Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blog Giveaways Addict

I have a problem. Not a problem I am going to change, but one I can at least acknowledge.
I am addicted to blogger giveaways.
I began checking out other blogs when I knew I wanted to start blogging. I wanted to learn from them, but also support the mom/dad blogger community. Little did I know I would discover the world of giveaways. Books, pens, coffee, yogurt - I enter them all! And the addiction is spreading throughout my family.
This morning, my wife logged onto my computer to check out movie times and saw I had minimized 8 blogs. She began clicking on the links and about an hour after she went in the room to check movie times, I went to check on her. She, too, had fallen into the trap of giveaways. In that one hour, she manages to enter 10 giveaways! Not once within the hour did she check out the movie times.
Although I regret spending so much time entering (a task I usually do late at night after our two year old is asleep), I have won a lot of cool stuff and amazing experiences (Disney on Ice tickets, Ringling Bros. tickets, Zicam, etc.....) for my family. I am grateful for those opportunities and am grateful to the companies and the bloggers who open themselves up to share that experience with us. Gotta run now, more giveaways await!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

How did your life change after baby?

This time of year often makes me stop and reflect on family, our current status/situation and our happiness/love/treatment of each other. My wife and I live a great life - we have a small, but comfortable house. We are healthy and blessed to have an amazing two year old son who attends a wonderful, safe and convenient preschool. But, like most families today, we both work to pay our bills. We live in a Los Angeles suburb and pay a lot more for a tiny house - nearly double what other people pay throughout the country for a house nearly twice or even three times the size of ours. My wife watches HG TV and often shows me clips of amazing houses in Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, and many other states - and it's gotten us thinking. Should we move? Should one of us work, live in a nice house, meet nice neighbors and not be slaves to our mortgage? Live a life where one of us stays home with our little one - even if it means no professional sports teams? But then we look at the economy and wonder if we have no right to complain since we both actually have jobs. In fact, we actually wonder if this economy is the new reality the Sunday pundits say it is? Is it safer and smarter for both of us to remain employed even though we are stressed out beyond belief? I wish I had some answers, but I don't. In fact, I'm hoping some of you do. I'm curious to hear what other parents have done. Did you have a similar conversation with your spouse? Did you actually move for a better quality of life? If yes, how has it worked out?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sealy Posturepedic Bed Giveaway on Mommy Mandy

I casually enter contests here and there, but when I saw this, I had to enter! Go to Mommy Mandy's site and enter to win a Sealy Bed! If I am lucky enough to win, then I'm getting a small bed and putting it in my bedroom! Yes, I'm talking Ricky Ricardo and Flintstone beds in our master bedroom. One for my wife, she can have the big one. Then I get my own bed with my own covers! I'm telling you, that's the wave of the future. I get very little sleep as it is with a toddler in the house and my own bed would allow me to sleep like a baby!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

I have the next couple weeks off for vacation! Yay for me, but we're not going anywhere. My son woke up this morning and I told him that our nanny would be here later and then grandma would be here, but for now, we have a couple hours to play. I wanted to be productive today, so I started to make a To Do list of items that I wanted to accomplish today. I told my son that I was making a list of things that I wanted to do today and gave him a pen and some paper. I asked him to write down what he wanted to do today (he can't write, but I wanted him to participate). He pointed to my list of things to do and said, "I want to do what you're doing today papa." As much as he drives me crazy sometimes, I love my son...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Wife's A Mermaid

My son plays with a neighbor of the same age named McKenzie. She is a girls girl complete with princess costumes and Little Mermaid toys. As a result, my son wants Little Mermaid books and such. We were running late for Disney on Ice and I said, "You're going to miss the mermaid" when he pointed to my wife and said "I already have a mermaid. Mama's a mermaid." It melted my wife's heart.

The next day at his school Christmas event, my wife and I were in line getting food when a fellow mom asked if she was a mermaid. My wife did not know what to say and said "not that I know of" and the mom said, "Your son kept saying 'My mom is a mermaid."

