Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why I Let My Kid Watch Lemony Snicket

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

A television show featuring the repeated attempted murder of children? Orphans who lose their parents and then their guardians? A grown man trying to take a child bride to steal her family fortune?

I’m tuning in with my 8-year-old son.

The Netflix Original series Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a wonderfully dark comedy that is surprisingly family-friendly for older kids. While at first glance parents would likely ban this show from their homes what with a diabolical murderer constantly threatening young children at knife point, if you give it a chance you’ll likely find what I found — a deliciously dark, incredibly endearing, seriously fun show that kids 8 and older will definitely like.

First of all, Neil Patrick Harris is awesome as Count Olaf. He’s over the top and ridiculous and goofy and despicable all rolled in to one, and sometimes all of those in the same scene. But as good as the man formerly known as Doogie is, I think the actors who play the Baudelaire orphans are even more impressive.

Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes) and baby Sunny (Presley Smith) are absolutely phenomenal as the orphaned inventors and recipients of often calamitous news. Their dialogue is crisp and my son loves it because in this show, it’s the kids who are brilliant and the adults who are raving idiots. In a kid’s world, adults are so often unable to comprehend or understand, and that translates very well in Lemony Snicket. Throw in Patrick Warburton’s dry delivery as the narrator and you’ve got a truly wonderful and totally macabre bit of television that’s good for parents and kids.

In fact, my wife and I watched it when Will wasn’t even home. When parents watch a show for kids even when the kid isn’t around? Well, to me there’s no higher praise.

So how do I deal with Will and some of the more grown-up themes? We talk about it. He was admittedly horrified by some of it, but he loves the way they talk, how the Baudelaire children invent awesome things, and he cracks up at how “crazy and stupid” the adults are, and wishes they’d just listen to the kids.

The best part about Will getting older is that he’s watching much better TV and films. If you’ve got a kid who is 8+ and likes things a little on the dark side, you’re going to want to give Lemony Snicket a try.

This is a sponsored post. I am part of the Netflix Stream Team and received free products and Netflix for writing this. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own.

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How to Deal With Your Kids’ Sensitive Skin in Winter

My kids aren’t just white, they’re translucent. And they seem to have inherited my Irish complexion, which means anything and everything irritates their skin. Especially during winter.

New England winters are unforgiving and come February, we often wonder why we willingly live in a place where the air hurts your face. As the frigid weather tightens its icy grip and sends temperatures plummeting, parents in cold weather climates turn their attention to how to battle the dry skin, chapped lips, and eczema that plagues kids for 4 months out of the year.

Did you know the prevalence of eczema has increased among almost all kids under 18 from 2000 to 2010, according to the CDC? Whether you’re talking black kids (9% to 17%), Hispanic kids (5% to 10%), or white children (8% to 13%), it’s an alarming statistic to which most people pay little attention.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson fittingly calls eczema the “itch that rashes,” and judging by my own kids I’d have to agree.

Strangers love to stop my kids in public and talk about their “gorgeous cheeks” that are glowing with color. Unfortunately, that rosy pink hue is usually eczema and it’s there because they keep scratching. We try to use lotions and sunscreen (yes, you still need to use sunscreen even in winter) to keep their skin moisturized and mitigate the damage, but it never seems to totally work.

And as a reminder, whatever sunscreen you use be sure to check the label. Sam had a milk allergy when he was younger and we didn’t realize milk proteins are in some sunscreens. The result was — well, it wasn’t pretty. You can’t be too careful, and you can get some great tips by checking out knowyourOTCs.org.

Whether your kids are fair-skinned and ultra sensitive to the elements like mine or not, everyone should take eczema and dry skin seriously so it doesn’t turn into something worse. Adults too, as I can’t seem to put on flannel PJs in the winter without having them stick to the skin on my dried out legs in fits of static cling.

Here’s an infographic with some useful tips to keep handy for quick reference. Stay warm!

This is a sponsored post. I am collaborating with the CHPA (Consumer Health Products Association) Educational Foundation and knowyourOTCs.org. I was compensated for this post but as always, my opinions are 100% my own. 

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Buzz-buzz

3h0fhhhefsa-i-m-priscilla

“I SAID IT’S TIME TO GO!”

This experience started out like all the rest the last few months — with the best of intentions and me trying to find my back to involved fatherhood. And then it ended like it always has for the last few months — with me getting impatient and yelling at the boys.

