Hardest part

People inquire on what is the hardest part of being a stay at home dad. Is it the isolation? Is it the emasculation? Is it the constant questions about when you’re getting a job? Is it the lack of respect people give you when they find out what you do? Is it the loss of your identity?

Well, yes. As I reflect on the past decade, I realize that all of these things have reared their ugly head at one time or another. But now, it’s baked goods.

My two kids have decided they love baking. Great, you might think, cooking is an excellent life skill. Creating in the kitchen encourages the use of imagination. Measuring brings practical applications to all of that fraction work from math. Successfully following a recipe from beginning to end shows my kids how fulfilling completing a task can feel. The confidence that is built by creating delicious baked goods is awesome.

But……. I hate to waste. My kids don’t get a ton of sugary treats during the week. I am home alone all day with the previously mentioned treats. I have little to no self control when it comes to readily available sugar filled goodness. I think you can see where this is going.

Straight to my waistline. That’s where. I understand in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a real problem. But right now it’s the hardest thing about being an at home parent.

It happened….

To a father growing old nothing is dearer than a daughter.

Euripides

 

It happened. My little girl grew up a little too much, I guess today. I wasn’t expecting it, wasn’t ready for it. It hit me so hard and unexpectedly that I sit here at this screen and these keys, typing something for the first time in months.

I volunteer in my kids school, always have. The volunteering is something that helps the school, but let’s be real, it helps me just as much. I get to go into their place of learning and feel the ebb and flow of it. I get to connect with their teachers and administers and the other students. At their last school, I got to see them, spend time in their classrooms. This new school, that’s not really a thing. So I do what I can to be involved in the building. Turns out, that is helping sort food for a program called backpack buddies, which sends food home for the weekend to families that are food insecure. It doesn’t allow me to see my kids when I am in the school, until today.

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Then.

There she was, walking with her class into the auditorium, laughing with a friend. I saw her before she saw me, so I watched her until I caught her eye. I gave a big smile and waved, she gave a shy smile and a quick flash of the hand and turned away to continue her conversation. My heart cracked a little in that moment. Then her friend asked who she waved at, and she said “that’s just my Dad”. The crack in my heart became a full break.

In the past, when my kids saw me at school, they stopped whatever they were doing and came running for a hug. Shy smile and quick wave. They’d excitedly introduce me to their friends.”That’s just my Dad.” Clamor to be near me. Turned away to continue her conversation.

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Now.

I’ll survive and adjust, and my heart will grow back together. I know the drill, I’ve seen it with friends kids. I know she loves me, she is just finding her own space and identity. These are the truths for the future, though. Right now, I am going to mourn the passing of this part of her childhood, as well as this part of my parenthood.

If you’ll excuse me, I am going to go look at old pictures.

Smile

“Smile!” It’s what I say to my kids about a thousand times a day on any of our trips. At least it feels that way. Be it for a picture or just to indicate to me that they are enjoying themselves. Asking (telling) them to smile is my way to get verification that they are enjoying our forced fun together.

Thats what it is, right? Any trip (that’s what I call vacations) is really just forced family fun. The four of us never really totally agree on what we should do, even when we all agree on what we should do. There are levels the agreements — we might agree on where we should go, just not what we should do when we get there. Or we agree on what we should do, just not the order to do it in. And so on, and on, and on. Through out all of this, I insist on documenting it photographically, which usually results in a forced smile by at least one of the subjects of this documentation.

The pirate didn’t want to smile. He can be weird.

But….. there are those rare occasions that it all clicks. It all comes together and the smiles by those involved are for real. Not begged for, or prodded, or bribed, or… let’s be real… threatened. We had such a day on our last trip. And it happened in an unplanned and unexpected way. It was at LEGOLAND in Florida. And it was due to this picture:

I posted this picture on instagram with a witty comment and the good people at LEGOLAND reached out. It was quite literally the best thing that has happened to us as a family. I can’t think of a better day we have had all together in quite some time.

And here’s why: My daughter. She is 9 and going on what ever age angst and moodiness happens. She is a beautiful soul, artistic, thoughtful, caring-everything I’m not. Also, she is stubborn, head strong, smart, unrelenting — pretty much everything I am. So we bang heads. A lot.

