Ask Your Dad Blog

Friday, April 8, 2016

5 Parental Super Powers I Didn't Ask For



It wasn't supposed to be like this. I was supposed to get hit by gamma rays or get bitten by a radioactive spider. As a kid I dreamed of waking up some day and suddenly being able to lift heavy objects with my mind or shoot laser beams out of my eyes. Not this. Not these powers... Who wants the "super" ability to smell their child's unique poop odor from across the room? 

"Nobody panic! That poo smell belongs to my kid. My unique parenting power tells me that this is a class 4 blowout. Don't worry. I can handle this!" 

Possible Super Hero name: The Sniffer

See what I mean? What am I supposed to do with that crappy (pun intended) super power? Sigh… here are four other super lame super powers that being a parent has given me... none of which, by the way, are flying – double grrr.

Super Power: Parental Precognition

It's kind of like Spidey-Sense, but it only works on my kids. I know just before something horrible is about to happen – usually because my kid says something like "Look dad!" or "Oooh! Gum!" or "Uh oh!" or things just get really, really quiet. Unfortunately, knowing something is about to happen and being able to prevent it are two very different things. Most of the time I have just enough parental precognition to say the beginnings of various words in succession. "Wai! NO! STO… ugh." Then it is too late and I say other, complete words quietly under my breath.

Possible Super Hero Name: The Dammit Whisperer

Super Power: Super Distraction

This isn't so much a super power as it is a super skill. For some reason I thought that when I had kids I would just explain to them, in very simple and kid friendly terms, why they should do something, and since they were my kids they would understand and do it. 

I was dumb. 

I quickly realized that 90% of getting kids to do what you want is tricking them by gently distracting them in the right direction. I would compare it to herding cattle since that is a completely accurate comparison, but people might get angry if I compare my kids to cattle. So I won't. See what I did there? Distraction.

I don't say "Want to go to bed?" I say, “Let's go read a book in bed.” I don't say, "Do you want to stop watching that ridiculous show that makes me want to stab my eyes out?" I say "Oh look! Your toy room is clean for once. Quick. Fix that!" By the way, the toy room is a perfect example of my wife's distraction skills too. It used to be my office, until she distracted me.

Possible Super Hero Name: Mr. Ooh Look Something Shiny

Super Power: Sleep Functioning

Any shlub with a predisposition for sleep disorders can sleep walk. I can work an eight hour day, go home, cook dinner, and only suffer minor second-degree burns on occasion - all while half asleep. I figure that if I am half asleep all of the time, I don't have to be full asleep half of the time. Trust me, it makes sense when you haven't slept for seven months.

Sure, I'm a zombie. Sure, I nod off while reading stories to my kids. And maybe I do lie down in the shower sometimes and let the hot water running out be my alarm clock. A dad has got to do what a dad has got to do, even if it means living in a nightmarish half awake dreamscape from time to time. Isn't that right Mr. Flying Dragon-pig? Now let's hurry. We're late for the roller coaster eating contest.

Possible Super Hero Name: The Walking Dad

Super Power: Tolerance to all things Gross and Disgusting

Nothing disgusts me anymore. Nothing. I have been baptized in endless baby piss and shit and snot and have emerged from the font of fluids a super-parent. What does this power do for me aside from allowing me to clean feces out of my kid's various crevasses? Well, I went to Walmart with sweatpants on the other day and didn't feel embarrassed. I also dropped my breakfast sandwich on the floor and picked it back up to eat it. Basically, anything that isn't covered in poop is clean now.

Possible Super Hero Name: The Slob

So there you are: my powers. Will I use them for good or evil? That remains to be seen. For now, my dad sense is tingling which means that there is either a bottle of sunscreen being emptied on to my carpet or something far, far worse. It is too quiet. Gotta go.

DAMMIT!!

If you liked this post, be sure to come see our other super powers on the Ask Your Dad Facebook page!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Choose the Dark Side - Guest Comic by Fowl Language Comics

I'm pretty excited for this one. Brian Gordan writes Fowl Language Comics, one of the most popular comics on the web. We met via me fan-boying his page a few years back, and after years of asking and begging he FINALLY drew me as a duck. OK. That's not completely true. I only asked once, and he was cool enough to say yes! Below is an actual, word for word conversation I had with my daughter after watching The Empire Strikes back. 



