Category Archives: Dad Stuff

Magazine Inserts Make Great Mini Paper Airplanes!

Magazine inserts

I had previously thought that grasping for a fallen magazine insert at the local bookstore to use as a makeshift tissue as my two-year-old unearths a massive boogie from his left nostril and begins to flail it about towards my face was the best possible use for such magazine debris, but  I’ve since found another great use. Out of boredom, I folded one into a simple airplane and gave it a toss. To my surprise, the little bugger (not booger) shot across the room like a missile, and with great accuracy, too.

Of course, now I’m thinking I should research some paper airplane videos on YouTube so I can test out some better designs. You might as well try folding these suckers up and launching them at your own trash cans, too. It’s kind of fun, and besides, they’ll end up there anyway.

Disclaimer: Just watch you don’t poke an eye out!

Just picked up iStopMotion for Mac!

I ‘ve been casually on the lookout for stop motion software to play around with for some time now. I was in no hurry, however, when I came across iStopMotion in the Apple App Store on sale for $19.99 I immediately snatched it up. The sale ends tomorrow, and the normal price is $49.99! If you or anyone you know is in the market for stop motion or time-lapse software for Mac, check it out  now while you can get it at a discount! Apparently there is a free companion app that allows you to use your iPhone as a remote camera over your wi-fi network.

As the kids grow up, this should be a great source of family project fun. Of course, I’ll have to thoroughly test it out first. Fortunately, I’ve had some interesting ideas for stop motion movies in mind for the longest time. Now I can finally dig in.  This would solve my problem of not having a HD webcam. I’m pretty excited to try all of this out. Check back soon to see how my home-brewed stop motion movies turn out!

Here’s a sneak peek on set of my first movie:

Who's desk can this be?

Who’s desk can this be?


How My Daughter Taught Me to Give

Stuffed animals galore

‘Tis the season’ for giving, and for being completely humbled by your own children.

We were going through the mountain of toys and stuffed animals that have amassed in the playroom, and we decided to clean out some of the clutter. The collection of stuffed animals, specifically, was squarely in my sights.

I said to my daughter, “We should give a few of these to another boy or girl to play with,” and just after the words flitted happily off my tongue, I realized what I had done. Four-year olds, as you know, take EVERYTHING literally.

I saw her eyes begin to grow wider and imagined the gears turning in her head, so I commenced with my back-peddling crusade. I tried to explain what it means to donate things to the Salvation Army, but it was already too late. She was dead set on going right out and finding a boy or girl to give her stuffed turtle and teddy bear to.

After a brief moment of reflection, I realized that this was a really good thing. It was a teachable moment and character building opportunity for my daughter. I recognized that this was a chance to be a really good dad, and I became very excited. We packed up the stuffed animals and headed off to the mall to look for someone to give them to.

Although there were lots of boys and girls at the mall shopping with their parents, we must have done five laps before she worked up her confidence and settled on the perfect girl to pawn off her old stuffed animals on. “Great,” I thought, “This is almost a wrap. Soon I can put another notch on my rad dad staff.” (I don’t really have a rad dad staff – see, I’ve become paranoid about being taken literally).

I bent over, smiled at my daughter, and said, “Go ahead, sweetie. Run over there and give them to the girl,” after which she completely froze. I tried encouraging her to no avail. She wanted to do it, but couldn’t work up the nerve. I could totally understand where she was coming from. That was when I came to the realization that I was going to have to do this myself. My gut instinct was to run. Instead, I took a few deep breaths and tried to think.

“Okay, I can do this!” I thought. I looked at the mother, who, as far as I could tell, appeared to be a decent and friendly person. I then looked down at myself. I was sporting my best pair of corduroys. OK, that’s good. No foods stains either, that’s also a plus. The best thing I had going for me, however, was having my daughter with me. That would have to lower my creepiness value significantly.

That’s when my brain began to riot against this dumb idea. Every ounce of me revolted against approaching this total stranger. I’d much rather be anonymous, so instead I briefly considered giving my daughter some cash to drop into the Salvation Army bucket out front, but I knew it couldn’t work. She just wouldn’t understand. No, I had to go all-in now.

I paced back and forth a few times, (you know, just to look even creepier to nearby shoppers) and then I made my move. I gripped my daughter’s hand tightly, not only for her support, but also in an effort to look less threatening. We were in this together.

