Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tricking and Treating: The Good, The Bad, and The Cranky

Trick or treat is a fun, exciting, and exhausting time for parents. The children are hyped up from the fun of wearing costumes and getting candy. The parents are sore, tired, and trying to figure out how to hide the candy later. Many residents are handing out treats, and many businesses are handing out goodies as well. Around here, almost every business is taking part in some way. The banks are doing "Trunk or Treat", gas stations, restaurants, and of course Wal-Mart, are all giving out treats to customers coming in.

So let me start this story from the beginning. We got the kiddos dressed up and in their outfits. We headed out to some friends houses to show off their costumes. Caleb had an impromptu play date with a girl, whom I believe has become his first crush. We went to see the kiddos Godmother and her family and the new baby in that household. As we started leaving there, we came to the judgement that Caleb and Marlee are now too cranky to keep going, so we would make a quick run into the grocery store, then head home for the night. Mommy and Daddy can only take so much more of that!

This is where we get to the main reason I wanted to write this post. We have already mentioned the "cranky" part. Now for the "bad". Do you see a reverse pattern to the post title? Oh, but I digress. Anyway, we pull up at the grocery store, and unpack the kids and try to make this seem like the most exciting thing in the world. Now there is a tobacco outlet right next to the store, and yes we have been there a few times. So, the clerk comes out to see the kids. She knows us so she just had to come see them in their outfits. She comes walking up, and says "Hi there! Aren't ya'll so cute? Here, let me give you some candy!" ... She stretches out her arms, as Caleb reaches his hand out. She opens up her palm and proceeds to give him two .... packs ... of ....... candy cigarettes. Now, this woman is nice, and sweet as can be. I don't think she is this ill advised in her mind, but still. Handing my 3 YEAR OLD son 2 packs of candy cigarettes?

I was speechless. Quickly, I just tried to get us inside before I lost the self control I have a hard enough time with. I am a parent who smokes. I have been trying to quit for quite some time, and I have lacked the self determination as of late. Caleb is old enough to know what a pack of cigarettes is and that he should NEVER have anything to do with them. So I walk through the store just dumbfounded at this poorly thought out idea. I am a bad enough influence for not having quit. I don't need someone handing my children "candy cigarettes" with a bright minded 3 year old who would associate what the packaging looks like. In the words of the totally rad Forrest Gump, "That's all I got to say ... about that."

The night was not a total mind blower, however. Getting back to groceries, we pick up some kiddo favorites and get ready to check out. I take Caleb and Marlee on out to the car while The Wifey is checking out. Upon check out, she realizes we have underestimated the cost of all the items, and need to just put a few back. She tells the cashier to take a few items off, it was no big deal. The cashier, who was dressed up as a hippie, tells her: "Oh don't worry about that ma'am. I'll cover it for you." WOW!!! She tells him he doesn't have to and he just smiles and says it is no problem, his pleasure. The "good" part of the night. I was absolutely thrilled, and immediately humbled by his random act of kindness. To "That Guy", thank you so much sir. You truly are a gentleman, and I tip my hat to you.

What a night, right? The kiddos had a blast tonight, and it delights me to the core to see them smiling and hear them laughing. Trick or treat, at least for us, is now over, and we can relax. The outfits will be hidden, and soon we will get them excited about the next big holiday. The air has grown chilly now, and dark has settled on this small town. I'll be headed off here now to complete the nightly routine of bed and bathtime, and prepare for some much needed downtime.

To all of you headed out Trick or Treating tomorrow, be safe, and be courteous. Have a Happy Halloween!
Friday, October 29, 2010

The Importance of Reading: Literature is a Gateway

It comes as no surprise that despite the many advancements in technology, reading continues to be a gateway to the imagination. It also remains a mainstay for educating and teaching young minds. Be it text books, playtime books, alphabet books, whatever the case, reading remains important for the young minds of this world.

Sure there is the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, and other electronic devices for getting great content to read. But sometimes you just can't replace the good old ink and paper, black and white. Getting kids excited about reading is also a good way to get them excited about learning. Children can learn a lot through what they absorb. They also learn to expand their imaginations, be creative, and open them up to an endless world of possibilities.

