Monday, October 28, 2013

...and going, and going and going.

When you give a child a musical toy, just remember you are sentencing the parents to hear the song a bazillion times. In other words, don't give musical toys. Link's excitement about Peter Cottontail is the only thing between this one and the dumpster. Thanks Grandma! We're still hopping down the bunny trail 18 months later. Also, what kind of batteries do they put in these things? My smartphone lasts mere hours but this animatronic Chuck E. Cheese reject just keeps going and going like the freaking Energizer rabbit from Hell.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tears of Our Fathers.

I'm watching a slideshow of other men's families flash across the overhead projection screen in a fluorescent lit classroom in Denver, Colorado. A moment ago I was eating a cupcake topped with bacon... because that's how (some) men do it. I watch with detached interest as little faces, little hands, big eyes and gigantic dreamers click across the screen. After a few minutes though, the room grows silent; Disturbed only by laughter at behind-the-scenes antics each of us can imagine by looking at this one frame. Each picture is just one sliver of a moment and I, like most in the room, don't know more than a handful of the children I'm looking at. Some are alone with hilarious expressions, others are with their siblings playing or holding hands, there are more still with mom or dad embracing or sharing silly costumes with their children. 

Now droplets spilling over the dam of my eyelids have caught me by surprise. What trickery is this!? Why the water works? This is a man's convention, a dad's convention dammit! Aren't we supposed to be too hungover to make it to the presentations? Shouldn't we be considering cutting out early to check out a strip club? What is going on here?!

When it comes to fathers who don't follow society's rules, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find that what might look like a glorified guy's weekend away to the casual observer turns out to be so much more. You see, every man in this room is a stay at home father. I look to my right, red eyes. I look to my left and that dude has a tissue at his face. Everyone looks as stunned as I am to have been caught off-guard by family pictures, but no one is ashamed. We share these feelings, we let them roll over us. We are the same. We've talked about communicating effectively, about being engaged, we've heard stories of loss and triumph, we've listened to raconteurs deliver heart wrenching descriptions of miracles. We've laughed at each other's anecdotes about the challenges of being an at home parent. We've heard quotables from notables such as "Potty training isn't a corridor, it's a labyrinth" (Chris Routly of Daddy Doctrines). We've learned breathing exercises from Dr. Rich Mahogany of Man Therapy. We all wanted to hug president Al Watts as he painted, with a croaking voice, a picture for us of his 11 year old daughter falling into a canyon, and surviving. The pain he felt, the feelings of helplessness he endured as he waited for her to be extracted via helicopter pierced us all like a dagger. The sheer force of will he showed to get through the epic story for us became our strength and we helped feed it within him. 

The weekend has been an incredible experience. I've met dozens of guys for the first time and others I only knew from social media. I've ribbed and joked with men as if we were old buddies, then turned around and had conversations with them I'd be surprised to have with my closest friends. There were beers, bourbon and burgers with guys who will make your stomach hurt from laughter. I've listened to stories of sorrow, tragedy, intestinal fortitude, persistence and honor in the face of challenges. Sure, many of us partied and carried on, but we were careful to pull back the reins so as not to miss out on an opportunity to learn and share with these fathers. 

We ran the full gambit, from cruising happy hours in downtown to volunteering in a warehouse to facilitate food distribution for the hungry. From board meetings to running (a very short way before hyperventilating) up the steps at Red Rocks amphitheater. There was drinking and debauchery and meals out to satisfy the craving a stay home parent might have to hit the town, but I was proud no one suggested a strip club. We were the most respectable bunch of bar hoppers you'd ever want to meet and we tipped pretty well too. We did some good for others, and plenty for ourselves.

As I sit here watching the faces of children I've never met go by on the screen, those faces stop being strangers and they start to represent fatherhood in general for me. They show how much we have in common despite our differences, and they are the thread that hold all in attendance together. We're lashed together by the common purpose of raising great children and becoming the best fathers we can be. Somehow the grins going by cease to be just some kids and they start to look like loved members of my community. I see  determination in their eyes. I see wonder, love, and innocence in every smile. I see faces looking for approval, without a shadow of doubt they will receive it from loving parents. I'm reminded of the stories I've heard this week and suddenly all of the stories I've heard of pain and encouragement of miracles and disasters have become my own. I'm crying with joy for these families and my own. This is how we define masculinity; with strength and support for each other and for our families, with empathy and encouragement for all in our community and many beyond, through teaching and in listening we teach our boys and girls what a man is... what a dad is.

