Category Archives: Parenting

Go back to school already! A top five list

back-to-school-heroNow that summer is in full swing, weekends are invariably full of the obligatory beach trips, pool days, and the incessant banter of children seeking to be entertained.

For all the sleep away camps, trips to see the grandparents and efforts to get rid of distract our kids, they always seem to be underfoot.

As parents, suffering the assault of that which we have borne, our thoughts inevitably turn to the one thing that brings us all solace: back to school.

For all our suffering, we know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

One day, in the very near future, these miniature clones will be cast from our homes, refrigerators and wallets, tucked safely behind the walls at institutes of higher learning.

And as the day of our liberation approaches, we shouldn’t bask in the glow of that warm thought too much.

There’s work to do so that our hellions are prepared for that momentus day.

So here are the top five things you’ll need to prepare your kids for back-to-school.

1. Backpacks – I don’t know about your kids, but by the end of each school year, my kids’ backpacks look like they’ve been on the losing end of a catfight. They’re usually dirty, with holes, broken zippers and often, petrified food. Getting new backpacks is a priority, especially if you want your future meal tickets to look the part of eager schoolchildren and not homeless hobos.

2. Laptop computer – my teenage daughter has been on a campaign to get a laptop computer for the past two years. As she enters the eighth grade, she may finally get her wish. Laptop computers are a must for teens seeking a bit more independence than the community family computer affords. And it removes any excuse they may have for not doing their homework. Just make sure you’ve got good spyware installed.

3. Cellphone – when each of my kids turned ten, they got a cell phone. It was a simple Metro PCS LG nonsense, but it was their entre into the world of digital connectivity. Now having a cell phone is more than just a means of communication with one’s parentals, it’s a social norm. And we can’t have our children ostracized because their the only ones without one!

4. Lunchbox – or should I say food transportation unit. My older kids are loathe to actually carry anything that actually resembles a lunchbox. For them, gone are the days of the square tin with a handle. Replaced by Goodbins, and various other ergonomic, compartmentalized food receptacles. While the older kids opt for the good old brown paper bag, the younger two are still happy to tote an old fashion lunchbox.

5. Hugs – what start to the school year would be complete without your obligatory hugs? One day they’re going to go off and not come back. So hug ’em while you got ’em! The summer’s no over yet!


Filed under Parenting, Uncategorized

Embarrassing? Who? Me?

I never thought this day would come.

That my cool would ever come into question.

I’ve always considered myself relatively hip.

I’ve got tats.

I wear dreads.

Tall. Dark. Handsome.

I’m fucking Black goddammit!

I’m the personification of cool.

Al least so I thought.

But today, I’ve been forced to rethink my stance.

You see, today I learned that, at times, I’m somewhat of…

How do you say…

…an embarrassment.

A collective gasp rises from the audience.


Can you imagine?

Moi? An embarrassment?

On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked to (and I quote) “stop embarrassing me.”

Who could utter such caustic (and clearly inaccurate) words?

Brace yourselves…

Mes enfants.

Not just any of my children, mind you.

But the eldest two.

The alphas.

The one who looks like me.

And the other who bears my name.


How is this possible, you ask?

Well we’ve been in Martha’s Vineyard for a week, and I was told – on no less than three separate occasions – that I was embarrassing them.

I. Was. Embarrassing. Them.

How can that which sprang forth from my loins malign me so?

And question my cool no less?

Sure. I can be a little loud sometimes.

I’ve been known to molest innocent passers by.

And accost strangers.

So what if many within the sound of my voice are alarmed by my sudden and unprovoked outbursts?

It’s part of my charm.

But apparently, the same qualities that make me charming and a hoot as an adult, are the source of embarrassment as a parent to my tweens.

Do I tone it down, “chill out” and play the back to avoid embarrassing my kids?

Or do I stay true to self and force them to deal?

I think we all know the answer.

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Dear Dr. Putrino. I will slap you.

