March 14, 2013 by Scott Klepach
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Likewise, it takes a similar number of people to make a magazine cover photo shoot go smoothly.
Our Baby Cover Photo contest is an annual tradition. In the past, we have selected one baby out of dozens of submissions for the cover.
This year, though, it felt like the right time to try something different. My idea? Instead of just one baby, why not have a whole group?
As with all big ideas, excitement builds … then someone has to figure out the nitty-gritty details. Correction: A team of people has to figure it out.
When we selected the eight babies for this issue’s photo shoot on a Saturday in February, the Yakima Herald-Republic’s downstairs lobby quickly became packed with staff, babies and family members. (Babies don’t mosey on in all by themselves!)
It could have been total chaos. But despite one mystery mess I had to clean up off the floor after the photo shoot, the session went off without a hitch. That’s because everyone came together to help, including those not directly related to the kiddos in the photo shoot. Suzanne Voldman supplied cloth diapers for the babies to wear (you can read her article on cloth diapering in this issue), which were given to her by Susan Brady of Buckwheat Bottoms, a cloth-diapering company in Richland. Our photographer, TJ Mullinax, was calm throughout. The babies and families were troupers.
So as the saying goes, the “village” truly came together!
The “village” also packed this edition of Playdate, as you’ll see from the many contributing voices in the following pages. Of course, it wouldn’t be Playate without our daily calendar and other fun odds and ends to help you plan ahead as we enjoy the approaching spring. As always, please send questions, comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to friend us on Facebook.
Enjoy this time with your family, and while you’re at it, enjoy the others in the “village” that make up our community.
February 13, 2013 by Scott Klepach
With the last stretch of winter before us, many are ready for springtime. Several years ago I wrote a sonnet about this transition:
The winter is a pale and lonely bride
Who peers outside, awaiting her lost groom.
She hides her snowy dress, once donned with pride,
A frozen tear the marriage of her gloom.
She locks her secret in her forlorn heart,
A cornucopia of love endowed,
His warm embrace is evermore apart.
She waits, confined beneath her wintry shroud.
Much like a candle, drawing near its end,
She dwindles, falters, eyeing now her love,
A wick remains of winter at her end;
The grayness parts, the sun appears above.
Now spring, her groom, emerges from her breath,
His vibrant soul a sonnet of her death.
I imagine you and your family are ready to embrace the spring. There are plenty of things to do while we linger a little longer in the remaining days of winter, as you’ll see in our latest Playdate, which is the February/March issue.
With a combination of our daily calendar and enormous spring sports feature, you might have a tough time determining how to fit everything in!
We also have features on spring crafts and recipes, along with ways to perform random acts of kindness to others. This issue’s Frugal Tip will also set you on the right path to use your smartphones to your money-saving advantage.
We are also getting excited for the 4th annual Playdate Family Expo! Our signature event is a fun and interactive way to spend a Saturday, and promises entertainment for all ages. This year it’s from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on March 16 at the Yakima Convention Center. You’ll find more information inside this issue.
We hope you enjoy these and other features that span the pages of this issue. As always, please send questions, comments or suggestions to email@example.com, and be sure to friend us on Facebook. Until next issue, enjoy the last stretch of winter. I’ll see you at the Playdate Family Expo!
November 28, 2012 by Scott Klepach
We’ve all experienced life changes, some so big that when you stop for a moment to breathe and reflect you’re left marveling at how quickly various paths have taken us in unexpected directions over the course of months or years.
Every New Year we have a chance to stop and examine what has transpired in the previous 12 months. The day also marks a transition for us to regroup, refocus and refresh – however real or imagined this process actually is.
Realizing these big moments may not always be so simple or straightforward at first, as columnist Lacy Heinz reveals in this issue. Sometimes it takes a relatively trivial moment to become an opportunity for teaching and connecting with our kids.
Having kids requires parents to adapt in so many ways. Job requirements or a medical diagnosis will alter family schedules and expectations. We have two stories that highlight such life-changing moments in this edition. You’ll read about how one local military family dealt with dad being away from home. You will also read a mother’s reflection on raising her son who has severe food allergies.
We do offer a chance for you to live in the moment of the season, though, with our feature, “The 12 Crafts of Christmas.” It’s a visual treat. You will also find our packed holiday and daily calendars (and we haven’t forgotten about January either!), the latest bit of medical wisdom from Dr. Pommer in “Second Opinion,” and much more.
Don’t be shy. Please send us questions, comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to friend us on Facebook.
I wish you and your family the very best of what’s left of 2012, and a wonderful New Year.
September 20, 2012 by Scott Klepach
Note from Scott
When I was younger, I never really considered autumn to be my favorite season.
Sure, I always enjoyed it, but as a kid I typically looked forward to spring — with my birthday and the school year drawing to the end — or summer, with its timelessness, when school seemed like a distant memory and days were replaced with warmth, water, and play. Fall meant snapping back into the reality of school and regularly structured schedules, and with that transition I typically experienced a mix of melancholy and angst.
But with each passing year, I have grown more fond of autumn, and it has become my favorite time of year. Now, at the end of one of the busiest summers our family has ever had, I am ready for fall’s arrival.
There is sill a certain sadness that comes each time one season passes, particularly with summer, but at the same time there is so much to look forward to when the weather begins to turn cooler. Poet John Keats wrote in his ode “To Autumn”:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’erbrimmed their clammy cells.