As we arrived at LEGOLAND, a transformation started taking place in my girl. She was just happy and excited. She’s smiling real smiles.

She doesn’t even give one flip about star wars.

 

That’s a ton of pictures. All of these pictures were at her request. It was the best day ever. She was so happy, which led to all of us being so happy. What a gift, this day.

I don’t know if anyone is wavering on the idea of LEGOLAND, but in my opinion, run to it, don’t walk to get there! It was one of the best family days we have spent anywhere.

I owe a debt of gratitude to LEGOLAND Florida. To see my girl this happy, every time I look at the pictures I tear up.

Parenting can be hard and thankless on the best days. To see your kids smile through a whole day is a great gift.

Today

Today is a hard one. Not sure what the trigger is. My Dad died about a year ago, but the anniversary (is that the right term, seems too chipper) passed with less pain than today. I miss him today. It’s physically painful.

Now, life goes on, right? I still have to be a good Dad, husband, friend. So ima gonna ball these feelings up, push them down. I am going to be present for my son on our father/son day. But, maybe there will be a couple more shows watched than would have normally happened. Thankfully, that will add to the guilt I am feeling for not being 💯 percent present.

These two.

Some days, I don’t feel like I can go forward. Hopefully I tread water well enough to fool my kids. I don’t want them to feel the weight of my heavy burden. These beautiful kids don’t need that, right?

Anyway, this release of words was productive, helped. Thanks for checking it out.

When They Write Their Book

Your life story would not make a good book. Don’t even try.  — Fran Lebowitz

Let’s hope that quote won’t apply to my children. I want them to live great, adventurous lives, and be able to tell their tale. I hope the way that my wife and I are raising them will help them be brave, smart, spirited & unapologetic in the way they march out into the world. I know not every person is destined to, or even wants to, live a life worthy of a best seller. That is not exactly what I want for them. I want the story of their life, when they are old and ready to look back, to be filled with memories of them doing what they were passionate about. I don’t care if that is conquering the world or living contently in the country. As long as it lets them have as little regret as possible.

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The thing that got me thinking about the story of their lives, the catalyst for these words happened in traffic a few days ago. At a red light, on an unassuming Tuesday morning, during an uneventful drive to somewhere unmemorable. I was at a red light, turning left, another irrelevant piece of the story, and noticed the mother driving the car in front of me seemed agitated. I noticed the two car seats in the back seat, each of which has the top of a head poking above the back. I thought to myself, “I’ve been there- kids doing something in the backseat that is grinding my gears, probably acting like kids, those inconsiderate little…”

Then I witness, what I’m ashamed to say is also not foreign to me, the mom just lighting these kids up. From afar, it looked as though one of the kids forgot something of need and the mother was reminding her, with emphasis, how this was the worst thing that she has done or ever will do. I realized as I watched this unfolding, it could easily have been me in that situation. I feel empathetic towards the mom; I feel empathetic towards the kids; and I feel shame in myself. Then the light turned green, and the world continued to spin, but I had this lingering shame with me for the rest of that day.

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That’s where the title of this post comes from. When my kids write the story of their life, I hope they remember less of those horrible moments and more of the beautiful ones we have shared. That they remember the dance parties in the living room and not my yelling at them for spilling water in the carpet. That they remember the surprise donuts and not my scolding them for getting chocolate on my shirt. That they remember building snowmen and not my complaining that it’s too cold to go outside. That they remember my smile and not my angry face looking down at them.

I can’t tell you with certainty what I want for my kids, because they are still discovering who they are. But I can say with certainty that I pray they remember me more for the smiles than the anger.

Sneaker Head

Now the Adidas I possess for one man is rare- Run-DMC

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Look at those ankles…I mean shoes.

I have a crap ton of shoes. I have had a crap ton of shoes. My shoe obsession started when I got a part time job at Footlocker. No lie, I gave most of the money I earned there right back to the store. Thankfully, I was paid in cash so the process of giving it back was very easy. I didn’t have to get to a bank and cash a check; and then tromp all the way back to the store for my fresh kicks.

