Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Short Post About the First Day of School

I want to raise independent kids. I want my kids to hold on to me when they need my hand, but I also want them to know that when the time comes, I expect them to let go, take a long look at the incredible world around them, and march forward, strong and self-contained, boldly taking on the adventure of life.

I just didn't expect it to happen to my girl before her third birthday.

On the first day of school, my wife, my daughter, and I navigated our way through groups of clinging toddlers and their parents. It was understandable. It was touching. It was normal. It was hard for the kids to see their parents abandon them at this unfamiliar location, and it was hard for the parents to overcome the guilt of abandonment.

And we weren't immune to that guilt. She was a baby! She needed us! Were we making a terrible mistake? Was it too soon? Was she going to be traumatized?

I looked at my wife and she looked at me. "We can still turn back," we told each other without saying a word. All we needed was a hint of desperation from our daughter, and we would have been back in the car in less than 60 seconds.

Our daughter, though, wasn't standing next to us. She wasn't holding on to (or hiding behind) our legs. She was moving from one table to another, from one teacher's lap to another. She was building Lego towers and pushing them down, singing songs, skipping, and introducing herself. When we said goodbye, she said, "Bye," without even lifting her head.

I want to raise independent kids, don’t get me wrong, and I want them to let go when they're ready to let go, but the thing is--I'm not sure I'm ready to let go just yet...

First Day of School

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Short Story About Setting an Example, and About a Joke That Went Nowhere

My 5-year-old got a shot, and he acted like it was the worst thing that could have happened to a human being. Considering any event a teachable moment, I tried to show him I was brave, and took him and his sister to Rite Aid, so they could see me get a flu shot with a smile.

When I reached the pharmacy, I was told the whole neighborhood was out. No Rite Aid, no CVS, and not even a doctor's office. There were no flu shots in North West Baltimore.

So the next day I went with my kids to a Rite Aid in Owings Mills, which is about 30 minutes drive from Baltimore.

The pharmacist at this branch greeted me by the door, and when I proudly told her I was there to get a flu shot, she told me the whole city was out.

"The whole city???"

"Actually, the suppliers are out."

Now, I've watched 24 on Netflix almost every night for a year, and knew exactly what it meant when the suppliers were out of a vaccine: terrorists were attacking us with a dirty bomb. And you know how you sometimes think about whether or not you should say something, and then the voice of reason wins and you end up just walking away? Well, my voice of reason always loses.

"You know," I said, "if this were an episode of 24, my nose would have started bleeding now, and then you'd see a clock!"

"Oh, is that so."

jack bauer

Friday, February 22, 2013

Review of Little Pim: Foreign Language Learning for Kids

Little Pim Review

My mom was born in France, which makes me French, which makes my kids French. Unfortunately, I don't speak French and neither do my kids. I was born in Israel, and now I live in Baltimore, so saying I'm French is more of an interesting thing to say in cocktail parties I imagine myself to be invited to, rather than something that affects my life. Still, I regret never learning to speak French. I regret not being able to read books in the original language, or watch movies without reading subtitles.

I don't blame my mom--I was a stubborn kid who didn't know what was good for him. I still don't. But I decided to make sure my American-born kids spoke Hebrew. It's been working well so far, with the older one speaking Hebrew almost fluently, and the 2-year-old at least understands everything I say, but I can't immerse them with French like I did with Hebrew, since I can't speak French.

What I can do, though, is give them a start.

Little Pim is a well-known company any parent who wants his kids to learn another language is familiar with. They have DVDs, apps (so far, for iPhone, iPad, and LeapFrog's LeapPad), books, toys, CDs, and flash cards in many languages (Spanish, French, Russian, English ESL, Arabic, and more), including a really cool-looking gift set which includes many items in a Little Pim backpack.

I got a free French DVD to review (you can read some very positive reviews on Amazon), and it definitely lives up to the hype. It's repetitive enough for kids to memorize words, but not too much to make it annoying for the kids or for the parents. It's cute, and more importantly, it works. Before you know it, you'll be using words from the DVD with your kids.

