New Dad Blogger: Taking My Kids to Disney World

It’s a topic I can’t escape. Few parents can. You can try to ignore it, but it will keep begging for attention anyway, like Dug always shadowing Carl.


I refer to Disney World. It calls itself “the happiest place on Earth.” I think of it as “peer pressure with mouse ears.”

A trip there doesn’t feel like an option. It’s more like an obligation, a modern day commandment from the Cave of Wonders – “Know this. All must enter there. Admission costs a diamond.” Man that’s rough.

Over the years my kids have mentioned it numerous times, especially my daughter, now 8. It’s become an annual family tradition to respond conditionally.

“Maybe when your younger brother can walk” became “maybe when your brother can get around better” became “maybe when you both are in school” became “maybe when we have the money” became “maybe when you’re kidnapped by seven short gem miners heading home for the winter!”

I’m content with the fact we’ve yet to go south of three borders to the land of Buzz and Woody. That is, until I encounter parents who play Andy to my Sid.

“We’ve enjoyed a Whole New World!” their Facebook status will proclaim, showing off 101 exhibits of photographic proof. My inner Eeyore sighs.

Then there are the stories my kids bring home from school, each delivered with Tigger-like excitement.

“Dad, did you know Ethan just got back from Disney World? He said it was great! He got to see Mickey Mouse! And Spider-Man! (Huh?) Darth Vader (What?) And Ross Lynch! (Who?) And he said it was the best time of his life!”

Dramatic pause. Then the frying pan whap – “When are weeeeee going to Disney World?” Suddenly I’m Pa Gogan.

We’ve made Tinker Bell steps in the Disney direction. Two years ago we completed a successful test run at Disney Jr., aka. Carowinds. The kids loved the rides, embraced the costumed Peanuts gang, and survived the wave pool. More importantly – we never lost sight of them (A stellar success given our track record at the Boone Wal-Mart).

To you parents who’ve made the trek, I hate envy you. I envy your ability to plan, prepare and participate in a child’s greatest wish – to survive 11 hours in a car to encounter Space Mountain (aka. The long caffeinated drive back home at night, condensed to five minutes under flashing black lights).

We’ll make that trip one day, I tell my kids. This year’s condition – when dad wins the lottery. Hakuna matata!

How to Bring Your Lawn Mower Back to Life

Lawn Mower

Life is like a…

Don’t you hate it when you hear sentimental people say “Life is like a garden” or “Life is like a river” or “Life is like a lawnmower.” Now that I’ve probably irritated you with one more “Life is like a…” here is why I’m saying that.

Like many others in the Watauga area this weekend, you may have some high hopes (to match your high lawn) of firing up the old lawnmower and cutting the grass. If you did what you were supposed to last fall, then it will start on the first or second pull.

What??? You mean you have to do something in the fall to make this easy? As in life, even in the autumn of our lives, if we take care of ourselves, it’s easier to get going the next day (or season).

What you should have done last fall

Congratulations to those that pressure washed the outside and underside of the mower, or at least scraped all the grass off with a wire brush to minimize rusting. Two attaboys if you changed the oil (while it was still warm), and changed the spark plug. And you win the golden ring if you filled it with fresh gas mixed with fuel stabilizer and ran it for ten minutes to let the fresh fuel get where it needed to for the next six months.

What if your mower won’t start?

And now for the other 99% and I’m not talking financial status. If you go out to your mower, and it won’t start but it was running in the fall when you exercised a dereliction of your mower duties, it is more than likely bad gas, stale gas or I hate to say it, the gas is turning into varnish in the innermost recesses of the carburetor. Think cholesterol.

There is one sure fire way to determine if fuel is not getting to the carburetor. Take your handy dandy spark plug socket and a ratchet wrench; remove the spark plug and poor about a thimble or half ounce of fresh gas in the spark plug hole. Put the plug back in, attach the wire, and PULL. If it starts, runs for several seconds and dies, you have successfully trouble shot your mower.