It was really sweet that he was so proud of his mama.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Disney on Ice Review

Last night the new Disney on Ice show "Worlds of Fantasy" skated into Los Angeles and my wife, son and I were invited by Feld Entertainment and Mom Central to check it out. Our tickets were fantastic - about 10 rows from the ice and in clear view of each character. In fact, we were so close, we nearly froze in our seats from the cold air. (If you go, bring a blanket or jacket to keep you and your little one warm.)
The show runs about an hour and half and is comprised of two halves that are divided by one fifteen minute intermission. The first half was great. It opens with Mickey and friends, followed by segments featuring characters and scenes from "Cars," "The Little Mermaid" and "The Lion King." We enjoyed singing along to the songs and seeing the characters that we've loved for many years now do incredible flips and turns while wearing their huge costumes. "The Lion King" segment was really creative, complete with unique animal costumes that must have been inspired by "The Lion King" theatrical production.
I wish I could be as glowing about the second half, but I can't. The first half was fun, divided by 4 different stories that kept things moving, but the second focused entirely on "Tinkerbell" and her fairy friends. For a young boy, it was not that interesting. Even my wife, who loves Disney movies and can sing all the songs by heart, thought the segment went a little long. It would have been nice to close the show with another family favorite like "Beauty and The Beast" or "Aladdin" or "Toy Story" or any other Disney movie.
When we entered the garage at the end of the show, our son said "wanna go back in papa" - he clearly had a great time, and at the end of the day, that is what matters. Thank you to Feld Entertainment and Mom Central for making the night possible for us!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Roy's part two - my son caught you using the wrong bathroom

As a brief follow up to the story below, I want to thank those of you who went or almost went into the incorrect bathrooms at Roy's. You provided some great laughs!
To bring you up to speed, our table was somewhat close to the bathrooms - not entirely, but close enough for us to explain to our two-year-old the difference between M and W.
I even took my son into the M (men's bathroom) to wash our hands before dinner. Throughout the night, we must have spotted 5 men passing the M, and almost walking into the W and what made it funny, was that our toddler caught each of them. He would stand up on his little chair (okay, sorry for the bad manners) and with eyes wide open and finger pointed would say, "mama and papa, he went to the wrong door." To make the men feel better, there was one woman who saw the M, but was afraid to enter the W because she was looking for an "F". She thought it was "M" for male and was looking for an "F" for female. Shocking, but hysterical for us to watch.

Roy's Hawaiian Knows How To Treat Toddlers

My wife and I had been talking about trying Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine, the newest restaurant in Pasadena, for a while now and we finally made it out last night. (Okay, the place opened about a year ago and we're just getting out to try it, but give us some slack.) We called ahead to make sure it was the kind of place we could bring a well-behaved toddler. Yes, miraculously, our screaming, fit-throwing toddler sits calmly when food is involved, but that is a discussion for another blog. We were told it was business casual, but because it was only about 5:30, we thought we'd be okay. There were no tables available, but Jessica, the manager who spoke to us on the phone, told us there were tables by the bar that were a perfect fit for a toddler (and of course anyone needing a drink after work). Although it was first come first serve, she offered to put menus down on a table for us if we could get there soon. Surprised someone would be so nice, we hopped in the car and raced over. As soon as we arrived, Jessica greeted us and told us she had pre-ordered a cheese quesadilla and carrots and celery slices as a little "starter" for our two year old. Parents out there- can you believe that? Food was coming for our potentially squirmy combustible the minute we sat down!! And to top it off, Jessica brought us a cup of milk with our child's name written on it. Being that it is Christmas time, I swear she was an angle from above...either that or we were on some sort of training video. We hadn't even eaten yet and our experience was amazing. We then proceeded to order and had the nicest waiter imaginable. The food arrived promptly. We looked at the menu and I had a rib - eye in a burgundy/blue cheese sauce with a spinach, mushroom and potato mash that was out of this world. My wife, a true meat eater, had short ribs that she said were the best she had ever had - which is saying something. We topped the meal with a delicious chocolate souffle (yes, we were pigging out, we admit it) and they brought our son, as part of his kid's meal, a scoop of ice cream and a chocolate chip cookie. (Okay, parents, we're not usually this piggie, but we decided to splurge on our night out - my son had toast and milk and fruit for breakfast this morning to make up for it). Now, it was not the cheapest place in the world, but I have truly never experienced such nice people and amazing service as I did at the Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant in Pasadena. To Jessica's boss, please know that you have an amazing manager running your restaurant. To everyone at Roy's, we'll be seeing you again soon!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Brave Toddler Flu Shot

I took my soon last week to the doctor's office for his second flu shot. The only good things about going there are that he loves to ride in the elevator to get there and when we look out the window, he can see the train that sometime goes by. My wife and I have always been up front with him when we go do stuff. So, the day before and the day of, I tell him, "Here's the plan, we're going to go to the doctor's office, ride the elevator, look for trains, get a small pinch from the flu shot, then ride the elevator, and go home."

