Friday, March 27, 2015

Free Range Chickens



The first time I ever let my son walk into a building by himself I panicked. I pulled away from the church where I was dropping him off for choir and I freaked out. He was eight at the time and up until then I had walked him in every single time.

With his two younger sisters in the car and it pouring rain, I was not feeling up to unbuckling everyone and walking him the 200 feet into the building where I know he would be greeted by one of the choir volunteer adults. He was safe. Probably.

I pulled away from the church trying to talk myself out of the worry and panic. He's eight for goodness sake, what was I doing at eight?

I was jumping off my friend's second story porch because I thought I was Ultraman and riding my dirt bike to the abandoned construction site to jump over mounds of dirt we covered with boards for makeshift ramps. At his age, I used to play in that lot behind the elementary school where they parked the buses; where rusted car hoods were afternoon hideaways for garter snakes and my friends would bang on them with sticks until they came slithering out so we could catch them.

I climbed trees so high I would get to the top and wonder if I could even get down before I heard my mom yelling for dinner. Do kids even climb trees anymore? I have never seen any in my neighborhood even attempting such a thing.

I circled around the church and swung back into the parking lot and listened. I don't know what exactly I was listening for, I couldn't get out of the car to check on him because that meant bringing the girls with me. Maybe it was my hammering heart or the beating of the incessant wipers but they both acted like the metronome of the ticking seconds I sat in that car trying to decide whether to go in or not.

I drove home trying not to think about it. He's eight, I kept saying. He's safe. It was only 200 feet, he's fine. He was and later he was picked up by his mom and brought home never knowing my panic. I asked him how it was, to walk in there by himself wondering if he were at all scared as I had been. "It's cool dad, it's only like 200 feet."

My fear didn't come from the idea that he would be taken in those 200 feet out of my site. It wasn't born from a fear that today, things are much more dangerous than they were when I was a kid. There were mass murderers, pedophiles, and serial killers in the seventies just as much as there are today.

We were always told to stay away from the road and never approach a car or talk to a stranger. We didn't eat Halloween candy unless it was checked first. We never were allowed to go with anyone we didn't know and knew to run and yell :"Stranger Danger" when we felt threatened.  None of that has changed.

Except that now for better or for worsem, we see and hear everything. Information accessible 24 hours a day in the palm of our hands is a blessing and a curse on our existence. The internet, the orange alerts, and the news filled with nannies killing children, mothers driving cars filled with babies into lakes, kids being shot accidentally by guns, it's no wonder we are programmed to fear the world around us. The world can sometimes be scary but I don't want my children to not live in it because they are petrified to walk around the block.

Modern parents are taught to live in constant fear. Everyone is out to get you, everyone is watching, no one is safe. That's why parents who let their kids walk to the park alone are convicted of child neglect.

It's why I wondered if it were safe for my kids to walk two blocks to our house from the bus by themselves at ages nine and seven. Is someone watching them? Recording them? Will footage from someone's camera phone send CPS to my house take them away from me because I gave them some freedom?

People will think I am crazy to watch them from my porch walk two blocks on their own. I remember the panic I felt when I wasn't there once, running late from a doctor's appointment to see them off of the bus. How could I do that to them? The guilt I felt was terrible and I was apologetic that I wasn't there but my kids could care less. They walked home, entered the garage then closed it and stayed inside until I got home a few minutes later. My son even called my cell phone to let me know they were in the house and not to worry!

For me personally, I struggle with it after being the primary caregiver and protecting him from all harm every day of their lives. It's hard to let go. My son asked me if he could ride his bike around the block by himself and I hesitated. Why? Because I am chicken. Many of us are chicken.

We're chicken to let them be independent. It's the reason why people let their kids have cell phones with GPS tracking apps and will consider micro-chipping their children in the not so distant future. You'd do it for your pet. Who is to say your children won't be next?

Now before you jump all over me because it doesn't apply to your situation or you know a guy who knew a guy who had his daughter snatched from preschool, I am not saying it doesn't happen. I feel for any family where it has happened. I can't imagine what that feels like.

Some people will cry foul because they live in an area that it's just not possible to give children freedom. Don't misunderstand me either, I don't let my kids just walk around unsupervised all the time. I just give them tastes of what it is like to be independent thinkers. Isn't that a good thing for when they are older?

I also get that this doesn't work for everyone based on where you live. Your bus stop might not be near your house or the nearest park may be miles away.  The library might be in an unsafe part of town or near some railroad tracks. I get that, but living in fear is no way for our children to experience life.

This isn't a post about the good old days. I am glad those are long gone. The modern world is the best of those times and beyond. Instances of freedom are good for children. It shows that you trust them to make their own decisions and they learn to adapt from their mistakes. Children should not be held hostage by their own childhood. The modern world is out there, let's let our children actually experience it without living in fear.





Little House on the Prairie® Prize Package Giveaway

I am participating in this giveaway on behalf of Bloggin’ Mamas.

