Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Top 10 Ask Your Dad Posts of 2015

Well, here we are. The end of another year. This is my fourth year writing Ask Your Dad. I can honestly say that back in 2012 when Stevie encouraged me to quit storing my writing in a shoe box, and instead put it online, I never in a million years would have thought that it would have turned into this. And by this, I mean all of you. I feel like we've built a cool little community here, and that is awesome. Anyway, there's more thank yous at the bottom, but I'll toss one up here too. Thank you! These are the top ten trafficked posts of 2015. 
If you wanted to introduce one of your friends to my blog, this would be a pretty good post to share. Not that I'm hinting that you should share it. I'm just saying that you should share it... if you want to. 

Number ten was written on one of the hardest days of the year for me. My good friend had recently passed away and I was not coping well. On top of that, my son was refusing to sleep through the night and my frustration with all things was being translated into how I handled him not sleeping. This is that story. 

"At 4:45 AM Captain woke up and started crying again, and I wanted to die. Yes, that is overly dramatic but everything is overly dramatic at 4:45 AM. I threw the blanket off me, jumped out of bed and stomped to his room. I’ve learned not to dramatically open his door, because he is generally behind it." Read the rest here

This post clarifying that we don't hit/spank our kids. This one got a mixed reaction. Some people were like "High five!" while others were all "Don't tell me how to parent!" Either way, a mix of the two bumped this into the top ten, so here we are. BTW, we still don't spank.

"What folks don’t seem to understand, perhaps because I haven’t explained it well enough, is that curbing the behavior has always been a secondary or even tertiary goal to Stevie and I. Helping our children become emotionally healthy, teaching them to understand their emotions and be able to cope with them, those have always been our primary goals.."  Read the rest here

Coming in at number 8 is my post about guns. Again, no answers contained herein. We... I... I don't really know what to say about it. A lot of people seemed to like. It came from a place of love and concern. 

"Sometimes I still think about my grandfather’s .22. The police never found it. I worry that whoever took it didn’t love it the way my father did. I worry that they looked at it and saw a weapon to point at other people. Now every time I hear about another shooting on the news, I don’t picture the shooter with whatever semi-automatic rifle they purchased legally at a gun show. I picture them with my WWII-era 10 shot, pump action .22 rifle." Read the rest here

Number 7 was a list of moments where I had no idea WTF I was doing. It could have been a much much longer list.

"1. When my son peed on my foot while I was on the phone with poison control because he ate diaper cream.

2. When my daughter asked about death and somehow walked away with the plot of “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” Read the rest here

Number 6 was about my and Stevie's fears. No answers contained within, but it is one of my favorite posts of the year - mainly because I think it got across what I was trying to say.. which is always a win.

"A few months ago some guy walked in the front door of a home about a mile away from us, grabbed their four-year-old daughter and walked back out the front door. The mom heard something, woke her husband up, who ran outside to find a strange man with his daughter wrapped in his arms. The dad frantically asked for his daughter back. The man handed her to him. Then he ran." Read the rest here

Number 5 on the Top 10 Ask Your Dad Posts of 2015 was a list of super lame super powers, none of which are flying, time travel, or x-ray vision. Boooooo. 

"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?" Read the rest here 

Number 4 on the Top 10 Ask Your Dad Posts of 2015 was the time that I got sick of a bunch of people asking me to share the Joey Salads Kidnapping Prank Video. I still don't like this guy. In fact, I hate all prank videos. They are the WORST.

"Here’s what I am going to do. I am going to keep an eye on my kids until they’re old enough to not go chasing puppies into the back of some YouTube Celebrity’s Pedovan. After that, I am going to teach them how to handle situations, not people." Read the rest here

Number 3 is probably my favorite post of the year. It is the story of my lifelong friendship with Ken, one of the best people I know. If you haven't read it, you should. If you have read it, you should read it again. Ken is good people.

“They are boys and they are getting married?” This was framed as a normal 4-year-old question, not the way I would have asked it when I was her age. There was no ewww in her voice. I smiled. 
“Yep. Sometimes boys marry boys. And sometimes girls marry girls.” And sometimes you realize in the middle of saying something that it is the first time you are able to say it. And sometimes you realize that moment is different than all the moments before it. Something big has changed and you got to see it, and this is the first time the change has worked its way into your life in a real way. And it is beautiful.

Number two was definitely Stevie's favorite. I know a blog post has turned out well when my wife calls me after reading it to tell me it made her cry. Happy Stevie tears are the ultimate seal of approval.

"You are pretty because you are alive. You are pretty because you are curious. You are pretty because you take the good parts of the world, pull them in through your ears and eyes and mouth and body, and shout them back out to me in action and voice..." Read the rest here 

This is actually my most read post ever. You can read it here. It reached hundreds of billions of people. It was syndicated eleventy-trillion times by every website in the world. I received multiple awards, and was invited to read it at the Kennedy Center Honors in front of the President of the United States, Barack Obama. It is currently being developed into sitcom for Netflix. My mom even printed it out and hung it on her refrigerator!
OK, none of that is true except for the part about it being my most read post ever. It is. And for that, I am truly grateful to all of you.
This has been a really great year - for me, for my family, and for Ask Your Dad. You are all a big part of that. Thanks for agreeing and disagreeing with me. Thanks for laughing with me AND at me. Thanks for every share, like, comment and email. I read every single one of them.
Most of all, thanks for reading my words. It means more to me than you will ever know.
See you next year!!
- John

P.S.  Don't forget to like the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page. AND... stay tuned for big exciting things coming to Ask Your Dad in 2016. I'll give you a hint... it rhymes with shmodcast ;)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Our Few (Yet Awesome) Holiday Traditions

This is the second post in a series of posts I am writing in a partnership with Campbell’s Soup and their #RealRealLife campaign. You can watch all their adorable videos here. I've been compensated by Campbell's both in money and in delicious soup that I would have eaten anyway because I love soup. A lot.