This time it was Sam. I took him to walk the dog down the dirt road across the street from our house. The road ends at a small pond that Sam loves, mainly because it’s now frozen over and he discovered that when you throw a rock on a frozen pond it makes a really cool noise. But when 3-year-olds find something new and fun, they want to do it again. And again. And again and again and again. Over and over until they’ve squeezed the enjoyment out of it like so much blood from the stones they seek to skip along that ice-encrusted surface.

I knew he’d want to linger and I told myself to be patient with him. After all, with the hours I work we haven’t had much time together and I know he just misses me.

So we threw rocks for five minutes and it was fun. Then I felt the familiar sensation of a buzz in my pocket. Work email. Dammit, I’ll have to respond to this. I gently say “Hey bud, it’s time to go back, OK?” He ignores me in favor of picking up another rock and tossing it down to smash against the ice.

Buzz-buzz.

I feel the discomfort growing as I try to read the email, herd Sam, all with the dog’s leash attached to my wrist, which is yanking me as I try to catch up on what I need to do when I get back to the house. I put my phone in my pocket and kneel down beside him and tell him again how we have to go home. He cries and says “NO!” and I can see him digging in his heels. I take a breath and try to reason with him and tell him “Peanut is cold, we need to walk back so he’ll be warm.”

Buzz-buzz.

I’ve now lost my patience and the thought of emails I haven’t yet responded to fills me with more dread and loathing than is healthy. But that buzzing is my job, that job is my future, my future is that house, and that house is everything I want for my family. Which means whatever that email is is the most important thing right now. The ridiculousness of that statement is not lost on me, even in the moment. Yet it has taken hold of me and I can’t fight it. Not now. Not there at the frozen pond with my phone abuzz and my son’s temper flaring and the dog pulling — pulling me in a thousand different directions so that I’m everywhere and yet nowhere all at the same time.

Buzz-buzz.

“SAM, I’VE HAD IT. LET’S GO OR YOU’RE LOSING A TOY!” I scream, too loud. Too close to him. I’ve now triggered Sam’s fight or flight response and he almost always chooses fight. He scrunches up his face, balls up his fist, and grunts like it’s Lord of the Flies. He’s savage now and I made him this way, only now I’m off the reservation too.

I snatch him up but he’s big and I have the dog, who pulls me off balance and forces me to put Sam down. He views this as a victory and runs back toward the pond as I yank the dog to give chase. He’s screaming about wanting to throw rocks. I’ve just threatened to take every toy he’s ever owned or will ever own. Our father-son walk has turned into a grudge match and neither of us is going to yield an inch.

Buzz-buzz.

This imbalance can’t be blamed on the kids or work. It’s my fault. I didn’t do it on purpose but that doesn’t matter, and it’s up to me to fix. I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to excel at my job without working the hours I work. I don’t know how to be a good parent if I routinely go 2-3 days during the week without seeing them, and then spend my weekends being annoyed by them and the work I didn’t get to during the week.

It’s easy for others to tell me I just need to spend less time at work, but my job is what’s allowing us to move into a great house. My wife would work if she could, but she can’t. It’s not good for her health and I won’t have her in that situation again. So I stumble on, hoping to find a middle ground I’m not even sure exists and wondering how much human leeway I’ll be afforded by my family until I’m nothing more than a stranger passing in the night who shows up late for events and spends time screaming at little kids for wanting to throw rocks on the icy pond.

I have no answers, just anxiety. It is the fear of worrying you’re screwing everything up and realizing you won’t really know the answer to that until it’s far too late. It’s the terrifying notion that a job you love and the people you love could very well need more time and attention than you have to give, yet something has to give. Otherwise you end up having WW III over rocks on a pond.

Buzz-buzz.

 

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How The West Wing on Netflix Got Me Through the Election

west wing cast
Bring back President Bartlet!

It’s no secret the outcome of the presidential election was not to my liking. Which is an understated way of saying I was absolutely devastated in every way, shape, and form.

And when I’m upset, I binge-watch.

Netflix may not have started with therapeutic intentions, but I’m willing to bet it’s become that for millions of customers. And after it became clear I was going to have to raise my kids under President Donald Trump, I needed a distraction in a big way.

I needed The West Wing on Netflix.

It might seem strange to immediately watch a political show when politics is the cause of my stress in the first place. But after 15 months of watching Trump say horrifically ignorant things only to be rewarded with the highest office in the land, I needed the fictional White House of my dreams.