Sometimes he'll say I don't want to go to the doctor, or I don't want to take a bath. This time, I think with most of the distractions, he was ok with it. I was worried because we had to wake him up from a nap. Typically when we wake him up, he is an angry boy, so I thought from the start I was going to be in trouble. On the way there, he had his blanket and was sucking his thumb and was very quiet. He had a good time with the elevator and watching the train at the office, but all the time, he stayed very close to me and was clingy.

We were looking out the window and he told me that they were calling him. Funny that I didn't hear them call his name and he had to tell me it was his turn. We went in there and I asked the nurse a few questions while he was in my lap. He was quiet but ready. We told him what was going to happen and he watched the prep work and everything. He didn't cry like last time and just waited for the shot. The nurse gave him the shot and after she said, "You're all done". He shouted out "Yippee!".

It was one of those moments where you are so proud of your child and so happy for them. I felt like he did a little growing up at that moment and his fear of the shot and doctor's office had passed. Now that I look back on it, I think we both grew up a little that day...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Small, But Important Thanksgiving

For the first year in many years, we decided to forgo travel and family for a simply stay-at-home celebration. We typically love turkey and all the fixing's, but this year - because it is just the three of us and mom - we decided to just enjoy the time together and not worry about turkey and everything else. Then on Monday I went to my child's preschool where the teacher read a book about turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes. As we left the school yard, my two-year-old sang, "turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes, turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes" and I knew we could not rob him of an amazing tradition. Last night, I hit the grocery store to buy everything I needed. The store was crowded, the turkeys were few, there was pushing and long lines, but something about the entire experience brought back memories of all my past Thanksgivings and gave me a lot of unexpected joy. I am grateful to my son for reminding me how important traditions are and grateful that we're carving out time today to celebrate the most meaningful holiday and tradition of the year - even if it is just a few of us.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Keith Urban in Pasadena at the Verizon Store!

We heard a rumor this weekend that country superstar Keith Urban was going to be in our neighborhood playing a free concert at the local Verizon store and thought we'd check it out. The concert was supposed to begin at 2 p.m. and we arrived at that time. As we searched for a parking space, I had visions of that U2 video "Where the Streets Have No Name" where the band sings on top of a building to thousands of people on the street below, yet as we drove up, there were probably only about 150 people total. I thought to myself, how could a Grammy award winning singer only attract 150 people? Was it just a the rumor after all? Yet, sure enough, there was a stage and Keith Urban posters everywhere. My wife, 2 year-old son and I waited about half an hour and about 30 minutes and another 300 or so people later, Keith Urban came out on stage- just a man and his guitar.
Now, I had seen Keith Urban perform on award shows and knew how talented he is, but I've never picked up one of his Cd's. Well, that was about to change. He sang five different songs, each sounding more top 40 than country. His voice was simply amazing. His guitar playing was unbelievable. (I should note that my two year-old never puts down his ukulele and was mesmerized by Keith and his guitar). Keith took questions, joked with the audience and even invited a young guy on stage to play guitar with him! My wife and I instantly became full-fledged Keith Urban fans, immediately heading to our local Target store to buy the Keith Urban Defying Gravity CD. That night, our two year-old played his ukulele to "I'm in" and "Kiss A Girl".
Not only was it a fun day for my family, but it was truly an amazing honor to be there and we're grateful to Keith and to Verizon for bringing that opportunity to us.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

$10 Free From Coinstar!

I was browsing sites the other day and came across this great deal from The Suburban Jungle. It's from Coinstar and all you have to do is turn in your change that you have laying around the house in for cash! Last year we did it and we had $50! A nice little boost for Christmas time. You just need to turn in at least $40 in change! Great for the holidays!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Contest

We didn't really have one, but I had to post this picture of Winnie the Pooh. My son loves Winnie and my wife found a carving photo of Pooh. It looked a bit challenging, but I gave it a shot. It was a lot of fun! Too bad that a week later, it started to mold on the doorstep!!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Attack on Baby Einstein an Attack on Parents?