By the way, did you know that in the U.S. Campbell sells nearly 2 billion cans of soup every year? The Kinnear house probably accounts for about half of those sales. 

Stevie and I’s first fight was on Thanksgiving 2009. We had just left her dad’s house after having just left her mom’s house after previously having left her aunt’s house which we stopped by after dropping in on her Grandma to say hello. Being a transplant to Salt Lake when I was five, I was not accustomed to Thanksgiving being comparable to a multi-city rock and roll tour, and by the time we had left our final stop at her dad’s I was just about spent. It was a very fun day, but it was also an exhausting day. So… in the midst of a fatigued and food coma ridden ride home, I “suggested” that the Tour de Utah that was Stevie’s typical Thanksgiving (and Christmas) was unsustainable. She did not react well. To be fair, there is a reason I put ironic quotation marks around “suggest” in the previous paragraph. I didn’t suggest anything. I stated what I perceived to be a fact. I think I said “That was a great day, but when we have kids this 10 stops in a day thing is done.” I didn’t really intend to put my foot down. I thought I was just stating a pretty obvious and eventual reality. It didn’t come across like that. Stevie didn’t yell. Stevie rarely yells. Stevie gets quiet. I felt horrible. It was the triple-lindy of screw ups. I had insulted her holiday tradition and offended her, while simultaneously bringing up having kids and getting married for the first time in our relationship. I am not a smart man. Luckily, she is a very forgiving woman. Instead of the fight I started over Thanksgiving leading to the end of our relationship, it eventually transitioned into this: “OK. If we’re going to be together, what do we want our holidays together to look like.” And with that one question from Stevie, my holidays and her holidays became our holidays. Instead of putting our foot down about what we do, we decided to create our own traditions together. Here are a few of them!

We still make the rounds on Thanksgiving

It’s not as hectic as it once was. Like I had originally thought, having kids necessitated some toning down of the schedule. But, we still make multiple stops and we still see as much of Stevie’s side of the family as we can. My side of the family lives all over the country now, so we leave nice messages on Facebook. Sure, it is a little stressful at times, but I get have Green Bean Casserole made with Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom at three different houses, and that makes it worth it.

We put up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving

I know that a lot of families do this, but this is one of my favorites and it feels very much like it belongs just to us. The day after Thanksgiving I wake up and trudge into the totally not messy, and very well organized area that is our garage. Then I spend the next 45 minutes playing Indiana Jones and the Lost Christmas Decorations. After that we spend the day together not shopping. In the evening everyone in our immediate family knows they are welcome to stop by, grab a bite to eat, and help us decorate the tree.

Since we rarely know how many people are coming, I usually will make something that is easily prepared and can serve a bunch of people on the fly with minimal attention from me. This year I made my famous (in my family at least) sloppy-joes. They are super simple and super delicious. The secret ingredient? Campbell's® Condensed Chicken Gumbo soup. They're not your standard BBQ, overly sweet sloppy joes. I’ll include the recipe at the end of this post.

Giant Advent Calendar

The first year we had our daughter, her grandma made us an advent calendar as big as a medium sized human. Each day has enough space for us to wrap and put a tiny present. They’re usually silly presents, like a snack size box of raisins, or a toy from the 99 cent bin, but just being able to unwrap something every day has both our kids sprinting in the door when we get home in the evening. Yes, wrapping all the tiny presents is kind of a pain, but that’s OK because Stevie does it.

Frosty the Snowman, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Then Frosty the Snowman Again, Then Frosty the Snowman Again

This is pretty much every night from Thanksgiving until Christmas. We really shouldn’t have bought them on DVD.

Green Bean Casserole made with Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom

Have I mentioned how much I love Green Bean Casserole? I think I might have. Honestly, it's worth mentioning again. It isn't just a side dish with our family - it is a tradition.

Apparently I'm not alone in my love. On Thanksgiving 2014 the recipe had 722,052 page views and accounted for a whopping 70% of the traffic to the Campbell's Kitchen website that day. In fact, over 30 Million households make green bean casserole each year... because they are smart and they love delicious things.

It's been my favorite since I was my daughter's age. If for some reason the dog jumped up on the table and ate every other Thanksgiving dish, but somehow left the Green Bean Casserole, I would still be happy. Stevie can have her crescent rolls. The kids can have their jello, and their crescent rolls, and then more jello. The GBC is mine!!

Source: Campbell's Kitchen Website

Christmas Eve Quick Dinner

On Christmas Eve we don't do a big dinner, mainly because of another tradition I'll talk about in a moment. So in place of a big dinner, we usually have something that isn't super involved but is also comforting. Some years it is as simple as a grilled cheese and Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup. This year I think we're going to give these Campbell’s Fresh Brewed Soups a try. They go in your Keurig! I made one for myself the other day, and just loved it. I think what the kids will like about them is that they will be able to pour the noodles in the cup and press the button. They love to participate in things like that. And sure, it's not a giant ham dinner, but we have a lot of those this time of year. Noodle soup is a favorite around our house, and Christmas Eve can be a time for favorites.  Check it out! I even made an Instagram of it, complete with sound effects!

