Friday, July 26, 2013

Why You Can't Pass This Bill

I've never met this man, yet I am friends with him. His words resonate with me yet we have never spoke. Bill, from ihopeiwinatoaster is the kind of writer that speaks to me and if you like to read inspiring stories this is why you can't pass up his blog.

He talks a lot about other bloggers and how inspired he is by them and here's the thing, he inspires me. I found Bill's blog because he found mine first. If you read his posts, like how his son broke his arm before summer or even his comments, you will become a fan like I did. He just knows how to make you feel that what you are writing is worthwhile. For a guy like me who thrives on positive feedback, a dangerous thing for a blogger, he grabbed my attention from the get-go.

Bill may not think he is a "Top Blogger". He'd probably tell you to check out someone else's page in the meantime but thanks for stopping by. If the Dad Bloggers were the Justice League he might think he was Aquaman. But let me tell you, Aquaman has some real kick ass powers. He's not a fringe superhero. He can make fish do his bidding and controls water for pete's sake! I am sorry that if you know Bill you are imagining him in an orange, scaly top and skin tight green wetsuit pants, that can't be helped. His blog packs a super punch.

Art by Gerardo Sandoval
Being a small blogger like him probably makes me appreciate his words more than others. The writes about things that as a the primary caregiver I am also experiencing. He, like me, lives in an area where there are just not that many stay at home dads nearby so we continue on the best way we know how, and that is by being the best dads we can be.

I am man enough to say that I may have a blog-crush on Bill maybe because despite us not being geographically close I wish that we were because he's a guy I would want to hang around and be friends with IRL. We both appreciate the words of other dad bloggers and aspire to write moving things about our own lives by giving you a peek within our own. We both appreciate art done by our children and celebrate how creative they can be. If there is one blog that I consistently read, it is his.

In the Stay At Home Dad community, we are a growing number but are sometimes too far away from each other to become close. In October, I will attend The National At Home Dad Network's 18th Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado. It is a chance to connect with guys just like Bill. For most of us, it is a re-energizing experience to be around our peers. While we love the moms groups and are happy that they accept us, we look forward to being with just the guys if only for three days.

My last convention was my first. I came across the convention information by accident while doing a search for other stay at home dads in my area when we first moved to Rochester, NY.

The convention was full of information, support, and most of all brotherhood with individuals who I can honestly say I enjoyed being around. If you have a boys or girls night out you can relate to this elated feeling that despite feeling it, you aren't alone. You can take comfort in knowing that other people are sharing your same experience and can relate to how you are trying not to lose your mind.

Sometimes when people go out they have a rule to not talk about kids for the night. I just hope this year I will get the chance to look down the end of the bar and see Bill for the first time. Maybe I will get to buy him a drink, trade war stories about being an at home dad without shame and of course talk about our kids. What else is there?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Is Staying at Home Making Me Dumber?

Dumber? More dumb? I am not even sure how you are supposed to say it, that is what my editor wife is for. In four years I should be ready to head back into the workforce, back to teaching kids art, if it still exists in public schools. I am more than a little scared to go back. I suppose most of us who had careers before becoming stay at home parents have felt this way.

Maybe it is because I am around the kids all day instead of being challenged by my peers, trying to have an intelligent conversations while scarfing down cafeteria food in the 20 minute lunch break I used to have.

Maybe it is because I spend more time explaining why one shouldn't put things in the toilet that don't belong there. Or maybe it is because most days I feel like I am putting out fire after fire and don't know if going back to the classroom will be any different.

Does this lack of stimulation delay your brain's ability to function at a high level? I am not sure but dealing with diapers, snacks, and playdates isn't exactly the kind of stimulation I used to get.

Staying at home presents its own challenges. You have to think quickly on your feet, you have to be patient, and you have to be tough yet nurturing. This is exactly the way I was in my classroom.

Most of the Stay At Home Dads that I know were doing something before they became the primary caregiver of their children. Most of them had some sort of passion that fell by the wayside. For some it was music, a hobby they loved, their photography.

For me, it was my art. I don't even know if I could pick up a pencil and draw like I used to anymore. Is it like riding a bike? Maybe I am too chickenshit to find out for sure. Recently, on my Facebook page, I posted an image that I drew of Chris Cornell when I was in college.

I don't even know if the artist that drew that is still in me or not. I am hoping he is and that I can pull him back out again. Part of me, and this is the part that is staying at home, feels that that guy is lost somewhere inside me. Am I crazy to think this way, or does everyone feel this? When people ask me if I miss teaching I can honestly say that I do.

