Is there shame in being a shit parent? Yes. And guilt. And regret. And self-loathing. But it’s not the end of the story.

Parenting isn’t easy is fucking hard. There’s no sleeping in if you stay up late, you occasionally get another person’s poop on your fingers, and half your ice cream always gets stolen by someone a third your size.

how to be a better parent
Snarfing ice cream.

But those are the easy struggles.

Sometimes you have a 4-year-old, virile monster who won’t settle down, refuses to relax during their bedtime stories, and keeps yelling for food and water when they literally just filled their bellies with both. And half my ice cream.

How I Know I’m Shit

It’s right about 45 minutes into that situation that I lose my shit.

As negative reinforcement for her already scrambled emotional-state (exhausted and playful at the same time) I take away a book each time she gets rowdy, then a stuffed animal, then they’re all gone, and she loses her back tickle.


Her emotional state deteriorates because I’ve just removed her bedtime routine entirely as a punishment for not following her bedtime routine. Great idea, Dad.

So she starts yelling and screaming in frustration, as toddlers sometimes do. So I threaten to put her things in the garbage. She doesn’t stop. Garbage bin: book. She screams.

Garbage book. Screams. Garbage book. Yells. Garbage stuffed pig. Screams. Garbage stuffed elephant. Wails. Garbage stuffed panda.

how to be a better parent
All the things I threw away.

It doesn’t stop until we’re both mentally and physically exhausted and pass out upset with each other.

Then comes the morning. The wake-up routine goes perfectly well, and I take her to school.

On the public bus ride back to my home it hits me like a baseball bat: I’m a shit dad. I handled the previous night like a rookie.

Where do I go from here? I asked myself a question, “how to be a better parent?”

I took myself on a three-step process to right where I had wronged.

If you’re how to be a better parent, do what I did.

Take These Three Steps to Know How to Be a Better Parent

be a better parent
Me, being a good parent.

Step 1: Recognize It and Admit It.

Say it with me: “I did something shitty. I can do better.”

This is probably the hardest part because you have to own it. But taking that ownership and letting go of the idea that you’re a great parent is freeing up yourself to committing to better. You’ll set your goals higher for yourself because you know you can improve.

Once your goals have been refocused, step two is a bit easier.

Step 2: Act Sorry.

When learning how to be a better parent, it takes effort. When I got Auburn home from school, I had her books and her stuffed animals laid out on her bed.

She’s very perceptive, “I thought you threw these out!”

“I did. And that was wrong,” I put my hands on her cheeks so she would look me in the eyes. “I overreacted yesterday, and I’m sorry about that.”

be a better parent
We usually get along 🙂

I’m not sure exactly what was going through her mind at that moment, but I hope it was understanding. Understanding that I’m not perfect, and that’s okay, even though my reaction wasn’t. Understanding that I’m trying my best and I can admit when I’m wrong. Understanding that I love her, even if I don’t always show it.

The important thing here is that I’m not just saying I’m sorry, I’m acting sorry. Her books and animals were cleaned and placed nicely on her bed. I made eye contact with her while I sincerely apologized.

It goes a long way, and if you’ve set your new goals to reach that standard of recognizing and reconciling your mistakes, you’re already on the path to becoming a better parent.

That brings us to step three.

Step 3: Do better.

I’m not going to be using my negative reinforcement tactic of throwing away books and toys anymore. It’s counter-productive and only escalates the situation. I want to honestly know how to be a better parent.

how to be a better parent
She’s generally a happy kid and makes it easy to be a parent.


That doesn’t necessarily mean that my next tactic is going to be a useful and effective one, but I’m going to try.

I’ve been reading about using fewer words and remaining nonchalant in times of stress; enacting those behaviors have been a different story, but I like to think I’m improving.

And that’s what step three is all about: doing better. It’s about making an effort by reading, exploring, and experimenting with what works for you.

All you have to do now is repeat steps 1-3 for the rest of your parenting life, and you should eventually be a substantial parental figure.

how to be a better parent
Is your kid this cool? Mine is, duh.

Parenting is a wild ride–are you in control?

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learn cantonese in hong kong

“Do you know, Daddy?” She blinks.

“No, sweetheart. I don’t know what that means.”

“Ugh!” She stomps her foot.

“Honey, I don’t speak Chinese.”

“Oh, right.”

This was a snippet of a conversation I had with my 4-year-old today.

Why? Because she was trying to tell me something in Chinese.

language immersion in hong kong
Auburn and her Chinese grandma at the park. She’s so loved!

I recently took a solo 12-day trip to Cambodia. It was my first time spending time away from my daughter in over three years. During these 12 days, she stayed at her Chinese Grandma’s home.

Before I left for Cambodia, Auburn’s Chinese language skills were relatively basic. Her speaking was minimal, though her listening skills seemed well-developed (she’s been learning for roughly six months). I really want her to learn Cantonese in Hong Kong, but overall it’s been difficult.

However, since I’ve returned to Hong Kong to reunite with my daughter, she’s been speaking and communicating in Chinese in full sentences, constantly.

And I’m not at all surprised.

learn cantonese in hong kong
Here’s her surprised face. 😛

How I Predicted My Daughter’s Rapid Advancement in the Chinese Language and What That Tells Us About Language Learning

Before I left for Cambodia, her  Chinese skills reminded me of myself a few years ago before I traveled solo to Mexico.

I was speaking a little bit of Spanish at the time, I could understand much more than I could speak. I didn’t at all feel fluent or confident in my skills. I could ask for directions to the bathroom, but I couldn’t always understand them.

However, I spent two weeks in Mexico. The majority of my time was in Morelia, but I saw some other, beautiful places as well, such as San Miguel de Allende.

