changing blogs.

I've always hated the fact the my blog is my name.  Hate it.

So, You may now go to the actual real totally cool new blog...  skinned knees in short pants - at

Much better.

(I'm keeping this around, though... It's got my name on it.)

Be original or don't bother.

 On my niece's recent trip to NYC, we went on a hunt for shoes.  We'd gotten her excited to get a pair of TOMS. My wife got her first pair of TOMS and absolutely fell in love with them.  She does not buy shoes.  She hates buying shoes.  She would rather, nay, insists, on going somewhere to buy the cheapest shoes she can find that are guaranteed to fall apart within months than go spend the kind of money that would get her a pair of shoes that last forever.  It's just how she is.  She also has very small feet and we have a hard time finding shoes that fit.  So, TOMS have been a godsend.  Inexpensive, small sizes, they fit, they're very tough and well made and they have true heart behind what they do. 

If you don't know the story of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, owner and founder of TOMS traveled to Argentina and his during his visits he continued to see and meet barefoot children  As the company website explains, he set up his generous business model, one free pair of shoes to a child for every pair sold, because of this experience. 

So, this brings me back to my niece.  We walked into a store, looked at the TOMS and my wife said, "I love mine.  They have carried me through the streets of New York, the cobblestones of Amsterdam, walked the sandy pathways of the Tuilleries and the gardens of Versailles.  I have worn them playing with Turtle in the park and running orientation at Hunter College.  I'd like a closet full of them."

My niece, not realizing that the price tag for a pair of TOMS in NYC is the same as the price tag in SLC, balked. 

Then she said, "I can get BOBS for cheaper."

"What the hell are BOBS?"

So, I started checking into BOBS. 

They're Skechers. 

Now, I've bought and owned a few pair of Skechers.  They usually last me about six to nine months.  I've had them fall apart, had the entire sole crack in half, had the leather split and blown through the sole of the last pair in less than five months.  They're not exactly cheap, but not expensive.  They're typically less expensive knock offs of much more expensive shoes.  Their Shape Ups are a great example.  a $70 version of the $200 MBX shoe.  (Not that I'd be caught dead in a pair of Shape Ups.  I envision the platform shoes Tom Cruise wears any time he works with an actor over 5-10.)

But to knock off, almost exactly, a great simple shoe and a great concept seemed a little cynical to me. 

Stealing the concept was the only way they could get people to buy their TOMS knockoffs.  Why buy them for $2 less if you weren't going to have the same kind of philanthropic element.  BOBS has partnered with Soles4Soles, outsourcing their philanthropic program.  Very different from TOMS where the philanthropy is the core of their entire business.

Now, I'm fine with a shoe company making a profit, fine with them ripping off designs.  If you want to buy a pair of BOBS, fine. 

But the the absence of an original idea... that irks me. 

TOMS built their entire company around an idea that every child in the world deserved a pair of shoes.  BOBS cynically stole that idea to make a profit; because it was the only way it could compete.  TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie has said he hopes more companies follow suit.  But what BOBS did was to produce an inferior replica of TOMS product, appear to make replicate their concept and then claim it's less expensive. 

By $2. 

It's a rather transparent bit of chicanery.  One can but wonder what they were thinking.   Big, unoriginal corporate monster steals an idea from a small, smart, compassionate company.  Again.

So, to you, to my niece (if she reads this) I say, go get yourself a pair of TOMS. Spend the $2, bet a better product, know you're doing some good in the world.

To Skechers I say, please figure out what you really stand for as a company, as a brand, and do something philanthropic around that.  Do something unique.  Be original. 

To read more about the TOMS/BOBS... thing...  there are some articles here and here and here.

If you have barely worn shoes to drop off, you can find a soles4soles location here or donate.
(thanks to digitalmomblog for this info.)

A teachable moment

This is a teachable moment.  It's about respect, quelling your own selfishness and knowing that rummaging through someone's skivvy drawer is wrong. 

First, this plea.

When someone (me) offers you a warm recently vacated dryer for your clothes (the clothes you've left sitting in three washing machines nearly 3 hours while people waited...) do not then open a dryer in use, pull out someone else's clothes and put yours in, insisting that you have to use it since it's "closer."
Closer to what? It's two feet away from my proffered warm empty one.

And when I tell you your behavior is selfish and disrespectful, don't come back with, "Don't lecture me about respect. I'm a very well educated woman!"

Obviously you can guess this was my afternoon encounter.  This woman in her late twenties actually tossed out, "I'm a very well educated woman!"  Oddly enough she looked quite a bit like the internet sensation by the same name.  

I decided she needed to go back to school. 

