Category Archives: Being Dad

Birthday Book Giveaway

Though I used to try and avoid mention of my birthday, I’ve been finding unique ways to embrace it. It’s a chance to do something fun, or selfish, or ask unique requests of others. So, today I launch my own Birthday Book Giveaway.

Clean Water for EliroseLast week I mentioned Clean Water for Elirose, a children’s book I wrote. Well, for the next 48 hours I’d like to giveaway copies of the book to anyone who makes a donation to the Elirose Charity Water project. Anyone who makes a donation over $5 will get a copy of the book in the mail. It cost me about $5 each to send the book, so please be generous in your donation to the water project. The goal is to raise $5000 from Clean Water for Elirose book sales, which is enough to build one clean water well to provide clean water for 50 families or 250 people.

And there you have it. The point of the Book Giveaway is two-fold. First, it’s an incentive for you to give to a worthy cause. Second, it’s an opportunity to put Clean Water for Elirose into the hands of kids, parents and teachers to help discuss the topic and expose kids to both the injustices in the world and tangible ways that they can help.

Donate to Charity:Water and email me your address before 9am October 8th

Clean Water for Elirose

Four years ago, when we were expecting our daughter, I knew I was about to begin a major shift in my priorities. It would still be a high priority to live out my faith and values, but above all else, the top priority is now to lovingly raise my children and instill those values that are so central to my life in theirs as well. In addition to simply loving my kids, I wanted to help them to see the world the way I had grown to see it. A large community where we are all intertwined and where our decisions impact others.

My kids are 4 and 3 now and, as concrete thinkers, reading books with them is one of the most tangible ways to expand their world, next to actually experiencing things in real life. My journey to find children’s picture books that discussed topics like poverty and homelessness, clean drinking water and lack of education, was fruitful, but sparse. It was a genre with books few and far between. And so, I set out to write my own.

Read the book Online
Read the book Online

Clean Water for Elirose is a children’s picture book about what kids drink and how four young kids make a difference in fifth child’s life, Elirose. My goal with writing the book is two-fold.

  1. To provide parents with a meaningful way to discuss a global social issue with their young children.
  2. To use the book as a tool itself for fundraising for clean drinking water.

My hope is that it reaches those goals, if even on a small scale. If your interested in ordering a copy you can do that here. Anyone is free to buy a “teachers copy” for $5, which is the same book, but doesn’t cover the total costs ($3.65 per copy of the book, ~$2.10 for shipping plus envelope). Or, you can order a $15 copy and about $10 if your purchase will go directly to supporting a clean water well project (currently with Charity:Water).

I’d love your help getting the word out if your willing. Review the book on your blog, ask your local parenting mag or paper to write a review, purchase a copy for your library, tell your friends or use it as a fundraiser for your next missions trip. Oh, and let me know what you think with a comment below.

Who’s That Yellow Bird? Published in Geez

Sesame Place by stev.ieEach week I walk my two toddlers down the hall at the Children’s hospital, past a large statue of an over-stuffed yellow bird and up an elevator to our appointment. Sometimes they point out the “big birdie,” other times they don’t, it’s no more attractive to them than the nearby painting of a moose or the cars they see through the windows of the skyway.
What they don’t know yet is that the big bird is, in fact, Big Bird. And though I’m sure someone will soon point it out to them (they’ve already learned who Elmo is), I’m in no rush to have Big Bird or any other media industry creations become my childrens’ branded pals.
What’s wrong with Sesame Street’s Big Bird? The show is certainly not as overtly problematic as Power Rangers or Barbie and the characters themselves don’t bother me particularly much. It’s all the other places they manage to show up that troubles me.
Grover is selling my kids diapers, Oscar is peddling fruit snacks, Big Bird is pimping shoes and Snuffleupagus . . . don’t get me started on Snuffleupagus. Licensing characters is a multi-billion dollar industry and although Sesame Street is not the worst offender, they milked Elmo for all they could when he became a smash hit in 1996 as a “tickle me” plush toy. Sesame Street is still a non-profit with support from the government and “viewers like you,” but 68 percent of it’s revenue comes from licensing.
An estimated $15 billion dollars is spent each year marketing to children under the age of 18 in the United States. That’s roughly $200 per child.
Using Elmo to sell my kid juice boxes isn’t the same as marketing to adults. Young children don’t understand the dynamics of persuasion. They don’t understand that the smiling kids on the commercial are paid actors following an elaborate script with the sole purpose of making little viewers want a product. They don’t understand that when their favourite character is munching on junk food that it’s a deceptive scheme, not an honest opinion. Kids think they’re watching Saturday morning cartoons, but to marketing execs the shows are “Program Length Commercials.”
Like most kids, I too grew up on these Saturday morning infomercials – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man and Strawberry Shortcake. Though I turned out okay, as they say, I think I would have been better off with out them. I would have been less demanding of my parents and wouldn’t have spent the better part of my childhood being sold to. I don’t want my children to be victims of the deception