Guess what! Brian's first book of comics came out this week. You should buy it. Seriously. They are all short and easily readable comics that you and your kids will love. I haven't been able to get it back from Duchess since it showed up at our door! Click here, or on the photo of the book to buy it on Amazon. You can also find Fowl Language Comics on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

5 Dinner Table Rules According to My Kids



I have my own dinner rules. No hitting. No biting anything but food. If you don’t eat the crust of your pizza, dad gets first dibs. Stevie has her own rules. It’s ok to spill, but no doing it on purpose. Try everything on your plate before you get seconds. No electronics at the table. Whoever sat down first has to be the one to get up and get the kids more water when they eventually ask.
Our kids have rules too. They aren’t written anywhere. They are communicated through tears, screams, laughter, or worst of all, politely asking me to fix whatever rule was broken… over and over and over until I either fix it or go insane and die.

1. All Water Must Contain Broken and Fixed Ice  

We have been blessed enough to not have to bring juice and soda into our dinner table rotation. We just don’t keep it in the house. Our dinner offerings for refreshments are milk or water. Ever since our daughter discovered that there are two settings on the ice dispenser ALL water MUST have both “broken” and “fixed” ice. She doesn’t demand that this happens, she orders it like it as an item on a menu.

Me: What do you guys want to drink?

Duchess: Yes. Thank you. I would like a pink princess cup of water with broken and fixed ice please.”

Captain: YEAH. BOKEN ICE. FIXED ICE.

Whatever she wants, her little brother wants too.

Captain: I WANNA PRINCESS CUUUUUUUP

2. Whatever one kid gets, the other kid must also get. 

I learned a while ago to buy two of everything. We have two blue bowls, and two pink bowls. We have two princess cups and two monster cups. There is no gender assignment to our dishes, regardless of what culture dictates. Captain doesn’t want “boy” plates and Duchess doesn’t want “girl” plates. Duchess wants what Captain has and vice-versa. And GOD FORBID one of the matching dishes is dirty and they have to eat off mismatched dishware. Then Ms. Duchess gets all polite again

Captain: I WANNA PRINCESS CUUUUUUUP

Me: Buddy, the other princess glass is dirty.

Duchess: Daddy, would you mind taking the dirty princess glass out of the dishwasher and using that brush you use in the sink to wash it for Captain. I think that would make him happy.

Me: Nope. He can drink out of the monster glass.

Captain: I WANNA PRINCESS CUUUUUUUP

Duchess: Daddy, remember when you washed that other cup for me that one time. It was really quick. Will you wash the cup for Captain?

And on and on it goes. Yelling, politeness. Yelling, politeness. And then I wash the cup.

3. If the kids find a word in their Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Alphabet Soup, they get to fish the letters out of their soup with their hands and spell it on the table. 

They call it “letter soup” and while Campbell’s Soup is usually a quick and easy meal to whip up at the end of a long day, evenings with “letter soup” are always evenings with baths. Why? Because this happens.

Stevie and I have both fought this one, but by the time we catch on to what is happening it is too late. The handful of soup is already on the table. The letters are already spelling “Mom” or “Dad” and how sweet is that?? They spelled mom and dad with their soup letters.

Granted, that is Duchess. Captain also likes to spell with his soup. He spells “HM(Pea)L(Carrot)(Squished unidentifiable letter)” But whatever Duchess does… you know how it goes.

4. EAT ALL THE BREAD

It is almost indescribable how much my kids love bread. You know how you hear those stories of really unfortunate families that have to survive off of bread and water. My kids would be so happy if every meal was bread and water. That is their dream meal. At gymnastics the other day my daughter’s teacher asked all the kids what their favorite food was and my kid said bread. Not bread with butter. Not bread with cheese and turkey in between. Bread.

Again, this is my fault. I also love bread. When I was little I used to tell my mom that when I grew up and moved out of the house the first thing I was going to do was buy a loaf of garlic bread and eat THE WHOLE THING! And you know what? I did. And you know what else? It. Was. Glorious.



