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Out and About with Trees ...and Books?

This is a guest post by Ave Mulhern, NFI's Director of the National Responsible Fatherhood Capacity Building Initiative. She shares her memories of exploring the great outdoors with her dad as a child as part of NFI's campaign to help Dads "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer."

Being in the great outdoors was not a big part of my upbringing. I tend to be more comfortable in the great indoors.

That being said, I do remember some wonderful times being out and about with my father who had a love of books and trees. I am the sixth child of a family of eight. Five boys first, then three girls - I am the first girl. In a way, we were like two separate families. The wild, older boys were all car fanatics and they worked in my fathers business, a service station. When we girls came along, my dad was obviously an older, kinder and gentler version of a father. Don’t get me wrong, he was always a bit of a grump and in his later years, he was called (to his face) “Grumps.” This probably was due to a disappointing life for a bright and scholarly man on his way to becoming an attorney who ended up owning a service station fixing peoples cars. Life happens, but with this latter, gentler, girl family he was able to leave the grease behind, for a bit, and have an attentive audience of three to spend time with and share his love of learning - and we believed he knew just about everything.

My father Cornelius (aka Connie) was an avid reader. I can barely muster up a mental image of him not reading a book. He loved history books, business and real estate books, biographies, and nature books. In the summer, he literally took us to the library every single week – and if we didn't bicker in the car, we might get an ice cream at Chernoff’s Pharmacy. He took us to quirky old used bookstores and he owned a lot of books. One collection was the little Golden Field Guides - you know, those little pocket sized nature books titled Birds of North America, Rocks and Minerals, and SeaShells of North America? I suppose they have versions for other areas than North America? But the one I remember most is Trees of North America. I still have it around here somewhere.

Dad would drive to nearby Morris Arboretum armed with the little tree book and he would send us off to identify certain trees. I once successfully spotted a Beech tree based on his vivid description of how the enormous and magnificent branches grow out and down to touch the ground like a giant 70-foot-wide shrub - but underneath, those low branches create a sort of “house” or “fort” that you could play in. He reminded us that these trees must be planted with enough foresight to ensure the proper setting and enough room to mature into their magnificence. Dad drove us around town showing us where the township built the sidewalk around a 200-year-old oak tree preserving it for the future. We saw distinctive Horse Chestnut trees with spring flowers and fall conkers (nuts), the toxic but valuable Black Walnut trees, the beautiful star-shaped leaves of the Sweet Gum tree and the really wretched smelling fruit of the prehistoric female Gingko tree. (The male version doesn’t stink!)

To this day, there are two specimens of those magnificent beech trees, properly placed mind you, on the front lawn of a beautiful estate home nearby. I never pass by them without thinking fondly of my dad and our somewhat-outdoor adventures. My own children were not as interested as my sisters and I – but right now I am looking for that little Trees of North America field guidebook so I can take it with me to Wisconsin to share with our grandchildren. Hey, is Wisconsin considered North America?

Did Amy Winehouse have Two Daddies?

The Ones that Should Never Get Away...

At NFI, July’s theme is "The Great Outdoors," with the tagline Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids this Summer. With this in mind, I was reminded of a compelling commercial by Zebco, a leading provider of fishing tackle. It's titled “Don’t let your kids be the the ones that get away." (Check it out here.)

What a powerful reminder to all dads this summer that life is not so much about what you do, but rather, it's about who you’re with, the memories and the relationships that are formed and strengthened.

Do your kids pass the "crash" test?

Guest Post: A Reason to Smile

This is a guest post by Sean DeFrehn, the husband of NFI's Manager of Outreach, Brittany DeFrehn. Sean and Brittany just became first-time parents to a beautiful baby girl.

Fathers, be good to your daughters

This is a post by Hännah Schellhase, NFI's Development Specialist

Are You Trying to Rob Your Kids?

This month’s focus at NFI is “Dad Cents,” and our plan is to give dads sound advice about ways that dads can improve their kids’ financial literacy.

A Dad's Lesson: The Price of Fame

There is a verse from the Bible that says, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” I was reminded of the wisdom of these words recently after reading this Billy Ray Cyrus GQ interview where he shared his regret about how he has been raising Miley Cyrus.

Of Metal Mouths and (Hopefully Not) Pedals to the Metal

This is a post by Chris Brown, NFI's Executive Vice President

Are you an Angry Dad? If not, well maybe you should be!

A few nights ago, while I was doing my P90X workout (yes, that’s a shameless plug.), I decided to check out the latest “The Simpsons” episode on Hulu. Ironically, the title of the show was “Angry Dad: The Movie,” so I knew that I was in for a treat…not. You see, The Simpsons show has made millions for decades “buffoonorizing” dads in the form of Homer Simpson. Thanks to the show’s handy work, when millions of adults and kids are asked to name a TV dad, Homer is sure the top the list. Not Cliff Huxtable. Homer.