At this moment in my life I have 23 pair of Adidas in my closet. Mind you, my wife “encourages” me to get rid of the ones I don’t need on a regular basis.

What does that even mean? Shoes I don’t need. Does that exist?

I’ve never owned a pair I didn’t need. I have Adidas for running, for church, for fun, to match that one shirt, to match that other shirt, to hike, to trail run (yes, those are different from regular running shoes and the hiking shoes). I have Adidas water shoes… you know… for kayaking. I have mother-trucking Adidas boat shoes (I live in a land-locked state and get sea sick, but you have to be prepared). Full disclosure, I have two pair of Adidas boat shoes, because sure. I have Adidas shoes with Beavis & Butthead on them. I have three colors of the same shoe. I have… a problem, I know.

The obsession with Adidas is a more recent one in my life. I once was not one to discriminate. I wore Nike, Converse, Reebok. I even once had a pair of Pony’s back in the day. I had the fresh J’s (Jordans) before it was the Jumpman brand. I had a pair of vans even though I had no skate board. I’ll rock some Timberlands once in awhile, if I am feeling like kicking some sh*t. I feel that all of this makes me pretty knowledgeable when it comes to athletic footwear.

I am by no means an expert, but years of selling and wearing offers me a unique perspective. I understand, while expensive and a bit over priced, you are not paying for just the materials, you are paying for the research and development. I have run in a lot of different shoes over the years and have finally found my unicorn. The technology in the Adidas Boost cushioning is 🔥. I don’t take that emoji lightly, I’m not some kid just throwing 🔥 around for a good experience at a food truck. I ❤️ the 🔥 symbol.

I digress, I am here to talk about the new Adidas UltraBoost 19. I have taken them out on the road (4 miles) and the treadmill (7 miles). The first thing I noticed about the shoe was the fit. It felt “right” from the first step. Usually shoes take a couple of miles for me to break them in and these did not. Next, was how soft my steps felt. It was like running on clouds that were perched on the backs of unicorn foals. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I was running. It was great, like really great. I am a pretty heavy guy, over 200 pounds, and my feet usually feel tired, for lack of a better term, after any run over 6 miles. Especially on the dreaded treadmill. Not so after my 7-miler in these running on a treadmill of marshmallow shoes.

I’d like to think that these shoes are going to make running less of a chore, but that would be a miracle, because running sucks. I truly do it so that I can be healthy for my kids. And to eat tacos and drink beer. Mainly for the children, though.

So, if you wanna try running on clouds on a unicorns back whilst creating a rainbow, give the UltraBoost 19 a try. Or don’t, they ain’t paying me!

Dad 2.0 Summit 2019

Day 1 in the books. The day was full of travel; car, plane, Lyft and foot. Saw some people that I haven’t seen in a year, but it certainly didn’t feel that long.

Clouds, not a white screen.

That’s the thing about this conference, conversations pick up right where they left off. Laughs and stories flow. It is an awesome feeling to be amongst this group. Also, it provides the opportunity to do some cool stuff. Like today we were able to tour a brand new LEGOLAND Discovery Center and Sea Life Aquarium.

The site was under construction, and we were given a hard hat tour of the site. It was really neat to learn about what goes into building one of these awesome sites.

Vest friends

it was a wonderful tour, informative as hell. Can you believe that the “glass” between you and the sharks is only 2 inches thick! Going to be hard to walk that tunnel under the sharks is going to be a little more challenging to enjoy.

The kicker is, the most interesting thing I learned was after the tour. It was all about the master builder at Legoland Discovery Center. This dude won a contest to get the job. Three rounds of competition, and he wins his dream job. For real dream job too. Been working towards it since he was 12. Even crazier, this guy won the contest January 13, and then moved to Texas from Michigan and is now a master builder! Dreams come true!

Swag from Dove Men’s Plus Care

What a great day topped off with an excellent opening party thrown by Dove Men’s Plus Care. Great local food and drinks. Wonderful fellowship. Can’t wait to see what day 2 has in store. Time to rest and recharge!

Whoa….

