continue reading

How to survive having a teen driver

image As you may remember (I know State Farm does), it was a year ago this week that our son became the first of our kids to get his driver’s permit.

That leaves two more of our teens who will likely be entering the roadways over the next few years.

I’m really sorry about that.

For those of you who might be facing a similar situation, or who are now reconsidering having children at all, I’d like to offer this short video sharing a few tips with parents on how to survive having a teen driver. It’s less than two minutes but it could save your life.

Especially if you’re driving anywhere near our neighborhood…