Man V Machine


Every night before bed, Alaina gets a book. First we read it, then she takes a turn. This morning she picked out a Shrek DVD to watch with breakfast and in the truck requested the Snoop Lion CD to listen to on the way to the store. ( Don’t judge, it’s better and more kid-friendly than you think)



I’m a little behind the digital revolution. I still read books and magazines. When I rent a movie I get it from a machine and when I take pictures I print them and put them in a physical album. I’m pretty sure that I am the last person I know that buys CDs. I do stream music on my I-Pod while at the gym or mowing the lawn, but all the music stored on it was transferred from CDs.

I’m not anti-technology. I’m not typing this from the inside of a cave while taking a break from working on my manifesto. I do worry about Sky Net or Ultron becoming self-aware and destroying us all, but no more than I worry about extraterrestrial invasions or a zombie apocalypse.




I’m just old and set in my ways. Anytime I want to re-read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or The Dragonlance Chronicles I can open them up and read. It works every time. I’ve had the same copies for thirty years and never had to reboot or upgrade once.

It seems like this is the last generation of kids that will know what it’s like to dig through a pile of books looking for a favorite or stand on a chair to scan the DVD collection. I can bore my kids with stories about having three channels on a black and white TV and rotary phones plugged into the wall, but these are at least things that they can recognize. The only thing that is completely obsolete from my childhood is my early 90’s mullet, and even that can still be found in some parts of the country. One day Alaina will be joking with JARVIS about how useless SIRI was. Everything she owns will be stored on a cloud. At least, I think that’s how it works. I’m still not sure how it gets back here.

There’s usually about twenty to thirty minutes in the morning between when Alaina lets me know she’s awake and when I drag my ass out of bed and downstairs. More often than not she spends that time and a little more on the I-Pad.  Yesterday she was using it to solve puzzles. This morning she was on a coloring app. Both these activities are productive ones I’d encourage over surfing You-Tube videos, but if she wants daddy to join in we are going to go find some crayons.





Author’s note: approximately an hour after hitting the publish button, my modem died. No joke. Coincidence? Or another win for the machines?





Daddy Tantrums

For multiple and obvious reasons, the most important thing to have when dealing with toddlers is plenty of patience.  Even with a large amount they can turn you into a raving lunatic. Without it, you are completely screwed.

This hasn’t always been my strongest personality trait, particularly when things don’t work the way they should or when I’m unable to do something that I think I should be able. For a long time I was that a-hole kicking the lawnmower when it wouldn’t start or throwing my golf clubs all over the course. My ability to string together whole sentences of nothing but intricate variations of vulgarity was legendary. I was the poet laureate of profane.




Alaina seems to have some of these same tendencies. We’ve been working a lot on puzzles lately, which she really seems to be taking to, but there have also been times I’ve entered the living room to find pieces thrown about and a very ticked off little girl.  She doesn’t get mad often but when she does it is usually because she can’t figure something out or get something to work the way she feels it should.

In my efforts to try and set a good example and teach her how to cope with disappointment I have calmed down considerably over the past several years.  When the DVR started acting up last week I was perfectly fine with it.  Last night the hard drive failed completely, taking with it almost 90 hours of recorded programming, and I was only a little annoyed. Somehow I seemed to have fried my expensive external hard drive trying to recover some of this information, taking with it my music and picture back-ups, and there was some frustration. When I downloaded a virus onto my PC trying to find last Sunday’s episode of Salem I lost my mind.

But it took a long time. And I didn’t throw anything.

Having a child unconsciously forces you to try and become a better person. Besides the example you are setting there is also a radical change in perspective. Little things become much smaller now that this huge thing has happened in your life.

It also helps seeing how ridiculous she looks during one of her fits. Everyone has a breaking point, but we can’t have two people in the house that throw tantrums.



Aquarium Lessons





In an effort to cut child care costs and spend as much of her first years with Alaina as possible, my wife and I re-configured our work schedules and reduced our hours so that one of us is usually home with her.  An unfortunate side effect of this is that that is much less time when we are BOTH home with her.  Kayla now spends much of her weekend  working and participating in church activities so when presented with a day last week when everybody was home during the day we took advantage by spending the day at Mystic Aquarium.

With some advance planning and a bit of time the aquarium can actually be a very educational experience. There is an Exploration Center that streams a live video feed from the submarine E/V Nautilus, a Titantic exhibit, and lots of hands-on activities focusing on different ecosystems and environmental awareness.

Most of that we skipped so that we could fit in lunch before daddy had to go to work, but I did manage to learn a few things over the course of the day:


1.   Alaina is very well behaved in the car with me, even on longer rides, but 45 minutes is beyond her ability to resist repeatedly kicking her mother’s seat in front of her or doing everything she could possibly think of to annoy her sister seated next to her.

2.  A good portion of the aquarium’s exhibits are outside. If it seems like a brilliant notion that clouds and light rain will keep most other people away, others will come to the same conclusion.

