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December 09, 2013

Solstice

"Dad, we're not Christian, right?"

"Right."

"So why do we celebrate Christmas?"

The simple questions are usually the most complex. Up until then the talk had focused on the logistics of our first New Normal Christmas: would I be getting a tree (yes), will Santa be coming to my place and their mother's and their grandparents (of course, he tracks your location better than the NSA), "will he bring me a BB gun" (no, emphatic no, although he'd brought me one when I was in 6th grade and so there might be some room for negotiation in two years), "will he bring me a new Barbie House because I know I have a big one already but I NEED one with an elevator" (that one drew a blank stare). New Normal, meet the Old Normal. You have a lot in common, it seems. Happily so.

But the Big Question, the existential Why of our Christmas, hung there for a bit. Nothing for it but to answer. "Well...", I began. And then came an explanation too lengthy to quote here. The Druids were involved. Trees in the living room and mistletoe hanging from a doorjam and yule logs in gas-fueled fireplaces and their pagan origins. There was a primer on Winter Solstice, and how it was celebrated. My explanation seemed to satisfy them, at least for now. 

The talk turned to how exactly we'd be decorating my apartment. Some twinkly lights along the windowsill, a small tree in the corner. Lucas suggested stringing popcorn and cranberries - we'd never done this before, but why not, I said. Let's. I told the kids that our Christmas dinner would be something new as well; I'd get some good tamales and make a big pot of pozole. The first of a new kind of holiday for us. I thought of the Winter Solstice: in the face of days that had grown colder and nights that had grown longer, people huddled together and celebrated the fact that they were alive, and rejoiced in the knowledge that soon that a corner would be turned, and the sun would stick around a bit longer each day. There's always winter. And then there's always spring. The cycle repeats itself each year, as we grow older, as some of us drift apart, as some of us drift back together. There's a comfort in that. One worth celebrating. 

This seems like a good place to end things here at DadCentric. The kids grow up, and so do the dads; the site's run its course, and if we've done anything to contribute to the growth of the Dad-Blog-O- Community-Sphere, well, that's a good thing. This site has always been the sum of a bunch of incredibly gifted and generous parts. My heartfelt thanks go out to the many talented writers who contributed to DadCentric during its (does math) eight years of existence - you can find them all over the Internet, and who knows? Perhaps we'll get some of the band back together for other things, kind of like Axl Rose did for "Chinese Democracy", only hopefully with better results. And thank you, Dear Reader, for indulging us. It's been a pleasure. - Jason

  Dadcentric-bye


November 19, 2013

Perspective

The guy was about to jump off of a cliff. We stood there and watched. "Do you think he'll die?", Zoe asked. Before I could answer he broke into a jog, big purposeful steps, and leaped far out into the air over the ocean some two hundred feet below.

****

A thing that happened a couple of weeks ago: it's 10:30 and the kids are asleep on air mattresses on the floor in my room. The New Normal, two nights a week, every other weekend. The trick is to tire them out, and so that day we'd gone to the park, to the library, and to the beach. There was running and there was throwing and there was climbing and there was reading and thus tired legs and arms and brains. The New Normal, and it's been ironically good - finding things to do on a single parent budget usually means going for the free stuff and the free stuff usually involves grass and sand and sunshine. I still haven't decided if I'm a shitty dad or not, here in the New Normal, but those nights when they sleep the sleep of what we call the Good Tired (the earned exhaustion following a lengthy session of running around outside and yelling just to yell because that's what's truly fun and good and right in life) I think that maybe I'm doing something right. There's a knock on the door and it seems louder than it is because sound carries differently across the apartment's bare walls, and also it's 10:30 at night, and who the fuck comes knocking at 10:30 at night? First I make sure that the bedroom door is shut. Then I open the door and as I do so I think you goddamn idiot opening the door at 10:30 at night you have two sleeping kids. I don't know who the guy standing there is, but I do know that he is either drunk or stoned, swaying back and forth in his shoes like he's on a boat at sea, looking past me, probably at nothing as the inebriated do

(but of course I can't help but think that his gaze is fixed upon the door to the room where my kids are sleeping)

and then he speaks. "Do you need some help?", he asks, and I respond with a stare

(and subconsciously I shift a bit, right foot back, left forward, slightly sideways so as to present less of a target and give myself a bit of leverage in case I need to take a swing at this fucked up asshole who's knocking at my door at 10:30 at night and I have two little kids asleep behind me)

and he asks again: "Do you need some help?"

"No. I don't. Thanks." I shut the door in his face. Lock both locks. Listen as he plods halfway down the stairs, stops, and then starts coming back up. My window is open - he can't get to it, it's away from the staircase, he'd fall two stories to pavement if he tried (and a part of me hopes that he does) - and I address him through it. "Go away. Or I call the fucking cops." No false bravado. My thumb is hovering over the iPhone's Emergency Call button. "Just wanted to say sorry, man", he slurs. "Fine. Thanks. Good night," I reply.