Keats captures the beauty and flavor of autumn by revealing how our hard work and hard play of summer pays off this season, the season of harvest. It’s time to feast, time to celebrate! This is especially true in the Yakima valley, where there are many bountiful harvests to be had, in the form of food and festivities. We’ve got them listed for you here, in both our daily calendar and our special Halloween and harvest event feature. We also have several fun and creative recipes and crafts for you to try with your family.
Other contributors bring a variety of voices in this issue, too. Dr. Pommer also knows about how changing weather can affect us, as he provides his perspective on respiratory issues to help your kids breathe easier. Aubrey Does of Frugal Yakima Mom offers great advice on creating easy and effective shopping lists, too. Who doesn’t need that?
So whatever the word ‘harvest’ means to you, I hope all of you have a bountiful season with your family and friends. Be sure to find and friend us on Facebook, and check back here on this website for updates.
Here’s to autumnal bliss!
July 26, 2012 by Scott Klepach
“Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.” –Lao Tzu
Even though I’m no Taoist, this idea from Lao Tzu has resonated with me ever since I became a father.
When we had our first child, Elise, I wrote a poem to her when she was just several weeks old, and I began to see how this idea of Taoism rings true. If we are all like blocks of clay at the beginning of life, we can shape ourselves or be shaped into some form along the way – there are so many possibilities! As we grow older, we lose the potential of what we could become, but we gain something more specific and useful.
I’ve been thinking about changes lately since my daughter is now 5, about ready to enter Kindergarten, and I have to let go of this first phase of our lives together. My son, Liam, now 3, is blooming handsomely, and I suspect we will spend the next couple of years lingering with this moment together, in this phase.
The change from summer to fall is not always so subtle. One day, probably in early or mid-September, I will walk outside and suddenly detect the shift: a not-so-secret stir in the air, crackling with crisp energy, a scent of brilliant ripening, and a burst of color in nature.
Change sneaks up on us. My kids took swimming lessons for the first time this summer, and in a way this was another way of letting go — to let them grow beyond what previously only I could do for them.
We’re going to hold on to the rest of summer. We’ll celebrate in Disneyland for the first time together (Shh! It’s still a secret to the kids.) Then, we will move on, to embrace the clarion call of fall and await new, exciting possibilities.
As you also celebrate new things, we provide some resources and events for you to capture the rest of summer. We’ve also included some back-to-school necessities, Dr. Pommer’s “Second Opinion” and Lacy Heinz’s take on helping kids become individuals. One feature you shouldn’t miss is our feature on a subject that has a lot of parents talking these days: bullying.
As always, please send questions, comments, or suggestions to email@example.com, and be sure to friend us on Facebook. Until next issue, enjoy the dog days of summer … and the crisp welcome of fall.
June 1, 2012 by Scott Klepach
What does summer mean to you?
With each new season, I think of transitions and new possibilities, and summer is no exception.
With all four seasons in the Yakima Valley, that means having a real summer experience.
Our household is still in the process of planning vacations, but I’m not concerned about it so much.
That’s because I’m looking forward to what some might call “the little things” — things that really aren’t so little at all.
I’m excited for longer days outside.
I’m ready for fresh fruit and vegetables, either from Yakima Farmers’ Market or local produce stands.
I’m eager for local baseball to start (and happy to see the Yakima Bears will be here this season!), and am already hungry for a Bear Dog.
I’m excited for my kids to experience another summer and all its wondrous opportunities, and I’m sure you’re ready to do the same.
What does summer mean to you?
May 25, 2012 by Scott Klepach
Make camping go a long way — without going far away.
By Scott Klepach Jr.
What I’m about to divulge may stir up some controversy.
I’m not a happy camper.
I mean that literally. I’m really not a camper at all.
Sure, sure, I may have had a bad experience, or maybe I didn’t give camping a chance. I can enjoy staying in a cabin – or even being under the cover of a makeshift structure for shelter.
But tent camping? Gasp!
I want to like it. I’ve tried, even though last summer was only my second time.
As I wrote then, for me camping conjures up images of tics, murderers and bears. Oh, and cougars, too. Or as my daughter Elise calls them, “poogars.” Not so cute when they are staring at you hungrily — in your imagination.
Growing up, my family never went camping. Not once.
In fact, the closest we came to camping was staying in an Embassy Suites hotel in Bellevue – you know, with all those plants and the jungle décor.
Oh, but I’ve sacrificed — or compromised — my comfort for the sake of family. What’s the compromise? Tent camping in our backyard. (My wife assures me we will go “real” tent camping again later this year.)
The Backyardigans had it right. Why spend all that time and effort packing and traveling to some distant location when you can bring “the wild” to the green space at your back doorstep? (Now if only I could make this argument work with my wife.)
This experience was grand. It helped, sure, to have a fenced-in yard, a familiar setting and our house several yards away – which I retreated to several times (Hey! It was a cold April night!). It also helped having an airbed and an extension cord running from the house to power the Christmas Story leg lamp that lit the tent inside.
I mused that Mark Twain would be proud, and by the light of the leg lamp I read his travel memoir Roughin’ It—rather than experiencing the real deal.
You think I’m lazy? A wimp? A bore? Call me what you will. But we did have fun. Our family roasted s’mores over our fire pit, slept in a real tent, shared scary stories and snuggled to keep warm.
