Sometimes you come across some good stuff on the interwebs…
Dallas and Fort Worth have a number of well-publicized cultural events the first weekend of May, but my favorite, hands down, is the Texas Scottish Festival & Highland Games held the first weekend of May on the campus of the University of Texas in Arlington.
When they say “Highland Games”, they are serious. We arrived in time for the Heavy Hammer Throw, Sheaf Over Bar, and Cabers.
The music of Seamus Stout was blasting, and the Belhaven Stout was flowing.
Please sample some of the artists from this year and years past
For the more discerning patrons, Mead and Whisky tasting was available.
The usual collection of “fair food” was on hand, but we enjoyed a selection of pies from Heritage Meat Pies, easily one of the best food vendors at this event. I highly recommend the Curried Lamb pie. Top that off with Zemer’s Homemade Rootbeer. Zemer’s is one my family’s faves. They sell you a cup with your choice of cold rootbeer, vanilla ice cream float, or a new rootbeer slushie. Make sure you save your cup because refills are only $1.00. (Even the floats are only a buck.)
Vendors of traditional and modern Scottish apparel and knickknacks abound. We have seen an increasing number of Steampunk garments and Cosplay accessories in the last couple of years.
A Clan Village allows attendees to meet and greet members of their extended, sometimes VERY extended, families and compare genealogical notes, or take in dance competitions while melodies from the pipers fill the air. Our guest this year discovered her Scottish heritage leads to Clan Gordon by way of Aberdeenshire County.
Scots are big on kith and kin, and the Texas Scottish Festival is a very family friendly event. Kids can take advantage of a special area and activities just for them.
Be sure to catch the North Texas Caledonian Pipes & Drums
and the Fort Worth Scottish Pipes & Drums.
Both groups participate in the opening parades and wander the festival grounds keeping toes tapping. Feel free to break into a reel when the spirit moves you. They are also available to entertain at private events like weddings and parties.
The 1st Weekend in May is the date to remember.
Just because you wear a kilt don’t mean you can’t cowboy up.
In the back of one of my favorite childhood books, printed on the backside of a flyleaf where few people would look is something that has always been my guiding principle as a parent.
“A Message To the Children Who Have Read this Book
When you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important.
A stodgy parent is no fun at all!
What a child wants
— and DESERVES —
is a parent who is
The author was Roald Dahl, and the book is “Danny the Champion of the World”.
This fine story has been made into a film, but the book is infinitely better. It follows a brief period in the life of an English schoolboy and the relationship he has with his father.
While I can’t endorse involving your kids in illegal like the ones described in the book, I firmly believe that it is critical to engage your kids in some shared activities that only you and THAT kid participate in. This creates a deep bond and shows each kid that they are special and valued as unique individuals. I know that finding 1 on 1 time would be difficult for families with multiple children, but it is definitely worth the effort.
Even if it is nothing more than reading books or watching movies together, laughing, playing, and having fun together pays big dividends. Don’t be the stodgy parent!
“Only Interested People Are Interesting” ~ Jeff Cooper
One of the great points of conflict that has occurred in every American household since the invention of recorded music has been the tug of war over the media player of the time conducted by the parent and the teenager. Sometimes this infighting filters down among the children, just adding to the parent’s frustration.
I lucked into the solution one afternoon in the car when my 7-year-old kept insisting that she wanted to listen to a Disney CD instead of my fine selection of classic Rock & Roll. There we went back and forth. Louder and louder, and then it hit me.
“How would you like to hear a song about a DRAGON?” I asked.
“What dragon? You don’t have any songs about dragons,” was the challenge.
At that moment I knew I had won.
“I have to tell you about the dragon so you understand the song, OK?”
“This is a world famous dragon, and his name is Godzilla…”
So after a very brief description of His Awesomeness that is Godzilla, I cranked up the rock anthem by Blue Oyster Cult that celebrates the King of All Monsters.
After we listened to Godzilla a couple of times, the person in the booster seat asked, “What other songs do you have?” Game. Set. Match!
My house has never suffered from the dreaded Disney pop-tarts. Boy bands have never sounded a note. Hip-hop in all of its forms is anathema. Not because I say so. Because my daughter says so.
When the Mrs. was having trouble getting the daughter interested in classical music, I arranged for Santa Clause to deliver a few DVDs containing Bugs Bunny. Nothing like a good cartoon with a classical background score to hold a child’s interest. Now when we go to the symphony we see who can guess the toon first. The daughter plays violin in the orchestra now.