Staying at home was a shift from teaching everyone else's kids to focusing solely on mine. While staying at home has made me feel much closer to my kids, I have lost an important part of me in the process. I suppose that is where the sacrifice of self comes in.

I still do artwork, mostly with the kids, but they are at the ages where their attention span doesn't last long. If I needed time to work on something it would have to be at night so that means giving up a night to work on it. Problem is, most nights I don't feel like sitting down to draw. The fear manifests itself in my lack of work from 2008 until today.

When or if I go back to work I will have to rely on my old stuff. Will that cut it? An artist who is not continually evolving doesn't stand out. Despite my frame, this may be a time where that no longer happens.

I suppose it is about priorities. While raising the kids and staying at home is rewarding you don't have the performance reviews, bonuses, and accolades that you might get from a job outside of the home. Is your spouse showering you with praise the same as a review from your department head? Am I still the same guy I once was?

It's time for me to rededicate myself to my first love. Art. Do you set aside time every night to reconnect with your old self? I sure don't. After spending the day chasing a kid who doesn't want to potty train but likes to pee on the floor and feeding my five year old daughter, who may or may not have three stomachs every five minutes, I would much rather watch mindless TV and slowly empty my DVR of its contents.

It's not even New Years but I am going to make a resolution. I am going to avoid losing my artist self by dedicating time to my art again. So instead of sitting in front of a screen and finding out what other people are up to, I am going to sit down at my drafting table and find out how I am doing.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I Am Iron Dad

There is something about Tony Stark that just makes you want to be him. As a superhero, he is defined by his suit but his incredible genius is what allows him to be super. I guess that is why putting on a suit like that can make you feel powerful. He's the perfect flawed character...too rich and too conceited to see that his genius in weapons manufacturing actually hurts others. Of course as you know, he realizes this personally and vows to use his genius to help others instead of harming. He's a badass and he knows it.

When Hasbro asked me to review their Iron Man 3 line, I was pretty excited. Of all the superheroes my kids have wanted to be, Iron Man never entered their radar for some reason. It was always Spiderman, Superman, and Batman. When I found out that Hasbro was sending me an Iron Man Arc FC Mission Mask, a Motorized Arc FX Gauntlet, and the Arc Strike Iron Patriot, I was probably more excited than my kids. Each one of my kids wanted to wear the mask and when they saw the gauntlet actually fired something they all freaked out.

I have to admit, I was pretty excited too. There is something about donning a mask that makes you feel more like that person. My kids enjoyed each trying the mask on and then would finish off their turn shooting the bad guy, namely me, with the motorized discs.

The Iron Man Arc FX Mission Mask lights up inside, giving your eyes an eerie blue glow. When you push the buttons it fires two small rockets from the top of the helmet. The mask also says different phrases and cycles through them each time you press the button. What I didn't like was that every time you press the button, the rockets launch so if you wanted to just play with it for the voice feature, you would have to remove the rockets or chase the rockets each time you launch.

The Motorized Arc FX Gauntlet was the hit of the lot. It fires foam discs courtesy of Nerf when you pull a trigger on the underside of the glove. The main drawback will be the noise level it generates. Discs are claimed to be able to launch over 20 feet. To generate that much distance, the motor is supercharged and tells you so. It's safe to say that when your kids are playing with the gauntlet you will no exactly where they are anywhere in your house!

The third item was a 12 inch Iron Man Arc Strike Patriot. Hasbro carries a line of these figures that are all suits that appear in the Iron Man 3 movie. The Arc Strike Patriot is featured in red, blue, and silver and comes with a rocket launcher that rotates up when you raise his arm. Simultaneously, the figure makes machine gun sound effects which can only be stopped by lowering the arm or letting it run its course, which is about 10 seconds. This may get on your nerves if you don't like toys that make excessive noise.

My kids all loved playing with this figure. He was durable enough for the 2 year old to manage without much damage but the constant machine gun noise can be somewhat bothersome unless you know how to position the arm to cancel out the sound effects. I had fun taking him outside and shooting photographs of him in action.

If you are looking for a superhero for your kids to emulate, Hasbro does a great job with this Iron Man 3 line. They also carry figures called Iron Man 3 Assemblers in which you can mix and match parts of different figures to create your own Iron Man creations. Check out the other 6" figures as well called Iron Man Legends. Collect them all and you can create the Iron Monger figure.

FCC Disclaimer: I received these items from Hasbro in exchange for my review of the Iron Man 3 toys I received.