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Time to Cut the Cord

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Friends don't let friends drink and text mom.


The other day I was in the library checking to see if those bums in the acquisitions department made good on their promise to buy my book for the collection. [Insert shameless link here

The G-Bomb


Oh, a genius you say? Well, that's different.


Fall is a most anxious time for parents of school age children. It is the season of "first contact," when parents and schools make their formal introductions. 

Often this takes the form of a back-to-school night, where enthusiastic administrators describe to the parents the school's pedagogical mission, and tell them about the great things they can expect to see from their children by the end of the year. …

Little Johnny's "Real" Report Card

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What's a nice way of saying "illiterate sociopath"?


 All children have different learning styles. Some are "visual" learners, some are "auditory" learners. I found that Johnny, like most lazy children from bad homes, responds best to a spray bottle filled with bleach.


Boys in Pigtails, Parents on Mars

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Surprise! People have hang ups about boys in pink dresses.


Amy Chua is yesterday's news. Fortunately, the controversial-parent vacuum has been filled--by Canadians, no less! Toronto couple Kathy Witterick and David Stocker are making headlines

Bad Parent Sunday

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Cheap thrills on the Upper East Side


New York is the greatest city in the world. Don't bother writing in, this is not up for debate. For one glorious year my wife and I lived at 65th and York on the Upper East Side. 

But New York is an expensive place to live, and when you figure in the cost of a sitter, we didn't have a lot to spend on entertainment. …

Black Heart, Better Parent

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This hurts me more than it hurts...wait, no, this is actually pretty damn funny!


A few years ago on a blustery winter day my wife and I took our three-year-old to the beach. He was furiously beating back the tide with a stick and we adults (the two of us and a close friend) had assumed the customary pose--hands wrapped around hot double lattes, shoulders scrunched inside fleece jackets, trying to hide from from the evil, spitting rain. …

Camp Small Hands

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Where Tiny Fingers Make the Tightest Knots



School will be out soon. The kids will need something to do. It's time to think about summer camp. I do not harbor romantic notions of unstructured summer vacations where kids just get to be kids, running wild around the cul-de-sac like a bunch of Kool-Aid fueled savages. …

Auction Fever!


Some items that did not make it into the "official" auction handbook


Dear Parents, 

As you know, Lantry Country Day's Annual Fundraising Auction is just a week away and I want to pass on some last-minute information from the auction committee. …

Can a Playground Be Too Safe?

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Just when you thought the jungle gym was a deathtrap...


For a few years now, anti-minivan hipster parent-bloggers have been trying to make "bad parenting" cool. Psychologist Lori Gottlieb just published a big article in The Atlantic

Two Reasons Not to Like Halloween

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Some people are always trying to kill the fun.


There are many reasons not to like Halloween. The top two? Pirates and trick-or-treating. 

I don't know why so many adults insist on dressing up as pirates for Halloween. I don't care for pirates--not even slutty lady-pirates--because with pirates comes pirate talk. …

The Man Cake

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Tarzan cook, Jane eat.


Last week, the New York Times ran the op-ed debate "How Can We Get Men to Do More At Home?"  The premise was that workplaces are becoming more gender equal, except for women who have children. Women still do the majority of child-rearing and housework; this added burden leads many to cut back, and thus lose ground, at work. …

¡Fall Carnival!

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Smokes, Tattoos and Four-on-the Floor

Dear Lantry Country Day Parents,

It's that time of year again! Last year's Carnival was a wonderful success, the weather was beautiful, the children had a great time, and none of the staff showed up too drunk. The only disappointment is that we raised just $524,ooo. If we are going to go forward with our plans to buy Guyana before Hugo Chavez moves in, we need to raise at least $750,ooo at this year's carnival. So to get you as excited about Carnival as I am, I thought I'd give you an update about this year's festivities. 