My son is just now getting to the point where reading with him is becoming exciting, and he will soon be learning how to sound out words and read on his own. It is exciting and joyous to watch him light up when we are about to read, and watch his excitement when he gets a new book. The thrill of turning new pages, new adventures, and learning new things are just experiences that technology and other activities cannot replace.

Reading carries a lot of importance, especially with younger children. It is a stepping stone to higher learning, a gateway to education and imagination, and encourages children to get away from the television and computer for a while and get lost in words. Literature is very powerful. It can build us up, and tear us down. It can educate us, it can help us grow, and it can forward us into new levels of understanding.

No matter what age your children are, start reading to them. Encourage them to dive into literature and the endless worlds that open up through the pages of a book. Let their imaginations soar and develop as they explore new adventures, new places, and new characters. Get them excited about one of the basic building blocks of knowledge and learning. Reading is knowledge, and as we all know, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

Hope everyone has a wonderful and safe weekend! We'll see you again on Monday!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Raising the Standard of Technology in Schools

I hope we can all agree that education is a top priority when it comes to our children. We want what is best for them and we want them to be able to have a great environment for them to learn, grow, and help foster who they will be when they get older and out on their own. 

I hope we can also agree, that with the digital age growing at exponential rates, it is also important that are schools stay upgraded and on top of everything the digital age has to offer. With the explosion of the internet, and now the app world taking over, the digital age not only brings us new ways to connect with people, but also new ways to learn, gather information, and teach others. Let's look at a few areas of the tech world that can help with our children and education, and the pros and cons of it all. 

Outdoor Fun

A few pictures of our fun outside in the warm fall air today. The breeze was warm and the leaves were everywhere! Great time for the kiddos and for Daddy to just get outside and let loose! 

Thanks to Rodney for this cute photo of Mar!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Review and Giveaway: Barefoot Books "Arthur of Albion" and "The Adventures of Odysseus"

Many many thanks to Barefoot Books for sending me these two books to read and review. They are two new titles to the Barefoot lineup, "Arthur of Albion" and "The Adventures of Odysseus". We all know and love the tale of these two characters for their strength, their courage, and there will to press on, no matter what. These two books are wonderfully written and illustrated for a younger audience (8 years and up) and bring the stories to life in a whole new way! Let's break it down shall we?

Arthur of Albion - Mighty King Arthur, a great story for all. Heroism, bravery, chivalry, a God among men of sorts. Written by John Matthews and illustrated by the talented Pavel Tatarnikov, this is a GREAT book for school age kids. Wonderfully retold in a manner that can captivate and even younger audience and bring them into the world of kings, knights, and heroes. I really enjoyed reading this, sharing it with my family, and once again bringing myself into that world. A wonderful read for children who already love to read, or children who are just discovering the power of the written word. Highly recommended for your children (again geared for 8+) to help grow their imagination through the power of reading!

The Adventures of Odysseus - One of my favorite stories of all time! Written by Daniel Morden and Hugh Lupton, and once again wonderfully illustrated by the awesome Christina Balit, the retelling of this story is amazing, and captivating. Mighty Odysseus, after war, facing trials, hardships, loss of friends, all with a courage and strength never seen in life these days. Wonderfully written for the younger audience, this book will capture the imaginations of children all over, and is a great way to introduce them to literature of its type, and to the joys of reading.

Both books, now available from Barefoot Books, are a must have for your child's reading collection. They are great for reading along with your kids, or even reading them to your children. Let your imagination run wild with your children as you read these books aloud to them. Great family fun, great literature, great job all around! I thoroughly enjoyed these books, reading them, and once again becoming a child in my mind as my imagination ran wild as I got lost in the literature. "Arthur of Albion" and "The Adventures of Odysseus" both get two thumbs up and The DaddyYo Dude Seal of Approval!