Put your hands on a Chukumba and I will slap youMy letter:

Dr. Putrino,

I’m quite disturbed by what appears to be a disparity in treatment regarding an incident on the bus yesterday between my daughter Asha and 4th grader <name redacted for his safety>.

Asha inappropriately tapped <name redacted for his safety> on the head with a rolled up piece of paper when she got on the bus at the end of the school day. In response <name redacted for his safety> slapped her. She then slapped him back and then he slapped her again. When the bus aide intervened, she moved <name redacted for his safety> to a separate section of the bus, at which point <name redacted for his safety> also kicked her.

When my babysitter, who is also <name redacted for his safety>’s older sister, met the children at the bus stop, she told me about the incident and that Asha was written up but not <name redacted for his safety>.

<name redacted for his safety>’s response was completely disproportionate to Asha’s “provocation.” We find it totally unacceptable that this boy is putting his hands on girls. And while we wholeheartedly agree that the children should be written up for fighting on the bus in any fashion, I’m at a loss as to why Asha was the only one written up when <name redacted for his safety> is the one who actually escalated the incident by striking or otherwise putting his hands on her.

My son Stephen is good friends with <name redacted for his safety> and he witnessed the incident, so I am confident that we have a clear understanding of the event. He feels that she shouldn’t have bothered <name redacted for his safety> at all, but that <name redacted for his safety> overreacted by slapping her.

Ultimately, the result we are expecting is equitable treatment. If the driver is going to write up this incident, both students should have been written up, not simply Asha, especially in light of the facts. More importantly what kind of message does this send to <name redacted for his safety> about slapping girls in response to foolish, playful behavior?

Please give this incident your immediate attention.

Thank you.


His response:

Hi Stephen,

I was not able to address this today but will mediate this immediately on Tuesday morning.

Joseph A. Putrino Jr., Ed. D.
Northeast Elementary School


Put your hands on a Chukumba and you will get slapped.

I tell my kids: Don’t ever put your hands on other people. And don’t ever let another person put their hands on you.

The first time someone hits you, don’t hit them back. Tell a teacher, authority or any grown up bigger than you and the kid that hit you. They will address the situation appropriately.

If they don’t or if he or she does it again, hit them back as hard as you can.

This way they will think twice about hitting you again, because then they will know (1) you hit hard; (2) you know how to fight; and (3) you’re prepared fight them.

More importantly, they’ll know what kind of fight it’s going to be from how hard you hit them back.

If someone hits you, defend yourself. Never let anyone push you around, even by force. Fight back. No one will ever bully a Chukumba.

Mommy and Daddy will always defend you if we hear about a fight like that. And we’ll talk to that kid’s parents too, just so that everybody knows the consequences of messing with you.

This post is not meant to condone my daughter’s behavior.

She was definitely the “antagonist.”

It’s not even to vilify the other kid.

Although I question what kind of home training <name redacted for his safety> is (not) getting if he’s hitting girls.

He’s lucky he’s a little kid or I would have whupped his ass!

Nor is it to glorify violence.

Despite my previous statement a few lines ago.

The wise man knows to walk away from a fight, if a fight can be avoided.

But I’m not raising no punks.

Male or female.

Double negative above notwithstanding.

All you parents out there, pay attention and I’ll show you how it’s done – Chukumba style.

Steer clear of Chukumbas with all the BS.

Or you will get slapped.

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Daddy rule no. 4080: Make lunches the night before.


I’ve got four kids.

And when you have four kids, planning is essential.

One thing I’ve learned in my eleven years of parenthood, is the time-saving value of prep.

Although I was never a boy scout, I was a Cub Scout, and the motto, “be prepared” has always held sway with me.

So every weeknight (except Friday) and Sunday night, I make my kids’ lunches.

I have a whole routine.

I pull out their Goodbyns and line them up, assembly line style.