As the trip comes to an end, I'm delayed and my chances for reaching home today become long odds. A new friend (Chris of DadNCharge) offers to put me up for the night while another (Don of Daddy Newbie) offered to drive me to Chicago from Denver as if he were offering me a ride to the 7/11, despite his home being in New Mexico (the opposite direction). That's the kind of friends I made in a few days. The kind I'll keep up with from now on.

I made my flight, I made it home and I spent the better part of the next day hugging and playing with my children. The desire to be in the moment with them has delayed the final editing of this article, but that is OK. I tried to focus on the principles I'd learned from Dr. Harley Rotbart and his presentation on "No Regrets Parenting" and it felt good. Those dishes can wait... I've already decided that, so why not immerse myself in the moment and wonder at these amazing beings who are a part of me? Later, when I had a chance to catch up online, I noticed a large number of posts from fellow attendees indicating happiness with being home and showing off pictures of their kids. Another slide-show of sorts, though I didn't cry this time, I just smiled to myself. I like this slideshow, it plays every day and it will help me keep perspective about what the most important things in life are and keep me motivated to make as many moments as I can between now and next year's convention. If you are or know a stay home dad, please put them in touch with the National At-Home Network and start thinking about how you can send them next year. It's a gift I can't understate and a trip all stay at home dads should experience. Big thanks to all the coordinators, board members, presenters, sponsors and fellow dads who made this trip one to remember! 

And so it begins... 
Met up with Don (of Daddy Newbie) and Mike Andrews Jr.

Welcome to Colorado.

Community service project. Warehouse work. 
Ron enjoying some of Al's plentiful Slim Jims. 
Don't call us Mr. Mom. 

Bacon cupcakes? Yes, please. 

Cooking basics

Tivoli building

Denver sky.
President Al Watts giving us the low down.

Triangle Dads at Red Rocks Amphitheater. 

I climbed that. The steps... not the rock. 

That seems a lot further of a hike when you are hungover.
Class time. 
Keynote speaker, Dr. Harley Rotbart. No Regrets Parenting. 
Working on the definition of masculinity.

AHD Convention Group Photo. I'm the good looking one. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When Toys Get Hurt... Halloween Witch Trial Edition.

I have a feeling that Little Bo Peep didn't fare too well at her witch trial. I found her this morning...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Twinkle in My Eye

I'm proud Link is starting to learn the names of body parts, but it's not so fun when you are changing him and he says "Ahhhh" just before poking you in the eye.

"$#*@%!! Yes, yes, that's my eye you just poked with your 'finger'... and these are called 'tears' streaming down my 'face'. Also, don't repeat that other word, that was less of a body part and more of a colorful adjective adults sometimes used when unexpectedly poked in the 'Ahhhh."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Rise and Fall of Dad Bloggers: Rinse and Repeat

I'm part of a fantastic group of Dad Bloggers where I am lucky enough to surround myself with great writers and storytellers, comedians, businessmen, entrepreneurs, established authors, stay home parents and I'm happy to call many of them "friends." The only things we all have in common is that we are fathers and bloggers (with the obvious exception of Blogless Joel). Occasionally we'll discuss the repetitive nature of parent blogging. Sometimes it can seem like it's all been done before, but usually we come to the consensus that while we do share some of the same topics, we all bring a new perspective and some of us are usually "right" about more things than others; I'm not calling any names here, Aaron Gouveia of Daddy Files. No matter how big or small or what type of Dad Blogger you are, it seems we all follow a similar evolution.

The topics and life cycle of a Dad Blog:

- I'm a blogger! (this one is embarrassing to read in the future).

-My wife is pregnant it's hardest on her but kind of sucks for me too, just sayin'.

-I am or am about to be a Dad.

-My baby doesn't sleep much.

-My baby poops a lot.

-My baby is cute.

-As a Dad of two months, I'm a changed man and I think I have this Dad thing figured out.

-My baby cries a lot.

-My baby is laughing, life is grand.

