Wish You Were Here

Sorry, this was kind of a jerk move. My bad.

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THIS POST IS FOR MEN ONLY!

Take my advice, this can be easier than it looks.

Take my advice, this can be easier than it looks.

Hey guys, come closer.  I have a little something to tell you that could very well change your world.  Are you in a relationship with someone special and have a birthday or anniversary coming up?  Are you dreading that moment when you know you need to come up with a heart-felt message to put inside of the card and not just underline a few words and write “I love you” at the end?  Could she tell last time based on the penmanship that you wrote your words of love and adoration while you were sitting at a red light?

Well don’t worry about that any longer because I have an idea that is going to melt hearts and make you look like Captain Romance.

The next time you are looking for a card and you find one that you like, keep looking until you find another one that you like.  Find something with a really sweet romantic message.  Now take those cards to the counter and buy both of them.  Open the card that you have decided to give your sweetheart and write the message from the other card into the card you are giving her.  BOOM! CASANOVA.

Give her the card and wait for tears of happiness.

You Are Welcome.


Relationship Status: Survived a Trip to IKEA

My wife and I recently celebrated 12 years of marriage.  I know to some that is a long time and to others we are still relatively new at this.  Here is the thing though, I think 12 calendar years is probably equivalent to at least 20-25 IKEA years.  What I mean  is that this 12 year accomplishment  deserves your applause because during that time we probably made at least 20 trips to IKEA.  IKEA is like the Swedish Wal-Mart where healthy loving relationships go to die.

Tools? We don't need no stinking tools!

Tools? We don’t need no stinking tools!

I guess one of the good things about IKEA is that the golf pencil and little paper tape measure are free, especially since the marriage counseling is going to be so expensive. I mean, if they would let you take a plate of those delicious horse meat meatballs into the showroom I would go there by myself on a Saturday just to watch couples melt down in public.  I am pretty sure that any husband can agree that the 4 words that can strike fear into even the bravest of souls when spoken in an IKEA are “what do you think?’  WHAT DO I THINK?? EJECT, EJECT, SAVE YOURSELVES I’M DEAD ALREADY.  What I think is that after 20 seconds in that place we are all drunk on sleek design and functionality and that intoxication will soon wear off when we realize no number of multi-tool organizational shelving units will make the inside of our house look like the showroom there.  Of course that isn’t what I said.  What I said was, I think it is great, I think everything in here is great.  I think if we get this dining room desk /storage unit with hidden drawers and special built-in lights that take light bulbs that cannot be purchased anywhere else on the planet it will probably solve most of our problems.  Que meltdown.

At IKEA this is like finding Super Mario's secret warp zone to world 8-1.

At IKEA this is like finding Super Mario’s secret warp zone to world 8-1.

Those Swedes think of everything though, because it is hard to look all pissed when you are storming off pushing a cart with 4 swivel wheels and you have to Tokyo drift around the corner to avoid knocking over a display of 4000 glass tea light holders.  The also know that any little argument can easily fade away when you turn the corner and both marvel at the 200 square foot living space.  Suddenly you want to trade your big house in the suburbs for a broom closet because how cool is all of this stuff?

I need to be honest though, while it is possible that IKEA can present some unique relationship challenges, they do have some cool stuff; no Viking helmets but cool stuff none the less.  We have some of their cool stuff in our house and most of the time the joy of new furniture is enough to quell the in store disputes and bring everyone back to a happy place before the put together meltdown occurs.

I think we all know about the put together meltdown.  I am a pretty handy guy I fix stuff and know my way around a tool box but that really doesn’t matter when it comes to Swedish engineering.  There is no piece of IKEA furniture in our house that wasn’t halfway assembled then taken apart and reassembled because I had something upside down or backwards or inside out. You would think that the only  problem with that would be the increased amount of time to complete the build and the addition of a few 4 letter words to your kid’s vocabulary but the real problem is this:

Once she learned the new curse words it was time to let her take over.

Once she learned the new curse words it was time to let her take over.

