Today, We Circused

The circus came to town, so the town went to the circus.

The Zoppe Family Circus stops by Redwood City every year, and even though we no longer live very close by, we’ve still gone every year for the last few years.

It’s a fun little single-tent affair, an old family circus full of acrobats and clowns. “We’re not French dancers calling ourselves a circus,” is a familiar line from the pre-show.

Our host.

Our host, explaining the history of the show.

The show begins with a welcome from the matriarch of the Zoppe family, who invites us to revisit the past. The the performers gather in the ring to symbolically take their props from a battered trunk.

The performers pull props from the old family trunk.

The performers pull props from the old family trunk.

Nino the clown does some clowning between acts to get the crowd into the show. Occasionally, he will go into the crowd, which is both a lot of fun and a way to distract the audience from the people in the ring who are transitioning equipment and getting ready to perform.

Nino the Clown.

Nino the Clown.

Today I joined the circus. Nino selected members of the audience to come help him. A group of (mostly) large men lined up while he mimed examining us for strength or flab.

It looks like a police lineup.

It looks like a police lineup.

Then, we grabbed a large rope on the ground and held it taught in a tug-of-war pose while Nino balanced on top of it.

My first circus act.

My first circus act.

Nino had lots of interactions with the crowd, and with his “boss”, the severe and somber white-faced clown.

The white-faced clown. The Boss (Nino's nemesis).

The white-faced clown. The Boss (Nino’s nemesis).

There were jugglers, and trained dogs, an act involving the Boss standing astride two giant horses while they ran around the ring, a woman leaping and twirling from the back of another horse, and acrobatics of all kinds.

We all wanted to do this on the teeter-totters.

We all wanted to do this on the teeter-totters.

There were many children performing.

Because it’s a family circus, there were even a few children performing.




The music cut out during the juggling act, so the audience clapped along to keep time.


Just look at that dog’s face. Just look at it.


A picture of some acrobats. And somebody’s hands.

The Zoppe Family Circus is a traveling circus. They go all over the U.S., coming back to the Bay Area every year. When we were in Arizona over New Year’s last year, they were there as well, so we saw them on New Year’s Eve. We really love this circus. As it turns out, the circus loves us too! Well, it loves Erin.

You see, one of the acrobats, Carlo, was one of Erin’s teachers at circus camp over the summer a couple of years ago. We had no idea, until Erin started talking to him. We thought nothing of Erin talking to an acrobat. This is what she does: treats performers like she’s known them for years. Well, in this case that turns out to be pure truth. Of course she knows an acrobat at the circus. Of course. This child lives a magical life full of Disney princesses who parade her around the park, and circus performers who teach her how to spin plates and do clowning routines.

Erin and her circus camp instructor, Carlo.

Erin and her circus camp instructor, Carlo.

Adrian and Carlo.

Carlo showing Adrian how to spin plates.

As the show ended, the performers ceremoniously returned their props to the trunk, then lined up to thank the crowd for coming.

One last bow.

One last bow.

Because it’s such a small space, with a manageable crowd, the performers exited the tent and then greeted everyone on the way out, talking to any kids who wanted to say hi, or anyone else, for that matter. One elderly lady, who was celebrating her birthday, asked her daughter to get Nino to take a birthday picture with her. It was adorable.

And Erin got one more circus hug. We’re sure it won’t be her last. Watching her eyes brighten up as the acrobats flipped through the air, I’m not sure we won’t be lining up to take pictures with her at the circus in a few years.

Erin and Nino.

Erin and Nino.

October 25, 2014   Comments Off

Truant Officers Hate Him! This One Neat Trick Will Help You Get Your Kids To School On Time


Do you suffer through delays, whining, and excuses from your kids in the morning when it’s time to go to school? Of course you do. We all do.

Well, this one neat trick will solve all of your problems! Never be late for school again! Never feel rushed! Keep your kids, and yourself, happy all day by getting off to just the right start!

Studies show that kids procrastinate between 5 and 900 minutes in the morning when getting ready for school. And this kind of delay is very frustrating for parents. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can avoid the contest of wills that comes from trying to get kids out the door on time.