To date my now 14-year-old has been to multiple performances of the opera, musical theatre, symphony, and recently Alice Cooper, and Blue Oyster Cult.
By helping my kid discover the music I love, I managed to avoid the music I despise. You just have to tie your faves to something the kid is already interested in, and with a little encouragement the rest will take care of itself.
Every relationship has conflict occasionally. Whether the trigger is intentional or accidental, feelings are hurt and the battle is on. Accusations are made, voices are raised, blame and counter-blame are thrown, and when things get really out of hand things can get physical.
Let’s get one thing straight from the start. Physical altercations within a relationship are at a minimum abuse and often criminal behavior. Nobody deserves to be hit, pushed, or to have another’s hands laid on them in anger for any reason. If this is happening to you, leave the location and get help. Call 911, go to a fire station, family shelter, or hospital, talk to your priest/pastor. The point is tell someone, and get help.
If you are being battered, it is NOT YOUR FAULT, and you DO NOT deserve it!
Recognizing that conflict in inevitable, one of the most important life skills we can teach our kids is how to “fight fair”. This is a skill they can learn to employ as children that will serve them well later in life, and make them more effective professionally and personally. By coaching our children in this critical skill it reinforces these same principles in ourselves, and this makes life easier for everyone.
So how does this work?
It starts with admitting “I get angry”, and allowing myself to be angry. That sounds silly, but it is important to acknowledge your emotions, and to encourage your child to do the same because it helps to separate the emotion from the range of possible responses. When children are little they lack the ability to separate emotion from reaction. A pinched finger causes a burst of tears, sudden anger leads to hitting or throwing as a means to lash out at the object of the anger.
With toddlers, we tell them not to hit or throw things at people, but as they mature we never seem to get to the next step, teaching them effective communication.
A child of four is coming to a point where they can learn to say “I’m mad at you!” instead of lashing out physically, so start the communication when you see the child acting out by asking, “Are you mad about something?” If the child says yes, then ask questions:
- “Who are you mad at?”
- “What made you mad?”
Then sit back and listen to the answers.
Parent: “What are you mad about?”
Child: “You always yell at me when I spill juice on the floor.”
Listen for “absolute” words like “always” and “never”.
The first rule of fighting fair is to stop using absolute words. Nobody “always” does something. It is not possible, so focus on concrete things that can be proved and agreed upon by all involved parties.
In this specific instance person A did B that made me feel C.
“You spilled juice on the floor, and that made me feel angry.”
By changing our focus to the act and acknowledging your feelings that resulted from the act, we have given the conversation a focal point that can be discussed in a calm and intelligent manner. This is important because the act, whether accidental or intentional, is not as important as how it makes you feel.
Let’s take a moment to consider how the recipient of the statement would perceive, ”You spilled juice on the floor, and that made me feel angry.” The first word is a shot to the chin. By saying “you” it puts the listener on the spot and makes them feel attacked, so their natural response is to become defensive. What they heard is “You make me angry.” More or less accurate, but a person that feels attacked only wants to lash out at the attacker, so the game of dragging out past incidents to use as weapons to hit the other person begins, and the game gets louder and louder because nobody is feeling like they are being heard. A child can’t play at this level, so you get a tantrum instead.
None of this really helps solve the base problem of juice on the floor, so let’s change the statement again. “When juice is spilled on the floor, I feel angry.”
Now we have stated the issue correctly, and we have removed the accusation from the situation because I have avoided pointing the finger at the child. This defuses the sense of being yelled at, and avoids invoking an automatic defensive response.
Think about how it makes you feel if the boss comes by and in a harsh voice says, “You were supposed to have those reports to me by the end of business yesterday, and I still don’t have them. What’s wrong with you?!”
Feel a little defensive and upset?
Feel a bit put out?
Feel like the boss really cares about the cause of the delay?
Feel like he’s going to hear anything you have to say?
Young children are not very skilled at logical thinking. They are very close to their emotions, so an assault like the one above would most likely result in tears and possibly a tantrum, but the child will definitely feel like they are being yelled at even if your voice was never raised above a normal conversational tone.
How would you feel if the boss had said, “I was expecting those reports by end of business, yesterday. This is very urgent. Is there something I can do to help get them ready?”
I bet your reaction and resulting attitude would be completely different. Same goes for your child. This approach clearly states the issue, and more importantly, it shows you are open to communication. Let’s go back to the spilled juice.
“How did the juice get on the floor?”
“I spilled it.”
“It hurts my feelings when that happens. It needs to be cleaned up because someone could fall and get hurt. Please be more careful. Now help me clean it up.”