"First, miss, your clothes have been sitting in three machines since I got here this morning.  Done.  Sitting.  Waiting for your eminent return for over two and a half hours.  Other people waited ever so patiently for washing machines while your clothes sat untouched.  Not one person made a move to remove them from their home.  The clothes you see now, finishing their drying cycle, are the clothes washed by people waiting for you to empty your machines.  Second, I just offered you two machines that are empty and warm, a third empty above them ,and a fourth will be empty in... well, however long it takes for me to reach in and do it.  That's four empty dryers for you to use, not two feet from the one you are emptying of clothes that are not yours.  If this establishment were packed and all the dryers were in use and the woman whose clothes you are now fondling had simply left them in there for, say, two and a half hours to languish, you may be well within your right to ask the attendant next door at the bakery for assistance in removing those clothes and setting them aside.  As it stands, those clothes have a couple minutes left on the dryer and the woman has been punctual, as have most of us today, about getting her laundry.  Therefore your actions are selfish and you obviously lack respect for other's things.  AND THIRD...  You have stated that you are okay with people taking your items from the washing machine (if only we'd known) or the dryer.  Most of us are not - in the same way we are not okay with you rummaging through our underwear drawers.  I would not be comfortable with you going through my underwear, nor would I be comfortable with you going through my wife's panty drawer or my son's pajamas.  And the fact that you are doing that very thing right now with this woman's items is uncomfortable to me.  The fact that you are doing so while she is not around, unaware that you are essentially rummaging through her lacy frilly things is actually creepy and I believe criminal in several states and more than a handful of college campuses.   This is the kind of basic lesson I hope my one year old has already learned:  respect other people's things... and don't be a creep.  Oh... and you're lucky my wife is not doing laundry today because she wouldn't have given you this little lesson, she'd simply rip you a new one, you inconsiderate twit."

And that is a teachable moment. 

Walking and talking and - oh my!

Turtle took to walking as soon as we landed from Paris.  He was experimenting with walking while we were there, but he truly got up on his own and began to trot around the playground as soon as we got back. 

Now my son has the fattest, square feet you've ever encountered.  He's a 6 Extra Wide.  How he balances on those squat things is a mystery.  But it sure is fun to watch him take these little steps.  What I was unaware of was the fact that once upright, crawling is not longer an option.  He just won't do it.  In fact, sitting is not really an option, either.  Give him something to drink, he stands, wobbly, drinking it.  No sitting for this little man.

Talking:  We've gone from the animal noises (dinosaur is the favored sound here) to words like "baby" and "nosenosenose" at which point my son puts his finger into his nose... a new discovery.  Bellybutton is one of the first words he learned and it's currently his favorite.  My niece is visiting and Turtle walked up to her as she slept and lifted her shirt to reveal her belly button... just checking to see if she had one.  "Bebon," he'd say.  Now he checks to make sure it's still there.  He checks his and he checks hers over and over.  He's always been a talker and most of the sounds coming out are just sounds, but if we can identify what he's referring to and give him the word for it, he learns it pretty quickly.  (Read Po Bronson's Nurtureshock for more on how and why this happens.)

And the potty.   We bought Turtle a potty.  The first time we sat him down on it, he used it.  He got a sticker to put up on the wall.   Now I'm not as good as his mother at noticing signs, for example, he uses the sign for "bath" when he needs to be changed.  The wife noticed that...  But he kept pointing to the bathroom the other day and I didn't know why.  About five minutes later it hit me.  Poop.  He started signing "bath" and I realized he knew what the potty was for and he wanted to use it.  I just had to see the sign and put him there.  Now I know.

Big milestones happening in a very short time. 

Touching the Source.

I am an American.  I was born here and it is truly the only home I now.  I am a fan of countries like the Netherlands or France and one day would like to retire there.  But going to Amsterdam on this recent trip was like connecting to a source of something I never knew existed.

My father and his cousin in Schagen, Netherlands.
Last year I invited my parents to come to Europe with us.  We had long wanted take a trip to Holland with my father who had not been back since he was 13.  Fifty years later we walked the streets of Amsterdam with our child bouncing across the cobblestone streets in his stroller and my father happily snapping photos of canal houses along the Amstel.

A few months ago my father received an email from the wife of his first cousin.  A cousin he had never met, who was ten years older than he.  His mother, my father's aunt, passed when he was only nine months, almost a decade before my father was born.

My grandfather... looking very cool.
So we made a short trip an hour out of Amsterdam and met a part of the family we'd never known existed.  We heard stories about my grandfather I'd never heard.  I saw photos of my great grandfather, Lucas van Dijk, saw pictures of my grandpa Gerrit as a young man.  I heard my father speak Dutch and watched as he and his cousin carried on conversations in English and Dutch respectively - each understanding the other despite the language barrier.

I sat, my son in my lap, while we reconnected with a history, plugged into a country, that my father had left fifty years before and that I had known only a few days.  And yet it was as familiar as going home.

My grandfather, Gerrit (on the right), and his brother.

 Later that evening, I sat at the window of our little apartment off the Amstel River, on the Achtergracht, reading and writing in my ever present Moleskine and realized I could just as easily make my home here in the land of bicycles, free health care and VAT taxes as I could in the land of cars and subways, crippling insurance premiums and a regressive tax system.  I could live the same life in a place known for cheese and cannibus as simply as I could in a place known for the raucous public square and our gritty determination.

In the end I realized I had touched the source.  Perhaps it's my Dutch blood that is the fount of my socialist side.  But the Dutch are also the original capitalists.  They just believe there are certain things that are not worth profiting from... like man's misery or pain. 

Whatever.  In the end, I found myself feeling at home, comfortable.

