The Hot Dog Truck

http://www.thehotdogtruck.com

Hot Doggin' and Bloggin since 2004. I am a dad, husband, teacher, coach, and entrepreneur. Stop by the Hot Dog Truck to see what's going on.

What inspired you to start blogging?

I wanted a website for my Hot Dog Truck, so I started a blogger blog. I have been at it 5 years now and expanded my empire to over 20 sites.

What makes your blog stand out?

I am THE BEST of a very few Hot Dog Bloggers- it's a unique niche.

What are three adjectives that describe your blog?

Fun, informative, delicious

What are you doing when you're not blogging?

All kinds of things related to my 5 kids and wife. I go out to eat a lot (then blog about it).

How would you recommend moms talk to their sons about puberty?

Rob Merlino

Tell their son to go ask dad! If that isn't an option, the best approach is direct, straight to the point and within the realm of the science of physical development. The message is probably more well received from a male (I shudder to think about talking with my girls about puberty-thank God for my wife), but facts are facts. When you start having to deal with the more testosterone driven emotions of an adolescent boy, you should prepare for some level of conflict. Even if you have a strong relationship with your son, there will be rebellion and conflict. If this gets out of hand, you are in for a rocky few years. The Hotdogman http://www.thehotdogtruck.com @hotdogman1964
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What is a fun and creative way to preserve baby memories?

Rob Merlino

Aaah, the memories. As a father of five, I have quite a few. Of course the most common way to preserve memories is the good, old fashioned picture. My oldest has a library of "baby's first year albums," professionally produced video (on VHS) slide shows, and countless mementos from a framed locket of hair to an urn full of baby teeth (which I find somewhat disgusting). Number two has the same things, but in smaller quantities. Numbers three and four have NONE of those trappings, just various appearances in old (VHS) videos and the standard smattering of snapshots sitting in a shoe box marked with their names. Yes Virginia, it still sucks to be born later down a line of siblings if you want baby memento swag. But a funny thing happened on the road to adolescence for numbers three and four; somebody gave daddy a DIGITAL CAMERA! No more film to develop, no more rationing shots so as not to run out of film. This is daddy nirvana. Two terabyte external drives later and we have tens of thousands of pictures of everyone now. Every Christmas, grandma gets a "year in review" photo collage, loaded by thumb drive, onto her LCD, electronic picture frame. There are plenty of pics of everyone now, because a huge cost and convenience barrier have been lifted. Barely a day goes by without a picture being snapped, so it's real easy to build up a nice year in review collection for electronic frames. Just make sure you back up all your pictures on external drives- we keep ours in a fire safe! The biggest beneficiary of emerging technology is the seven year old (affectionately called "Little Miss"). Not only does she have a plethora of photos and videos of her, she posts them on her own website! She even "stars" on my site sometimes.
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What is your best tip for not losing your temper with children?

Rob Merlino

Sometimes it's OK to lose your temper, as long as it is done in a controlled way. I like to put a bit of a scare into the kids every once in a while! When it is not OK to lose your temper, I use a trick on myself that I use on the kids- I take a "time out." When daddy takes a time out, the kids KNOW to chill. I don't get mad when milk gets spilled, or an accident happens or even when a 3 year old gives herself a haircut. What upsets me is when the kids act disrespectfully to us or each other. When those situations escalate (and they often do with 4 girls in the house), I very calmly tell the offenders that if they can't work things out themselves quietly and civilly, then I will work it out for them. They know from years of experience that neither one of them will be happy if I have to referee, so that usually puts an end to the unpleasantness. http://www.thehotdogtruck.com
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What food would you most like to banish from school cafeterias?

Rob Merlino

I would ban several things from school cafeterias. The first would be green beans. I wouldn't ban them for health reasons, I just think serving canned green beans to elementary school children is a waste; they NEVER eat them. The last time an elementary school kid ate a green bean in the school cafeteria was sometime in 1955- unfortunately all records of the event have been lost due to a sloppy joe explosion in the suspect school. Since that time nearly 70 tons of canned green beans have been served to and thrown away by elementary school kids. Look at any photo of any elementary school cafeteria- the ubiquitous green beans can always be seen- untouched- on every diner's tray. I say "ENOUGH!" Send those green beans to starving nations, to people who would benefit from them; keep those green beans out of our landfills! I would also ban all pizza from school cafeterias- again because school pizza sucks. The sauce is little more than ketchup, the cheese is rarely completely melted and the "crust" is usually a half cooked, biscuit like consistency. I can make better pizza with a piece of toast and some cheese whiz. And you wonder why my kids brown bag it. Don't rely on your child's school to teach nutrition. School cafeterias have a long standing tradition of serving overly starchy, half cooked CRAP. My 7 year old's typical lunch: Some sort of sandwich (turkey, roast beef, peanut butter etc), a yogurt, a fruit, milk, popcorn and an occasional "treat." We also allow NO TV or video games during the school week. Playing outside is an encouraged option! Leave the schools to teaching your kids how to read and do math- oops, we taught her that stuff too....
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If you had to get dinner for your family at a fast food restaurant tonight, which would you choose and what would you order?