I haven't tried the other stuff they offer, but I assume that when you move from DVDs to DVDs + CDs, flash cards, and books, you also make the move from giving your kids a start with a new language, to giving them something close to immersing them in the language. I can't move to France with my family, but what Little Pim offers is a second best thing.

And finally, here's a little quote from Little Pim's about page, because there's actually a real method behind the cute:

The Entertainment Immersion Method® integrates the latest scientific research regarding kids’ language learning and brain development. Pimsleur Levine developed the series with leading neuroscientist Dr. April Benasich, director of the Rutgers Infancy Studies Lab.

Each of our educational DVDs has a unique, child-friendly theme, such as eating, playtime and feelings. The method teaches 360 words and phrases, providing the essential building blocks for language learning. A child only needs 500 words to be considered “conversational” in a language. Babies, toddlers and kids respond enthusiastically to Little Pim’s format, which combines animated and live-action videos.

At Little Pim, we understand how children learn, so our videos are segmented into 5-minute episodes to accommodate a young child’s attention span. Simple sentences are broken down into easy-to-understand parts and reinforced through repetition by native speakers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why I Love Maryland: #MDBloggers Meeting With Governor O'Malley

I love Maryland. Sure, the weather isn't perfect, and I-495 makes me cry, but Maryland just makes sense to me. It's a state where we concentrate on solutions rather than on laying blame. And it's a state that always pushes forward, rather than following polls or interest groups' ideologies. We pushed for marriage equality before other states did (before it was cool), and our investments in education have made Maryland the number one state in the nation for the past 5 years. Over here, we admit that taxes help pay for the things we need, that immigrants should be seen as potential contributors rather than as a drain on the economy. Over here, we are not afraid to make some tough calls for the future beyond the next two election cycles.

And we are now one of the states leading the push to curb gun violence with an approach that deals not simply with illegal gun purchases, but with limiting magazine sizes, banning assault rifles, and with enhancing life-opportunities for potential offenders. If there's one thing I've learned as a parent, it's that every battle I refuse to engage in with my kids, will inevitably be fought at a future date . In Maryland, we solve problems as they arise, because our kids will have their own battles to fight. There's a gun violence problem in this country. In Maryland, we are determined to fight and win this battle.

gun violence rally

I was invited, along with a few other mom and dad bloggers from Maryland, to attend a meeting with Governor O'Malley last week. The meeting started with the Governor showing us the site listing the goals the state aims to achieve. I've seen this site before, since my wife used to work for the Governor as the Director of StateStat, the office responsible for tracking data from other state offices, and making sure the state is on the right track to achieve these goals. I hope you find some time to click on the site and look around, and see the way a local government does its best to be accountable for its actions and for its spending.

The Governor also laid out other parts of his future agenda for Maryland, including job creation, continued investment in education, environment, school safety, repealing capital punishment, and more. Then we had a chance to ask questions. Some of the bloggers asked great questions about school lunches and specifically about farm-to-school programs, as well as questions about state-provided paid paternity/maternity leave. We were promised follow-up emails on these and and on other issues.

Like I said, I'm a Liberal and my wife used to work for the Governor, so I was an easy sell. Still, other bloggers there, who may have come from the other side of politics, also appreciated the opportunity to communicate with the Governor in an informal way, during what may become a recurring event.

The short meeting ended with Brent from Designer Daddy thanking the Governor for his early support for marriage equality. He then announced his engagement.

And now you know why I love Maryland.

Meeting with the Governor

Meeting with the Governor 2

Meeting with the Governor 3

Meeting with the Governor 4

Meeting with the Governor 5

Meeting with the Governor 6

Photos were taken by Tom Nappi, courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why You Should Sign the Amazon Mom Petition

I've mentioned Amazon Mom many times before on this blog. At first, I got angry, then I realized there were no alternatives, so I decided to accept the fact that Amazon's parenting program ignored dads, and then I commended Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) for donating to Washington State's pro-marriage-equality campaign, and decided to let Amazon continue its misguided marketing strategy of equating moms with parenting, and dads with secondary caregivers. I just didn't have the energy to fight them anymore. I love Amazon. I love my Kindle. I hate to love Amazon, but love is blind.