So when we pass the big yellow bird at the Children’s hospital next week, we might say hello but he’s not going to get any special treatment.

(This article was published in the summer issue of Geez Magazine, a rough draft had previously been posted on this site, but I realized I had not posted the final version for your viewing pleasure. Hope you enjoyed.)

You Wouldn’t Believe What I almost Ate

It was a typical afternoon with the kiddos yesterday. I was scrambling to make dinner and clean the house while catering to their every need. Adyra wanted a piece of bread, which promptly meant Bret wanted one too. He remembered our PB&J from lunch and requested it again, which Adyra in turn requested as well. So, I’m smearing the Peanut Butter (creamy, sorry mom & dad), when Adyra comes over, arm outstretched, a little whiny.

Ironically, my children are a bit of clean freaks. Adyra’s never really liked finger painting or anything else that gets your hands icky, like getting peanut butter on them. Occasionally, when they are eating, they’ll stick their grubby hand out and I’ll wipe or grab and sometimes eat the yogurt or kiwi or food in question. So, when she sticks out her fingers yesterday, I naturally lean down to wipe them off, seeing the brown peanut butter substance. I’m getting ready to just lick it off my fingers when in a split second a smell hits my nostrils and I realize, Adyra’s Peanut Butter sandwich is still on the counter.

I almost ate my daughter’s poo! Now that’s disgusting. Apparently, and this is a first for her, she decided to stick her hand in the back of her diaper and check out the results. Why she neglected to tell me that when she innocently stuck them out there is beyond me, but fortunately that creamy nutty-colored poop stunk like the dickens, otherwise this story would have had a much worse ending.

Slowing Down

As you might have noticed, I’ve been posting a lot less on this blog in the last month or so. This is partially due to reasons I mentioned last week, and also partially due to my own efforts to slow down a little bit. I’ve said in the past that the main reason I tend to blog as much as I do is that I often have a great many things bouncing around in my head and writing has been therapeutic for me, blogging in turn has allowed me to get feedback on those thoughts as well. This is all still quite true, but I’ve also started questioning the value of letting my mind wander down so many rabbit trails at once. In some ways, I think it’s just part of who I am, and at other times I think I’d be much more productive or just ‘present’ if I could focus my thoughts and energy on one thing or project at a time, rather then several.

I’m not sure what that will mean for the dynamics of this blog, nor even myself really, but I’d like to make an effort at it. I think I hit information overload at some point and just felt the need to start ignoring or taking a break from things. And much of this is internet driven, it’s a thousand times easier to jump from thing to thing online then while reading a book on the couch or sitting with your kids on the playground. I’m just figuring these things out myself.

How about you?

So, What Do You Do?

It’s a question we get asked frequently when we meet new people, I’ve probably been asked it several times in my life and didn’t think much about it, but since becoming the primary at-home* care taker the question, and my answers, seem to have a bigger impact on me then before.

It took me a while, but I usually have the confidence to answer with “I take care of my kids”, without immediately following or preceding it with “I’m a freelance writer and web-designer” or some other long winded attempt to prove my productivity or contributions to society.  I don’t think this is unique to at home Dad’s, but I think guys who stay with the kids do experience unique pressures, or at least I feel pressure from certain gender roles and expectations (I might write more on this later).