As many of you know, the blogosphere and the media are all a buzz about the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood's attack on the Baby Einstein Company and it's DVDs. Are you as tired about this as I am? Now, don't get me wrong, I am not an advocate for plucking junior down in front of the TV for hours at a time, but I do reserve the right to show my child an age and developmentally-appropriate DVD or television show if I want. I believe I am smart enough not to put my child in front of "Grey's Anatomy" or the evening news, but I also have not discovered any harm in the occasional Baby Einstein DVD. In fact what is wrong with my child seeing real-world images and puppets dancing and moving to Mozart's music - isn't that what the Mozart Effect is all about?

I don't want to go on and on about TV viewing because I do believe it is up to each and every parent to decide what is right for him or her and his or her child. However, I would like parents to have the right to parent their children the way they want to - not the way to media tells us to or the way some conservative advocacy group suggests.

Jiffy Lube Coupon

I took my wife's car the other day to get an oil change. The dealer was going to charge $170 because they do the all inclusive maintenance. No way. I decided to look around and see if I could find a coupon for Jiffy Lube and I found one! It's only $5 off, but every little bit counts and it was quick and painless. Overall cost $30.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flu Shot & H1N1 Shot

Tis the season to get sick. My toddler just got over a rough case of the flu. It all started last weekend when he wouldn't eat anything. That was the first tell right there because my boy is an eater. He was taking his afternoon nap and about an hour into it, he woke up crying and his cheeks were red. He had a high temperature and wasn't doing well. I picked him up, he started coughing, and he threw up all over the front of my shirt. Bummer. I cleaned us both up and finally got him to drink some water and Gatorade.
We took him to the doctor on Monday and they didn't find anything other than the flu. No swine flu, no strep throat, or anything else. The doc said it needed to run its course. My son doesn't like the doctor too much, but he did a great job. He listened and the doctor was able to perform all the tests.

Trouble began to brew when the nurse came in for some follow up items. They wanted to test the protein levels in his body because he was a little puffy. In order to do this, they needed to attach a plastic bag to him so he could pee in it. Bad idea. Kicking and screaming ensued. We finally got it on him and they said we needed to wait until he peed in it. Fortunately for us, there was an elevator in the office, so I proceeded to ride it with him for about 20 minutes. We should have been collecting tips because we were pressing the buttons for everyone. As long as you tell him which button to press, 1, 2, or 3, he's pretty good about not pressing anything else. The nice part about all of that was that there were many elderly people riding that day to the third floor and they got a nice smile from my boy's willingness to help and press buttons. Finally he went to the bathroom and we went home. We were there for 2 hours, the longest doctor visit he has ever had.

So, now the reason for the post. Since everyone and their kids are getting sick now, do we get the flu shot for him? We got the regular flu shot and we're still debating on getting the H1N1 shot for us. My boy is scheduled to get his flu shot in a week, but we're not sure if we'll give him the H1N1 shot. The doctor says yes since he is in preschool, but we're a little hesitant.

Well, we have time, so we'll see what happens. I'm guessing we'll all probably get the H1N1 shot, but time will tell. By the way, a good little trick to get your kids to use soap and wash their hands is to sing the ABC's. Good luck!!!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Watching A Friend's Child

I'm actually asking for advice with this particular blog entry. We have playdates almost evey day for my son, basically because he loves to play with his friends and of course, it tires him out. Some of our friends are vigilant over their child which enables us the task of simpling watching out for our own child, preventing him from taking a swan dive off the swing set. However, other play dates we've had recently involved parents who do not care to look after their child. One involved a father who was on his cell phone the entire time. Another involved a mom more concerned about herself than anyone else.
These situations make me feel schizophrenic becuase I find myself having to entertain the parent AND watch her child and of course, mine.
So, the question is, how do you deal with playdates in which the parent doesn't seem to watch her own child? You want what is best for all the children and want to make sure they have a fun time, but how do you deal with the parent - especially one that wants to continue to have playdates? Any advice is appreciated.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weil Baby Giveaway!

This weekend my wife held a Weil Baby party where she invited a few friends over and shared information about Dr. Andrew Weil's new line of baby products. The Weil Baby(TM) line of products was designed in partnership with Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. who is considered a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, a healing-oriented approach to health care that encompasses body, mind and spirit. This new line of product is ultra-safe, healthy and functional - and both BPA-free and EA-free. Why does this matter? Because when our son was born two years ago, the options for BPA -free bottles were limited and very expensive - nearly $45 per bottle. This is not the case here. Safe bottles from a trusted source at a price we can afford. In fact, Proud Poppa would like to share some of these unique bottles with his followers. I'm giving away 3 free bottles and coupons for $5 off any Weil Baby products to three winners who visit and leave a comment below saying what other product they would like to buy. Contest ends October 12. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How Smart is A 2 Year-Old? Smart