Let’s face it. When it comes to TV dads, we have gone from “Father Knows Best” to father knows nothing. The vast majority of dads on TV, in series or commercials, are portrayed as dumb, dangerous or disaffected. Generally, fathers are not just the butt of the joke, they are the butt…

In any case, in the episode, an executive visited the Simpson home because he came across an animated cartoon that Bart created titled “Angry Dad,” which chronicled Homer’s immature antics. The executive thought this cartoon was great, so much so that he convinced a Hollywood studio to make it into a movie. So, the family headed to Hollywood to get it done. Interestingly, as Bart and the executive were heading in to see the movie producers, the executive assured him that the movie had real potential. In fact, he said, “Everyone has an angry dad…even me.” And then the scene showed a flashback 'thought bubble' of the executive’s dad yelling at him as a small boy.

Well, it turned out that the executive was right. The Angry Dad movie won a Golden Globe and an Oscar, of course, with Homer playing the part of the angry and inconsiderate dad through each award show.

Now, I like a good joke as much as anyone. After all, I recently blogged about my deep affection for the much-maligned fanny pack. But, I really think that there is a problem here, especially since the show's success is built upon the notion of the “idiot” dad that is so prevalent and damaging in our culture. Indeed, media has power to shape norms, attitudes and behaviors. (Just think about how many glee clubs have formed recently due to the success of “Glee.”) Also, it’s worth noting that in our recent national survey of fathers called “Pop’s Culture,” dads cited media/pop culture as the second biggest obstacle to good fathering.

Moreover, as I have watched the show over the years, I have detected a very clear pattern. If you rank the characters based on who is responsible and competent, the list goes like this:

1. Marge
2. Lisa
3. Maggie (a non speaking infant)
4. Bart
5. Homer
6. Abe (Homer’s father)

Interestingly, in a non-fiction book called “The Psychology of The Simpsons: D'oh!,” which analyzed the psychological themes in the show, authors Alan Brown, Ph.D. and Chris Logan described Abe Simpson as follows:

“Abe has the least amount of "power" in the Simpson family, and he is treated as little more than a child and is often ignored.”

D’oh! Indeed. And, come to think of it, the one dad on the show that really cares about his kids, Ned Flanders, is often made to look like an idiot as well, even by Homer.

So, before the legions of The Simpsons fans tell me that I am overacting and “Don’t have a cow, man,” I need to hear from the fathers. Are you an angry dad? I wasn’t before watching this The Simpson episode. Now…I am not so sure.

One Dad's Limerick in Praise of the Fanny Pack

There once was a dad named Roland
Whose name sounded a bit like Holland

For Father's of Older Children--No Time for an "Achy Breaky" Heart

For the last week or so, folks have been “buzzing” about this video of Miley Cyrus taking a “hit” of salvia from a bong. No doubt, images like this are disturbing to many, especially the millions of parents whose children have regularly supported Miley and her squeaky clean alter-ego, Hannah Montana. Ironically, Miley’s Disney show is called “Hannah Montana Forever," but it certainly appears as if, now that Miley is an 18 year-old “adult,” she is intent of getting out of Montana as fast a possible.

Of note, there is one special parent that is quite disappointed with Miley's recent behavior, her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. Check out what he tweeted after he first saw the video:

“ Sorry guys. I had no idea. Just saw this stuff for the first time. I’m so sad. There is much beyond my control right now.”

Now, as a father of adult children, my heart really goes out to Billy Ray. But, I want to encourage him—and all dads of older children—to stay engaged. Indeed, this is no time for him to get paralyzed by an “achy breaky” heart and two-step out of Miley’s life. She needs him now more than ever and he must not succumb to the catcalls from the peanut galley of pop culture that wrongly counsel dads to “lean out” of an adult child’s life at the very moment that they must “lean in.”

Let’s face it. The very same folks that are encouraging Miley to draw deep from the bong and tell them what she is feeling will have little use for her when she can no longer get them into the “A-list” parties. These kinds of “friends” are much like parasites. They have no use for the dead. Indeed, as Billy Ray knows well. Fame is fleeting. Paternity is not…

That said; let me give a few more reasons why Billy Ray needs to do whatever he can to help his daughter before it’s too late. First, there are the sad sagas of Britney Spears (Enough said) and Lindsay Lohan (More than enough said).

Second, there is Noah Cyrus, Billy Ray’s 10 years-old daughter, who idolizes her big sister and clearly hopes to follow in Miley’s star-studded footsteps. A few weeks ago, I came across this video on YouTube where Noah is begging Miley to perform her version of singer Akon’s hit “Smack That.” Just in case you can't fully understand what Noah is saying, here are the lyrics:

“Smack that, all on the floor. Smack that, give me some more. Smack that, ’til you get sore. Smack that, oh ooh.”

(By the way, if you are confused about what “that” is, you can click here to see Akon’s video. It clears things up nicely.)

True, there are "things" that are beyond Billy Ray’s, and every father’s, control and influence. But, his children are not one of them. Enough said.

Where's her daddy?

Kristy Choby, NFI's Research and Development Specialist, shares an observation from her wise-beyond-her-years daughter.

Guest Post: Bonding With Books

This is a guest post from daddy blogger Chris Singer, a stay-at-home dad in Lansing, MI. You can find him on twitter @tessasdad and at http://sahdinlansing.com/

Dads must help deal with bullies...

There has been quite a bit in the news lately regarding the impact of bullying on our nation's children. Accordingly, I thought that you would find of interest this article that I wrote about my personal experience of being bullied as a kid as well as how I handled a situation when my son was bullied. Dads have a key role to play on this issue.

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