The reason I’m bringing this up now, I think, is that I want to state publicly that I want my primary answer to continue to be centered around my kids. We as a family have recently negotiated some set aside dedicated time for me to pursue projects, opportunities to set up meetings and do somethings outside of nap times and late nights. This wasn’t a financial decision, nor an “Ariah needs to get out and do something with his life” sorta of move, rather just a loving supportive spouse encouraging me to pursue things I’m passionate about. And as excited as I am about taking a bit of time each week to pursue these things, I don’t want it to get in the way of being dad.

This is sort of a rambling post, for which I apologize. It’s interesting that I find it hard to write about family and parenting stuff. That’s the important stuff, the truly important stuff to me, and I find it the most difficult to share in public spaces like a blog. I can write with passion about social issues and injustices, but sharing my lessons in parenting seems so difficult at times.

I’ll end it here. All I really wanted to say is that the primary thing I “do” is that I’m a dad. Everything else is secondary. And I’m proud of that.

*It has to be said that 1) my wife is most definitely a “primary” care taker as well, taking care of our kids and taking care of people’s health and well being as a nurse practitioner day in and out [love you, babe] and 2) we aren’t really “at-home” much if we can help it, but “primary at-home-or-the-park-library-pool-garden-bike ride-beach-porch-grocery store-community event-neighbors care taker” was too long.

Children are NOT Eco-friendly

I don’t consider environmental concerns to be one of my ‘soapboxes’, but it is something I think is important and tend to watch out for. I recycle, conserve water, buy CFL bulbs and more, both in an effort to conserve my own dollars and the environment. One thing I’ve realized recently that I’ve had to accept is that my children are not very eco-friendly.
I don’t mean in the sense that they take up space, breath air, eat things, defecate and are much like a parasite feeding off this planet (aren’t we all). No, I’m perfectly okay with that, it’s the other things that bug me.

Things like flushing the toilet three times after going (or not going) on the potty. Using half the roll of toilet paper to wipe with each time, or discovering kleenex and tp can wipe your nose and then using multiple pieces at every sniffle. They drop perfectly good food on the floor, slightly soil the occasional disposable diaper forcing me to use more, and their just plain messy (not that I’m not).

When you sit back and look at it, it is kind of funny. I was surprised by the frustration I felt when they flushed the toilet multiple times. I have full control over my toilet flushing decisions, and no control over most other people’s, so it’s never caused much emotion one way or the other. But, when my own children, to whom I’m trying to instill values (both big and small) flushes multiple times, it hit a nerve I didn’t know was there.

The reality is there are some things you just have to let go, and this is definitely one of them. If a few roles of toilet paper and gallons of water are what it takes for my kiddos to potty train, that’s going to have to be okay with me. I’m gonna be okay with wasting tons of paper and crayons, paint and glue, and more as my children learn and explore, grow in their creativity.

I’ll still conserve water and toilet paper, but I won’t let that get in the way of being gracious with my children.

Rough Draft: Who’s That Big Yellow Bird?

I’m working on an article for Geez Magazine, and you loyal readers get a sneak peek. It’s pretty rough. I just wrote it up last night (and stole a couple paragraphs from a previous blog post), but wanted to get some feedback on it. So, without further ado:

Who’s That Big Yellow Bird?

Sesame Place by

Each week I walk my two toddlers down the hall at the Children’s hospital, past the large statue of an over stuffed yellow bird and up an elevator to our appointment. Sometime’s they’ll point out the “big birdie”, other times they won’t, it’s no more attractive or unique then the moose in the painting ten feet away or the cars in the window of the skyway.

What I haven’t told them, and what they don’t know, is that that large stuffed yellow bird is one of the many adorable characters from a television show that I myself have fond memories of; of Big Bird and the whole rest of the gang. And though I’m sure someone will soon point it out to them (they’ve already learned who Elmo is), I’m in no rush to have Bert, Oscar, or any others media character become my children’s childhood pal.

What’s wrong with Sesame Street? Well, it’s certainly not Power Rangers or Barbie, and I’ve even heard the programming is pretty good (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t seen the show in at least ten years), but it’s not the characters themselves of the content of the show that bothers me, it’s all the other places those characters manage to show up.