The only way to resolve this minor issue is clean out the carb with carburetor cleaner. All you need is a socket set, carb cleaner and know how. There are videos on YouTube that show you how. I know…isn’t this just what you wanted to hear. Or you can pay someone to do it.

When you’re ready for a new mower

If you are fed up with the mower, DON’T THROW IT AWAY. It may have a second life in the hands of the right person (or student.) This is “Donate an organ” for mechanics. I know a local teacher (ME) that teaches his students about this stuff and loves donated mowers.

If you buy a new one, buy from someone that has on site service. Avoid big box stores with no maintenance shop but claim they can service the warranty by shipping it off for a few months. Buy quality.

My advice if you buy new?

  • Read the manual.
  • The most important maintenance step is to add oil and gas.
  • If you get a chance and want to save yourself hours of frustration when buying a simple replacement part, write down the model number of the mower. If you can, record the engine number too. I’ve seen guys in Farmer’s Hardware with a part in their hand, crying and begging for the clerk to try to find a look alike replacement. With their best bedside manner, they say “Sorry, we need the model number.” I on the other hand not only have the model number. I walk in with the manual and parts list that I’ve downloaded from the manufacturer’s website, thus saving them the time and trouble of looking it up. That’s why they love me there.

Just like in real life, if you treat your mower kindly, with regular maintenance, you can expect a long satisfying grass cutting career, not from cradle to grave but more like from the garage to the dump. I could go on forever on this topic but space is limited so I’ll stop. Besides, you might need the time to clean a carburetor or go shopping.

I’m curious, whose job is it in your family to mow the grass?

On Practicing Kindness, and Teaching our Children

Please welcome another DAD FILES post, by High Country Dad, and middle school teacher Richard Tidyman.

Some people plan. Some wait for inspiration. I’ve been accused of being a procrastinator, but I call it “faith that the cosmos will deliver.”  This weekend was a perfect example. Saturday night, when discussing the lesson options for Sunday’s middle school class, a friend suggested etiquette, since religion is all about treating people with kindness anyway.


More specifically, I decided to hone in on the Golden Rule. Scholars refer to this as The Ethic of Reciprocity. All religions have their own version of it, and you can find posters online that show quotes from the sacred books of those religions. I printed out copies of a poster and used it to start of our discussion on Sunday with three youngsters.

I suspected my topic would work after getting an answer to a question to a high school student waiting for his comrades. I said, “Would you say you get compliments a lot, regularly, or rarely?” Sadly, he said rarely. He agreed that if he had gotten five sincere compliments a day, he would definitely be more upbeat. I asked if felt he complemented others regularly, and that too he admitted doesn’t happen often either.

Fortune Cookie Golden Rule

In class, I explained that giving people complements, acts of kindness and consideration and generally doing or saying things to brighten their day is like shooting a soft fluffy tennis ball into the air with an extremely high powered cannon. Knowing what we know about gravity, it will come back to us (don’t get to technical on me…just hear me out). The little acts of appreciation that we send out to others improves their mood, and that act improves our mood too.

The bonus is this: Kindness is contagious.

It might come back to us eventually, or in a roundabout way, but basically, what goes around comes around. Thus the plethora of similar sentiments: karma, full circle, and reap what you sow.

Throughout the hour, the three kids brainstormed complements they could bestow on their family members and friends. I made my own list too. We also tried to list complements we receive and ones we’d like to receive. This was a tough concept, so I had to demonstrate coming up with a compliment I want to receive. None volunteered to compliment me on how terribly dashing I was that day.

It is ironic that I write about this topic. I have not always been particularly complimentary as this required being more outgoing. I wasn’t. My kindergarten teacher told my mom I was abnormally shy. I was painfully shy; I was shy all through high school and much of college. I grew up with six older siblings that unknowingly convinced me that I wasn’t very smart, wasn’t much fun, and didn’t have anything worth saying.

As I got older, with experience and effort, I have mostly overcome my depression inducing inhibitions. In fact, I’veKids on a bench holding handsbeen accused of being embarrassing to be with at times due to my gregariousness.