Little House on the Prairie Giveaway

My daughter and my wife have been reading the "Little House" books for a few years now. She loves hearing about a pioneer's daily life and how different it was back then compared to now. Since learning about Little House on the Prairie, my daughter has taken an interest in sewing and has learned from my wife how to make clothes which has been inspired from these stories.

You can follow all the official Little House on the Prairie® social media channels on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

To cel­e­brate the launch of the offi­cial Lit­tle House on the Prairie® web­site, I have joined the Bloggin' Mamas to offer the Ulti­mate Prize Pack­age Giveaway (ARV $164).

The winner will receive: Sea­son 1 Deluxe Remas­tered 6-DVD Set $29.98 Retail Value, Sea­son 2 Deluxe Remas­tered 5-DVD Set $29.98 Retail Value, Sea­son 3 Deluxe Remas­tered 5-DVD Set $21.98 Retail Value, Sea­son 4 Deluxe Remas­tered 5-DVD Set $21.98 Retail Value, Pio­neer Girl Book and Tote Bag $39.95 Retail Value, "Lit­tle House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder" $19.95 Retail Value

You can also enter a 2nd giveaway on the Little House on the Prairie website for a chance to win a second prize package.

This giveaway is running Friday, March 27th, 2015 at 12:01am PST through Friday, April 24th, 2015 at 11:59pm PST It is open to US Residents age 18 and older. Enter via the rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Dis­clo­sure: This giveaway is coordinated by Bloggin' Mamas and is sponsored by Little House on the Prairie. I was not compensated for sharing this post.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Do You Have A Tiny Destroyer Too? Tell Us and Win!



If you have followed the migration of your children within your home you undoubtedly know that they are like reverse locusts. They move from room to room taking everything out to play with only to grow bored and move onto the next room.

This makes it particularly difficult for parents to get anything done as once you begin the cleanup in one room, the next is already trashed. It is also the reason why most people who have playrooms or basements find themselves wading in toys up to their kneecaps trying to get to the laundry room. No one knows why every toy must come out to play.

If you've had to skirt a floor littered with Barbies like a cat burglar avoiding lasers or tried to dodge Hot Wheels like they were landmines, you get it. If you've ever felt like Washington crossing the Delaware only across a body of LEGOs, you know exactly what I am talking about. We call these mavens of the messes, these denizens of discourse, Tiny Destroyers.

I'm was a Tiny Destroyer though now you can't call me a tiny anything anymore. I almost didn't survive my childhood. You see, I'm an artist and like all great artists when inspiration strikes you need to get your ideas down no matter where you are.

When I was little, drawing was it for me. I drew on every available surface. Look under my mother's coffee table and I drew Sistine Chapel style on my back.I drew on every flat surface I could get my grubby little hands on.

Walls behind the basement freezer became my Lascaux caves as I knew only I could sneak back there and mom couldn't. I always wanted to leave my mark. Then, I took it too far. I took it upon myself to draw an entire mural up and down our upstairs hallway in crayon before they became the washable lightweights crayons of today. My mom's best friend saved me from my imminent doom (Thanks Mrs. Cote!)

Keith Munslow, a multiple award-winning songwriter, storyteller, cartoonist and improv comedy performer, has always found inspiration from the thousands of kids he’s performed for over the past 17 years. His songs get heavy rotation on SiriusXM radio, and he's raked in critical acclaim for his kid-focused music and stories.

Now that Keith is dad to son Luc (age 2), his perspective on childhood and family life has sharpened and expanded. One result is 12 new songs and stories collected in his forthcoming album Tiny Destroyer available on April 7th from CDBaby, Amazon.com, iTunes and www.keithmunslow.com. You can listen to the title track Tiny Destroyer on his Tumblr

Let's face it, everyone has a story to tell about being a Tiny Destroyer. That's the reason and inspiration behind Keith Munslow's latest album. So Keith wanted to do something fun in honor of these wee-pons of mass destruction.

BEHOLD THE:

Keith Munslow Tiny Destroyer Prize Pack


  • All 5 of Keith Munslow's CDs including The Tiny Destroyer
  • An original Keith Munslow Drawing illustrating your winning story - Digitally and by mail
  • 1 "Bellywog" T-Shirt (winner gets to choose from sizes available)
  • Your story featured on Keith's social media networks 
The Bellywog TShirt
OMG. That's an incredible grad prize! How do I win that? 
  1. Leave a blog post comment HERE or on my FB page telling your best story about Your Tiny Destroyer and what they did that made it funny/infuriating.
  2. Also, share your story with Keith himself on his Facebook page and use #TinyDestroyer in the post
The best story will be chosen by me on April 7th based on how funny/horrible your story was. That is your entry. Even if you don't win, everyone else who enters gets a free song download worth $1 and your story will be shared on Keith Munslow's Tumblr Your Tiny Destroyer

One winner for the grand prize will be chosen at random. All entrants must provide an email address to be eligible to win. The FREE download will be sent to your email address if you participate.  Giveaway open to US and Canadian residents 18 years and older only.  The winner will be notified by email or contacted on Facebook by DM to supply this information. If the winner does not respond within 24 hours of the notification email, another winner will be chosen. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Kindie Bands You Should Have In The Minivan



When we are driving around looking for things to do with our kids, the car trip becomes an extension of that adventure. Road trips mean singing to the radio with our favorite songs. Kids love repetition and they sure do love to sing but when Elmo's ABC song and Wheels on the Bus have become the alternative to a quiet car, it is time to change their music interests to something fun and cool. Here are eight kindie musicians you should have in the minivan.


