Friday, June 28, 2013

Super Secret Cheats: Tea Tree Oil as an Insect Repellant

"Tell me, Lisa, are the leeches still screaming?"
One of the most humorous memories of my own summer camp experience was "crawdad fishin'" at McNair Park in St. Charles, Missouri with, among other campers, my sister Lisa who is four years my junior. There, we all were happily turning over stones in Blanchette Creek, which winds through much of the town, when my little sister released a blood curdling scream, "LEEEEECCCCCHHHHH!"

Lisa had discovered, to her considerable dismay, that there, on her thigh, was a freshwater leech. You'd have thought a water moccasin had attached to her eyeball. A counselor or someone removed the leech and, after breathing into a paper bag for several minutes, Lisa regained her a little bit of her composure. I think she was finished crawdaddin', though.

The fact is, school is out and summer camps are in. That means your little campers will make their own life long memories. While's they're hiking, fishing, canoeing, or even crawdaddin', help to insure their experience is as enjoyable as possible by keeping summer pests, like mosquitoes, chiggers, black flies, and even lice and ticks. None of these insects are a laughing matter, especially considering deer ticks spread Lyme disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control's "Lyme Disease Data," in 2011, "96% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 13 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Lyme disease is the most commonly vectorborne illness in the United States . . . (and) was the 6th most commonly Nationally Notifiable disease."

Tea Tree Oil
While I take a multi-pronged approach to personal pest repellents, the tool I have found to be among the most effective has been tea tree oil. The Empire State Lyme Disease Association suggests tea tree oil is an effective tick repellent, while according to WebMD's article, "Tea Tree Oil," evidence is allusive to the benefits of tea tree oil for lice.

True story. When one of the Beautiful Daughters was in first or second grade, her elementary school experienced a sort of lice epidemic. At the table where my daughter was one of four students, the other three children had lice. She didn't.

I use tea tree oil only sparingly by adding four of five drops to a full bottle of shampoo and gently shake the bottle. During the summer and early fall months, the whole family uses the spiked shampoo, which, I believe, has helped us avoid or, at least, minimize the unpleasant and unhealthy effects of insect pests.

A note of caution, using tea tree oil in conjunction with lavender oil could potentially result in negative, unintended consequences for boys. According to WebMD, "Applying products to the skin that contain tea tree oil along with lavender oil might not be safe for young boys who have not yet reached puberty. These products might have hormone effects that could disrupt the normal hormones in a boy’s body." Of course, before using any supplement, topical solution, or treatment, consult your own physician or pediatrician.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Plan Ahead for the Summer Movie Season!

Memorial Day was the unofficial start of summer. Pools are open. Propane tanks are filled and charcoal is purchased to barbecue steaks, burgers, dogs, and burger-dogs. (We'll talk about burger-dogs later.) And, of course, summer movie blockbusters are released.

A few of this summer's most anticipated movies include Oblivion with Tom Cruise, Iron Man 3, the new Star Trek 2: Into DarknessThe Hangover III, starring The Second Favorite Daughter's new favorite actor, Bradley Cooper and mine, Zach Galifianakis, and Will and Jaden Smith's After Earth. Like a lot of single dads, moms, and, well, just about everyone, it's likely that I and some permutation of my family and friends will see one or more of these movies.  Personally, The Hangover III and Star Trek 2 are high on my list, but I'll probably wait to see Oblivion on pay-per-view and pass on Iron Man 3 completely. (I've already seen and reviewed After Earth, "Movie Review: After Earth." It's a dog.)

Aside, who knew Robert Downey, Jr. would have lasted this long after having had both acted in and lived the real-life movie adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero?

While I'd already shared one way to avoid the big line at your local movie theater in a recent edition of the Single Dad Super Secret Cheats, the single dad can avoid all potential problems with getting movie tickets: BUY THEM ONLINE!

My favorite online ticket service is (Click link or the banner on the right to order your tickets.) Save yourself some time, money, and stress; order the movie tickets ahead of time. Then, stroll right to the concession stand for your popcorn and candy and find your seats!