And you know what? I learned some things about our neighborhood because of this experience. Traffic was not the biggest problem keeping us awake. Instead, it was a combination of other sounds: mating cats, a noisy donkey, a persistent rooster and the incessant chirping of birds (and we live within the city limits!).
So if you want to go “roughin’ it” in your own backyard, get ready for adventure of a tamer kind. But be sure to have these items with you:
- Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets
- Christmas Story leg lamp
- Fire pit
- Branches or sticks for marshmallows. And marshmallows!
- Graham crackers
- Chocolate squares
- Hot dogs and hot dog buns
- Glow sticks—fun!
- Board games
- iPad with Wi-Fi connection
- Toy fishing poles for the little ones (attach a magnet and go “fishing” for aluminum cans)
- River rock (in case you want to do some arts and crafts. Pet rock, anyone?)
- Imagination (good for creating spooky stories and pretending you’re not in the backyard)
March 22, 2012 by Scott Klepach
Birthdays have been on my mind lately.
By the time the next issue publishes at the end of May, I’ll hit the “Big 3-0.” I’ve heard many people dread this transition from 20s to 30s. Surprisingly, I’m not too panicked by this number. It’s been on my mind, though, since my wife loves to remind me – frequently, and with some degree of glee – of my soon-to-be age.
I’ve also been thinking about my kids’ ages more and more. My daughter just turned 5 – another milestone – and my son has until this June to get out of the “terrible two” stage. (I’m sure, once he turns 3, that all of his inclinations to pester his sister and mother will be completely dissolved. It’s all a numbers game, after all. …Anyone buying this?)
Even if we make more out of numbers than we ought to, each birthday is a transition that should be recognized and honored. Celebrated.
Which brings me to one of this issue’s themes: birthday party ideas. And do we have you covered!
You’ll find tons of birthday party resources: check out all the information compiled on 22 venues around the area, plus information on businesses that will help you get all the birthday “stuff” you’re looking for. We also have a number of birthday party themes to help get you started. Please share with us your birthday party details!
April is Autism Awareness month, so we’ve included two features about local families who are living with the condition. And, since this is the spring issue, we’ve got plenty of details on events that will get you moving outside and enjoying the turning weather.
As usual, visit this website for updated calendar events and the latest installment from our resident blogger and dad of three, Scott Mayes. (Scott has included a little birthday advice in this edition, too.)
We’d love to hear from you, so if you have questions or ideas, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to friend us on Facebook, too.
January 31, 2012 by Scott Klepach
A sign in our daughter’s bedroom reads: “A baby fills a place in your heart you never knew was empty.”
Before becoming a father, I would have thought this expression too saccharine.
Wow, people can change – dramatically. I’m now a walking billboard of that expression.
When I married at 22, it wasn’t because I wanted to hurry up and start making babies. I gave myself a five-year minimum rule. My wife, Kimberly, scoffed.
But a friend and former boss once said that if you always tell yourself you have to wait until you have everything lined up properly, have your finances just right, then you will keep putting it off.
On our second wedding anniversary, Kimberly’s pregnancy test was positive. We kept our dinner plans at The Barrel House, but dinner that evening was clearly a different experience than the one we expected.
I didn’t freak out. I didn’t cry. I wasn’t overcome with overwhelming joy or euphoria. But …
I did feel something.
It was like a slow, inaudible click occurred inside me, and a strange calm took over. I felt relaxed. I liked this new idea and the pleasant feeling that came along with it.
I remember I gave a slight, genuine smile that widened as I hugged Kimberly. She had more jitters, with the realization that a little life was inside, soon to grow and bloom.
I loved the time when my wife was pregnant. I immersed myself in each stage, devouring as much information with her as I could along the way. I loved my new role.
Yet, while we knew what to expect when she was expecting, we were mindful that we didn’t really know much of anything at all.
And then, as the famous expression suggests, my heart grew when I suddenly had my daughter – and several years later, a son – to love and care for more than anyone else.
–Scott Klepach, Jr.
August 28, 2011 by Scott Klepach
by Scott Klepach, Jr.
If you’re reading this, it means I have survived.
I made it through my second tent camping trip ever. The trips were ten years apart, but this time we had kids in tow.
Some of you know about my concerns about camping (if not, you can read about them here). Here are some highlights from the trip:
Thursday, 7 p.m. Arrived at our campsite at Bumping Lake. Mosquito attack!
7:30 p.m. Set up tent. While pounding in the stakes, I refrain from making a joke about vampires. (They might be listening.)
7:40 p.m. I say something to the effect of, “Is this tent bear-proof?” The answer I get isn’t to my liking.
7:45 p.m. The kids and I pretend we’re in Sherwood Forest. I’m Robin Hood, my daughter Elise is Maid Marian, and Liam is more interested in sipping his Hawaiian Punch.
7:55 p.m. Despite all the bug spray, I am itchy already.
8 p.m. Discover peanut shells strewn all over the campsite. I cling tightly to the Epipen in my pocket as we direct Elise, who is severely allergic to peanuts, away from the area as we clean them up.
9:15 p.m. Late dinner of roasted hot dogs, pork and beans and other snacks.
10:30 p.m. Brush teeth. I wonder, “is it really camping if I’m using a Sonicare toothbrush?”