I enjoyed talking with complete strangers while waiting for the Macy’s day parade. I like grocery store clerks. After scanning a grocery store clerk’s nametag, I ask them by name, if they are having a good day. Then a short but pleasant conversation often takes place.

Being a new teacher in four different schools, an outgoing nature has its rewards. The cafeteria ladies make sure I don’t go hungry, and they smile when they see me coming and anticipate that day’s greeting. “Hey gorgeous” to one and “Whatchya

got cookin’ good lookin’?” to the next.

A friendly greeting, a kind word, a simple complement.

These small simple gestures are painless and free to give but of potential value to the recipient. Kindness can shift one’s thought, at least for a moment, from boredom or doldrums, or brighten one’s day even more than it already is. And that holds true for both the giver and the recipient.

Try to step outside your comfort zone if need be. Share the love. Spread the joy. Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

How do you teach your children about kindness, and “The Golden Rule?”

Are Our Kids Cheating Their Way to the Top?

Please welcome another DAD FILES post, by High Country Dad Richard Tidyman.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some contradictions. Here’s one. We want our kids to be successful. So towards that end, we tell our kids to work hard, and get good grades. Higher grades will be rewarded, we say. That may or may not be true but it sounds good when trying to motivate our children. There ARE rewards however at the high school level. There is prestige and potential scholarships at stake for those with high GPAs.

SchoolLet’s step back though. We want our kids to be successful and excel in school and in life. Let us not forget that we teach by example, and they are watching us ever so closely. They observe and record all the little hypocrisies in our lives – all the “white lies” we tell. In addition, we even enlist them to lie for us and maybe even ways in which we steal. Phone rings… “Tell him I’m in the shower and can’t talk right now.” What parent, especially one who is on a budget, hasn’t been tempted to benefit from another’s mistake? Example: The cashier accidentally gives you too much change. This is a moment for some quick rationalization, all of which is observed and recorded by the child at your side.

Frankly, we are pretty good at rationalizing to our children why we don’t really have to play by the rules. We don’t drive the speed limit because no one else does…and they don’t seem to get caught. We see non-handicapped people parking in handicapped spaces. If they do it, why can’t I? And while it may seem minor at the time, we sometimes lie, cheat or steal and tell our children it doesn’t matter because no one got hurt (other than a mega-multi-billion dollar company and they won’t miss it, and it was someone else’s fault anyway).

So welcome to the perfect storm of encouraging our children to succeed in school even as they witness the positive benefits of lying, cheating and stealing. Considering what kids see at home, added to what is seen in the movies, it comes as no surprise many kids in school cheat. I’m assuming they cheat on all levels, from those struggling at the bottom, to those competing for top honors. And what are the excuses given? “No one is getting hurt. Everyone else is doing it. I have to get a good grade if I’m going to get into college. If I don’t pass (or a B, my parents will ground me.”

So who does cheating hurt? The fact is people do get hurt. Whether or not the cheater gets caught, developing a habit of getting something dishonestly cannot bode well for the future. It might even prove to be addictive and qualify for a 12 step group.

How do we instill integrity into our kids? Growing up, I had religion to instill in me fear and guilt for cheating and stealing.  But what happens when faith in a higher power holds no power (teens do question their faith still, don’t they? Or was that a ‘60’s thing?)

I wish I had been instructed in the fundamentals of true happiness and psychological well being. I wasn’t told that by cheating, or stealing, I was depriving myself of the most basic foundation of personal satisfaction. I wish I knew then what I know now, i.e., my sense of personal self esteem depends on perceiving myself as similar to my ideal self…trustworthy, capable, respectable, loved for who I really am or as Pinocchio says “a real boy”. By cheating, I am robbing myself of that pillar of emotional well being and peace of mind.