As you know, our 2 year-old started preschool last week. It was a slightly bumpy road, but things are much smoother now. However, even though we are able to drop him off with less tears, it does not mean that my two year-old enjoys it. Yesterday he woke up and crawled into bed with me and my wife. It was 6:45 a.m. He turned to the window and said "it's daytime....time for schoo, ah, spring and Christmas." Yes, my two year-old started to say school and then realized what he was saying and quickly changed course. And the best part of it was that he clearly caught himself becuase he stared at me like a deer in the headlights as he paused to correct himself with "spring and Christmas." Did he think we would not remember that he had school? Well, we had and about an hour later, he knew that we to school we went.

White House Farmer's Market Criticism, Really?

The White House opened it's first farmers market last week and received criticism from pesticide organizations. Are people crazy? How do you protest the growing and selling of fruit from the ground? Are you really angry that local farmers use natural methods to help food grow? Okay, I am off my soapbox.We love our local farmer's market not just because we support local growers, but because it's a fun adventure for my family. We ride our bikes to the local farmers market each Saturday morning - okay, most Saturday mornings. - the Saturday mornings when we actually have our act together. We walk around with our two year old son pointing out the flowers and the fruits and vegetables. We hold the bag open and say, put in three red tomatoes. He has fun playing the "farmer's market game" and runs from station to station ready to find new fruits and vegetables to put in the bag. We listen to the musicians who set up each week and stop to let our son do some dancing. Then, we simply pack up, jump back on our bikes and make the three block trek home. We celebrate the White House farmer's market, even though we are 3,000 miles away.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Toddler's First Day of School

Our 2 1/2 year old has been under nanny care since he was about 9 months old. He is now 2 1/2 and this Monday he finally started pre-school. My wife and I were pretty nervous that he wouldn't make the transition very well and with good cause. Fortunately I was able to take him to a couple summer school classes and get him used to the surroundings and the teacher.

On Monday we woke up and we were already behind the eight ball and running behind schedule. Mainly because the boy woke up at 4am and walked into our room holding his missing sock in his hand. I escorted him back to his room, put on his sock, and we lied in bed until he fell back asleep. So back to the story. He usually has breakfast in the morning, but since we were running late, we tried to shove a couple blueberry muffins in his mouth before we left for school. We only got 1 1/2 in there, criminy.

We had been prepping him for the big day and he kept telling us he didn't want to go to school. He knew it was coming. My wife left first after about half an hour and I stayed. My boy had a little melt down right before snack time, partially because he didn't want me to leave and partially because he was starving. Their snack time is about half an hour past the time we usually do snack time at home. That made for a slight scene with the teacher and oodles of tears. I was trying to engage all of the other children while my kid was sitting there crying. Yikes.

The teacher was finally ready to try the separation and she told me to tell the boy I was leaving and then I'd come back. I tried to be quick about it, but it was tough, because he started crying and he had a death grip on my arm and I had to peel him off and not look back. I walked to the parking lot and sat in my car and listened for my boy. I couldn't hear him, so I pulled out my laptop and started catching up on some work emails. About ten minutes later, one of the teachers came out and told me that he was doing fine and he was helping the teacher clean up. I was so relieved that I Blackberry'd my wife and told her the good news.

About a half hour later my wife showed up and we went in to collect our son. He was very happy to see us and my wife got a little teary eyed. The teacher reassured us that all went well and that she was pleased with his progress. We had a sigh of relief and we were proud.

Today was day 2 of class and we were amazed at the transition. We were only there for 20 minutes and then we made the break. No crying this time and no phone call from the teacher. We went home and did work for a couple hours. My wife and I returned 10 minutes before school was over and we snuck into the classroom for story time. At first our son didn't see us, but about 5 minutes later, he noticed us and he got so excited and almost got teary eyed. He waited until story time was over to get out of his seat and then came over to say hi to us. We were so proud of him and so excited to see his reaction when he saw us. The smile and cheer was priceless...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Real Place to Pretend

Over the weekend we took our son to a place in Irvine, CA called Pretend City. It's an actual city that is for the 5 and under set - a play fire station, play grocery store, play police station, play house and even a play ATM machine. Kids are able to drive/pedal "cars" throughout the entire place because there are carpeted roads lining the entire city for them to drive on. Note to parents - be sure you are looking down or else you'll have way too many bruises on your knees to explain.