Thursday night/early Friday morning. I hear a high-pitched shriek. My wife’s uncle warned me a cougar’s cry sounds something like this. When I discovered the shrieking was coming from my own mouth, I recomposed myself. (You can entirely disregard this log entry, since I made it all up.)
Friday, dawn. Elise wakes up Liam, our friend Ryan and me: “Get up, lazy boys! What do you think this is, nighttime? It’s morning. It’s morning!” (OK, this was much later than dawn, but it sounds really cool to say it out loud.)
Friday morning. More unhealthy food: bacon, hashbrowns dipped in bacon fat and smothered in pork sausage gravy. I also had a banana to justify the rest of the meal.
Friday afternoon. After lunch, I experienced the only monstrous thing about the camping trip: a monster nap. I woke up and missed out on a swim in the lake. Then I chopped wood—with an ax.
Friday evening. After dinner, time for S’mores!
Saturday morning. Time to pack up after breakfast and see the lake one more time. A few of us were developing symptoms of illness – sore throats, runny noses, and so forth, so it was a good time to head home.
At home, my wife asked me if I enjoyed camping, and I told her I needed to think about it, that I needed to absorb the experience before giving her an answer.
“Are you serious?” she asked, her eyebrow raised incredulously.
“That’s the stupidest answer I’ve ever heard.”
She’s right, so I gave her my honest answer: I like camping for the sake of other people – my wife, my kids, and the others camping with us.
Camping is not my thing, probably due to my lack of experience, but I want my kids to experience it and let my wife reclaim what she has been wanting to do for quite some time.
I do admit camping had its perks. I chopped wood with an ax. I liked being mesmerized by the fire, and having to constantly tend to it. I love putting food on a stick, whether it’s sweets or meats.
But camping is taxing. It’s dirty. It’s buggy. The elements affect everything you do – which is, I suppose, part of camping’s charm.
I’m just not quite ready to pair the words ‘camping’ and ‘charm’ together yet.
But, as my wife insists, I will have plenty of time to grow to love it. And judging my kids’ elated responses to camping, I’m all in when the next time comes around.
I have a feeling that won’t take ten more years.
by Scott Klepach, Jr.
I thought the summer season was going to come and go without the talk of camping. But I was wrong. We’re about ready to head out for a tent camping trip in a few short hours.
Camping. The very word delights most people.
Not for me.
I think of tics, murderers, and bears. Oh, and cougars, too. Or as my daughter Elise calls them, “poogars.” Except that they are not so cute when they are staring at you hungrily several yards away.
I’m not a camper. I know I’m probably in the minority on this point, except in the family I grew up in. Growing up, we never went camping. Not once.
In fact, the closest we came to camping was staying in an Embassy Suites hotel in Bellevue – you know, kinda like camping with all those plants and jungle décor indoors.
Heck, I may even have a one-up on all those campers in this region since the hotel resembled a place that could contain lions, tigers, and gazelles. (OK, so I know that last animal isn’t alarming like the first two, but it goes well with the setting I’m trying to convey.)
But we will be camping for several days, and I still have to contend with lions – the mountain variety – and bears. Snakes, too. And other people – strangers, really. And who knows what else is lurking out there. Bigfoot? Demons? The cast of Jersey Shore?
I’ve been camping before. Really, I have. My wife, who loves camping, has made sure of it. And you know what? I caved and agreed that I could handle it. And this trip won’t be the last one … I suppose not, anyway. I hesitate not because I question if my family will want to go camping again, but instead that my above fears will come true.
The last thing I want is, in the dark, lonely stretch of woods away from civilization and cell phone service, is to get caught in a situation with “The Situation.”
March 31, 2011 by Scott Klepach
Dad’s Pad: What Unexpected Things I Learned When We Were Expecting
By Scott Klepach Jr.
When you were expecting your first child — and after your baby was born — you probably found that things change quickly and in a variety of ways. These changes can bring about many unexpected things, especially if you were like me before I became a father: never surrounded by people with kids and not having any real experience with children at all.
But for me, that all changed.
I learned pregnancy and child rearing is not like in the movies, nor is it like the sanitized version I heard about from other people.
I learned about breathing techniques and the stages of labor and that, yes, there are different stages of labor.
I learned that my wife could actually be in labor and still do other things. For instance, we went bowling with friends before our first baby, when her contractions were beginning to come on more swiftly and intensely. And this was just hours after we nearly got run over trying to cross a busy intersection in Terrace Heights.
You see, we had taken a walk to help “move things along.” We tried to time the intersection crossing with her contractions, so that the pain would dissipate just as the “walk” sign lit up.
That was the plan, but the timing wasn’t perfect. She began getting contractions closer together, with one coming on when we were in the middle of the street and the “Don’t Walk” sign began flashing.
I don’t know how we made it across, but my wife’s persistence and resilience likely had much more to do with it than anything I did. It wasn’t like the movies, where our adventure would have been depicted in slow motion with a crescendo-filled musical score.
The movies also do a poor job of conveying the “breaking of waters” — how it is, in fact, not always the alarming, stop-everything moment when you have to act NOW, or the baby will be born somewhere between your couch and the flower garden next to your porch.
I also learned that there may not always be constant screaming, as shown onscreen. (Or that if there is, it may be coming from Dad’s mouth more than Mom’s. This is not my anecdote. Really.)