Death ends a life, not a relationship.     

Robert Benchle

 

It’s been a minute since I wrote anything on here. I have reasons/excuses for this. None of them either good or bad, but reasons/excuses, none the less.

The past 10 months have been difficult for me to sit down and put words to a blog post. I have had a tremendous loss in the past year with my dad’s passing in March 2018. More difficult than I could have imagined. I already had a problem with my temper and suffered from depression. Thankfully, I had been able to manage it.

That all changed when I came out of the “fog” after my Dad’s service. I feel like I have been short in temper and patience with my wife and kids since that day. I feel it happening, almost like an out of body experience. I see it. I hate it. And I can’t seem to control it.

Most of the time in public I am excellent at wearing my “mask.” People mostly have no idea of the battle I’m fighting. My kids see it, but at 7 & 9 they don’t understand. My wife sees it, but I’m to stubborn to let her help, although I’m not really sure how to let her help.

I’m sad, and can’t seem to get past it. It’s crazy to feel this way, for me, because I’ve been really good at balling my feelings up and shoving them down my whole life. I like to think that I’m open and honest about my feelings, but in truth that’s just a different mask I wear, with the people I let think they are close to me. I seem modern, open minded, expressive of my feelings. And to a certain extent I am, I believe all of what I spew out to the world, but there is a cloud of gray that surrounds me in the moments when I am alone.

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Everything, almost.

I use the common tricks to tell myself I’m okay. I self-sooth with things I enjoy… popcorn is a common thing in my world. I self-medicate in moderation with the middle-age elixir of craft beer. I run miles a week to absorb the endorphins that placate me for a minute. I read self-help articles, see a therapist. I flip all of the proper switches.

But still I struggle with… well, everything. What makes it worse is I have everything. A loving wife, great kids, financial security — all of the things that are supposed to cause stress or depression if you don’t have them. I also see these things, as an out of body experience, when the temper is lost or the patience are short. IN REAL TIME- which only exasperates the feelings of depression.

I am not sure what pulled me to write this. Maybe I just needed to vent. Or maybe someone out there needs to see that they are not the only one. You are not. Unless I am?

Guest Post By 8YO

“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.” — Lady Bird Johnson, Former First Lady of the United States

I will not lie to you, since my father passed I have had a real hard time writing anything. We took an awesome trip to Washington, DC and Shenandoah National Park and I was struggling to write about it. I expressed this, and my wonderfully smart 8YO daughter said she would carry the water for me. I am sure I will write about the trip in time, but it probably won’t be as good as this:

GUEST BLOGGER: Kennedy Renae Fowler, Age 8

We went on a family vacation in Washington DC and then after that we went to Shenandoah National Park.

 

In Washington DC we stayed at the Gaylord Hotel which is right next to the water front and it is a super duper Fancy. There is a pool. The pool is super big and we went to it almost every night, it is open until 10:00pm. We had lots of fun making new friends. 

Site seeing was super awesome and fun. We went inside both the Smithsonian Air and Space museums. We also went to the Smithsonian Zoo and we saw pandas, tigers, lions, elephants and a bison.

 

We went camping with friends and had a blast.  We went on lots of hikes and we were really tired after that.  We earned Jr. Ranger badges and got our National Park Passports stamped.  We took lots of pictures.

 

                                                                                                                                                                    And we even saw a Black Bears!!! We saw three black bears: one was a cub, one was a mama bear and the other was foraging for food.  We saw the mama bear and cub while we were trying to hike part of the Appalachian Trail that is located in Shenandoah. We saw the other black bear when we were driving on Skyline Drive to leave.

 

                               

LegoLand (and moments)

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”   — Helen Keller

Dad! That signs made of Lego’s! Dad!

Here we go, the big day had finally arrived. Legoland!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was the culmination of the boys trip he had planned for us. It was also the culmination of a talk I had at Dad2.0 on the street in New Orleans. One of those chance encounters that really doesn’t mean that much at the time. One of those encounters that makes you smile at the time, but doesn’t really seem like a great big deal. It really felt like a nice little one-off conversation with a fellow conference attendee and his family.