A video posted by John Kinnear (@askyourdadblog) on

A video posted by John Kinnear (@askyourdadblog) on

Christmas Eve at Denny’s

I’ve written about this before, but Christmas Eve at Denny’s is one of my longest running traditions. After the family dinner, and after the kids go to bed, I sneak out and meet and meet some friends at Denny’s. I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years now. You can read all about it here, but here's the gist of it. When I was in High School I was working a retail job and had to skip the Family Christmas vacation. I ended up home alone on Christmas. After my buddies were done with their family Christmas Eve dinners, they came and picked me up and took me to Denny's. We've been meeting there ever since.

Christmas Morning (Not when the kids wake up. Early early early morning. Like 2 AM)

Since I go out after the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve, the Santa Portion of my job tends to take place when I get home. That is OK though. Stevie and I team up. Stevie wraps the presents. I put together the things that need putting together. We stack them in a way we hope will cause gasps of joy in the morning. We eat the cookies as messily as we can so our kids can feel like little CSI Investigators when they determine that Santa has been there. I write a note in my most unrecognizable handwriting possible telling the kids how proud I (Santa) am of them. Then comes my second most favorite part of the entire holiday season.

Stevie and I sit down and look at the tree. We are exhausted. She lays her head on my shoulder and I say something like “We did good” and she agrees. Sometimes we talk about that first fight, about how it’s not always easy to take two lives and smoosh them together… about how somehow we’ve made it work so far. I’ll kiss her forehead. She’ll kiss my cheek. And together we’ll peek in on our kids, our smooshed together little lives with their tiny adorable snores, waiting to wake up and see what Santa brought them. They get their gifts in the morning.

Ours are right in front of us.

And, as promised, the greatest sloppy joe recipe you will ever find...

Kinnear Sloppy Joe Recipe with Campbell's® Condensed Chicken Gumbo soup

This recipe has been in my family for years. That said, it was probably taken from the back of a soup can at some point because, as I have found out many many times, most of our "family" recipes are from the backs of boxes and soup cans. Doesn't matter. Still delicious.


1 lb Hamburger
1/2 Onion Diced
1 Can Campbell's Condensed Chicken Gumbo Soup
3 Tbsp Butter 
3/4 Cup Ketchup
3 Tsp Yellow Mustard
Salt and Pepper

1. Brown ground beef. Salt and Pepper as needed.
2. Saute Onion in butter
3. Mix beef, onion and all other ingredients in deep pan. Let simmer, covered 30 minutes. 
4 Get back to doing other more enjoyable things than cooking. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Unfiltered Kinnear Family Year in Review

This post is sponsored by the kind people at Plum Organics and their #ParentingUnfiltered campaign. After you’re done reading this post, please take a few minutes and make your own Unfiltered Holiday Newsletter by clicking here and then share it with your friends. Plum Organics helps Ask Your Dad keep the lights on, and they do it while letting me write about what I want to write about. That’s a win for me, a win for you, and a win for them. 


2015 was the length of a blink. My eyes got dry for a second in January so I closed them momentarily and watched a year of my kids’ life flash by on the backs of my eyelids. When I opened them again I had a three-year-old and a five-year-old decorating our Christmas tree, and by the end of the night I had super-glued four ornaments back together. While super-gluing Tinker Bell’s Wing back to her body, I had a minute to think about everything that has happened this year.

“You should write a year-in-review post,” I thought.

“Really? Some people hate those because you just end up sounding like you are bragging,” I continued to think, beginning a conversation with myself in my head… which is totally normal and not a sign of psychosis.

“We wouldn’t have to write it about just the accomplishments this year. We could talk about the rough times too.”

“This year was actually pretty smooth sailing. What rough times?”

“I don’t know. There had to be some messy parts. Like what about the time you super-glued yourself to Tinker Bell?”

“When did I do that? Oh… crap?”

So yeah… I took the long way around to get through the intro all so I say this. I could go month by month and tell you all about our big and little accomplishments. Or I could go month by month and tell you about our messier moments. Instead I am going to do both, one handed, with Tinker Bell glued to my index and middle finger. LET THE HUMBLE BRAG BEGIN!!!


Brag – Our house was clean and we ate healthy food for 13 days to start the year.

Messy – Somewhere around the 13th we had forgotten to go shopping and had a van with two hangry kids. We gave up on our plan to never eat fast food again, went to Mcdonald’s, then went home and didn’t clean the house. We watched football instead. It felt awesome.


Brag – Stevie and I care about our marriage and want to make time to acknowledge how much we love each other. We planned ahead and got an over-night sitter for Valentine’s Day. Marriage saved. Sexy time was imminent.

Messy – We put our pajama pants on at 7 and watched two hours of Daredevil on Netflix instead. But there was cuddling for a minute before we fell asleep and Stevie drooled on me.

Just before we put our PJ's on.

Brag – Nothing happened in March. We complained a lot about how cold it was and how it should be spring already.

Messy – I slipped on some ice in the drive way and fell like one of the Three Stooges because it is MARCH AND THERE SHOULDN’T BE ICE ON THE GROUND ANY MORE!


Brag – To stay in shape Stevie and I continued our training for the Ogden Marathon. We woke up early on Saturdays and went running. We took turns running in the evening.

Messy – On April 7th we realized that Duchess had a dance recital on the same day as the race and promptly gave up our training. We were so sad. (We weren’t really that sad.)

Messier – Somehow, in separate instances, both my kids found a way to fall on their faces.


Brag – To support Breast Cancer Research we signed the whole family up for the Komen Race for the Cure.

