Monday, April 27, 2015

The Authentic Signature

I loved the hot corner. The anticipation of every pitch, raising up on the balls of my feet making a move on the ball. The ping of the ball hitting the bat over and over on field next to field like a demented pinball machine. The wind would kick up every now and again and blow the dust right off the field, blowing between the stands and the concession stand where no matter how you played, a shockingly cold Mr. Pibb bought by the coach was waiting for you afterwards. The hiss of that pop top was like the roar of the crowd to some.

There is something magical about a coach calling your name for the on deck circle. Looking over at your parents in the stands and getting a thumbs up as you tried to play it cool. The sound of your teammates cheering you on as you walk up to the plate: your heart pounding in your chest like it wants to get out. Digging in at the plate, establishing your territory, and staring down the pitcher while you waited for his delivery.

I played baseball just like my brothers did. I played third base and was, when I started growing taller asked to eventually pitch. My last year in, I hit my first and only home run all the way to the tennis courts in deep left center and ran so slow around every base knowing it might be my last.

Back then it was just me and the dirty pants boys who slid that day, slogging down grape pop mixed with the grime from the field talking about baseball with mouths chock full of Big League Chew trying to emulate Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, or Ron Kittle. The firm allegiances to North or South firmly etched in your family but divided in any conversation about who was the better team that year.

Just like every boy my age, collecting baseball cards and memorabilia was an extension of that passion. The thrill of the hunt to complete an entire set or collecting your favorite player's baseball cards. Nothing could keep us from going to our favorite stores, even a six mile bike ride on our dirt bikes to the closest store didn't seem impossible.

Back then, it wasn't about game used this and uniforms embedded in the card. It was about the player and his stats, the look of the card. Sometimes it was about collecting enough packs to get a decent size bubble from the bubble gum which lost its flavor immediately but left that powdery residue on whatever unfortunate soul was at the bottom.

I became a rabid collector with my younger brother and when sports card shows came to the local Holiday Inn where treasure became a reality.  The most coveted of all the memorabilia was the autograph. Sometimes our older brothers would take us to the shows where local legends and sometimes big stars lined up on a long table and you waited with baited breath to say something, anything to them while they signed your ball.

At Comiskey Park in the summer of 1981 my parents took me to a game. I went down to the bullpen to see who was warming up. The pitcher I don't remember but when you see Fisk on the back of the jersey this Chicago boy who played baseball got all numb inside.

I fought for position at the rail among the throng of other boys, some of them much bigger than me to get to the front. I was mere feet from a hero, hanging over the rail as much as I dared and I asked him "Mr. Fisk. Mr. Fisk, can you please sign my ball?" He lifted his catcher's mask, turned to me, as if in slow motion and said "F*** off kid."

I was devastated and hurt. Though my parents explained later that he was warming up the catcher pregame and he had his job to do, I didn't expect the harsh treatment. I stopped collecting anything that had his name on it. If I got him in a pack, my friend instantly knew he was up for grabs or just to get back at him his card instantly went in my dirt bike's spokes.

That's when I found Cal Ripken Jr. The Ironman. He started his career in 1981 as a third basemen like me but soon moved over to shortstop where he redefined the position. I watched him whenever I could and wanted to emulate his toughness. Not only that, but I discovered he was a nice guy and that meant even more to me as a young kid who looked up to ballplayers.

Since that day, I have been collecting every Cal Ripken Jr. card since he rookie year. It's the reason I bought a Cal Ripken commemorative baseball like the ones you can get from Steiner Sports for my shelf from his retirement game. There is something of value to being truly authentic. The signature is a symbol for me about who to be no matter what success you have in life and above all else to remain humble among accolades and praise.

The signature is much more than a collectible, it is a part of how I shaped myself as a person. It's a personal connection to a person that I never met but shaped my life through his actions. I forgive you Carlton Fisk because thanks to you, I found Cal Ripken Jr. when I needed him the most.

FTC Disclaimer: I received compensation from Steiner Sports for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Get Dinner Done Pronto

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Barilla®, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #OnePotPasta

What's for dinner? is a phrase my son utters every single day after school right when he gets off the bus and I'm starting to resent it like it's an affront to my cooking.

There's no "Hi dad, how was your day?" or "Good to see you dad, tell me something cool you did today" It's a "I haven't eaten since one o' clock and I want to know if I am going to bed hungry tonight" question.