5. If you fart or burp at the table, you must blame the dog. 

So this is totally my fault. I did it once and everyone laughed really hard. OK… I did it like five times because the kids laughed really hard every time. Then Duchess did it and we laughed really hard because it is cute when our kids imitate us. Then Captain did it. Then it was a thing. Stevie wants me to tell you that she has never done it. Stevie has never done it. (She totally does it. She also can’t read things I put in parenthesis.)

I know it’s not the most polite thing, but there is no going back at this point. If you burp or fart at the table you yell “RILEY!!” And then everyone laughs.

And then we have dessert… sometimes. Not every time.

- John

Wait! One more thing! 

Hey guys! This is my final post in my series for Campbell’s Soup and their #RealRealLife campaign. I want to thank the Campbell’s crew for welcoming me into their family and being great patrons of the blog. I love it when a brand contacts me to sponsor Ask Your Dad and I can open my cupboard and find their product already there. Another great part about brands I like and trust sponsoring my content from time to time is that I get to keep writing this blog and providing it to all of you for free. That means a lot to me. Anyway. Thank you, and thank you Campbell’s. Now everyone go eat soup!! 


Monday, March 7, 2016

All the Things I Can’t Throw Away



Since she could pick up a crayon my daughter has drawn every day. The first time she presented a scribble to me, I held it up and didn’t see a purple kind-of-circle. I saw a certificate that said, “Now you are a dad.” 

I used to look at colorful drawings hanging on the fridges of my kid-having friends and think “Meh. It’s cute I guess.” But when I held that first piece of art, I realized that it didn’t matter if it was cute. It was her. It went directly on the fridge. 


So did the second drawing, and the third. Eventually when the fridge filled up and a combination of gravity and crappy magnets forced me to take down the older ones I’d walk over to the trash can, look at it for a second, then walk away from the trash can deciding that the pictures could live on top of the fridge. When the top of the fridge filled up, I went and found a box… and another box.

I know. I had a problem. But these pictures were the glitter and glue covered footprints my little girl had left of a life where she could barely count to fiveteen. Every day they got better. An almost circle became a face. A face grew legs, then a body. Lines became houses. A sun. A moon. Planets. She was creating the world around her. She put it in crayon. I put it on our fridge. 

We were running out of room. 

Source: Lunarbaboon

As she got bigger her world took up more and more paper. I wanted to hold on to that first purple scribble, pull it close to my chest, and remember how it made me feel to become a dad. But when I did, I felt like I missed the fact that she rewrites that contract every day. 

I knew that they were just papers, and that the little squirt that drew on them had morphed into something even more magnificent. Still, I didn’t feel a sense of loss of my little girl when I looked at her drawings. I felt a sense of emotional geography. I could see how far she’d come. I could see how far Stevie and I had come. 


A few weeks ago, I was cleaning off the top of the fridge and found an extra stack of drawings I hadn’t looked at in months. I flipped through them, traced my finger over the textured wax, and smiled thinking about the look on her face when had I put them on the fridge. Then I did something that even surprised me. 


Instead of walking over to the garbage, pausing, and walking away, I quickly crumpled the handful of drawings into a ball and shoved them deep enough into the trashcan that I wouldn’t have the chance to see them sitting on top of the pile and pull them out. Then I washed my hands. Then I felt guilty. 


Then I didn’t.


In that moment I realized that what I had thrown away was just paper and wax. That smile. That smile on her face when I had thanked my little girl and praised her hard work. That was my art, and it was safely tucked away in a place much safer than the top of my fridge. I don’t have to look at circles and trees and suns and flowers to connect with how far we’ve come. I just have to look at her. 


I still have my favorites. They are hanging on the wall next to me as I write this. But now I don’t feel as bad tossing out the majority of them. They are not all art. They are the beautiful byproduct of art. They are leaves from a tree that has a very long time to grow. 



Instead of drawing last night, Duchess asked us if she could show off her sweet, new number skills by counting by fives to a hundred. Far be it for me to deny her the opportunity to count by fives. We put away the colored pencils and Stevie, Captain and I sat attentively. 