Furniture from IKEA is not designed to be taken apart and put back together.  With the re-screwing or allen wrenching or whatever you call it of each bolt with that multi-tool the structural integrity is compromised.  So basically after a 6 pack of beer, 2 cut knuckles, a kid wondering what that word meant and a bucket of tears (mine not there’s) you wind up with a bedside table that is capable of holding an alarm clock and a pencil and anything heavier than that causes the legs to wobble.

They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I think that this can be applied to relationships for sure.  Arguing in IKEA can be pretty weak but getting home and lounging on your new futon/file cabinet/spice rack is totally sweet.


Not Letting Us Put Princess High Heels on the Dog and Other Ways Dad Ruins Our Life

What do you mean I can't go to my sister's school performance dressed like this?

What do you mean I can’t go to my sister’s school performance dressed like this?

I have often joked that if Hollywood made a movie about my life, the actor that would play me would be whoever is best at walking around the house turning off lights and forgetting to put a new trash bag in the can.  It’s funny how paying an electric bill can turn you into your own father.  I used to always wonder what the big deal was during the summer when he would yell at us to SHUT THE DOOR!  Now any time a door is open for more than 4 seconds it just looks like a $10 bill waving goodbye.  So I get it dad.  It took me a while but I totally get it.

I also get that sometimes you need to let your kid help with a home repair project even if all you let them do is hold the flashlight and sigh when the space in the cabinet under the sink goes dim right as you get a grip on the part of the disposal you were working on just to see your kid shining the flashlight into their mouth to see if it will come out of their ears and nose.  Sometimes being a dad means you have to take your daughter into a public bathroom and answer questions about the urinal or suck it up and smile while you fork over $18 for a bag of popcorn at the circus.  Other times being a dad means you have to tell them no when they want to put lip stick on the dog or bring the fish with us to the grocery store, “can’t we just put them in a bag like when we brought them home from the pet store?”

For me, being a dad of daughters means that sometimes I have to ease out of my comfort zone and play “bad cop” even when they act like not letting them push the button on something just ruined their entire life.  It also means helping find missing shoes and honing my negotiation skills trying to talk my little one into putting down the magic marker.  It can be about explaining why you can’t just put down a Popsicle on the table because climbing onto the kitchen counter requires both hands and it can be about threatening to turn the car around and drive home when you are 4 hours into a drive to Disney World and back seat sibling rivalry has reached an apex.

Being a dad can be about cleaning up messes and saying no and checking prices of diapers on Amazon instead of perusing watercraft on boattrader.com.  Fatherhood can include all kinds of stuff that I could deem “weak” but guess what? Those kind of problems are like hardly having enough room on your bedroom floor to set up the GI Joe Aircraft carrier.  They pale in comparison and are blown away by the awesomeness of fatherhood.  The sweet always outweighs the weak.  The good guys always win.

Being a dad means you get to freak your wife out with stuff like this.

Being a dad means you get to freak your wife out with stuff like this.

You see, being a dad means getting to carry 40 lbs of unadulterated happiness on your shoulders while you feel her ice cream cone drip on your head. It means seeing the magic that only lives inside of a Christmas morning smile.  It means getting to be a hero, prince charming, and the guy that can make everything good again.

I’ve been a dad for 7 years and although I didn’t know it when I was a kid hoping to be a baseball player or an archaeologist (I spelled that on the first try by the way), this is what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Being a dad means seeing tears dry when you kiss a boo-boo and standing alone in the street yelling “you’re doing it! you’re doing it all by yourself! keep peddling!”  It means putting up a tent in the living room or making a pallet of blankets and watching an ordinary Friday turn into the greatest day ever.

I remember when I was a kid that no matter how bad I messed something up or how hard a task seemed, when dad came to help I knew it was going to work out.  Now I get to be that guy.  The one that in two little pairs of blue eyes, can do no wrong.  I know it may only be in the opinions of my kids but I’ve got to tell you, it feels pretty awesome to be awesome.  It can be a lot of work and the return on investment may not always translate on a spreadsheet but when the fruit of your labor is rewarded with smiles and cheers and “I love you daddy’s” there isn’t much this planet has to give that is any better.