-My baby is trying solids. He's messy.

-My baby is becoming a toddler now. Woe is me.

-My wife is pregnant again, holy shit!

-My toddler is walking. and talking!

-Sentimental post about children growing up too fast.

-My toddler says the darndest things.

-Look how fast he's growing!

-I thought I had this fatherhood thing down before. I was stupid, now I'm in the know.

-New baby! Sibling love, toddler meets baby.

-This is harder than I remember.

-Single Dad Laughing is terrible. Why does my wife read it?

-Rinse and repeat first 10 for the second and any additional children and add in funny sayings from the older sibling(s). "How big is the poop this time, Daddy!?"

-Why I don't spank (or do).

- Letters to my kids in the future.

-Sibling fighting.

-I thought I had this fatherhood thing down before. I was stupid, now I'm in the know.

-Why I started spanking (or stopped)

-Life Cycles of a Dad Blog (This is so meta...)

-School starting.

-Sentimental post about children growing up too fast.

-Witnessing first love.

-I need to drink.

- My kids are dating.

- My kids are driving.

- Lessons my kids need to learn.

-I thought I had this fatherhood thing down before. I was stupid, now I'm in the know.

-My wife doesn't understand me.

-My parents were smart.

- I got a vasectomy. It hurt yo.

-Sentimental post about children growing up too fast. Enjoy yours!

- I found a hobby!

- I'm not just a Dad Blogger. At this point some will renounce the term altogether and take a giant crap on others who are not as far along in the cycle. After all, It's all inane drivel now that I've already been through the things you are just experiencing for the first time.

- I think I might have to delete my old blog so as not to ruin my children's school life.

- Writing about your kids is a bad idea. Here's why.

-Sentimental post about children growing up too fast.

-I thought I had this fatherhood thing down before. I was stupid, now I'm in the know.

- From now on call me Blue Soccer Buddha. Here's my new link.

- Why my blog is awesome (or why I'm retiring my blog)

- Kids these days are crazy. More parents should be like we were back in the day.

-Empty nest approaching. Lessons learned.

-What I won't miss about a house full of kids.

-Things I'll miss about a house full of kids.

-Open letter to my children about parenting.

-I thought I had this fatherhood thing down before. I was stupid, now I'm in the know.

-Why grandkids are great.

-Things my kids taught me about parenting.

-My kids think they know it all, and they started a twoog about it (similar to a blog, but in the future).

- Hey, I wrote a book. Check it out at (disclaimer: I didn't write that book).

-I thought I had this fatherhood thing down before. I was stupid, now I realize the teaching and the learning will never end.

-I'm a twooger!? In the olden days, we had blogs. Hey, I should write about that!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Secondhand Lions

In North Carolina a little boy passed a day like so many others before with the comfort of his favorite toy, a plush lion's head attached to a comically small blanket. He carries the toy with him wherever he goes and sleeps with him every night. Unfortunately, it was the inevitable day when Lovey Lion was lost, you can read the full story of Lion Lovey's last day over at Dad and Buried.

In Chicago, J Bean has always been in love with a similar toy, a sheep purchased as a gift before she was born. Sheep was received with a companion lion like the one mentioned above. Sheep is in J Bean's hands anytime she is upset, every time she lays down to sleep and during just about any moment of anxiety or boredom. Sheep is in her arms right now and I'm fighting back my own tears as her own bead and trickle down her face. How did we get here? Why is J Bean crying? How did a 4 year old just teach me so much about love, sacrifice and the feelings of a stranger?

To understand how we got here, take a look at the link embedded above about Detective Munch losing his beloved lion. I read that story a few days ago and was surprised to see a little boy's lost lion in the story was an exact replica of our own. I considered the idea of asking J Bean if she would be willing to part ways with the toy and I'll admit I was fairly confident, if the story were presented correctly, she would choose to donate her lion to the mourning Munch. She's always been a giving soul. J Bean's attachment to "sheep" is strong and when we temporarily lost that fading lamb a year ago I scoured the internet until I found and ordered two duplicates and an extra lion.  As these things often go, we found the real McCoy the day before the replacements arrived so we packed them away and waited.