I've begun to dread his answer these days because when it comes to meal planning I am the absolute worst.I'm not sure why I am so adverse to having a plan, I suppose it has to do with my desire to be flexible and to fly by the seat of my pants. It's my job as the stay at home parent to keep the family fed and to stay on budget when it comes to spending.

From Monday to Friday I am carting kids from karate to choir, school to preschool, and everywhere in between. I'm cleaning the house, writing blog posts, mowing the lawn and doing the grocery shopping.

With a family of five this can be a problem as the after school homework and activities can really cut into my time for creative cooking. Feeding a family of five day in and day out can test your creative talents especially when you are in a time crunch.

When my wife comes home I want to have dinner ready so she doesn't have to think about it after her long day providing for our family. Cleanup after dinner is also my responsibility and when you are the cook and the dishwasher what you need is something fast and easy that isn't going to have you using every pot in the kitchen to make it.

When I do plan out the meals, I look for things that will take 20 minutes to prepare. Less cooking time means less clean up in my experience. That's why I went to my local ShopRite and picked up some Barilla Pronto pasta. Not only does it cook in 10 minutes, it is also cheap. In fact, if you can buy any FOUR (4) Barilla® Pronto™ pasta products for $5.00 or $1.25 each available until 5/16/15 while supplies last.

Do you want a quick and easy recipe using only one pot to make it? Look no further.


Bacon - 6 strips
Cherry tomatoes - 1 pint
Green onion (3)
1/4 cup Feta Cheese
1/4 cup Light Sour Cream
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
1 package  Barilla® Pronto™ - Penne


1. Cook bacon in the pan and remove to paper towels. Drain fat, wipe out pan.
2. Pour in entire box of   Barilla® Pronto™ - Penne
3. Cook on high stirring often until water is completely cooked off. Remove from heat.
4. Mix feta, mayonnaise, and sour cream together to create the sauce
5. Pour into pan with pasta and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper
6. Slice cherry tomatoes into small slices
7. Chop green onion
8. Add tomatoes and onion into the pan
9. Crumble bacon and add to pan and mix
10. Dinner is served!

Note: Store the leftovers in the fridge for a nice cold salad that is good for work the next day or summer barbecues. Once cold, you may have to add more mayo to achieve the same creamy consistency after it cools down.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Unlock The Avenger In Your Daughters and Assemble!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AvengersUnite #CollectiveBias

The mission is set. It will be fraught with peril and I will have to overcome enormous obstacles if I am to be victorious. My enemies are well prepared for my power. They know my weaknesses as well as my strengths. I will need brains and brawn to make sure this mission is a success, That, and some minimal amounts of spandex.  You see, I'm a superhero so it comes with the territory. The evil Ultron is hellbent on world domination and I need help. Last time I thought I could do it alone but this time, I brought my friends, The Avengers. 

Okay well, they are really my three great kids. But, we make a heck of a team. What they've learned from this comic book nerd is that dress up is a part of life and that playtime, especially when playing superheroes, that dad will be flying along side them on the way to battle. That's why it is important to be a part of the Avengers Unite movement. See our MARVEL's The Avengers : Age of Ultron  DIY projects below. 

I grew up in a time when I became Iron Man and my bike was just an extension of my Iron Man armor. Just a simple trip to the store became a battle against all odds. Where four lanes of traffic was a perilous asteroid field and another dimension was waiting just across the street. 

Overcoming all the odds, I would make it to my safe place, White Hen the local convenience store where I would sit in the aisle, near the magazine stand in the rear of the store and pour over the comics every week. The owner would always yell once he discovered me tucked in the sunny corner near the window "Hey Bernholdt! This is a store, not a library!" I couldn't help it, I just got lost in the stories and had endless hours playing, pretending it were me instead. 

I've never been one to shy my girls away from comic books and playing superheroes. Each kid has received a mask and cape as a gift at some point regardless of whether they were a boy or girl. It's always been an intent of mine to show my two daughters how strong and smart women of the comic book world can be. That's why I don't hesitate to buy them superhero toys just because they are "supposed to be for boys" as many of the boys in their classes have told them. Instead I prepare them by teaching them about Iron Man, Black Widow, The Incredible Hulk, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and Captain America. In most cases they know way more than their male classmates will ever know. You too can help your kids get up to par with the Super Heroes Assemble app available in iTunes and the Google Play store now. 