I don’t do it right all of the time and agree that being a parent can be the hardest thing in the world sometimes but if I had any advice to share with other dad’s out there it would be to not rush past the pay off.  Realize that what you do not only matters but it shapes those little people who call you daddy and has a pretty huge impact on the kind of people that they will become. Don’t let fatherhood feel like nothing but a job.  Enjoy the pay-off of your labor. Smile with them, laugh with them, put a flashlight into your own mouth and see if it will shine out of your ears and nose.  Recognize in the moment that this is what it is about and don’t rush onto the next.  Take the time to make a snuggle sandwich and feel how they have the amazing ability to be the ones that make everything all right with you the same way you do for them.  Those moments can heal you just like your kisses on scraped knees.  Remember them, enjoy them, there is nothing sweeter.

Sure, go ahead and be the bad guy when you need to but remember, you’re not really going to turn the car around and drive all the way home so let those times be the ones you dwell in the least and then remember to slow down and enjoy the part where someone laughs at all of your jokes and somehow even an average guy like you is capable of magic.

Happy Father’s Day.

What can I say, I'm a pretty lucky guy. Doesn't get much sweeter than this.

What can I say, I’m a pretty lucky guy. Doesn’t get much sweeter than this.


Whoever Said, “The Best Things in Life are Free” Obviously Wasn’t a Parent

Sweet

I Laughed So Hard, I Peed My Pants 

funny should be measured on a scale of snicker to involuntary urination

funny should be measured on a scale of snicker to involuntary urination

The rustling of the nylon against her 50 lb lanky frame as she darted through the play tunnel was the only accompaniment to the raucous giggle fest taking place. I walked up the stairs after getting home from work and heard the laughter break just long enough for the words, “Daddy, look at Lucy’s trick!” Lucy is our 8 month old  Weimaraner and she has lots of energy. My daughters had gotten out an old nylon baby tunnel and Lucy decided  running through it as fast as she could was the greatest thing ever.  My toddler agreed and just like that it was giggle-palooza.

Remember that? Remember what it feels like to laugh so hard at something that you think you may never catch your breath? Remember what it is like to have the laughter go silent as your face contorts almost in a plea to make it stop before the control of your bladder is the next thing to go?  Seems like it used to happen a lot more often doesn’t it?

No one likes pee pants but there is something kind of awesome about a moment that entertains you to the extent that you can no longer control bodily functions.  My toddler (standing on the toy box so she wasn’t in the raceway) stood there and laughed so hard she could barely breath.  Lucy, apparently relishing her new role as giggle fuel, continued to dart through the tunnel to the toddler’s delight.

I stood on the stairs and watched thinking about how the laughter of a child can be contagious.  Just before I began to wax-poetic about the unabated joy that can be found in the most simple parts of family life, the laughter stopped.  Lucy stopped.  The toddler looked at me and said, “sorry daddy, I had an accident.” As soon as the words left her mouth, the dog took off again and the giggles exploded as if the puddle on the toy box wasn’t even there.

She has been potty trained for a while now but I knew right away this had nothing to do with being potty trained.  She had simply laughed so hard she peed her pants.  While not the most fun to clean up, you have to tip your hat to the concept of laughing so hard you wet yourself.  When you are a kid there isn’t very much that you are in charge of, you aren’t used to having a tight grasp on things.  It’s probably easier to lose control because you aren’t that used to having control.  As we get older our grip begins to strengthen as we hold onto things we are responsible for and trick ourselves into thinking that we control things when all we really control is our reactions to them.

They look so sweet when they aren't sprinting through the living room or peeing on the toy box.

They look so sweet when they aren’t sprinting through the living room or peeing on the toy box.

What if you could have a moment that you didn’t just loosen your grip but you opened your hand completely, trusting that there would still be something to hold onto when you were done but for just that instant you laughed.  You laughed long and hard and maybe you don’t wet your pants but you get right to that point.  That point where everything just kind of disappears and the only thing that you are cognizant of  is the thing cracking you up.  You know what else is cool about that? Laughter is free.  I don’t know about you but for me it has been a while and I miss laughing like that.  Cracking up is totally sweet.

 

Weak

The Best Things in Life do Not Care About Money As Long As They Get Most of It 

Seriously dude? You are spending me on another glow necklace at the park then putting me in the freezer? We both know that doesn't really work.

Seriously dude? You are spending me on another glow necklace at the park then putting me in the freezer? We both know that doesn’t really work.