How do you define peace of mind? Brian Tracy calls it freedom from fear, freedom from guilt and freedom from anger. It seems to me a safe assumption that people who lie, steal or cheat fear getting caught, but even if the likelihood of getting caught doesn’t exist, guilt alone deprives one of complete happiness. We hurt ourselves in ways we may not realize. Our acceptance of these behaviors in ourselves warps our perception of others, either assuming others are like us, and not to be trusted, or just easy marks. Either way, it does not make for healthy relationships. In fact, it seems to me that cliques are partially formed by levels of integrity. Cheaters must hang with cheaters. Kids with integrity hang with other kids with integrity. Thugs hang with thugs. It makes perfect sense that it should be that way.

Maybe we need to spend less time telling our kids to get good grades and more time instilling in them an understanding of personal satisfaction, based on honesty and treating others fairly. Maybe we should spend more time saying work hard, work smart and maybe you will win the prize…but win it honestly. Someday, when they are successful, we can all sleep well and look at ourselves in the mirror without fear or guilt. And if liars and thieves should win the prize, as they sometimes do, we, and our children, can still hold our heads high and be proud of the honest effort. What greater success is there?

Laughing in Church, by Richard Tidyman

Please welcome another DAD post, by High Country Dad Richard Tidyman.  Richard writes about how laughter benefits the soul, and it definitely can make our family lives a lot more fun.

Can you count the number of times when you were growing up that the minister, priest, or rabbi had you rolling in the aisles? I can count the few times when I got the giggles due to something my goofy brother may have said, or someone’s wig was sliding off. No, the stoggy churches of old didn’t have a lot of patience for us quick to giggle kids.

Laughing FamilyIt’s almost a crying shame too considering what we know about the benefits of laughter. Laughing releases serotonin from the brain making us feel better. Humor heals. Remember Patch Adams? His unique approach to healing inspired Clowns without Borders. “Clowns Without Borders offers laughter to relieve the suffering of all persons, especially children, who live in areas of crisis including refugee camps, conflict zones and territories in situations of emergency.”

Maybe John Steinbeck had it right when he said “A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.”

Humor has played a major part in other religions. Rev. Susan Sparks relates in her book Laugh Your Way to Grace “There is a well-known Zen story where on e of the Buddha’s disciples revealed his enlightenment through a wordless smile. The smile was transmitted by a succession of twenty-eight Indian partriarchs until the Bodhidharma brought it to China, where the smile transformed into thundering laughter.”

I like the traditional Apache Story of creation “The Creator made humans able to walk and talk, to see and hear…to do everything. But the Creator wasn’t satisfied. Finally, the Creator made humans laugh, and when they laughed and laughed, the Creator said, “Now you are fit to live.”

I’m not sure about this creator stuff but I’m speculating about humor and evolution. I can believe that cultures thatLAughing couplelaughed together survived together. It might be tough to calm down a saber tooth tiger with a good joke, smile or silly dance, but I bet it helped if your equally evolving captor was having a bad day and you could cheer him up. I can see it now. “Did you hear about the cave man that walked into a bar?…”

Babies laugh on average about 200 times a day. What does that tell you about the human instinct. We are wired to laugh. Unfortunately, as the responsibilities of life compound, adults laugh less. I personally laugh more than I used to. It helps to be in a relationship with someone with an equally quirky sense of humor and a contagious laugh. In addition, some of life’s pressures have lightened up (at least temporarily), and as for my numerous imperfections, I now accept them as idiosyncrasies. It seems that those folks that are also accepting of themselves tend to accept me too, and those are the folks I laugh with the best.

On Sundays, I sit and listen to Shelley’s sermon while she weaves a tale with wisdom, facts and thankfully humor. She is a story teller of sorts, which is a gift or skill acquired with practice and thoughtfulness. I like it when Shelly injects humor into her sermons. Like a meal with lots of colors on your plate, a good sermon has lots of emotions, thoughts and giggles. It is just one of the things that keeps me coming back.

With winter approaching, I like Victor Hugo’s idea. “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”

Richard Tidyman grew up in Cleveland the son of a writer and the baby of seven.  One of the few non-professional writers in the family, Richard has been a vocational teacher on and off for 20 years, and also dabbled in corporate America and sales.  Currently, he teaches keyboarding and career and technology exploration at Parkway, Cove Creek, Mabel and Bethel schools.  He has agreed to share some provocative ideas with us when he has time and inspiration.