Our lion was more than gently used and served as a substitute for "sheep" on the rare occasion that sneaky ewe couldn't be found at bedtime. J Bean had agreed to give "extra lion" to an envious friend for her birthday last year so the idea of giving this one away was not without precedent. We also have "new sheep" in the mix after another false alarm of losing the one and only original bona fide "Sheep" several months back. It's always just been "Sheep." J Bean summarily dismissed any and all attempts to elicit other handles for her fuzzy friend over the years. The two sheep, one much dingier than the other, and a lion are fixtures in J Bean's bed. The lion is just as old as the original sheep, albeit slightly less worn.

After reading of Detective Munch and his missing lion and later discussing the matter with his father, Mike, I called J Bean over to the computer. I showed her some pictures and told her how the boy loved Lion Lovey just as she loves Sheep and how he had lost his favorite toy this week. J Bean quickly indicated she could send Lion to him, explaining "he's not my favorite anyway and then he'll have a lion again." She began asking questions about the boy in the pictures. We discussed shipment options and the idea of a new pen pal. Then I asked her again if she was sure this was something she was OK with doing and that she wanted to carry through. To my great pride, J Bean indicated it was. I sent a message to Mike letting him know operation Lion Drop was a go.

Five minutes later J Bean was bawling.

"Sheep and I are really going to miss lion" she sobbed. The tears slid down her face and I kicked myself for misjudging the situation. I felt simultaneous sadness (for her feelings), guilt (for the possibility that I might allow Detective Munch to go without our replacement lovey if it was going to break my daughter's heart), and disappointment that J Bean was seemingly looking to back out of her commitment. "Was it fair? Should I have asked this of a child?" I thought to myself.

A minute or two later, with her lip finally stiffening, we discussed the situation. I reminded J Bean I had already informed Detective Munch the toy was on the way and I asked for her input on what we should do. I was struck sideways when I realized J Bean was not trying to back out of the deal, she was simply expressing her sadness and admitting she did care for the toy. This is a loss I didn't know she would feel, I thought the toy's status was far below that of sheep. Having had her necessary cry, she still wanted to give the toy to Munch. Her tears were not of remorse or a change in heart but just an acknowledgement of her feelings.

Ultimately, she made one card for Munch and another for the lion (her idea to help him through the times when he would undoubtedly miss her). I had stepped away to the next room for a moment when I heard J Bean say to the lion, "I know I will miss you more than you miss me, and you will have a new home where you will get to be somebody's favorite toy but....," she trailed off into a few more whimpers.

I was at a loss. I was so proud of her I nearly ready to burst at the seams, but my heart ached for her pain. Sure, it's just a silly lion, but these totems hold much power and affection among certain circles, a fact I only thought I understood before that moment. When I reentered the kitchen, J Bean asked how lion would travel. She decided on a cracker box, wrapped in brown paper (to keep him warm), and mandated that lion would be accompanied by a tiny gingerbread man made of melted crayon remnants. The little man would double as friend for the recipient and lion alike.

J Bean drew some pictures and stamped and stickered a few cards for the occasion. One card for the mysterious boy miles away and one for the lion who would go to meet him.  She then offered to help me tape up the package. Her tears were dry, already fading to memory behind those blue eyes, as she stuck her tongue to the left (just so) in order to maximize focus on the placement of the tape strip.

As we addressed the package she said, "I hope Munch will send me a picture of Lion when he gets there. Sheep will really miss him and it's nice to get pictures of something you don't have anymore."

"I'm sure he will, Little Bit. Give me a hug and let me tell you a few things," I said as I pulled her in for a tight squeeze. I pushed some of her hair from behind glasses where it had been lodged during the previous water works. I continued, "I love you so much. I think you are a very special and kind person and I am very proud of you. Good has a way of coming back to us and doing good makes us feel nice too, doesn't it?" She nodded quietly and I studied her expression closely, taking in every quirk of this little blinking and breathing gift that just keeps on giving.

In the distance, I hear the faint yet familiar rag tune "The Entertainer" which 'round these parts signals an ice cream truck in the vicinity. I hope you swing by our house, sweet chariot, because I know one little girl who is getting a Choco-Taco tonight even if I have to run three blocks to get it.