HOLD ON!!! Not quite done yet! As if it wasn't already totally rad that the folks at Barefoot Books sent me the books to read, they are giving me the opportunity to give you all a chance to win a book as well!!!! One lucky winner will receive a copy of "Arthur of Albion" and another lucky winner will receive a copy of "The Adventures of Odysseus". Awesome I know!!! First, I want all of you to check out the Barefoot Books Shop. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. Lots of great books for children of all ages! Okay, did you go there? Alrighty, let's continue! Now, comment here about what you like the most about Barefoot Books! Simple right? The giveaway will end at 11:59 EST on October 28th. I will announce the winners on Twitter and on the blog on October 29th.

Thanks to Barefoot Books for this opportunity, and happy reading to you all!

*INFO: The books cannot be shipped to a PO Box, so if you are chosen and contacted, please provide a physical mailing address for your books to be shipped to. Thanks and good luck to all!*

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010

Thank God for Mommy

Obviously, I write mostly about being a dad. I mean, it's the only thing I know when it comes to parenting, right? But today, I just wanted to take some quick time to say: THANK GOD FOR MOMMY!!!

Having been sick the last two days with sinus problems and the worst headaches in my life, it is needless to say that I was quite useless around the house as I spent most of my time sleeping, or laying on the couch. It was quite pathetic really. But, there was a super force in the house that kept everything running as it should. MOMMY TO THE RESCUE!!!

My wife is great! I'll say it again: My wife is great! Always there to support me and help me when I am not feeling well. Taking care of the two kids, as well as the big baby on the couch. She kept the household running when I was unable to help out. I guess maybe she can do it all on her own. I have to admit I have not always been the biggest support for her, or praised her when she deserved it fully! So this post is for her!

Dear Wifey,

I am sorry for the times I have not given you the praise you deserve, and that I have not always shown the full extent of my love for you. I am sorry for the harsh words, and any words spoken out of anger without thinking. I praise you for the mommy that you are. For always being aware of all things related to our two kiddos. I thank you for always knowing how to take care of them, and to take care of me.

I thank you for being a great and faithful wife. Thank you fore sticking by me despite my many faults, and my many weaknesses. Thank you for taking care of me when I am sick (or just trying to be pitiful and cute) and for never leaving my side. Thank you for always being the light of my life.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Getting Back to the Basics

Okay, last week we saw a bunch of hoopla about how much dad blogs suck and how far dad blogs have to go in the social media world and in connecting with brands. There was much hype, much misunderstanding, and much discussion over the last week about it all. Now that it is over, it is time to get back to the basics.

I started The DaddyYo Blog with one thing in mind: Sharing my experiences as a dad with other dads. Simple enough, right? I wanted to write about my experiences, my fears, my triumphs, and all the other good stuff that comes along with being "Daddy". The thought of reaching out to brands, and being involved in promotional work and all that was something that had never crossed my mind before. Sure, I have done it, but it was never something I thought about pursuing regularly. So when all the fuss about brands pulling away from dad bloggers occurred, I did some evaluation of what I have been doing with this blog and other things I am involved in, and the answer was clear: It is time to get back to the basics.

Is it the end of the world if my chances of being contacted by brands is slowly diminishing? No. Is it going to ruin my future if I just keep posting for free, something I started doing in the first place? No. Is there really anything THAT big to be worried about? No. So maybe the dad blog community doesn't have major brand appeal yet like the mom bloggers. But the dad community has something much more important than recognition: we have a community. All over the internet, from Twitter and blogs, to Facebook and email, dads have formed a large online community, there to support each other, challenge each other, and learn from each other.

Some have suggested that it is the title itself, Dad Blogger, that turns people away instead of being "a blogger who is a dad". Well, I am PROUD to call myself a "Dad Blogger", because that's what I do. I am a dad who blogs, not a blogger who is a dad. My family, my role as a parent, comes before all things. I would shut it all down before I would ever want to lose the relationships I have with my children. Hands down, no doubt about it. Other people have said we have not been aggressive enough to warrant recognition from big brands. The only thing I am worried about being aggressive about it being more involved with my children.