I stumbled across this method when I was in one of my usual post-rush-out-the-door recovery naps. That’s when I do my best thinking. So I thought to myself, “Self, the kids take so long to eat their breakfast and get dressed in the morning that you always have to rush to get them to school on time. You should think of a better way!” And so I did. I thought and thought. And I figured out the answer.

It may seem obvious once you hear it. I mean, all great ideas are like that. We always think, “Well, I could have thought of that!” And you sure could have. By applying my “think and think” method to your parenting problems, nothing can stand in your way. And the proof is that I thought of how to get the kids out of the house on time without stressing or yelling or rushing them.

Are you ready?

I thought, “What if I woke up fifteen minutes earlier?”

Guess what? It totally works! When I started getting up fifteen minutes earlier, the kids were eating breakfast and getting dressed fifteen minutes earlier! They were putting on their shoes fifteen minutes earlier! We were getting out the door fifteen minutes earlier! We were getting to school fifteen minutes earlier!

You can use this method too. Simply PayPal $5 to me, and I will send you a Product Key for your very own “Get Up Fifteen Minutes Earlier” download. You will be ready to go in no time! (Well, fifteen minutes earlier than no time, in fact!)

Bonus: For those who get on board this method in the next fifteen minutes, I will include a free Accelerator Pack. In this Accelerator Pack, you will learn how to add even more time to your easy morning by having the kids get dressed BEFORE they have breakfast. That’s right, BEFORE! Research has shown that kids in pajamas eat much more slowly than kids who are dressed for school. Using this growing body of data, I devised the “Get Dressed Before Eating Breakfast” method, and I’m willing to include it FREE to a limited number of customers.

So act now to receive your “Get Up Fifteen Minutes Earlier” method and FREE Bonus Accelerator Pack. Supplies are limited!

October 17, 2014   2 Comments

Dad Blogger, Redux

I’ve spent a lot of the last nine months, the non-blogging months, finishing grad school. I’m done now. Hi, I’m Dr. Shawn Burns, Ph.D., and now I don’t know what I’m doing.


I spent the spring finishing the writing and editing of my dissertation, while Adrian finished pre-school, and Erin finished first grade. I attended my commencement on Father’s Day, before I defended. I  defended on my birthday, in early July. I revised and submitted my dissertation to the university before the end of July (and before San Diego Comic-Con, which was my little reward for finishing that project). My dissertation was approved by the registrar at the end of July.

And yesterday my degree was conferred, officially. So it’s all official. There are no take-backs. I’m have a Ph.D. and I can never not have a Ph.D. again. Hooray, me. Now what do I do with it?

I am on the job market, but in a very limited way. We are not going to move, so I am not going to chase tenure-track jobs out of a very close geographical area. The story was different when I started grad school, and before we had kids. But reality is what it is. I will only look for jobs close to home, instead of making a home close to jobs. This year it’s looking like there are five or six positions for people with doctorates in my field, but there are zero for people with my specialty. So I won’t be getting any of those jobs.

Now I find myself back at the beginning, where this space started, as a stay-at-home dad with a blog. Back then it was a choice: I took a year off in order to stay home with Erin after she was born, and I wrote about what we were doing, which was all new for me. This feels like less of a choice. Like I have less right to identify as a stay-at-home dad if I am just not participating in the workforce for now, until something comes along. If I am still researching and writing and building a C.V. and portfolio in order to be hired, I don’t get to be in the club anymore. I’m not sure if there was even a club back then, or if I was in it, but I definitely don’t feel like I’m in one now. Who needs clubs? What are the stay-at-home dads up to, these days? What are dad bloggers doing? Is blogging stupid?

Is personal blogging stupid? Professional blogging? I tried to blog professionally for a while a few years ago, and the experience made me quit writing on my own blog, eventually. I didn’t like producing click-bait, participating in controversies, or trying to come up with the most facile, shareable content. I don’t know how to blog like the bloggers do today. I’m not even particularly funny when I blog. I’m funnier on Twitter.

So here I am in this space again and it all feels like a jacket I haven’t worn since I gained or lost weight. But I have time again, and a need to write things. I still have stories. Would you like to hear a story?

September 26, 2014   10 Comments