I knew I was immersing myself in the Spanish language–that was my goal. What I didn’t realize while I was there: I was rapidly developing my ability to speak Spanish.

language learning in hong kong
I lost my phone in Latin America and all the pictures I had, so here’s Hong Kong Harbor

How? I was hearing it in the grocery store. Listening to it on the bus. But most importantly, I was speaking it every day because I had to. I was finally working a muscle that hadn’t been effectively exercised. And it quickly strengthened.

Before my two weeks in Mexico, I understood enough of what people said, so the words were already in my head. Much like my daughter’s comprehension of Chinese before I left for Cambodia.

How to Learn Cantonese in Hong Kong

In her 12 days of staying with her Chinese family, I knew she was going to do what I did with Spanish. She finally made the jump from understanding and knowing, to speaking.

learn cantonese in hong kong
Auburn and her older cousin. Great to see them getting so close while Auburn learns her language!

Only she did in

I did it in my late 20’s. My daughter did it before she was 5. Anyone can do it.

Anyone Can Rapidly Speak a New Language

But only if they’re willing to put in the work of learning the words and recognizing the sounds. This I think is the most tedious part of learning a new language. It’s a rough adjustment phase, it takes time, and the process feels slow (and sometimes frustrating).

Once it’s passed, however, speaking skills rapidly improve.

And it’s totally worth it. For Auburn, it was imperative that she learn Cantonese in Hong Kong. it means the chance to communicate with family, and it makes my eyes get a bunch of dust in them. Stupid dust.


Learning a new language is possible for anyone–now it’s your turn to commit. Please subscribe below to my email list if you liked this article and want me to continue writing! Your subscription is my favorite form of encouragement!

 

Doi Suthep, Thailand

Soaking in hot springs to weaving in between rush-hour traffic on 125cc scooters to showering in beautiful waterfalls, Chiang Mai was the Perfect place to vacation. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my daughter and I travel a lot together. This time, however, we were joined by a third-generation of Demski: my father. Here’s a breakdown of our two weeks in Thailand,
week number one.

san kamphaeng hot springs entrance
My daughter, myself, and my father in Thailand

This will be the first of two posts remembering our two weeks in Thailand.

The best hotel with easy access to BKK (the international Bangkok airport: Suvarnabhumi).
We landed in Bangkok (a city with heaps to do but we passed over for now) and stayed at the best hotel for quick visits next to BKK: The Great Residence. For $5, the hotel provided us with a shuttle that took just 5-10 minutes to reach the hotel. I’ve stayed at this hotel several times so I knew what to expect: a warm pool beside a lazy river with panfish nipping at the surface, a delicious and healthy continental breakfast, clean, colorful rooms with comfortable beds, but best of all was the easy access to the Bangkok airport (BKK).

Bangkok, Thailand
My daughter and myself dressed in our finest. Check out The Great Residence hotel in the booking.com link provided below!

I highly recommend this hotel to anyone needing a quick transfer to or from BKK. The next morning, we were flying out to Chiang Mai so there was no reason to enter the heart of the city just yet.

Arrival in Chiang Mai

If you’re looking for a quiet place to stay with free coffee and a pleasant garden to drink it in, take a look at Naruncha Greenhouse just outside of the Old City in Chiang Mai. It’s not luxury by any means: for us 3 it costs less than $15 per night so what would you expect. But, it’s relaxing, comfortable, and the people who worked there are incredibly helpful.

The Grand Canyon Waterpark

chiang mai, thailand

After renting a few motorcycles and in been pointed in the general direction, we headed out to the Grand Canyon Waterpark in Chiang Mai. After briefly getting lost and having to stop to ask for directions–a complicated 30 minutes of poorly drawn maps, wild hand gestures, and imperfect translations–we eventually found our way there. In all of the two weeks in Thailand we spent, this was funniest and equally frustrating interaction I had with locals.

grand canyon water park
A shot of the waterpark from the lockers.

Approaching the waterpark, we came along the road that looks down into an ancient quarry filled with over 100 feet of water, with a floating waterpark bumping hip-hop. For $30, we received lockers and entry passes for all three of us before a quick golf cart ride brought us to the park. People are jumping off cliffs, zipping down slides, and bouncing off obstacles as their friends laughed at their belly flops.

grand canyon water park
My dad, Auburn, and my sunburn all together. You can see the sign for the Grand Canyon Water Park in the background

So there’s a kids pool for the little ones, Auburn wanted to enjoy the adult part with her dad and grandfather. Climbed on the inflatable’s, bounced on floating crocodiles, and fell in more times than I can count. Don’t worry, she was wearing a life vest.


Booking.com

The San Kampaeng Hot Springs

san kampaeng hot springs, thailand
San Kampeng Hot Springs, the primary spout and pool

The water park was exhausting so on our next day trip, we needed somewhere to relax. If you spend two weeks in Thailand, hot springs are a must. I’m a huge fan of hot springs; the warm water, the minerals rushing into your skin, and the atmosphere surrounding them are a few of my great loves. The San Kamphaeng Hot Springs was no exception. The primary sprout and its pool are nothing to soak in, that is unless you’re an egg. For about $1 we bought two woven, bamboo baskets of eggs, attached them to hooks in the hot springs, waited about eight minutes and had ourselves a delicious boiled lunch.

san kamphaeng hot springs
The hot spring for egg boiling. You can see the hooks and baskets along the edge. Notice the white trees in the background. They’ve been bleached by the constantly sprouting spring nearby.