She did it so fast the numbers blended together. We listened in amazement as she hit a rhythm punctuating the “ty” on every other number. When she hit 100 she shouted it like it was the top of a mountain. ONE HUNDRED!! We clapped loudly for her and she did her proud little giggle. She stopped saying “fiveteen” a year ago and now we’re into the hundreds. She’s counting faster than our hearts can keep up. 


That’s a lie. We can keep up. We will keep up. 


Sure, I can’t pin her counting to the fridge or put it in a box, but she can pin our clapping to her heart, and that is a lot harder to throw away. 


If you enjoyed this post, read more! I have a bunch linked in the sidebar. Also, be sure to like the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page. We have a lot of fun over there and I promise not to throw away your art. Also, thanks to Chris over at LunarBaboon for letting me use his fantastic comic. He's a great friend, and an amazing artist. Be sure to check him out. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review - Yo-Kai Watch is Weird/Cool/Weird and Kind of Loud

JIBANYAN!


This post is sponsored. I received product and dollars to take a look at Yo-Kai Watch and let you know what I think. The opinions are mine. 

JIBANYAN! JIBANYAN! JIBANYAN! JIBANYAN! Oh, hello. John here. JIBANYAN! I just wanted to give you a small sample of what it is like to JIBANYAN! live in my home right now. JIBANYAN! The good folks from XY Media Disney XD sent over a party kit so we could watch the first few episodes of Yo-Kai Watch, a Japanese cartoon about a boy who can see mischievous spirits using a magic watch given to him by ghost named whisper that he found in a stone vending machine under a tree in a field.

Also, there is a dance. You need to see the dance. Trust me. My wife does this dance.


JIBANYAN! Oh, sorry. I forgot to mention why I keep yelling JIBANYAN! The magical watch that I mentioned? Well, we got a couple of those too. Whenever you make friends with one of the mischievous spirits in the world of Yo Kai, they give you their highly collectible spirit coin. AND GUESS WHAT! You too can collect these coins at your local toy store. These coins can then be placed in your Yo Kai Watch which will then shout the name of the character contained within. Over and over and over.

JIBANYAN! JIBANYAN! JIBANYAN! JIBANYAN!

It might sound like I am complaining, and maybe I am a little. But it’s not like this is the only toy my kids have that makes loud repetitive noises. The toys are fun, and I like anything that gets Captain and Duchess using their imaginations AND playing together. Another cool part about the toys is you can download an app that scans them in and gives you more usability. Any trepidation I had toward the toys was inversely proportionate to the kids' reaction. The kids went nuts for the toys. We got watches and spirit disks and little figurines. We invited the neighbors over and sent a lot of it home with them, which I am sure their parents appreciated. If he is anything like me, they love hearing JIBANYAN! shouted over and over again.

The watches. Duchess was kind of disappointed that they didn't really let her see spirits from Japanese mythology. She got over that when she found the button that yelled JIBANYAN over and over again.
The other fun part, and the part that I enjoyed the most, is that they really seem to like this show. Before showing it to them and our neighbors at the watch party, I sat down and watched the first four episodes to make sure there wasn’t anything they couldn’t see, and aside from a Yo Kai who seems to have a butt for a head and a power that allows him to fart out his mouth, I didn’t see anything super concerning. Mostly it is just fun and weird, like a lot of the Japanese imports I grew up with.

Stone vending machine hiding under tree, as described.
The thing I like about Yo-Kai Watch compared to other “kid collects monsters to fight each other TV shows and games” is that instead of just pitting the monsters against each other to fight, Yo-Kai Watch seems to be more about helping others with common everyday situations. In the first episode Nathan, the aforementioned boy, goes home to find his parents fighting – a not uncommon situation for a lot of kids. In another episode he meets JIBANYAN, a cat who was killed by a van and is trying to get back to his owner. I can see how the show would serve as an entry point into topics that can be hard to discuss with kids.

Conclusion:

The kids want more Yo Kai Watch, and I'm inclined to give it to them. I'm not sure if we will heavily invest in the toys, but the show itself has an wacky appeal to it that I can't really explain. Sometimes it's just fun to watch weird shows with your kids.

I give the wacky/fun show 5 JIBANYANS! and the toys get 3.5 JIBANYANS! (I fully admit the kids would have given them 5, but it is my blog.)

