Monday, October 15, 2007

Cooking with Your Kids

Let's get something straight, right from the beginning: Dads can cook! Certainly, not all dads... but for the most part, we men-folk can get in the kitchen and emerge with something to eat that didn't come out of a can or the freezer. Whether our families want to eat our manly food is another matter entirely, and not the subject of today's post.

My youngest child, Soccergirl, takes after her father. She loves to eat. Moreover, she connects the fact that I do the cooking in our house with the result that I get more to eat, because I'm the guy making the food.

Smart kid.

Soccergirl has decided that it is time for her to apprentice as my "junior chef". Very often she will help me prepare meals, which I am pleased to do with her. It's just one of those things that we have that is just for the two of us.

My young apprentice has gotten into the habit of checking out cookbooks from her elementary school library. It isn't uncommon for us to spend the short ride from school to our house, discussing what we are going to make together over the weekend. Well, two weeks ago was no different, and Soccergirl decided that on that particular Saturday, she wanted Deviled Eggs.

So what is a father to do? Go to the supermarket and get the makings for deviled eggs, that's what!

We had to start early, because we had a soccer game to play that day. So... we began, of course with six extra large eggs, at room temperature, and a pot of water at a rolling boil. We boiled the eggs for the appropriate amount of time, removed them from the water and allowed them to cool while we had our soccer game, and then went on to lunch.

When we returned home, we assembled the rest of our ingredients: Garlic paste, dried Dill weed, salt, pepper, paprika, Ranch dressing, and some bacon bits.

Next, we shelled our eggs, and split them in half, down the middle.

Next, you can poor yourself a beer if it suits you... I did, see?

In a small mixing bowl, we combined the cooked yolks with the garlic paste, bacon bits, dill weed, salt, pepper, and some ranch dressing. All amounts are to taste... add or delete things as you see fit.

Next, you take a spoon, or an icing pipe and fill the already boiled & split eggs.

Put them on a plate and refrigerate for at least an hour. Sprinkle with paprika for a little color, and serve!

OK, I realize that this is the most scintillating cooking you have ever seen me do, but a dad's gotta do what a dad's gotta do.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Doctor is IN... (again)

For the last few weeks, Soccergirl has been nursing a loose tooth. It was the first tooth behind her lower incisor (I think that's what you call it), and it was pretty wobbly, bu the darn thing just didn't want to come out. After consulting with Doctor Mommy, it was time to talk to Senior parental dental unit, Doctor Daddy. Doctor Daddy took a look at the tooth, and attempted to make a manual extraction with his large, sousage-like fingers... to no avail. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the proper angle to get my fingers around the tooth.

Something needed to be done about this. Soccergirl couldn't do it. Doctor Mommy WOULDN'T do it (are you kidding me?), so it was down to Doctor Daddy, and his penchant for improvisation. "This", I thought to myself " a no-brainer", after which I got out my trusty Leatherman tool, set up the needle-nose pliers, and plucked out the offending tooth as pretty as you please!

Done and done!

Before I left the house this morning, I assisted the tooth fairy by placing a shiny new dollar coin in Soccergirl's "tooth box"

Big Fun!

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Return of Coach Gunfighter

Soccergirl has begun the new fall soccer season, here in Virginia.

Like so many thousands of kids in America's suburbs, she will be practicing once a week formally with the team, and once a week, working on skills and fitness with yours truly... with the end result, being game day on Saturdays.

This past Saturday was the first game of the season. We didn't win, but the girls put on a great performance. They were excited. They worked hard. They gave everything they had. They held their own, with the other team beating us by a single goal, which came within 2 minutes of the end of the game.

I was proud of the little darlings... of course, proudest of my own little darling. I know she works hard for her teammates, but I am certain that some of the effort... OK, most of it is working to make her daddy proud.

I am.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Great Thing About Being Dad

Just before bedtime, tonight, Soccergirl came over to me while I was doing some work for our soccer league (guess who volunteered, like a dummy, to be league director) and handed me a handwritten note.

It said "I love you, daddy!!!"