Sorry, but I can't help much with the high cost of movie theater nachos. Well, maybe I can, but that will have to be the subject of another Single Dad Super Secret Cheats!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Boiling Your Bunny: TSFG's Top 5 Relationship Red Flags

After watching this Huffington Post video, Red Flag: Why I Ignored The Red Flags In My Relationship And Got Married Anyway, I started thinking about some of the relationship red flags that I've learned during my nearly nine years as a widower and a single dad.

Clearly, if you ever see the woman in this video, run, don't walk, the opposite direction. Why would someone say, "I do," when she really doesn't. How can any person promise to do something, anything, from walking your dog or watering your plants while you're out of town to committing to "love, cherish, and honor until death do you part" if that person has no intention of keeping the promise? What kind of nutjob would do that?

Anyway, here are The Single Father's Guide Top 5 Relationship Red Flags that I've noticed don't bode well for a healthy, happy, or long term relationship.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
1) "I hope you're not a jealous person, because I can't stand jealous people." You've heard the adage,
"When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you?" Well, in my experience, when a woman tells a guy that she doesn't like jealous men, she is at a minimum among the top decile on the Jealousy Scale. At the very least, she'll give you an earful if you look at, speak to, or come within a thousand yards of another woman. At worst, you'll come home from work or an outing with kids and, a la Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, find your pet bunny boiling on the stove.

2) "I hate my ex-husband." If she's divorced and she hates her former spouse, dude, what chance to you have? It's sort of like looking at her mother to see what she'll look like in twenty years; it's your own personal relationship time machine. You're glimpsing the future. I understand that two people, after spending significant time together, can grow apart. Sometimes, there's a good reason a relationship ended: alcoholism, abuse, etc. Some relationships just don't work out. That's life. Vitriol, however, is another thing entirely. If she loathes her ex, the guy she promised to love until death parted them, what do thing will happen to you? Bottom line, don't have any babies with her.

3) "I know we've only known each other for five minutes, but I love you. When can we get married?" While I believe in lust at first sight, true love at first sight is something else. In other words, I think that our first level of romantic attraction is physical. We can only love someone else after we truly know a person, and knowing who and what a person really is doesn't happen overnight. There are a lot of reasons, ranging from  perfectly understandable to completely selfish, that a person may want to accelerate the courtship process: a biological clock may be ready to strike twelve, a meal ticket is expiring, revenge against an ex-boyfriend who jilted her, etc. A romantic interest who doesn't hold in high regard the importance of taking the time truly know the other person, most likely, lacks the emotional maturity or the understanding of commitment to make one.

4) "I'm just obsessed with . . . " There certainly isn't anything wrong with having a hobby. Heck, I like to collect first edition fiction and antiques. It's the obsessive and compulsive behavior that tends to be a difficult quality to navigate in a relationship. A tell tale sign of an obsessive partner is serially intense interests which could include exercise, a philosophical doctrine, sex, education, cleanliness, etc. As the obsession with one interest ebbs, that with another flows. A partner who is completely obsessed with you can be flattering and exciting . . . for a while. After the obsession wanes, though, what's left?
Courtesy of Kathie Austin Photography

5) "I'm already married, but I love you." At the risk of being redundant, we're all grown-up's here, right? What two consenting adults to in their spare time is none of my business. Really. While you may not have anything to lose, though, your married partner may. If you, single dad, want to have an affair with a married woman and she is willing, by all means, do your thing. However, if you find yourself something more than physically connected to your tryst, I'm afraid you're probably headed for disaster in one form or another. If that relationship develops, what chance does it have? Your partner, rather than trying to work it out with her spouse, is having an affair with you! What do you think is likely to happen when she has a problem with you?

Look, it's pretty simple. Dating is all about getting to know the person to whom you are attracted. You may be in lust. I, at least, won't judge you for how you handle that. When it comes to long term relationships and commitment, there's more at stake for you and your children. The bottom line is this: know your partner, and I mean really know her, before you say or do something you'll regret.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Orange Magazine: Lessons in Life from a Single Dad

A few months ago, I got a call from Arundel Publishing marketing director Aimee Henkel. Aimee told me Orange Magazine, which a much less salacious and significantly more informative Hudson Valley version of People Magazine, wanted to do a story on my family and me in the context of my book and single father parenthood. Considering Arundel is the publisher of The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball and considering that I'm a team player, I said, "Yes, of course!"