Messy – It was pouring rain on the day of the race. We walked to the starting line, turned around, and went back to the car.

We went and got pancakes instead.

Brag 2 – Duchess had her dance recital. She was amazing in a way only a four-year-old can be amazing. She was dressed as a puppy. I was dressed as a dad who cries when his daughter does tap dance in a puppy dog costume.


Brag – My oldest friend Ken got married to his fiancé Jason. Watching them get married and thinking about how happy I was for them and for LGBT people around the country was one of the highlights of my year… no, not my year, my decade.

Messy – I took this awesome picture of Stevie being annoyed at me for catching her playing on her  computer, cell phone and eating curry chicken all at the same time.


Brag – One of my biggest regrets over the last few years has been not engaging with the people in my neighborhood more. So for the 4th of July I got up the courage to ask my neighbor to co-host a Barbeque and Firework night. It was fantastic. We had nearly fifty people show up and sit on blankets in our front yard while we lit off enough fireworks to invade a small country.

Messy – One of the mortar shells shot into our empty garage and exploded next to the two full gasoline cans I had in there. I didn’t blow up my house… but I almost did.

Bonus– My friends Barton and Lisa both wore the same outfit to work.

Oh, and… Stevie and I kept a tiny human alive and mostly happy for five years.


Brag – Duchess started Kindergarten. She walked into that room one of the most capable, confident and happy kids I have ever seen. I felt like I had concurred the galaxy. I cried again. I cry a lot.

Messy – I literally forgot my wife’s birthday. The first day of Kindergarten was also Stevie’s birthday. I am so, so sorry honey.



Brag – I got a promotion at work! BUT... more importantly, Captain hit the jackpot on the arcade machine and won 1000 tickets!!! (The promotion was really cool, but the Ninja Turtle Flashlight we bought with a thousand tickets was awesome.)

Messy – The Ninja Turtle flashlight broke two days later. I still have my job, but that didn’t make Captain any less sad about his flashlight.


Brag – My kids make the most adorable Butterfly and Dinosaur that have ever existed in the history of the universe.

Messy – In what can only be described as a moment of parental genius, Stevie and I brought the kids Halloween Candy downstairs to have a few pieces after they had gone to bed. Then we forgot to put it back… or throw the wrappers away. The next morning had some screaming, and then some more screaming.


Brag – I don’t know what we did right, but we did something. Duchess and Captain genuinely like each other. They have been inseparable all year. They play super heroes together. They play princesses together. I’m including this in November, because…

Messy – By the end of November my kids have tired of each other and now they just push each other until the other one cries. It was fun while it lasted.


And now we’re in December. Like I said, I blinked in early January and when I opened my eyes my kids were in the other room and I had Tinker Bell glued to my hand. It’s OK though. I think Stevie has some finger nail polish remover in the bathroom. In the meantime, I should thank all of you for reading my blog this year and for the last four years. It has been an amazing journey and I promise to keep writing about it as long as you keep reading.


John, Stevie, Duchess and Captain

Don't forgot to follow Ask Your Dad on Facebook, because it is what all the cool kids are doing. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

My Life With Guns

When I was a six-maybe-seven-year-old my dad bought me a bb gun. It was the kind that required you to pull the stock away from the barrel and push it back again to force air into the chamber. I could pump it about ten times before it got too difficult for my six-maybe-seven-year-old arms, at which point I knew that when I took the safety off, aimed it, and pulled the trigger a tiny metal ball would come out the tip of the barrel fast enough to breach the side of a tin can. We lived in a town-home duplex at the time and there were no places within walking distance for my dad to take me shooting. Instead he filled a cardboard box with old pillows, propped it against the inside of our garage door, instituted a three pump rule, and taught me how to shoot in our garage/bb gun shooting range.

My dad had other guns, too. He had a 30 ot 6 deer hunting rifle, a shot gun, and (my favorite) a World War II era pump action, 10 shot .22 rifle. It had been his father's. Someday it was going to be mine.

The deer hunting rifle scared me. I shot it once, probably around 8 or 9, and the kick left my shoulder sore for a week. But the .22 was the best of all worlds. We’d go to the mountains and my dad would set up a range. He would lay down next to me and help me position the rifle in my arms. He would lay my head against the stock, teach me how to line the sights up, and then walk me through my breaths. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Take another deep breath. Hold it. Don’t pull the trigger. Squeeze the trigger. POP! A Pepsi can 30 yards away would flip up into the air and my dad would whisper in my ear, “Good shot, buddy.”


On October 1, 2015 a kid walked into a college class room in Oregon and executed ten people, including himself. He left one kid alive telling him that he had two requirements for him to be able to leave with his life. He had to tell everyone what happened, and he had to watch his friends die.


In Boy Scouts I learned more about firearms. I learned how to set up and manage a range. I practiced with a muzzle loader until I could shoot the blade of an ax head, split the ball, and crack the two clay pigeons propped gently on either side of the secured blade. It’s not hard, really. As long as you hit the blade the musket balls are usually soft enough to break in two. It’s more of a parlor trick than a skill. But it impressed people more than burying multiple .22 shots in a circle the size of a dime, which at 13 was actually a lot harder to do.

When I was 13 my friend James took a shotgun into his room and used it to end his life. I carried the American Flag at his funeral. I wore my Boy Scout uniform and white gloves.

When I was 14 my parents divorced and I went through a really rough patch. My dad moved out of the house and into a nearby apartment. The apartment had a little storage closet attached to it and one night while my dad was away, someone (or multiple someones) shut themselves in the closet and cut a hole into my dad’s apartment. They stole his camera. They stole some cash he had stashed in his room.