Yo Kai Watch (Show, currently on Disney XD)

Yo Kai Watch (Toys)


If you want to dive down the rabbit hole that is the world of Yo-Kai Watch, make sure to check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and for the toys are at Hasbro.





Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why Former Yelp Employee Talia Jane's Letter to Her CEO Went Viral


Talia Jane

Have you read the viral letter the CEO of Yelp? I've had at least three people send it to me. To sum it up, an entry level Customer Service employee was upset that she didn't make what she considers to be a “living wage” from her employer, Yelp, and decided to spend 2000+ words publicly calling out the Yelp's CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, for it. You can read the whole thing here. I'm sure she felt very brave writing about how HORRIBLE it is to have to work a year somewhere before being promoted, or have the free food in the employee break room run out over the weekend, but regardless of what social justice cred she felt hitting the publish button on Medium, it came across poorly. Very poorly. Most folks I have talked to have reacted the way I did - negatively. OK, negatively is the wrong word. We lost our collective shit.

Honestly, I've rarely had a more visceral reaction to a piece of writing. I was incensed. I consider myself an incredibly liberal guy, and by the end of the piece I wanted to throw a copy of Atlas Shrugged in the direction of this girl's head. I would never do that of course. I abhor violence, almost as much as I abhor the thought of spending money on that shitty book. Still, I don’t know what I hated more, her letter or how her letter made me feel. It made me feel old. It made me want her off my lawn. The ending was nice though. She got fired, like she should have.

Still, aside from the preceding paragraphs I don’t want to pile on any more of the generational, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps and quit your complaining" rhetoric. It has already been written as well as, or better, than I could hope to.

What is more interesting to me, and what I want to explore is not the what, but the why. Why has this letter blown up so much? Why is it being shared by so many of my centrist friends as an example of how detached we are from where we were just a few years ago. Why is everyone so mad?

I’m sure there are a lot of reasons. Here are three I came up with.

This is kind of Bernie Sanders Fault

Not directly. I sincerely doubt someone from the Sanders campaign called Talia Jane and told her to torpedo her career in entry-level customer service by asking her CEO to pay her cell phone bill. I don't think the letter itself is Bernie's fault, although the social issues he champions may have had Talia feeling bold enough to write it. I do think, however, the outrage the letter has inspired is fueled a bit by Sanders.

See, according to whoever flips the switch on generation labels I’m supposedly a “millennial” too. I am at the very front of the pack, born in 1981.

I remember Bush the First and both of Clinton’s terms. I remember feeling very angry and powerless during the Bush the Second's years, and most of all I remember feeling like a part of a new world when we elected President Obama in 2008, the year after I finished college. I, like a hefty chunk of people my age, spent the next 8 years watching Obama get attacked and blocked over and over again. Sometimes we agreed with him. Sometimes we didn’t. But for the most part we liked the social change we saw. As the Engine of the Millennial Train, we felt that the center cars, all the way to the caboose were with us in shared ideology. It was so simple. We all agreed with each other on Facebook. We all looked at the divided right and laughed our way through the 2012 election. We felt a righteous indignation in our victories. Then Bernie Sanders came and mucked it all up.

Bernie exposed the divisions in our train. Suddenly those of us who felt like liberal trailblazers in 2008 and 2012 found ourselves looking at these new folks to our left and not seeing ourselves reflected back. We got confused. We got annoyed. Who were these people? We still pay our student loan debt every month. We suffered through our early 20’s, the great recession, and for the most part came came out it OK. Now there was this loud, active, and angry contingency of our friends that have communal ideas far beyond what we ever imagined, and they’re not just mad at the Right. They are mad at us!

We had spent the past five years weeding out all the Obama-hating far-right friends from our newsfeeds, and suddenly we felt like we were being out flanked by the left. Now it was coming from both sides and we're forced to sit, twiddle our centrist thumbs, and figure out at which stop we got kicked off the progressive train. Then Talia Jane wrote her letter.

It is the perfect recipe for a viral piece. It challenges or reinforces an existing belief. It challenges a majority opinion, but most importantly it challenges a majority opinion that the holders of which feel like they are in the minority. Suddenly we all had a place to focus our annoyance. Look! Look at this girl. She is why we are annoyed. She is the reason why people like us are feeling angry and left behind. People like her! She is the VOICE OF A GENERATION! A GENERATION THAT IS UPSET BY TOO MUCH FREE COCONUT WATER IN THE BREAK ROOM AND CEOs THAT WON’T PAY THEIR CELL PHONE BILLS FOR THEM!