Then, I drop each kid’s sandwich, drink, snack, etc., into the bin of their respective Goodbyn.

It’s a fairly straightforward process.

With the exception of Asha Ming’s toasted butter and jelly sandwich, I can generally whip through making lunch fairly quickly now.

Five minutes, tops.

And I’m done.



Doesn’t seem like heavy lifting right?

Try doing that shit on the morning.

With three kids that have to meet a bus at 7:45?

A fourth that has to be dropped off by 7:30 so you can make a 8:00 train into the city?

And breakfast?

And making sure that they’re clean, dressed, lotioned in exposed spots (Black folk will appreciate that), and hair less-than-disheveled?

Something is bound to get missed.

Kids will all be out on time, but no one has shoes on.

Or your eldest has your youngest’s coat on.

Or some equally ludicrous omission.

Caused, solely, by the fact that you had too much on your hands.

Too many details (and kids) to handle so early in the morning.

Every morning.

So I make lunches at night.

Goodbyn made life easier for me.

Before Goodbyn, I had to put everything into sandwich and snack bags.

Laborious doesn’t begin to explain the torture of lunch-making before I was turned on to them.

Goodbyns are self-contained lunch boxes, that let you put the food directly into a bin, or compartment, without having to wrap it first.

And we’re all the better for it.

Making lunches the night before is a breeze.

And it cuts down on a zillion plastic sandwich and snack bags.

Anywho, I was literally making lunch when I was inspired to post.

Now you’re up on Goodbyns and nighttime lunch-making.

You can thank me later.

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The Lorax App. A Kiddie Brostache!


I’m at the movies with my four kids watching The Secret World of Arrietty, about little people who live under the floor and the boy who befriends them.

But I’m at the movies with a ‘little person’ myself, my two year old, Fuji, whose attention span was spent as soon as the last of the curly fries disappeared down his gullet.

So I’m wandering the halls on the AMC as Fuji flits from one video game to the next, pulling and pushing, banging and kicking and generally causing controlled mayhem outside of the theater.

And as I pass this Lorax display, I wonder “did they have the foresight to make an app for this movie?”

The Lorax is a movie based on a Dr. Seuss book about a little boy trying to save the world, with the assistance of a small grumpy little creature.

IMO, the world of Dr. Seuss was made for apps. I imagine a world of talking rhyming books, interactive games, entire virtual worlds built off of the colorful characters of Dr. Seuss.

So (since I’m bored) and playing man-servant, hallway chaperone to my toddler, I pull out my handy iPhone, which I had switched to vibrate in the theater, and typed “The Lorax” into the App Store search window.

And wouldn’t you know there are like four different apps for The Lorax (and eight total Dr. Seuss themed apps)!


So I downloaded the free promotional app from the movie and tried to keep Fuji from climbing the Lorax reclining on the display.

The app has a Lorax ‘Brostache’ that moves in response to your voice. There’s also a feature that lets you place the Lorax mustache on your photo.


He was genuinely amused by the app, for like five seconds, and then it was back to banging and kicking, pushing, pulling and punching (Mr. Lorax didn’t put up much of a fight).


Even though the app was very light on pure entertainment value, it’s still a great tie in to the movie, and a great way to leverage an app from a promotional perspective.

Although I haven’t seen the app advertised alongside the movie yet, it’s niceI’m pleased to see that they created one nonetheless.

It was a nice (albeit brief) distraction for my little hellion, and it gave me something to talk about in this quick post (which I created solely on my iPhone-nicely done WordPress!).


Filed under apps, branding, iPhone, mobile, Parenting

Not In My Backyard! (or Playground)


No weed in the playground. In the bong, well that's a different story.


Yesterday I got a call from wifey, while she was at the playground in the park with the kids.

Nishuane Park, which is just down the block, is a wonderful little neighborhood amenity.

There are two baseball diamonds, six tennis courts, two basketball courts, a pool, walking path, picnic area and kiddie playground, complete with infant swings, swings for bigger kids, two jungle gyms and monkey bars.

A sign at the entrance announces that the playground is for children under 11, and that all children must be accompanied by an adult.

So you can imagine my surprise when my wife told me that she was looking a several dime bags WITH WEED IN THEM underneath the swings in the playground.


WTF! Discarded dime bags at Nishuane Park?


The ‘head’ in me wondered ‘is it the stickiest of the icky,’ but the parent in me was like ‘goddamn punks!’

I don’t delude myself to think that I live in some sort of insular Eden-like enclave.

I’m regularly picking up trash and debris that guest to the playground have simply tossed to the ground (despite the fact that there are two trash bins in the playground).

I’ve even had to discard a condom or two. Who bones in a kiddie playground anyway?

But weed bags?

When we discussed the options, there were only three viable ones:

1. Call the cops. Clearly the presence of weed out in the playground meant that the perpetrator(s) felt comfortable enough to possess (and likely) smoke weed publicly without fear of discovery, and without regard to the fact that children may come across their paraphernalia. Calling the cops would at least put the Montclair PD on notice that there was a potential problem with drug use/trafficking in the area.

2.  Do nothing. There were at least five or six other mothers in the park with the wife. One of them had recently played with her child on the very swing underneath which the weed was discovered. It was unlikely that she did not notice the bags and shake sprinkled on the rubber mat. But, since no one else seemed bothered by its presence, why should we? BECAUSE THIS IS NOT FORT APACHE THE BRONX YOU APATHETIC TWITS!

3.  Pick it up and toss it. Treat the weed like any other piece of trash that litters the playground, and discard it. While this was admittedly my first instinct, I was concerned that by not calling attention to the problem, it would embolden the hooligans. And who knows what we’d find next – crack vials? hypodermic needles? I exaggerate, but who knows? Marijuana is a gateway drug!

So we ended up calling the cops, who came out and were thoroughly underwhelmed by the fact that a crime was committed on the playground.

His attitude was so very ‘it’s no big deal lady.’

It was clear from the manner in which he responded, that it was a non-emergent call. He didn’t seem surprised, and I was left (from my wife’s recollection of the event) with the distinct impression that this incident would be stashed away in the file cabinet of some dark, dimly lit store room of the Montclair Police Department, never to see the light of day (or an investigation).

If the same incident had occurred at Anderson, Brookdale or Edgemont Parks, I’m sure the would response have been markedly different.

Forensic teams would have been called to the scene to try to lift fingerprints from the bags.

K-9 units and drug sniffing dogs would be dispatched to determine whether the drugs could be traced.

Caution tape would be erected and the area cordoned off to prevent the contamination of evidence.

Witnesses would be questioned about who saw what and when.

At this point, you can file this under ‘rant’ because I’m generally expressing my annoyance with the fact that I pay a college tuition in taxes, and (at times) don’t really feel like I’m getting my money’s worth in Montclair.

This incident is just another example of the disparities that exist in this town, that many fail to acknowledge, but exists nonetheless.

I’m also writing to let my neighbors know about the BS taking place right under our noses, and asking everyone to be more vigilant.

I didn’t grow up with garbage and condom wrappers and weed bags in my parks and playgrounds, and I’m sure as hell not going to let my kids grow up with that b*llsh*t either!


We're watching you shadowy dude!


Do we step up the Neighborhood Watch? Petition for additional roving patrols? Erect video cameras?

I’m definitely going to tell the ‘Mayor of Montclair’ (Alma Schneider) about this! I’m sure she’ll have some answers!

Hopefully will pick this up, and my fellow Montclairions will have some advice for me on how to handle this problem.

If you’ve got some straight BS going on in your neighborhood, and you just want to vent, please feel free to comment on this post.

Note: As NJ is on the verge of passing a medicinal marijuana law, I wish to clarify that I am not generally opposed to the medicinal (or recreational) use of marijuana by adults. But if you’re going to smoke, do so in the privacy of your home, NOT IN MY BACKYARD!