After indulging our taste buds, we decided it was time for a soak.
For a few more dollars, we entered the hot spring’s swimming pool. A peaceful pool, there’s a small waterfall pouring into this 40°C mineral-filled pool. Auburn climbed onto my back as I descended the steps into the relaxing waters and we swam around and played on the waterfall and she giggled and splashed me. She’s a brave little girl, then when she decided to walk around the pool’s edge by herself I wasn’t surprised or worried. That is until she fell in.

san kampaeng swimming pool
The hot swimming pool that Auburn fell into and survived; the ‘waterfall’; my 3-hour-old sunburn

Initially, her whole body disappeared beneath the milky waters before her head popped back up, she grabbed a quick breath before her buoyancy gave out again. Her nose and mouth sank below the water line. Thankfully, she’s had swimming lessons so she’s quite strong in the water, but not strong enough on her own.

She bobbed up and down, her face half submerged. Her eyes had a frightening look of terror as she kicked and paddled at the water trying to get another breath. In total, she was probably scrambling like this for less than eight seconds. But as a parent, those eight seconds terrified me. Luckily, her grandpa wasn’t far from her and made it to her quickly.

Pulling her up from the water she let out a cry which assured me that she hadn’t swallowed any water. She was scared. As grandpa handed her to me I commended her for her strength and bravery as she explored on her own.

A few hugs, a few kisses, and a few reassurances later, she was giggling about how she had bobbed up and down like the eggs we had boiled in the primary hot spring. It’s probably her favorite memory of two weeks in Thailand. 😛
She relaxed, explored some more, and enjoyed the waterfall before we headed back to Chiang Mai. It’s an hour-long trip on a motorcycle for the hot springs to Chiang Mai, and apparently, we caught rush hour. I’ve been riding motorcycles and dirt bikes since I was about 10 years old, but never through traffic like that. It’s incredible to see how Thai people move their cars and bikes like fish in a school during such a congested traffic.

Without blasting their horns or flipping each other off, Thai people gently look out for one another, cut each other off, and steadily make progress down the highway. Perhaps, all of them had just come from Hot Springs, relaxed, or perhaps, the mindset of Thai people is much more communal and forgiving than that of stressed-out Americans. This two weeks in Thailand really showed me how calm Thai people are.

Our Trip to Doi Suthep, or as close as we got, anyway.

Doi Suthep, Thailand
My dad, Auburn, and I just outside of Chiang Mai in Doi Suthep National Park

Doi Suthep is a Wat that sits on top of the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. It’s surrounded by a national park filled with waterfalls and places to hike and explore. This is the very reason we never made it to Doi Suthep. There’s just too many awesome things to see before you’ll ever encounter Doi Suthep.

doi suthep thailand
Auburn and I checking out a waterfall

With views overlooking the city and incredible waterfalls to climb, we never made it all the way up the mountain. Our longest derailment came in the form of one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I can’t remember its name. However, if you want to find it simply head up towards Doi Suthep and find the waterfall that costs 100 Baht to enter. Hike up to the second level of the waterfall and you’ll enter a holler where a chilly waterfall offers a cool shower on a hot day. Bamboo, fruit trees, and a thicket of green ensconce the entire area and give you an incredible place to relax, meditate, or if you like take further into the mountains, but for what I couldn’t tell you; it was time for us to go home, it wasn’t the end of two weeks in Thailand, but it was the end of a beautiful day.

Doi Suthep, Thailand
Auburn and I enjoying a nice cool shower

If you have any questions about Chiang Mai or any of these activities I’ve mentioned, please feel free to contact me today.

cost of living in thailand

So you want to live on an island in Thailand? You’ve seen the pictures of coconut trees backdropped by a beautiful blue sky with people snorkeling in the turquoise waters, right? If you haven’t seen it, check it out here, courtesy of Matador Network.

koh tao cost of living
Koh Nangyuan, just 15-30 minute boat ride from Koh Tao

If you’ve gotten this far and you think, I can’t live abroad, you’re wrong. I’m a single parent and I live abroad with my daughter partly by running this single parent blog.

Thailand islands are as gorgeous as every backpacker blabs they are. Honestly, I didn’t want to write about the cost of living in Thailand, especially on the islands, because I like to keep my secrets to myself. So, foregoing my general feelings of disdain towards spoiling the places I love, here is the cost of living on Koh Tao for me and my daughter over our course of six months there. So you’re wondering about the cost of living in Thailand? Here it is, specifically for Koh Tao.

If you’re looking for a place to stay on Koh Tao, click here for a few ideas! It’s an affiliate link that costs you nothing but helps support this site. Cheers, my friend!

Essentials Included in the Cost of Living in Thailand, per month

Buying a Motorbike: $300

You need to be mobile. I bought a motorbike for $300 and when I sold it before I left Thailand, I sold it for around $290.

On the islands, there seem to be mafia-style price controls that make it far more expensive to use a taxi each day than to simply invest in your own motorbike.

A few caveats: you’ll likely be driving illegally, random checkpoints will pop-up where police may stop you and fine you for XYZ (though this never happened to me once in 6 months, not even riding in Chiang Mai on vacation last month), and if you don’t already know how to drive a motorcycle then don’t try to learn in Thailand; you’re going to hurt yourself and possibly someone else.

Renting a Motorbike: $75

You can also rent a motorbike; it will cost you around $75/month or more depending on the bike you rent.

Gasoline: $15

Gasoline wasn’t a huge expense because Koh Tao is quite small. You can drive from the north to the south in about 30 minutes pretty easily.

Food (local Thai food, western food, groceries): $300

Island food is a bit more expensive than the food you’ll find on the mainland, of course (you’re paying for the shipping costs, essentially), but it’s still incredibly cheap. Overall, food is likely to be one of your largest factors when calculating your cost of living in Thailand.

For breakfast I recommend stopping at a smoothie stand, they cost between $1-$1.33. Add on a barbecued pork skewer or fried chicken leg and at most, you’re looking at a $2 breakfast.