Remember that time I disabled the parental control’s on my daughter’s Kindle to download some movies for a long car ride but forgot to turn them back on and 2 months later found out I owned every single episode ever of iCarly? I remember it like it happened yesterday because that is when it happened.  That’s right, every single episode bought one at a time (instead of the discounted price for purchasing the entire season) over a couple of months.  I guess this goes into the family budget column of  “unexpected expenses” but I really thought that meant stuff like tire repair or an wrist cast.  I’m sure those will come but for now, our “unexpected expenses” are brought to us by Nickelodeon.  I get it though, I know it was my fault for not turning the parental controls back on but in all reality it is probably my fault because my 6 year old has a Kindle Fire.

Regardless of if it is something you have time to prepare for like shoes for school or something unexpected like a broken window and a flesh wound in need of stitches, kids are expensive.  Money arrives and departs my bank account so quickly it doesn’t even have time to sign the guestbook.  People joke that if money talked,  theirs would only say goodbye but I think mine would give me a long sigh, an exasperated look, and exclaim “seriously?”  Then I would suck it up and pay $18 for popcorn at the circus or a Disney World souvenir that will have the newness worn off on the drive home and be designated to some junk toy bin that probably holds $200 worth of plastic chachkies.

Image property of Nickelodeon, just like my $150.

Image property of Nickelodeon, just like my $150.

I wan’t my kids to experience things to the fullest as much as anyone else but now that I am older, I get why so many dads in movies and cartoons I watched as a kid came with a scowl.  I think the process goes something like this:

Kid: Look they have a petting Zoo!

Dad Brain: Awesome…..wait, twelve dollars?

Kid: Yay! Snow Cones!

Dad Brain: Gotta love snow cones…… but ten dollars?

Kid: I got invited to a birthday party!

Dad Brain: twenty dollars

Kid: Thanks for bringing us to the movies dad!

Dad Brain: fifty dollars

Kid: I think I broke my ankle, its really swollen.

Dad Brain: Rub some dirt on it.

Kid: Uh Oh

Dad Brain: Eleventy bajillion dollars.

This uh oh will cost a bit of coin but luckily she was fine. We were glad the blinds were closed and she learned a lesson about climbing onto the table.

This uh oh will cost a bit of coin but luckily she was fine. We were glad the blinds were closed and she learned a lesson about climbing onto the table.

As you can see, it is a steady digression and finding the balance between basking in the smiles of your offspring and calculating what it cost to get them can be a challenge.  I guess it is important to make it work though and realize that there are ways to make things less expensive and it is insensitive to nick name your kids “could have been a jet ski” and “instead of a lake house.”  This week I got a broken window and iCarly.  When they are teenagers I will probably look back at how this was small potatoes.  Still though, over $300 of unexpected expenses in a 10 day span is enough to put me at risk of sporting a scowl.  I mean, just think of how many fireworks you can buy with $300.  Perhaps the most telling piece of information in this blog post is the fact that I was just thinking about how many fireworks you can buy with $300 and not how much interest it could earn over the next 10 years if tucked safely into an IRA.  Enough about that, never mind the man behind the curtain  the great and powerful dad has spoken.  Kids are one of the best things in life but they are far from free and spending over $100 on iCarly episodes is totally weak.

 

 


We All Remember At Least One

classroom

Remember raising your hand so long your arm started to cramp and you had to do that behind the head support move with your other arm?

I started the 4th grade in 1987 in Ms. Griffith’s class. I finished the 4th grade in 1988 in Mrs. Chun’s class.  Her husband proposed to her in front of our whole class with a singing telegram.  Our class sang at the wedding, I caught the garter.  We did a class play of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, I was Edmund.  I remember how she would sing with us each morning and how she put her hand on my shoulder with empathy when we got back from Christmas break and I told her that I didn’t get the GI Joe Aircraft carrier.  Even though she was my teacher, I think I maybe had a little bit of a crush on her, she was kind and pretty and always seemed interested in what all of us had to tell her.  Her’s is the class I see in the forgotten corners of my mind when I think back to elementary school.