Filed under Parenting, rant

Super Daddy and The Chukumba Rules

When I’m off the clock, I assume the identity of my alter-ego, Super Daddy.

This is the African version of Super Daddy.

Unlike Work, Tech or Computer Daddy, Super Daddy is 100% about the kids, so mine got a healthy dose over the weekend.

When I grabbed my phone today, one of the first things I saw were ‘The Chukumba Rules,’ a code of conduct the children and I came up with, while we were playing at the park.

They include things like behaving in public and being respectful and considerate to others.

The kids’ list (in no particular order):

1.  No hitting.

2.  When an elder is speaking, ask permission before you interrupt.

3.  Always keep up with your younger brother or sister.

4.  Respect your elders.

5.  Always do the right thing.

6.  Always tell the truth.

I didn’t say it was comprehensive. I said it was a list.

Mind you, this list is aspirational, as my kids have occasional lapses resulting in bouts of hitting each other, interrupting when adults are speaking, losing track of their siblings, being disrespectful to adults, doing the wrong thing and fibbing.

That evening, I shared the list and details of our playground excursion with the wife, and we talked about the importance of establishing a code of conduct in children early, and reinforcing it consistently.

We cringe whenever we’re in public and see other children behaving badly, and the parent simply smiles and allows their child to run amok – unchecked.

We make it a point to keep our interactions with the bratty kids of parents we know to an absolute minimum, lest our children see the undisciplined wilding of other youth as a model of behavior to bring home. HELL TO THE NAW!

Parents, establish a consistent set of rules for your children to follow, lest one day you wake to fiendish hellions embarrassing you at every turn.

Children, pay attention to the rules your parents put in place for you, lest you have children and they repay you in kind.


Filed under Parenting

Man up. Literally.

Be a father to your child!

I’ve just got to get this off my chest.

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who dropped a bomb on me about her (now ex-) man and the fact that he allegedly has up to 9 children that he doesn’t take care of (with up to seven different women) or interact with at all.

The madness of her situation made me think about how many other women may be in a similar situation, and the impact this has on the kids.

I watch Maury (I’m ashamed to say, but it’s social commentary), and I’m amazed at all these dudes with 3, 4, 5 (or greater) children, with 2, 3, 4 (or greater) women.

Despite their claims to ‘be in all their kids lives’ I question the veracity of such statements, and the impact these absentee fathers have on their children.

What must it be like to only see your father once in a blue moon (if at all)?

How do you feel when every other kid comes to soccer practice with their dad, and you’ve always only got your mom?

Where do you turn when you hit puberty and have questions about wet dreams or erections?

How do you learn to be a man (or deal appropriately with men), if you have no man to model that behavior for you?

As a father of four, I see how important my interaction with my children is to their development.

I’ve got lots of friends with children, both married and single, and I’ve had the benefit of seeing the great variation in personality, growth and development, which results from parental involvement (and/or the lack thereof).

At the end of the day, children need their parents.

Both parents.

And by ‘both parents’ I mean a positive male and positive female influence in their lives.

But right now, I’m speaking to the men, because women have traditionally been on the front lines rearing children (and should be commended for such hard work).

Men are vital to the development of a child’s self esteem and sense of self.

They are critical to model appropriate behavior with respect to interpersonal relationships with women.

Even if the role is not provided by their biological units, there has to be a man standing ‘in loco parentis.’

It could be a step-father, granddad, legal guardian, uncle, older male cousin, but someone has to be there to provide that balance.

If you’re going to be ‘man’ enough to lay down and make them, man up and raise them when they get here!

‘Nuff said!


Filed under Parenting

My kids have aspirations.

Is this the next Black President of the United States?

Driving to school today, my daughter started telling me about all the things she wanted to be when she grew up.