What is the likely result of this conversation?
We have clearly stated the problem of juice on the floor.
The child has taken ownership for creating the problem.
You have clearly expressed your feelings and expectations without making the child feel like they are being attacked.
You have engaged the child in resolving the issue. This is important because even if you give the child the towel and have them wipe up the mess, they do not feel rejected because they made a mistake.
Everyone gets what they want.
Will there be more spilled juice? Almost certainly, but its juice. How much energy are you really willing to put into a big fight over a 5 second clean up job? Is it really worth it? Does it make you feel better about yourself?
Go love on your kids by teaching them to fight fair. To acknowledge their feelings, to express them clearly, and to work with the other person to address the issue in a calm loving way.
Some folks will read this and question my qualifications as a therapist. I have no training as a psychotherapist or family counselor, and I don’t play one on TV.
By profession I am a Software Project Manager with a lot of experience handling people who communicate in many different styles. On one side I have the people who need the software to perform their work. On the other I have the technical staff who need to build the software. Two groups of people, worlds apart in their perceptions of the world.
When these worlds collide, things can start to sound like a riot at the Pre-K because even though both sides are talking, nobody feels like they are being heard. Feelings get hurt, and a meeting dissolves into a screaming match between otherwise normal professionals. Sound familiar?
My solution is a simple question, “Please help me understand…” I use this to get people focused on the issue by asking for their help. They need to help me, and they feel like they are being listened to, so they re-engage in the process. A simple question that strips away the energy that had been going to emotional displays. The name-calling stops, and work happens.
Peter Falk used to play a detective character named “Columbo” on TV. He used the same gimmick to trick the bad guys into confessing. Give it a try sometime.
What person in their right mind would attend a Jimmy Buffet concert without an Acapulco shirt loud enough to make air sick, and a stuffed parrot on their shoulder?
Every pop-culture event has a list of mandatory equipment for attendees.
Subculture events often cause the list to take interesting, if not bizarre tone…
11:00PM Saturday Night June, 1981
“Water gun?” …”Check.”
“Cigarette Lighter?” …”Check”
“Burnt Toast?” …”Check”
“Toilet Paper?” …”Check. 2 rolls.”
“OK, the movie starts in an hour, we’d better get going.”
One of my cardinal rules of parenting is: When a youngster asks an out of the blue question about a topic that has never been discussed before, ALWAYS ask where they encountered this subject.
One evening my daughter walked into the room and said, “I’m watching my new DVD. Why are a bunch of guys in the movie wearing women’s underwear?”
I knew this was one time my rule was going to be important. Understanding the context surrounding a question has saved me a lot of fumbling with awkward answers over the years, so I went to see things for myself. When she hit Play on the DVD a scene from my high school memories unfolded as Tim Curry in a red corset and black stockings paraded across the screen.
The scene was from the movie “Perks of Being a Wallflower”, and the characters were at a showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. When cable TV, VHS, and Blockbuster were the standard sources of home entertainment, many young people who had heard raves about Rocky Horror went out and rented the video. Then they were very confused, and felt like everyone had played a bad joke on them because it wasn’t as great and fantastic as they had been led to believe.
Nobody bothered to tell them the greatness of Rocky Horror only comes from seeing it in a theater.
With a bunch of your best friends.
Who will NEVER tell anyone how you made a complete fool of yourself dancing in the aisles, throwing burnt toast, and spraying water guns all over complete strangers who are sitting quietly under umbrellas eating popcorn next to some poor terrified “virgin” who is desperately looking for the nearest exit.
My friends and I have always been a pack of cult film enthusiasts. If it was sci-fi and obscure, we were at the midnight movie to see it. “Dark Star”, “Heavy Metal”, “Wizards”, “Eraserhead”, and of course “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.
We bought the posters for our favorites, and I started looking at some of them recently wondering how much “that one” would bring? Turns out it is a lot more than I expected.
My personal favorite movie to date is “Heavy Metal”. Fantastic drawn-animation vignettes set to a hard rock score. The 1981 “Taarna” one-sheet was over $150 two years ago. I think I gave $2 for mine out of the bargain bin at the comic store.
The 1977 film “Wizards” poster featuring the character Peace came in just under $100 in 2013.
In 1974 John Carpenter was just starting out with his film “Dark Star”. $85 is a big improvement of the $5 I paid for mine.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” tops out the list at over $150.
I hate to think how much money my dear mother tossed in the trash when I moved away from home.