The Pop Ups : Appetite for Construction


Jacob Stein and Jason Rabinowitz put the cool in kid music with their latest album Appetite for Construction. After listening the first time through you will understand why they were nominated for a Grammy. These guys just love to make music for their target audience, 2-6 year olds with their silly songwriting and pop/dance music style, kids will be begging you to replay songs like The Robot Dance which has a dance trance beat or the pop song melody of All These Shapes. Whatever your music tastes are The Pop Ups have everything you could want with funky tunes and clever lyrics. When it is time for your little ones to go to bed make sure you play the track Go To Sleep where Jason and Jacob will serenade them on their way to dreamland.


The Not Its : Raise Your Hand


This Seattle based punk rock kindie band is for families that have an edge. Sarah, Danny, Tom, and Jennie know how to rock the house or in this case, car. A track like Motorcycle Mom will get your engine revving and this album will arm you with the kinds of anthems that will get you noticed in the drop off and pick up line at school.  You can rock out with other tracks like Raise Your Hand and Waiting List or mix it up with sweet melodic song like Love is Love. Head over to Hey 80’s for a nostalgic tribute to all those cool things you want your kids to know about when you were growing up.


Recess Monkey : Wired


Recess Monkey’s Wired is full of fun rock genres like punk and ska.  If your kids love LEGO, they will love the song Brick by Brick. Favorite tracks include Shutterbug which describes a girl’s love for her dad’s camera to Wired which matches the pace of the never tired children we’re carting everywhere. Recess Monkey’s album is like a vaudeville rock show filled with high energy and catchy lyrics you can belt out on the beltway.


Lolly and YoYo : An Adventurous Day


Lolly Hopwood and Yo Yo (Yvonne) Kusters are a duo that combines kindie rock with activity and dance that gets children moving and exercising. My girls really loved meeting and hearing them. Lolly has a voice like Sarah McLachlan, the kind you sort of just get lost in; a voice that transports you to a dreamy wonderland. Pair that with YoYo's high energy and infectious smile and you can see why their harmony is a match made in heaven. Listening to An Adventurous Day, you must give Hey Alligator a listen not only because it is done echo style but you may feel like you are transported to New Orleans with the rich jazzy horns of this song. Tracks like Glow in the Dark will mesmerize you with the sweet simplicity and dazzling imagery. You may want to close your eyes as you can almost see it right in front of you, just don't do it in the car! My favorite track is I Don't Want To Go Sleep because it really sums up what a day with kids is all about. Lolly and YoYo's vocals of this song reminded me of The Sundays. You can see them perform for free at Kids Klub events in Exton, PA here locally in Philadelphia.


Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could: Just Say Hi!



Brady Rymer and The Little Band that Could is a two time Grammy Nominated children’s band. Brady has an awesome voice and the range of his sound is incredible from the variety of instruments he uses in in rollicking rock n' roll style that is sure to get your kids moving. Guest vocalists include Elizabeth Mitchell, Laurie Berkner and members of Recess Monkey. Our favorite tracks on Just Say Hi! are Get This Party Started and Ice Cream Girl, a sweet story about how he met his wife. My kids enjoyed dancing and singing along to his music this past summer at Kidchella at the Smith Memorial Playground. 


The Okee Dokee Brothers : Through The Woods


Following up their Grammy award winning Can You Canoe? Album, The Okee Dokee Brothers follow up with their Grammy nominated second album Through The Woods, created and inspired by their month long trek on the Appalachian Trail. Their record invites listeners along for an adventure out among Mother Nature capturing the spirit of folks songs and mountain music. Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing will have you tapping your feet and wishing you had a washboard and jug to play along. Favorite tracks are Through the Woods and Lighten Your Load


Agent 23 Skidoo : The Perfect Quirk


Since hearing Skidoo’s first popular track Family Tree on Kid’s Place Live on XM, I knew that Agent 23 Skidoo was special. It’s no wonder this record was nominated for a Grammy. Branded as Kid Hop, Skidoo raps along with his daughter Saki, aka MC Fireworks with kid friendly hip hop that still can be car rattling but without all the profanity. Tracks on A Perfect Quirk celebrate the individuality and diversity of kids and it celebrates and supports the message that children should embrace rather than shy away from who they are. Imaginary Friend lays down a beat that is sick in a good way and You’re It is a positive reminder of why you’ll want to play this album over and over again.


Keith Munslow : Tiny Destroyer


My kids used to be terrified of Keith Munslow’s Leftovers song when they first heard it on the radio so much so that I had to turn the radio off until it was over.  It’s probably because Keith has an ability to tell a story so effectively through his songwriting that you may think he is channeling a 4 year old. Munslow’s music style is as eclectic as the songs he writes and there is something for everyone on Tiny Destroyer (available April 7th) as he tells stories through songs about everyday life as a parent with kids. I especially appreciated the jazzy Dad Is Takin' A Nap song. No Munslow album would be complete without an accordion song such as Coffee Breath and Magic Bike will take you back to the time spent on your childhood bicycle and the feeling of being worry free.