3.  For all the negative publicity that Sea World has received in recent months, I still think there is good that can come from maritime parks. I’m not impressed with Sea World’s efforts, but there are many other aquariums and oceanography institutes that participate in thousands of rescue, rehabilitation and release efforts.  Zoos and aquariums need to be held to very high standards of care for the animals they display, but just because not all do doesn’t mean that they are all bad. I don’t find it necessary for animals to put on shows for me to appreciate them.

4. Penguins are pretty damn cute




5. We need more days like this.  Both children seemed to enjoy themselves quite a bit but finding things to do with both of them isn’t always easy. They are twelve years apart in age but that gap is going to seem larger as they get older. We have a small window of time that we need to take advantage of as much as we can.











Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson has now been officially reinstated into the NFL after missing most of last season without pay. He was indefinitely suspended after an arrest on child abuse charges.  Peterson will be forced to continue counseling and any further violation of the league’s personal conduct policy could lead to him being banned from the NFL for life.

I don’t have an issue with him being reinstated. The state of Texas accepted a plea deal that dropped his charge from a felony to a misdemeanor and also mandated counseling. I don’t think it’s the league’s place to deny a man his right to make a living and support his family, especially one with at least six kids from multiple mothers.

He’ll be headed back to a Minnesota team that drafted him 7th overall in 2007. While playing there he was selected to six pro bowls and was the league MVP in 2012.  There seems to be some dissension within the organization about his return, but the team has said publicly that they plan to welcome him back.

This I do have a problem with. The charges against Peterson originated because he beat his four year old son with a tree branch, causing cuts and bruises to his thighs, back, and testicles. The child told authorities that he had been previously punched in the face and that the leaves from the switch were shoved in his mouth to prevent any further crying out. This took place in Peterson’s “whooping room”, a dedicated area of the house just for punishment.

There have also been allegations of Peterson leaving a scar over another son’s eye for cursing.  His response was that he “never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.”  I try not to judge other parents.  I’ve yet to find a hand slap or smacked ass necessary and hope I never do, but I see a dedicated “whooping room” in a different category.

So I am judging Adrian Peterson. I think he’s a piece of garbage.

Peterson is almost thirty years old, the age when most running backs historically begin to show decline in production.  Prior to his suspension he had off season surgery three years in a row, including an ACL repair in 2011. The Vikings will pay him 12.75 million dollars for 2015.

But he’d only cost them 2.4 million against the salary cap this year if they just simply cut him.  He has said repeatedly that he doesn’t want to return to the team that he doesn’t feel supported him strongly and publicly enough. I understand the concept of trying to trade him away in order to receive some compensation for his loss, but it doesn’t seem likely. Cutting him now makes sense from both a moral and football operations standpoint.

I started off by saying that I don’t believe the NFL league office has a right to deny Adrian Peterson employment. The team owners and general managers do have a choice, however. They should choose to send him to the unemployment line.


A Thin Line Between Lies and Imagination


Logic will get you from A to Z. Imagination will get you everywhere. -Albert Einstein


Several times this week I’ve caught myself doing nothing but sitting and watching the toddler play with her toys. One of the most fascinating things about her continuing development is the expansion of her imagination. The way her varied little “people” interact with each other and the dramas that play out between them are growing increasingly complex and varied. This has led not only to a much appreciated increase in independent play, but has made it more tolerable to actually play with her.

We’ve always done our best to try and encourage imaginative thought. Between family and friends we have assembled a pretty sizable book collection for her. She gets a story every night before bed but there are other times she is encouraged to look at the pictures in a book and make up her own story. These are often wildly surprising and entertaining.

She’s also in the early stages of learning how to lie to avoid consequences. When accused of wrong-doing or questioned about how something happened she will now sometimes either deny culpability, or worse, blame somebody else.

So far she is not very successful at it. Most of the actions she is denying have been done within the sight of the person she is denying it to. It only takes a few times asking before she will smile sheepishly and admit to the crime. Because her cousins are younger than her they tend not to be as well behaved, making them good scapegoats. It seems to surprise her when her credibility is questioned, but blaming somebody that was last at the house a week ago for something done that morning isn’t overly effective.





Recently we encountered a situation that defied easy classification. Over the past several weeks, Alaina has been telling her teachers and classmates stories about her little sister Ally. She’s regaled them with tales of helping change diapers, how much her sister cries, and how mushy and gross her food is.

The problem, of course, is that Alaina doesn’t have a little sister. Her teachers, recognizing that my wife never appeared pregnant, asked her multiple times if this was true or if she was telling them stories.  Knowing her tendency to come clean fairly quickly when confronted with a lie, they were understandingly confused. Impressed by the depth and sophistication of Alaina’s story, as well as at her ability to keep her details consistent, but confused.

A week later I still don’t know what to make of the whole situation.  She was reminded that she shouldn’t tell things that aren’t true, but as there was no self-serving aspect we didn’t think it made sense to treat this necessarily as “lying”, a concept that is still new to her.  Alaina often pretends that her baby dolls are her little sister. I’m just going to chalk this one up as an overly long make-believe session.  Apparently the line between fibbing and imagination for a three year old is thinner than I had imagined.

There is some cause for concern. The teenager is a terrible liar. I’m not going to give away any of her “tells”, but very rarely does she get anything by us. If the little one is going to be good at it, we may be in trouble.





Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms