Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Actor's Wife: black eyes and two dollar waffle irons

This is my wife's blog. I agree with her 1000%. I would write on the subject, but why? She's said it all perfectly.

Don't forget, today is Small Business Saturday. Please go out and support the small businesses who struggle to stay open as more and more gigantic box stores pull business from them.

The Actor's Wife: black eyes and two dollar waffle irons:

At the end of the day yesterday, Chris read snippets of news from around the country: riots, arrests and pepper spray. And, he wasn't reading about Occupy Wall Street. The headlines were coming straight from the local Target, WalMart and Best Buy.
It was Black Friday. People camped out for days, bypassing Thanksgiving altogether to buy a $200 television or even more ludicrous a $2.00 waffle iron. I mean our waffle iron is on the fritz but I'm not risking my personal safety (after all, the sale madness broke into a full scale riot) to save a few bucks.

I just find it interesting that the same country that bashed our president Thursday for not mentioning God in his Thanksgiving address, turned into a national mob that was rude, myopic, and in some cases violent. I'm sorry kids, but the hero of my Sunday School lessons was the one who turned over the merchants' tables in the temple not the one who pushed his way into the front of the line for a deal on goat meat and cornmeal.
Perfectly said.

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It's small business Saturday!

Go out and support a small business today.  They are the engine of our economy.

Black Friday observation:

It is apparently okay to camp out overnight on public or private property as long as you are going to buy something.  There will be absolutely zero police presence.  And the shoppers of Black Friday were more violent and aggressive in one day of shopping than any Occupy protest has been in two months but no police will show up in riot gear...

Just something to think about.


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Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories

 This is cross posted at, the site about the film that will "rock your face off."  (That quote belongs to my co-writer and director...)

Happy Thanksgiving from Skinned Knees In Short Pants and the tambourine playing trio at Cowboys Versus Indians (Ambarish Manepalli, Geoff Quan and me).

Happy Thanksgiving from New York!

Written by Chris VanDijk, co-writer, Cowboys Versus Indians: The Movie (2012)

I have been writing about Thanksgiving for nearly four years and yet somehow, engrossed in the tale of our characters, I have had little chance to reflect upon the Thanksgivings of my youth save the remembrances of pick up football games and the feast itself.

Looking back now I am struck by the vivid memories that I seem to have locked away just for this post:  The snows of Utah blanketing the Salt Lake valley and the purple veins of the rock peaking out of snow covered mountains surrounding us, the crispness of frozen air in my nose and lungs, the emptiness of a ski slope on a holiday. 

There are family memories, of course, most notably my Grandma L’s kitchen in Green River, Wyoming, where the red rock formations and flat plains blow and drift with snow, the Green River frozen to a crawl.  I remember my mother staying up with her all night making her famous stuffing.  As a teenager I would stay up late, just to get the first taste with them.  It is one of my three earliest food memories along with my Grandma V’s Dutch and Indonesian feast on New Years and my mother’s chicken and polenta.  It is what drew me into the kitchen and perhaps why I find myself there so often, crafting food infused with love.  It’s how I was raised.

I still stay up late, this year dissecting a turkey late into the evening.  A full turkey for a two adults and a toddler is overwhelming.  And also meals for weeks.  Thanksgiving is not only a celebration of overabundance, but a time to consider our humility and frugality.

I remember my cousins, their blond hair and pink skin so different from mine, and riding down the snowy hills on anything with a slick bottom that would propel us.  No helmets.  Nearly every Thanksgiving or Christmas was spent with them. 

I remember Uncle D’s comb-over.  I remember staring at the beer steins in my Grandpa L’s cabinet, made of some kind of ceramic with hand written notes marking an event sitting next to his photos with the members of his mine rescue team.   I remember my Grandpa V’s photo in his Sherrif’s uniform in front of the Utah state capitol.  I remember aunts and uncles and distant cousins.  I remember the children’s table. 

I remember antelope bounding in herds of thousands across the relatively flat lands of the Utah/Wyoming border.  Drive through there today and you’ll be lucky to see one. 

I remember Johnny Cash on the television, my Grandpa V’s slippers, my father’s smoked turkey, my Uncle J grinding left over turkey into a spread with cheddar cheese, bread and butter pickles and a little mayo and mustard (and loving it), and my Grandpa L’s wool and leather winter hat.
I remember my first Thanksgiving with my wife’s family sixteen years ago, and it was awkward… we were just kids then.  I remember standing with my soon to be father-in law and not being able to figure out if the smoked turkey was done and having to call my father for advice.  We ate a turkey-less feast that year and then had turkey sandwiches later that night.  I remember introducing my eigh- month old son to my wife’s entire family, four generations, as we cruised the Caribbean and I chose to forego tradition and I ate lamb for Thanksgiving on the ship.

And I remember football. 

I can remember every living room where we watched it on the holiday.  I remember playing pick up games in the street with friends and a nerf football in front of our home in Salt Lake.  And when that couldn’t hold us anymore we’d sneak onto a field, whether it be the windy field of Green River High School or the frozen, iced over Highland High School gridiron or the beautiful view provided by my alma mater, Judge Memorial High School.  We’d hop the fence, toss over a hard leather ball, put on our gloves and hats and play.  Our attire evolved as we grew up from four layers of thermals, ski bibs and parkas, to sweats and sweatshirts to the complex fibers of branded attire and therma-core-compression-wear-goodness. 

The last time I was able to play an honest to goodness knock down drag out was over ten years ago.  Although NYC is one of the great cities of the world, a pick up game on a field on Thanksgiving is not one of the things it easily affords.  And this saddens me.

My last game, I drove my truck to the field and geared up.  I’d pulled out my old h.s. football gear, my tacky receiver gloves, towels, wristbands and cleats and pretended to be Jerry Rice or Ronnie Lott, emulating the greats I’d watch later that day as I settled my stuffed self in for an afternoon nap. 

It was slow motion smash-mouth.  We’d felt like giants. 


Driving home to my small apartment in the avenues.  I passed a 6’9, 250 lb. beast on a Harley Davidson, decked out head to toe in fringed black leather on his way home from an early morning practice.  I looked over at Karl Malone, still in his prime, sitting astride his bike at a stop light and we gave each other a wave and a nod - two warriors heading home to grab a drumstick and feast.

Today we create new memories: a toddler’s first turkey, the joy of decorating the house, making creations out of glue, fallen leaves and popsicle sticks, standing in the cold with hot drinks watching the Macy’s parade, walking through the red/yellow/brown trees of Central Park, trying to put a parka on a squirmy little one and tracking down a missing boot, making pumpkin and five spice or sweet potato and toasted marshmallow ice creams and sharing with friends, rediscovering holiday classics with family and realizing that I am the grown up and the traditions and the memories of my past are all flowing through me into this small person, teaching him lessons I learned long ago. 

And curling up with him on the couch to watch the Lions and the Packers while he points at the screen and says, “ball?”

Yes, son, ball.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Enjoy your Thanksgiving

If you're making your minimum wage employees show up for work at 1 or 2 am so you can open in the middle of the night for a few extra bucks, thus forcing them to sleep during the day and miss a holiday at home with family, you should be ashamed. (looking at you, Children's Place) 
If you are one of those people choosing to line up and storm the store so you can save $5, you're culpable as well. 
This is the one holiday that truly celebrates our own humility and the act of being thankful for simply being here; for the people who make our lives complete.  
Can we enjoy it before we jump headlong into the cynical consumerism that marks Christmas in America and the annual ritual of spending more than we have?
Stay at home, enjoy your family, be thankful for the blessings you have - the kind that you can't purchase.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Planning

I ran across this great post from Stay at Stove Dad.  His mother found an old planning list for Thanksgiving.  It reminded me of something my mother would do... and I'm sure has done.  In fact, I can see her typing up this very list after having already spent copious amounts of time drafting it in her flowing open cursive handwriting.

Check out the list and his post.  Get back to me, what are your Thanksgiving traditions and how do you plan for the holiday?


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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reposting a blog I thought was well written and important

I have tried really hard not to post anything political or controversial on here.  However, with what's happening around us and the Occupy movement happening, it's hard not to.

We're part of the 99%.  If you automatically think, "Psaw!, I'm not part of that stupid group of rabble rousing anarchists."  1) You don't understand who Occupy really is, and 2) Unless your income is over $350,000, yes, you are part of the 99%.  And if you do make that much, I'm sure you can still agree with some of the tenants of the Occupy movement.

The 99% is not a magic number, nor does it resemble a group of people who agree on some overarching societal problem.  It is a demarcation line, the number of people who make over $350,000 a year versus those who do not.  It is a quantified number and an irrefutable and breath taking fact:  The top 1 percent of Americans possess a greater net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

I do not begrudge anyone's riches, nor do I think hard work should not be compensated.  I do think we live in a rigged system.  For those who believe in pure free market capitalist society I say, "That'd be an amazing thing. Let me know when you find one."  We are not it.  

Like any movement in this country: the Civil Rights Movement, Women's Sufferage, the fight for an equitable wage, the weekend, the eight hour work day, they Occupy movement is misunderstood and vilified by the powers that be - those with the greatest interest in keeping the status quo, the deepest pocketbooks and currently, the greatest stranglehold on our corporate media and the political powers that be.

We are not rabble rousers, we are not anarchists.  We are a family of three living on a single income while working on a second, trying to figure out child care and preschools.  We just want enough to feed the family, maybe bring another child into the world, to coach basketball and football practices, go the their soccer games, have enough to go on a family vacation each year - it doesn't have to be somewhere exotic, but a place that will stimulate our child's imagination and shows them something they don't see every day.  We want the freedom to not have to take a job just because it offers health care. We want to be able to retire and not have to rely on an account that is subject to the whim of the corrupted casino that Wall Street has become.  We want our children to go to college, if that's where their path leads them.  We are encouraging state schools or the military academies because we believe that a state university education can be as good as any ivy league and that Annapolis (go NAVY!), Westpoint and the AF Academy are rare opportunities to give back to this country and to serve while attending three of the greatest leadership programs in the world.

We want a quiet, simple life.   We want that for our children.

And more importantly, we want all of that for yours as well.

Below is a post from Max Ugaro that is worth reading. 

Feel free to pass it along yourself.  Or direct people here.

As always, please feel free to follow on facebook or @skinned_knees on twitter!

Wed Oct 12, 2011 at 09:01 AM PDT

Open Letter to that 53% Guy

53% guy
I briefly visited the “We are the 53%” website, but I first saw your face on a liberal blog.  Your picture is quite popular on liberal blogs.  I think it’s because of the expression on your face.  I don’t know if you meant to look pugnacious or if we’re just projecting that on you, but I think that’s what gets our attention.

In the picture, you’re holding up a sheet of paper that says:
I am a former Marine.
I work two jobs.
I don’t have health insurance.
I worked 60-70 hours a week for 8 years to pay my way through college.
I haven’t had 4 consecutive days off in over 4 years.
But I don’t blame Wall Street.
Suck it up you whiners.
I am the 53%.
God bless the USA!
I wanted to respond to you as a liberal.  Because, although I think you’ve made yourself clear and I think I understand you, you don’t seem to understand me at all.  I hope you will read this and understand me better, and maybe understand the Occupy Wall Street movement better.
First, let me say that I think it’s great that you have such a strong work ethic and I agree with you that you have much to be proud of.  You seem like a good, hard-working, strong kid.  I admire your dedication and determination.  I worked my way through college too, mostly working graveyard shifts at hotels as a “night auditor.”  For a time I worked at two hotels at once, but I don’t think I ever worked 60 hours in a week, and certainly not 70.  I think I maxed out at 56.  And that wasn’t something I could sustain for long, not while going to school.  The problem was that I never got much sleep, and sleep deprivation would take its toll.  I can’t imagine putting in 70 hours in a week while going to college at the same time.  That’s impressive.
I have a nephew in the Marine Corps, so I have some idea of how tough that can be.  He almost didn’t make it through basic training, but he stuck it out and insisted on staying even when questions were raised about his medical fitness.  He eventually served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has decided to pursue a career in the Marines.  We’re all very proud of him.  Your picture reminds me of him.
So, if you think being a liberal means that I don’t value hard work or a strong work ethic, you’re wrong.  I think everyone appreciates the industry and dedication a person like you displays.  I’m sure you’re a great employee, and if you have entrepreneurial ambitions, I’m sure these qualities will serve you there too.  I’ll wish you the best of luck, even though a guy like you will probably need luck less than most.
I understand your pride in what you’ve accomplished, but I want to ask you something.
Do you really want the bar set this high?  Do you really want to live in a society where just getting by requires a person to hold down two jobs and work 60 to 70 hours a week?  Is that your idea of the American Dream?
 Do you really want to spend the rest of your life working two jobs and 60 to 70 hours a week?  Do you think you can?  Because, let me tell you, kid, that’s not going to be as easy when you’re 50 as it was when you were 20.
And what happens if you get sick?  You say you don’t have health insurance, but since you’re a veteran I assume you have some government-provided health care through the VA system.  I know my father, a Vietnam-era veteran of the Air Force, still gets most of his medical needs met through the VA, but I don’t know what your situation is.  But even if you have access to health care, it doesn’t mean disease or injury might not interfere with your ability to put in those 60- to 70-hour work weeks.
Do you plan to get married, have kids?  Do you think your wife is going to be happy with you working those long hours year after year without a vacation?  Is it going to be fair to her?  Is it going to be fair to your kids?  Is it going to be fair to you?
Look, you’re a tough kid.  And you have a right to be proud of that.  But not everybody is as tough as you, or as strong, or as young.  Does pride in what you’ve accomplish mean that you have contempt for anybody who can’t keep up with you?  Does it mean that the single mother who can’t work on her feet longer than 50 hours a week doesn’t deserve a good life?  Does it mean the older man who struggles with modern technology and can’t seem to keep up with the pace set by younger workers should just go throw himself off a cliff?
And, believe it or not, there are people out there even tougher than you.  Why don’t we let them set the bar, instead of you?  Are you ready to work 80 hours a week?  100 hours?  Can you hold down four jobs?  Can you do it when you’re 40?  When you’re 50?  When you’re 60?  Can you do it with arthritis?  Can you do it with one arm?  Can you do it when you’re being treated for prostate cancer?
And is this really your idea of what life should be like in the greatest country on Earth?
Here’s how a liberal looks at it:  a long time ago workers in this country realized that industrialization wasn’t making their lives better, but worse.  The captains of industry were making a ton of money and living a merry life far away from the dirty, dangerous factories they owned, and far away from the even dirtier and more dangerous mines that fed raw materials to those factories.
The workers quickly decided that this arrangement didn’t work for them.  If they were going to work as cogs in machines designed to build wealth for the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Carnegies, they wanted a cut.  They wanted a share of the wealth that they were helping create.  And that didn’t mean just more money; it meant a better quality of life.  It meant reasonable hours and better working conditions.
Eventually, somebody came up with the slogan, “8 hours of work, 8 hours of leisure, 8 hours of sleep” to divide the 24-hour day into what was considered a fair allocation of a human’s time.  It wasn’t a slogan that was immediately accepted.  People had to fight to put this standard in place.  People demonstrated, and fought with police, and were killed.  They were called communists (in fairness, some of them were), and traitors, and many of them got a lot worse than pepper spray at the hands of police and private security.
But by the time we got through the Great Depression and WWII, we’d all learned some valuable lessons about working together and sharing the prosperity, and the 8-hour workday became the norm.
The 8-hour workday and the 40-hour workweek became a standard by which we judged our economic success, and a reality check against which we could verify the American Dream.
If a family could live a good life with one wage-earner working a 40-hour job, then the American Dream was realized.  If the income from that job could pay the bills, buy a car, pay for the kids’ braces, allow the family to save enough money for a down payment on a house and still leave some money for retirement and maybe for a college fund for the kids, then we were living the American Dream.  The workers were sharing in the prosperity they helped create, and they still had time to take their kids to a ball game, take their spouses to a movie, and play a little golf on the weekends.
Ah, the halcyon days of the 1950s!  Yeah, ok, it wasn’t quite that perfect.  The prosperity wasn’t spread as evenly and ubiquitously as we might want to pretend, but if you were a middle-class white man, things were probably pretty good from an economic perspective.
The American middle class was reaching its zenith.
And the top marginal federal income tax rate was more than 90%.  Throughout the whole of the 1950s and into the early 60s.
Just thought I’d throw that in there.
Anyway, do you understand what I’m trying to say?  We can have a reasonable standard for what level of work qualifies you for the American Dream, and work to build a society that realizes that dream, or we can chew each other to the bone in a nightmare of merciless competition and mutual contempt.
I’m a liberal, so I probably dream bigger than you.  For instance, I want everybody to have healthcare.  I want lazy people to have healthcare.  I want stupid people to have healthcare.  I want drug addicts to have healthcare.  I want bums who refuse to work even when given the opportunity to have healthcare.  I’m willing to pay for that with my taxes, because I want to live in a society where it doesn’t matter how much of a loser you are, if you need medical care you can get it.  And not just by crowding up an emergency room that should be dedicated exclusively to helping people in emergencies.
You probably don’t agree with that, and that’s fine.  That’s an expansion of the American Dream, and would involve new commitments we haven’t made before.   But the commitment we’ve made to the working class since the 1940s is something that we should both support and be willing to fight for, whether we are liberal or conservative.  We should both be willing to fight for the American Dream.  And we should agree that anybody trying to steal that dream from us is to be resisted, not defended.
And while we’re defending that dream, you know what else we’ll be defending, kid?  
We’ll be defending you and your awesome work ethic.  Because when we defend the American Dream we’re not just defending the idea of modest prosperity for people who put in an honest day’s work, we’re also defending the idea that those who go the extra mile should be rewarded accordingly.
Look kid, I don’t want you to “get by” working two jobs and 60 to 70 hours a week.  If you’re willing to put in that kind of effort, I want you to get rich.  I want you to have a comprehensive healthcare plan.  I want you vacationing in the Bahamas every couple of years, with your beautiful wife and healthy, happy kids.  I want you rewarded for your hard work, and I want your exceptional effort to reap exceptional rewards.  I want you to accumulate wealth and invest it in Wall Street.  And I want you to make more money from those investments.
I understand that a prosperous America needs people with money to invest, and I’ve got no problem with that.  All other things being equal, I want all the rich people to keep being rich.  And clever financiers who find ways to get more money into the hands of promising entrepreneurs should be rewarded for their contributions as well.
I think Wall Street has an important job to do, I just don’t think they’ve been doing it. 
And I resent their sense of entitlement – their sense that they are special and deserve to be rewarded extravagantly even when they screw everything up.
Come on, it was only three years ago, kid.  Remember?  Those assholes almost destroyed our economy.  Do you remember the feeling of panic?  John McCain wanted to suspend the presidential campaign so that everybody could focus on the crisis.  Hallowed financial institutions like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch went belly up.  The government started intervening with bailouts, not because anybody thought “private profits and socialized losses” was fair, but because we were afraid not to intervene -  we were afraid our whole economy might come crashing down around us if we didn’t prop up companies that were “too big to fail.”
So, even though you and I had nothing to do with the bad decisions, blind greed and incompetence of those guys on Wall Street, we were sure as hell along for the ride, weren’t we?  And we’ve all paid a price.
All the” 99%” wants is for you to remember the role that Wall Street played in creating this mess, and for you to join us in demanding that Wall Street share the pain.  They don’t want to share the pain, and they’re spending a lot of money and twisting a lot of arms to foist their share of the pain on the rest of us instead.  And they’ve been given unprecedented powers to spend and twist, and they’re not even trying to hide what they’re doing.
All we want is for everybody to remember what happened, and to see what is happening still.  And we want you to see that the only way they can get away without paying their share is to undermine the American Dream for the rest of us.
And I want you and I to understand each other, and to stand together to prevent them from doing that.  You seem like the kind of guy who would be a strong ally, and I’d be proud to stand with you.
EDIT:  Thanks to everyone for the recommendations and to Kos for the promotion to the front page.  I'm really stunned.  I hope it isn't weird to add an edit like this after you've been promoted to the front page.  But I wanted to say how much I appreciate the opportunity to be heard and I appreciate all the kind comments (which I will probably spend most of the rest of the night reading).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"A dad blog you should be reading."

The good folks at Dadcentric added this little blog to their 168 (and growing) list of the dad blogs you should be reading.

Follow them, follow this little page and check out the new Dadding blog over at Babble. 

do you hit your kids?

I found myself giving Turtle a spank on his ridiculously padded cloth diaper behind. I immediately felt bad. I should start by saying that I was spanked as a child. I think most of us in my generation were. We remember it, some say we're scarred by it.

For the record, I don't think I am scarred by it. My parents were not and are not evil. And a spanking like what I got as a child is different than a beating like the one that prompted the CNN appearance of a woman who filmed her father doling out her punishment. But, I've made a decision that it's not for us.

It's going to be harder than I thought because I was brought up being given a tap on the ass when I did something wrong. It is sort of ingrained in my muscle memory. But it's not impossible.

Kids are still hit with hands, belts, switches and paddles, said Elizabeth Gershoff , an associate professor of human development and family sciences at University of Texas, despite research that shows it doesn't model or teach behavior parents are looking for, that it damages trust between parent and children and that it can lead to increased aggression.'s hard to stop a discipline technique that's been passed down through generations.
"There hasn't been a sea change in attitude. Most Americans still think it's OK," Gershoff said. "There's a long history of physically punishing children. Part of it is that people don't want to second-guess their parents -- it's a judgment on them ... People joke about it. They assume you experienced it, too."
The article linked above is actually about Sweden. To those of you who think, "Sweden! Those effete softies, of course they don't spank," I say, "Shut up."

It is illegal to hit your child in Sweden. The law is simple.
Chapter 6, Section 1 of the Swedish Children and Parents Code: "Children are entitled to care, security and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment."
It passed almost unanimously.

The section carries no penalties -- assault cases are still governed by the criminal code, and the number of assault prosecutions hasn't increased, according to a report from the Swedish government and Save the Children Sweden. Instead, adults who hit a child can expect a swift response from Swedish social services, said Joan Durrant, a family social sciences professor at University of Manitoba.
"The police are not going to say, 'This parent should be charged,'" said Durrant, who has studied the effects of Sweden's ban for decades. "The police will say, 'What you did is not OK, I understand why it happened, but you need to know that's against the law, and here are the supports available to you.'"
Those supports might be access to parenting groups, child development information, children's health care or nurses that help childproof homes or offer advice.
It is typically Swedish.  There is no big government coming in and dictating your life.  Unless your life involves hitting your child.
"[Parents] couldn't understand how someone had the gall -- 'Who in the world can come in and tell me how I'm supposed to raise my child?' That's a very American idea. In Sweden, that would not be asked. It's everybody's responsibility."
And in the end, you must forget all questions of intent, did you do it out of frustration or a genuine desire to discipline, force, spanking with just an open hand or a belt or a switch - did you hit your child?  If you did, then there's your answer.  It's clear as a bell.

And, although it's a disciplinary measure passed down through generations, it's something I'm going working at avoiding.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An open letter from parent bloggers... thousands of us.

Today I'm participating in a blog in.  Thousands of us, parents and bloggers, are doing this.   We're standing up and telling the 2012 Presidential Candidates that their bullshit will not fly this election cycle.  We will no longer tolerate birtherism as a campaign platform; a non-existent class warfare claim by the people who have been waging class warfare for on the 99% of non-millionaire Americans for the last thirty years; the lies that are passed of as facts and spun by your sycophants at your fake news organization; we will not accept your ignorance as a badge of honor nor your pride in your own mediocrity, your hypocrisy and your hatred and fundamental lack of humanity when it comes to the actual concerns of 99% of Americans.  We are on to you and we expect better for ALL Americans.  You've been put on notice. 

Dear 2012 Presidential Candidates, We are your future constituents and we are parents. We are American mothers and fathers and grandparents and guardians. Our families might be the most diverse in the world. Blended and combined in endless permutations, we represent every major religion, political ideology and ethnic culture that exists. We are made from equal parts biology and choice. Our children come to us in every way possible—including fertility miracles, adoption, and remarriage. Our very modern families embody the freedom that defines America.

We embody America. We are rich in diversity, but we are united in our family values. We come together today, with one voice, to express our grave disappointment in the national political discourse.

The 2012 countdown has barely begun and we are already being bombarded with the warmed-over, hypocritical rhetoric of 2008. We are living in a time where 25% of Americans now live in poverty, the unemployment rate stands at 16%, and we are spending close to $170 billion annually between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Given the current state of affairs we would expect every candidate to focus on the issues that truly matter: job creation, debt-relief, taxes, education, poverty, and ending the war(s). Instead, it is already clear to us that the conversation has been hijacked, with the goal of further polarizing our nation into a politically motivated and falsely created class-war.

We will not stand for another campaign year in which politicians presume to know what our family values are as they relate to the nation. To be clear, here are our family values: Affordable health care, including family planning, for all Americans.

We will not tolerate any candidate using the shield of “Choice” to blind us from the issues that really matter. When funding is stripped from organizations like Planned Parenthood, access to sliding-scale health care (including yearly pap smears & mammograms), comprehensive sex education, and family planning is blocked from the poorest of the population.

Access to education, and the ability to actually use it. We want quality, affordable, federally-funded pre-K programs made available in every State, in order to provide an even starting point for all children enrolled in public schools— regardless of the wealth of the district or town they live in.

A reinstatement of regulations, beginning with the Glass/Stegal Act, for banks issuing mortgages and full prosecution for those who engaged in fraudulent lending practices. We want full accountability —investigation, indictment and prosecution— of those individuals and institutions who engaged in fraudulent lending practices and who helped create the massive foreclosures that left many families homeless or struggling to keep their homes.

A return of strict environmental regulations protecting water, air, food, and land that were removed in the last two decades. We want our children to grow up in a world not weighed down by the strains of pollution and global warming. Between BPA in our products, sky-rocketing rates of asthma in kids, questionable hormones in our over-processed food, and more, we need leaders who will put our needs and safety over the desires and profits of large corporations.

Family planning, healthcare, education, economic solvency and environmental safety: these are our national family values. Candidates who demonstrate the ability to understand the gravity of these issues, and their impact on our families, and who can provide actual, viable solutions to these problems will garner our support and our votes.

We believe in this democratic system of ours, and we will continue to use our voices and our votes to see that it reaches its fullest potential.

Sincerely, Your future constituents, The mothers & fathers of America 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stacks of Eggplant... or, What I Did for Halloween... or Damn You Meatless Monday!

This is just the second Halloween we've had with Turtle.  This year he was a monkey.  We, of course, played along when everyone called him curious George.  It was a fun Halloween.  He understood it a little better this year.  He still can't eat candy, but that's okay...  I can.

But we also deal with Mom coming home, needing to have dinner ready, getting out to the shops before they are out of Halloween candy and they no longer are in a treat mood.

Here in NYC, we do Halloween differently.  We don't go to people's homes.  At least not in most neighborhoods.  Nobody has candy in the apartment buildings, you can't exactly buzz in every kid, and we live in a place with lots of apartment buildings, not so many single family homes.  Even in Astoria.

So, instead you go to the main strip and you hit the shops.

It works for us.

But with so much happening, dad needed something easy for this meatless Halloween Monday.  And it's something Turtle loved...  and I mean, LOVED.

Eggplant Parm - My Way.

It's pretty simple.  Here's what you need:

two eggplants
panko flakes (bread crumbs)
1 or 2 eggs
sea salt
fresh mozzarella
fresh basil
a good tomato sauce

Yeah, that's it.  And NO oil.  yup.  No oil.

First, peel your eggplant.  If you don't like it because it's bitter, get rid of the rind.  I have this fantastic serrated peeler and it's like slicing through butter.  Once peeled, cut nice round slices of eggplant, about 1/4 inch thick.  Set them on a baking sheet lined with a tea towel.  sprinkle a little sea salt on them.  Just a pinch.  Let them sit.  You're pulling excess moisture out.  Eggplants are like little sponges.

This is the reason I'm not using oil.  If you're oil isn't hot enough, you're basically eating an oil sponge.

So, give your eggplant time to rest.  Just set them aside for half an hour of so.  You can do dishes, make cookies, teach your child French....

You back?  Good.  Crank up your oven to 400 degrees.  Now wipe the moisture off the eggplant and set up an egg wash/breading system.

Don't look at me like that.   It's easy.

Okay, get two small baking dishes.  Crack and whip a couple eggs into one, pour your panko into the other.  Add a little salt and pepper into your panko.  Don't use regular bread crumbs.  It won't work.  You want Japanese style panko.  They look like flaky grape nuts.  The flakes give a nice crunchy crispiness and hold up to the moisture of the eggplant.  Regular bread crumbs won't.

Okay, take a slice of eggplant, toss it into your egg, flip it over, shake off the excess and toss it into the panko.  Toss panko crumbs over the other side.  You don't need a heavy coating of bread crumbs.  You just need them very lightly dusted with panko.  You want crunch, not a battered eggplant doughnut.

Set your newly dusted eggplant on a baking sheet.  (like it with parchment or use a silpat.  If you don't have a silpat, consider getting one.  It will save you work (in cleaning your pan or prying overcooked cookies off your baking sheet) and money (in parchment).  Continue with the eggplant, egg, panko, baking sheet assembly until your sheet is full.

Put the sheet into the oven.  Let them cook for between 5-10 minutes.  Your panko will brown and your eggplant will be soft and tender.  Go ahead, grab one and eat it...

Yummy right?  It's only the beginning.

Now's the fun part.  While the eggplant are cooking, take your basil out and put it into a huge bowl.  Now fill it with cold water.  Shake out your basil in the water.  Take them out, empty the water (and the newly discovered sand in the bottom of your bowl), rinse the bowl, fill it with water and put the basil in again.  Do this four times.  Nothing worse than biting into gritty sandy basil.

Once your basil is clean, set it aside on a towel.

Cut your fresh mozzarella into small discs the size of the eggplant.

As you take your eggplant out of the oven, put them on a cooling rack.  Let them cool completely.  Except the one's you eat.  Warm, they're terribly yummy.  Kind of what I imagine crack to be like... just plain addictive.

When your eggplant is cool, take a baking dish, like the ones you used for the egg and panko!

Hey, convenient.

Put a spoonful of sauce on the bottom of the pan and spread it out in a thin layer.  Then begin assembling.


Just do three to four layers.  You're building little towers.  They don't have to be too big.  Better to eat two perfect ones than one big leaning, falling over, sloppy, tasty mess.

You can now set these aside until you want to bake them for dinner.  Relax, get your kid into his costume and convince him that the monkey isn't just his friend, he's a costume and it's okay for him to get inside.  Try not to think of The Empire Strikes Back and Luke Skywalker getting into his crazy two legged horse thingy while putting your son into George his friend...  the monkey.
When you decide you're ready to eat, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and pop them in for about 10-15 minutes.  Done.

Relish in their simple goodness.  The perfect eggplant parm without having to fry them in oil, without the mess, without the soggy wetness of oil soaked eggplant.  I will say that if you want to drizzle a little good olive oil over it, you can... but you don't need to. 

If you have questions, email me.

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Protecting Turtle: Part Three - Bullies Are Born

I read an article a while ago about bullies.  I know it's been in the news lately and most of the focus in on teenagers and online bullying.  But the problem starts much earlier.  Bullies are born.  They have to be shaped into young men who will protect rather than harm others.

I was skeptical of the article.  I looked at my little man and thought, "there's no way a child this small could be a bully."

I was proven wrong today.


Turtle is curious by nature.  He likes to point to things and get really close to look at them.  He is an engineer at heart, constantly working to figure out how things work.

I think it's normal for these little cavemen to be curious.

But some of the other cavemen on the playground are not as open to this shared exploration of things... like their toys.

Turtle was walking around the jungle gym, staring at the tiny stickers someone has peppered all over it.  A young boy, about two and a half, walked up to him and screamed at him.  Turtle just stood his ground and looked at the yellow car in the boys hand.

The boy ran off, circled around, watched Turtle for a few minutes, ran back to him, got inches away from his face and yelled at him again.

I kept my distance (if you can call four feet distance).  We'd had an experience with this child before.  He yelled at Turtle a couple times before his mother stepped in with a soothing, "You shouldn't do that, sweetheart."  So the child left and then ended up hitting another kid on the other side of the playground.

So I had my eye on him... and mom was nowhere to be found.

The boy then walked around Turtle in a circle a few times.  He noticed that Turtle, babbling an pointing, was interested in his small yellow car.  He held it out just long enough for Turtle to reach out and touch it.

And then he he reached out with both hands, grabbed Turtle by the shoulders and shoved him to the ground.  The yellow, metal car, still in his hand, was raised over Turtle to hit him.

And then Daddy lost his proverbial shit.

Now at this point I should explain something.  I am an actor by trade and training.  Let's just say I have the ability to project if I need to.

I let out a very, very loud, "HEY!"

This kid froze.  I felt all the parents heads whip around to the corner of the park.

"Apologize and help him up."

The kid then did something I did not expect.  He glared at me.  He raised the car again, daring me to stop him.

I stood with both hands in my pockets, calmly staring down an almost three year old sociopath.

"Apologize and help him up...  NOW!"

The kid's eyes shot daggers.  He was not backing down.  At all.

By this time, Grandma showed up.

"What did he do?"

"He's been yelling at my kid and he just grabbed him, threw him down and was going to hit him with that metal car."

She turned to the boy and asked him something in Russian.  The kid's tone changed and he responded, in Russian.

I don't know what was said, but it was that whiny tone that anyone takes when they've been caught doing something wrong and try to blame the 19 month old splayed on the ground in front of him.

I got down and helped my son to his feet.  He seemed unfazed and toddled over to another sticker.

The woman then did something I will never understand.

"Go on and play.  I'll get you a treat."


She turned to me and asked again what happened.

"Your kid grabbed mine and threw him to the ground and was about to strike him with that hunk of metal in his hand.  That's what happened."

"My grandson said your son tried to steal it."

"No.  My 19 month old child, who is half your kids size, did no such thing.  You need to keep an eye on your child.  This is not the first time he's done this to kids at this playground."

She seemed shocked.  Not her dear prince.  Not her boy.

Yes... Her boy.

She left and got the treat for her boy, who went off and tormented some other child.

As Turtle played, another parent brought her child, a 16 month old we'll call Sash.  He's a ball of Ukrainian fury.  A funny kid with bright eyes and a quick smile.  He's also a potential bully.  He hits and smacks other kids.

However, Mom doesn't let him get away with it.  Mom brings three kids' strollers with her (these are the playground equivalent of a carton of cigarettes).  Mom tracks him and when he acts up, she doesn't just chastise him, she works to teach him.  He and Turtle have been at odds, doing the caveman struggle over a stroller to push and it's our job observe carefully and to make sure they work their way through the conflict.  So far they have been able to.  But it often involves Sash's mother pulling out another stroller so they both have one.  Sash still hits (he later hit another child with a fist and he then rammed a kid with a stroller for trying to touch it) but his mother is there to educate him when he engages in this behavior.

It's important because this behavior is contagious.  I noticed Turtle trying to hit a girl today for taking his chalk.  He soon found out that behavior is unacceptable and I explained why.  We talked about sharing and why hitting someone is wrong.

Okay, I did most of the talking and he just listened with a pout. 

But within minutes, he was back on the playground coloring dragonflies with kids he'd just met, sharing his chalk like a pro.

And we've fought back not only the bullies, but the disease they try to spread.