For those of you who haven't heard, we are going to do things a little differently this time. In keeping with this year's school-wide theme "White-but-not-Uptight" we've elected to have Lucille Burns and her husband Junior chair the 2010 Carnival. Those of you who know their children, Kiki and Little Junior, already know we're in for a wild time! 

We are of course going to keep the familiar Lantry traditions alive. There will be the old favorites: face painting, lollypop wheel, bake sale, toy raffle and dunk tank (or as some like to call it the "drunk tank"--those crazy 5th graders!) And we still need volunteers to staff all of these activities. Personally, for a few minutes away from my kids and the chance to sit next to Ms. M I'd facepaint Junior's pitbulls!

But Lucille has also organized some new events that are sure to please:

Tatoo Booth. Sure the kids love face painting, but it never lasts more than two or three days, depending on how long they go between baths. To give the kids a chance to walk away with more permanant memories of Carnival, Lucille is bringing in the artists from Sterile Ray's Tatoos and Piercing on 1st Ave. Does your Kindergardener fancy the school crest on his arm? Your 3rd grader the logo of her favorite band on her shoulder? Is your 7th grader having a baby (hello Jones family!) and you want to commemorate the special event with baby's name in fancy script on your knuckles? Well here's your chance--and all for a good cause. Sure beats your kid getting a schoolyard tat' from a 5th grader with a Bic Rollerball. Ray's artists are guaranteed sober, steady and good spellers. 

Special for Dads: rumor has it that Ms. K is going to get inked with the Hindi words "tantric party." $10 will get you a spot in the "where" pool. 

And for all you gearheads out there hold on to your seats! Head of School Michael "Nitro Mike" Trunchbull has thrown down the gauntlet. He and his '08 M5 will go head-to-head with Junior's '71 Hemi 'Cuda. Straight down Smith St. Three blocks of  balls-to-the-wall wheel-smokin' action! Can he do it? 

And finally, the adult raffle. Lots of great prizes for you to win. Donators include Hot Dolly's Pet Shop, Pete's Massage Parlor and Peachville Dentures. But the big prize will be the "Let's Get Our Lantry On" package: Our own resident stillmeister (yes, you know who) is back in business after a brief scare from the ATF and will be donating two bottles each of his Wenatchee Valley Apple Harvest Hot Sauce and Pacific Co-op Organic Cornmeal White Dog. Might make you stupid, but it won't make you blind. He will be teaming up with Skammamish Tribal Fireworks and Smokeshop which will be donating 6 cartons (1200 cigarettes!) of Merit Ultras and a gross of Black Cat bottle rocket handi-packs. Get your tickets in early!  

Like I said, this is a big year for us and there are still a lot of spots to fill in the volunteer roster. And we are still looking for a flag girl for the big race. Now that Penelope Sutherland is out of action from her tennis accident (mimosas after the match next time--just a suggestion) here's your chance to step up and show us how you wave it around (the flag that is). OK Lantry community, we are counting on you. Let's make 2010 the biggest year ever! 

Thanks for your support,
Paul Rasmussen (room parent, Ms. M's third grade)


Over-Rethinkning Mother Goose

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Dude, that's some heavy stuff.


I love Mother Goose. She's dark.

A lot of of those rhymes go back centuries and deal with some nasty subjects. "Ring Around the Rosy," as you might know, is really about the Black Plague. The "ring" line refers to the nasty red rash that's the first sign of illness. …

Cathouses, Cough Syrup and NPR


Excuse me Ernie, I didn't quite catch that


TV and computers are like cough medicine: they do a great job keeping your kids quiet, you just don't want other people, especially their teachers, to know how much you give them. You don't want to undo all the hard work you've put into maintaing the facade of a conscientious parent. 

Charlie Sheen's Commencement Address

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Why Charlie Sheen? Because Keith Richards mumbles.