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!

That obviously isn’t the case. I know plenty of ridiculously smart millennials that care deeply about social issues like income inequality and don’t operate under the assumption that breakdowns in the social contract began the second they stepped off their college campuses. But feelings, especially outragey feelings, are rarely about actual reality. They are like liquid. They flow to the easiest spot, and Talia Jane’s article, which honestly read like it was a satirical piece written for The Onion to make fun of Millennials, wasn’t just an easy spot for our rage to flow. It was a rage funnel.
For that, I feel bad for her. Yes, she should have lost her job. Words have meaning and often have consequences, but no one deserves the rage hive that is the internet. Which brings me to reason number two why her post has blown up.

The degree to which she is being attacked, at least partially, is because she is a woman.


I’ve been doing this writing thing for a while, and I have seen my fair share of hive mind blow ups on the internet. My evidence is anecdotal, but I am very confident that even a small amount of research would support the following statement. Women get the digital shit kicked out of them on the internet FAR more than men do. I’m not being flippant, and I’m using violent language there for a reason. The internet is horrible to women. I have written some controversial things in the past and I have never once been threatened physically or sexually. And yet, I have a strong suspicion that if I went tumbling through the comments and the tweets directed at Talia Jane over the past week I would find plenty of horrific examples of humans behaving like anonymous excrement.

These turd covered trolls wait in the shadows of the internet for any woman to say something controversial, and then they are instantly a three-inch layer of butter-shit frosting on any rage cake that comes their way.

And it’s not just them! I think the general population feels more justified criticizing women's opinions than they do men. Again, anecdotal evidence, but I get the general sense that my opinionated, strong, female writer friends are rebutted far more often than my male writer friends. That’s not to say that the non-troll related rebuttals are without substance, just that perhaps people feel a bit more at ease sharing them when the recipient has ovaries. Privilege is hard to spot, but when you see it, it is like the invisible bridge in Indiana Jones and Last Crusade… which we will now cross to the last reason why the letter has gone viral.

She is a good writer that used the wrong tools from her tool box.

I love humor and I love snark. I dine on sarcasm. I spent the first half of my 20’s embarrassingly identifying myself as a "Daily Show Liberal". The problem with snark and sarcasm is this: It’s really only good for getting people who already agree with you to laugh and nod their heads. Trust me. I know. A few of the most popular pieces I've written have been snark-filled diatribes aimed at taking an opinion or a person down a notch. I didn't change any minds. I just made people laugh and nod.

The problem with the letter written by Talia Jane is that it was written for the Daily Show and delivered to her CEO... and me, and millions of others who are feeling very on edge right now for reasons I outlined in the first section. When we read snark and sarcasm on a topic we don’t see ourselves in, we don’t laugh. We feel attacked. Our first instinct is to start finding the places in the article that we can pick apart. That is what I did. These aren’t the first words I’ve written about Talia Jane's letter. My first piece was very delete-able.

If Talia Jane’s goal was to get fired and start a career asking people to Paypal her money, then she accomplished her goal. If she wanted to affect change by using her personal narrative to get people who don’t already agree with her to feel empathy and compassion, than she failed at it about as miserably as Yelp fails at fairly representing small businesses.

ALL OF THAT SAID, Talia Jane has got skills. Read objectively, and after calming down a bit, I found the letter well-paced and the repetitive referencing of the rice was funny. Talia Jane has a voice in her writing that will serve her, and whoever employs her as a writer in the future well. I hope she gets a second chance to use her tools. I’m confident she will. Hell, I’m always looking for freelancers, although I probably can’t pay her enough to live in San Francisco. Relocation? Salt Lake is beautiful this time of year. Talia Jane, e-mail me.

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That’s all I’ve got. Feel free to tell me why I am wrong in the comments below. You can also find me writing about things I think I know about on Facebook. All nice people are welcome, even those who disagree with me. I don’t have a monopoly on the truth. I do have the board game though!