That's why we're excited for the release of  MARVEL's The Avengers: Age of Ultron movie set to release on May 1st. To celebrate the release, we went to pick out a new Avengers toys and snacks from WalMart and their the huge variety of MARVEL's The Avengers:Age of Ultron toys. We also found some Avengers treats. You can't fight crime on an empty stomach!

My daughter couldn't contain her excitement when we took in the in store display. When we found the Hulkbuster Iron Man we knew we had to have it. The fact that it came with Hulk had my daughter yelling "HULK SMASH!" all the way down the aisle. 

So inspired by all the great toys and masks we purchased, we assembled outside to play MARVEL's Avengers : Age of Ultron in the backyard and that's when the inspiration for our two crafts came. My older daughter Sarah, wanted to be Thor but she didn't have a hammer and Heidi, wanting to smash something for real, wanted her own Hulk Smash Hands. Now, we are really going to assemble something! 

Materials : 

2 small box tissues (may allow children to empty these for fun)

Masking tape/Painter's tape

Roll of green duct tape 

Newspaper or brown paper bags 

Black Sharpie 


1. Empty the small tissue boxes of all the tissues. Kids may want to go crazy doing this or you may already have one that has emptied one recently. 

2. Take a piece of newspaper/ cut paper from brown paper bag and roll them into a long strips. These should be about 10" long. Fold it into three equal sections. Make five of these for the fingers. 
3. Using masking tape or painter's tape, tape these into position. You'll want to attach them to the top and front with the opening for the hand facing you. Four of the skinnier ones can be used for the fingers and a larger one for the thumb. After four have been attached, position the thumb diagonally across the top of the box. 

4. Place green duct tape strips down first between all the fingers by pinching it in the middle and leaving the tape open at the ends. These pieces will anchor the pieces to the box before you can cover it.

 5. Wrap the entire box using duct tape strips that will cover two sides of the box. Cover the remaining two sides the same way.  Leave the area where the tissues would come out open so the kids can put their hands inside.
6. Depending on the size of the hand, you may have to tape the opening closed slightly so it becomes more snug. Use the Black Sharpie to draw on fingernails and delineate the space between fingers to give it depth.  

7. Go outside and smash stuff like Hulk but don't hit your older brother because he may cry. 


Cereal box of the wider variety

Two paper towel rolls

Black and silver duct tape



1. Cut the box down the seams to your desired "hammer" size. Remove one long side at the same height as the bottom of the hammer leaving you with three flaps. Bend the long flap so that it is even with where you cut the other one and crease it to form a rectangle.  Fold in the side flaps and close the long flap. You should have a rectangular box.

2. Using the paper towel roll, trace the outline of the paper towel roll on the bottom and top of your rectangular box. Cut out these circles. 

3. Since you don't want this thing to cave in, stuff the inside of your box with newspaper, making sure the side flaps don't block the holes you just made.

4. Creasing one paper towel roll slightly, fit one roll inside the other and twist until your handle is at your desired length. Mojilnir's hammer protrudes slightly above the top of the hammer. Slide the entire assembly through the bottom and up out through the top. 

5. Secure the handle into place with silver duct tape. An easy way to adhere the round roll to the box is to slightly rip the middle of the tape so it can be wrapped around the roll when placed. Where it is ripped on both sides is where the box meets the paper towel roll. 

6. Use silver duct tape to cover the short sides of the hammer first just on the top and bottom. When that is done, wrap the hammer long ways in silver duct tape sealing the work you just did. 

7. Stuff the rolls with newspaper top and bottom so it doesn't fall apart after the first use. You can reinforce the handle with a strip of cardboard to ensure it doesn't bend. 

8. Cover the tops of the rolls with pieces of black duct tape. Then, wrap the handle starting from the hammer to the end. For the top, you may have to tear the duct tape horizontally to ensure it doesn't overlap too much at the top and is flush with the rest of the tape. 

9. Go outside and raise it to the sky to summon some lightning and use Mojilnir's hammer to wield Thor's might! 

How will you celebrate the opening of MARVEL's The Avengers : Age of Ultron with your family?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

First and Ten: Tips for My Brother, a New Dad To Be

Dear Brother,  I can't even begin to describe what it feels like, holding your own child for the first time. It's a moment I will never forget. The first time I held Adam I just couldn't stop staring at him.
The whole thing is exciting beyond words. That's why we went through it three times. Well, that and Susie forgot what labor was like at least enough that she was interested it it happening more than once.