Passing the torch:
To make sure my daughter had a proper appreciation of “Perks of Being a Wallflower” I took her to a live performance of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Dallas Theater Center’s Wylie Theater.
We threw toilet paper, confetti, and burnt toast.
We yelled the obligatory obscenities at the actors.
It was awesome!
LET THERE BE LIPS!!!
Only Interested People are Interesting” ~ Jeff Cooper
In times past the mark of a cultured person was an appreciation of music and the theater. Sadly in the age of on demand entertainment many kids never benefit from exposure to a live performance of anything more sophisticated than the latest gum chewing tattoo covered pop tramp.
Take the kids to the theater!
Many cities have small community theater troupes that perform children’s plays. Prices are normally very reasonable, and the smaller venues almost guarantee good seats anywhere in the hall.
The Dallas Children’s Theater (DCT.org) is a perfect place to start your child’s adventure. They perform a large variety of shows covering ages from 3-16. My family has enjoyed plays based on the “Junie B. Jones” books, “Charlotte’s Web”, “The Miracle Worker”, and many others. One of the best shows for older kids is “The Secret Life of Girls”. The DCT also offers theater classes covering acting and the technical side of theater, and their students often perform in their shows.
Once the child is mature enough to sit through a longer performance, take them to “grown-up” shows. Musicals are great for the younger audience members.
Make going to the theater a special event. Dress up a bit to give the event an air of sophistication that makes it “better” than going to the movies. After the show talk discuss the play. What did they like? How did they feel about the characters and story? If the story is one the child is familiar with, compare the play’s version of the story to the familiar one.
One of my favorite games is “Name That Theme”. The question put to the player is “How many things have you seen before?” The player’s task is to name as many places where the theme has appeared. The movie “A Bug’s Life” is a good example. The base story is straight from “The Magnificent Seven” which in turn is based on “The Seven Samurai”.
The outcome of the game is the opportunity to introduce classic material to the child by providing a link they can understand. Once the classic material has been linked to something familiar to the child, resistance to “old stuff” is greatly reduced.
My daughter likes “Name That Theme” so much we play it after almost every movie or play to see who has spotted the most references to other productions. The Disney Channel is about to release a made for TV movie built around a puree of the old Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello beach movies and “West Side Story”. This gave me the chance to introduce the film version of “West Side Story”, and if we get the chance to see “West Side” on the stage, I’m sure to have an enthusiastic companion.
Be prepared, because theater is an enthusiasm that can last a lifetime.
“Only Interested People are Interesting” ~ Jeff Cooper
The comedian Gallagher talked about children having “new eyes”, and the opportunity parents have to look at the world again through new eyes as our own kids experience the world for the first time.
One of the great opportunities to relive the joy of discovery is to plant a garden with your child. Getting dirty preparing the soil. Responsibility for weeding and watering. The eager anticipation of waiting for the first sprouts. Watching the vegetables ripen followed by the adrenaline rush the child gets from harvesting something they grew themselves and sprinting into the house to show off the prize.
Most elementary schools start teaching basic lessons on ecosystems in First or Second Grade. This is the perfect time to start a garden.
The key to gardening is start small. If you are new to gardening, start with some tomatoes in 10”-12” flower pots or flower boxes. Everything necessary is readily available at the local home improvement store or nursery for minimal cost. After the first season, move up to planting the garden in a flower bed or an above ground box.
Make a game of looking for pests on the plants. Seeing who can pull the most weeds can make the waiting period between planting and harvesting a bit more interesting. If you have the space, start a compost pile and go organic.
Squarefootgardening.com (http://www.squarefootgardening.com/) is a resource on a simple gardening technique that minimizes maintenance, and is easily expandable to match the gardener’s ambition. The local university “ag extension” (Example: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu ) is an excellent resource for information on soil preparation, planting seasons, pest and disease control tailored for your specific location.
The time spent working in the garden provides fresh air and exercise. It also opens endless opportunities to engage in the lost art of conversation. Talk to your child about school, friends, or any other subject that comes up. Both of you are able to really open up in the neutral ground of “our” garden. Be prepared for the conversations to take many bizarre turns because this is where the “new eyes” can really show you how cool the world still is.
“Only Interested People are Interesting” ~ Jeff Cooper
Spinosaur aegypticus invaded my home one Saturday afternoon thanks to Heritage Auctions’ Nature & Science department. The tooth fragments that were given out to promote an upcoming auction joined a small collection of native Texas fossils on my daughter’s keepsake shelf.
