100 Degree Memories

Today is the day I have dreaded for the past week or so – Cincinnati is going to see the temperature hit 100 degrees today.  According to the local news, this is the first time the city has seen 100 degree temperatures in June since June 25, 1988.

Since I am home with Sydney all week, I dreaded telling the kid that it is not the best day to play outside. But somehow I think she knows, because she has not asked to go out once!

One of the things I am blessed with (or cursed in some instances) is a freakishly good memory. Seven-year-old me remembers that hot, dreadful June day in 1988. My mom would not let me play outside because of the heat. She just kept saying, “Zach, it’s going to be 100 degrees!” I can remember begging her to let me go out in my little pool, but to no avail.

I always thought it was cruel and unusual punishment that she would not let me play outside. Twenty-four years later, as a parent, it makes total sense! It’s funny how history repeats itself…

Okay, I am going to give you another example of my weird memory. After keeping me in the house all day from the 100 degree heat, my mom finally took me out that night to the movies to see Big with Tom Hanks. I remember being so excited to go to the movies that night. I am pretty sure we also contemplated seeing either Beetlejuice or 3 Men and a Baby too, but “Big” won. It just came out a few weeks earlier and it was the movie everybody was talking about. The other two had been out for a while, so we decided to check the newer flick out. (Some trivia: back in the day, successful movies would sometimes stay in the theater for the better part of a year!)

This story also highlights another important point of my life – how young I was when I got into popular media that was generally designed for a more adult audience. Rock music was not the only thing I got into at a very young age, but movies too. I am not talking about adult films or even Rated R films or anything like that; but while many of my friends were still obsessed with G rated films, I already moved on to PG and in some cases, PG-13 (gasp!).

I remember loving “Big” so much that I begged my mom to buy the VHS when it came out (which was a year or so later. This was 1988, after all!). In relation to Hanks’ role, I still feel like a kid in an adult body myself. I do not think I am immature necesarilly, but I simply have not forgotten what it is like to be a kid. I am mature, responsible, and with a house and bills and a  job and all of that stuff; but I am a kid at  heart. I think this helps me be a better father to my daughter.

So 24 years later, on this hot day I did the same thing as my mom and told my daughter that it was too hot for us to play outside today. Unlike seven year old me, she did not throw a fit about it. She just pointed to the stereo in the middle of playing with her toys this morning. She wanted to hear music.

The closest CD I found was “Long Live The New Flesh” by Flesh for Lulu. When Postcards from Paradise came on, she danced around the room like a crazy person. It was awesome. When the CD finally ended, one of her “Silly Song” CDs was next in the disc changer. She had very little interest in this and decided she would rather hear an English rock disc from 1987 again.

Like me, she has also matured quickly when it comes to music. History has repeated itself many ways today. I love it.

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You Know You’re A Dad When…

I just had a major revelation that there are several things I do now that I’m a dad that I would not have ever thought of before. Let me explain…

Recently I hired four students from my university to help me run a summer program. In addition to money, we give them t-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee cups, water bottles and whatever other tchotchkes we can find in our office basement. The other day without even thinking about it, I washed their water bottles before giving them away. Like really washed them, with soap and water and everything! I did this without even thinking.

When I thought about it after the fact, I realized I would have never done this before my daughter was born. This got me thinking about all of the other things I do now that I am a dad that I never would have done before.

Here is a rough list:

1. I wash things more vigorously. Before if my dishwasher did not get something 100% spotless, I would not worry about it. Now, I want everything to be clean if there is a chance my daughter will use it.
2. I think about sunscreen. I’ll be honest- I NEVER thought about the stuff before. Now, before I go out with my daughter I lather her up from head to toe. I think about it now when it comes to both myself and others.
3. I get worried about people if they do not eat. Before I didn’t think twice if somebody I know skipped a meal. Now it makes me concerned about them just like I would worry about my daughter if she didn’t eat.
4. Speaking of food, I am more conscious about what I put into my body. Suddenly, organic produce is becoming extremely important to me. I learned not long ago, that all of the junk in food today can cause early puberty in girls. I don’t want this to happen to my daughter.
5. I am not a dick to people when their children cry in public. This used to annoy me big time, especially at a restaurant. Now I could not care less. The exception, however, is if the parent is an idiot and is ignoring the child’s needs completely. Sometimes it happens and the kid could be tired or want something as simple as a drink. Even an Oscar winner dealt with this recently; it happens.