I wanted President Josiah Barlet’s steady hand and unmatched intellect. I craved Sam Seaborn’s unrelenting idealism and deep love for doing the right thing at all costs. I longed for Toby Ziegler’s stubbornness matched only by his ability to string together perfect words to form transcendent speeches in the loftiest of moments. And I marveled at Josh Lyman’s witty arrogance combined with his heartfelt dedication to the service of his country.

I’m of the opinion intelligence should be held in the highest esteem, and Aaron Sorkin writes brilliantly smart dialogue. The banter between cast members moves at light speed with expert precision, and the result is some truly memorable scenes that will forever stand out in your memory. Like this one.

I have re-watched the whole first season of West Wing since the election. Unfortunately, I fear it’s the only recourse I’ll have if I want to see an extraordinary intellectual painstakingly weigh crucial decisions of national importance instead of firing off an ill-advised tweet that seeks to strip Americans of their Constitutionally protected rights.

In a world turned temporarily insane, Netflix is my escape and my therapy. Let’s hope there’s four years worth of entertainment to keep us all occupied.


netflix stream team logo

I was compensated for writing this post, but all opinions are my own.

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Don’t Be a Dick

dont-be-a-dick

“Dad, what do we do now?”

That was the most pressing question my 8-year-old asked me in the wake of Trumpageddon. I was focusing on how did we get here, what went wrong, and how the hell can people be this stupid? But, as usual, my oldest son directed my attention to what’s really important — the “what now?”

You see, I spent most of this election telling my son Trump wouldn’t win. I told him that because I believed in this country’s common sense and ability to sniff out an obvious con-man who threatened the very foundation upon which the United States is built. I told him bullies don’t win in the end.

But the bully did win. Ignorance, hate, and divisiveness won. There’s nothing I can do about that now, so where do we go from here and how did I answer my son’s question? After some contemplation, I looked him straight in the eye and said the following:

“Just don’t be a dick.”

I didn’t make that up, I stole it from my friend Oren Miller. It was his one guiding principle when he started a dad blogger Facebook group that has swelled to more than 1,200 members. Cancer took him from us in 2015 but his painful absence doesn’t make the advice any less pertinent. Especially now.

Unfortunately the election is lost. Donald Trump will be our next President of the United State for at least four years. A lot of us don’t like it, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. However, not being a dick is a great way to do our part to combat the dickishness in which our country is currently awash.

I told Will if he sees or hears bullies at school trashing people (especially minorities), step in and help. Because not taking action is still being a dick, and defending classmates lets them know they’re not alone.

Stumble upon some lily white morons telling kids who look different from them to go back where they came from? Breathing a sigh of relief just because they’re not picking on you is still being a dick, so put yourself in between the bullies and the bullied. I told Will as a white male, he’s got an easier time than most so he needs to make sure he’s got some skin in the game, because discrimination is never acceptable.

Hear someone telling a female classmate she can’t participate in something like science or sports just because she’s a girl? Don’t be a dick — shut that shit down immediately. Many women had hammers in hand to finally break through that glass ceiling, only to have the rug pulled out from under them at the eleventh hour. But this is not their fight, it’s our fight. All of us. You don’t need to rescue damsels in distress, you just need to stand up for what’s right and help your fellow people.

Don’t be a dick about refugees. The vast majority of refugees are not terrorists and are simply trying to keep their families alive. If that were me, I’d break every immigration rule possible if it meant keeping my family safe from the bombs raining down on them. Be empathetic and tell those who would rather build walls and deny entrance to our country based on religious discrimination that you’re not going to put up with that crap. I guarantee others will follow your lead.

Gay people just got the right to marry who they want, but now they’re facing an administration that openly hates them and is threatening to nominate Supreme Court judges who could potentially delegitimize their families. So don’t be a dick by calling people “faggots” and don’t let other people get away with slurs. You’ll be surrounded by kids who are gay but too afraid to come out, and even if they never thank you personally for standing up for them in public, they’ll feel less alone because you did. You never know what’s going to save someone from going over the edge, so be a stand-up guy instead of a dick.

And lastly, don’t listen to the people who will claim YOU are being a dick by speaking out against others. There’s a difference between basic political disagreements and standing up against racists, misogynists, and xenophobes. Trump is in the latter category and his supporters condoned those things by voting for him. Will, you can never be too intolerant of intolerance, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

This is a dark time, my boy. It’s also an exceedingly dangerous time because standards of decency are shifting. What should be unacceptable is now presidential, and normalizing our most fanatical and awful behaviors leads to the erosion of all things good and just. So don’t fall into that basket of deplorables.

Don’t be a dick, even if we just elected one.

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