If you’ve purchased these albums, you have significantly leveled up your minivan’s music selection. Make every attempt to see these bands live, they will not disappoint. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

11 Ways St. Patricks Day Is Different With Kids



I have been to enough Irish pubs in my time to know two things about Ireland.  First, there is no such thing as happy hour unless you count the hour when the pub opens. Secondly, the end of the night is always going to end up with you eating some kind of chips to soak up the Guinness fermenting inside.

I went to Ireland twice, thankfully during a time when digital cameras were not prevalent and disposable cameras were the way to go. There weren't selfies or photobombs, just the plastic click and the grating wind of the drugstore special.  Which, if you were lucky enough, for a few extra bucks could get one with a flash and another third of your pictures might come out.

My adventures on The Emerald Isle were more mysterious than the Lost island and yes, there were smoke monsters there too.  In typical tourist fashion I lost my best friend in Dublin the very first night and somehow staggered to my hostel. I didn't sleep though as I shared the room with five German guys who probably were talking about their future plans or slitting my throat and taking my money. Either way, it sounded the same to me.

We never made it to the Guinness brewery though our rental car smelled like one for days. Water is just not an option over there and a sure tell that you're American is asking for ketchup. I climbed Croagh Patrick, the third highest mountain in County Mayo despite my feeble American “conditioning” and was passed by a 90 year old man with a shillelagh who told me to “Pick it up or get the fuck off the mountain”.

I stayed in a bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere in a bed surrounded by pictures of Jesus and crucifixion crosses while our travelling companion in the next room woke the entire house because of his night terrors.  Because of that the owner thought we were sent by the devil and she denied me my Irish breakfast. Keep in mind that it's either that or Twigs and Berries cereal. There is no middle ground.


We rode in a tiny European car like a merry band of circus clowns on roads that were barely big enough for one car let alone two. And roundabouts, they are plentiful. Ever hear the term going in circles? It was invented in Ireland.

I have visited Blarney Castle and have tipped a shifty Irishman for spotting me while I hung upside down to kiss the stone.  Luckily for me, he was there to tell me to “mind my nut” which is something I had to do a lot of over there. Guys in pubs would exclaim that I was the tallest man they had ever seen and would buy me pints. I felt like the prettiest girl in the bar.  I was dubbed “The Two Meter Man” by a guy named Paddy who I never saw go to the bathroom. We were there for six hours.

I've paid for two nights at a B&B in Cork but never actually slept in the room where my luggage was. They don't call them clubs, they are called discos and asking someone for a ride has a whole other meaning. My friend slept  passed out on the stairs of a church under a sign that said "The damned will be saved" I also went on the Bushmills Distillery tour. That is all I remember about that.

I’ve seen the majesty of the Cliffs of Moher and dangled my legs over the side despite any guardrails whatsoever. I am guessing that anyone stupid enough to go over deserves it and anyone who doesn't must have kissed the Blarney Stone beforehand.

While there was no pot of gold, there were many containers of liquid gold consumed and even run ins with the Garda while I tossed traffic pylons around Trinity College. Harp and Guinness are good for you but can also have some influence on your behavior.

You truly haven’t seen green until you have been to Ireland. Not even the Chicago River comes close even on the day that they dye it greener than it usually is.

Clearly, a lot has changed since then. A LOT. I had hair back then and lots of it. Every St. Patrick’s Day makes me think about those days in Ireland and my time with my Irish friends in Chicago.


11 Ways St. Patrick's Day is Different With Kids 



  1. Before, I thought leprechauns were chasing me. Now I am the one chasing little leprechauns.
  2. Before, I was bar hopping in Chicago without a coat. Now, I lie to my kids and tell them if they don't wear a hat they will automatically get sick.
  3. Before I was drinking until the wee hours of the morning. Now I have to get up in the middle of the night to go wee.
  4. Before I started the night going out at 11. Now, I am ready to get in bed at 11.
  5. Before, I was drunkenly dancing a jig. Now, I am hosting  pajama dance parties in my living room.
  6. Before I was interested in causing mischief. Now I am trying to keep it from happening.
  7. Before, I used to start drinking at 10 am and go until 4 am the next day. Now, I drink three beers, pop in my mouth guard, and snore all night. 
  8. Before, we were Paddy training. Now, we are Potty training.
  9. Before I was spending lots of time with pints. Now I am spending time with pint sized children.
  10. Before I sang a rousing rendition of Whiskey In The Jar. Now, I am singing Let It Go.
  11. Before, my favorite sounds were Slainte! and Black 47. Now, I look forward to “Daddy can you read to me?” and "I love you Daddy" right before I tuck them into bed.