The middle school years can be tough on everyone and the feeling to fit in is almost palpable. I will never forget saving my money from mowing lawns and heading out to the mall, going into a cool clothes store called Chess King and buying Skidz. It was the coolest outfit I had ever owned and for once I was going to have the name brand clothes just like the cool kids. I remember wearing them on a Monday morning and feeling like the king of 7th grade. I think they went out of style the Wednesday of that same week but I didn’t get the memo and wore them again and endured some ridicule.  That was the last time I wore them, middle school was hard.  I will also never forget Ms. Hall, she was my English teacher and she taught me lots of things, the most important was that teachers don’t have to be the enemy. Ms. Hall was funny and cool and I remember that older kids from the high school would come by sometimes to visit her. She would joke with us and laugh with us and made me feel like her classroom was a safe place where the middle school pressure to be something you are still too young to be can be overwhelming.  When I made it to high school I went back and visited her, I felt like the coolest kid ever.

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try not to be so jealous of my style

In high school I seemed to find my way a bit but I still had plenty to learn.  Mr. McCloud taught me that being sociable was a good thing but it was also ok to apply myself and that I was smarter than the effort I put forth.  Mrs. Moody & Mrs. Evans taught me how to be a part of something that was bigger than me and put a class clown up on a stage and let me spread my wings in a more productive setting than the back of Mr. McCloud’s Algebra class.  Mrs. Rivers taught me that the movie “Gone With the Wind” left out quite a bit of the book and that sometimes taking shortcuts aren’t the best idea.  She also taught me it isn’t much fun getting an F on a test.

In college I had a philosophy professor (I don’t even remember his name) that not only taught me about existentialism but also that joining in on the conversation, attending classes, and taking an interest could make college a good experience for what happened inside of the classroom as well as what happened outside.

In 2003 I remember helping my wife hang paper on a bulletin board and getting her first classroom set up just right.  It was what she wanted to be ever since she was a little girl.  Most of us lose on making it to what we wanted to be when we grow up.  For most of us it turns out to be “this is what I do” not “this is what I am.”  Not for her though, a teacher is what she is.

I am sure that there were parents that summer that got their kid’s class list and weren’t thrilled that they got Mrs. Holland because it was her first year and you just never know about first year teachers.  Fast forward a few years and it is common knowledge that if you have a third grader getting ready to start the year, you hope that they get to be in Mrs. Holland’s class.  Kids from the high school come back to visit her and by the time they are freshman it has been over 5 years since 3rd grade.  She makes a difference in those kid’s lives. The kind of difference that they still remember when they grow into full size people.  She has this unbelievable gift that sets kids at ease and somehow they instantly know that they can trust her.  She pushes them to be better and to grow and in her classroom is often where the bloom of a person begins.  She doesn’t do teaching, she is a teacher.

Next year their won’t be any kids or parents excited because they got Mrs. Holland.  After 10 years in the classroom it is time for a little break.  She is going to stay home and cherish being a mom while our girls are still young.  I am sad for this batch of  rising second graders that they won’t get to experience a third grade year with her but I am more excited that we get to have her all to ourselves for a while.  You see, she isn’t just a teacher. She is also a mom and that is another thing that she doesn’t just do, it is something that she is.

mom-tattoo

I couldn’t be more proud of the impact that she has made in her first 10 years of teaching and I know that there will be times that she will really miss it. She has been “playing school” for as long as she can remember and today she exclaimed with a tear in her eye that it was her last day to play.  I know that she will be back in a classroom one day and I can’t wait for this next little chapter of our lives where we can grow as a family.  She is so excited to be taking this break because even though every school year brings a fresh batch of 3rd graders, your own kids are only young once.

No matter how old we get we can all remember at least one teacher. The one that explained it different or the one that held our hand when we needed it or made us laugh and feel like we belonged.  None of us would be were we are today if it weren’t for the impact of  teachers and I just happened to be lucky enough to marry one. Teachers of the year come and go with each new calendar  year but for dozens and dozens of kids, Mrs. Holland wasn’t a teacher of the year, she was the teacher of their life.

Here’s to the next chapter Mrs. Holland, cheers!


Feeling Lucky

Screenshot_2013-05-15-15-31-09-1I think a pretty cool way to start a story would be, “Remember that time I bought two college educations at a gas station?”


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