I learned about afterbirth, and I’m happy this education came before we entered the delivery room. (“Afterbirth?” I might have asked. “What do you mean, afterbirth? Oh! But you’re telling me some people bury it or even eat it? No thanks, I’ll take my chances with the hospital cafeteria food, thank you.”)
I learned how to change diapers. The first diaper I changed was my daughter’s. I jumped right in … and quickly got to know what meconium is. Thankfully, I was forewarned about the green, tarlike stool, which resembles a goopier (and more putrid) version of Selsen Blue.
I learned about the dreaded “soft spot,” and after some time I got used to it.
I learned how to hold babies.
The first baby I ever held was my daughter. It took some time, though, until I knew how to comfort her. Sometimes, when even my wife couldn’t assuage our daughter’s fits of colic, I could somehow prop her body against my knees and gently jiggle her head with my fingers until she fell asleep.
I learned that we are parents even when we feel lost, afraid and uncertain if anything we’re doing is the best thing possible for our little ones. And, unlike many other things in life, I learned that just being a parent and learning new things has let me enjoy this scary ride and face these uncertainties with joy.
Because, above all, I am needed and loved, and I love in return, and that is something that I never needed to learn at all.
February 2, 2011 by Scott Klepach
Dad’s Pad: There’s Not Just One Way to Play with Toys
By Scott Klepach Jr.
It’s become apparent that my children have vastly different personalities despite sharing the same genes and household.
Tell me something more obvious, you might be thinking. But as the months and years accumulate, as my daughter draws ever closer to her fourth birthday, and my son is ready to reach another milestone of 20 months, their personalities are truly taking shape.
This is especially true with their playing habits.
For my daughter Elise, it’s all about relationships and overcoming conflict. The plots can range from her dolls in distress, her puppy lost and needing to find its family … even her spaghetti noodles take on roles as characters in her imagination. As she was potty training (reader, watch that gag reflex), the contents in the toilet bowl, based on respective sizes, were representative of the father, mother and baby of a family.
For my son Liam, it’s all about making noises – the more damaging the decibel count, the better – and creating commotion. He never met a princess who belonged to his sister that didn’t need her head chewed on, her hair yanked or her body slammed down on the floor, especially if it resulted in a booming crash. At this point, he doesn’t care to provide names or narrative to his food or excrement; though, as we have found out, he can do much more alarming and unspeakable things with them. (I should have warned you that you’ll still be using those gag reflexes!)
We spend a lot of time working on this damage control, but as I compare the two types of play, I have found there is something strangely satisfying about Liam’s approach, which usually involves character clashes and explosions. Maybe because it reminds me of my playing habits as a boy, or maybe it’s because I have to rescue every one of Elise’s toys and food items. My daughter’s play is like a high-caliber, Oscar-winning film: rich in nuance, but stressful to watch. My son’s play is akin to those high-octane escapist films, which only require the viewer to go on autopilot and enjoy the ride with the biggest tub of popcorn you can buy (or microwave).
I love the variety, especially when everyone comes together and both types of play are united. Superheroes have helped our family become cohesive. Both children are fond of Spider-man, and Elise directs each character: I am usually Spider-man (yes!); my wife is usually the Green Goblin or some other dastardly villain (not my decision!); Elise is usually a princess (duh!); and Liam is left as another villain or tiny sidekick, though, as I’m proud to see, he’s beginning to vie for my position.
It’s during these times, when our family connects, that these personalities and playing habits click. It’s not always perfect – Mom and Dad usually don’t get the character parts quite right, or Liam wants to shoot webs or cause an explosion at the wrong moment – but we’ll have time to sort these things out.
That is, until Liam nabs a princess doll and sticks her head in his mouth. After all, he realizes she hasn’t had her daily dose of chewing yet.
Dad’s Pad: Who’s Really Naughty and Nice?
By Scott Klepach Jr.
Illustration by Mark Northcott
It’s getting closer to Christmas, and while Santa Claus really has nothing to do with the Christian holiday, he is ingrained in our culture and celebrated in various ways by both religious and nonreligious folk.
It’s around this time of year when I think about the Santa Claus story, and then how it contributes to consumerism and emptying my pockets.
But maybe Santa Claus isn’t such a bad idea after all, especially when he sidles up to characters in other fairy tales that, when you get right down to it, display some pretty distasteful ideas.
I enjoy fairy tales and Disney movies, but I can’t help but wonder if the messages contained in these stories are the best ones to pass on to our children.
It’s not so much that I’m disturbed by the violence found in the original fairy tales — I’ll take the original stories over some watered-down version any day. What I’m more concerned with are the stories’ underlying patriarchal messages.
I’ve watched Disney’s “Snow White” a few times now because my daughter loves it, but its depiction of the prince and princess’ flimsy relationship can be pretty disturbing. Where the heck is the prince? He appears at the beginning of the film singing merrily, Snow White goes on to cook and clean for seven (count ‘em—seven!) dwarves, then he reappears at the end of the film … and he’s still singing. Then, finally, the prince carries her away at the end because she is finally ready to serve him, or at least be fully prepped to be his wife. Egads.
It’s not just Disney.