Dear Parents,     

It's that time of year again! That's right, graduation. Across the country kids are celebrating academic milestones of all kinds as they move from high school to college, college to mom's basement, preschool to kindergarten, juvie to state, elementary to middle school. …

Monkey Bars in the State of Nature

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Bullies, Thomas Hobbes and a $10 Bet


I found this cool painting of my main man, Thomas Hobbes, and I bet the editorial board five bucks I could turn it into an article about, oh, say, bullying that people would stick with to the end. …

The Poetry of Parenting

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...can be shocking.


Parenting is an emotional business. Poetry is the literary perambulator of emotion. It's no surprise, therefore, that many who write about parenting cannot resist the temptation to adorn their writing with poetic flourishes designed to elicit the reader's most powerful sentiments about the "special bond" between parent and child.

We've Got Mail!

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It's always fun to find out what's on the minds of the crackpots.


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It's been an exciting few months here at AAD. Thanks to readers like you, AAD has been zipping around the internet like a copy of Self magazine through Cell Block D. …

Auction Madness


Some items that did not make it into the "official" auction handbook


Dear Parents, 

As you know, Lantry Country Day's Annual Fundraising Auction is just a week away and I want to pass on some last-minute information from the auction committee. …

Over-Rethinking Perfume


And you thought it was just a smokin' hot scent...

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The intellectual vitality of Western Civilization depends upon the courage of individuals willing to stand up and challenge the popular moral, political and social assumptions of their era. …

Outsider's Guide to Disney World

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Some observations that you might find useful on your next trip to Disney World:

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1) In the Biergarten in Epcot's Germany, go ahead, let caution into the wind and dance a polka with your 5 year old. Trust me, the German kid in Lederhosen who brought you your Öskar Mäyer and sauerkraut is in no position to laugh. 


The Mouse and the Lark


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I had lived in fear of Disney since I became a parent. But grandmothers have a way of making offers you can't refuse. It turns out I had a great time. 

I went expecting the worst: crowds, noise, debilitating Florida humidity and continual skirmishes against the evil forces unleashed when an over-stimulated, under-fed child is told the wait for Splash Mountain is about an hour. …

Bob and Betty

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Lawyers, Duct Tape and Gender Reassignment Therapy


This article was originally published on the daddyshome.org website. They were kind enough to feature me as their guest blogger of the week. They have impeccable taste. 


Stay-at-home dads have a problem. …

Wanna Be on TV?


I can get you on TV. Really, I have connections.

AAD is now read by people in at least three non-adjacent zip codes, in different states, at least one of which I'm pretty sure contains no family or friends. I am, in other words, a nationally recognized online personality. …

Paging Dr. Johnnie Walker...

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The best (true) doctor/patient story I ever heard:



The year is about 1970 and a first-time mother takes her baby to the pediatrician for a regular checkup. She is particularly worried about the child's teething pains and asks his advice. …

The Holy Grail is not a Sippy Cup

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Show me the Sangreal...and I'll show you just one more mess you'll have to clean up


In case you might have missed the memo, people love to tell others what to do. It's one of the best things about being a parent. But some people aren't satisfied with just ordering their kids around. …

I'm Not the Reason for the Season

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What the @#%! is a zhu-zhu pet?!



Christmas has a remarkable effect on the psyche: people who are otherwise very shallow and unreflective are inspired to talk about meaning in their lives. Even non-Christians get caught up in the act--which is why we go around wishing each other a somewhat awkward and stilted "Happy Holidays." …

High Roller Special

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When my man Alex H. does the talking, people listen...or shoot him in Weehawken.


I have been receiving a lot of mail here at AAD and will periodically share some of it with you. I thought I would start with a question that is especially relevant to the holiday season. …

BugaBooBoo

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Eight awful childhood injuries and deaths Parents Magazine didn't warn you about!