Grover is selling my kids diapers, Oscars peddling fruit snacks and juice boxes, Big Bird’s pimping t-shirts and shoes and Snuffleupagus, don’t get me started with Snuffleupagus. Licensing characters is a multi-billion dollar industry and Sesame Street is the least bad of the bunch, but even they sold out when Elmo (introduced in 1987) became a smash hit in 1996 as a “tickle me” plush toy. And though it’s still a non-profit with support from the government and “viewers like you”, 68 percent of it’s revenue is from licensing. (Thomas 112-113)

An estimated $15 billion dollars is spent each year marketing to children under the age of 18 in the United States. Given that there are only 74 million kids in that age group, that means corporations are spending roughly $200 per child in advertising. You’d better believe they aren’t blowing $200 on your child without knowing they are going to make far more then that back. And if your one of those invincible, unfettered-type who haven’t let advertising affect your purchasing, then that means they are making double their money off the kid down the street.

This isn’t the same as marketing to adults. Most children under the age of ten don’t understand persuasion. They don’t understand that the smiling kids on the commercial are paid actors following an elaborate script with the soul purpose of making them want a product. They don’t understand that when they’re told by their favorite character that this junk food is fun or tasty or cool that it’s a deceptive scheme, not an honest opinion. We know when we see a celebrity or athlete promote a product that it’s an advertisement (that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective), but children don’t. Imagine you discovered that everything your trusted mentor (maybe a pastor) had ever said to you was in an attempt to get you to purchase certain items. You’d be shocked and appalled wouldn’t you?

You remember some of your favorite Saturday morning cartoons? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? He-Man? Strawberry Shortcake? Gummi Bears? They might have been cartoons to you, but to the marketing execs they were called “Program Length Commercials.” That’s right, you spent your Saturday mornings watching informercials for kids so that you’d go out and nag your parents for every product Donatello was on.

I don’t want my children (or myself) to be victims of the same deception. So when we pass the big yellow bird at the Children’s hospital all week, we might say “hello”, but he’s not going to get any special treatment.

Thrift Store Bandits

thrift-store-sign-by-pixeljonesI went on a bit of a shopping spree Monday. Yes, I like to go shopping every once in a while, particularly when I have a good sized list of things to be on the look out for at the thrift stores. Every holiday our local thrift, Unique, has a 50% sale on everything, and their prices are already really low. I like to buy pretty much everything I possibly can second-hand, so thrift stores, craigslist and ebay are my go to places for shopping. And, I try to be pro-active, thinking of things we might be on the lookout for in the future so I can keep my eyes out before it’s too late and we end up buying it new (gardening tools for instance).

Here’s a brief rundown of Monday’s purchases for $50: 5 kids bicycles, 3 wide brim hats, 4 pairs of shorts, 2 t-shirts, 3 sets of curtains (pottery barn), 1 floor rug, 1 pair of sandals, 1 set of sheets, 3 kids aprons, a giant bed canopy/tent for the kids and a stove top popcorn popper. (nice huh?)

Anyways, on to the point of this post. I had this idea a while back and I want to finally try and bring it to fruition, and wanted to encourage others to as well. This is the basic idea. I usually have a list of about ten items that I’m hoping to find at the thrift store, but don’t come across them on multiple trips. And they just stay on the list. In talking with others most people inevitably have this problem. Either it’s a hot item and doesn’t seem to stay on the shelf for long, or its rare and you only stumble across it every so often. And when it’s just you going every so often there’s a far smaller chance you’ll ever get those items your looking for. Solution: The Thrift Store Bandits.

Imagine if you had a group of people in your neighborhood (or just a collection of friends) who all had your list of items that you were looking for. I might hit up the thrift store once a month, but so do three of my other friends and together that’s four trips to thrift stores (sometimes different ones) with eyes peeled for that random item your looking for (maybe a coffee grinder). Brilliant huh?

All it takes is a collective list that  you circulate amongst neighbors or close friends (ideally people you see on a frequent basis). I even went ahead and set one up using the same website I use for For those who live near me and want to participate just go here. If you live anywhere else (maybe Nashville), just let me know and I’ll start a page for you. After that you or anyone else can edit and add their name and list to it.

Now, next time your heading to the thrift store you just have to print off your local bandits page and keep your eyes out for the items on your friends list. When you find something for them, purchase it and drop it off. How easy is that?