Monday, August 20, 2007

College Dad

My oldest child, fastpitch, starts college today.

She moved into her dorm room and met her roomate on Saturday.

She is excited, and I am as proud as can be.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Conversations With Soccergirl

The Scene: I was home with Soccergirl, yesterday... our daycare provider is on vacation.

Gunfighter: What do you want for breakfast, babe?

Soccergirl: Grits, daddy... but not the instant kind!

Gunfighter: OK

Soccergirl: With cheese!

Gunfighter: OK

Soccergirl: and bacon!

Gunfighter: Bacon?

Soccergirl: Well, you can't have grits without bacon, can you? It's just not right!

Gunfighter: Yes, Miss Daisy.

Soccergirl: You're my best friend, Hoke!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Eighteen Years Ago... right about this time, I was, with the rest of my infantry platoon, skulking about in the coastal North Carolina scrub, waiting for the rest of my battalion to land from a few amphibious ships lying just off the shore. We were waiting for the lead company to land so we could shoot them up and then run like hell. We were the aggressor element for a night landing and deployment exercise for the 1st battalion, sixth Marines of the Second Marine Division.

The exercise went well, we completed our mission, and in the wee small hours of the morning, the rest of the battalion headed back out to sea, via our LVTP-7 amphibious tractors. While they went back to sea, my platoon went back to the garrison because the exercise was over. Even though we knew that we had done well, I wasn't interested. Not at all. You see, I knew that my then-wife was due to have our baby at any time. I had been in the field for a few days, and had no contact (this was before everyone and their brother had a cellular phone).

Once we arrived back at Camp Geiger, my platoon cleaned it's gear, showered, and we all headed for our racks (beds) to get some sleep. I was destined not to sleep, because just as I was about to get my head onto my pillow, the duty NCO came to me and said: "Hey! Corporal Gunfighter... the Staff Duty NCO needs to see you". I thought about copious swearing, but I thought that there was really only one reason that the Staff Sergeant would really need to see me, so I dressed and ran to his office, two blocks away.

Arriving at his office, he said: "Corporal Gunfighter?? Are you married?" I said that I was. "Is your wife named Jennifer Gunfighter?" I said that it was. "Is she pregnant?" I said that she was, thinking that I would like to bayonet this clown in the throat... "Well congratulations, Marine! You are the father of a baby girl!" At that moment, all of the personnel in the battalion duty offices congratulated me with handshakes and punches (we were Marines, we didn't hug, we punched)

I went back to my company area in a daze. As I went to the pay phone, I saw my pal Jim, who had been stationed with me in DC, across the quadrangle. I shouted to him that "it's a girl!" and dashed to make my calls.

After calling my parents, I roused up the little weasel who was our company clerk and told him to do my leave form, so I could head home. My wife was still in the DC area, and had given birth at the U.S. Air Force hospital at Andrews Air Force base. I jumped in the car around noon (I slept for about two hours) and headed north. I made good time, and arrived to meet my new daughter, only 12 hours after she was born.

I was stunned.

I was speechless.

When I think about it, I still am.

Eighteen years later, she is a confident young woman. An unassuming young person who loves her family, her church, her friends, who is an athlete, and is a friend to everyone she meets.

She is a good student, who will start college in two weeks.

I am so proud of her.

Happy Birthday, babe.



Friday, July 20, 2007

A Long Week, Ending

So.... here we are. It's Friday. Our week of mommy and daddy time, coming to an end.

Tomorrow, I will spend the day with Soccergirl, Fastpitch, and my dad, in Baltimore. When I return home, it is likely that soccergirl will crash for the whole 70 minute drive home. After all of the ripping and running she has been doing at my dad's house, I think she'll get a good night's sleep... she will need it, because on Sunday morning, she is scheduled to serve as Acolyte at church. She'll have to be on her toes.

I can't wait.

Monday, July 16, 2007

To Grandfather's House We Go

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure (and sad task) of driving to Baltimore to take Soccergirl to my dad's house for the week.