The trip to Florida with my boy had been planned for about a month already. Some details needed to be worked out, but the general outline was there. Beach, baseball and Legoland were going to be the ice cream of this sundae with some other things mixed in to top it off. The boy was stoked, I was genuinely excited to spend the time together, even if we had to go to an amusement park. I was also excited that I could pay for my flight with points and he could fly with me on my Southwest Airlines companion pass. I also had points that I had been hoarding to pay for the hotels, which was great, because I am super cheap economical. I thought all I would have to pony up for was the Park, baseball game and the rental car. Awesome!

Creed Anthony is a good dude that I meet a few years ago at Dad2.0. He is one of those guys with an infectious laugh and a way of making you feel as though he is actually interested in what you’re saying. He is also an excellent blogger whose words carry a little weight with me. He is the chance encounter that cool New Orleans morning that I referred to earlier. He and his family were off to find breakfast and my wife and I were walking in the opposite direction when I spotted him. I did something I never do, I initiated a conversation. You see, Creed and I have spent precious few moments together other than a plane flight to San Francisco where we exchanged pleasantries and cab from the airport to a hotel in DC, we really only talked in those brief encounters people have at conferences. By all accounts, he doesn’t really know me and I really only know him from watching him speak at Dad2.0 and his blog.

As we chatted I told him about the guys’ trip my boy and I were going to be taking and he asked if I had reached out to Legoland for tickets. I laughed, and then said “Oh, you’re serious.” I didn’t really think that my new blog would garner interest from them, but he encouraged me to reach out. I did, and they totally comped me two tickets. This was a big boost in confidence for me which led me to reach out to Kia & Driveshop to inquire about a car for the weekend, and they came through as well! The point is, without this encouragement in this chance meeting on the freshly hosed off streets of New Orleans, I never would have had the confidence to make these connections.

This dude loved our Kia. He was so excited every time we got in it.

While we were waiting in line to enter the park, my son was literally shaking with excitement. He was looking around wide-eyed and excitedly pointing out that everything is made of Lego’s, with the awesome permanent grin that can only be on a six-year old’s face. This look, this perfect childhood look, filled my heart. I am thankful that I was wearing sunglasses, so my tear filled eyes didn’t have to be explained. Not that I shy away from crying in front of my kids; I just didn’t want my tears to take away from his moment.

The park didn’t disappoint. I could bore you with his newly discovered love of roller coasters, or his amazement (and mine) at all of the different cities and Star Wars creations in mini-land, or his excitement and trepidation of trading mini-figures with the Model Citizens, but I won’t. I will tell you, we spent one day at the park from open to close, and it was great. We broke the day up by spending the hottest portion of the day at the water park, which was fun. It also gave me my best “shouldn’t have said” that moment.

There are these water slides that are pretty big. Being a sensible Dad, I asked if he wanted to do them, expecting a hesitant no as the answer. Boy was I mistaken. The boy was all about the slides. As we ascended the steps, there was a moment of wavering, and I made a choice to encourage him to finish the climb. I was all about going back down, but this moment was not about my fear, but helping him face his. Grin and bear it, I told myself, for the boy. The attendant at the top patiently answered his questions, then it was time to ride.

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The green slide on the right was his, I had the honor of the middle slide.

“You mind taking the fast one Dad?” Sure buddy! I hate heights and water slides and amusement parks, except for today, because I love you. The directions tell you to keep your legs crossed until the ride is over. I will admit, it is excellent advice. Advice I failed to follow, unfortunately. Fortunately it led to the best/worst shouldn’t have said that moment.

When you fail to heed the advice of the crossed legs water shoots up your….. well you can figure that out. As I got up and reevaluated my most recent decision, the boy asked what was wrong. I told him the slide had given me a super water wedgie. He laughed as hard as I’ve ever seen him and for the rest of the day asked if my wedgie was ok before cracking up again.

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Thanks Kia for getting us through our guys weekend stylishly.

This day, this weekend had a great healing effect on my heart. It helped with my grieving for my dad. Writing this post has reminded me of the people out there and their support I truly need and get, even when I don’t expect it. Thanks all involved with making it possible.