Given our fascination and access to major theme parks, this small city within a simple warehouse - you literally can see the entire city from the front door - is not quite the experience you think you'll have when looking at the location map on the internet. It is small and it is very "pretend." By that I mean, with the exception of some unique experience, like an art room, the water area, the ATM machines - which spit out fake money the kids love - most of the location looks like Fisher Price designed it. That is not bad if you like Fisher Price - and I do. I love Fisher Price toys. They are well made and fun. However, to pay for a unique experience and get a Fisher Price experience is not something I can recommend for people living outside of Irvine. If you live in Irvine, it'd be a place I'd recommend for parents looking for ways to spend some time with their children because there is plenty to keep kids entertained for a half hour or hour especially if you have a family membership, however, for folks like us who traveled nearly 45 minutes, I am not sure it'd be a place I'd go out of my way to visit again unless there was a special occassion like a birthday or other value add.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First Day of School, Forgotten Camera

Yesterday was preview day at my son's preschool. Technically, it was the first day of school even though parents were able to attend the entire session. It will be different on Monday when our 2 year old faces school on his own. Hmm, he spent most of Friday clinging to my leg...wonder if it'll be the same on Monday. Remember to wear pants/shorts with tight waistband. It was supposed to be a special moment - a "first," but my wife and I hoped the experience we had would be our last. We committed the ultimate mistake - forgot to bring the camera. Well, a working one. See, ours broke and we forgot to get a new one in time for this momentous occasion. How could we have missed such a momentous day? Maybe we can recreate it on Monday, we thought. Then the calls started coming in from grandparents, aunts, uncles wanting to see photos. "What did he wear?" "Who is his teacher?" "Show us his backpack." My wife and I felt awful, but then we realized that we were more worried/sad/happy/nervous for our child and that doing what we could to prepare him for Monday, his first time alone without parent or nanny - fine, we're sure - is more important than feeling bad that we don't have photos. Call me rotten, but I'm hoping my child will start Monday excited, knowing that mom and dad love him and are hoping he meets great friends and learns to enjoy school. That would be a memory of a lifetime.

P.S. We're going to Target to get a camera today. (Photos of first day on Monday)

Monday, September 7, 2009

President Obama's Speech

I don't want to be viewed as a political blogger, but whether you are for or against the speech, I think this is worth reading. Feel free to share your opinion.

I copied the article below from the website:

Prepared Remarks of President Barack ObamaBack to School Event
Arlington, VirginiaSeptember 8, 2009
The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.
Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Station Fire Update

Where there's smoke, there's fire. We're finally back home and adjusting to the smoke. The Station Fire in La Canada, CA is almost 50% contained now, but the air quality is still bad. I actually took my family to Santa Barbara for a few days to escape the fire. We stayed at my mom's and had some home cooked meals. We also went to the beach every day! I have pics on my Blackberry that I'll upload soon. It's good to be back and have computer access.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wild Fires in Southern California = Unhappy Toddler

We're surrounded by wild fires! There are currently 4 fires in the area. La Canada, Azusa, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Hemet. My 2 1/2 year old has been cooped up for the last couple days because of the smoke and the bad air quality outside. I finally broke down and took him outside for 30 minutes to walk down the street and mail a letter in the mail box.
We've done the basic things like read books, play games, color, etc but that doesn't really tire him out. If anyone has any good ideas for indoor play please share them!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Can YOU Do with Your Toddler in 3 Hours?

After the work day ended, what started out as a regular Monday, turned into a whirlwind of activities for my son and me. During the week, my wife or I will take our 2 1/2 year old for one or two activities. Somehow, today was different and I tried to pile on as much as I could.

I'll start by saying that my wife went to the doctor today and she was not feeling well, so I knew I needed to pick up the slack. I got home and I started the turkey tacos. I packed up some snacks for Max and then we took our nanny to the train station.

I wasn't sure, but I thought the post office closed at 5pm, and I wanted to rush and get some stamps. It was close by, so after the train station, we found a parking spot and walked to the post office. The line wasn't long, but the people getting help, needed more than just postal help in my opinion. Luckily there was a 2 year old girl in front of us and Max made some small talk. We got some Simpsons stamps, Hawaii stamps, and some polar bear post card stamps, then we were off.Max loves going to the car wash and I thought it would give me a good chance to give him a snack. We went to the gas station and then waited in line for about 20 minutes to get the automatic car wash. He had watermelon and ducky crackers.

