Autumn is Coming

It seems premature to talk about this summer in the past tense, but I already catch myself doing so. The pool is getting colder earlier in the day, the Red Sox are losing, and fantasy football drafts are starting. All signs that fall is fast approaching. I haven’t seen anything pumpkin flavored yet, but it’s just a matter of time.

Most disturbingly, school will be starting up soon.

The teenager will be entering her junior year of high school, the most important year in my opinion. Having spent the majority of the last few months in the nonstop company of her boyfriend, a re-prioritization of time management will be in order.

The baby will be transitioning from three days of preschool a week to five. She loves going, and we like the break enough that she’s been attending a summer session Tuesdays and Thursdays, but having the weekends as the only time for our adventures  just doesn’t seem like it will be adequate.

This summer started, as they all do, with a long list of things that I wanted to do with the girls. As with most summers, very few of them got crossed off. We’ve had a great time, with lots of fun days by the pool, but I don’t like lists with things not crossed off them. Nobody else seems to be bothered by this.

I know there are still a few weeks left. This weekend I’ll be taking Kayla to her first comic-con and soon we’ll be kidnapping her for a few days at the shore. We didn’t do any fishing, but I finally got Alaina out on the lake a few days ago.

 

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The novelty of being “on a boat” wore off relatively quickly, but she was very excited when we spotted the “gnome house.” I have no idea what this building actually is, but she accepted the fact that gnomes sleep during the day so we shouldn’t stop by to say hello.

 

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The good news is that I’ll have plenty of time alone in the afternoons to figure out what is able to be transferred to the “fall, to-do” list.

I guess I’ll make this one a little shorter.

 

 

 

 

 

Toys Will Be Toys

This weekend Target announced that their toy and bedding departments would no longer be separated into “boys” and “girls.” Different color paper on the back of walls will no longer be used to suggest gender relevance. Progressive parents and gender equality advocates are hailing the move as the beginning of the end for stereotyping and forced toy conformity.

As a frequent Target shopper with a bit of an “organization” problem, I found this news alarming. Currently the superhero and spaceship toys are found in one aisle together. The princesses and fairies in another. This makes sense. I’ve been assured that this will continue. Dinosaurs and ponies will not occupy the same shelf space. Monster trucks won’t be mixed in with stuffed dogs. Order shall be maintained. Only the signs will be removed.

I’m the father of what a more unenlightened generation might have called a “tomboy.” Her current favorite toys are her Twilight Sparkle pony and her Paw Patrol bulldozer. On any given day she may be a teacher to a classroom of Barbies or a pirate captain searching for treasure. When given the choice she picked out a Sophia the First backpack, but would not be dissuaded from an Incredible Hulk bicycle helmet.

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None of which should be overly surprising. Disney spent a ton of money acquiring Marvel and Lucasfilm as “boy” alternatives to their “girl” princess and fairy franchises, but anybody whose paid attention to their last few princess movies knows that these aren’t the Cinderellas and Sleeping Beauties of old. Alaina’s favorites are Brave and Frozen, both of which feature princesses that aren’t sitting around waiting for knights to rescue them. Princess Leia has her own comic book series and when Marvel relaunches all their titles next month, nine of twenty-nine “single hero” titles will feature a female title character. The line between “boy” and “girl” stuff has been blurring for a while.

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All of this, of course, is easy to say when it is a daughter playing demolition derby with her matchbox cars. How would I feel if I had a son that enjoyed his sister’s hand-me-down dolls? I’ll say that I’m fairly confident that my feelings would remain the same. Especially at this age.

Here’s what I’ve learned from watching a four year old play: the toys involved don’t really dictate the action. Her Stormtrooper and Optimus Prime have long arms and are used primarily for carrying sick patients to the doctor. That doctor could be played by anybody from Shrek to an Octonaut to a Lego race car driver. The Batmobile gets most of it’s mileage making “special deliveries” and Spider Man spends more time slinging pizzas than he does webs.

Everybody had stories about their kids setting aside expensive toys and playing instead with the box they came in. As she gets older her toys may hold more relevance towards whatever she’s playing, but for now they are the vessel for her imagination, not its instigator.

 

 

Doin’ the Dad Dance

Earlier this week I published one of my most viewed and most controversial blog posts to date. In it I lamented the fact that more people seemed interested in persecuting an American dentist than were interested in the real problems of Zimbabwe. I pointed out that although poaching and the decimation of protected wildlife is a tragedy worthy of conversation, not enough was being said about a lost generation of Zimbabwe’s children. Not everybody agreed with all my opinions, but it’s led to some interesting dialogue and hopefully given people something to think about. You can find it here:
The Real Tragedy in Zimbabwe.

Today I’m backing up some of those words with action.

And dancing.

 

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I’m proud to be participating in a charity campaign for The United Nations Children’s Fund. For almost seventy years, UNICEF has been on the forefront of the fight for the rights and well-being of children around the world.

Our good friends at The Dad Network are asking the fathers of the world to join together, shake your tail feathers, and participate in the world’s first online charitable dance off.

The rules are simple:

1. Film yourself dancing, either with or without your children.

2. Upload to social media using the hashtag #dothedaddance

3. Nominate your dad friends to do the same.

4. Make a donation at www.justgiving.com/dothedaddance/

The site asks for a donation of two pounds, which is around three dollars American. For added motivation, I will match the donation of anyone who posts their video in the comments under this link on the Thirsty Daddy Facebook page within the next week. If you don’t have kids, a video of you dancing will suffice.