A pad thai will be as little as $2. A margherita pizza can be $3. A burger and fries will be about $5. You can go up from there, it just depends on your taste and spending habits.

Ice creams are as cheap as $0.45 in 7-11, or $0.66 from the guy who drives a scooter around selling coconut ice cream.

I’m giving you my budget based on usually eating pad thai or something similar, pizza once a week at least, and occasionally some monster BBQ skewers at a beachfront restaurant for $6 at sunset. Add in that I also have to feed a child and our food budget was about $300 each month.

You could easily eat three meals a day at $2 a piece and keep your food budget under $200.

Rent: $150-$600

Rent depends on what you want to rent. Do you want a tiny, ant-filled bungalow like I did? Or do you want to stay in a resort?

I’m not telling you where I found a place to stay for $150 per month on Koh Tao. That’s privileged information and it’s difficult to find. If you scour my blog and do the footwork on Koh Tao, you’ll be able to find it. However, you can easily find a bungalow for $200 per month almost anywhere on the island.

The best resorts on Koh Tao serve up a price tag of around $600 per month. They are gorgeous. You can get a private villa with a pool overlooking the sea where you can watch the sunset in privacy surrounded by palm trees for that price.

Utilities (electric, wifi, water): Free-$??

Many places don’t charge you at all for utilities. Other places do. If you find a place that charges you, you’re never going to pay more than $50 per month for electric, wifi, and water. If you do, you’re either getting ripped off, or you’re blasting your airconditioner non-stop.

Fresh Water: Less than $5

You can purchase heaps of one-liter bottles if you want but you shouldn’t. It’s bad for the environment, it’s a waste of resources, and a waste of money.

Instead, buy the giant, cooler-sized bottles from Green Fresh or the ice place in Sairee (not far from the main crossroad). The initial purchase of the bottle is $5, but you can refill it for about $0.66 each time. You’ll probably only have to refill it once or twice each month.

Pro tip: Place the bottle sideways where your feet go on your scooter. You’ll lose some water on the way home, but not much. Drive slowly and safely, no one is racing on the island. If your legs get tired, stop to take a break instead of risking your safety.

Laundry: $10

Charged by the kilo, you can get your laundry washed, dried, folded, and ready the next day (or same day for a slightly higher cost) for about $1.33-$2 per kilogram. I don’t travel with many clothes so I was spending between $2-$4 per week on laundry.

School: $300

My daughter attended school on Koh Tao when she was 3 and 4-year-old. There are a few kindergartens on the island. They are both around Sairee. Both have their ups and downs. One requires you to sign a contract that sticks you if you need to leave early, the other doesn’t. One has a brand new playground, the other is quite small in comparison. All the staff of each are lovely. If you are looking for specific recommendations or have any questions about the schooling on Koh Tao, ask away!

There is also a local school which I’ve heard charges around $70 per month. You’ll need someone who speaks Thai to help you enroll in that school, I’ve heard.

Lifestyle Choices: $200

Everyone needs entertainment in their lives. The question is: what kind of entertainment do you enjoy? Koh Tao has a mini-golf course, rock climbing establishments, windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, loads of bars and beer on the island.

Your cost of entertainment simply depends on what you like to do.

If you’re looking to smoke marijuana on Koh Tao, you can, but be careful, it’s illegal and fines can be steep. Jail time, I’ve heard, is worse. There are some bars that let you smoke openly and will sell prerolls, but do so at your own risk. Smoking pot in Thailand is safest on the islands, but be as discreet as possible; Thai police don’t take kindly to people smoking weed.

Other drugs: be forewarned, if you think Thai police will be harsh on you smoking marijuana in Thailand, try getting caught with anything harder. I’ve heard some horror stories.

Visas: $100/3 months/per person

This is actually more confusing and costly than it sounds. The initial tourist visa is going to cost $40. Towards the end of your first two months, it will cost you another $60 to extend it for the third month. You also have to go to Koh Samui to do this, so add in the cost of your boat ticket, taxi to the immigration department, and the time lost spending a day doing this. Unfortunately, visas and visa runs can add significantly to your cost of living in Thailand.

Health Insurance: up to you, $100 for me

When considering the cost of living in Thailand, you should likely invest in travel insurance. You can receive travel insurance through your credit card, airline, or through the service I prefer: World Nomads. I pay about $100 per month for both my daughter and me, and that covers anything I’m worried about.

 

Total Cost of Living in Thailand for My Daughter and Me: ≈ $1200 per month

This price tag doesn’t include flights in and out of the country and is a rough estimate based on the information provided. Either way, for living on such a beautiful island, with healthy food, and a great place to raise kids, it’s well worth it.

There, I’ve given you the keys to my favorite place in Thailand to raise children and live–so when are you moving there?
Cost of Living

Top 5 Educational Toys for 2017

If you’re like me, you’re never entering a toy store with your child. Why would you torture yourself like that? It’s the third level of hell. Most of the toys you’ll see are pura caca: they’re cheaply made, un-educational, and going to die a slow death crushed to pieces under the weight of all the other crap smashing it in your toddler’s overflowing toy box. Worse, your child is going to pull boxes off the shelves, shout about wanting every toy, and you might accidentally impulse buy a drone because, let’s face it, those look pretty sweet with the VR Helmets and attachable NERF rockets.

Thankfully the web helps us avoid those problems, but, being a parent is difficult enough without having to sift through the internet looking for the top educational toys for your child. Luckily for you, I have some free time today so I’ve compiled my favorite list of toys that I’m considering buying my toddler for the holiday season this year.