They stole his dad’s .22 rifle.

The hole into my dad’s one-bedroom apartment from the storage closet was at the foot of the couch. The couch doubled as my bed when, after the divorce, I spent my weekends there. The first night I stayed there after the robbery I spent the bulk of the night staring into the black hole in the drywall, crying about my grandfather’s rifle.

I never met my grandpa. He died shortly before I was born. He fought in World War II and was stationed in Northern Africa. When I held that rifle my dad would tell me how much it reminded him of his dad. Of how his dad would lay with him and teach him to line up the sights. About how his dad taught him to squeeze, not pull the trigger. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Hold it.


On November 27, 2015 Robert Dear walked into a Planned Parenthood with at least one gun. Over the next hour he shot and killed a police officer and two civilians. Nine others, five police officers and four civilians were also shot, but survived. The shooter's motives have not been released but one source has quoted him as saying "No more baby parts" as he was being arrested. 


In the months following my parents’ divorce, I started to rebel, push back, and test the boundaries of my new family structure. I started skipping school and smoking pot. I hung out with the wrong group of kids, and loved the feeling of always being on the edge of trouble. Obviously, my parents hated it. On a Tuesday in 9th Grade my whole group of friends went out behind the school to smoke weed. I stayed behind for some reason that I've since forgotten. They all got caught, expelled, and I was left to myself.

This doesn’t have a lot to do with guns except that after all my friends got expelled I started to come out of my funk. I got back involved with school and started writing for the school newspaper. My grades came back up. My relationship with my parents started to mend. One day I came home from school to my dad’s house (he had since moved out of the apartment with the hole in the wall) and found a brand new Ruger 10 shot .22 rifle laying on my bed. It was more than a gift. It meant my dad trusted me again.


According to the authorities, the shooter in Oregon had 13 different firearms. He left two pistols, four rifles and one shotgun at home and brought five pistols and one rifle with him to Umpqua Community College. The makes and models of the firearms have not been released.  


When I graduated from college my grandfather on my mother’s side gave me his shot gun. I’ve never shot it, but it lives next to the .22 my dad gave me in a locked safe. When Stevie and I first met she told me we’d never have guns in our house. Every time a news story ran about a kid finding a gun and killing themselves, or their sibling, or their parents she would point to it and say “See. See John. It is too dangerous!”

I didn’t fight her on it. I just closed my eyes and thought about laying in the dirt with my dad and shooting cans. I’d lock my guns up. I wouldn’t leave them loaded. Guns aren’t evil. People can be. 

I saved the fight for another day.

The fight never came. When we bought our home I purchased a sturdy safe from my dad and promised that we would only buy ammo as needed for sport. If our kids accidentally found the key and accidentally opened the safe all they would accidentally find would be a few expensive clubs.

A few weeks ago I got home and went to the safe where my guns live. 

I unlocked it and pulled out my .22. It has a stainless steel barrel and a black composite stock. The clip pops out from just behind the trigger loop. It is a small black cube with a place to slide tiny .22 caliber bullets.

I thought about how someday I'd to take my daughter up into the Uinta Mountains where we’d find a steady log and space out 5-6 Pepsi cans across the top of it. I would inspect the area behind them for large rocks that might cause ricochets then pace out a reasonable distance for a kid to learn to shoot. I’d clear an area for us to lay down. She, like I was at her age, is too small to shoot standing.

I'd have her lie down with the rifle and position it in her arms, teach her to line up the sight. Teach her how to breathe. I’d hear her laugh when the can leapt into the air. I'd tell her "good job."

I put the empty clip back in the rifle, and held it tightly in my hands. This is my gun. It is the gun my dad gave me. I'm not a "nut." I'm just a normal guy. I’m not really worried about the government coming for me, and I don’t personally think having a gun in the house makes it any safer, but I understand why people love their guns. I love mine.

I feel like I understand, at least partially, the complicated relationship we have with guns.

Sometimes I still think about my grandfather’s .22. The police never found it. I worry that whoever took it didn’t love it the way my father did. I worry that they looked at it and saw a weapon to point at other people. Now every time I hear about another shooting on the news, I don’t picture the shooter with whatever semi-automatic rifle they purchased legally at a gun show. I picture them with my WWII-era 10 shot, pump action .22 rifle.

I don’t know what the answers are. I don’t know if legislation will work. I don’t know if research will help. I don’t know.

But I'm willing to try. 

Because I know this:

Virginia Tech -  33 dead.

Sandy Hook Elementary - 20 children and 6 teachers dead

Aurora, Colorado Movie Theater - 12 dead.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church - 9 dead

Since 2001 the total number of deaths from gun violence in the US is approximately 406,496. (CNN)

This week a husband and wife walked into a community center that helps people with disabilities and gunned down 14 people. At some point before going on this rampage they dropped off their six-month-old daughter at their parents house. 

And I know this, above all else:

If it were possible, I would give back every day in the woods with my dad. I would forsake every future day in the mountains with my kids and every Pepsi can flying off the log and into the brush. I'd let them all go, without hesitation, if it would give just one of those parents their kid back.

How do we fix this? How can we make this stop? How can I help? Where do I start? I'm really asking.

Please join the conversion in the comments here, or over on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page

Friday, November 13, 2015

Something I Wrote for My Boy on His Birthday

Last night my boy and I rolled around on the living room floor. He'd run towards me arms out, full scream... “AHHHHHHHH!!" Then his whole self would collide with my chest sending us both rolling backwards. His laugh was like summer rain, surprising at first, comforting as it washed over me, strong until it wasn't. 