I call it a great pleasure because A) She is going to have a great time with her older sister, who also got to my dad's house yesterday. B) Mrs Gunfighter and I get to spend a week without running to and from Soccergirl's activities, and C) Mrs Gunfighter and I get to spend a little alone time together.

It was also somewhat sad, because to tell you the truth, it is very strange not having Soccergirl around. It isn't as if she is underfoot all of the time... she is quite capable of amusing herself when she likes... but I miss her.

After dinner, last night, Mrs GF and I sat there and listened to the quiet... I miss my girl. I'm glad she is having fun... but I miss her.

You see, I like that kid. A lot.

Of course I love her... but I really like her. She is smart. She is funny. She is caring. She is intuitive. She is athletic. She is empathetic. She really is a good kid.

We are going on 24 hours now....

It is going to be a long week.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Through The Upstairs Window

I wrote this on the 5th of May, while I was watching Soccergirl play outside with one of her neighborhood friends:

Through the upstairs window, I watch you playing on the lawn. I’m still wearing my shoes, even though I would rather take them off, just in case I have to go downstairs to help you if you fall.

I can hear you singing.

You are playing with the pink ball that I bought for you a few weeks ago.

As much as I tell you that I love you, and as much as I know that you know that I love you, I don’t think there are words enough to describe it to you.

You see, you are my second chance.

My second chance to be the father I have always wanted but didn’t have. My second chance to be present in the life of my child, after my first marriage fell apart, and took your older sister so far away.

Do you know how important it is that I don’t screw this up?

Maybe you will when you get older.

I want so many things for your future, but I am not going to saddle my unfulfilled dreams on your shoulders. What I mostly want for you, is happiness. I want you to be happy.

I want you to go through your adult life with as much joy as you have right now, shrieking and laughing with Fionna as you play tag.

I want to be the example of what you see in your mind’s eye when you think of what a husband and father should be; a man that comes home from work and spends his time with his family; a man that takes care of and protects his family; a man that is respectful of his wife and children; a man that doesn’t believe in violence in the home; a man that is a fully participatory father.

I hope I can live up to it. I think I’m off to a good start.


Friday, July 6, 2007

On Becoming a "Local"

Is the place you live the same place as you were raised?

For most of the people that I encounter on a daily basis, here in the in the Washington, DC area, the answer is an emphatic no.

I live in Prince William County, Virginia, approximately 25 miles south of Washington, DC, and until about 25 years ago, Prince William would be considered by many to be a backwater. It hadn't yet been engulfed in the suburban sprawl that is now busy consuming green spaces with Ebola-like speed. The county population was fairly small, as it was mostly rural.

Fast forward to today. Prince William has a large population... I think it is the second most populous county in Virginia, behind our immediate neighbors to the north in Fairfax county... where some of the readers of this blog live.

Northern Virginia, and it's suburban Maryland counterparts, is home to huge numbers of government employees and military personnel, so it should come as no surprise that the majority of the people that you meet are originally from somewhere else.

None of our neighbors are native to the area, and only three of my colleagues can claim to be life-long local residents.

Mrs Gunfighter and I came to the Washington, DC area in the 1980's, and moved into our house in Prince William, when we got married in 1994. Sprawl started even before we moved here, but, even then the differences were palpable. In 1994 we could still go to the grocery store and see blue-haired white women that routinely greeted us with: "Howy'alldoin'?" (yeah, it came out like that) Not so much anymore.

In the past few years, much has changed. I have begun to feel like "a local". I have started to say "old guy" stuff like: "Remember when we moved here, and route 123 (or 234, or Spriggs road)was a winding two-lane road?". I have been wondering about this lately and I have decided that the catalyst between living in this community and being a part of this community is having children.

Soccergirl is our anchor here. We are involved in youth soccer, the church, girl scouts, and her school. Is it any wonder that we can be at the mall/bookstore/supermarket/you-name-it, and we see people we know... everywhere? Mrs G and I are not hugely social... in that we tend to go home and stay home, or do things together as we are busy most of the time, so our social interaction happens at soccer games, girl scout meetings, chatting with the "school moms" during school pick-up times (this is usually me).

Yesterday, I found myself talking, at different times with different parents about summer camps, travel soccer (no thanks!), school events for next year, vacation bible school, swimming lessons, day care and Tae Kwon Do all in the span of two hours. I talked with several parents and discovered that we knew people in common and wind up saying things like: "oh sure, I know her, she drives the green minivan with the Australia sticker on the back" or "Yeah, she goes to our church". Jeez, we even know some of the local politicians for whom streets and parks are named.

This place that we live, this bedroom community of commuters and SUV's (not us, thank you) has become our home. When I do the math, I come up with incontrovertible proof: I have lived here longer than I have lived in any one place in my life; we refer to the house at the corner of our street as "Tom and Arlene's house", even though Tom and Arlene sold that house and moved 10 years ago; we don't socialize with anyone (with the exception of sg's godparents, and them rarely) that we did when we moved here... back then, all our friends were DC friends from work; soccergirl is FROM here.. this area is the only home she has ever known, and will likely grow to adulthood right in this place.

Kind of strange, isn't it?

Adulthood.... suburban parenting... being a local.

Growing Up

On my other blog, when I have talked about Soccergirl, I have mentioned that at age eight (nearly nine), she doesn't have a lot of little girl time left. Although she isn't done being a little girl (not with the constant bombardment of "Spongebob" that we deal with), there are little things that creep in that tell us that she is growing up. Sometimes it is the use of a new word... sometimes it is doing something that she loved last week, and she tells you this week that it's "for little kids, daddy".

The little things sort of flow around you, because, well, they are little. Every now and a gain, you get to a major thing. A few weeks ago, Soccergirl got out of the bathtub (she was in the master bath in the big soaker tub) and came into the master bedroom. She saw me there and immediately shriekd and covered herself with a towel.

That's right, folks... the first instance of modesty.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Dad

I started this post at this blog and my other blog, about my father at least four times. This will be attempt number five.

My parents were divorced when I was five years old... Between my father's philandering, unholy temper, propensity for using his hands to express anger, and my mother's unwise use of chemicals, theirs was a match made in the depths of hell. As difficult as it was, their divorce, in 1969, was a blessing for the whole family.

After the divorce, my mother took us three children from California, where my dad was stationed (he was in the Air Force), to New Jersey where my maternal grandmother lived.

We were raised by my mom and (mostly by my) grand mom, and saw my dad whenever he was stationed somewhere nearby... in the early 70's, it was in central Massachusetts.

On school holidays, my father would drive from Westover Air Force Base to our house in NJ, come inside long enough to say hello to my mother and to use the bathroom, and we'd be on the road! It was during these trips that my father first demonstrated his perfectly abysmal ability to tell jokes. My father told the absolutely worst jokes on the planet. He would tell a joke, and then roar with laughter... not caring if anyone else found them funny. My dad also told awful knock-knock jokes, like this one:

Dad: "knock-knock"

Kids: "who's there?"

Dad: "Emerson"

Kids: "Emerson who?"

Dad: "Emerson funky socks you've got on!"

Kids: "That's Not Funny!"

Dad: "Baahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!"


My dad and I formed a decent relationship, and after he retired from military service, in 1973, he went back to his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. We (my older brother and sister, and I) visited fairly regularly, and after the older two graduated from high school and went out into the world, I continued to visit on my own... by this time, I had graduated to taking the train, which I thought was pretty cool.

I continued my visits with my dad (and his wife and their daughter, my half sister), until I graduated from high school and joined the service.

One of the best things that my dad ever did for me, is something he probably doesn't even think of now.

When I left home to join the service, my recruiter picked me up early in the morning, and took me to the processing point, in Newark (NJ, not Del.), where I had to fill out forms, get shots, etc... We were then put aboard a bus to the airport for flights to our basic training destination... in my case, Parris Island, South Carolina.