There is a balance to the whole world. Online, offline, dads, moms, working stiffs, and at home parents. Sure, it would be really awesome to make extra income at doing this, but let's get back to the basics. This blog would not exist if I was not passionate about being a dad, and if I didn't want to share my experience with others. Community is a lot more important than money and fame. If it is meant to be, then brands will open up to dads, and I believe over time they will. The voice of dad is growing daily, online and in the real world. The community is growing and so are friendships. It is the community that will speak louder than any sponsorship, any offer, any fame, and will be what the new age dad is better known for, and that is were it should all begin.
Friday, October 8, 2010

Male Involvement and The Importance for Young People

Today I am posting something that was sent home to us from Caleb's school this week. A few things about being a strong male role model for young children. As we have seen in the last few weeks, there is a lot going on that is showing that male involvement may in fact be a strong factor in the lives of young children (who knew right?) and after I read this I decided immediately that I wanted to share it with all of you.

This came to us from People Incorporated of Virginia who runs the Head Start and Early Head Start preschool programs in our area. Check out the websites for more info on the wide range of services and programs they have to offer.  We have been blessed to be involved with the Head Start program that Caleb attends. He loves going to school, loves his friends and teachers, and it has been great for him and for us as proud parents of such a growing young man.

Thanks to People Incorporated for sharing the following piece with families involved in your programs. A great read  for all dads who live a life of involvement when it comes to their roles as a parent, and also how to be their to other young children as a role model in their lives as well.  Here is this piece, in its entirety.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The King of Smiles: In Honor of James "Bo Peep" Taylor

 Today we honor the memory, the spirit, and the life of my grandfather, James "Bo Peep" Taylor. Papa was always a kind man and an understanding man. With a passion for life, and a love for his family, he continues to be an inspiration to the Taylor family. The following post was written by my dad, in honor of his dad, on what would have been Papa's 77th birthday today. We love you Papa! 

There is a lot of ways you could describe my dad. 

He was a football star, an All-State center, co-captain of two state championship football teams, a member of the Lexington Athletic Hall of Fame. Only 150 pounds, but "Bo Peep" Taylor was known as a fierce competitor.

He was a world traveler, visiting around the world, from Europe to Asia, for work and pleasure. Dad's one regret in his travels was that he never made it to China. He loved taking photographs and finding the beauty of the natural world. He would stop his car in the middle of anywhere to take a picture of the local wildlife.

But that's not how people remember my father. They remember his smile.

He had to have been born smiling. I've never seen a picture where he wasn't smiling. He walked into a room smiling, he left it smiling, and in between he made you smile and laugh. If airlines offered Frequent Flyer Smile programs, Dad would have been triple-platinum. Dad was the best guest at a party, and the host who made you feel happy that you came.  
He had a positive attitude coupled with a wonderful sense of humor.  
He made friends with all types of people.

We all inherited things from Dad - dark hair, a love of sports, and appreciation of humor. Taylor family time is a time of jokes, stories, and much laughter. It is his greatest legacy.

So today, on what would have been his 77th birthday, honor my father. Smile. Laugh. Greet people warmly. Enjoy your time on earth.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Got a great Clemson joke for you next time we meet.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Tweeps Helping Peeps: Meet Ollie and his Parents, Renee and Steve