After a few seconds of rolling back and forth his laugh stuttered out and I set him down so he could grab more breathe from the room.

“AGAIN! AGAIN! Daddy!” 

He turned, ran to the fireplace, turned again and ran once more to my chest. 


When he was born I never really worried about loving him. When his sister came into the world my heart opened up in a way I didn’t know was possible. I found that love was not finite. My capacity to generate it was nuclear. 

I did worry I wouldn’t get time to know him. 

Life gets busier and busier. My daughter fills a room, a world really, with her joy and her tears. I worried for a while that he would get drowned out by her awesomeness. 

I was wrong. He is a beacon on the mountain. All things come to him, including his sister. They co-exist in my everything. They hold hands in the car. They lay on each other while they watch movies. They both jump on top of me and scream and laugh and scream and laugh and scream and laugh. Then they do it again. 

Last night she was sitting at the kitchen table tracing pictures of Stevie with a pencil while Captain and I rough-housed on the floor. “Come on YeeYee! Come on!” 

“I can’t, buddy.” (She calls him buddy too.) “I’m learning to be an artist like mommy.”

“OK. AHHHHHHHHH” And again we rolled backwards. I am a human roller coaster. I am The Colossus. 

He loves Jake and the Neverland Pirates. His favorite word is pleeeeeeaase. Not please. Pleeeeeeaase. When he says “I lub you daddy” I try to blink and capture the moment like a picture. I want his tiny voice in my ears and his face permanently attached to the backs of my eyelids. I want the moments on dial up, random access memory for my lonelier moments. 

After wrestling we got him in his jammies. He didn’t want pants, because he is a normal human being and who really wants pants. I said OK, because I am a kind and benevolent father also sleeps without pants on. I read Little Blue Truck. Then he read Little Blue Truck. I read Naked, and then he read Naked. His turn is really just him turning the pages and yelling out the words he knows. I like to yell them with him. (By the way, Naked is the title of a book. My wife pointed out that this sounded weird.) 

I turned the light off and I sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” When I sang “Skies are blue” he said “No. Green.” I sang “skies are green” and he said “no, red.” We went through all the colors he knows and he giggled every time. This is our thing. This is our language. This is our goodnight.  
Foreheads were kissed. Hugs given and taken, and another night with my boy was done. I shut the door and went downstairs. 

Later that night when Stevie and I went to bed I opened his door and peeked in on him. He was asleep, Little Blue Truck tucked in the crook of his arm. It was 11:30.

“What are you doing?” 

“I don't know. I just wanted to see him one last time as a two-year-old.”

“Let me see.”

Stevie and I ended our night together staring, perhaps a little too long, at our boy. Our perfect little dude. Our last two-year-old. Fast asleep and almost three. 

Happy birthday, buddy. We love you. 

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Instructions to Be Followed upon My Death

I've been thinking about death lately. Not in a dark, depressing way. I'm fine. I could work out more, eat better and drink a little less, but for the most part life is great, busy and wonderful. I'm grateful every morning that I wake up to find my son tapping me on the forehead and asking me to turn on Micky Mouse. But still, death has been on my mind. I've lost friends over the last few years. Some had a chance to say goodbye, others didn't. When I was younger I felt immortal. Not so much anymore.

I don't know when my time to go is coming, so I figured I would put this out there. Here are some instructions to be followed upon my death...

Let's start with the simple stuff.

Stevie, please take the useful parts of me and immediately give them to someone else. I don't want them. Take the eyes that watched our kids come into this world and give them to someone else so they can watch their kids refuse to eat salad from across their dinner table. Take the heart that you listened to when you laid your head on my chest and bury its beat in someone else's... not in the ground. Take my skin and arms and legs and guts. Take everything else and offer it up to the world. Give back a little of what it has given me. We don't get to keep anything in this world. It is all borrowed.

Next, please tell the kids to not be afraid to cry, ever. I spent too much of my life afraid to cry. Once I realized that crying didn't make me any less of a "man" and actually made me more of a human, things became remarkably easier. So be sad and vulnerable and weak when you need to. Rely on our family and friends. Their love for you and I will carry you guys through this. You never have to walk alone.

Set up a funeral, but not a big fancy (expensive) affair. Just a room with some chairs, perhaps an ice bucket of beer in the back and couple bottles of good whiskey. I don't need an Irish Wake, but some folks may need a drink. The hard part comes next.

Once everyone is sitting down and had a few drinks, have someone read this:

John didn't really believe in a God. Maybe he was wrong, maybe he was right. If he was wrong, he knows that now and he'll be dealing with it in his own way. If you knew John, you know that he was pretty good at talking himself out of awkward situations. He'll be OK. Most funerals John attended in his life focused on a message that the person who had died would be waiting in heaven for their friends and family. Since that isn't what John believed, he wanted to take this opportunity to write his own message to all of you. Also, he was kind of full of himself like that, so he respectfully asks that you humor him this one last time. Here's his goodbye message:

Hey everyone. Thanks for coming. Sorry I died. I'm sure it's really hard - probably extra really hard for some of you. Maybe just kind of sad for others. However you are dealing with dead me is the exact right way to be dealing with dead me. You be you. I hope I had the chance to say goodbye to some of you. If this happened quick, perhaps I didn't. If I have lived my life in a good way, I would hope that the need for me to say goodbye would be small. I would hope you already know exactly how much you meant to me, and how much you enriched my life because I would have told you over and over again. That said, if you are a random person that knew me in high school and you just showed up because you saw my obituary, I probably never got around to telling you how much I appreciated and loved you, but I did random person I haven't seen since high school. I really did. Probably not as much as I loved my wife and my kids, but you understand that would be silly.

Stevie, Captain, Duchess. (Whoever is reading this, please use my kids real names and not their silly internet names.) I'm sure this is much worse for you than it is for me, because I am dead. I want you to know that you are the very best parts of me. You are everything I ever wanted in life, and every day with you was the best day I ever had.

Since I don't really believe in an afterlife, my consciousness was snubbed out as soon as my brain was depleted of oxygen. That means the alive me is gone. I'm not waiting for you in the clouds or on another celestial planet. I won't be writing any more words. You don't have to listen to me sing anymore. The creative me, the part with autonomy and free will is gone... unless I am wrong.

Tell you what. If I am wrong and I can find a way through space and time to be a ghost in the room with you right now, I will turn the lights off and on... now.

OK. One of three things just happened. A the lights did not turn on and off. B the lights did turn on and off and I have made a horrible mistake and am now doomed to a purgatory like hell, wandering the mortal plane as a disconnected spirit for all eternity, or C someone, probably your uncle, is messing with everyone and turned the lights on and off to be funny. That's not funny, Jim. A funeral is no place for ghost jokes.

But really, all jokes aside, I'm probably gone forever. I'm really sorry that I won't get to see what happens from here. I know it will be a mix of good, bad, great and horrible things, and I know you will handle them all with grace... unless you don't, which is OK too. I know that I did my best to fill your world with love, and I know that in many ways I succeeded. I believe that the people who are closest to you in your life have a way of reflecting your best and worst qualities. When I look at you, all I see is the love I put into the world. So thank you.

Which, I suppose, brings me back to not needing to say goodbye. As was mentioned earlier, I did not put any stock in an afterlife. Some may say that a life without the promise of salvation is a life without purpose. To those folks I say my life was a life filled with purpose... and immediacy. I didn't live for a better world after death, I did my best to use the time I had to make a better world in life.

And, in a way, I do believe in life after death. Just not my life.

I believe in all of you.

And it's with that belief that I leave you all with this. You are what is left of me now. There is no need to say goodbye, because each of you bears the awesome responsibility of carrying me with you... just as I carry the love of the folks whose lives touched mine. I'm not waiting at a pearly gate somewhere. Look left. Look right. I'm waiting there. Unless you are sitting on an aisle. I am not in the wall.

Sorry. I said no more jokes.

If I knew anything to be true in my life, if I ever put my faith in a single belief it was this: You are what you put into the world. I'm done putting things into the world. My house is built and all of you are its foundation. I hope, I pray (yes, I pray) that it is sturdy and beautiful and filled with love.

Thank you. Now go have some beer and whiskey or juice or water and tell funny stories about dumb shit I did.


John (Dad)

P.S. If you liked this, or other stuff I have written, be sure to come like the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page. I'm still very much alive and posting over there. I don't plan on dying any time soon. I just figured I would put this out there in case I get hit by a bus or eaten by a pterodactyl that we thought was extinct but was actually just really really patient.

P.S.S Don't read that first P.S. or this one at the funeral. It would be confusing. The post scripts are for the blog post only.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

5 Children's Books That Don't Exist But Should

Remember the timeless classic children's book from a few years ago, "Go the F*ck to Sleep"? If you don't, you should check out this dramatic reading by the one and only Samuel L Jackson. A family member e-mailed me the link to that video for the eleventieth time the other day and it got me thinking. What other tongue-in-cheek kids' books do I wish were out there? Here are five. If any publishers are reading this, feel free to contact me. I can write these.

How to Wipe Your Butt

Friday, August 7, 2015

Let’s Help My Friend Mandi

K, I need some help.

5 years ago I was in a job that I despised. Every day I came home and would lock myself in my room or the office so I wouldn’t take the stress and anger of the day and rage vomit it all over my family. I needed a new start, but I was afraid to leave. I had been with the company for nearly a decade and I had always considered it my forever job. One afternoon at a barbecue with friends I spilled all this to my friend Mandi.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Goodbye Jon Stewart

Tonight is Jon Stewart’s final appearance on The Daily Show. I’m not emotionally ready for him to go, but he deserves the break. For the past 16 years Stewart has been my port in the storm, my 30 minute break from the frustration of being a liberal guy in a very red state. And even though he doesn’t know I exist, I credit him for a lot of the lessons I have learned over the last decade and a half.

I first found Stewart on the 17 inch screen of the TV in my freshman college dorm room. It was the first couple weeks of school and I was not the most outgoing guy. I had all these dreams of going from high school to college and immediately making a bunch of friends. Instead I spent most of my non-class hours sitting in my dorm room listening to the rumblings of people more socially adept than I talking in the halls. To drown them out, I flipped over to Comedy Central and found Jon.

I started college in 2000, which also coincided with a presidential election. Before then, my interest in politics was pretty limited. I grew up in a house with a strong feminist mother and a card-carrying NRA Father. We had a good mix of liberal and conservative beliefs at the dinner table, but if I ever asked my parents about party politics the general consensus was that they were all a bunch of crooks. I suppose this is understandable. My parents came of age in the time of Nixon. They didn’t like Jimmy Carter much, and I never heard a kind word about Ronald Reagan. I think they spent most of the 90’s rolling their eyes at Bill Clinton, which is why I blame them both for my decision to throw away my first presidential vote on Ralph Nader and personally cost Al Gore the 2000 election. Sorry Al. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

4 Things I Buy for My Kids That Are Really For Me

Some things that I buy for my kids are actually for my kids. For instance, a talking Dora the Explorer microphone. Despite my inner “sane person” screaming “DON’T BUY THAT MICROPHONE. IT IS LOUD AND WILL KILL ME, YOUR INNER SANE PERSON, PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T BUY THAT DORA THE EXPLORER MICROPHONE,” I say, “Don’t worry personification of my sanity inside my head that I talk to, which is totally normal. I may be buying this horrible, evil noise maker for our daughter, but I also buy these other things for her, that are secretly for us. And then the two of us laugh and laugh and laugh.

Goldfish Crackers

My wife thinks that our kids looooove Goldfish crackers. We go through a bag a week. When we’re at the store, she specifically reminds me to grab them and says “You know how much they LOVE Goldfish Crackers.” I play coy and pretend not to remember, then grab a bag or two… or three. What my wife doesn’t know, until she reads this, is that I have a lovely addiction to tiny baked cheese fish. I could eat an entire bag. Each little cheese fish cracker is like a taste journey for my mouth. I like the rough salt on the rounder side of the cracker. I like how I can crush the tasty hollow fish orb on the roof of my mouth. I salivate thinking about how after I finish that little guy, there is a whole bag waiting for me to eat. “Honey, the kids ate all the Goldfish Crackers. I’m running to the store. Do we need milk too?”

Goldfish Crackers

Monday, August 3, 2015

5 Tips for Taking Toddlers Out to Dinner

It’s Friday night. You’re a day away from the weekly grocery trip and the only thing left in the freezer is frozen chicken strips. You don’t want frozen chicken strips. Your spouse doesn’t want frozen chicken strips. Frozen chicken strips can go to hell. You’re so sick of frozen chicken strips that you’d rather hit yourself in the face with a hammer than eat them again. You’d rather fight a bear. Hell, you’re so sick of frozen chicken strips that you would rather take your two kids (both under four) to a crowded restaurant on a Friday night than force yourself to chew that spongy, white, craptastic breaded chicken. 

But suddenly it sinks in. Taking the kids to dinner is a horrible idea. Last time three drinks were spilled, sugar packs were strewn among the exploded creamers, tears and screams were attempted to be suppressed by grunted threats you had no intention of following through on. Oh, and a waiter was stabbed with a fork. Sigh... Maybe if you follow these 5 Tips for Taking Toddlers out to Dinner tonight will be different. (By the way, the “you” in all of the preceding sentences is “me”.)

Don’t wait until they are being little jerks before threatening to sell them. Define your terms before going to the restaurant.

First, don’t actually threaten to sell your kids. They may not have developed the ability to process sarcasm yet. But really, coming up with punishments mid-tantrum, mid-dinner, underneath the table next to you as you chase your kid through a forest of other people's feet, just doesn’t work. Instead, let them know what you expect on the way to restaurant. Approach it in a nice way. 

“Honey, we’re going to go to dinner at the restaurant. I need you to stay at the table and eat your dinner. Ok?” Then, instead of just taking an “ok” as a response, ask them to repeat their obligations back to you. Then explain what will happen if they don’t follow through. Consequences you assign will vary, but in my experience they tend to be more thought out and rational when not being yelled while your child is eating spaghetti out of a stranger’s lap.

Bring an extra table cloth

I learned this one from a little restaurant in Moab, Utah. If you have a young toddler that still sits in a highchair, you know that the floor under the highchair tends to get more food than you do. Sure, the wait staff will clean all of it up after you leave, but why make them? We lay a square table cloth under the highchair, and after dinner is done, pick up the corners and bundle it up with everything in it. When we get home, we shake it out into the garbage and throw it in the washing machine. It is a nice you can do for the wait staff, and trust me, they appreciate it! 

Order the kids’ meals when you order your drinks

Seriously. Get their food cooking. The sooner you get the grub in front of them, the sooner they will stop trying to leave their chairs and run into the kitchen to play with the deep fryer. Pretty much every kids menu is the same anyway, so you should have some idea of what they want. If you want to be super savvy, have your spouse peruse the kids menu via their smart phone on the way to the restaurant. That way, when the waiter comes to say hello you can order your drinks and the frozen chicken strips for the kids. (They were probably mad they didn’t get them at home anyway.)

Give the table distractions to your server

Give the sugar packets, creamer, extra place settings, condiment bin, and permanent menu fixtures to your server. If it means that your dining area doesn’t end up looking like a tiny, adorable shoot out occurred once you leave, they will be glad to take them. Not only does this clear up plenty of table space for plates and cups to be scooted away from the kids, but it will also prevent the eventual tantrum that happens when your youngest bites into a creamer cup and it explodes all over his sister.

Relax, talk to your kids, enjoy your dinner

You’ve cleared excess debris from the table. You’ve got the kids’ food coming. The kid in the highchair can drop anything he wants onto the table cloth you’ve set up and you don’t have to feel guilty. The server is super impressed with how prepared you are and brings you some free cream cheese wontons to thank you for your thoughtfulness. Now is the time to interact with your family. Ask your kids questions. Smile. Touch your spouse’s hand lovingly. You are the shining beacon of good parenting for everyone else in the restaurant to see. No one knows about last time - the tears, the screaming, the fork stabbing. All that matters now is that you don’t have to eat crappy chicken strips. All is well in the world. For now. Enjoy it. Have a cream cheese wonton.

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