As we were about to board the plane, I heard a shout across the terminal: "Billyyyyyyyyyyyy!" It was my dad, sprinting in my direction. He didn't even tell me he was coming! This was in 1981, and my dad was about three years older than I am now. He drove his little Toyota Tercel to the point where his engine completely gave up the ghost in the parking lot of the airport... just to get there to see me off. He gave me a hug and said: "I'm proud of you, son!... time to be a man, now. Take care of yourself, and call when you can"

He had driven nearly three hundred miles with a car whose engine was literally coming apart at the end of the trip, to spend about thirty seconds with me. It was then that I realized that many of the things that my mother had said about my dad for years, weren't all true. Somebody that doesn't give a shit about their children doesn't do something like that.

Life went on, and my dad was a proud observer of my time in the service. Proud of my accomplishments, and of my promotions. He was even more proud when I came back from overseas the first time, speaking German even better than he does (an odd talent... my brother, father and I are nearly fluent in German... it drives our other relatives nuts!).

We didn't have a perfect relationship, but it was functional. As I grew into my thirties, and had a family of my own, I started thinking more about my dad, and had come to some unpleasant realizations about my own childhood. He sensed the growing tension between us, and wrote me a letter asking what it was all about. I answered him and told him that I wanted an apology. I wanted him to apologize for being a wife beater. I wanted him to apologize for not being around more when I was little. I wanted him to apologize for all of the things that I had to do alone in Scouting when the other boys had their fathers with them. He didn't see me achieve a varsity letter for throwing the discus, or sing in the school shows.

I didn't even know those things were bothering me, but they all came out in a rush of words.

I immediately felt like I had taken a load of bricks from my shoulders, and it felt good.

My brother and sister were pissed about what I said to my father, but that is a story for another time.

Anyway, it was time for Soccergirl's baptism, and he and I had a long talk in which he apologized to me for all of the things that I mentioned, and some that I hadn't mentioned.

From that day, six years ago, to this day, my dad and I have enjoyed a fantastic relationship.

I think I mentioned, over at my other blog that my father was largely responsible for my remaining in touch with my oldest child after my divorce. I called him the other day to thank him.

If you have any bad feelings with anyone, friends, remember that it is NEVER too late to try to reconcile with someone if both parties are still living.

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Gunfighter, Fastpitch, Soccergirl, and my Dad

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Calling All dads!

I don't think that this blog can be done properly without a range of male voices, so I am inviting Real Dads to participate.

I think that our theme for July is going to be: The Joys of New Fatherhood.

Share your stories of those first cool, and freakin' terrifying moments of fatherood, whether it be a story about the birth process, LaMaze classes, projectile vomit, learning to change a diaper... whatever comes to mind from the earliest days and moments of your fatherhood.

Email me with your stories, and I will post them here.



Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Importance of Being "Daddy"

I wrote this piece in January, as part of a blog swap that I did with Leslie G, over at My Mommy's Place. I though that it might be a good first post, here at my new blog.

Here in the blogosphere, I go by the name of Gunfighter. Not because I spend my days involved in shootouts, but because I am a professional tactical firearms instructor. That title describes a person that teaches law enforcement officers how to fight with guns. Gunfighter is my internet “handle” , senior firearms instructor is my title, “Inspector” is my rank within my agency, my name is Bill.

When some people hear about what I do for a living, they tell me what a cool job I have. I can’t disagree. I have one of the best jobs on the planet for someone with my skill-set and personality. I do have a great job... I get to wear comfortable clothes, work great hours, shoot exotic and expensive guns, and never have to pay for the ammunition. With all of that, I have to tell you that, the most important job I have is the dual role of husband and father.

On my blog, I frequently talk about my wife and my daughter, because they are the central pillar in my earthly life. My family is the reason I exist.

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about the importance of responsible, participatory fatherhood in the lives of boys. I discussed how boys should be shaped into men, and how their fathers were the most important factor in being turned into good men who would be good husbands and fathers when the time came. Today, I want to talk about the role of men as the fathers of daughters.