Andy Taylor, Bill Cosby, and (Saints preserve us) Me.

Please welcome guest blogger, Jesse Dyer, husband of our Giveaway and Freebie columnist Cindy Dyer! I have put out requests for dad contributions here at the Mom Squad, and Jesse promptly stepped up to the plate! I’ll occasionally feature more columns from dads on fatherhood, and society in general.  Contact us if you’d like to contribute a guest column!


I had a dream.

I dreamed that I was sitting on a big front porch, talking with Heathcliff Huxtable and Andy Taylor, and they were telling me what a terrible father I was.

If you don’t know, Heathcliff Huxtable is the name of the dad from The Cosby Show, and Andy Taylor is Andy Griffith’s character in The Andy Griffith Show, although how you could be a Mom or Dad these days and not know of these two characters is beyond me. If you don’t know, this dream won’t mean much to you, and I’m sorry. I watched more TV than you did.

Anyway, Andy looks me over and says, shaking his head, “Boy, you are just sorry. Soooooorry!”Cosby Show

Heathcliff chimes in, “Yes sir, I’d have to say so also, yes I would.”

“Why?” I ask.

“I seem to recall,” Andy says, “that your oldest boy, oldest of four children, doesn’t know how to skip a stone, and you’ve never even taken him fishin.”

“You got that right,” Heathcliff says, “and you seem to put more into being a worker than a father, working on those computers and softwares or whatever it is you do.”

“I’m a software developer,” I say sheepishly, “and I keep meaning to get the boys out more often, it’s just hard to find the time.”

“Son, I was a doctor, and I had time for my kids.” Heathcliff says.

“You think I was just overloaded with free time, what with bein a sheriff and all?” says Andy.

I think about this for a second. Then I come back with, “Well, actually, Andy, I do.”

“Pardon me?”

I stand up and look over these two men who were, to me, Super Dads. Doctor Huxtable was the last of the good TV Dads; after that, we ended up with the like of Homer Simpson, Al Bundy from “Married.. with Children”, and heaven help us, Peter Griffin. The tube took a look at fathers around about 1990 or so, and decided that they were 450px-MayberryStatueall immoral, useless wrecks.

“First of all, you both are characters. Not real. No way does anyone in the positions you supposedly held has the kind of free time you’re pictured to have.

“Secondly, I do spend a lot of time with my kids. I may not have gotten out fishing yet, but they’re still small, and I do spend time doing the most important thing a father can do with his children.”

“And that would be?” Andy asks, drawling the sentence out a mile and a half.

“Talking. I think of my Dad, and while I can remember a few of the things we did together, the most important things we did, the things that stick with me the most, are talks. Maybe you did it outside more than I do, Andy, and maybe you did it funnier than I can, Cliff, but I do it, and I do it a lot.

“I teach my kids about everything and anything. I make sure my kids know that I love them. I’m silly with them, and I play with them. It may not be as much as you seemed to do, but you’re both fake, anyway.

“And besides, you weren’t perfect. Cliff, you were so henpecked that it’s amazing your kids had any respect for you at all. Andy, you made all kinds of mistakes with Opie in matters of trust, your attitude towards women, and while you always came up ahead by the end of things, it was purely by the grace of God. Or at least the writers.

“So don’t either one of you look at me like I’m some kind of failure. I’m the kind of Dad I’d have wanted, and that’s enough.”

I wake up, and realize that I answered a guilty feeling that had been plaguing me as a father. I don’t have to measure up to whatever mythical fathers I have felt inferior to, not even my own. I just have to be as good as I can be, and if my kids know I’m here for them, that’s enough. Little league, scouts, camping, soccer, all those things might be important, but it’s the talking that matters most to them.

It’s intimidating, knowing that you have little people learning to be themselves by emulating you. I see my sons walk and talk like me, and it scares me to death, but I don’t think about it too often. I just do the best I can.

I know that if I don’t, Andy and Cliff will haul me back onto the porch. They both love getting the last word in, after all.