I smiled and said, “Excuse me, but my daughter really wants to give away these stuffed animals to someone, and she chose your daughter. It really would make my daughter’s day.”

I then turned slowly to my daughter and said, “Open the bag, honey,” to show that it contained no rat poison, body parts, or other nightmarish items – just two cute and cuddly stuffed animals. I smiled again and waited patiently as the mom sized up the situation.

She started to say, “Well, she already has – ,” but I deftly and ever so subtly shook my head, raised my eyebrows as high as my face would allow, and tried to nonverbally communicate something along the lines of, “Dear God lady, please please please don’t make me have to do this again – you’ve got to help me. Just take the $%^&* bag of stuffed animals, have a Merry Christmas, and let’s move on!”

Just then her daughter said, “OOHHH, they are so cute!”, and my own daughter began doing that cute thing she does where she sort of dances in place because she’s so excited, shy, or in this case, both.

So the mom says, “Are you sure?”, and I volleyed back an immediate “Yyyy-ep!” Then Mother went on to say that it was very nice of her and all that jazz… Actually, my brain stopped processing outside stimuli at that point as my inner monologue began screaming, “WE DID IT! WE DID IT!”

After a quick goodbye and well-wishing for Happy Holidays, we went our separate ways, and I wiped the sweat from my brow. I gushed to my daughter about how proud I was of her for giving away some of her toys, and I offered to take her out to eat as a special treat. She chose the ‘dinosaur place’, which baffled me at first, but turned out to be the Texas Roadhouse right outside the mall. We had a great dinner and a discussion about the ‘fun’ we had giving away her toys and making another little girl happy.

I’m sure these sorts of things happen all the time, but this one really is going to stick in my mind for quite some time. It’s easily going to be my defining ‘dad moment’ of the year. Nothing else in the world could have given me courage to approach a complete stranger in such a manner, except for wanting to do right by my daughter. Both of us grew a little bit as human beings that night.

This story was featured as a guest post on The Real Matt Daddy, as part of his Real Fatherhood Stories series. Check out more Real Fatherhood Stories at The Real Matt Daddy, and see what Matt is up to on Twitter and Facebook.

The Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas Fail

Emmet Otter Coaster

Makes for a good coaster.

When I was a little, I adored Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, the Jim Henson Christmas movie from 1977. I loved it so much that I wanted to build my own washtub bass. Unfortunately for me, Ma and Pa wouldn’t let me anywhere near the old washtub.  I can vividly remember my Dad watching this with me every Christmas season, and I can just as clearly recall him singing (poorly) along with it.

While in a nostalgic Christmas mood several years ago, I tried to purchase a DVD copy off the internet. They must have been out of print at the time because they were going for over a hundred dollars on eBay! I thought I’d never see the Riverbottom Boys again (they were the coolest villainous rock band – my favorite!).

Well, it looks like Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas has not only been back in print for some time, but it’s seemed to have reach overstock status. I found one in a bargain bin for $5 and snatched it right up. I’m really glad I waited a few years and didn’t fork over a hundred bucks!

The other night I eagerly popped it into the Blu-ray player for the kids to enjoy, and, to my surprise, they had zero interest in watching it! It looks like Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas will NOT become one of Secret Dad’s Christmas traditions, at least not yet. I’ll still be giving it a go next year, and maybe again the year after that. If nothing else, it will become a tradition of untraditions.

Tell us about one of your failed family traditions!

Mystery of the Haunted Mansion: Case Closed

Haunted House

Sometime around Halloween I noticed a cool road sign on my morning commute. Someone  had added some sort of graffiti or decal to a sign that seemed to have made it into an eerie haunted mansion sitting atop a hill. I found it to be quite fantastic! I wondered how long it would remain, since it was certainly illegal and would surely be reported to the Department of Transportation. It probably wouldn’t last more than a few days.

Well, weeks went by, and I continued my daily drive-by of the haunted mansion on the hill, always trying to glean a closer look through the darkness of early morning. Christmas is almost here now, and yet the haunted mansion road sign still remains!

I just drove by the sign in actual daylight for the first time, and to my horror, it became evident that it was actually a “yield ahead” sign that had been oddly boarded up. The whole thing was an optical illusion! I felt cheated. I thought that darn haunted mansion sign was so cool, but it was really just my dumb imagination all along.

