Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Christmas Story

“You know Santa Claus isn’t real, don’t you?” my older brother asked me, somewhat exasperated at my naiveté.

“Yes,” I replied matter-of-factly, with my eyes rolling slightly.

In actuality, it was the first time I’d even considered the possibility. Now, I just felt stupid. Like I was the oldest kid in the world who still believed in Santa.

I asked my mama.

“Tommy said Santa Claus isn’t real. Is that true?”

“He’s real if you want him to be, son,” Mama said.

Maybe deep down I’d known for some time, but I wasn’t ready to let it go. Maybe I knew that, if I did, Christmas would never feel the same again and in the deep recesses of my mind I wanted to hold on to this little piece of childhood just a little while longer.

But things started to make better sense. Like when Mama told me not to expect too much for Christmas this year, times were tough. I knew times were tough but that didn’t really seem to matter when it came to being naughty or nice. Now I get it.

To say times were tough is an understatement.

The coal mine closed down and Daddy hadn’t worked in almost a year. We had food on the table but not much else. Daddy was gone a lot, I remember. It wasn’t until many years later that I came to learn that he spent most nights coon hunting and most days drinking moonshine from a still he had hidden in the woods behind the house. It’s hard on a man when he loses the only work he's ever known. I remember my mama crying a lot and being awakened in the middle of the night to the sounds of the two of them fighting.

Besides, it didn’t much feel like Christmas anyway. Most winters are mild in the deep south, but this year was even warmer than usual. All the trees were still covered with leaves until a vicious thunderstorm roared through and blew them all to the ground, just a couple days before Christmas. It hadn’t snowed in three or four years. I'd never experienced a white Christmas before and wanted one more than just about anything. Every night I prayed for snow. 

I fell asleep early on Christmas Eve, but was jolted awake just after midnight when I heard loud clanking and banging coming from somewhere. I was thinking that maybe another storm had come through and blown tree limbs onto the tin roof. I got up to investigate and that’s when I saw him, standing in front of the Christmas tree beside the fireplace: a man with a flowing white beard and red coat and black boots. It was Santa Claus.

Santa glanced at me and smiled a smile that danced across his entire face and called me over to him to give me a big hug.

“You are real, Santa,” I said.

“Of course I am,” he said. “Now where are my cookies, boy? Every year you leave me oatmeal cookies and a tall glass of milk.”

I ran as fast as I could to the kitchen and came back with cookies and milk for Santa and some for me too. His crystal blue eyes lit up when he saw them.

“I’m sorry for all the commotion. The reindeer got a little reckless landing on your roof tonight.” We both laughed.

Santa asked me if I could hold the bag open for him while he got out the presents, which were many more than I could have ever dreamed of – a bicycle for me, a basketball for my brother, a radio for my sister, a coat for Daddy and gloves for Mama... and so much more. The presents just kept coming until they were spilling out from under the tree and into the dining room.

Finally, after all the presents were put out and all the cookies eaten, Santa told me it was time for me to go back to bed and time for him to head to the next house, as he caressed my face with his gloved hand.

“But I have one more present for you,” he said. “Go look out the window.”

From the window, I watched Santa and his sleigh disappear into the black winter sky then noticed the first flakes of snow begin to fall. It snowed the rest of the night and all of Christmas Day and most of the days leading up to New Years Eve. There’s no telling how many snowmen my brothers and sisters and I built or how many snowball fights we had in our back yard. We’d never laughed so hard in our entire lives.

The next spring my daddy got a job in another town and we moved away. Mama and Daddy quit fighting and life got back to being normal. Many Christmas’s have come and gone since then, but that's the one I remember the most. I guess you can say it’s the best Christmas I ever had. It’s the one and only time I ever saw Santa Claus, but I’ve never since questioned his existence.

Now, when my children ask me if Santa Claus is really real, I always say “Yes, he is.”

He’s real if you want him to be.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Family Time

"Family Time," a collection of more than 100 fun, funny, poignant comics by "No Ordinary Life" comic Justin Baglio is now available through Raburn Publishing. To order a copy, click here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tips to Keep Children Safe and Happy on Halloween

‘Tis the season for frolicking fun, festive parties, dressing up in ghoulish costumes, trick-or-tricking and, of course, lots of yummy sweet treats. It can also be dangerous. Each year accidents and injuries ruin Halloween for hundreds of children across the U.S. 

Droves of children will be out and about on Halloween night, which ups the odds for all sorts of accidents, including being hit by a car. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates deaths among pedestrians aged 5-14 is four times higher on Halloween than any other evening of the year. Remember, this is a festive occasion for grownups too and some of them may not be on their best driving behavior.

And it’s not just cars our kiddos have to worry about. Danger lurks everywhere.

Below are some tips to keep in mind to make sure this Halloween is a fun, safe one for your family.

Pedestrian Safety
When romping around the ‘hood on Halloween night, make sure your kids wear brightly colored costumes and/or reflective tape on costumes and bags. Have them take a flashlight, too – not just so they can see better, but for drivers to see them better too. Make sure kids walk in groups, in well-lit neighborhoods, and on streets with which they are familiar. Remind them to use sidewalks and crosswalks and cross streets together as a pack. 

Picking out a pumpkin at your favorite pumpkin patch is a fun family tradition for many. Carving the pumpkin can be dangerous, though. Pumpkin exteriors can be oh so tough which means you need a sharp knife to cut through them. Sharp knives and kids is a bad combination. Suggestion: let the kids draw the design on the pumpkin with a marker and have the adult do all the cutting. Or, skip the carving part altogether and decorate the pumpkin with paint or sharpies or glitter glue.

Whether home-made or store bought, it’s important that whatever mask your child wears fits properly so that it doesn't obstruct her vision. Chances are your child will be climbing up and down doorsteps, most of the time in front of houses dimly lit for an extra spooky effect, with lots of distractions and excitement all around. That’s tricky enough. If her eye-holes are too small for her eyes or are somewhere over her ear and nose, her vision will be impaired and her chances of tumbling down the steps greatly increased - spewing Skittles and candy corn as she goes. Not that I remember something like that actually happening to me or anything.

Remember, you can always cut the eye-holes to make them bigger and enhance your child’s peripheral vision. 

Oh, and make sure your child can breathe well under that mask. Breathing is important.

Candy Safety
It’s the one night of the year when the “never take candy from a stranger" rule is suspended. You still need to be cautious, though. Make sure your child knows that no candy should be eaten before a parent properly examines it. Avoid eating home-made treats handed out by strangers (no matter how yummy it looks), unwrapped candy, or any treat that just looks odd or suspicious for some reason. There will be enough perfectly safe candy to last for weeks. No need to risk your health by eating something funky.

Houses to Avoid
Not everyone celebrates Halloween. Heck, not everyone even likes kids. Avoid those people. It’s pretty easy to determine who in the neighborhood is in the Halloween spirit. Avoid the houses with no lights on and not even a smidgen of Halloween decoration on the porch or windows. They’re either not home or they do not want little Zombie ringing the door bell. Also, NEVER enter the house of someone you do not know. Adults know the protocol: kid in costume rings doorbell, adult answers door, child screams "Trick or Treat," bemused grownup says something along the lines of “…well, aren’t you just the most darling Fairy Princess” then hands kid Snicker’s bar, child says "thank you" and promptly proceeds to the next house. That’s the way it’s always been done. No reason to go inside.

Beware the Shenanigans
Remember, there will be a lot of shenanigans and mischief-making on Halloween night, most of which is fun-spirited, but some of it could get out of hand. Be sure to warn your child about pranksters and also remind him that Halloween doesn’t give him an excuse to vandalize property or play mean tricks on people. Rolling yards with toilet paper or tossing eggs at cars may seem like a harmless prank, but it could land your child in serious trouble.

Check in
If you allow your older child to go out trick-or-treating in a group without adult supervision, which I don’t advise, be sure that she or someone in the group has a cell phone and reports in at designated times, makes regular stops back home to check in, and is clear about a definitive curfew. Stress to your child that she should NEVER accept a ride in a car from an older kid or stranger.

The Spaghetti Effect
Finally, if you don’t want your child to consume huge amounts of candy on Halloween night, one trick is to make sure she eats a filling dinner before trick-or-treating. This will result in either one of two outcomes: she won’t eat so much candy; or, she’ll still eat too much candy and there will be a large pile of spaghetti in the lawn of someone in the neighborhood. Your call.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Amazon Review

A recent review of “There’s a Bully on the Playground” on Amazon. com: 

“Like the author, I have two kids in elementary school. Bullying has been a problem the past couple years and nobody seems to be doing much about it. This book is packed with useful info not only for parents like me as I try to help my kids deal with the issue, but also for kids themselves (whether they're being bullied, bystanders to bullying or the bully themselves) and for teachers and principals too. I highly recommend it. It's a combination of sophisticated researched-based info and common sense advice based on the authors own experiences. Quick, easy read packed with helpful info and ideas.” -Daddio

Would You Let Your Child Play Football?

Would you let your child play football?

That’s a hot question these days as information about long-term medical problems among former players in the National Football League (NFL) continues to be revealed.  The NFL recently settled a lawsuit for $765 million involving thousands of its former players. The players claim that the league knew of the potential risk of brain damage due to repetitive concussions, but did little to educate them or prevent the injuries from occurring.

Some former players link their current medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and other neurodegenerative diseases to their football playing days. A recent study suggests that professional football players are three times more likely to have such conditions than the general population. 

The study, which was published September 5, 2012 in the medical journal Neurology, surveyed nearly 3,500 retired NFL players who were in the league between 1959 and 1988.

The NFL has taken major steps in recent years to make the game safer for its players, both in terms of equipment and protocol. In the past, though, whenever a player got his “bell rung” and wobbled to the sideline, he was sent right back into the game as soon as possible, exposing the player to further head injuries.

Obviously, there’s a big difference between Little League and the NFL. The massive size, speed and power of players competing at the highest level is in no way comparable to young kids just picking up the sport in elementary school. You won’t see the kind of violent collisions in Pee Wee games that you do on Monday Night Football.

On the other hand, there’s also a big difference in the quality of protective equipment used by pros versus youngsters. 

And, whereas qualified medical staff is always on the sidelines at practices and games for college and pro teams, that’s not the case for younger players.

The barrage of recent media coverage regarding the NFL lawsuit is shining a light on the dangers of the sport and making parents across the country wonder whether the risks are worth it.

Undeniably, football at any level is violent. Toughness is rewarded. To “shake off” an injury and get back in the game is seen as admirable.  That’s just part of the culture of the sport and true whether it’s the New York Jets or some Pop Warner team in Chapel Hill. Taping an ankle and limping back to the gridiron to the applause of the fans in the stands is one thing; returning to the line of fire once you’ve “shaken the cobwebs” after a blow to the head is an entirely different matter.

It’s hard for a parent to draw the line. Maybe youth leagues are safe but reservations start to creep in along about the junior high or high school level as the size, speed and power of its participants increase. Regardless of the dangers, the sport remains a very popular activity among young people. It is estimated that 3.5 million kids play in youth leagues and one million play in high school.

Most youngsters who play football don’t sustain serious injuries, although almost everyone who plays long enough will get a little banged up from time to time, a twisted ankle or bruised knee here and there.  Head injuries, however, aren’t as easy to detect as a twisted ankle and a bruised brain poses a much greater risk for problems down the road.

But how risky is it? A group of researchers in North Carolina and Virginia is hoping to shed some light on the subject, according to an article in Technology Review. The researchers worked with two youth teams and one high school team, representing children aged 6-18, during the 2012-2013 football season. With helmets equipped with accelerometers, more than 16,000 head impacts were recorded and measured over the course of that season. Players were given neurological tests and brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging and magnetoencephalography to look for changes in the brain before and after the season. Results are still being analyzed.

The researchers hope to develop tools to identify when a player has been hit hard enough, or repeatedly enough, to risk a concussion or other brain injury.

The decision can be a tough one for parents. Most of us want our kids involved in extracurricular activities and believe participating on an athletic team builds confidence and discipline. We may wonder whether football is really more dangerous than soccer or skateboarding or surfing or driving a car or other activities in which we allow our child to participate. Many of us have fond memories of Friday nights under the lights and feel like a hypocrite denying the same experience to our children.