Take another “for instance”: The miller’s daughter in “Rumpelstiltskin.” The problem starts with her father, who jeopardizes her life when he makes a false promise to the king that she can weave straw into gold. The king tells her she must perform this task, or else she will be executed (Thanks, Dad!). The mysterious Rumpelstiltskin then comes into the picture to help her out, but only if she gives him things: first a necklace, then a ring, and then the promise of giving him her firstborn child.
But then – lo and behold! – the king gives her an ultimatum. He tells her that if she produces gold, she will not die, but will marry him.
How lucky for her.
In the end, the reader is left to believe that “good” conquers “evil” when Rumpelstilskin’s plot to keep the child is foiled, but the “good” in this case includes marriage to the king. Is that matrimonial bliss?
So maybe Santa Claus – even with his ties to commercialism – isn’t so bad after all. Compared to some of the other men featured in fairy tales, he embodies some wholesome characteristics we can believe in. Sure, his notion of giving can lead others to spend money on things and expect more in return. And yes, perhaps his over-consumption of cookies and sweets will someday land him a place on “The Biggest Loser.”
But he encourages kids to do good things and follow a reasonable moral code. He also provides great working conditions for his elves, so workers’ rights activists shouldn’t have many qualms with him there. And as far as I can tell, he never forced Mrs. Claus into marriage or expected her to be trained to follow a set of rules to be his wife.
So this Christmas I propose offering a lump of coal to each prince and naughty male character found in those other fairy tales. And I think Santa deserves another cookie.
September 22, 2010 by Scott Klepach
Scott Klepach, Jr.
The times are a-changin’.
The word ‘dad’ has different connotations today than it did in previous generations. It’s OK – you don’t have to turn into a carbon copy of Michael Keaton – in fact, even Mr. Mom is outdated nowadays.
‘Dad’ can mean many different things now, including someone who stays at home with the children, as well as one who does certain things only a mother was expected to do in years’ past.
Even if they aren’t the at-home parents, most fathers now have greater expectations of helping their significant others with the kids.
I’ve never been a stay-at-home dad, but I’ve learned that some of what I do – change diapers, help grocery shop, bathe kids, get up in the middle of the night with the baby, and being present and supportive during the pregnancy and birthing process – represent the reshaped roles of fatherhood.
Now, diaper changing tables can be found in some men’s restrooms, but they are by no means ubiquitous. Some men still grumble about taking a more active family role, but others are embracing the new norm. Many people accept and encourage this shift, though not everyone is on board yet. Under federal FMLA guidelines, fathers are allowed to take paternity leave, which can span for a few days to even weeks or months. For whatever reason, many dads don’t yet take advantage of this opportunity. Maybe it’s fear of ridicule, or maybe a fear of diaper changes.
What surprises me are some of the reactions I received as a new father. After my wife announced she was pregnant with our daughter, a few men turned only to me to say, “nice work,” as if I was the sole producer. A similar and more disturbing response came after our daughter was born, when more than one guy said to me, “Good job!”
Last time I checked, I wasn’t the one who endured hours of excruciating pain, with the exception of my hand and fingers being squeezed too tightly by my wife in labor. (I didn’t shed too many tears. I did, however, manage to slip in some unhelpful puns and remarks during labor. When cooling my wife with a fan, I told her I was there for her because I was her biggest fan. Maybe this is an example of why men used to stay out of the delivery room?)
Here’s some advice if you’re still wondering if you should jump on board the Mr. Mom train. Being there during the pregnancy and the labor and delivery is crucial. The mother of your child, dad, will likely be staying in the hospital for a couple of days, but this is not to be mistaken for a vacation (she’s lying down on a bed because she has to, not because she wants to), so it wouldn’t be wise to plan, say, a fishing trip right about now.
Don’t question her pain or exhaustion, and don’t think nursing is easy, even if it looks that way. This is just the beginning of the road, as the little squirt will continue sapping her strength for the foreseeable future – but, on a positive note, the little squirt has many more rewards to offer. You, dad, may also be sucking the life out of her, but you probably aren’t as cute nor do you have the arsenal of charming tactics you might have had as a baby.
Diaper changes are a must.
Don’t be fooled into believing women are or should be the only diaper-changers. If you complain, “It makes me sick. I can’t do it,” just think: Is the mother really thinking the opposite? Is she saying, “This makes me hungry! I suddenly am experiencing a wave of energy and joy. If only they’d poop more!”
If you don’t hear her complaining, it’s probably not because she enjoys it; most likely, she’s just keeping it quiet. I think women in general have better olfactory sensors, so diaper changes might be more revolting for them. (For a study on this, please ask any nearby mother.)
The theme here is that dads are becoming more hands-on, and any fence-sitters out there need to follow suit. But by hands-on, I do not mean being hands-on with the mother of the child. In fact, you should be especially aware that, though it might seem logical to you, mom probably isn’t too eager to be intimate right after birth. Just imagine someone asking you, after rolling down a rocky hillside and then getting mauled by a bear, to complete a triathlon. Does that sound like a good idea?
Mom has to be strong, and you have to be strong, even if you make mistakes along the way. She’s going through so much, and the work has just begun. Physical and emotional changes will be evident for some time, so don’t think she’s ignoring you; she has a tiny, vulnerable little baby to take care of – and so do you. You can take care of yourself by now, even if you can only make spaghetti and burn toast. Just be sure to burn some toast for mom, too.
July 27, 2010 by Scott Klepach
By Scott Klepach, Jr.