Top Educational Toys for Children for the 2017 Holiday Season

SmartMax Start XL 

If you’re looking for a toy that will encourage your child’s spatial and logical awareness while building and replicating awesome structures with a long-lasting toy, then the SmartMax Start XL is the best choice for you! The pieces are large enough that it’s safe for children as young as 1-year-old, but they’re colorful and engaging enough for an older toddler. Your little architect can learn about the power of magnetism while practicing their engineering skills. Seriously considering this as the next toy for my little Auburn! Click the image to check it out!

Amazon Fire 7 for Kids

Honestly, I’m tired of my daughter taking over my Kindle to play her games, I wanna play my games! So it’s about time I get her the All-New Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet with Kid-Proof Case so we can play together! For less than $100, this is perfect choice for my top educational toys! It comes with a two-year guarantee that if your child breaks, they’ll replace it, which is the best peace of mind you can offer us parents, in my opinion! It includes a free year of FreeTime, which gives them access to educational videos, games, books, PBS and Disney, for starters. And if you’re looking to buy more than one? There’s currently a variety-pack promotion that you can buy two of these tablets for just $149.98!
You know the drill, click the image or the links to check it out!

Mini Kick Scooter with Light Up Wheels

Okay, I’ve been geeking out over these Mini Kick Scooter 3 Wheels! So jealous I’m not a little kid and would probably crack the axels of one of these because I’m a chubby, old man super handsome, stacked, 30-year-old. I see other kids whipping around on these, wheels flashing multicolors, leaning to steer and slaloming between pedestrians, uggggh, I wanna do that! The next best option is buying one for my daughter so her childhood can be happy and I can imagine mine was, too. Without one of these scooters, however, I can’t lie to myself, childhood sucked. But how is this educational you ask? Duh! It teaches kids how to be awesome-looking. Also, balance and depth-perception are important parts of physical intelligence. 

This model is less expensive than some its better-known competitors but doesn’t sacrifice on quality. I honestly think the only difference in price (this is one better!) is the cost of marketing. Probably because they get free marketing from thoughtful parents like yours truly.

Check it out via the link or the picture, it comes in several different colors!

Tegu 42 Piece Magnetic Wooden Block Set

I’m having a very difficult time choosing between the SmartMax Start XL and this 42 Piece Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set! I honestly can’t recommend one over the other because they both look awesome, have a sturdy build, and will teach your child about magnetism, engineering, and spatial awareness. I would like your feedback in the comments to let me know what one you like better to help me decide!
Again, click the image to check it out!

Super Nintendo Classic Edition 

Yup! I’m going there, the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is making my list of top educational toys for 2018. Firstly, don’t give me your ‘video games aren’t educational!’ nonsense. You obviously haven’t ever played video games, researched their benefits, or been crushed by a rival in Mario Kart. Video games teach kids all sorts of things: eye-hand coordination, pattern recognition, increases memory skills, improves brain speed, and if you’d ever been crushed by an annoying rival in Mario Kart, then would know that it teaches you humility and improved social skills. 

Also, I grew up on a Super Nintendo so maybe this is just my nostalgia speaking, but Star Fox is the greatest game ever invented. You might disagree, but that’s because you’re an idiot. Click the link or the image to see what other games that come included you could incorrectly argue are better than Star Fox.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for the top educational toys to help your child build, improve their balance, or increase their eye-hand coordination, any of these can help your child grow into a more complete human.

I don’t take my choices for the top educational toys lightly. You’re welcome for doing your holiday shopping. 

Shopping for children is a serious business of making smart choices–choose wisely.

How Traveling as a Single Parent Kills Your Children

I felt it coming, but I didn’t know what it was. My stomach was cramping, my head was spinning, I could feel my blood pressure dropping, and my only thoughts were of my sleeping 3-year-old and how she would wake up to her daddy dead on the floor then she would die a week later of starvation.

Thankfully, I did not die. Or did I? And I’m writing this from the grave, you decide.

single parent travel
Me, happy to not die

Questioning the Idea of Single Parent Travel

Bad dad jokes aside, food poisoning is no laughing matter. In fact, it made me seriously reconsider my efforts in single parent travel. Why? Well, what if I did die? What would happen to my daughter? What would her memory and experience be? When you think you’re dying from food poisoning, these thoughts burst into your head and rip apart your moral foundation, convince you that you are a fool, and shred your sense of self-worth.



For me, the poisoning came full-force as I stumbled into the bathroom of our bungalow. Cautioning my readers here: it’s about to get graphic. Without aim, purpose, or an ability to control any bodily function, I painted the wall, floor, and wash bucket with vomit. I literally had no idea my body could hold that much inside of it. At this point, I was sure I was dying, and it happened, again and again, throughout the night. Seriously, how does my stomach hold that much fluid in it? I’m not sure, it was nasty you guys, for real.

single parent travel
The bungalow I nearly died in

Before this, I’d had food poisoning before, twice, in fact. But this was serious. What had it been? Auburn and I had eaten the same food, but she didn’t get sick thankfully. There’s only one food it could have been: street food in Thailand, specifically, grilled chicken and pork. I can’t remember who ate what, exactly, but Auburn and I definitely ate together and shared our food. Thankfully, I ate the bad part and suffered the consequences. She slept through the night.

Every time my body convulsed and ejected another round of fluids, I can remember thinking, ‘this is how I die, and Auburn will wake up to find her Daddy dead in a pile of his own puke, what a fucking mistake this was.’

Single parent travel
Somebody who loves Thailand: Auburn!

Surviving the Qualms

As with any negative horrible experience, you gotta push through, just like I did. I spent the whole night convulsing, the next day in shambles, and far too much time pondering the mistake I had made moving to Thailand alone with my daughter, but it was all worth it.