Still, keeping our children safe is a fundamental task as a parent. Each family must consider the pros and cons and make a decision that’s right for their child. 

Family Time

Raburn Publishing is just a few days away from the release of "Family Time" a collection of more than 100 awesome, funny, poignant, quirky comics from the brilliant (and kinda strange) mind of "No Ordinary Life" artist Justin Baglio. We're in the final stage of layout... Melanie's crossing t's and dotting i's. Check back for updates.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

There's a Bully on the Playground

An excerpt from the Introduction to "There's a Bully on the Playground," written by Stephen Raburn:

However else one may choose to label me, “Dad” is the one that matters most. I have been blessed with two absolutely amazing elementary-school age daughters. Every second I get to spend with them is an honor and a privilege. They are the center of my universe and the idea of anyone bullying either one of them keeps me up at night. So, I decided to write a book.

Bullying is a topic that has been in the news a lot lately. In some ways, nothing’s really changed since we were kids and desperately trying to dodge the bully on the playground. But some things are different, like cyberbullying – the use of technology to spread rumors and damage reputations in a matter of moments.

I’m not an expert on the topic. I’m just a dad trying to help his daughters get through another school year. What I think I’ve been able to accomplish with the book, though, is to gather valuable information from a ton of legitimate sources and arrange it in a way that makes sense.

“There’s a Bully on the Playground” is written from the perspective of Dad (with hints of child counselor seeping out every now and then), but is certainly suitable for moms or teachers or anyone else who cares about children. I hope readers use it as a resource. Tuck it away and pull it out as needed. I also hope that it spurs conversation and provides framework and context whenever some child important to you hints around about the bully on the playground.

"There’s a bully on the playground."

Every dad dreads hearing those words from his son or daughter.

Whether or not your child has uttered those words to you, chances are there IS a bully on the playground. So, this is as good a time as any to get a game plan in place. Maybe even be proactive and initiate the conversation.

Unfortunately, bullying is widespread in playgrounds across the country, as well as in the cafeteria, on the bus, and even in the hallways and classrooms; at times it blatantly occurs for all to see and at times it goes sneakily undetected right under the nose of the teacher.

Bullying certainly is not new. But the topic of bullying has received a tremendous amount of attention in the media during the past few years because of some of the tragic consequences resulting from it, including successful suicide attempts among children as young as 11 years old. The Internet has created a new wave of bullying behaviors that require us to revisit our anti-bullying strategies. Even tech-savvy parents may have difficulty understanding what it’s like for kids to go through childhood with social media looming as such a large presence in their lives. This new terrain can be pretty scary for dads to navigate.

Bullying, in the myriad ways it rears its ugly head, is very real, and it’s not a subject about which we dads have the luxury of burying our heads in the sandbox.

The good news about bullying is that you and I are not the only ones thinking about the topic today. As of this writing, 49 of 50 states have enacted anti-bullying laws (Montana, you’ll have to answer for yourself.) Many schools have personnel dedicated to creating anti-bullying policies and handling complaints. In some schools, administrators and teachers work to change the culture for our children through anti-bullying programs that are emphasized and repeated in the classroom every day. But even if your child’s school is ahead of the curve when it comes to bullying prevention, it’s still an issue that needs to be addressed at home, too. There’s no good reason to avoid it.

“There’s a bully on the playground, Dad."

So, what do you do when your child comes home with this announcement?

Well, start by being thankful! The fact that your child is sharing this info with you means two things. First, she trusts that you’re not going to freak out. Second, she’s asking YOU for help instead of someone else. Don’t blow it by over-reacting to the situation. Or by minimizing it. Remember: Every time your child approaches you with an issue that’s important to her, it presents a test for you. Pass the test and she’ll be more likely to continue to come to you as issues arise; fail the test and she’ll be more likely to bypass you and rely on the advice of her peers instead.

The key is to gain your child’s trust when she is conflicted and unsure what to do, whom to turn to. This is especially difficult during adolescence when she’s more inclined to shut you out anyway and turn to her friends – just as she’s dealing with more sophisticated issues and she needs your guidance most.

Like most issues our kids are sure to encounter during the turbulence of childhood, most of us dealt with some variation of bullying when we were younger. Your own experiences with bullying as a child will color your instinctive reaction to the topic when approached by your son or daughter. It’s sometimes difficult as a parent to separate our own experiences from our children’s experiences.

If you still have pent up anger over Cindy Little–the bully on the playground in third grade who dared the boys to make fun of her name and had half the school hiding atop the tallest trees at recess–you might be inclined to overreact and head straight to the school to give a certain little somebody a piece of your mind. Note: nothing is more embarrassing to a child than his parent causing a ruckus at school. Bad move.

On the other hand, if you look back at school through rose-colored nostalgic glasses and consider bullying to be just another charming part of the good old days, you might be inclined to ignore it. “Hey, kids will be kids, they’ll work it out. I got bullied when I was a kid, and I made it out just fine.” That may be true, but it’s a different era. The tactics bullies use these days go beyond suggesting their playground nemesis has cooties and an occasional skirmish under the monkey bars. Left unattended, the results of bullying can wreak havoc on your child’s still-developing and fragile psyche and sense of self-worth and demonstrate to your child that you just don’t understand what she’s going through. If you’re just going to dismiss it, why bother telling you anything in the future?

Dads risk embarrassing their children if they storm to school and they risk alienating their children if they don’t take bullying seriously. It’s complicated. The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Of course, no dad has all the right answers; certainly, that includes me. It’s a tricky balance to strike, for sure. Your raging Papa Bear instincts may ignite when you learn your little cub is being picked on, but it’s important that you remain calm and think clearly. How do you teach your child to stand up for himself without putting him in harm’s way? How do you teach him to turn the other cheek without reinforcing the bully and unwittingly increase the likelihood that the bullying will continue? What about if it’s your child who’s doing the bullying? Did I mention that it’s tricky?

What’s critically important is for your child to understand that you’re on his side and that you are here for him, that you take this issue seriously and that, with your help and the help of other important adults in his life, he’ll get through this situation just fine. And don’t go to the playground and start yelling at Cindy Little.

Click here to order the book. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No Ordinary Life

Coming Soon to Raburn Publishing: 

A collection of 100 or so uproariously funny and poignant comics by "No Ordinary Life" artist Justin Baglio. 

A father of three (ages 11, 8 and 7), Justin describes his comics as "an optimists way of looking at the world and laughing at everything in it," further proof that parenting requires a good attitude and a sense of humor. 

Targeting early Fall for release.

Here's a sample: 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

There's a Bully on the Playground

Check out the cover idea for "There's a Bully on the Playground," designed by awesome artist, Melanie Bourgeois.

We're putting finishing editing touches on the book and expect it to completed and available for purchase by July 1.

"There's a Bully on the Playground" is a resource-rich guidebook on the important and timely topic of bullying. Written from the perspective of a dad, but moms will find the book helpful too, as well as anyone who cares about children.  "There's a Bully on the Playground" explores prevalence, causes, underlying issues, cyber-bullying and much more. Almost half the book is devoted to tips for parents. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Let's Build Something Dad

New Release: 

Let's Build Something, Dad: Thirty Fun Projects for Dads and Kids

Click here to Order a copy

Written by engineer and dad Peter Hill, illustrated by artist extraordinaire Melanie Bourgeois. 

When it comes to building things, many dads are all thumbs. But that doesn't stop the kids from begging us to help them make stuff. Well, help is on the way thanks to Peter Hill's book "Let's Build Something, Dad."

As a long-time engineer and father of four, Mr. Hill definitely has the skills and experience to help dads go from bumbling buffoon trying to figure out what a socket wrench might look like to superhero able to build tree houses and bird feeders in a single bound. The book includes 30 fun step-by-step building projects. Think squirrel feeder, bat house, bird feeder, club house and much more. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Professor Jaffer on board to author Science Project series

Coming Soon...

If you’re a parent of a child in school, seems like it’s always Science Project time. And, there are only so many times you can build a volcano, right? Short on bright ideas? Help is on the way. Next up in the Oh Dad! line is a three-part series: “It’s Science Project Time Again Already?” (for elementary, middle and high school mad scientist wannabes).

Written by Karim Jaffer, a Physics professor and admitted geeky dad to two young children, the book includes a list of unique, simple and inexpensive A+ science project ideas, with supply lists and step-by-step instructions. 

Look for all three “It’s Science Project Time Again Already?” books to be released by late Summer (in plenty of time for next Fall’s Science Fair).

Welcome aboard, Professor!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What I want for my daughters

• To be bold and adventurous and zealous, but not careless (take risks but not dumb ones – with your body or heart or psyche);

• be confident and sure of yourself, but not arrogant (feel good about who you are, but not by looking down on others);

• be kind, gentle, compassionate, empathic, idealistic and positive, but not naïve (give someone the shirt off your back but don’t let anyone walk all over you);

• travel the world, but come home often;

• be a fierce competitor, but not at all costs (sometimes you lose but if you tried hard that’s ok; some days you may not even feel like trying hard, that’s ok, too – there’s always tomorrow; sometimes it’s alright if the other guy wins);

• pursue intellectualism, but don’t sacrifice good common sense in the process (sometimes your innate wisdom will be a better guide than all the reference books in the world);

• have depth, without becoming heavy-hearted;

• be dutiful, but not burdened;

• see the good in people, but keep an eye out for the wicked ways of the world;

• hold true to your values, but don’t be self-righteous;

• be sure of your convictions, but not judgmental of others who disagree with you;

• know what makes you happy, but don’t be afraid to try new things;

• have high expectations for yourself, but forgive yourself when you don’t meet some of them;

• enjoy all life has to offer, but know that resources are limited (share when you can, and turn the light off when you leave the room);

• feel like you belong, but be wary of unfettered loyalties and blind allegiances (to a person or a religion or a nation);

• respect authority, but question it (and challenge it when you think it’s wrong);

• laugh a lot, but don’t ridicule;

• be courageous, but not a martyr;

• be principled, but not dogmatic;

• feel free to express yourself, but choose your words carefully (words can do a lot of damage, and you can never truly take them back once you’ve said them);

• take care of yourself: eat well (but bring on the fudge brownies sometimes), get plenty of rest (but stay up all night giggling with your best friend sometimes) and get plenty of exercise (but take a day off and snooze in front of the television sometimes);

• be strong, but don’t ever think you can be totally independent (the world is inter-connected in ways we can’t fully understand; it’s been said that a butterfly flapping its wings in China affects the weather in the US… I don’t know about that, but I do know that we’re all in this together and the best we can hope for is to be inter-dependent).

And remember.... all things in moderation (including moderation); it's all about balance. Life is good. It’s a little scary sometimes, but good, nevertheless. Dangerous? It can be, but most times it’s safe (just look both ways, buckle-up, scrub your fruits and vegetables and keep plugging along). Yes, there are some downright awful people in the world, but the nice ones outnumber them a thousand to one. See the beauty in everyday things, see the glass half-full, stop and smell the roses, value the simple things in life: the birth of a butterfly is magic and an afternoon looking for four-leaf clovers is a perfect antidote for that dreadful math quiz.

Mostly remember this: in this life, there is a constant tug and pull between good and evil, love and hate. But in the end, good wins out. Love prevails.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Build Something

Coming Soon:

"Let’s Build Something, Dad - Thirty Fun Step-by-Step Backyard Building Projects" written by Peter Hill

When it comes to building things, I’m all thumbs. But that doesn’t stop my girls from begging me to help them make stuff, even though I always insist that it would be something their mom could do better. I need help. 

I’m guessing there are plenty of other dads out there who could use some help too. And that’s exactly what Peter Hill provides in “Let’s Build Something, Dad.”

As a long-time engineer and father of four, Mr. Hill definitely has the skills and experience to help dads like me go from bumbling buffoon trying to figure out what a socket wrench might look like to superhero able to build tree houses and bird feeders in a single bound. 

Thanks Pete. Look for the release of "Let's Build Something, Dad" in April.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What's For Breakfast, Dad? is now availalbe

What's For Breakfast, Dad? 

Written by Sarah Spigelman
Illustrated by Mike Thompson 
Edited by Melanie Bourgeois

Now available. Order a copy today!

Come on Dads. You don't still think the kitchen is scary, do you? Inside these pages you'll discover the magic of cooking with the kids. Part intro to the kitchen, part fun and funky cook book (think candy bacon and waffle-wiches). 

Saturday mornings will never be the same! Written by acclaimed New York City food writer Sarah Spigelman. We intend to get you Dads and kiddos in the kitchen, even if we have to drag you there!

About the Author: 
Sarah Spigelman is a writer, editor and food lover from birth. Her writing has been featured on The Huffington Post, The Daily Meal and many nationally distributed magazines. She lives in NYC where she splits her time between seeing Broadway shows and eating food so spicy that it makes her nose run. She chronicles her NYC eating adventures on her personal website www.fritosandfoiegras.com and blogs about food for the food site of Today Show. 

"What's for Breakfast, Dad?" is part of the Oh Dad! line of books for active dads and the eye-rolling kids who love them, a division of Raburn Publishing.

Order a copy today!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tooth Fairy Dilemma

I’m conflicted about the Tooth Fairy.

As the father of two elementary school aged daughters, teeth are flying left and right.

One problem is that their grandma set a precedent of $10 per tooth a while back. If you’re anywhere near my age, that’s shocking. We got dimes and nickels. Even when adjusted for inflation, ten bucks is still an outrageous rate.

And it’s not like I can always predict when the Tooth Fairy’s services will be needed.

Spoiler alert: I’m the Tooth Fairy. Well, not THE Tooth Fairy, but I am the Tooth Fairy in my household. And when not in character, I pay bills on-line and I use plastic cards for most other purchases. I don’t always have cash lying around the house every time said Tooth Fairy’s services are unexpectedly needed. I don’t need that kind of stress in my life.

But, it’s not just about the money.

It’s getting harder and harder for me to perpetuate such an outlandish ruse. While teaching my children the scientific method and to be reasonable and logical, at the same time I’m also encouraging them to believe a fairy comes down from somewhere and swaps out a bloody tooth for dough while they sleep. Really?

I lose all credibility when I then try to convince them that it’s absurd to think an ogre lives in the woods behind the house.

For some reason, I’m ok with Santa Claus.

Santa represents joy and goodness and magic and we know a lot about him from all the TV shows he’s in every year.

“He’s real if you want him to be” is what my mom told me when I asked her about jolly ol’ Saint Nick when I was a kid; that works for me still.

Plus, the old “…he knows if you’ve been good or bad, so be good for goodness sake” routine gets me at least a few months of excellent behavior.

When my girls confront me someday about all the lies, I think I’ll be able to spin Santa. But the Tooth Fairy? My 6-year-old asks what the Tooth Fairy does with all those teeth and I got nothing.

I can’t even conjure a consistent image in my mind of what the Tooth Fairy looks like.

But here’s the thing: I love the unadulterated joy and silliness and wild-eyed wonder of my girls at this age.  Childhood is fleeting.   The day is soon coming when they no longer jump in every mud puddle or think of me as a super hero. 

The sparkle in their eyes when they see the first star bright to wish upon at dusk or sheer delight in catching lightning bugs in the back yard is always tonic aplenty for whatever might be ailing this tired old soul. I know it won’t be long before cynicism will creep into their lives and more grown-up realities will take hold.

So, conflicted as I may be, I guess the Tooth Fairy can be real if they want her to be for a little while longer.  Good thing there’s an ATM close by.

But don’t get me started on the Easter Bunny. 

The Transformation of Lunu

The Raburns would like to announce the latest addition to the family: Lunu, the Luna moth, born February 2, 2013.

This is the true story of Lunu.

Sometime in early September, under a giant tree on the playground at Club Blvd. Elem. School, Xia and Anika and their classmates noticed dozens of large florescent green caterpillars, the likes of which we had never seen. Of course we brought one home with us. We made a nice little home for her in a plastic Tupperware container and filled it grass, dirt, leaves, berries and an abandoned bird nest.