Thursday, March 12, 2015

Always Looking Forward



When asked if they considered themselves involved fathers, the majority of the room raised their hands. It was a confident raising, not one mired in self doubt or lack of confidence for what that definition really meant. There were no other factors on which to base this assumption, no litmus test on whether it were true at all, just hundreds of dads confident in their assertion that being a father meant being there for their children when it mattered the most.

Our fathers, if in the same room and asked the same question might be more of a mixed reaction; our grandfathers even more convoluted. They grew up in a time when making money was the end all be all way to provide for their families, punching a clock from start time to end time to put food on the table and clothes on their backs while singing Hi Ho! along the way. It was a different time and fatherhood is now in a different place.

I started my second trip to Dad 2.0 Summit early on a Wednesday morning. My alarm was supposed to go off at 5 a.m. but it was 4:30 and I was much too excited to eke out another 30 minutes of pretend slumber. It was still dark and my kids and wife were still sleeping. I kissed them all goodbye then I rolled out into the frigidly cold morning my breath fogging up my view. My neighbor dropped me off at the airport as he headed into work.

Planes and I don't agree on many things especially head and leg room. I often have to pull a Matrix move in the lavatory just to comfortably accommodate my frame and I almost always sit directly behind someone who immediately must put their seat back one inch to fall asleep. I'm much too tall for the seat so putting my head back means I am staring up at the ceiling and leaning forward is not an option so I just kept looking forward.

Arriving in San Francisco , I was greeted by sunshine and something I haven't felt for many months, heat. I spent the afternoon early with my friend Jeff Bogle of OWTK.com and his family and met up with Darrell Milton of ModernFatherOnline.com as we headed to The Rock to do the most touristy of attractions, Alcatraz. It was my first time seeing the bay and bridge since I was eight.  I was looking forward to this. The views were spectacular and the company even more so as I got to know the dad from down under even better and spent some quality bonding time with my friends.



The tour was amazing and well worth it but the views were what sold me from the moment we landed on the island. The ferry pulled away from the dock, the screws churning the water as we rounded the point away from Alcatraz. The breeze from the bay washed over me as the sun kissed my face. It was an incredibly bright afternoon sun, the kind your eyes can never get used to. Blue skies and a veil of fog dappled the skyline as if a painter and his giant brush had swirled them together with feathery strokes. The bridge looked like a grey cutout against a white paper backdrop as if I could reach out and pick it up with my own two fingers.



Wednesday night I met up with Brent Almond of Designer Daddy and had dinner with Sam Christensen of DorkDaddy. We talked about everything we were looking forward to as the Summit and filling in Sam on what to expect. Great food and great company at MaSo in the Park Central Hotel was had by all. Sam had to leave, he had a two hour commute back home so Brent and I strolled around San Francisco talking about our families and life in general before we met up with others later at The Grove for a late night snack/dinner. I had the bacon wrapped blue cheese filled dates. Yeah, those were good.

Thursday rolled around and I met up with Dad On The Run and Don Jackson of DaddyNewbie for breakfast. I was looking forward to seeing them. The last time I had seen these guys together was at the National At Home Dad Network Convention in Denver two years ago when we all climbed Red Rocks dehydrated but elated after an energizing convention. That's the thing about friends, true friends, that no matter where you left off, they pick right back up like no time has passed. With time to kill, we walked together through Chinatown and down to the waterfront before attendees started blowing up my phone announcing their arrivals.





After I checked into the Park Central and had lunch at Dave's, I took part in the PicMonkey photo walk. As people started showing up, it hit me that while I had been spending time with all of these guys building relationships online, that it was a true testament to our feeling of brotherhood to actually meet and person and clasp hands or lend a hearty hug as if this was a reunion of long lost friends.

















Dad 2.0 was just that for me and many others. By the time Thursday night's reception sponsored by Dove Men + Care and Kia rolled around, I was looking forward to all the people I wanted to meet and see. I was just so overwhelmed by all of the people coming up to me and telling me how great it was to meet me in person. That can be tough for even the most outgoing of people. I'm attributing it to the fact that I'm pretty easy to spot in a crowd, like a shiny lighthouse in a sea of people.

Despite growing up a shy kid who would often hide behind my parents when spoken to, I somehow mustered up the courage to throw my hat in as a speaker this year and present on Extreme Media Training : A Survival Guide for when your post goes viral. I was definitely looking forward to sharing my story to a packed room and was proud to share the panel with Doyin Richards of Daddy Doin Work, Jessica Shyba of MommasGoneCity, Beau Coffron of Lunchbox Dad, and Morgan Shanahan of Buzzfeed and The 818. I figured that my years as a teacher would control my nerves and that I would be presenting to an audience that was mostly comprised of my friends and colleagues. I didn't even need to imagine anyone in their underwear.


I made connections with people in the Marketplace where brands like PicMonkey,  Kidde, Hot Wheels, Hasbro, KIND Snacks, Lee, Best Buy, Smarty Pants Vitamins, Netgear, Artic Cove, Ryobi, and ScholarShare were there to support all of those in attendance. Cause Partners like Camp Kesem and The National At Home Dad Network reminded us that dads who want to make a change in this world, will.  I attended User Experiences with PicMonkey on editing images and even made a beverage carrier with Ryobi tools while others attended RoundTable discussions on editing, internet safety for teenagers, marketing, and podcasting and others.