Make me proud Thirsty Nation. Show me your moves.

For additional information you can visit:www.thedadnetwork.co.uk/dothedaddance

Note #1: I’m a much better dancer at midnight on a Friday than I am at noon

Note#2: If you’re on an older browser and there is no video directly underneath these words, you can search #dothedaddance on You-Tube to be entertained

 

Over-analyzing Ant-Man

 

 

 

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Its something of a cliche, but being a parent really does change your perspective on just about everything, including pop culture. Movies are now judged on drug and alcohol consumption. Music once thought clever and witty is now misogynist filth, and singers are looked at for their role model qualities. Superhero movies are now movies about father-daughter relationships.

Like a lot of people, I was on the fence about seeing Ant-Man. I’m usually on board with all things Marvel. I have a sizable comic book collection and Marvel Entertainment was one of the first stocks that I ever purchased. I like Paul Rudd and having Andy McKay as one of the writers convinced me the movie would be funny, but lets face it, it’s still Ant-Man. I wasn’t sure that I needed to spend that kind of money on a tights and spandex version of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

I’m glad we went. Yes, its a superhero movie about a guy who ends up with a suit that makes him little. There’s a bad guy that wants to sell the technology to badder guys and they all get defeated in the end. There’s a skeptical love interest that needs to be won over. It’s also a pretty sweet story about an average guy that will do anything to spend some time with his little girl.

The protagonist of the movie is Scott Land, played by Paul Rudd. He’s just spent three years in prison for stealing money, computer Robin Hood style, from a large, corrupt, corporation. A pretty sizable amount of time is spent detailing his troubles re-entering society and procuring a job with a felony arrest on his record.  His ex-wife is now married to a police officer, and they won’t allow him to spend time with his seven year old daughter, Cassie, until he “gets an apartment, gets a job, and pays child support.”

I’ll admit that this part of the movie ticked me off. There was no violence associated with the crime, the family didn’t seem to need the money, and most of all, it was the man’s daughter. The little girl loved him.  The plot wouldn’t have advanced as quickly and the bad guys may have triumphed had he just called a parental rights advocacy group, but I found myself disliking the ex-wife and step-father more than I did the movie’s actual villains.

In the course of doing whatever possible to spend time with her, Lang is recruited by Dr Henry Pym, the original Ant Man, played by Michael Douglas. He is needed to steal back the shrinking technology before it can be sold to Hydra, the secret bad guy organization from the second Captain America movie. There is also an interesting subplot involving Pym’s own estranged daughter, played by Evangeline Lilly with a very unflattering hair cut.

 

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Everything works out in the end of course. The climatic fight scene is a work of pure genius that I won’t spoil. Dr Pym and his daughter reconcile. Our hero and the step-father come to realize that they both have the little girl’s best interests at heart and are on the same side.

The movie ends with the entire family at a dinner table, setting aside their differences for the sake of seven year old Cassie. It’s a satisfying end to a very good movie, but I left bothered by the idea that the guy had to become a superhero in order to get to this point.

The Real Tragedy in Zimbabwe

In one of the most famous instances of “herd mentality”, a family feud in 1692 morphed into mass hysteria, political rhetoric, and the public executions of twenty people in Salem Village, Massachusetts. It seems a pattern that society in unable to break away from, as the Internet and today’s media continue to enable the public’s insatiable desire for a witch hunt.

Here’s a few things you might not know about Zimbabwe. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world, and growing poorer. Due to record drought it’s believed that 23% of cultivated land will fail to produce crop in 2015. The Famine Early Warning Network estimates that 20% of households are in danger of facing acute malnutrition. Unemployment is a staggering 80%.

According to UNICEF, Zimbabwe is home to 1.3 million orphans, 100,000 of these living on their own. 570,00 have been orphaned due to the AIDS virus, with 150,000 of them infected themselves. Sexual abuse and child labor are rampant.

The country’s complete economic and societal collapse has occurred under the brutal dictatorship of Robert Mugabe, who’s been “president” since leading a rebel group against white minority rule in 1987. He immediately turned Zimbabwe into a one-party state, established the Fifth Brigade, a security force trained by North Korea, and murdered at least 20,000 people in attempts at ethnic cleansing and consolidation of power.

Chances are you’ve never heard of Mugabe, but I’d bet you recognize the name of Dr. Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist currently in hiding, fearing for his now ruined life. He’s the guy that killed Cecil, prized African lion. I personally don’t agree with trophy hunting, where the only goal seems to be to hunt animals deemed “exotic” in your country of origin. If he was my dentist, I’d probably consider taking my business elsewhere.  I wouldn’t call for his immediate death and dismemberment.

Dr Palmer paid $50,000 for his licensed hunt with professional local guides that should have know better. This type of expedition brings 20 million dollars a year to impoverished Zimbabwe. All meat is required by law to be given to local tribes and villages.

Instead of using this unfortunate incident to educate about the real problems in Zimbabwe, the media has helped perpetuate sensationalism, feeding an apparent societal need to instead burn somebody at the stake. Another embarrassing example of misplaced priorities in a seemingly unending stream of them.

Anybody that really wants to make a difference in Zimbabwe is encouraged to click on this link. It won’t bring you to a petition to end trophy hunting or to an anonymous hotline to report sightings of the elusive dentist, but to a page on savethechildren.org .

I worry about raising my children in a world where people receive their news based on the most tantalizing headline. Where Facebook mobs grab their virtual torches and chase down perceived witches at every opportunity. We should have learned these lessons by now.

 

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photo via un.org

 

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms