Ask Your Dad Blog

Sunday, May 8, 2016

What I Want My Wife to Know This Mother's Day


This post originally appeared on Huffington Post Parents for a series of letters they commissioned from various bloggers for Mother's Day 2015.

Dear Stevie,

For your first Mother's Day, you were seven months pregnant with our first kid. I bought you a bag of Oreos and you said you would love me forever. We laughed and tried to picture what our lives would be like after our daughter was born. We talked about what she would look like. I was positive she would have brown or black hair like everyone in my family. You said when you closed your eyes you could see her face. I tried, but the only face I could see was yours. Turns out I was right. She is you. The funny thing is, we spent so much of those months leading up to the birth thinking about what our daughter would be like that we very rarely took the time to think what we would be like. I obsessed over what it would be like to have someone call me dad, but I never could have predicted in a million years how proud and in awe I would be to witness you becoming a mom.


They say that the change is supposed to happen overnight. A switch flips. And while it is easy enough to put the label on, becoming a parent is not nearly as seamless. It is a process. We struggled. I struggled. There were nights when we got frustrated with the kids, which led to us being frustrated with each other. We joked about how, when a baby is screaming, every conversation -- no matter how menial -- is a fight. We worked our way through nights when our kids were sick with 104-degree fevers. We spent nights in the emergency room. We learned how to get pee out of microfiber couches and waterproof sunscreen out of the carpet. And even though it seems like for the past five years our gaze has been at our knees -- while we kept the kids from falling down the stairs, or taught them which shoe goes on which foot, or showed them how to write the letter A -- I want you to know something that is infinitely important to me.

I see you.

I see the way you look at our kids. I see you step into their rooms every night before we go to bed. I see it when you subtly move a toy out of the way while they are dancing, so they don't trip. I see you check their seat belts three times. You are kind to our children. You surround them with love and opportunity. You never condescend. They can see that. I can see that. You encourage me to be a better father. You don't shut me out from parenting. I feel strong with you. We look at problems together, and together we find our best solution. (Sometimes Google helps... especially with the waterproof sunscreen.)

I didn't know we had this in us. I didn't know you had the capacity to become what you've become. To be clear, I didn't think the opposite. I never thought you weren'tcapable of being a great mom; it's just that I had no concept of the range and depth to which your love could extend. And honestly, I still don't. Every day is a surprise. Every day I am more and more proud of you. Every day I realize how lucky we are to have you, and that makes every day pretty damn great.

We've still got a long way to go, and we're still becoming the parents we're going to be. I still think a lot about what our kids will look like when they grow up. Sometimes, when we're all sitting in the living room and our son is reading a book while you spin in circles with our daughter, I close my eyes and try to picture them as adults. It doesn't work, of course -- it is hard to pull the future into focus -- but when I open my eyes, I see you, and I know that whatever comes will be what we build together.
And together, we can move mountains.

Thank you for being such a wonderful wife/friend/partner/soul mate, and -- today most of all -- thank you for being a mother.

Happy Mother's Day,

John

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By the way, in case you didn't know, you can also find me trying to be funny on Facebook 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mothers Day Present Buying for People Who Don't like to Get out of the Car (Like Me)

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Life of Dad and Sears. I have received compensation for this post; however, all opinions stated are my own.

Full disclosure. This picture wasn't taken at Sears. I'll explain later in the post.


I’ve never been very good with Mother’s Day gifts. For Stevie’s first Mother’s Day I got her a bag of Oreo Cookies, which, in my defense, she loved. But objectively, and in retrospect, that was probably not the best gift I could have gotten her. As the kids have gotten older, going shopping for gifts has gotten more and more difficult. Taking the kids into the store is a hassle even when there are two of us. Going solo is its own ordeal, as illustrated beautifully by Stevie in her recent post on Totally Awesome Mess.

All that in mind, I was pretty stoked when the guys at Life of Dad and Sears contacted me to give their new pick up service a try for Mother’s Day. I worked with them last year for Father’s Day and had a great experience, but I was honestly a little skeptical about the promises they were making with this campaign. They were as follows.

• Go to Sears.com
• Pick out a gift
• Download App
• Go to local Sears
• Pull into parking spot and press button in app
• Open trunk for nice Sears employee who brings you your purchase

So we gave it a try. Duchess and Captain and I sat down at the computer and started picking things out she might want. Duchess was pretty sure she wanted a Lego Friends set. Captain was positive that she wanted a Ninja Turtle. So we got her a tent instead. Really though. She wanted a tent. I know this because I yelled really loud to the other room “Hey Stevie! What do you want for mother’s day!”
And she yelled back…

“Whatever the kids want to get me will be fine!”

And I responded, “So you want a Ninja Turtle and some Legos?”

Then there was a pause while she contemplated whether she wanted Rafael or Michelangelo.

“Oooh! What about a new tent so we can go camping this summer?”

So we picked the tent. Steps 1 & 2 down.

Simple, easy to use app.

Next I tried to get my kids to come with me to Sears so I could take pictures of them in the back seat while we waited for the nice sears guy (or gal) to bring us our tent. Captain and Duchess were having none of it, so sorry gang. No cute pictures of them in the backseat. Instead you can picture me having a car ride where I get to pick the music, and I get to not answer a thousand questions, and I don’t have to referee a fight over which Ninja Turtle is best while driving 50 mph (it’s Leonardo). I’m happy with that picture and hopefully you are too.

On with the story.

I got to Sears and saw that they had reserved parking for pick up. Pretty cool. It was even shaded. I pulled out my phone and opened my Sears App. I pushed a button to let them know I was there. A timer popped up on my phone and let me know they would be out to my car within five minutes. The sentiment is nice, but I don’t know if the timer is necessary. Honestly, it kind of made me anxious and had me hoping that the guy bringing my tent didn’t also have a timer going off somewhere yelling

“BRING JOHN HIS TENT! BRING JOHN HIS TENT! BRING JOHN HIS TENT!”

SO MUCH PRESSURE!!!
Anyway… before I could get further in my worry for the nice Sears guy or girl in my imagination, the actual Sears guy popped out of the doors with my tent! I looked at the probably not necessary timer, and it was at three minutes. I hope he got the speed bonus.

I popped the trunk. He tossed in the tent, and I was on my way. Easy peasy.

So yeah… pretty cool service. Super convenient. I give it 5/5 smiley faces.

Also check this out! Shoppers that use Sears In-Vehicle Pickup for their online purchases between Tuesday, May 3 and Saturday, May 7 are automatically entered for a chance to win a $5,000 Sears gift card! You can also click on and enter the Shop Your Way All for Mom Sweepstakes at Sears.com/AllForMom

Thanks for reading! I will be back a little later this week with my traditional gushy mom day post about how swell my wife is,

- John

Friday, April 8, 2016

5 Parental Super Powers I Didn't Ask For



It wasn't supposed to be like this. I was supposed to get hit by gamma rays or get bitten by a radioactive spider. As a kid I dreamed of waking up some day and suddenly being able to lift heavy objects with my mind or shoot laser beams out of my eyes. Not this. Not these powers... Who wants the "super" ability to smell their child's unique poop odor from across the room? 

"Nobody panic! That poo smell belongs to my kid. My unique parenting power tells me that this is a class 4 blowout. Don't worry. I can handle this!" 

Possible Super Hero name: The Sniffer

See what I mean? What am I supposed to do with that crappy (pun intended) super power? Sigh… here are four other super lame super powers that being a parent has given me... none of which, by the way, are flying – double grrr.

Super Power: Parental Precognition

It's kind of like Spidey-Sense, but it only works on my kids. I know just before something horrible is about to happen – usually because my kid says something like "Look dad!" or "Oooh! Gum!" or "Uh oh!" or things just get really, really quiet. Unfortunately, knowing something is about to happen and being able to prevent it are two very different things. Most of the time I have just enough parental precognition to say the beginnings of various words in succession. "Wai! NO! STO… ugh." Then it is too late and I say other, complete words quietly under my breath.

Possible Super Hero Name: The Dammit Whisperer

Super Power: Super Distraction

This isn't so much a super power as it is a super skill. For some reason I thought that when I had kids I would just explain to them, in very simple and kid friendly terms, why they should do something, and since they were my kids they would understand and do it. 

I was dumb. 

I quickly realized that 90% of getting kids to do what you want is tricking them by gently distracting them in the right direction. I would compare it to herding cattle since that is a completely accurate comparison, but people might get angry if I compare my kids to cattle. So I won't. See what I did there? Distraction.

I don't say "Want to go to bed?" I say, “Let's go read a book in bed.” I don't say, "Do you want to stop watching that ridiculous show that makes me want to stab my eyes out?" I say "Oh look! Your toy room is clean for once. Quick. Fix that!" By the way, the toy room is a perfect example of my wife's distraction skills too. It used to be my office, until she distracted me.

Possible Super Hero Name: Mr. Ooh Look Something Shiny

Super Power: Sleep Functioning

Any shlub with a predisposition for sleep disorders can sleep walk. I can work an eight hour day, go home, cook dinner, and only suffer minor second-degree burns on occasion - all while half asleep. I figure that if I am half asleep all of the time, I don't have to be full asleep half of the time. Trust me, it makes sense when you haven't slept for seven months.

Sure, I'm a zombie. Sure, I nod off while reading stories to my kids. And maybe I do lie down in the shower sometimes and let the hot water running out be my alarm clock. A dad has got to do what a dad has got to do, even if it means living in a nightmarish half awake dreamscape from time to time. Isn't that right Mr. Flying Dragon-pig? Now let's hurry. We're late for the roller coaster eating contest.

Possible Super Hero Name: The Walking Dad

Super Power: Tolerance to all things Gross and Disgusting

Nothing disgusts me anymore. Nothing. I have been baptized in endless baby piss and shit and snot and have emerged from the font of fluids a super-parent. What does this power do for me aside from allowing me to clean feces out of my kid's various crevasses? Well, I went to Walmart with sweatpants on the other day and didn't feel embarrassed. I also dropped my breakfast sandwich on the floor and picked it back up to eat it. Basically, anything that isn't covered in poop is clean now.

Possible Super Hero Name: The Slob

So there you are: my powers. Will I use them for good or evil? That remains to be seen. For now, my dad sense is tingling which means that there is either a bottle of sunscreen being emptied on to my carpet or something far, far worse. It is too quiet. Gotta go.

DAMMIT!!

If you liked this post, be sure to come see our other super powers on the Ask Your Dad Facebook page!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Choose the Dark Side - Guest Comic by Fowl Language Comics

I'm pretty excited for this one. Brian Gordan writes Fowl Language Comics, one of the most popular comics on the web. We met via me fan-boying his page a few years back, and after years of asking and begging he FINALLY drew me as a duck. OK. That's not completely true. I only asked once, and he was cool enough to say yes! Below is an actual, word for word conversation I had with my daughter after watching The Empire Strikes back. 



Guess what! Brian's first book of comics came out this week. You should buy it. Seriously. They are all short and easily readable comics that you and your kids will love. I haven't been able to get it back from Duchess since it showed up at our door! Click here, or on the photo of the book to buy it on Amazon. You can also find Fowl Language Comics on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

5 Dinner Table Rules According to My Kids



I have my own dinner rules. No hitting. No biting anything but food. If you don’t eat the crust of your pizza, dad gets first dibs. Stevie has her own rules. It’s ok to spill, but no doing it on purpose. Try everything on your plate before you get seconds. No electronics at the table. Whoever sat down first has to be the one to get up and get the kids more water when they eventually ask.
Our kids have rules too. They aren’t written anywhere. They are communicated through tears, screams, laughter, or worst of all, politely asking me to fix whatever rule was broken… over and over and over until I either fix it or go insane and die.

1. All Water Must Contain Broken and Fixed Ice  

We have been blessed enough to not have to bring juice and soda into our dinner table rotation. We just don’t keep it in the house. Our dinner offerings for refreshments are milk or water. Ever since our daughter discovered that there are two settings on the ice dispenser ALL water MUST have both “broken” and “fixed” ice. She doesn’t demand that this happens, she orders it like it as an item on a menu.

Me: What do you guys want to drink?

Duchess: Yes. Thank you. I would like a pink princess cup of water with broken and fixed ice please.”

Captain: YEAH. BOKEN ICE. FIXED ICE.

Whatever she wants, her little brother wants too.

Captain: I WANNA PRINCESS CUUUUUUUP

2. Whatever one kid gets, the other kid must also get. 

I learned a while ago to buy two of everything. We have two blue bowls, and two pink bowls. We have two princess cups and two monster cups. There is no gender assignment to our dishes, regardless of what culture dictates. Captain doesn’t want “boy” plates and Duchess doesn’t want “girl” plates. Duchess wants what Captain has and vice-versa. And GOD FORBID one of the matching dishes is dirty and they have to eat off mismatched dishware. Then Ms. Duchess gets all polite again

Captain: I WANNA PRINCESS CUUUUUUUP

Me: Buddy, the other princess glass is dirty.

Duchess: Daddy, would you mind taking the dirty princess glass out of the dishwasher and using that brush you use in the sink to wash it for Captain. I think that would make him happy.

Me: Nope. He can drink out of the monster glass.

Captain: I WANNA PRINCESS CUUUUUUUP

Duchess: Daddy, remember when you washed that other cup for me that one time. It was really quick. Will you wash the cup for Captain?

And on and on it goes. Yelling, politeness. Yelling, politeness. And then I wash the cup.

3. If the kids find a word in their Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Alphabet Soup, they get to fish the letters out of their soup with their hands and spell it on the table. 

They call it “letter soup” and while Campbell’s Soup is usually a quick and easy meal to whip up at the end of a long day, evenings with “letter soup” are always evenings with baths. Why? Because this happens.

Stevie and I have both fought this one, but by the time we catch on to what is happening it is too late. The handful of soup is already on the table. The letters are already spelling “Mom” or “Dad” and how sweet is that?? They spelled mom and dad with their soup letters.

Granted, that is Duchess. Captain also likes to spell with his soup. He spells “HM(Pea)L(Carrot)(Squished unidentifiable letter)” But whatever Duchess does… you know how it goes.

4. EAT ALL THE BREAD

It is almost indescribable how much my kids love bread. You know how you hear those stories of really unfortunate families that have to survive off of bread and water. My kids would be so happy if every meal was bread and water. That is their dream meal. At gymnastics the other day my daughter’s teacher asked all the kids what their favorite food was and my kid said bread. Not bread with butter. Not bread with cheese and turkey in between. Bread.

Again, this is my fault. I also love bread. When I was little I used to tell my mom that when I grew up and moved out of the house the first thing I was going to do was buy a loaf of garlic bread and eat THE WHOLE THING! And you know what? I did. And you know what else? It. Was. Glorious.



5. If you fart or burp at the table, you must blame the dog. 

So this is totally my fault. I did it once and everyone laughed really hard. OK… I did it like five times because the kids laughed really hard every time. Then Duchess did it and we laughed really hard because it is cute when our kids imitate us. Then Captain did it. Then it was a thing. Stevie wants me to tell you that she has never done it. Stevie has never done it. (She totally does it. She also can’t read things I put in parenthesis.)

I know it’s not the most polite thing, but there is no going back at this point. If you burp or fart at the table you yell “RILEY!!” And then everyone laughs.

And then we have dessert… sometimes. Not every time.

- John

Wait! One more thing! 

Hey guys! This is my final post in my series for Campbell’s Soup and their #RealRealLife campaign. I want to thank the Campbell’s crew for welcoming me into their family and being great patrons of the blog. I love it when a brand contacts me to sponsor Ask Your Dad and I can open my cupboard and find their product already there. Another great part about brands I like and trust sponsoring my content from time to time is that I get to keep writing this blog and providing it to all of you for free. That means a lot to me. Anyway. Thank you, and thank you Campbell’s. Now everyone go eat soup!! 


Monday, March 7, 2016

All the Things I Can’t Throw Away



Since she could pick up a crayon my daughter has drawn every day. The first time she presented a scribble to me, I held it up and didn’t see a purple kind-of-circle. I saw a certificate that said, “Now you are a dad.” 

I used to look at colorful drawings hanging on the fridges of my kid-having friends and think “Meh. It’s cute I guess.” But when I held that first piece of art, I realized that it didn’t matter if it was cute. It was her. It went directly on the fridge. 


So did the second drawing, and the third. Eventually when the fridge filled up and a combination of gravity and crappy magnets forced me to take down the older ones I’d walk over to the trash can, look at it for a second, then walk away from the trash can deciding that the pictures could live on top of the fridge. When the top of the fridge filled up, I went and found a box… and another box.

I know. I had a problem. But these pictures were the glitter and glue covered footprints my little girl had left of a life where she could barely count to fiveteen. Every day they got better. An almost circle became a face. A face grew legs, then a body. Lines became houses. A sun. A moon. Planets. She was creating the world around her. She put it in crayon. I put it on our fridge. 

We were running out of room. 

Source: Lunarbaboon

As she got bigger her world took up more and more paper. I wanted to hold on to that first purple scribble, pull it close to my chest, and remember how it made me feel to become a dad. But when I did, I felt like I missed the fact that she rewrites that contract every day. 

I knew that they were just papers, and that the little squirt that drew on them had morphed into something even more magnificent. Still, I didn’t feel a sense of loss of my little girl when I looked at her drawings. I felt a sense of emotional geography. I could see how far she’d come. I could see how far Stevie and I had come. 


A few weeks ago, I was cleaning off the top of the fridge and found an extra stack of drawings I hadn’t looked at in months. I flipped through them, traced my finger over the textured wax, and smiled thinking about the look on her face when had I put them on the fridge. Then I did something that even surprised me. 


Instead of walking over to the garbage, pausing, and walking away, I quickly crumpled the handful of drawings into a ball and shoved them deep enough into the trashcan that I wouldn’t have the chance to see them sitting on top of the pile and pull them out. Then I washed my hands. Then I felt guilty. 


Then I didn’t.


In that moment I realized that what I had thrown away was just paper and wax. That smile. That smile on her face when I had thanked my little girl and praised her hard work. That was my art, and it was safely tucked away in a place much safer than the top of my fridge. I don’t have to look at circles and trees and suns and flowers to connect with how far we’ve come. I just have to look at her. 


I still have my favorites. They are hanging on the wall next to me as I write this. But now I don’t feel as bad tossing out the majority of them. They are not all art. They are the beautiful byproduct of art. They are leaves from a tree that has a very long time to grow. 



Instead of drawing last night, Duchess asked us if she could show off her sweet, new number skills by counting by fives to a hundred. Far be it for me to deny her the opportunity to count by fives. We put away the colored pencils and Stevie, Captain and I sat attentively. 

She did it so fast the numbers blended together. We listened in amazement as she hit a rhythm punctuating the “ty” on every other number. When she hit 100 she shouted it like it was the top of a mountain. ONE HUNDRED!! We clapped loudly for her and she did her proud little giggle. She stopped saying “fiveteen” a year ago and now we’re into the hundreds. She’s counting faster than our hearts can keep up. 


That’s a lie. We can keep up. We will keep up. 


Sure, I can’t pin her counting to the fridge or put it in a box, but she can pin our clapping to her heart, and that is a lot harder to throw away. 


If you enjoyed this post, read more! I have a bunch linked in the sidebar. Also, be sure to like the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page. We have a lot of fun over there and I promise not to throw away your art. Also, thanks to Chris over at LunarBaboon for letting me use his fantastic comic. He's a great friend, and an amazing artist. Be sure to check him out.