Yeah, cliché right? I don’t want to ever catch food poisoning again, but if it means that my daughter will get to see the world and grow up outside of any bubble that society can place her in, then that’s a life lived right and a parenthood I can be proud of.

single parent travel
A great reason to live in Thailand, the people! They’re super nice. This lady stopped her bike just to smile at Auburn 😀

I would recommend single parent travel, or duo-parent travel for that matter, to anyone who has children. You’re going to suffer along the way, yes, but you’re going to suffer no matter where you are, it’s just a point of choosing your suffering. I choose food poisoning over a 9-5, the loneliness of living outside of the USA over the comforts of it that make me fat and stupid, and I choose for my daughter to see the world over any desire I have to fit in with anyone else.

I have my best friend seeing the world with me, bring on the pain!


Traveling with children makes children as wise as it makes the parents strong; wisen-up the kids, strengthen yourself.

 

A Daughter Abroad: Language-Learning, Dancing, and Dissing on Dim Sum

We’ve been in Hong Kong for roughly six weeks now and Auburn has been going to a local Kindergarten for a month. What do I mean by ‘local’ kindergarten? It means it’s not an international school where everyone speaks and is spoken to in English, as is very common for Western children to attend while in Hong Kong. So what does this mean for my little Auburn?

She’s Learning Cantonese

Being half-Chinese, with grandparents who don’t speak English any better than I speak Cantonese makes it difficult for her to get to know them. Also, it makes it difficult for her grandparents to discipline and take care of her.

So? She’s going to be spending this year learning Cantonese!


After one month, I’ve already seen some improvement in her Cantonese abilities. She’s definitely understanding some things and able to translate a bit of it and she’s able to chorally repeat things she hears even though her understanding and ability to come up with Cantonese phrases on her own isn’t there yet. If she’s asked to repeat something in Cantonese, she can follow the tones well, use the correct words most of the time, and it makes people here giggle!

Learning To Dance

Auburn started dance class yesterday. She’s begun her ballet! So how did the first day go? It was a rough start, but it ended with a giant smile on her chubber- face! Btw, she asks me what I mean when I call her ‘chubbers,’ and I just tell her it means super-cute, but really it means her cheeks are squishy and kissable cuz they’re a bit chubby!

A daughter abroad
Look at the chubbers!

Luckily, she had a classmate/friend in dance class with her, but that didn’t get her too warm because all the other girls had on their ballet costumes when we got there. Auburn was not happy about this, she did not want to dance without her costume so she crossed her arms, left the room, and walked to the door saying that she didn’t want to dance.

Luckily, her grandma had purchased her dress, tights, and they just needed to size her shoes to get her a pair. Once she saw she would be able to get into a sparkly, purple dress, her mood quickly changed, as is common with my little monster girl.

A daughter abroad
Dancing outside…with a mustard stain!

After dance class, she spent the evening showing her grandma and me all her moves and making sure we were practicing them, too. She slept in her tights and insisted she wore them to school this morning. Fair to say she’s obsessed and I might regret this decision in the future! We’ll see how it plays out, though. Auburn already has what Hong Kongers call ‘gong zhu bang’ (pardon my horrible pinyin), or what roughly translates to English as, ‘Hong Kong Princess Disease,’ and I’m certain letting her into ballet will only reinforce her princessy-ness. 

So what is it like to raise a daughter abroad? It’s complicated 🙂

She Hates Dim Sum

If you’re not sure what dim sum is, it’s a traditional Chinese cuisine that is made of unrecognizable food if you’ve only eaten Western food, served on plates that everyone eats off of at the same time. I know my first time eating it in Hong Kong I thought it was slimy, bizarre, and a struggle to eat and understand the etiquette of. Now that I’ve had it probably 10 times, I know it’s delicious, healthy (mostly), and I have no problem sharing plates with people anymore.

A daughter abroad
Auburn as a youngster at a dim sum restaurant 🙂

Auburn, however, does not appreciate anything that comes with eating dim sum. Except, that is, for the Chinese donuts that come with a sugary, creamy sauce she can dunk them in.

A Daughter Abroad: I’ll Keep You Informed

Month-by-month I’ll be keeping you updated on Auburn’s experience and, most importantly, how she is coming along with her language-learning. I hope you stay in touch!

Do you think it’s important to teach children a new language? I do! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments 🙂

My fellow Americans, freeze your credit report now to protect yourself from fraud!

Why? Because there is roughly a 50% chance that Equifax has lost your confidential information to the black market. What information exactly? Your social security number, your birthdate, your addresses, your name… basically everything that can be used to open credit cards, purchase a house in your name, or collect your tax returns while claiming your children as their dependents!

freeze your credit report
A graphic-rendering of someone stealing your data

First, I’m going to give you my experience in freezing my credit report today while I show you how you can easily do it yourself, as well.

Then, I’ll answer a few simple questions you may have that are burning inside your mind.

Don’t forget to check your annual credit report for free here.

How to Freeze Your Credit Report

There are three credit companies you will need to contact in order to freeze your account: Experian, TransUnion, and, the data breach culprits themselves, Equifax.

I tried doing it online through their websites and was unsuccessful on each attempt. So I moved to a method that I found was much easier to freeze your credit report: through the phone!

Before I give you the numbers you’ll have to call, make sure you have the following:

  • your social security number
  • your address (also your previous addresses if you have lived in your current residence for less than two years)
  • your birthdate
  • a credit card
  • pen and paper to record your Pin and Confirmation numbers

If you have those things, you won’t be scrambling during the phone call to retrieve them.