We desperately want our children to talk. We want them to speak the language appropriately, and speak it well. But at the same time, there is something charming about those fleeting moments when their own initial language is, somehow, grander than our own.
When we tried to teach our daughter, Elise, to say “blanket,” she uttered “bank-boo,” but just once. I fought the urge to pronounce it “bank-boo” after that because I wanted to hear her say it that way again.
Now she’s 3 years old, and only some of her language choices have stuck, but they have transformed the way the grownups around her speak. Goldfish crackers quickly became known as “ghee-goos,” and it was agreed that this was such a great substitution that my sister took up the habit, accidentally, when talking about the tasty snack at work.
It wasn’t long ago when my daughter uttered “Eh eh?” Inexplicable to outsiders, we learned this was her version of saying, “again?” — as in, “That was hilarious. I want you to do that again — and no, of course, 16 times in a row is not too many! We’re just warming up! Eh eh!”
Now my son, Liam, who just turned 1, keeps busy creating and honing his own language, and I’m not certain if we are wise to overlook his new articulations as merely amusing gobbledygook. “Buh-buh bup, gubbah bup!” he tells us matter-of-factly, with a concluding head nod on the last “bup,” as if to let us know he isn’t just making nonsensical noises. He wants to tell us something, and by the earnestness in his eyes, I truly want to know what it is.
Many people might dismiss this moment as a transition from first sounds to real communication, and an adorable one at that. That may be so. But what if my son really had something significant to offer? What if his vocalizations can offer something more vital, such as a creative yet practical solution to the Gulf oil spill crisis, or a way to lift us out of this economic recession? Can’t someone invent a translator for such purposes?
In all honesty, sometimes what children have to say is decidedly more interesting than what adults have to offer. Too often adults muster barely more than clichés, arguments laden with logical fallacies, and tired conversation starters (or conversation stoppers), like talking about the weather.
I will teach my children, but I also want to be teachable. We will make mistakes parenting, as we do in our own lives. We adults will continue to make errors while speaking and writing, so our children are not the only offenders. It’s just that the little ones’ mistakes are much more charming. I want to enjoy the magic while it lasts. We only have so much time to be with our children, and even less time to enjoy their exercises in language.
Who knows? Maybe some young child will coin a new word or phrase to inspire the next generation. Elise has already devised her own game and titled it “Alga-goody,” which requires the participants to be frogs and hop around saying the title word (Yes, I have done this.). And someday, I should encourage Elise to pitch her game idea to Parker Brothers, or go straight to NBC for the next greatest TV game show hit, “Alga-goody,” hosted by Howie Mandel. But that chance will come later.
After all, there’s only so much time that goldfish will be pronounced “ghee-goo” and blanket will be “bank-boo.”
And they may not always call me dada.
July 27, 2010 by Scott Klepach
By Scott Klepach, Jr.
It’s finally happened, and much sooner than I expected. My daughter wants to be a princess. I thought she’d have a few more years of love for just furry animals and Elmo, but now she wants to be a princess. And not only that, but she wants to marry a prince. Thankfully, so far she wants me to be her prince. But already I have experienced a flash-forward moment of how her teenage life will look. And I think I already have to start preparing.
It started with the usual suspects: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Belle. Lately her favorite is Tiana of “Princess and the Frog” fame, and I am her Prince Naveen. (My poor wife is left to fill the role of the hulking alligator, Louis, and our son is left to be Ray, the half-toothless firefly. “Hey,” I reassured my wife unsuccessfully, “at least the alligator knows how to play jazz.”)
Unfortunately, this means I have to fit the part whenever my daughter demands it — that is, most times of the day, including the most inopportune times such as when we are out grocery shopping or at an appointment.
This wouldn’t be so bad except I have to adopt a high-pitched, French-like accent, otherwise she will promptly and huffily let me know I am not doing a good enough job.
I have to weigh my options here; do I risk appearing like a creepy European type in public, or disappoint my daughter? One look at my daughter’s pleading eyes means I will be alienating others with my performance. On the bright side, I’ve found I can have more space around me in waiting room lobbies.
I don’t even mind so much that my daughter seems to get more excited to greet “Naveen” over her father. When she is pretending to be another princess, such as Sleeping Beauty, I can have the honor of dancing with her to our own tune of “Once Upon a Dream.”
But all this prince pretense is getting me a bit nervous. What happens when my daughter sees a boy and thinks he should be her prince? This day may come sooner than I expect, or am ready for. Two boys recently stood at our doorstep to sell cookie dough for a fundraiser, and my daughter boldly walked up to them and said, “Hi. I’m a girl.” Was she being a sassy flirt already?
I have had glimpses of hope, however, that she won’t be entirely pleased with princes or boys. One day when she was playing she spotted a plastic male toy who was filling in as the part of Phillip, Sleeping Beauty’s prince, and she looked repulsed. She said, firmly, “No, Phillip, you can’t come in.” When asked why not, she said, “Because Sleeping Beauty doesn’t want you here,” and proceeded to be perfectly content when he was well out of the playing area.
I’m afraid these moments won’t last long. I told her that someday boys will attempt to kiss her, and I taught her to reject them, but I have a feeling this resilience will last as long as I can stay away from a triple-shot Americano, or many shoppers can refrain from spending less than $300 at Costco.