That night I sleep in the recliner in the front room, just in case. They pass through the night in sleep, oblivious.

****

The guy jumped off the cliff and disappeared and then his paragliding chute bit the air, riding an updraft, confusing the hell out of a passing cormorant. "WHOA!", yelled Lucas. "HE DIDN'T DIE!!", yells Zoe. We watched him make lazy arcs high above the sandy headlands of Torrey Pines until he got bored or tired and came in for a landing. "See how he pulls down on the lines? That's how you land." The kids looked at me, awaiting further explanation. "I don't really know if I can explain it. Physics. That's why he jumped. The world works in ways that can't be altered - parachutes open and they lift, you flare your chute like he did and you land, and so it's about as safe as jumping off of a cliff with a parachute can be, I guess." We headed to the tidepools. There were seals and sea lions and crabs and anemones, and the two of them spent the car ride home trying their best to say "anemones". I dropped them off at their mother's and headed back to the apartment. I thought about writing a blog post about What It All Meant, but decided against it. It was a good day, one they'd remember. I left it at that.

Photo

November 01, 2013

Of Mice and Men and Horses

Get-a-Horse

Are you a man or a mouse? You have heard the phrase plenty of times. Perhaps you have even said it. Basically, it is intended to encourage bravery in those on the precipice of indecision—or pressure them begrudgingly into dreaded action. It varies. 

Generally speaking, one opts to be the man is these situations.

And yet, there is a mouse that defies such logic—a mouse that wears his heart on his sleeve and his pride on his pout. I am, obviously, talking about Mickey Mouse, and he does not care for the implications of man versus mouse. He feels it is derogatory, and frankly, he finds it to be beneath you.

Of course this is just an assumption, I have never talked to Mickey about such things. Ours is a relationship based mainly upon photo ops and churro consumption.

The things is, Mickey is a mouse of passion (see below) and an innate sense for doing right by those he cares about. Also, really sticking it to those that wrong him. I’m looking at you, Pete.

Mickey and minnie model sheet revised 7-25-12

And so it is that in the newest Disney animated short, Get a Horse!, our pal Mickey, along with romantic love interest Minnie Mouse, his friend Horace Horsecollar, and proverbial hanger-on Clarabelle Cow, takes a stand of heroic proportions against the no-goodiness of one Peg-Leg Pete. Be warned, this is Mickey Mouse reliving his glory days, and admittedly he is a bit of a scamp.

However, the film, created and directed by Lauren MacMullan (The Simpsons) is more than just an ode to the good old days of Mickey Mouse and his somewhat mischievous ways—so much more.

How much more? Consider this: Mickey Mouse is voiced by none other than Walt Disney. Yes, that Walt Disney. The did it with his real words using a special kind of Disney magic called “technology.”

Speaking of technology, Get a Horse! is in 3D and starts in hand-drawn black and white before it takes an amazing leap into the colorful world of computer animation. I do not use the word “amazing” lightly.

Seriously, it is amazing.

A few weeks ago I visited Walt Disney Animation in Burbank, CA to view Get a Horse! and speak with MacMullan about the short. My takeaway from that talk was that she was, and is, very humbled by the opportunity to work with the "original" Mickey Mouse and the voice of Walt Disney, not to mention being the first woman to solo direct a Disney film. Also, she is rightfully proud of the finished project and all of the work that went into it.

I’m not going to give away too much because that would be mean. You’ve worked hard, and you deserve to see Get a Horse! without any preconceived notions—except this one: AMAZING. That’s all I’m going to say.

The short may not make anyone alter their answer when it comes to being a man or a mouse, but it definitely makes the latter much more appealing.

MM3D_03.0_002.00_left_fullcomp.0034

Get a Horse! will show before Disney’s Frozen when the film opens in theaters later this month.

October 25, 2013

Gwar's Oderus Urungus Reads Goodnight Moon. You Know, For The Kids.

Trying to explain this would be an exercise in futility. Google "GWAR" if you have no idea what's going on here. Revel in the Internet reaching its apotheosis if you do.

 

September 27, 2013

Jimmy Fallon + The Roots + The Muppets = Awesome

Hit it.

 

September 25, 2013

What’s the Deal with Me and Richard Marx?

Richard-marx-ron-mattocks-dadcentricInevitably, if a conversation turns toward musical tastes, I always end up the laughing stock of the group. Why? No one has ever deemed my choice of bands and singers as being cool. I’ll bring up names like Matchbox 20 or The Fray—and of course there’s that whole thing with Coldplay—and everyone starts doubling over.  It’s fine. I’m used to it by now. Sometimes I’ll even join in. Admittedly I deserve ridicule for my brief flirtation with Nickelback.

My wife, Ashley, is undoubtedly my harshest critic. A song from Snow Patrol will come on the radio, and she’ll roll her eyes so hard I can hear it over the music. “How did I ever marry you,” she will sigh.