Equifax: 1-800-349-9960

  • Time to complete: 5 minutes
  • Cost: $0 Why? Because they know they dropped the ball and they’re trying to save face.
  • Pin and Confirmation delivered over the phone

This was the easiest of the three to complete. A simple robot asks for your information, you provide it, boom! Your credit report is frozen and you can sleep well again!

TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872

  • Time to complete: 30 minutes
    • I had to be transferred to an operator and I waited on the line for most of this time, once I was connected, the process took just a few minutes.
  • Cost: $10 (I’m from Michigan, each state is different, but Michigan is in the most expensive bracket)
  • Pin and Confirmation number delivered via snail-mail

Again, easy to complete, as long as you don’t mind waiting on the phone for an operator.

Experian: 1-888-397-3742

  • Time to complete: 6 minutes
  • Cost: $10 (Again, the Michigan rate for this company, and again, the highest cost bracket)
  • Pin and Confirmation number delivered via snail-mail

Though the phone call only took 6 minutes. I had to make this call twice to get through. For whatever reason, the robot system just didn’t recognize or understand what I was trying to do the first time. The second effort was a breeze, however.

So now, a few answers to some simple questions you probably have.

freeze your credit report
“I’ll take that!” Says the data thief.

Common Questions About What Happens When You Freeze Your Credit Report

Here are a few quick answers to questions about what happens when you freeze your credit report.

Does it impact my credit score?

No, not at all.

Can I still rent an apartment, buy insurance, or open a new account?

You can, but you’ll have to temporarily lift the freeze on your report. Simply contact the companies again to do this. If you’re wise, you’ll ask your new bank, insurance agency, or landlord which company they will contact to check your credit report and you can just do your temporarily lift for that company to save you time and a little bit of cash.

Does a freeze impact my current accounts?

No. However, if your current information is stolen, like, say a credit card number, a thief can still damage you in that way. The credit freeze just prevents any new, unauthorized accounts from opening in your name.

Why can’t I just use a fraud protection agency like LifeLock?

You can, but understand that the company you are using is likely just funneling your money back to Equifax, the same company that lost your information in the first place.

Likewise, the fraud protection companies can’t prevent everything. Remember the buffoon for LifeLock who braggingly plastered his Social Security number on the side of a truck and broadcasted it in television ads to show how solid LifeLock was? His identity was stolen 13 times as a result. Real nice.

How long should I keep the freeze in place?

Until you die. I’m not fear-mongering when I say this: your data may never be safe again. Thanks a lot, overly-confident, under-prepared, super-incompetent credit monitoring companies.

freeze your credit report
Me, protecting my data.

Do you have any other questions about the Equifax breach, how to freeze your credit report, or how it impacts you? I’m happy to help so leave a comment with your concern 🙂

 

 

 

 

Good Parenting and How to Shut Up About It

Everyone who is not a parent assumes that everyone who is a parent sucks at it. Everyone who is a parent doesn’t give a f*ck about what other people think. I’m in the latter group. Other people’s opinions are irrelevant. That is, except for one: my daughter’s.

The most important thing I can distinguish that makes me a good parent? I know how to shut the f*ck up. Blah, blah, blah I hear people say to their kids, including myself. The best thing I’ve learned, however, is how to cease the blah, blah, blahs.

“Don’t do [this or that].” “Be careful.” “Quiet!” I’m not sure how many times I repeated these futile remarks until I realized one day: they are all a waste of time. Now? I don’t want to waste my time, nor pretend like talking a lesson is going to teach my daughter anything.

Certainly, it didn’t stop her from dropping the wooden swing on her own head.

A Story of a Falling Child, Good parenting Idea #1

The other day, after I’ve warned her many times, “be careful,” she was not being careful. Auburn climbed into a circular monkey bar set, selected the highest pole and decided to hang from it. I knew what was coming, her grip would hold for maybe 10 seconds, and she was going to fall. Before I learned to shut the f*ck up, I would’ve rushed to her, possibly scolded her, and warned her again and again as she repeated this dangerous move.

good parenting
Let them smash their fingers, they’re tough!

So what’s my key to good parenting in this situation? Now that I’ve adapted my ‘shut up,’ approach. I watched and waited in anticipation as she was about to fall. Her fingers slowly slipped once, then twice, then her grip gave out. Down, down, down she fell. Feet, then butt, then her whole body, kerplunk! She looked up, searching for me, saw me watching and waited for my reaction: a neutral face. She smiled, laughed, and climbed again. “You okay?” I asked. “Yup!” She shouted back.

The moral? What a waste of time warning her (or worrying about her) again would’ve been, you know, ‘good parenting.’ She’s tough, she proves it over and over again, she doesn’t need my warnings, spoken lessons, nor vocalized concerns. If she had broken a bone, scraped up her face, or twisted an ankle, I would’ve immediately taken her to the appropriate facilities, of course. But instead she learned a lesson, “I can fall and get back up.”

A Story of Breaking Bedtime Routines

Another quick example of learning to shut up as a parent: last night before bed. We usually lie down, I’ll read her 3-5 books depending on how tired I am, and she’ll usually be asleep by the time I’m done reading them, or at least close enough to sleep I can give her a goodnight kiss and exit the room quietly.

good parenting
Sleeping, with her underwear on her head. Champion.

Last night, however, we were watching a movie during dinner, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, and it was almost finished by the time it was bedtime, but not quite. She requested demanded that she be allowed to finish the movie. So, I gave her a choice: watch the movie before bed, or have your bedtime stories read to you. She chose the movie, which meant no stories (Lion Lessons, The Snowy Day, The First Strawberries (Picture Puffins)) from me.

So we watched until it was over, then she wanted to watch the credits and listen to the song, so we did. Then it was bedtime. “Stories?” She asked. “No,” I said, “you chose the movie.” She replied, “I’ll read them to my animals.” I gave her a goodnight kiss and left her room.

good parenting
Auburn playing Minecraft before bed, because I don’t always expect her to read books, no, just 95% of the time.

