I am sure that nobody is interested in my youngest son”s potty habits but I am and this is my blog, so I’ll blog about it.  The last time I visited this subject, I thought I had my son pottytrained and comfortably in underwear last summer when he was 2 and a half.  He and I, for example, flew on a plane to Denver, spent four days and four nights and flew home all without a diaper bag or an accident.  He continued his dry ways for the next four months or so much to my delight.

And then something happened about a month ago. .. Continue Reading »


2010 Talks to 1936

My kids talked again to their great-grandpa about life during the Depression.  This episode includes a visit from the “nuthouse” from Aunt Cap, the $450 Ford V8, and ending up in a sketchy neighborhood in Chicago in 1935.

Chat with Gramps Jan 13, 2010

The Family History Book

My wife and I have four children aged 11 to 3 of mixed Vietnamese and American blood.  We have tried to educate them about their ancestors–where they came from and the lives they led– in hopes that our children would grow up with a keen understanding of their roots and a sense of gratitude toward long-dead ancestors who both suffered and thrived so that current generations could live better lives.  We started out 11 years ago by naming our first child Hanh-Thien after the ancestral village of my wife’s mother’s family.  Our second child was named Thai-Binh after the home province of my wife’s father.  Our living room features a Vietnamese-style ancestral altar with pictures of deceased relatives from Hanoi, Saigon, Iowa and California going back generations.  We live three generations under one roof, allowing my children to grow up close to their grandparents.

But I worried that lighting incense and listening to family stories here and there might not be coherent enough way for my children to grasp the complicated and fascinating merging of a Vietnamese and American families into one.  That is why during my recent and ongoing period of unemployment I took up a side project of scanning old photos, attaching captions identifying each person in the photo and perhaps telling a story that dates to the period of the photo.  The project was massive and time consuming.  It took about three months to complete.  I estimate that I thumbed through about 10,000 photos dating back about 100 years, scanned about 1,000 of them, and chose the best 430 to include in a 100-page family history book that I designed and wrote using free MyPublisher software. Continue Reading »

Last year at this time I lost a night of sleep after my children grumbled about what they thought was a paltry Christmas.  My 11-year-old son, for example, was irked that his younger sister got a slightly nicer cellphone than his.  In the midst of a global recession that caused some families in our neighborhood to lose their homes to bank foreclosure, I felt my kids needed a better understanding of what was going on in the world and to temper their unseemly sense of entitlement to the latest $60 videogames, $10 first-run movie tickets and the latest stuff they see advertised on tv.

Following last Christmas, I arranged for them to make two phone calls.  The first one to their 89-year-old great-grandfather in Denver and ask him about what Christmas was like for him in 1932 during the Great Depression.  Then they talked to the local power company and got some stats on the number of families in and around our zip code who were having a cold, dark Christmas because they could not afford to pay their electric bill.  They were instructed to ask questions and write down the answers.  In the end, they actually kind of enjoyed the exercise, learned something, and understood why Daddy was making them do it.  But would it stick with them? I didn’t know.

This Christmas I found out the answer. Continue Reading »

Just How Stubborn Is He?

In this installment, I find out how long it takes for a three-year-old who is used to adults cleaning up after him to do it himself.  It is pretty ugly.

This afternoon just before lunch, my almost-three-year-old stood on a table and dumped out about six plastic containers of toys onto the floor.  Then he tossed all the pillows off the sofa.  His cousin was there with him. He got excited and dumping stuff was fun.  It wasn’t anything mischievous or foul, just his thing.  99% of the time someone cleans up for him.  This time (and a few times in the past) I asked him to clean up his own mess.  I resolved that I would wait him out no matter how long it took.  I wanted to see how long he could hold out before putting up the white flag and beginning to clean up…. Continue Reading »

The Pottytraining Bomb

Six months ago I pottytrained my two-and-a-half year old using the only Daddy method I know–burn all the diapers in the house and join the ranks of the big boys no matter how high the pile of wet underwear grew.  It took three weeks of diligent, hard work (and plenty of carpet stains along the way) last July but we got there.  I was so confident, in fact, that I took my freshly-pottytrained boy on a cross-country trip and a long weekend in Denver in early August without a single diaper in the “diaper” bag.  It was a huge success.  We had no accidents, not even at night sleeping in an unfamiliar house.  We were done with diapers, right? Wrong.

He's smirking probably because he knows he is on the verge of beating Daddy at his own game.

Six months have passed and my fortunes have reversed dramatically.  I am feeling more and more like a beaten Dad who has run out of ideas.  Continue Reading »

In this episode, my kids discuss with their great-grandpa about his owning a grocery store in Iowa in the late 1940s.  He talks about kicking out all the men who hung around outside drinking beer, the best shelf to put the kotex so that women could buy it without embarrassment, and the how easy it is to grind off your thumb in the 1940s meat grinder.

It is all here:

the grocery store

One more.  This includes a discussion about his high school years, a classmate who won the PGA golf tournament, and climbing a water tower and being scared to climb back down.

Chats with Gramps, Dec 21, 20009