Hello!  Welcome to "Our Story"...the one we were completely under prepared for; one we never knew we'd ever be telling someday! This is a story of Premature Birth...Extreme Premature Birth.
I'm Renee' and I am the Wife and Mom in this story.  Meet Steve, he's the Husband, Dad, and Step-Father.  Our family consists of us as Parents and 4 children:  3 Teenagers (from Renee's first marriage, thus the additional "Step-Dad" title) and 1 little 6 year old Redheaded boy, our son together.  Oh, and we have 3 fabulous rescued Greyhound dogs...recently added to the family, over the last year.
"Our Story" began in 2003 when we got married and decided that we wanted a child together, the sooner the better...we weren't risking Renee being in the 35+ group. Our son was conceived without difficulty and it wasn't until Renee was 16 weeks along that we had any inkling of the pregnancy being anything other than normal.  Through a series of screening tests and the more specific testing that followed, we learned that our pregnancy, our child was not progressing normally.  By 19 weeks along, Renee was put on bed rest for the duration of her pregnancy and though we didn't know the exact cause of our child's medical problem, we knew our child was in danger.  For the next 9 weeks, she rested and we hoped and prayed for the best.  We knew our baby was only half the size he was supposed to be for gestational age and was not making appropriate growth gains as time went by. We also knew that there would come a day, when our child would have better chances of survival outside of the womb than long as he survived to 28 weeks and weighed in at 1lb or more, the doctors said his chances of survival were higher. We were going to have a "small" Premature Baby...definitely not what we had planned.
Our son was born via planned C-Section at 28 weeks 0 days and though the best doctor's ultrasounds had estimated his weight at 450gms (1lb) and length at 16 inches, Oliver was born at 430gms (15.2oz) and 10.5 inches long.  Although we knew from books we had read about Premature Babies and from our doctor's information, that Oliver would likely spend 3-4 months in the Level 3 Intensive Care Nursery at the hospital, Oliver remained hospitalized for 7 long months (218 days) before we were able to bring him home to join our family.  We joke that Oliver is both the smallest baby born in the family and also the biggest baby we brought home...but at 7mos old, Oliver only weighed in at 9lbs 8oz. We were admonished by the hospital's Neonatalogists to be careful in choosing Oliver's pediatrician and run from anyone who said or acted like they knew exactly what to do for Oliver as there wasn't and still isn't data enough on Micro-Preemies with birth weights <500gms.  We realized quickly that while the survival statistics for a 28 week Preemie were pretty high, Oliver's extremely low birth weight had given him a less than 1% chance of survival.  But, Oliver survived birth by surviving those 7 months in the hospital and now it was all in our hands to try to continue that great care at home.  Loss of life in the first 2 years is a big danger for Premature babies and we were scared.
Oliver came home on Oxygen, G-Tube feedings, and with a list of medications longer than anyone we had ever known.  His medications and feeding schedule went around the clock and Private Duty Nursing support was scarce at first.  Over time, we have had more on/off success with proper nursing support yet Ollie's needs have only been able to be modified to fit into a 6am to 1030pm feeding and medication schedule. Around the age of 2yrs old, we took a sigh of relief...we made it! Oliver made it to 2 years old and with only a few hospitalizations for illness to boot!  It is also at this age that we found out that Oliver was deaf due to life-savingmedications he received as a newborn. Soon after tho, Oliver would be hospitalized repeatedly for many surgical procedures for varying issues. Now, to date, Oliver has been under general anesthesia 16 times for approximately 26 or so procedures. All of his medical issues are directly related to his Premature Birth and extreme low birth weight, and Oliver does not have any diagnosed "syndrome" other than that. It quickly became a rollercoaster ride of doctor's appointments, surgical procedures, and diagnoses of symptom after symptom, issue after issue.
At age 3, Oliver attempted to attend the local Deaf and Hard of Hearing Preschool but by the second year, it was painfully evident that his medical conditions interfered with his ability to attend typical school outside of the home. Oliver attended Kindergarten at age 5 and just started First Grade, as a medically fragile Homebound student with a Deaf Education Tutor in our home.  Additional required therapies are also provided in our home for Oliver by our School District.  For more details about Oliver's current medical needs resulting from his Premature Birth, please read this story here. Our sincere gratitude goes out to Leslie O'Donnell, author, for writing Oliver's story. Leslie has made telling the details so much less stressful with her Examiner Online article. THANK YOU! Though her story was written in October 2009 and published in December 2009, not much has changed and we wish we could report improvements, but we cannot.
All of this may seem overwhelming and sad....we understand that because yeah, we are overwhelmed too.  But mostly we are grateful, amazed, challenged, and so deeply changed by all that we go through with Oliver. Premature Birth is serious; it can have lifelong consequences not only for the child but for an entire family. We are living proof of that. While "Our Story" is not the one we were initially prepared for, it is certainly one we love writing with Oliver, one day at a time. This is "Oliver's Show" and we are honored to be along for the ride.
Steve & Renee' Cole and Family
For more information about Premature Birth, please visit the March of Dimes.  Also note: November is Prematurity Awareness Month
Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Few Cents and Thoughts: Dad Blogs