I’m sure there are more I could add to this. The point is that being a parent changes everything about you; or at least it should. Not only do I rethink things I do for myself, but I also reevaluate how I treat others.

What else should I add to this list? What things have you done differently since becoming a parent?

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A Rant About Potties

Let me clarify that this post is not about potty training, just the potties themselves. Novelty potties are all the rage these days and I have no problem with that, but I think the selection on the market makes absolutely no sense.

Let me explain…

My daughter is 20 months old and we started potty training at 18 months. We went to Wal-Mart, Meijer, and Amazon.com, looking for a cool potty for her. Most places had exactly the same selection. You had the standard, white, boring looking potties like we all had in the 80s. Then you had novelty potties either shaped like generic animals or inspired by TV characters, i.e. Elmo, Spongebob.

I really do not understand any of these choices. I wanted to get her a cool potty but Elmo, Spongebob, a generic frog? What do any of these characters have to do with toilet training? I do not recall an episode of Sesame Street or Spongebob that showed either character on the can. Do you?

There have been many examples in pop culture that manufactures would be better suited to model a potty after. In the early 1990s, the metal band Green Jello (or Jelly depending on which pressing of the album you owned) had a great character that would be more than appropriate for a child’s potty. With all of the 90s nostalgia that is popping up all over the place, this would be a more than appropriate choice. Or what about the Golgothan from Dogma? MORE than appropriate. Kevin Smith should get on this and place a Shitdemon potty on comic book store shelves right next to the Buddy Christ.

We ended up buying the generic frog and the Elmo potty. I am still not sure what either of have to do with bodily functions. A monkey would be more appropriate. Their cages are always dirty at the zoo. And Elmo? If you want to incorporate a Sesame Street character, why not Oscar? The dude lives in a garbage can! That would actually make sense. What about Cookie Monster? Anyone who eats that many cookies is bound to have bowel problems.

Anyways, here we are with two potties that have absolutely nothing to do with peeing or pooping. I really hope somebody from Sesame Street’s marketing department comes across this post. There are so many creative things they could do. As for other potty makers…get more creative…please!

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Things I Want My Daughter To Know: The Art of the Mixtape

This is the first post in the Things I Want My Daughter To Know series.

My favorite movie of all time is the film adaptation of Nick Hornby‘s novel, High Fidelity. It has kind of become the bible for music snobs and rightfully so. Toward the end of the film, John Cusack’s character, Rob Gordon,  describes the “subtle art” of making a mixtape. It IS an art and one that has been lost in the realm of digital music and iTunes.

I will not lie, I use iTunes everyday. I listen to music a lot of my computer and use my iPhone for music in my car and while at work. Convenience has its benefits; but, every once in a while every music fan should take a day to make a true, proper mixtape.

My mix tape days started in the early 90s in the era of grunge. True compilation tapes can take songs from many sources: radio, CDs, cassettes, and in the purist form from vinyl records. In the 90s, I used the first three.

iTunes has taught us that “playlists” can easy be created by dragging and dropping songs from your catalog. I’ll admit, I do this often but it definitely loses the appeal of a true mixtape. Little thought goes into creating these compilations and they usually turn out to be just another collection of songs I want to hear at that given moment. This is not an artistic process and does not result in the creation of a true mixtape. Remember, “High Fidelity” – A true mixtape is an art.

A true mixtape requires hours or even days of planning. Remember, what Rob Gordon says – “you are using someone elses poetry to express how you feel; this is a delicate thing.” You are also trying to tell a story about your emotions at that moment and these songs may or may not be ones that may not be in current rotation in your life.