We did a little research that night and found out that this particular type of caterpillar would become a Luna moth. We named her Lunu.

The first day we had her, the caterpillar explored her new home and got out of her container several times. We would find her crawling near the sofa or near the TV and promptly put her back in her home. That night she began spinning a cocoon, and by morning was morphing into a pupa state. By the end of the second day with us, she had completely transitioned from a juicy green caterpillar to a dull brown, lifeless, motionless pupa. According to our research, it would take from two weeks to several weeks for her to become a Luna moth.

Remember, this was in early September.

We anxiously awaited her transformation.

Nothing happened.

Then we got cats. So, we stuck Lunu in a closet to be safe. She was mostly out of sight and out of mind.

Weeks passed. Months passed. We checked on her occasionally, whenever we even remembered she was in the closet. Several times we just assumed she didn’t make it and considered tossing her out. But every now and then, when we held the little pupa in our hands, we could feel movement. As time passed, the movements became more frequent and more vigorous, like she was doing the twist.

Finally, this morning when I opened the closet to find my wool socks, there she was: a beautiful Luna moth, proudly perched on the side of the plastic container, some five months after we brought her home from the playground. Welcome to your new life, Lunu! Those wings look marvelous on you!

From what I understand, she’ll need a few hours for her wings to harden and dry for her to be able to fly.

Tomorrow will be a nice, sunny day, a little warmer. I expect that we’ll find a nice place along the wooded hiking trail nearby and release her.  The closet is no home for a Luna moth, after all. We’ll send her on her way and wish her well and be thankful for the few months we had together.

Lessons: take time to notice the miracles that happen every day all around us; delicate things require patience and nurturance; and, from humble beginnings magnificent things can evolve. 

To your journey, Lunu!

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Intro to OH DAD!

"Oh Dad!"

If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard those words!

As an active father of two amazing little girls and admittedly a little on the goofy side, “Oh Dad!” is indeed a frequently spoken phrase in my house… accompanied by obligatory eye-rolling and (usually) uproarious laughter as well.  It was the obvious name for a line of books I’ve been looking to create.

Truth of the matter is that I love every second of being “Dad.”

In many ways, I’m typical of a growing subgroup of dads. Generally speaking, fathers today are more actively involved in the everyday care and decision-making of children than those of previous generations.  That’s partly due to the natural evolution of parenting, I think. And partly due to economics. More dads are able to work from home or have flexible work schedules than in the past. And women are earning more, so dads aren’t necessarily the automatic breadwinner for the family these days. That’s the good news. The bad news: there are an awful lot of unemployed dads out there too.

Whatever the reason, there’s a bunch of us spending a lot of time with our children. And that’s got to be a good thing.

But the publishing biz has been slow to catch on. With most magazines and books, “Parenting” is code for “Mom,” it seems. In my experience, there’s a dearth of resources for dads.

Oh Dad! is a line of books created to fill that void: fodder for those of us who aspire to be greatest dad in the world (but need a little help).

The first book is scheduled to hit the market in March, 2013. I lucked out and landed foodie Sarah Spigelman who wrote “What’s for Breakfast, Dad?” for us.

Ms. Spigelman is a renowned Manhattan food critic, blogger and connoisseur of edible delights. “What’s for Breakfast, Dad?” is in equal parts intro to the kitchen and awesome cook book. Sarah gently leads us into the kitchen and shows us that it’s not such a scary place after all – once you know a few basic rules and techniques. The recipes? Think bacon candy and waffle-wiches.

“What’s for Breakfast, Dad?” is a perfect example of what Oh Dad! is hoping to provide: fun, quirky, insightful, useful books for devoted dads and the eye-rolling kids who love them.

Next up:  “Let’s Build Something, Dad” written by retired engineer and father of four, Peter Hill. It includes step-by-step instructions for 30 fun backyard building projects.

There are many more titles percolating.

I started this blog as a companion to the publishing company. I’ll post updates on books as we go along and also share my thoughts on the joys and challenges of being Dad.

Your input is appreciated!

Stephen Raburn 
Oh Dad!
A Division of Raburn Publishing