Several summers spent abroad have added their share of knick-knacks to her collection. These small mementos of visits to other countries will refresh her recollections of these adventures every time they are dusted.
What do all of these things have in common? They are bits of tangible history linked together by the story of a person’s life.
History you can hold in your hand carries a meaning that can never be conveyed by any other media. Replicas of historical devices provide direct experience that ties the modern person to their ancestors.
One of the first books I read to my daughter after she graduated from Dr. Seuss was “Little house in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. For the young whippersnappers in the audience, this book is the prequel to the book “The Little House on the Prairie” that later became a TV series. The entire series consists of 9 books, and they are well worth the time.
“Big Woods” contains a chapter that describes how Pa cleaned his muzzleloading rifle after a day hunting, cast his own bullets on the fireplace hearth, and reloaded the gun before hanging it on the hooks above the cabin door. I own a muzzleloader similar to the one described in the book, and my daughter expressed an interest in it, so we took it to the range. She learned how to safely load and fire it. After we returned home she helped me clean it, and put it away.
On another occasion she expressed an interest in archery, so with the help of a generous coworker who supplied me with some bamboo, we made arrows in the Seminole two-fletch style and took up archery.
(By the way Generous Coworker, I need more bamboo, please.)
The point I’m trying to make is that kids will gladly share a grown-up’s passion for “old stuff” if they can fit it into a context meaningful to them. I can recall being given several boxes of old coins when I was a kid. The donor always said something like “This is my coin collection, and I thought you might like to have it.”
I looked at those coins off and on over the years, but they had no real meaning for me because I could not relate them to anything. Most of the time I could tell what country they came from, but that was it. I lost interest pretty quick, and those coins are still in a box somewhere.
The things I developed a true passion for were the things where an adult spent time to teach me about the topic instead of just showing me an object. If you have a collection of “old stuff”, share it with a young person. Make sure to share your knowledge as well.
Your knowledge is the most valuable part of the experience. It makes the physical object important to the person you are sharing it with.
Our hobbies grow when we make the effort to educate people who have little or no knowledge of our enthusiasms. New collectors add value to our collections through increased demand, and our kids become interested in learning about something real instead of wasting their time plugged in.
“Only Interested People are Interesting” ~ Jeff Cooper
One of the most fun things my child and I do together is cook. This is a great activity, and a wonderful opportunity to practice math skills and develop physical dexterity. Don’t believe me? Grab an old fashioned American recipe and double it. Then halve it. How many teaspoons in a tablespoon? In a cup? English measurements converting to Metric? All good stuff.
Start out with baking. The recipes are fairly easy, and no hot grease or scalding water is involved. The new cook needs minimal distractions and nobody learns well when they are afraid of burning themselves.
Have the child copy the recipe from the cookbook or Internet. This makes them familiar with the ingredients and the steps in the process. Plus it keeps the cookbook from being ruined by the impending spills.
Buy the ingredients together so the child learns how to budget a meal, and how to select healthy products.
Allow the child to measure the ingredients, mix them, and put them in the pan. Wash up together while the pan is in the oven.
When the pan comes out of the oven the child will take great pride in having their dish enjoyed by the entire family.
My daughter first expressed an interest in cooking 3 years ago. Since them we have acquired the “The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook”, and the Pumpkin Pasties recipe has become a family favorite. The National Outdoor Living Skills (NOLS) Cookbook has been added to the shelf along with a cookbook containing recipes collected from the wives of US Cavalry officers during the 1800s. Recipes copied, or clipped, from various places adorn our fridge door.
This week I enjoyed an “Apple Crisp” dessert my daughter found on the back of a box of Corn Flakes, and last night it was a simple fruit salad based on pistachio Jello and Cool Whip. She also makes a pretty good Huevos Rancheros following her father’s personal recipe.
Cooking is also an excellent window into other cultures. Sampling and learning to cook dishes “not from around these parts” can make the Social Studies your child is learning more personal. In November of 2011, the ladies in the Heritage IT department brought in traditional snacks for “Diwali” (The festival of lights & Hindu New Year). I have to admit a couple of those snacks found their way home and were very well received.
Coworkers are an excellent source of new ideas. Several Heritage potlucks have resulted is spirited recipe exchanges. The Slimming World and other weight control programs being used by the employees are generating many good ideas I have taken home. Maybe Santa Claus will stop by Heritage for a classic cookbook…
Spills will happen. Disasters will occur. Great times will be had. When the child grows up they will recall the time spent, the joy of accomplishment, and they won’t have to rely on the nearest take-out joint for their next meal.