Monday, March 30, 2009

Amish Ice Cream

While in Florida, we discovered an Amish Ice Cream shop at Madeira Beach:

At first, I thought it a joke, or at least something incredibly inauthentic. However, there is apparently an Amish settlement near Sarasota, and the place was run by some folks from Pennsylvania, which all by itself makes it partially legit. The ice cream was fantastic.

The only other report from Florida is that the economy can't be in too bad of shape. There were approximately 4 billion people at Epcot with us on Tues (yes, that's right, over half the population of the earth). Our friend Tonya wisely did not join us.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

So. Anyway.

Blogging has been sporadic lately, because I went to visit my dad last weekend, the kids were mostly off school this week, and we are leaving tomorrow for a week in Florida.

However, I did squeeze in an interview with an EbertFest filmmaker who is originally from Urbana. It's over at Smile Politey: The triumphant return of Nina Paley.

So. Anyway. We usually have to steal wireless from the other condos while we are in Florida, so blogging will continue to be sketchy for the next week. In this case, sketchy means "likely non-existent."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Loser Dad

Being a good or bad parent is hard to judge on a day-to-day basis. Often, it's not until your child successfully finishes therapy as an adult that the full verdict can be rendered.

Nonetheless, every now and then you engage in a symbolic act of parenting that provides a hint of how you are doing. For example, throwing a baseball around with your son is an iconic act of a good dad. Even if you throw balls at your son’s head during off days, you can always point to the day when you were out on the lawn playing catch as evidence that you were a good dad, at least that one time.

These don’t have to be public acts, they just have to be iconic. For instance, parents who have to be woken up by their children so they can get to school on time is an iconic bad parent moment. Every movie that ever depicted a bad parent has a scene where the responsible kid has to wake up the irresponsbile parent.

Why do I mention this? Because I have gotten into the habit of having my son wake me up so he can get to school on time. Regardless of how well I do on most days, this iconic bad daddy moment keeps happening. That makes me a loser dad.

In my defense, my wife and I have clearly defined morning roles: shepherding and chauffeuring. The shepherd’s job is to get the kids moving in the morning and deliver them to the doorstep of our house in time for school. At that point, the shepherd's job is finished, and it is the chauffeur's job to shuttle the kids from our door to their respective schools. My wife is the Shepard, and I am the Chauffeur. I’m not a morning person and one of the (only) perks of being a writer-dad is that I don’t have to be at work at any certain time (I can feel bad about my writing anytime of the day). Because of this arrangement, I technically only need 2 minutes from the time I wake up to the time I need be a “responsible” parent.

But my son’s school starts unreasonable early, in my opinion, and we have to leave at 7:30. To me, this means I need to wake up at 7:25. However, he wants to get there early and play with friends, so he is often in my room at 7:10, trying to rouse me.

A few nights ago he begged me to wake up earlier, so he can get to school earlier. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a bad daddy movie, but this nonetheless gave me a vague sense of discomfort. An alarm was ringing, but I could quite place what is was. Nonetheless, I decided to do better. It lasted one day, until this morning, when he had to wake me up again. I am a loser dad.

I’m a good dad in a lot of ways. I succeed with many other iconic dad moments. I do play catch with my son. I attend all my daughters’ plays. I taught all my kids how to ride bikes (hint: lean the bike into the direction it is falling). My kids aren't the ones whose parents forget to pick them up. I don't yell at them in public for failing in sports. I don’t send them down to the liquor store to buy cigarettes for me. I don’t even yell at them not to block the TV, unless it is really important.

Still, it sucks to be a loser dad for any of the iconic moments. Since my internal alarm isn't working so well, I’m going to start setting my actual alarm clock.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Chernobyl Images

I'm always fascinated by pictures of Pripyat, Ukraine when I stumble across them on the net. It was a town of 50,000 people when the Chernobyl nuclear accident happened in 1986. It remains a radioactive ghost town. There's a new batch of pictures here.

There's just something about abandoned disaster areas. Dreadful, engaging, even awe-some, all rolled up into one.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sorting Clothes and Cultures

This week's Smile Politely column is up: Clash of cultures, clothing edition, where I talk about sorting clothes with the Old Order Mennonites down in Arthur.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Meaning of Gosh

Things often heard around our house, which now contains two middle school girls:

It’s None of Your Business!


I Can Do It My Own Self!


Go Away!


Why DO YOU Care If I Have Homework?!!


Get Out of My Room!


My Day Was Fine!



Don’t Look at my Facebook Screen!


Stop Bothering Me!


I KNOW I have to [practice piano][do homework][get ready for school][do my chore][any reminder for any activity at any time]! I’m not Stupid!


(sweetly, earnestly) Dad, will you please, pretty please, take me to the mall?

One bright spot is that even though “Gosh!” really means “You’re an Idiot!” and “I’m So Embarrassed By You!” and “I’m so Embarrassed For You!,” all rolled up into four short letters and an exclamation point, at least they are saying it using “Gosh!” and not something stronger. Small victories are important during the middle school years.