Our most anticipated evening especially for the Star Wars nerds came together Friday night when we visited LucasFilm sponsored by LEGO. We sat in George Lucas' private theater and watched something that is incredibly awesome but was sworn to secrecy or Stormtroopers will find me in the night.


Saturday's programming included a powerful panel about depression, a session on how to sell yourself and be more successful, and a panel on the complexities of marriage and blogging. Dad 2.0 makes it hard to choose as everything is incredibly helpful. How you experience the Summit is what you make of it. No matter what that is, it will help you move forward.

Through it all the common thread were the people in attendance. We were well fed with snacks and food but satiated by the words of our peers, the relationships growing to all new levels of understanding and friendship. Listening to Blogger Spotlights like Bill Peebles, Justin Connors, Thom Hofman, Christopher Persley, and Dave Lesser and hearing authors read their own words is powerful beyond just hearing it in my head.



Keynote speakers like Michael Kimmel reminded us why the work toward modern fatherhood is important while closing keynote, Comedian, Jay Larson reminded us why we need to laugh along the way. In every instance there were people working towards a common goal, looking forward to the direction modern fatherhood will take next.




Dad 2.0 Summit is like going away to a weekend camp. Your apprehension about making friends falls away the first night someone introduces themselves to you and you find that by Sunday you don't want it to end. The last night as dad bloggers were gathering in the lobby of the hotel I didn't want to return to my room knowing full well that the next time I would see them all in person would be in Washington D.C.

Reluctantly, I shuffled off to get some sleep and with only a minor bump in the road at 2 a.m. courtesy of Tommy Riles and managed to get some sleep before checking out early Sunday morning. I flew in another packed plane unable to sleep invigorated by the weekend yet constrained by my seat. I already can't wait for next year and as I dwell on the photos and memories, I know they can only go so far.

How we define modern fatherhood is changing. People are starting to take notice. We aim to move fatherhood forward through our words, actions, and the way we share our voice and Dad 2.0 is all of those things and more. If you didn't make it this year, make sure I see you at camp next year in Washington DC. I'm easy to spot in a crowd, I'll be the one always looking forward.



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Selling Fatherhood



My dad prided himself on the new sound system sitting in our living room. It was packed with power, it had a turntable, a tape deck, and the newest feature, a compact disc player. When people would come over, he would ask them if they had ever heard Bocelli in surround sound and crank it higher than was necessary. Then, it would watch your reaction to what you were hearing rapt, looking for that moment when your mind was blown though really it might be your eardrums bursting from the carefully maintained equalizer.

Each Christmas, we would spend it with the extended family. His three brothers and their families would often congregate at our house or at my aunt's house not bound by the constraints of the sheer number crammed into our confines with an overflowing mound of presents so deep we could barely see the Christmas tree. As a family we would attend The Nutcracker around Christmas time together. We would get dressed up and attend and afterwards, return to the house where my father immediately walked over to the sound system and popped in The Nutcracker Suite. He left the room and headed to his bedroom.

What happened next changed my perception of my dad forever. He reemerged wearing only his long underwear and pranced around like a ballerina, pirouetting like only an ungraceful man can do. I never laughed so hard in my life. He quickly bowed and exited stage left down the hallway while we cheered "Encore! Encore!"

He is like that with almost everything still. Growing up in his house meant he would draw attention to experiences and people, never the things you had or wanted. Meals made by him would become "the best tacos I ever had" and he would sell them to you like you were a customer at his food truck instead of sitting at his kitchen table.

Family vacations were about adventures. Like that time he took us to California and just had to show us the La Brea tar pits which for some reason were closed. He insisted despite the warning sign that we take a picture to prove we were there and to pose like we were actually disappointed.

My dad never wore shorts. For the longest time I wasn't sure if he even owned a pair Even at Disney World he was in slacks and a business casual, button down with no tie making calls on the payphone between rides. He'd fit those calls in when he could furiously scribbling notes into a tiny book while he did that he kept on his clients, the early version of a pocket sized cell phone.

My dad was and still is a salesman in every way. He will still try to get you to eat the last hot dog though you protest that you don't have room for it yet somehow you will eat it in the end. As a kid, I remember how he shook hands with everyone he met and how he looked them in the eye when he did. He never forgot anyone's name and would call people out from behind desks to show me or my brothers off.

He wasn't the dad sitting by the pool with the paper barely paying attention. He's the dad on top of the inflatable alligator that my younger brother and I insisted that we had on vacation for the hotel pool. He's that guy on top of the statue with all four of his boys unafraid of looking foolish because he is just being a dad. He's not the dad sitting idly on the couch watching from afar. He's the dad on the floor, in the trenches, playing with his kids.

He's the same guy who led a rousing rendition of On Top of Old Smokey in front of numerous other people at Lost Land Lake that while probably fueled by a few Leinenkugels demonstrated that he wasn't about to shy away from showing me what happens when a man takes charge of his dadliness.