Amazon is doing a great job pulling me back into this fight, though. First there was this email (which I received after specifically indicating I was a dad when signing up for Amazon Mom).

Amazon Mom email

I thought it was funny, because it was too dumb to be offensive. Who listens to an audio book during yoga?

Now, if you email Amazon to complain about the Amazon Mom name, you get this too cute response cut & pasted directly from their FAQ page:

Despite the name, you don't need to be a mom to join. Amazon Mom is open to anyone expecting a baby or caring for a baby or young child, whether you're a mom, dad, grandparent, or caretaker. We just thought "Amazon Primary Caretaker" didn’t have the same ring to it.

Ha, ha, ha. Here's another email I got:

Amazon Mom 2

Again with the yoga class. Only now I'm all toned up just in time for onesie-folding.

Which is all, well, whatever. I don't care. It was a pretty shitty program anyway, and both kids are potty-trained, so I don't need their 5% discount anymore. And if Amazon's best alternative to "Amazon Mom" is "Amazon Primary Caregiver," then I guess that's where this is going to end. I don't see what other name they can give this program, and neither can they.

Well, actually they do have a better name. They can call it "Amazon Family." And the best thing about it? I don't have to suggest that name to Amazon, since they're very much aware of that name. In fact, in England, where Amazon operates under, the name of the parenting program is not "Amazon Mom," and it's not "Amazon Primary Caretaker."

Amazon Family

In a way, it's meaningless. Who cares about the name Amazon uses for its parenting program. On the other hand, what does it say about us? Why did Amazon bother changing the name of its parenting program when the program started in the UK? What made them realize they couldn't get away with calling it "Amazon Mom," and why do they get away with it here? Someone actually started a petition to change the name to Amazon Family in the US, and so far it has less than 100 signatures. Why is that? Why are we OK with letting England be more progressive than we are here when it comes to fatherhood? They have a queen! They are ruled by a freakin' queen! We can do better than that!

Please sign that petition. Please. It's not about a name and it's not about me personally being offended and it's not about stupid emails about yoga classes. It's about a company that looks at the US, then looks at England, and then decides that over there, parent equals mom or dad, while here, well, we're not ready for that yet.

Amazon Mom Petition

Update: This post has now been republished on The Good Men Project: Amazon’s Parenting Program: Where Are the Dads?

2nd Update: More about Amazon Mom can be found in this interview with me (alongside other bloggers) on RetailMeNot

Monday, February 11, 2013

Leash Life

When I was 5, my mom bought me a soccer ball. I used to go outside to the small soccer field and kick the ball from one side of the field to the other. Then I met some other kids, and we started making up teams. My parents could watch us from the living room window, but they didn't do that often. Later, when I started going to school, I never came home after school. When school was over, we'd put our schoolbags by the goal posts, and play soccer until it got too dark to see the ball.

Which is why this thread (from 4chan, I believe), got my attention.

The story, to sum up, is that a guy let his 9-year-old kid play outside unsupervised. At first, one mom shows up at the guy's door to see what the problem is. Then, when she's told there's no problem, she comes back with a posse of other moms. They're holding the kid and refuse to let him go back into the house, because he obviously suffers from neglect. The father then calls the police, and the moms get arrested.

I wouldn't trust too much of the stuff that comes from 4chan, but whether it's real or not, I think we can agree it isn't that far-fetched.

I feel my kids are too young to be outside without supervision, but what happens when they're nine? I'd like to think I'll act like the 4chan dad, but maybe I'll be afraid? Maybe I'm anti-leash, pro-independence only in theory? Maybe I'll be the one complaining about unsupervised kids and neglectful parents? And what about my girl? If I let my boy play outside by himself, do I do the same with his sister? Or do I follow the current universal thinking: that safe space to wander exists only for males?

4chan leash life
Large image here

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Lick the Fridge

People don't have time to read. Me included. We find a moment to like a picture on Facebook, read a couple of Tweets, and scan some headlines on Huffington Post. If we have a lot of free time, we'll even leave a comment and quickly move on without waiting for a reply.


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