Daddy, I want to be a vet, a doctor, a singer, an artist, an entomologist…

What the hell is an entomologist? Geesh, I’m not even as smart as a 2nd grader!

My son chimed in with his aspirations.

Daddy, I want to be a motorcycle racer (damn you Kabil!), a soccer player, an astronaut…

You ARE somewhat of a space cadet.

Not wishing to be left out of the discussion, the baby added her two cents.

Daddy, I’m going to be a dancer, a doctor and astronaut, a singer, an artist…

That’s what the crayon on the walls is all about!

No! I said I was going to be an artist…

I’m going to be the astronaut!

I was compelled to intervene.

Who wants to be President?

Hands shoot up in the air. Me! Me! I do!

Thank you Mr. Obama!

Who wants to be a tennis player?

More wildly wiggling arms. Me! I love tennis! Me too!

Williams sisters look out!

What about a scientist?

Arms strain towards the roof of the SUV. Me! Ooo I do! Me too!

Do we have a Edward Alexander Bouchet in our midsts?

Who wants to be a lawyer?

Rear view mirror totally unobstructed. Crickets.

I shed a silent tear.

C’mon guys, who wants to go to law school like mommy and daddy?

Crickets AND tumbleweeds.

So much for Chukumba Chukumba & Chukumba.

Anyone want to be a cyborg robotronic computerhead like your daddy?

Palms shoot up. Me! Me! Me too!

So I’ve learned that my children have aspirations, although the practice of law isn’t in the cards.

They want to be motorcycle driving, rocket piloting, goal scoring, Wimbeldon winning, pet curing, people saving, song singing, audience pleasing, canvas painting, country leading, robotronic bug watchers.

I AM as smart as a 2nd grader, after all!


Filed under Parenting, Smack talking

Attack! Attack! Attack! Lessons of a Futsal Coach.

I coach my son’s 1st grade Futsal team with the Montclair United Soccer league.

An artistic rendering of the author playing Futsal.

Futsal is a five-on-five game, played indoors with a size 3 soccer ball on a basketball court. The ball is a little heavier than a standard soccer ball, so it bounces less and moves quicker.

The goal of Futsal is to improve a young player’s skill set, and reinforces dribbling, passing, accuracy and overall footwork.

I’m the coach of Team G (or Big Green as I like to call them), with Coach Anthony, a parent of one of the players. Our team has eleven players, six boys and five girls, and they come ready to play each week.

We lost our first game, 5-2, and I chalked it up to first-game jitters. The girls stood in place. Several of the boys used their hands. My son was slide-tackling every other player on the opposite team. We were, in a word, horrible.

Don’t get me wrong, the kids had a ball. Everyone got a chance to play, we scored a few goals, but from a coach’s perspective, our game play left much to be desired.

Last Saturday, in our second game against Team E, I wasn’t trying to swallow the bitter pill of defeat – again.

So I came up with a simple strategy to focus my players on the task at hand.

My strategy? Attack.

If the ball comes near you – ATTACK!

If a player on the other team has the ball – ATTACK!

You see a loose ball near the goal – ATTACK!

Don’t stand around and watch the player on the other team kick the ball – ATTACK!

All game long, I was running up and down the sidelines yelling “ATTACK THE BALL!”

The parents (and kids) laughed hysterically at this wild-eyed dread in the Polo tracksuit yelling like a nut at their children and siblings.

But you know what? It worked.

We won that game, 7 to 4.

The girls, who just stood around in Game 1, stood around less. (Hey, it takes time for my coaching to kick in).

The boys, were all over the ball. Sometimes they got a shin (guard), but most of the time, they struck leather.

Loose balls shuddered whenever Team G was around.

We’ve got a game tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. You know what I’m going to tell my players? ATTACK!

If they learn nothing from playing Futsal this season, they’ll learn that their coach is a total loon AND the importance of ‘ATTACK!’


Filed under Parenting, Smack talking