Detective Munch, please take good care of lion he was never meant to be a second stringer and deserves to be the favorite toy of a special little boy. J Bean looks forward to having a pen pal in a far away place and maybe hearing about some of Lion Lovey's adventures from time to time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blogless Joel: The Night I Woke to Find my Heart Missing.

This week, Dad On The Run, is happy and proud to host a blogger with no blog. He wanders the interwebs in search of a place to host his words, shaking his cup in every direction. When I saw the cup, I looked at the man then I looked back at my own blog, so much space, so many rooms and I had to let him stay the night. That was before he told me this story about unlocked doors and the day he almost lost everything. Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing Blogless Joel. 

A Public Service Announcement: Lock your Hotel Door
by Blogless Joel

She was gone. My 3 year old daughter who was sleeping beside me when I turned out the lights was no longer there. All that remained on the hotel bed was the shiny pink blanket she affectionately referred to as her “pink one”.

I realized that we didn’t lock the door. Panic took hold.

Picture from

The loud banging on the door intensified.

Earlier that day we checked into the hotel. We picked the wrong weekend to visit a neighboring city’s zoo. A memorial was being held for victims of a recent drive-by shooting. Authorities feared retaliation. Tension was in the air and armed police officers stood on every corner.

But the day was a success. So much so that my daughter decided that when she grows up she wants to be a zookeeper--displacing previous aspirations to be a movie critic or a jockey. (When I told her to be a jockey she would have to be short and little, her response was, “Daddy, I AM short and little.” Touché.)

By 10pm, the day’s sunshine and ice cream had taken their toll, and my daughter was snoring through Lorax. The room had two individual-sized beds instead of one large family-sized bed, so I laid her on the side of one of the beds and slept beside her. My wife was in the other bed. We went to sleep ill prepared for the wakeup call we would receive several hours later.

The loud banging on the door intensified.

I wondered if I was dreaming.

I did a double take, rescanning and clawing at my daughter’s side of the bed as if frantically looking for a lost remote under the couch cushions. Nothing but her “pink one”.

My chest tightened and I audibly gasped. I shouted my daughter’s name. My wife sprang up immediately in terror.

“She’s gone.”

I had woken to a parent’s worst nightmare. The knocking continued.

“Answer the door!”

Heaving for breath like I’d just run a marathon, I sprang to my feet and grabbed for the door handle.

A hotel worker stood angrily in the doorway. Nearly pushing him out of the way I looked down the long carpeted hallway to my right and saw nothing but an endless corridor of identical doors.

Picture from

Glancing quickly to the left I saw my daughter rounding the corner in tears. Saying no words she sprinted into my arms.

“You need to lock your door,” the hotel worker said.

I stared back speechless, still confused at what had happened. In the 2am haze, I didn’t know if I was angry with him or if I wanted to give him a hug. I closed the door and said nothing.

With trembling hands and voices, my wife and I tried to make sense of what had happened. My daughter woke up in the night. Confused about where she was, she stumbled towards the rectangle of light surrounding the doorway. She reached for the handle, pulled it down, slipped through the crack, and she was gone. She could have been gone forever.

She told us she was trying to find the “escalator” (sic, elevator) so she could get to us. The hotel workers later told us she was in the hall for an hour or more. A police officer found her and they began going door to door. My daughter, an otherwise articulate little girl, was too afraid to speak. She couldn’t tell them her parents’ names and she had no idea from which of the identical doors she had come.

Never in a million years would I have thought that she would leave the hotel room. She never leaves her room at home and I wouldn’t have expected her to be tall enough or strong enough to open the door. But she did. And if not for the police officer and the hotel workers, she could have entered the elevator, stepped into the lobby, and into the streets of a major city...

I wrote the hotel a letter the next day, expressing my immense gratitude and apologizing for not thanking them immediately for their actions, which prevented what could have been a traumatic experience.

Parents, when you stay in a hotel with your children, lock the door and lock it tight--not just to keep bad guys out, but to keep the good guys in. 

They tell you to baby proof your house. They tell you to reduce the max temperature on your water heater. No one had told us this.

I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. My heart raced with my mind. My daughter just wanted to cuddle her “pink one” and get back to sleep.

“Daddy you’re holding me really tight.”

“I know.”

Joel was also recently featured at Ask Your Dad Blog, check it out here.