He showed me how to be a dad without website and parenting blogs telling him how to make that happen.  I suppose that's why I emulated him with my own children remembering how he would lay on the floor and help me put my GI Joe toys together while listening to an AM radio that was never an arm's length away.  The way he cared for us, the way he played with us, and the way he loved us was the perfect example of what it meant to be a dad.

He still is the same dad to this day with my own children. They know that Grandpa B will do anything for a laugh.  He dresses up in goofy costumes, plays inside pop up tents, and is still down there on the floor even if sometimes now that ends in a nap on the couch. He has earned it.

Now, in the play kitchen he's still trying to sell those fake chicken nuggets to my youngest daughter but it is me who is buying today and every day from him as his best customer. A long time ago, he sold me on fatherhood hook, line, and sinker.



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Amazon Mom, Time to Catch Up To The Rest of the World



When it comes to parental leave the United States is dismally behind. Maternity leave in the U.S. is tied with Lesotho and Swaziland for a maximum 84 days making us one of the ten worst countries in the world. The world's leader, Croatia, has 406 maximum days and that includes paid leave. When it comes to paternity leave, the United States doesn't even make the worst chart. We are severely behind the rest of the world when it comes to recognizing this need for dads.

It should come to no one's surprise then that Amazon.com here in the U.S. also discounts all families. The company has a program worldwide for parents and caregivers to save money on purchases for their families from the prenatal through the toddler years. The program here in the United States is called Amazon Mom yet everywhere else, they call it Amazon Family.


It just seems dumb doesn't it? They mention the words parents, caregivers, and families right in their own description and then make a conscience decision anyway to call it Amazon Mom. This is not a war about moms and dads. We love moms, we support moms, but just wish that dads would be included here in United States as part of that distinction that dads are parents too.

It seems like a simple solution. They call it Amazon Family in the UK, Canada, Germany, Austria, Japan, and France. Despite my friend Jeffrey Harrington, a fellow stay at home dad,  starting a petition to change the name from Amazon Mom to Amazon Family to help exact this change, it never really took off like you think it would.

Marginalizing anyone is usually not good for business especially when you alienate half of your target audience. Honestly, as a main consumer in my family, I use Amazon constantly for purchases but I will never like their Amazon Mom page for this reason.

In fact, my friend Oren, wrote about it on A Blogger and a Father, trying to persuade people to sign the petition. Imagine getting an email as a dad from Amazon.com only to ask you to sign up for Amazon Mom. I bet it would make you question whether they really valued you as a consumer or if they really took you seriously as a parent or caregiver.


The fact that is hasn't changed is embarrassing. I'm not a mom, I'm a dad. We are all parents. This is not longer the 1950's and the people raising our children aren't just moms. Doesn't it make sense to just make it family? Please Amazon, make the change to Amazon Family and prevent the United States from lagging behind in yet another way.

Sign the petition HERE and share on your social media.

Follow #AmazonFamilyUS to support this movement and help us to make a change. 






















Sunday, March 1, 2015

It's Not About Me



Five days ago, I wrote an email to my friend and fellow blogger Oren Miller. I heard he wasn't doing well and I feared I wouldn't get a chance to hear from him if I waited. You may remember him from a previous post I wrote where dad bloggers all over were raising money to support him and his family after doctors diagnosed his Stage 4 lung cancer. In the window of time we started the fundraiser, we collectively raised $35,455 for Oren and his family, a feat worthy of all its praise.

I wanted to tell him just how important him creating the Facebook group Dad Bloggers was to me but I knew that any spouting off by me about how great he was would be deflected. It was never about him, it was always about us, all of us.

He had this crazy idea that if he started a group maybe we could come together and support one another. It grew from hundreds of members to well over a thousand in no time.The Dad Bloggers Facebook group he created is singly the most supportive group I have ever been a part of online. Dads in this community support one another not only through words but in real life visits, crashes on each other's couches, and words of encouragement and support when fathering has us puzzled.

A gathering of these dads means you are always accepted. It's the reason I can go to Dad 2.0 Summit and feel like it's my reunion of long time friends. It's like walking into Cheers and you are Norm.

Yesterday, I found out that Oren lost his battle with cancer. Fuck cancer. It's not fair.

So I'm looking at the email I sent him, about what I said to him not five days ago about how thankful I was that he started the group.
Thank you for the idea. Thank you for giving a crazy idea a chance. Thank you for uniting a brotherhood of dads through the internet of all places.
When I think about my life and how it has impacted others, I hope that I get to say that I had that sort of influence on people. You didn't ever do it for fame or glory but just to help others and help give them a place where feel they belong. All the while, you still remain as humble as ever while still being true to yourself when you see some bullshit going down.
So many guys probably have better words than I. I just want you to know that I admire and respect you as a man and a father. I'll continue to pray for you and your family through it all. Much love to you and your family.
Of course he was as humble as ever. I knew it would happen and his response didn't surprise me.

I appreciate what you wrote. I've always tried to make this not about me--knowing that the second it becomes about one person, it would fail. I'm glad it continues and gets even better, I think. Thanks to you and to everyone who's made it successful.