Continue reading »

September 23, 2013

Here Is Why You Should Give Your Kids Music Lessons

So they can perform Tool songs. (This is so very great.)

 

August 19, 2013

Energizer Portable Lights With Light Fusion Technology Are Awesome, Powerful, Puppet Show Friendly

This is something I've admitted to very few people: I'm a Flashight Dork. I geek out over flashlights and their bulked-up cousins, Battery Powered Lanterns. In my past homes I've rarely been without at least six, and they've all had something that made them stand out - made of battleship-grade steel, waterproof, halogen bulbs, rubberized thumb switches...my flashlights are not just flashlights, they are Experiences In Human Hand-Carried Illumination. 

My love of flashlights stems from a long-past need to have ones that actually worked in harsh conditions: I lived in Alaska for three years, and along with all of the outdoorsy stuff - long-haul backpacking and canoe trips - there was six months of winter and accompanying darkness, and ice on the power lines could spell long, pitch black nights if one didn't have a good torch handy. (That's what the Brits call flashlights - torches. Classy. With the added bonus of instilling confidence should one fear a sudden wolf attack or need to join the mob storming Doctor Frankenstein's castle.) I learned the value of a good flashlight. 

So of course I nerded out when the good folks at Energizer® gave me the opportunity to play with three awesome new lights - Energizer®'s LED 3 In 1 Light, LED Pop Up Lantern, and LED Folding Lantern, all pictured below: 

Energizer-portable-lights-LED-fusion

Along with the lights, I was issued a challenge: find a fun and unique way to use them. This shouldn't have been that hard. The 3 In 1 Light serves as a handheld flashlight, an area light, and (thanks to a folding bipod) a directional task light, for instance. That's useful (on a light backpacking trip, it saves weight and space; in the garage, you just need one of these lights instead of three others) AND fun! The Pop Up Lantern...well, it pops up! (Sounds like a trivial thing, but a lantern with a light that can be folded into the body, like a turtle head back into its shell, is a tremendous thing to have when the house contains small children who delight in breaking lights.) And the Folding Lantern is pretty powerful - 300 Lumens, which...ok, I don't know what a Lumen is, sounds like an evil alien race from Dr. Who...but it can illuminate a small room handily. Three great, multitasking portable lights! The possibilities - endless!

The problem was that I wasn't out backpacking, or facing the challenges of heavy weather, or working on a massive automotive project in a tool-laden garage; no, the kids and I were in my apartment, tiny and Spartan, with cranky neighbors below. I put it to them: come up with something fun to do with the lights, kids. After about 15 seconds of deliberation, I got an answer: "PUPPET SHOW!" "Ok," I said. "Have at it." And so a makeshift stage was constructed, the 3 In 1 was put into Task Light configuration and became a spotlight, the Folding Lantern became a backlight, and...well, let us just say that Larry David needn't fear losing his King Of Improvisational Comedy title, and The Muppets have a whole lot of job security. But the kids had fun, the lights worked like a charm, and no noise complaints were filed. Everybody wins.

(Yeah, I'm certainly no Terrance Malick. This post was brought to you by Energizer®. Click here to learn more about Energizer® Portable Lights with Light Fusion Technology.)

August 14, 2013

The Finance of Friendship

Summer is almost over (already for some of you) and if it was anything like mine, it was filled with trips to the beach, the pool, the skatepark, sleepover drop-offs, birthday parties and general shuttling about around town.

The core on my crew is four kids - my two boys (ages 10, 13) and two of their friends (ages 13, 14) from the neighborhood. They like to stay busy which I am all about and fully encourage. 

Staying busy means burning calories, calories that need to be replaced. 

So I feed these boys a lot. And hydrate them.

But I really can't afford to feed four kids all day long.

Now I'm not talking goldfish and popsicles here. I'm talking four burgers or four subs or 2 large pizzas, gallons of lemonade and sweet tea. 

I trip to the skatepark and back, lunch, snacks at the pool and then dinner before the day is done could put me out $60 or more. Because it is summertime this could happen several times a week.

I mean, as you can see, the results are priceless.

So I ask the question: How much or how often do you pay for your kids friends? 

 

August 07, 2013

My Kid Liked "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters"

Percy-jackson-sea-of-monsters-poster1

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, the second movie based on the very entertaining series of books by Rick Riordan, opens tomorrow (August 7) and the inital reviews in popular media are somewhat mixed. Apparently most professional film critics aren't 10-year-old boys. Luckily, ours is. Also, we aren't very popular.

Here is my son sharing his take on the film:

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is fun and it gets kids interested in Greek mythologoy, which is nice. It is rated PG and opens in theaters tomorrow. There are some fairly scary monster/action scenes, but (spoiler alert) the good guys win, and most scares should pass quickly.

Read the books.