Down the street there is a Crown Book Liquidators store and a Halloween store next door. I figured I could get a jump on things and check out the Halloween costumes and maybe buy a couple kids books at 1/2 off. We narrowed the costume down to Diego or a train conductor. Next door, we bought some flash cards and a birthday gift for someone for under $18.

Next up was the local library. We returned about 10 books and picked up 18. Yes, 18 books. Max recited the titles of all the books that he deposited into the book return slot.

Music class at Gymboree started at 6:15pm and we were only a couple minutes late. Each child does a dance move and Max's dance move is the robot. Today he was excited and kept yelling that he wanted to go first. If you think watching a toddler do the robot is a funny site, it is, but watching the adults try to do it, is even more funny!
After class, we waited outside and watched two trains go by, then headed home. All of that was done in 3 hours. That was a personal best as far as activities in a short time span go. I think it's taken longer to write this post! Please share your experiences... if you think you can hang!

Friday, August 21, 2009

You Scream, I Scream, We all Scream for Ice Cream!

When my wife and I married we knew we wanted to have children, but until we had our son, we weren't as active in our neighborhood as we could have been. We attended block parties, helped out when anyone needed a hand and actually knew all of our neighbor's names - at least on our block. However, we did not actively invite or engage our neighbors in our activities. Who would want to hang out with a young couple when they had kids and baseball practice and soccer and t-ball? As such, my wife and I spent time seeing movies, going to dinner and enjoying our time together in our town, but not really on our street. Enter our son. He has single handedly brought back pears (neither my wife nor I had eaten a pear in years until my son began eating them) and corn. He also has brought back the idea of just sitting on our front yard, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk and simply hanging out with our neighbors.

We were doing just that two weeks ago when we heard the sounds of America circa 1975. "It's A Small World" came closer and closer until the Ice Princess arrived on our doorstep. I had read about ice cream trucks in my son's books, but until now, we had never been able to actually share the experience in real-life. I screamed to my wife to bring out some money and explained to our son what was happening. He could not believe he could get any ice cream he wanted from the nice ice cream lady. After we bought our ice cream we sat on the step eating it together. Seeing my son's smile as he ate was priceless and so each Saturday, we return to our front stoop, waiting for the Ice Princess to pay us a visit. It's a reminder of Americana and a memory of a lifetime.

Surprise Root Canal Part 1

For about a week and a half I have been having a lot of pain with my teeth. I had a crown put in about 6 months ago and I thought everything was fine. The pain was so bad that I had to take a couple Advil to ease the pain. I finally was able to get into the dentist today and he referred me to a specialist to see what was wrong. Both confirmed that I needed a root canal.
It is a two step procedure and today I completed phase one. For this phase, they gave me some local anesthetic and drilled down into the roots of my tooth. He used a carbide and diamond drill tip to do the work. Then, they clean out the root like the picture above and then they fill it with a temporary compound.

For my next visit in a month they will go back in and take the camera and dig a little deeper and clean things out a bit more. Then they put some rubber material and fill the hole. Hopefully it won't be too bad where they need to put a stainless steel rod. The nurse was explaining the procedure and she said that there are still some dentists that will use a paper clip instead of a rod and that it actually does work. It strengthens the tooth like rebar in concrete. She reassured me that this doctor did not do that.

My mouth is still numb but I'm not feeling any pain. I actually felt good enough to go to the original Topps and get the new habanero hot dog. I could barely chew it, but it hit the spot. Stay tuned for part 2 of the root canal which will happen in a month!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Toddler Hair Cuts Aren't Always Easy

The other day we took our 2 1/2 year old to Little Kuts to get a haircut. We knew it was time because he was starting to grow a mullet! Max has never been a fan of getting a haircut but this time we were prepared. It's sad, but we had to bribe our child with a chocolate chip cookie in order for him to sit in my lap and get a hair cut. We paid the price by having him all hyped up on sugar, but at least he got his hair cut.

I must tip my hat to Little Kuts for the set up they have. They had a tv and they were playing the movie Shrek. They also have a play area that has trains and other various toys for kids to play with. After the hair cut, they walk away with a nice balloon. I'm sure it will be another 2 months until we go back, but when we return, we'll be sure to bring some cookies!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Five Guys Burgers - Good for Obama, Good for Me

I'm out with one of my sales guys today and it's about 1pm and we need to stop for something quick to eat. We were in Carson, CA and my rep suggests Five Guys Burgers. I told him that the place sounded familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it. He told me that was the place that President Obama went to in May and ordered a burger.