I decided to postpone my next post in "The Truth Balance" to post a response of sorts to the growing thought within the dad blog community that "we suck" and "we do it all wrong". In the last few days I have read more and more posts, comments and tweets that suggest that dad bloggers suck, that dad bloggers are just doing everything wrong and will never be as successful as mom bloggers, and so on. I have been mulling the idea and thought behind this post all day and I just figured, what have I got to lose? There are several points that I have come across within the whole conversation and reactions found around the web and I am going to just touch briefly on each one and throw my thoughts out there.  *Note: This post is not a personal attack on anyone, or any blogs, writings or etc. I just found the swaying fence of the topic intriguing and I had a response to it.*

Dad blogs suck - Um, okay, first off, says who? I know I don't have a top notch blog with 1000 readers and subscribers, tons of ads clogging up the sidebars and all that. And yes, some of you may think it just flat out sucks. If you do, tell me, don't categorize me. The question is who are we letting decide this and why are we letting it dictate a general thought about all dad blogs? When did it become the thing to automatically join the thoughts of few, then provide it as truth to the masses?

Dad blogs will never be as successful as mom blogs - How does one measure the success of a parenting blog? Is it the number of readers and subscribers? Is it the number of sponsorships, ads, and giveaways? Is it the money generated through selling one's own products and google ads? I'm not sure. I don't really think anyone can really measure the success of a blog. Success, in my opinion, can only be measured by the writer based on whatever they are trying to accomplish. If you are trying to bank 100 dollars a month in ads and you do, then success. If you are trying to average 1000 unique visits a month and you do, success. If you are just looking to write for your sake and people read it and like it anyway, success. No, dad blogs might not get the world's attention (the CNN piece was a crock in my opinion at least from the CNN guys), but who is doing the measuring to begin with?

Dad bloggers don't read dad blogs - Sure I do. Everyday. Commenting is not my strongest point but in all honesty most of what I read is in my Feed Reader and I just read through as the posts come in. I do post comments on the ones I read in a web browser. But to say we aren't reading other dad blogs? Rubbish. I know plenty that read quite a few. We even read mom blogs too. How about that?

2010 is the year of the Daddy Blogger. Next year you will be gone - In case you haven't read this, I think it explains it all pretty well. I don't plan on going anywhere for quite a while. Sure, I have seen a lot of blogs come and go in the very short time I have been doing this, but I have also seen some that have been around for quite a while. Once again, I think it comes down to why we are doing this in the first place. Years and years from now, we may not have Facebook, Twitter may be the new Google and taking over the world, and blogs may be visible through special glasses (hey I still dream like a child). Even if my family are the only ones wearing my blog's glasses, I will still be here writing and sharing. 

Final Summation: I don't know why the fuss is all of a sudden becoming a thing, which I'm sure will pass sometime this week. I don't understand why it is considered so important to compare dad blogs with mom blogs, this blog with that blog, and worry so much about the stats. I guess, for me anyway, it's whatever. As long as I am a dad, and I have the ability to post to this blog, I will be doing just that. I don't care if I never make a living from The DaddyYo Blog, or if I ever hit 1000 unique visits in one week. I don't care if I never sell a single ad space or pick up an endorsement. What I do care about is that i have made the commitment to be here for quite a while. What I do care about is that I am a dad. I'm not a mom, I'm not a pro blogger. I am a dad with things to share, and regardless of what is going on in the blogosphere, I plan to continue to do what I do, and the dude will always abide. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: Beards for Breast Cancer Month

Don't forget to check out the website, Beards for Breast Cancer, for more details, photos, and the 411 on Beards for Breast Cancer Month, October 1st - October 31st