A few weeks later, an extremely professional and thorough reporter, Deb Botti, visited us at our home in Warwick. Deb and I spoke for about an hour before the buses delivered children home from school. Because The First Beautiful Daughter had lacrosse practice, Deb spoke only with the Second Beautiful Daughter, The Favorite Son, and me.

More time passed before I got a call from Anthony Puopolo, a professional photographer whose clients include Mercedes-Benz and The New York Times in addition to Hudson Valley Media Group, which publishes Orange Magazine. Not surprisingly, Anthony was incredible in terms of working with his subjects, including a not-always-cooperative eight year old boy. He spent most of the day with me/us and took some great shots.

Shortly before the deadline for Orange Magazine's June/July edition, editor Brenda Gilhooly called. After reading Deb's story and seeing Anthony's pictures, Brenda thought our story the cover feature for the June/July 2013 edition considering Father's Day, and all. She explained that she wanted an image of the family that had a deeper colored background for lettering. Anthony wasn't available for the follow-up, so Brenda asked my friend, neighbor, and director of photography for the Times Herald-Record, John DeSanto, to snap the the cover photo, which he did one weekend afternoon at the local high school.

Of course, the story wouldn't have been complete without the inclusion of three of the recipes that I included in The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, so Kathie Austin Photography contributed three examples of great food photography. Thanks, Kathleen!

To read the Orange Magazine article, "Lessons in life from a single dad" in Orange Magazine, click HERE.

To order a copy of The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, click HERE.

To order a copy of The Favorite Son's first book, Sometimes, My Dad and I, click HERE.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Movie Review: 'After Earth'

So, a supposed blockbuster movie starring one of my favorite action film stars, Will Smith, and directed by one of my favorite directors, M. Night Shyamalan, can't miss, right? On top of that, the premise is one in which a father and son who live in a future science fiction world are on a space ship that crashes into Earth, a planet humans abandoned a thousand years ago because the fauna and flora have evolved to rid itself of our species. Awesome, right? A father and son camping trip, right? Can't miss, right? Right?

Wrong. Wrong. And, wrong.

After Earth is no Men in Black, no Pursuit of Happyness, no I Am Legend, nor even Hancock. Moreover, After Earth is no The Sixth Sense, no Signs, no The Village, nor even Lady in the Water. After Earth couldn't have missed more if it starred Hayden Christensen and was directed by the late Ed Wood (Plan 9 From Outer Space, Orgy of the Dead).

Well, that's not necessarily true. A Christensen-Wood production could potentially be better than After Earth if only Jaden Smith could somehow be kept off camera.

While Will Smith's on screen effort is quite a bit below average. In his defense, it's quite possible that Will's poor performance was an attempt to make his son's acting appear better by comparison. It's difficult to imagine, however, a worse actor than Jaden Smith who is completely outmatched by a dumbed-down script. His portrayal of Kitai Raige, a "ranger" candidate who desperately wants to follow in his hero-father's footsteps, is so bad that it's distracting. Sadly, the plot, which in most Will Smith action movies doesn't necessarily have to be anything special, isn't. No help from the special effects, which are nothing special, either. So, the audience is left with some odd, unlikeable characters who have a slightly strange accent that must represent the evolution of the English language a millenia hence. Apparently, grammar and elocution in the future have regressed, though, as Jaden doesn't seem to be familiar with the conjugation of the verb, "Be."

Obviously, After Earth was supposed to be Jaden's coming out party, thrown by his dad/co-star/writer/producer and his mom, Jada, who also is listed as among the list of producers. Sadly, the party appears to be more of a wake.

After suffering through After Earth, will I see the next Will Smith or M. Night Shyamalan movies? Very likely, yes. You can bet I'll check the cast list for Jaden, though. If he's listed as anything other than "Bystander #3," I'll probably check the listing for Hayden Christensen's new one, instead.