You know what, though? I can’t be the only person that saw something that wasn’t really there – something better than what was actually there.  Having an open mind and  being imaginative is a good thing.  It’s something I hope to see in my own children. So promise not to tell my kids, because if we should ever drive by this particular road sign at night, they will be warned about  how the scariest haunted mansion in the entire world is right around the bend.

Not a Haunted House

Tantalizingly Tasty Black Licorice Pipes

La Pipette

My family hits the local farmer’s market on an almost weekly basis, and whenever we’re there, I always stop in at the candy booth to pick up a few black licorice pipes.

I always found black licorice to be gross when I was growing up, with the exception being these ‘ol fashioned black licorice pipes. They’re so soft and delicious! I have all good intentions of channeling some Popeye as I unwrap each pipe, and yet it never fails that before a single “I am what I am” can escape my lips, I’ve already bitten off the end. They’re a classic nostalgic treat that would make great stocking stuffers for anyone, especially dads.

I offered these up to some friends recently when I remembered that I had several stashed away in my inside coat pocket, and they just gobbled them right up. Now, every time I’m at the market, I seem to end up buying more than the last time. Luckily I’ve found a cheap source where they are two for a dollar! I know that’s a pretty good price because I’ve seen them in candy stores for $1.50 a piece!

You’re always sure to get a smile when you offer a licorice pipe to someone, and they seem to fit in especially well during the holiday season. It makes sense, too, because I can totally imagine Santa munching on some of these babies. Yes, indeed, black licorice pipes get the Secret Dad Society official seal of approval. The next time you are shopping and you see some of these tasty pipes, remember to pick up a few, and give one to the next friend or deserving dad that you encounter. It will make their day!

Say your prayers, pipe.

Say your prayers, pipe.

The Other Fantastic Mr. Fox

While shopping the other day, my wife and I allowed each of our kids to choose an ornament for our Christmas tree. Today, after a grueling haul up from the basement and a few choice words getting it all together and lit, the kids finally got to hang their ornaments on the tree. My son had chosen a Buzz Lightyear, a solid pick, while my daughter chose a Cinderella shoe. Yep, a shoe. Well, a slipper actually. I desperately tried to steer her towards a nice My Little Pony but she wouldn’t budge. She truly does not comprehend the gravity of making such a selection.

You see, when I was growing up, decorating the Christmas tree signaled the beginning of a fantastic but fleeting season of adventure with some of my favorite friends. I didn’t have many toys growing up, but fortunately, my grandmother was a sucker for collectibles, and each year she would send us several Hallmark ornaments. Some of these ornaments would provide me with my main source of entertainment between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Please remember that I was an only child, so I had to amuse myself one way or another. My favorite two ornaments (toys) were Mr. Fox and Kermit the Frog, and both were on skis. We went on all sorts of adventures together; Foiling train heists, skiing the deadliest of slopes, and rescuing damsels in distress was all in a days work for this dynamic duo. Somewhere along the line though, Mr. Fox was lost, never  to be found again. Initially it was a crushing blow, but as I grew older, I eventually lost interest in toys anyway, just like Andy did in Toy Story 3.

Anyway, once the kids were all tucked in bed, I mused on the idea of what their Christmas tree memories would look like. My son has already broken in Buzz, so I’m certain that Mr. Lightyear will be accepted into the sacred brotherhood of ornaments, amidst the likes of Kermit and Old Wise One (my dad’s favorite childhood ornament, passed down first to me, and now to my own kids), to set out on new adventures.

Old Wise One

Then, just as I do every year, I thought about that original team-up of Mr. Fox and Kermit, and how they did everything together, much like Buzz and Woody. At that moment, after all these years, I sat myself down at the computer and Googled “Hallmark 1980s Skiing Fox,” and within a second there he was! Just a few minutes later I had purchased a 1983 Hallmark Skiing Fox ornament on eBay, almost assuredly for less than what my Grandma paid in 1983. THIS is why the internet is amazing!  A Christmas miracle has transpired! Now, for the first time in twenty-some years, the old gang will be together again, this time with a new recruit: The one and only Buzz Lightyear, space ranger. And, let us not forget, a Cinderella shoe.