And now that I have a son, I will get to see both worlds. He is already a flirt, and charms his mother, grandmothers and aunts. At this point, though, at the still (sometimes) innocent age of 10 months, he seems to prefer to make out only with kitchen appliances and windows. He’s had his eye — and perpetually slobbery mouth — on the refrigerator for some time now. He also puts his mouth on the window and offers a look of wonderment, as if the object is alluring and perplexing to him in some exotic way.
But now he’s come to terms with his species: he is the male counterpart of being a human being. My wife caught him with the back of a Martha Stewart Living magazine pressed firmly against his lips. When she took it away, she discovered he had been enjoying several moments of kissing with a picture of a makeup model. Time moves on. Sorry, refrigerator. As enticing as you are, you have serious competition now.
Years from now I will be competing for my children’s time, especially when it’s time for them to date. I know I have to start preparing, even mentally, and I have already come up with a plan in my daughter’s case. Many prospective boyfriends will certainly turn around and run home when a man with a certain high-pitched, French-like accent greets them at the door.
Scott Klepach Jr. is not really a prince. In addition to being a husband, father, writer and English instructor, he keeps busy making voices on demand and washing the refrigerator door.
By Scott Klepach Jr.
I’m not sure how I feel about texting. I haven’t taken up the practice, but I’m not convinced it will be the death of all language and communication.
Maybe this drastic shift is what is supposed to happen in 2012? Some say language will forever be changed, with a shrinking globe and an expanded texting plan. This whole trend may turn into “The Great Bowel Shift” because the prospect of such change causes some adults to quiver and experience stomach-upset. Even though I refrain from texting, I can’t say I am immune to its alluring properties, and one in particular: coded language.
As a parent, I have become a verbal texter, and my wife and I have either spelled out or abbreviated many things so as not to excite, sadden or disappoint our daughter in case we do not have those items in stock. This verbal texting is almost exclusively used for food.
I ask my wife, “Do we have any more SBs?” My daughter had been asking for strawberries earlier, but I didn’t want to risk saying the word without getting her hopes up unnecessarily.
“I need to head to the store to get Bs, Cs and M-I-L-K.” That’s bananas, cookies, and, well, you’re following along.
I used to spell out bananas, but shortened it to “B” only because if my synapses weren’t firing correctly I might forget how many “n-a” combinations I’ve provided, and feel like my mind has taken a tumble on a slip and slide.
“B-A-N-A-N-A.” I turn to my wife and ask, “Is that how you spell it?” It’s not that I don’t know how to spell banana, but reciting the letters makes it sound incomplete. Is that all there is to it? When you say it aloud, it seems like there should be one or two more pairs of letters there. “B-A-N-A-N-A-N-A-S” sounds much more satisfying, something akin to Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture” with all the right concluding notes.
Speaking of eggs, I don’t have to spell out that one, since my daughter hates them. But I do have to be careful with milk. If stated too quickly, M-I-L-K sounds a lot like the word itself. Try it. The same thing goes for oranges. O-R-A-N-G-E. My daughter has caught me with that one before, but we were all out. Not wanting to risk that situation again, I revised my reference to, simply, “O.”
So it is that our pantry features, at some time or another, PTs (pop tarts), FBs (fruit bars), and SB and J (Sun Butter and Jelly, since my daughter is allergic to peanuts — which, on a positive note, means we don’t have to use “P” for peanut, but can reserve that letter for pears. If my daughter has a craving for the vegetable with the same sound, then we’ll face another quandary). Our freezer houses PSs (popsicles), and our refrigerator might consist of Ts (tomatoes) and the aforementioned SBs and other F-R-U-I-T.
But it’s not always this simple. She might be playing in the other room, and I am as silent as can be as I peel the last available orange, carefully remove each slice, and take my first bite. I am stealthy. But then there’s thumping. She knows. Somehow, she has detected I am up to something, and it’s something she wants. Now. The orange is hidden on the counter, well out of her line of vision, and I am holding the orange slice still in my mouth. I keep my lips closed and try to look natural. But she spots me, and without any hesitation, her smile vanishes and her brow furrows.
She says, “Sat.” (Translation: What’s that?) Her voice is low and measured. “Sat!?” Louder now, and she heads toward me, picking up the pace with thumping steps. “Sat? SAT!???” My cover is blown, and, ashamed, I am forced to confess my actions and relinquish the orange. No verbal texting will save me here.
I understand I am hiding information, even if only temporarily, from my daughter. But I don’t think our codes will reduce her ability to learn and describe objects, either. One afternoon, as she was sitting in her car seat in the Pacifica as we pulled out of the driveway, my daughter gazed at the spotted clouds and said, “Look, Mama. Polka dot clouds!” “Oh, you’re right,” my wife said, “Those are polka dot clouds!” My daughter continued with slow, calculated words: “Yeah, I’ve eaten those before.” My wife asked her what they tasted like, and she responded, “Like big, fluffy pillows.”
That account reveals an important truth: My verbal texting, up to this point, has not impeded my daughter from providing better poetic descriptions than I can muster after much deliberation. But someday, very shortly indeed, these codes will go away. My only hope is that the experience of sharing food with each other is not going to be short-changed, as some argue texting has or will do to language.
After all, we live to eat, and eat diligently so we can hurry up and get to the next meal. But I’ll suck it up because, as we all know, there’s no use crying over spilled M-I-L-K.