Rob Merlino

Chow Mein from our favorite local joint. I know- you thought I would say "hot dogs."
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What are your three favorite picture books for children? (please specify the age range)

Rob Merlino

For the very young, I still love "Goodnight Moon." This story has a soothing, poetic flow that seems to have a calming effect that is perfect for that bedtime tuck-in. For pre-school and beginning readers, "Curious George" stories are fantastic. We have a collection that contains all the original books in one volume. It has been read THOUSANDS of times over the years and is currently held together by duct tape. I can actually recite several of the stories from memory- I have read them that much. My kids have read them too. The Curious George stories were the first books they actually read aloud to me. This may sound weird, but we also have a series of books from Great Britain (the wife is a Brit) called "The Ladybird Series," that I just love. We inherited them from my in-laws; my wife was brought up on them. These are geared toward late pre-schoolers through third grade reading levels. They are a series of old school "Dick and Jane" (except it's Peter and Jane for the Brits) type readers that have taught our kids great reading skills. Through word identification and repetition, it allows the kids to work toward more difficult words and sentence structures while keeping them entertained. I probably just like them because they are "old school," but I can't quibble with the results.
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What's your family's favorite recipe for chicken or tofu?

Rob Merlino

I have been into slow smoked whole chicken lately. My dad loaned me his smoker for the winter and I have crafted a wonderful rub for the chicken with brown sugar, salt, pepper and a hint of cayenne pepper. First we marinate the chicken in apple juice, cider vinegar and spices for 24 hours, then I rub it and let it sit another 24 hours. Next, it's onto the smoker. I use hickory and apple wood. The chicken stays in the smoker for about 3-4 hours and when it comes out it is absolutely "pull off the bone" tender and delicious. I make a barbecue sauce with some of the leftover marinate and juices from the chicken. We serve the pulled chicken over rice with black beans (doctored up with sauteed onions and garlic) and corn. UNBELIEVABLE! I use the leftovers for chicken salad and the smokey flavored chicken adds a nice dimension to this lunch time favorite. Try smoking a chicken- you won't be sorry!
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How much help should parents give their kids with homework?

Rob Merlino

I think kids should get in the habit of figuring out their homework for themselves at an early age-it creates good habits and reduces dependence as they get older. All too often, I see kids who have obviously completed a project with a lot of parental help. I am not adverse to reviewing homework once it is completed, especially if it is a piece of writing. I will not sit with the kid and look over their shoulders while they are doing it. If they get stuck, I will give them a strategy to overcome whatever it is they are stuck with; this teaches them to think. Once the kid realizes they can figure things out for themselves, they grow more confident with their schoolwork. I will say I read to my kids from the time they are young and encourage reading at an early age. Good readers make good students.
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What's your funniest potty training story?

Rob Merlino

When my oldest was getting to the age where we wanted to get her potty trained, I sought the advice of my aunt. She had two kids in their teens and a young daughter just one year older than mine. I asked her for potty training advice and her reply was: "I tried all that Dr. Spock crap with the older kids, this time around, I just gave a little treat whenever she went potty successfully. It may be 'wrong,' but she was potty trained in half the time with a lot less hassle." I used this methodology on all 5 kids. All were fully potty trained by age two and a half with no psychological damage!
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What's your kids' favorite backyard game?

Rob Merlino

We are a baseball family. I coach and a two of the five play. Whiffle Ball is a family favorite. We have games with three generations playing in the field and we always have a blast. I always have a bat and a few balls in my trunk in the summer time in case we go somewhere and there is no Whiffle ball equipment available.
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What's a great finger food that your kids love? Please include a link.

Rob Merlino

As The Hotdogman, I give my kids hot dogs quite a bit. There are many healthy dogs out there. At home, I have been serving up Whole Foods' gluten free, nitrate and nitrite free, uncured, all natural, 100% beef franks. The kids love them and I can feel good about serving them. I like them too!
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