I was raised in a home where my father wasn’t present. My parents divorced when I was only five years old, leaving my mother to raise the three of us (I have an older bother and sister) with major support from my grandmother. I’m not complaining, mind you, I had an interesting childhood and was well-loved… but something was missing. I didn’t learn how to be a man from my dad. He was a career soldier, and even when my parents were together, he was never around. My only memories from when my parents were married are of shouting and violence. I learned how to be man by negative example and by having Captain James T. Kirk, of the Starship Enterprise as a role-model (no, I’m NOT joking).

Although women are, more-often-than-not, the primary caregivers for children in our society, we men have an important role to play. You see, men need to be the example of what kind of man their daughters should expect when it is time for them to find acceptable spouses. Daughters need to see their fathers come home at night (or day, depending on the kind of work they do). Daughters need to see that a real man supports his family as best he can no matter the sacrifices that it takes to do it. Daughters need to see their mothers treated decently, with respect and love and kindness. Daughters need the kind of attention that comes from their first true love… their fathers.

I love being the father of daughters. My oldest daughter, Fastpitch, is seventeen and will start her Freshman year of college in the fall. Fastpitch lives with her mother (my ex-wife) and her step-father, in West Virginia. I saw her just recently, and we now talk on the phone and email each other frequently.

Soccergirl, who is 8, and I get along famously. When we are together, just the two of us, we do things differently than when it is just her and mommy. We play different games, we go different places and have our own brand of fun. None of this takes away from the things that my wife does with her. Not at all, it just illustrates how we have our own special relationship. I will tell you right here and now that one of the happiest moments in my life took place when Soccergirl, at age 5, said to me with all the gravity in the world: Daddy, when I grow up, will you marry me like you married mommy? Sounds sappy, doesn’t it? Maybe it was, but, it was a red-letter date from me, that still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. Just the other day, she told me that I was the best daddy in the world. I doubt that is true, but it is true enough for her, and therefore, true enough for me.

Soccergirl is almost out of her little girl stage, but she still likes it when I carry her upstairs at bed time. She still likes me to sing her to sleep, she still likes to sit on my lap and have me read to her. These moments will be gone soon… probably before next Christmas. I’m more grateful for them than I can possibly tell you.

It is my hope, even through all of the teenaged angst and rebellion that comes with those years, that when Soccergirl is a young woman, and she thinks about what men are like, that she uses me as a positive yardstick to measure them by. I want her to be able to always have a good example of what a man should be. It is my hope that even when I am long dead that she will always remember her “daddy” with a smile.

At the beginning of this piece, I told you about my titles. None of them mean anything to me, really. The title that means most to me is “Daddy” not just a father. I’m daddy. No other title means as much to me.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Welcome Dads! (welcome everyone!)

Welcome to the Real Dads blog!

Why real dads? Because the men that I am talking about when I say "real dads" are the men that are participatory parents in their children's lives. Not just understanding of "mommy issues", but men who actively parent, either in partnership, or alone, as is sometimes the case.

A participatory father never refers to himself as a "babysitter", when he is in charge of the children and his spouse is out with her friends, working, or taking a nap. A real dad is just fulfilling his role as a father.

How many of us know men that thought that being a good dad only meant making as good a living as possible in order to "bring home the bacon" to his family?

Don't get me wrong, here... my point is not to denigrate dads who were culturally trained by the influences of their times, to behave a certain way, I'm talking about guys who may be your friends, coworkers, or even close relatives, that believe getting up in the night to feed a hungry infant "is HER job".

Aren't we better men than this? Aren't we more capable than some of our knuckle-dragging philosophical forebears? Aren't we strong enough to be good providers AND loving, involved practitioners of the parental arts?

Well, that's what we are going to talk about here at the Real Dads blog.

I realize that until this blog becomes more heavily trafficked, that I will be mostly talking to myself (and perhaps the readers of my other blog), but please feel free to email me or to leave a comment about any dad issues that you'd like to discuss. It is my intention to have a conversation with other fathers, as opposed to preaching from my pulpit about what a great dad I am.

So, c'mon, Real Dads, I know that you are out there. Let's hear from you.