Oren

There plain as day, he is still thanking me. Thanking everyone who has made it successful.  When I first met him in Washington DC at the National At Home Dad Convention he told me that he was "just an opinionated guy with the funny accent". We talked for a bit while we drank our coffee about blogging and family. I was just getting started writing my blog and I looked up to him. There were many quiet pauses but also lots of laughter. I still don't remember him talking much about himself, just asking me questions about my family. He always seemed to turn it back on me.

Oren Miller, front crouching, with NAHDN members in DC


What he did love to talk about were his kids. How important being a dad was and how being there for his children so his wife could focus on her career was the greatest job he has ever had. He'd say what he would need to say and flash his smile, maybe look down while he did, but it will always be that smile that I will remember most.

Like the picture in this post, taken at Dad 2.0 in New Orleans while on the walking tour, our guide in the foreground, Dave Taylor to the left and Oren to the right. We couldn't really hear what she was saying and Dave said something to him while the guide's back was turned. She wheeled around and stared at Oren because she didn't think he was paying attention and he just shrugged his shoulders and smiled. I was just taking a picture of the guide as it happened to capture that moment and there was his smile.

I'm grateful for his words, his blog, his voice for all modern fathers. The way he would stick up for something he believed in and insert his opinion into the debate.  I'm a better person for knowing him, we all are. I'm a better person because of his group, for the contribution he gave to so many fathers, to give them a place to feel welcome and loved.

Beyond the group he was just a dad with two beautiful children and a loving wife doing what was best for his family by staying at home and caring for his kids. It was never about him but what he could give to others and we will miss him dearly.




Tuesday, February 17, 2015

9 Ways Having Kids is Just Like Being In College


1. You may wake up the next day with a cute boy or girl in your bed and have no idea how they got there.

If your kids are like mine, they become these nighttime ninjas, preying on us when we are in our weakest state, namely when my contacts are out and I can't decipher whether our obese cat just climbed into bed with us or a small child. I only confirm that it is a child in the morning when I either wake up and find the little head next to me or see all the pictures my wife took of me sleeping on my phone. That's not creepy at all. 


2. Say goodbye to sex because your roommates are ALWAYS home.

When it comes to parental fun time, you really need to know when you window of opportunity opens up so you can seize the day. Well, seize something but not really the day. Buy locks for your doors to keep them out because the mental scarring you can incur is pretty damaging once they find out that you and mommy aren't really wrestling behind closed doors. 


3. Your roommates constantly have the MUNCHIES and if you don't hide the good food, they will eat it all.

It helps when you are 6'7" and your minions are well below the height limit for the high shelf cookies. If they do indeed spot the cookies you just say "These aren't the cookies you are looking for" and wave your hand. If that doesn't work, this is also a good time to do the detachable thumb trick or you can "accidentally" drop a dollar on the floor. 


4. You'll be cleaning pee and puke out of beds for years

If you have ever answered the late night call of Daddy! or Mommy! in the middle of the night for bodily fluids involuntarily making their way into your children's beds, you can identify with all those times your roommates got so pissed drunk that they permanently ruined their dorm room bed. I had a roommate in college who used to just roll to the side and go right in a garbage can like no big deal. With kids, we just aren't going to be that lucky. Amateurs. 


5. You're going to do a whole lot of embarrassing things to get laughs

Instead of you streaking the quad, you'll probably be chasing the urchins around just trying to get them to wear underwear half the time. Let's face it, we will do a lot of crazy things for our kids especially when they want to play hair salon and you don't have any hair. Think of all the stupid things you did with your friends that seemed funny at the time. The same goes for kids only you don't have to be drunk for it to happen. Instead, enjoy the natural high from their laughter.


6. There will be lots of drinking happening, especially at parties.

Birthday parties for kids are the worst that's why most sane people go somewhere that you pay them lots of money to have teenagers handle them for three hours while they throw pizza at them in between. Spend any time at a child's birthday party with ten screaming boys and girls and you'll be wondering where the nearest bar is and cursing yourself for leaving that flask you got at your friend's bachelor party at home.


7. Lots and lots of cramming

Trying to force knowledge into your brain in short window of time was not that effective. With your kids, it will come in the form of hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. Finally, a form of cramming that I can get behind.


8. Your house is going to be constantly trashed

Like your college roommate who would drink milk from the container and would let the dishes pile up in the sink until they grew mold when it was his turn, kids are messy. Instead of cleaning up red Solo cups and beer cans, it will be every toy they own. They have the ability, like reverse locusts, to take everything out in one room to destroy it before moving onto the next. They may have so many stuffed animals in their bed that E.T. might be in there and you may not notice.


9. You'll be hitting the books pretty hard 

Okay, many books you had in college probably weren't actually opened until the day before the test. Not me, mom and dad, I swear! In some cases, you probably sold the book back to the bookstore and they gave you three dollars for a $150 textbook they discontinued the next year. But reading with your kids is going to be the best investment you can ever make when spending time with them with a much better return.



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