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Dear Parents, 

Our children's safety is of course our number one concern. None of us wants to look foolish in the ER. So here's an article I came across in

Have a Carrot

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Lucidity and the Low Shelf of the Bookcase


I like words. I like sentences, essays and books. I like reading and writing, which turned out to be quite handy in graduate school. I still like writing and find it a good way to spend my free hours. And I still like reading, which is a good way to spend my un-free hours with my kids. Obviously the focus of my reading and writing has changed. Instead of brilliantly insightful essays on Locke's Second Treatise of Government, I write offhandedly witty parodies of PTA meetings. And Plato and Parmenides have been replaced by Sendak and Seuss. 

When I think about this change I often let out a hollow gasp, "Good God! what has become of me?! What circle of intellectual hell have I sunk to?"

 

I miss the seriousness, the intellectual rigor of academia. 

I miss living among the big questions: Is the virtue of a great man the same as that of a great citizen? If there is a god, exactly how screwed are the Democrats? 

At times like these I long to be back in the library leafing through the academic journals like some self-satisfied debutante looking for her picture in Town and Country. But because it's nap time and I can't leave the house, I do the next best thing, troll the internet for free access to academic databases. 
Then 
I come across something like this:  

"In the speculative, exploratory endeavor that follows, I foreground the most important manifestation of the imbrication of technological advance and the capacity for emotive expression, and attempt to establish a coherent theory of assemblage and affect."

 

 

?!??!! To be fair, this is just one sentence, taken completely out of context, from the beginning of a carefully constructed argument. In defense of her work, the author would say that once you get to the end everything becomes clear and makes perfect sense. And she would be right; truly, the bibliography is extremely lucid and well-typed.

Cross my heart--this was written by a real professor, from a real university, in a peer-reviewed journal.
 
The best part? It's from a lecture sponsored by the Department of Comparative Literature (the tarted-up name for the English department) at the University of Pennsylvania. Yup, the ivy league one. Yup, the English department. Yup, the same English you and I speak. No doubt the professor was a gifted child. 

All academics, me included, have their linguistic vices. Bad ones. The combination of impressive-sounding jargon and sympathetic colleagues is too much to resist. But the offenses committed by
 
 English professors seem to be the most egregious. You would think that all that exposure to great English prose would encourage them to write intelligibly. But you would be wrong. 
 
S
ome of my best friends are English professors who write very well; the ones teaching your children probably aren't. My bet is they outsource their writing to 
 
a dyslexic Indian, who starts the essay in Hindi, translates it into French, then Ancient Greek, maybe Fortran, back into French, and finally into English. If
 
Professor Speculative Exploratory Endeavor (her friends in the Central American Studies department call her "Essay") were my son or daughter's professor,
I'd ask for a tuition discount.  

Reading stuff like this leaves me nauseated and a little itchy. I take a deep breath, put away the internet, go wake the kids up from their nap, and then start searching for something to reassure me that our language has not been damaged beyond repair, that words and coherent ideas are still on speaking terms. I go to the low shelf in the bookcase.
 
There's no ugly "theorizing narratology" rash that can't be soothed with a little Runaway Bunny

The best children's books (-please write in with your favorites-) are true marvels of the English language. The writing is so finely honed that nothing can be added or taken away. They flow with a rhythm and harmony that has the power to pull you off the ledge, again and again and again! again! again! A little Fox in Socks on autopilot will realign your neurons quicker than the new meditation app on your iPhone.

Even more impressive is how the best authors can take the most tired cliches and commonplace literary formulas and create something entirely fresh and beautiful. From page one we all know the the damn bunny isn't really going to run away from home. (Never too early to talk to your kids about hawks.) But when he takes the carrot his mom offers, doesn't it feel like the earth tilts a few degrees closer to the sun? 

And let's not overlook the clarity with which the best books render the emotional complexity of existence. Even a stupid three-year-old gets it when Virginia Lee Burton tells us how
 
along came the new gasoline shovels and the new electric shovels and the new Diesel motor shovels and took all the jobs away from the steam shovels, and this made Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne very, VERY SAD.