What is incredible about it is first, seeing your wife deliver this tiny human whom you have been talking to for months, watching him move like a little alien inside her pregnant belly, and seeing him grow on ultrasounds from a tiny raspberry to a full grown T-Rex. You'll never forget him responding to your voice when you read him your favorite book before he even made it out into the world or the way he would kick when he heard your voice.

Your first kid is going to scare the crap out of you and at the same time make you cry with happiness. I was scared that I was going to do something wrong. The first time I changed Adam's diaper, I was shaking so hard I could barely do it. All the while Susie laughed the entire time, so that helped.

This month, Adam turned 10 years old and my baby is becoming more than just that little boy. If I knew then what I know now it sure would be a whole lot easier so I've put together ten tips for new fathers like yourself. I did all the research, so you're welcome.


Being home with the kid is great and for the first few months people are going to inundate you with dishes they prepared to keep you well fed. Once that runs out, you're going to hate casseroles. My advice, go out with the baby in the infant carrier.

These dry runs not too far from home gave us a chance to get out together and test taking the baby everywhere. Not to mention, when it is Crab Cracking Tuesday at Red Lobster, that kid isn't going anywhere while you plow through a pound of crab legs.


It's never going to make up for your lack of sleep. Ever. But enjoy the snuggle time with the baby sleeping on your chest while you play Mario Kart or watch The Walking Dead late at night. You can catch up when he starts consistently sleeping through the night. I once witnessed you crawling to class the next morning after a night of drinking at The Pace so I know you have it in you.


Once, while changing Adam he peed straight up into my face and into my mouth. I guess they make something called the Wee Blocker now because of this very thing. I never made this mistake again as I always kept it covered while the change was happening from then on. Little boys are like sprinklers when they whiz.


This was probably one of my worst moments as a new dad. I felt like the baby was always with Susie and I felt helpless and sometimes useless. I felt like I should be doing something to help so with the first two, instead of making every effort to let the breast have first billing, I deferred to the bottle which probably confused the kids.

Let's put it this way, your wife is the Chef and you are the Sous Chef. Do whatever it takes to support her. Get the breast pads, the nipple lotion, the nursing bras, whatever. Do the laundry, keep the house clean, keep her hydrated. Be the best breast supporter you can be. Yes, I said that.


Admire them. Cherish them. But keep in mind, you aren't going to touch them. No sir. Basically they are strip club boobs. As badly as you want to touch them, you're going to be bounced if you do. You may want to take some mental snapshots for later though.


After Adam was born I thought it was sort of boring. All he did was eat, sleep, crap, and repeat. People will tell you it goes fast and they are right but you won't want to listen and it may seem to drag on forever. One of my absolute favorite things to do with the kids was to give them baths when they were babies. Eventually, he will scream at you like you are pouring hot acid on him, so enjoy it.


When Susie was calling me on my cell asking for a chocolate shake from Steak N Shake I always thought "He that sounds good, I should get one too" I should have done crunches instead. You know that freshman 15? That's nothing compared to the new parent 25. You may want to store veggies in your car.


The good thing about parenting is that there is no wrong way to do it. We've seen plenty of bad parents on the news and there is no way you will be one of those. People are going to give you lots of unsolicited advice. Just nod your head and smile, then do the opposite.


Moms are great for advice but to be honest, they forget shit. Heck, I already have forgotten so many details so you may want to ask Susie. You know she never forgets anything and if she did, she probably has it written down in a spreadsheet somewhere.  The more kids you have, the more you mix up who did what. That's why I took a bazillion photographs.

Just because a person is a veteran when it comes to having kids, doesn't mean they are up on current happenings. Ask the people who recently went through it or have babies. They are the gold resource. I'll never stick my nose in your business but know that if you need help, I'm always around for encouragement or make fun of you, whichever comes first. Hey, we're brothers!


Believe me, you're going to make mistakes. We all have and it's okay. Babies are resilient and you need to be too. Forgive yourself now for anything that may go wrong and will. Have a sense of humor about it and NEVER TELL YOUR WIFE. Just kidding, tell her, maybe.

Once, while severely sleep deprived, I dropped the bottle of milk and it rolled under the couch. I grabbed it in the dark and fed it to him. He cried and screamed and made a fuss that woke Susie up when it was my turn to take care of him. The next morning I found out I had force fed him a bottle that had been under the couch for days which had gone missing. No wonder he screamed. My bad.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

One Less Thing To Worry About

From the minute I wake up the demands for the day start rolling through my head. Get up, get dressed,  clean up the cat puke at the foot of your bed. Wake Adam up and make sure Sarah is dressed. MAKE COFFEE STAT.

Did Adam feed the cats yet? Is all of their homework in their take home folders and is that research project that is due today in the car for safe travel?  Make sure the kids eat breakfast and inspect their lunches. Did they brush their teeth? IS THE COFFEE DONE YET?

What's for dinner tonight? What activities are going on after school. Did I clean the toilets yesterday? Why do I go to the grocery store everyday?  DRINK THAT COFFEE BEFORE YOU FORGET!

Have they made their beds. Why isn't the youngest awake yet, I have an appointment! Are the backpacks ready to go? Why are their rooms already trashed? Did they brush their teeth? The bus is coming in two minutes! WHERE DID I PUT DOWN MY COFFEE?

Once I get them off to school, the voices never really stop. I'm that guy walking around the grocery store talking to myself like a coach hyping up his players. It helps me stay in the game. Being the primary purchaser for the family can make you crazy. There are so many decisions to make in one day that affect the health and safety of my family that it can get overwhelming.

I mean, have you been in the vitamin aisle lately? They have vitamin gummies for kids and adults but they are made mostly of corn syrup. One says it is a multivitamin but then doesn't have Omega-3 in it. Another claims to have the everything you need yet tastes absolutely horrible. How can I force my kids to take something I wouldn't even eat?

The good news is that you don't because of SmartyPants Vitamins. SmartyPants was the first to combine four vitamins into one. With a full multivitamin, eco-friendly Omega 3s (DHA and EPA) over 100% of your daily Vitamin D3, and an amount of B12 equivalent to a standalone supplement, they focused on those nutrients toughest to get from food. Not only is it packed with all that good stuff your body needs, but it tastes delicious which simplifies your decision even more.

Have you ever looked at a product's label and wasn't sure if it was safe for your family depending on your lifestyle or allergies?  SmartyPants Vitamins have no artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or preservatives. You won't need them because they aren't going to last. My kids love them.

There are made without high fructose corn syrup, are gluten free, tree nut and peanut free, and contain no dairy. They are the perfect little package of delicious and nutritious and they are made for the whole family.

Cue the cool announcer voice in your head: If that doesn't impress you, wait there's more! SmartyPants Vitamins has a partnership with Vitamin Angels which helps those who need vitamins the most, the at-risk populations of children, pregnant women, new mothers, and children under five, to get the nutrients they need from vitamins. SmartyPants makes a nutrient grant to Vitamin Angels for every single bottle purchased.

Still need convincing? Watch this video below from SmartyPants.

Enter below for your chance to win a 1 month supply from SmartyPants Vitamins

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Two winners will be chosen. Must be 18 years or over to enter. Winners will be notified via email and must respond within 24 hours or another winner will be chosen.

Disclosure: DadNCharge received compensation for review of this product by SmartyPants Vitamins. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Celebrated Man

The baby is screaming and I can't find her bottle. TSA won't let me through because I am over the liquid ounces limit. All our belongings are now on the belt, making their way to the other side. I wish I was over there with them. My son is zig-zagging between the poles like a crazed slalom skier and everyone is waiting on me to fold up the stroller.

The baby is shrieking now. Where the hell, did I put that binky?  Simultaneously, someone is asking me to take of my shoes and belt while another is telling me my stroller will never fit through the X-ray machine. "It fits." growling a little too forcefully and the guy raises his hand. Hand check!

He yells. "Sir, I am going to have to ask you to step aside" But, what about my baby? I say. "The baby can wait" he curtly responds and as I am walking past the scanner through those swinging double doors, I know this can't be right.

Then I wake up in a cold sweat.

I will never forget the first trip I took with our first two children on my own. I was headed to Rochester, NY to meet up with my wife who was house hunting in our new state while I stayed in Chicago with the kids.  I knew what travelling with them meant with my wife along with me and was terrified of ensuring everything went well with no one to fall back on.

Going through security with the kids and our stuff was a nightmare I had weeks before the big day arrived. My wife said "You're a big boy, you'll do fine" but I still doubted my ability to get all three of us to the gate in time for boarding.

I approached the long Chicago airport security line trying to keep track of the older one and prepping to get the baby through with all our stuff. The car seat was inside the backpack bag strapped to my back making me look like a sherpa trekking up Everest. On either arm was a backpack and diaper bag while I pushed the stroller. My oldest son, at three was carrying his own tiny backpack full of toys.

The TSA person, delightful as ever, gave me the once over while I tried to hold up all the bags with a smile. I had the urge to say that I would like to buy this guy a Coke just to see what would happen. I felt like he was staring through me not at me. My nightmare was coming true, it was about to happen just like the dream.

Only it didn't. He asked me "Are you travelling all by yourself with these kids?" Yes. I replied, trying to look braver than I felt. "You can move to the left sir, into the travelling families' line." he said. I wasn't sure where that went to but it sounded gloriously better than the never-ending line I was in.

The family line was still a line but with poor saps just like me. In most cases it was a family going to Disney together from the looks of their matching shirts and permanent smiles. In many cases though, it was a mom travelling with the little ones maybe off to see grandma and grandpa while daddy was away for work. Possibly he was on a business trip and would meet them at their final destination.

We were in the same boat but our travels took different directions when we actually got to security. I took the left line and she took the right but once we were there, people rushed to help the dad with the kids and totally disregarded the mom in the same situation.

When TSA told the mom that she had to remove the child from the Baby Bjorn, she turned to a guy directly behind her and asked if he could hold the baby for a second while she took it off. He looked like she had asked him to hold a live grenade.

On my side, people were understanding. They were smiling and telling me I was a good dad while a mere five steps away, a mom was doing the exact same thing without any accolades. No one told her she was a good mom but they made sure my kids knew drawing attention to the fact that "They were so lucky that daddy was taking them with him."

Was this a double standard? Did I just pick the better line? Maybe these guys just had their break and were fresh and ready for the rest of the afternoon. There had to be a good explanation. I was wrong.

In the terminal, we picked up McDonald's before getting on. The mom was there too and again got the cold shoulder. People seemed to expect a mom getting fast food for their children as a ho-hum experience. When I went through the line I felt like the Mayor of Cheeseburgerville. You get a cheeseburger! You get a cheeseburger! Everyone gets a cheeseburger!

The mom sat near me across from her kids staring blankly into space. I felt like a Marsha to her Jan. We sat at the terminal and ate our lunches. Our collective kids found the only TV playing cartoons near each other and ate their Happy Meals while we all vegged out happy for the respite.

When our flight was called we went on during family boarding. The last straw was snapped by the flight attendants who coddled me and made sure I had everything I needed. I was grateful for all the attention because of my fears but I also felt bad. The mom was left to fend for herself like she was raised by wolves while I was asked repeatedly if I needed anything.

Why do posts of men combing their children's hair go viral? Why does a man taking his kids out draw so much celebration? Why should we highlight the same things a man does as a parent that other parents, especially moms do every day? The answer is, we shouldn't.

Men just want to be known as parents and not treated to a ticker-tape parade for doing what is expected of us. We don't want special consideration, just to be regarded as on the same level as moms and vice versa.  Our society shouldn't sensationalize the relationships that men are building with their children. We do those things out of love not for attention. We aren't Supermen, we are just dads doing what is best for our children and that just makes us a parent.

I've heard enough people when I am out with my kids or at the grocery store say "You must be giving Mommy the day off today" and wished that they would just say "Spending time with dad today?" or just a simple word of encouragement as I am trying to steer them away from the checkout candy.

We deplaned with everyone making a fuss about how good my kids were as we made our way to our bags. I smiled and thanked them promising to reward them for being so good. We deplaned slowly, gathering up everything we had spread out for the trip, making sure nothing was left behind. Eventually I managed to find the mom near the carousel while I waited to locate the luggage.

"Travelling with the kids is the worst huh?" I said.

"Yes, it's a lot to handle. she replied.

"Well, from one parent to another I just wanted to say, you're doing a great job" She was surprised but not ungrateful for the effort. She said "So are you." We parted ways and there wasn't any fanfare for either of us and no trumpets leading the way.

There wasn't a photographer taking my picture for the newspaper so they could run a story called "Brave Dad Takes Kids On Airplane Alone" nor a ticker tape parade as we walked to the car. Just the usual demands for Goldfish and the promises of an afternoon nap. I'm not an Amazing Dad and she is not Super Mom. We are just parents and we're the same so please, just treat us that way.

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,, iTunes and 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.


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. 

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.