I looked it up on the Huffington Post and found this excerpt:
"The president ordered a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, jalapeno peppers, and mustard as well as several other cheeseburgers to go." - Rachel Weiner

There are only two locations in southern California. One in Carson and one in Cerritos and apparently, business has been very good. I am a bacon cheeseburger fanatic and this one was top of the line! The beef was of good quality and it had a real piece of bacon on it. The Fries were thick and very good. They also serve peanuts in the shell while you're waiting.

Two thumbs up on this restaurant and I wouldn't be surprised to see more of them popping up in Southern Cal sometime soon. Check it out!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Newspaper Headlines from Across the World

My wife forwarded this site to me and I thought it was very interesting. The site is Newseum, and it is the World's most interactive museum. Just put your mouse on a city anwhere in the world and the headlines for the newspaper pop up. Extremely cool! From there, you can click thru the newspaper or read the pdf version. It starts off with a picture of the United States, but you can also click on different parts of the world and read newspapers from different countries.

What a great way to catch up on what's going on around the world. Check out the paper from places you used to live or explore a little around the world and see what's going on in Argentina!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Funny Toddler Chewing Gum Story

So, I'm in the kitchen with my wife and we're getting lunch ready and our 2 1/2 year old runs in and says, "Mama, I want a drink of water". My wife got him a small plastic cup of water, but was suspicious of his behaviour because he was sticking out his tongue. She inspected his mouth and smelled wintergreen on his breath. She asked him if he was chewing gum and he said yes. Now keep in mind that we do not and have not given our son any gum, but he has seen us chewing it in the house from time to time.
I looked in his mouth to see if it was still in there and it wasn't. I asked him where the gum was and he said, "In the potty." I marched back to the bathroom with him in tow and looked at the closed toilet, nothing. I peeked over to his small portable training potty and the lid was up. I peered inside and at the bottom I found a slightly mangled piece of wintergreen Orbit chewing gum.
My wife and I had a big laugh. We realized that we were extremely lucky because had he picked one of the bubble gum flavors or something tasty, then he would have been all over the gum, but fortunately enough for us, he picked one with a very strong taste. I think we're in the clear for a while when it comes to chewing gum. Now, cookies and cupcakes, another story...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Save Money by Testing Your Internet Speed!

I finally added my home phone line to Charter Communications to get a bundled price. Now I get my home phone, cable, and high speed internet from the same company. When the phone guy came out, he tested the speed of our internet and it was at 2 Mega bytes but we have been paying for 10 Mega bytes for the past couple years. No wonder our internet has been slow.

We went to to verify the connection speed and it was really slow. They dropped a separate line and did some things to increase the speed and now I'm getting what we have been paying for.

My wife called Charter and told them that we have been paying for 10 Meg and have only been getting 2 Meg. They put us on hold for a while and they finally said they would give us some credit. They went back and forth and they finally gave us 1 month free or a $36 credit on our account.

It doesn't hurt to ask!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Spamalot Review - Find Your Grail

My wife and I finally had a date night the other day and we saw Spamalot . For those of you Monty Python lovers, it's a must see. And for those of you who aren't familiar with Monty Python, but want a great laugh, it's a must see.
The musical is based on the original movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail which was made in 1975. The story is a spoof about King Arthur and his knights who are on the search for the holy grail.
We had so much fun and it was great to have some quality time together. I highly recommend this show! It's currently playing at the Ahmonson theater in Los Angeles, CA. Even better, enter the word "Arthur" and you'll get a great discount for tickets!

Monday, August 3, 2009

You can always bargain!

For about one month now our ice maker has been broken. Not ideal when dealing with 100 degree temperatures! We've intended to get it fixed, but time just continued to pass and before we knew it, it was August. We called Sears and was told it would be $70 just to come out and look at the problem. I then went online and scanned the Better Business Bureau for local appliance repair companies. I found one that came out the same day - for $35. Of course, he told us the ice maker was broken and that it would be $280 to fix it. I excused myself for a minute to check out the cost of the parts on line. Found out it was $180, not including shipping. As desperate as I was for an ice cold coke, I said, "all I have is $230" and the repair man said "okay!" I've negotiated before, but not usually that much. Lessoned learned - bargain, bargain, bargain!