From my room, I could hear her reading repeating the stories I’ve read to her over and over again. Her stumbles, her stutters, her reading one of the Spanish books is especially hilarious because her speaking ability in Spanish is quite poor, it was all very touching and I just laid in bed listening to her from the other room. When she was done, she asked for two more minutes of snuggles, which I allowed, and she slept as well as she’s ever slept. Which, if you’ve been following our story, her sleep schedule has been one of the most difficult parts of my experience.

The moral of this one? Just because it might not be what’s considered ideal, break the conventional wisdom your own rules, shut the f*ck up, and let your child explore themselves and their routines on their own once in a while. You’ll be happier and calmer like I am. And my daughter’s opinion (the only one that matters)?

Well, not to brag, but, she says she wants to marry me one day.

Do you think allowing children to occasionally break their bedtime routine is okay? Let me know in the comments!

Considering traveling abroad with children? If you are, then I’m sure you have a million questions jetting around inside your mind: is it safe to travel with children? Do you children adapt well to new cultures? Should I travel with my child? Most importantly, why should I travel with children?

Let me give you a quick answer to the penultimate question: absolutely, you should. There are always things you can do beforehand to prepare, so, prepare.

Now, let me tell you why you should travel with them. First, I’ll hopefully ease your fears, then give you two more important reasons to take your children traveling abroad.

Safety Concerns

Like any parent who is asking themselves the question if they should travel with their child, I have been concerned about my daughter’s safety abroad. More importantly, I am more concerned about her safety in the United States. It seems that every week there is a massacre of one type or another, a horrific act of violence, or a ‘mistake’ that ends in the death of a child.

Traveling with children
Auburn playing safely in Hong Kong, safety equipment and all

So if you’re worried about your child’s safety abroad, I can assure you, they are as safe as anywhere you would take them in the United States. Obviously, travel with caution and diligence; it’s probably not a good idea to take your child to Syria, Somalia, or Iraq, at the moment.

However, don’t be afraid to take your child somewhere that has historically been belittled by American/Western media. Auburn and I have been to Colombia and Vietnam, places I had heard from other Americans (who’d never been there) that I shouldn’t go there because it’s ‘dangerous!’ Now I just laugh when I hear this because I’ve never been to a place outside of the USA that felt more dangerous than living in the USA itself.

Traveling with children in vietnam
Auburn playing with her new-found friends in Ho Tram, Vietnam. I’m pretty sure this sand pile was for construction purposes so likely not the best example of traveling safely 🙂

Learning Opportunities

Can your child get a solid education in the United States? Sure, if you send them to a private school you know and trust. I may sound like a hater in this regard, but the American education system sucks, it sucks big ol’ donkey hooves.

So you think I’m a hater? Not true, I love the United States, but I also love and respect other places for knocking us around in the education department. Take for example that American education ranks just 14th in reading, 25th in maths, and a sad 17th in science.

Traveling with children, class in Ho Chi Minh City
Auburn enjoying her birthday in Ho Chi Minh City, summer camp 2016!

Now I’ll hand you over to my personal experience in public education: donkey hooves. I grew up being taught the letter ‘w’ could sometimes be used as a vowel, that Christopher Columbus was a class-act, and that the USA had never lost a war. Let me scribble that out for you: (1) is B.S., (2) is vomit-inducing, and (3) is utter nonsense. A university-education and the internet have taught me heaps more than what I could have ever hoped to learn (unlearn) from the over-lavished, sub-standard, American public education system.

Now take for example that if you travel with your child, they’ll have the opportunity to learn in a different culture (avoiding common mistakes), see things from a new perspective, and pick up on languages that you probably won’t be able to speak. Get them to put down the new iPhone, the latest gadget, and get outdoors and meet some new people! The new language alone is the best investment you can give your child. Aside from the fact that it might cost $10,000 in the future to learn a new language from a university and you can save that by simply immersing them in the language and culture, but learning a new language also changes your brain, makes you more open, and helps you understand things that monoglots cannot.

Memories Increase Your Lifespan

So maybe you don’t care about your child’s education that much or learning a new language isn’t really on your radar of things you want your child to achieve. Fair enough.

Then, for a moment, imagine a life without memories. Or, more common, a life with the same memory over and over again. How short is that life? Painfully, in my experience.

Traveling with children
Me, my daughter, and my sunburn, all together. Koh Tao, Thailand

I can remember spending each day waking up at the same time to go to the same job at the same place through the same amount of traffic. In my memories, months can pass without any significant change, and that’s where your life gets lost: when you’re not making new memories.

I don’t want to pretend like every day will be different traveling and you’ll remember everything, no, that’s not true. You can fall into routine traveling or living abroad as well. But the move itself, the plethora of new sounds, sights, smells, tastes, textures, people, all add ages to your memory. A year will no longer feel like it flies by when you live or travel abroad, a year can actually feel like a proper year, imagine that?

Traveling with children who sleep on your head
Auburn sleeping on my head in Hong Kong, a memory I won’t forget and she won’t remember 🙂

Travel, Travel Now

So your child will learn more than your standard American B.S., will pick up a new language, will be as safe as ‘back home,’ and you’ll expand your lifetime through an increased diversity of memories? That’s right; if you do it right.

Give me a shout out if you have any questions: do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment 🙂 And don’t forget to sign up for reminders of future posts through the submission form at the bottom of the page 🙂

Traveling with children to U.P. Michigan
We didn’t have to travel far for this one, just a few hours north of home. Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan. Simply gorgeous, though it’s better in color, to be honest.