Not that I'm renouncing my citizenship or anything...  I'm just saying, home is where you are.  And for me I'd like to live the best of my American sense of duty and grit and combine it with the social consciousness of my father's ancestral home.
This small suburb in northern Holland could be in New Jersey or Colorado.

My great grandfather, Lucas van Dijk.  The G R on his hat stands for Gemeente-Reinigng which means he cleans for the community.  According to the family, in the Netherlands, this is an honorable profession.  

Letting Go.

Sixteen years ago I got my wife a graduation present.  I was working nights at Gepeto's, a pizza place in Salt Lake City, and the owner's cat had kittens.  His daughters would bring them in all the time and I couldn't resist.  We drove up to the avenues and picked up the smallest of the cats, this runt with pure white fur, and named her Bianca.

At the time we thought it charming to name everything after Shakespeare characters... as theater nerds do.  It's a phase.  We're just fortunate we didn't have twins back then or we'd be paying for therapy for Rozencrantz and Guildenstern right now.

Our first stop with little Bianca (who fit her name perfectly) was the home of my in-laws.  We brought our tiny kitten in and introduced her to everyone.  We took her out back and thought it would be cute for her to meet Rambo, the Kearns' family cat. 

Rambo got low, right into Bianca's face and let out a deep, low growl. 

Bianca puffed up, arched, hissed and pee'd... in that order.  I remember her back leg moving and shaking as pee dripped down it. 

And suddenly, Moishe, the gigantic German Shepherd, came trotting up, stood over Bianca, her tiny body between his front legs, dropped his pointed head, and growled at Rambo, baring his teeth.  He didn't move until Rambo skulked off.  He then stepped back and sniffed Bianca, nudging her before laying down next to this shivering kitten.

It was our first moment with her.  From that point on we treated her like a dog.  We taught her to play fetch.  I chased her.  We fought.

Those of you who have met her now understand how our cat became skittish and had a penchant for swatting ankles.  She was extremely territorial.  She thought of herself as a dog.  She was brave until someone bigger came by and she'd run away,  My mother was deathly afraid of her for a while and my father in-law would carry a bag whenever he walked by her, just to protect his ankles from a random swat.

But to us, to Angie and I, she was an angel.  She was our baby.  She always knew the exact moment to jump up and curl on your lap.  She'd meow incessantly for water in her special bowl, even when the one near her food was full.  She would twirl between your legs when you came home.  She always appeared out of nowhere as Angie was coming down the hall from work.  She knew our sounds, our footsteps. 

While I was gone working out of town for a long stretch, Bianca was Angie's best friend.  She took my place in our bed.

I had to work hard to reclaim my place when I got back. 

The picture I always had with me was one I took late one night, a typical night when Angie would fall asleep on the couch and Bianca would inevitably jump up and nestle in, head and front paws resting on A's hip, body tucked in the crook of her knees.  I can't show that photo because my wife would kill me... and it's just mine.  My own personal perfection.  My ideal life until we had Turtle.

When Turtle was born, we were nervous about how Bianca would handle it.    From the beginning she was fine.

What we realized was this child, this person, had the smell of both Angie and I on him and was so new and so small, the cat would quickly acclimate and the two would simply grow together. 

A few months ago, Bianca fell over.  She couldn't walk, dragging her kicking hind leg as if her back had been broken, but her legs were still trying to gain purchase.  It was a frightening night as she meowed in confusion and we stayed up with her all night.  In the morning we took her in.  A new vet this time, not the huckster who drained our Machu Picchu account with surgeries and teeth cleanings every couple months.  We took her to Astoria Veterinary Group... Those of you in Astoria know how great they are.   The determination was that she had probably had a stroke and for an old cat, there is very little one can do.  Every morning I would put a long needle under her skin for a drip and Angie would hold her as I gave her shots. We nursed her back as best we could.  And then the seizures started.  She couldn't jump off the couch or bed with out doing backflips and landing with a thud.  She'd lift her head and it would drop back down to the floor.  We had a sense the end was close.

The other night we knew.  She was telling us it was time. 

Today, I watched as Turtle sat next to her and ran his fingers through her fur.  Bianca didn't move.  She just let him pet her to his heart's content.  She didn't swat, she didn't growl.  She watched him, closely as his tiny hands gently pet her and then would pat her body, giggling and "talking" to her the entire time.

A few hours later we took her in and let her go. 

It may be the hardest thing I've ever had to do. 

Sixteen years. 

People have tried to define love and I realized today that truly loving someone, or something,  means being able to conjure up every moment you shared with them in an instant.

I saw them all.  As she lay there in a final quiet moment with the three of us, I saw them all. 

And I looked at my son and I saw all the moments to come, moments our little Bianca would miss as part of our family.   And it hurt.

And then we let go.

Safety Tatts

I'm not one for putting tattoos on children, but this one is amazing.

They're waterproof tattoos for children with an emergency contact on them.  Heaven forbid you will ever have to use them, but they are certainly worth getting.

© Daddy's Home
Revolution Elements by Blozard. Original WP theme by Jason Schuller | Distributed by Deluxe Templates