1. Start with a legal pad. You will want something large enough for lots of scratching out.
2. Think about what kind of theme you want your tape to have. Are you making it for your significant other? Is it to express anger? Are you depressed and want a compilation of sad bastard music to help you mope? A good compilation has to have a theme otherwise its just a meaningless collection of songs.
3. Go through your library and find music that reflects how you feel at that moment. If you no longer have CDs, tapes, or records – shame on you! You have no soul. Moving on.
4. Certain tracks will jump out at you right away, others may take some listening. Be sure to take the time to listen to some tracks. Take in the lyrics.
5. Begin writing out your list. You do not want your compilation to be too short or too long. Less than 12 songs is difficult to convey a message; more than 20 is overkill and your meaning is usually lost. The 15 song mark is usually where I come in.
6. Once you have a list of songs that fit your mood, you begin the second most difficult part – sequencing.
7. Think about bookends. What would “Nevermind” be without leading off with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and ending with “Something In The Way” (or “Endless Nameless” depending on which pressing you own)? Nothing! Those songs are perfect bookends.
8. Work out different sequencing options on your legal pad. You will scratch out a lot! This is a good thing. I wish I kept some of these notes over the years, as they truly show an artist in progress.
9. Once you are satisfied with you order, begin recording the tape. Unlike iTunes, this will actually require you to listen to the music while you play it. You may have to repeat these steps again before your tape is truly complete. Sometimes (er, often) once you make a first draft of your tape, it just doesn’t sound the way it should when you listen to it in order. You may have to re-sequence, add or omit a song, and record again.
10. Finally, think of a clever name for your tape and create some unique cover art.

You may ask, why would anyone do this when there are better ways? It’s so easy to burn a mix CD from iTunes. Why would I want to spend hours creating a compilation on outdated technology that most people stopped buying more than a decade ago?

People are losing the ability to connect with music in a meaningful way. Today’s casual music fans listen for a “catchy beat” or something “fun.” The late 90s really screwed music fans with the resurgence of boy bands and crappy pop punk. Mixtapes are a process but they allow us to put time and effort into being a fan and finding ways to connect to the music we love unique ways.

Fortunately, my daughter will have all of my CDs, tapes, and records at her disposal. She already loves popular music more than the average year-and-a-half old. She knows what a turntable is points to that when she wants to hear music more than she does the computer. For this, I couldn’t be more proud.

Have I missed anything? What are your experiences with making mixtapes?

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Things I Want My Daughter To Know

Whew, it has been forever since I have written here. When I started this blog, I promised myself that it would not become another “dead blog.” I am going to say it is a ressurected blog instead! I am going to blame this little thing called grad school for my lack of posting. Fortunately, I have since graduated and ready to give this place the attention it deserves.

To get myself back on track, I am going to start a series of posts called “Things I Want My Daughter To Know.” These are things I plan to tell her myself but if I forget and when I’m old and my memory is shot, hopefully this will still be around for her to read.

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Keep Calm and Carry On

This was a famous British propaganda poster during the Second World War. It has resurfaced in various forms over the past few years and has found its place in western popular culture. My cousin bought me a print of this poster a few years ago for Christmas and it has become one of my favorite collectables.

Yesterday, it became my motto when my region got hit with a stream of deadly tornados. Fortunately, my part of town was spared. Earlier in the afternoon, I was sent home from work early due to the coming storms. I picked my daughter up and immediately took her home and turned on the news. We didn’t even take off our shoes and I left the diaper bag intact incase we had to go to the basement. At this point, we were not sure which direction the storms were coming from out of Kentucky. We were at as much risk as anybody else.

When I think back to being a kid I remember that when I saw other people freak out, I did too. At 17 months, Sydney is a very perceptive child and picks up on others’ emotions quickly. I was scared and worried that these tornados would somehow find their way to our part of town. Still, I kept cool and played with my daughter like normal. I did not want anything to seem out of the ordinary for her. We played with her “Little People” and read four or five books. In a book that had a picture of God, she pointed to his picture and said “Ho Ho Ho.” Anyone with grey hair and a beard is Santa to her.

It was bittersweet when I learned that the storms were quickly making their way east of Cincinnati. I was relieved that they avoided our part of town completely, but sad for all of the people on the east side of the city who had their homes and lives destroyed.

The local news broadcasted the aftermath of the storm into primetime. Even TV shows were preempted for the coverage. It was the worst tornado this region has seen since 1999. I am a pretty emotional person myself but I was so happy that I was able to contain this emotion in front of my daughter.

I learned an important parenting lesson today that I am sure will apply in a lot of things in the future, not just natural disasters – “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Much like tornados, there are so many things as parents that we have little control over.

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Yoda Swag

Cool? Yes. Adorable? Yes. Slightly creepy? Yes. Wondering if my daughter would cuddle with or run in fear from this uniquely knitted Jedi master.

Tired of the same boring monkey and bear winter hats for kids? Try one of these.

This hat would also be cute for a costume. I have been wanting to dress my daughter up as Yoda for Halloween, but my wife is not too keen on the idea of me painting her entire head green. This may be the compromise.

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