The illustrations are absolutely essential. Mary Anne without a face is just another tired old steam shovel. And Where the Wild Things Are on audio book is about as satisfying as fat-free mayo on an unsalted cracker. Ultimately, however
 
, it is the language that gives the book life. Even the best illustrations cannot compensate for bad text. Botticelli descended from heaven on a shimmering silver cloud carried by rosy-cheeked putti could not redeem the "cacophony of informational flows" coming from the pages of the Journal for the American Society of Critical Narratological Theory.  
************* 
BONUS FEATURE!

Burton Memorial Lecture Series

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Toot, Toot Goes Mary Anne: Theorizing Voice, Narrative and Post-Industrial Loss in Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton


What follows is an annotated excerpt from the talk given by Professor Betty Wilkins, Asistant Professor of Narratological Studies at the University of [name withheld upon request]. 

 In the speculative, exploratory endeavor that follows, I foreground the most important manifestation of the imbrication of technological advance and the capacity for emotive expression, and attempt to establish a coherent theory of assemblage and affect. So it is with this in mind that I will take up Virginia Lee Burton's classic Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale, and will try to describe ways in which a positive approach to the voice (or voiceless voice) of the steam shovel Mary Anne refocuses the reader's attention to the period's uneven, quotidian efforts to improvise with work, labor, and social narration in a post-steam power industrial world. 

[This essay talks about Mary Anne, who has a remarkably expressive face for a shovel, and needs a job, because along came the new gasoline shovels and the new electric shovels and the new Diesel motor shovels and took all the jobs away from the steam shovels--which made Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne very VERY SAD.]   

With its emphases on bodies, emotions, pleasures, tactility, rhythms, steam, textures,  pain, sensation, and economic punishment, the work's necrotechnological present-future narrative deems it imperative to rearticulate the metatheories of "realpolitiks" of and around steam power  and the second-use, post-imperialist expansion, possibilities open to steam shovels that retained the work-capital functionality and input-output economic potentialities of generalized man-as-labor paradigmatic earth-versus-progress manifestations. 

[The professor means steam shovels that could still dig as much in a day as a hundred men could dig in a week.] 

Hard times require even harder modalities of thought, analysis, creativity, and expression in order to elaborate on what to do about the intersection of Mike Mulligan's economic incentive, the work-as-constraint rubric, and the undeniable absolutism of gravity and friction. 

[Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne had dug so fast and dug so well, that they had quite forgotten to leave a way out! Henry B. Swap wasn't going to pay Mike, but then the little boy suggested why not leave Mary Anne in the cellar and let her be the furnace for the new town hall and let Mike Mulligan be the janitor!]  

In conclusion, I want to posit a narrative argument that delineates a focus on steam shovel as assemblage enables attention to ontology in tandem with epistemology, affect in conjunction with representational economies, within which bodies, such as the human Mike Mulligan and the mechanical Mary Anne, interpenetrate [a few muted giggles run through the audience, followed by a sharp glance from the podium], swirl together, and transmit affects to each other. Through affect and ontology, the not-necessarily-outmoded Mary Anne in particular, I argue, as a new-furnace assemblage, is reshaping the terrain of the post-steam mechanical-digger diaspora. 

[The little boy's solution seems to work pretty well. Even Henry B. Swap smiles in a way that isn't mean at all!]


Great Moments in Father-Son History

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Abraham and Isaac


Isaac: Hey Dad, remember the time you were going to kill me to prove your faith in The Lord our God, and He stopped you by, like, doing that Star-Trek teleporting thing and gave you a ram to sacrifice at the last minute?

Stickin' it to the Man

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Being Master of the Universe has its drawbacks


I am a stay-at-home dad. I have assumed in our family the role traditionally held by mothers. And I'm not that bad at it. It suits me. So, I can say with confidence that I don't buy into the conventional assumption that fathers are better providers and mothers better caregivers. …


Copyright 2013 Paul J. Rasmussen